From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved
"KING OF THE SOUTH 2020 SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER"

    This file is attached to http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterEight/BeastThatCameOutOfTheSea.htm from “Beast That Came Out Of The Sea” - Chapter Eight by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved.
    This link will take you back to Astronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D.
    Or return to King Of The South 2020 July-August or continue to King Of The South 2020 November-December.

KING OF THE SOUTH 2020 SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER


    So as 2019 has passed do we know who the "King of the South in 2019" is?
    The phrase “king of the South” is found in the Bible in only one location — Daniel 11, which is also the chapter containing the most detailed prophecy in the Bible.    The first mention of this ruler is found in verse 5, where we find that “the king of the South shall become strong” and that “His dominion shall be a great dominion.”    Who was this king?    Who will he be in the “time of the end” spoken of in verse 40?    To answer these questions, we need a little background information.    One of the first considerations is the setting of this prophecy.    Daniel received the message in “the third year of Cyrus king of Persia,” which was 537 or 536 B.C. according to The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Daniel 10:1).    The prophecy of Daniel 11 begins with verses 2-4, which describe what would happen in the Persian and Greek Empires after Daniel was given this vision, and continues through “the time of the end” (verse 40).
    The Persian Empire refers to any of a series of imperial dynasties that were centred in Persia/Iran from the 6th century B.C. Achaemenid Empire era to the 20th century AD in the Qajar dynasty era.    Know that Ancient Persia is modern Iran.
    Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC) also called the First Persian Empire, in Western Asia founded by Cyrus the Great.    It ranges from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east, it was larger than any previous empire in history, incorporating various peoples of different origins and faiths, it is notable for its successful model of a centralised, bureaucratic administration (through satraps under the King of Kings), for building infrastructure such as road systems and a postal system, the use of an official language across its territories, and the development of civil services and a large professional army.    The empire's successes inspired similar systems in later empires.
    By the 7th century BC, the Persians had settled in the south-western portion of the Iranian Plateau in the region of Persis, which came to be their heartland.    From this region, Cyrus the Great advanced to defeat the Medes, Lydia, and the Neo-Babylonian Empire, establishing the Achaemenid Empire.    Alexander the Great, an avid admirer of Cyrus the Great, conquered most of the empire by 330 BC.    Upon Alexander's death, most of the empire's former territory came under the rule of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Seleucid Empire, in addition to other minor territories which gained independence at that time.    The Iranian elites of the central plateau reclaimed power by the second century B.C. under the Parthian Empire.
    The Achaemenid Empire is noted in Western history as the antagonist of the Greek city-states during the Greco-Persian Wars and for the emancipation of the Jewish exiles in Babylon.    The historical mark of the empire went far beyond its territorial and military influences and included cultural, social, technological and religious influences as well.
    Despite the lasting conflict between the two states, many Athenians adopted Achaemenid customs in their daily lives in a reciprocal cultural exchange, some being employed by or allied to the Persian kings.    The impact of Cyrus's edict is mentioned in Judeo-Christian texts, and the empire was instrumental in the spread of Zoroastrianism as far east as China.    The empire also set the tone for the politics, heritage and history of Iran (also officially known as Persia).    The image below shows you the area for the "King of the South."
       
    So based on the above information I would acknowledge that the "King of the South" will come out of that area.
    As you may have noted that in 2019 I claimed that individual will be: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
    The reason was his image of the pentagram a Satanic symbol which is at the top of Erdogan’s Tek Devlet (One State) monument in Turkey, which is a pentagram, a satanic symbol, and believed in beheading, and Shriah Will Rise Again, religious education, Koranic courses, Arabic and Ottoman lessons, Islamization of all schools, sharia education and finally compulsory worship services in all schools
   
    Could Recep Tayyip Erdogan be the upcoming antichrist and may fit the description and then may not be the final antichrist.    The Bible tells us there are “many antichrists” (1 John 2:18); many believe there will be the single antichrist, and we are rapidly approaching the end of time as we know it, before the great tribulation begins.
    All of the antichrists have the same modus operandi (mode of operation).
    As Erdogan has tried to be a force in the South and has shown hints of hypocrisy along the way, and August 2014, he has steadily become dictatorial, and enacted laws to give him excessive powers.
    “And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honor of the kingdom, but he shall come in peaceably and obtain the kingdom by flatteriesDaniel 11:21.
    The Bible, in a number of instances, refers to the antichrist as the “Assyrian.”    A good part of Turkey was included in the Assyrian Empire, which also persecuted God’s people.
    “Therefore, thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Oh My people who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian; he shall smite you with a rod and shall lift up his staff against you, after the manner of Egypt.    For yet a little while and the indignation shall cease and My anger in their destructionIsaiah 10:24-25.
    “And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land and when he shall tread in our palaces; then shall we raise against him seven shepherds and eight principal menMicah 5:5.
    Erdogan announced, “The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the honor of 1.7 billion Muslims, not just Palestinians, and the Muslim world cannot wait to remain indifferent to the restrictions imposed on the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” which is situated on the historical Jewish Temple Mount.
    Erdogan’s real crimes are buying the Russian S-400 missile system for Turkey, refusing to accept US support for America’s Kurdish YPG allies and allowing Islamist fighters to pour over Turkey’s border into Syria along with a load of weapons, mortars and missiles.    Erdogan said Turkey will work with the Syrian people directly to help achieve peace in the war-torn country.    He went on to clarify this does not mean he is willing to work with the Syrian government.
    “Russia takes the necessary measures against a (possible) threat by Syrian regime in Idlib, and as Turkey, we are taking all kind of measures against radical groups in Idlib,” stated President Erdogan.    “We are also taking joint action with Russia if it is necessary.”    His remarks come almost a month after Turkish and Russian forces announced a demilitarized zone in the Idlib province.
    In December, President Donald Trump’s called Tayyip Erdogan that he was pulling U.S. troops from Syria has stunned Turkey and left it scrambling to respond to the changing battlefield on its southern border, and delivered a standard warning to the Turkish president over his plan to attack U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, in the course of the conversation Trump reshaped U.S. policy in the Middle East, abandoning a quarter of Syrian territory and handing Ankara the job of finishing off Islamic State in Syria.
    As many promote what Daniel 11:40-45 claims it represents the Northern King’s Conquests. [AS SEEN IN THE VERSES ABOVE THAT THE EVENTS ARE LOOKING AS IF RUSSIA - KING OF THE NORTH AND THE MIDEAST NATIONS - KING OF THE SOUTH ARE GOING TO BECOME ENTWINED INTO THE PROPHECY ABOVE IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE AND THE KING OF THE WEST HAS PULLED OUT OF THIS MESS WHICH I THINK TRUMP MADE THE RIGHT CALL PROBABLY DUE TO GODS INFLUENCE SO LETS SEE HOW IT UNFOLDS AND ALSO WATCH FOR NEWS THAT THE EUPHARATES RIVER DRIES UP ENGAGING THE KINGS OF THE EAST TO GET INVOLVED.].
    The following image below is seen at http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterSix/Psalm83.htm so you can tell by the verses above who are the countries today.
    So what has happened in 2019 regarding the King of the South:
    Libya and its Militia groups battle in the Libyan capital, breaking four-month truce and Libya’s Haftar has blindsided world powers with his advance on Tripoli.
    Iraq must move away from economic reliance on Iran and demonstrators are seen at Al Jumhuriya bridge during a protest over corruption, lack of jobs, and poor services, in Baghdad, Iraq.
    In Lebanon who agreed to a new government and its PM vows bold reforms.    But the U.S. is concerned over Hezbollah’s growing role in Lebanon, who called on supporters to donate as sanctions pressure bites.    Germany won’t classify Iran ally Hezbollah as terrorist and Lebanon’s president urges ‘sacrifice’ as budget cuts are debated.    Hezbollah sanctions are harming Lebanon, says President Aoun.    Hezbollah warns U.S. over sanctions against Iran and allies.    Lebanon’s Aoun invites protesters to talk, hints at government reshuffle and Hezbollah warns of chaos and civil war in Lebanon, but demonstations continue and Prime Minister Hariri resigns as Lebanon crisis turns violent, no one wants to be PM, not only the financial woes.
    Yemen’s Houthi drones strike government military parade, several killed.    Yemen’s Houthis to quit two ports Monday under peace deal.    Yemen’s Houthis begin withdrawal from Hodeidah ports in boost to peace deal.
    The world is crazy now as all the Mideast countries are having riots and demonstrations trying to reform their governments as well as the Hong Kong fiasco is still going on.
    U.S. troops begin withdrawing from Syria after the U.S.-backed Syrian force pushed the Islamic State in ‘its final moments out of their caliphate,’ and by 3/22/2019 White House confirms ISIS caliphate ‘100% eliminated.’    On 10/27/2019 U.S. targeted and killed #1 Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi giving Trump a big win from this.
    Turkey condemns French declaration of Armenian genocide commemoration day.    Turkey was told it cannot become an EU member.    Erdogan accuses women’s march of disrespecting Islam.    Turkey says U.S. missile deal impossible if tied to dropping Russian S-400s and will look elsewhere if U.S. won’t sell Patriots and F-35s.    Turkey economy has worst showing in nine years after lira crisis.    As economy sours, Erdogan’s party could lose grip on big cities in local polls.    Erdogan suffers major setbacks in local elections and that forced an Islam control of election as Erdogan’s AK Party appeals for annulment to seek fresh vote in Istanbul, citing irregularities and calls for annulment of Istanbul election, and ousted the winning Istanbul mayor who was promoting democracy.    Could you imagine a Muslim AK Party was going to let a Republican People's Party take over, which shows you how Islamic philosophy works, and I thought it could not get any worse that the screw up in the 2016 elections in some Florida counties trying to change the counts in certain districts, but they blew it and lost anyway.    The desperate Democrats may want to learn from the AKP and their Islamist predecessors so they can win the 2020 elections.    Erdogan says discussed Turkey setting up safe zone in Syria with Trump.    Turkey is ready to take over Syria’s Manbij, and Erdogan says Kurdish rebels will not shelter in Syrian safe zone.    Turkey aims to form safe zones in Syria for refugees to return.    Islamic State pinned in tiny eastern Syria enclave with families, U.S.-backed Syrian force to start ‘final battle’ against IS enclave IS ‘caliphate’ on brink of defeat in Syria as Trump urges Europe to do more.    U.S. to leave 200 American peacekeepers in Syria after pullout.    Syrian Kurds want secure border strip, reject Turkish ‘safe zone.’    Where do the Kurds fit into Syria’s war they do not because they are descendants of the Armenians.    Turkey should not attack Kurds after U.S. Syria pull-out.    On 10/5/2019 Erdogan says Turkey to launch military operation in northeast Syria.    U.S. withdraws troops from northeast Syria ahead of Turkish offensive.    Thousands flee, dozens killed in Turkish offensive on U.S.-allied Kurds in Syria Turkey bombards Syrian Kurdish militia, thousands flee as death toll mounts.    VP Pence to urge Turkey to halt Syria offensive as threat of further sanctions loom and Turkey agrees with U.S. to pause Syria assault while Kurds withdraw.    U.S. troops cross into Iraq as part of withdrawal from Syria.
    Israel: The U.S. Ambassador to Israel Indicates peace plan may be released this year by encouraging investments in Palestinians as first part of peace plan where Jarod Kushner hopes that the Saudis and other Gulf delegates will like what they hear enough to urge Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to consider the plan.    The message Kushner wants them to take to Ramallah: “We’d like to see you go to the table and negotiate and try to make a deal to better the lives of the Palestinian people.”
    THE QUESTION IS CAN YOU BUY MIDEAST PEACE BETWEEN PALESTINIANS AND ISRAEL WITH ALL THE HATERS IN THE BACKGROUND?
    Plus the issue of the prophecy in Daniel 9:27 "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate."    So is he the (Antichrist) who shall confirm the covenant (make a covenant) for one week (seven years); and in the middle of that week he will break the covenant?
    God has blessed Trump for his appraisal of Israel as his policies are working in this world so far but I think soon there will be an entity that will step out of the limelight to the world who has the influence to all parties to make this plan take place.    So the question is who will that be?
    More than half of the $50 billion would be spent in the economically troubled Palestinian territories over 10 years while the rest would be split between Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.    Some of the projects would be in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, where investments could benefit Palestinians living in adjacent Gaza, a crowded and impoverished coastal enclave>.
    Senior adviser Kushner to present peace proposal to Middle East and if Trump's version of a “peace plan” or deal-making and we do not know what it is yet.    Some think it is Israel to give up four communities in East Jerusalem in order to establish the Palestinian capital alongside the Israeli capital.    Israelis gave up their rights to their Holy Temple Mount immediately after it was given to them in the Six Day War in 1967, for the sake of “middle east peace.”    “The Temple Mount is in our hands!” again, and they handed it back?    For whatever reason, it was returned on some level to Jordanian control.    After the Six Day War, Judea and Samaria – along with the Golan Heights – were looked at as significantly important to the security of Israel.    Obviously, giving those who hate you the high ground overlooking your most populated areas would not make any sense.    But many Jews began re-settling then Mountains of Israel because they heard the call to return and build the ancient ruins, as the prophets had dreamed in Isaiah 61:4, Jeremiah 31:4, and Ezekiel 28:25,26.    “I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,” Amos:15.    As it says in Jeremiah 31:6, "For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the Lord our God."    So I do not think Trump's plan is the one.    I like Trump but he does not seem to be one yet seen in Daniel 9:27a reads, “Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week.”    Daniel prophesies a “he” who confirms a covenant or treaty, depending on the translation, with the many that will last for one week.    And yet, prophecy teachers conclude from this verse that the Antichrist will make a seven-year peace treaty with Israel.    Daniel 9:27 (KJV): "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate." one week = 7 years.
    Trump administration still backs a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.    Israel says it has completed hunt for Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon.    Israel launches Gaza strikes after rockets fired at Tel Aviv.    Israel’s Netanyahu says he plans to annex settlements in West Bank.    Israel launches series of retaliatory airstrikes at Iranian interests in Syria.    U.S. deploys THAAD missile defense system to Israel.    USAID assistance in the West Bank and Gaza has ceased.    On 3/25/2019 Trump recognizes disputed Golan Heights as Israeli territory in boost for Netanyahu and Israel says Brazil is opening ‘diplomatic office’ in Jerusalem.    On 11/19/2019 U.S. backs Israel on settlements, angering Palestinians and clouding peace process.
    See the artcile dated 1/31/2020 Turkey’s Erdogan criticizes Arab silence over U.S. Middle East plan to consider as my statements about who the entity might be.

2020 SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER

9/1/2020 Macron Marks Lebanon’s Centenary As Nation Teeters On Brink by Raya Jalabi
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese President Michel Aoun welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron at
Beirut International airport, Lebanon August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron marked Lebanon’s centenary on Tuesday by planting a cedar tree, the emblem of the Middle East country that is collapsing under the weight of a crippling economic crisis.
    In his second trip to Lebanon in less than a month, Macron is expected to lean on Lebanon’s fractious leaders to carry out economic reforms that are vital to getting the nation out of crisis and unlocking foreign aid.
    “It’s the last chance for this system,” Macron told POLITICO in an interview while travelling to Beirut on Monday.    “It’s a risky bet I’m making, I am aware of it … I am putting the only thing I have on the table: my political capital.”
    With its economy in deep crisis, a swathe of Beirut in tatters following a huge explosion at the port on Aug. 4, and sectarian tensions rising, Lebanon is facing the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war.
    Macron, who previously visited in the immediate aftermath of the blast that killed more than 190 people and injured 6,000, planted the cedar sapling at a forest reserve in the mountains northeast of Beirut.
    The French president’s Elysée palace said Macron had planted the tree to show his “confidence in the future of the country.”
    The French air force display team flew overhead, leaving smoke trails of red, white and green, the national colours of Lebanon whose borders were proclaimed by France 100 years ago in an imperial carve-up with Britain.
    Lebanon gained independence in 1943.
TRANSCENDING DIVISIONS
    Macron, who has been at the centre of international efforts to press Lebanese leaders to tackle corruption and take other steps to fix their country, began his trip late on Monday by meeting Fairouz, 85, one of the Arab world’s most famous singers whose music transcends Lebanon’s deep divisions.
    He was greeted by dozens of protesters gathered outside with placards reading “No cabinet by, or with, the murderers” and “Don’t be on the wrong side of history!”
    He told reporters on Monday he wanted to “ensure that the government that is formed will implement the necessary reforms.”
    In the hours before his arrival on Monday, Lebanese leaders designated a new prime minister, Mustapha Adib, reaching a consensus among major parties that senior Lebanese politicians said was forged under pressure from Macron over the weekend.
    Macron’s agenda includes a tour of the devastated Beirut port, the site of the catastrophic Aug. 4 chemicals explosion, a meeting with President Michel Aoun for a centenary reception, and an afternoon of political meetings with Lebanon’s various factions.
    After being designated on Monday, Adib called for the rapid formation of a government, the immediate implementation of reforms and an agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
    Lebanon’s economic crisis is rooted in decades of state corruption and waste that landed the state with one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.
    Since October, the currency has collapsed and depositors have been frozen out of their savings and seen their cash value collapse in a paralysed banking system, while poverty and unemployment have soared.
    France’s foreign minister said last week that Lebanon risked disappearing because of the inaction of its political elite who needed to quickly form a new government to implement reforms.
(Reporting by Raya Jalabi; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Edmund Blair)

9/1/2020 Turkey Says It’s Open To Dialogue With Greece Over Mediterranean
FILE PHOTO: Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu attends a news conference, a day ahead of the first meeting of the new
Syrian Constitutional Committee at the Untied Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, October 29, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey is open to dialogue with Greece to solve disagreements over Mediterranean rights and resources, as long as Athens is too, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.
    The NATO allies vehemently disagree over claims to hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean Sea based on conflicting views on the extent of their continental shelves in waters dotted with mostly Greek islands.
Speaking at a news conference, Cavusoglu also said Greece was trying to provoke Turkey by adopting a hostile attitude.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)

9/1/2020 Greece In Talks With France Over Fighter Jets, As East Med Tensions Rise – Source
FILE PHOTO: A woman looks through binoculars as Greek and French vessels sail in formation during a joint military exercise in
Mediterranean sea, in this undated handout image obtained by Reuters on August 13, 2020. Greek Ministry of Defence/Handout via REUTERS
    ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece is in talks with France and other countries over arms purchases to boost its armed forces, a government official told Reuters on Tuesday, as tensions grow over energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
    A day earlier, Greece’s finance minister said the country is ready to spend part of its cash reserves on arms purchases and other means which will help increase its “deterrence force,” after years of belt-tightening in defence spending.
    “We are in talks with France, and not only with France, in order to increase our country’s defence potential,” a government official told Reuters.    “Within this framework, there is a discussion which includes the purchase of aircraft.”
    The official added that no final decisions had been made.    Greek media reported on Monday that Athens had agreed to acquire 18 Dassault-made Rafale fighter jets from France.
    “There is no agreement as written in several media.    However, there are discussions on a number of subjects,” a French government source said, without providing further detail.
    Greece has been at odds with neighbouring Turkey over a range of issues including overlapping claims for hydrocarbon resources in the region, based on conflicting claims over the extent of their continental shelves.
    Tensions escalated last month after Ankara dispatched the Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel in a disputed area following a pact between Athens and Cairo ratifying maritime boundaries.
    France and Germany have tried to mediate to defuse the tension, while Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis held two calls with United States President Donald Trump last week.
    On Monday night, Turkey extended the Oruc Reis vessel’s work until Sept. 12.    The Turkish advisory came after the EU called for dialogue with Ankara.
    Greece’s foreign ministry called the advisory illegal and urged Turkey “to desist from its daily rants and to work for security and stability in the region.”
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou in Athens and John Irish in Paris, Editing by William Maclean)

9/1/2020 Israel, Hamas Agree To Restore Calm Along Gaza Border
A Palestinian police officer disinfects a car during a lockdown following the outbreak of the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Gaza City September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    GAZA (Reuters) – Palestinian militant groups and Israel agreed to end a weeks-long escalation of unrest along the Israel-Gaza border, Gaza’s ruling Islamist group Hamas and Israel said on Monday.
    Under the deal, brokered by a Qatari envoy, Hamas would end the launching of incendiary balloons, and Israel would end air strikes, said a Palestinian official close to the mediation.
    COGAT, Israel’s liaison agency to the Palestinian territories, confirmed that after security consultations led by Defence Minister Benny Gantz, Gaza’s main goods crossing would reopen and fishermen would be allowed back to work, up to 15 nautical miles.
    A COGAT statement said the decisions were “subject to the continuation of the calm and the security stability” but warned that if Hamas failed to deliver, Israel would “act accordingly.”
    Hamas said the understanding would ease the way for implementation of projects “that will serve the people of Gaza, and alleviate the suffering amid the coronavirus wave.”
    Palestinians and humanitarian groups have urged an easing of the Israeli-led blockade on Gaza, fearing even more hardship after the first outbreak of COVID-19 there last week.
    Israel says the restrictions are necessary because of security fears over Hamas, which it regards as a terrorist organisation.
(Reporting by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Howard Goller)

9/1/2020 Israel And UAE Agree To Cooperate On Financial Services: Israeli Statement
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed on Tuesday to set up a joint committee on financial services cooperation with the aim of promoting investment between the two countries, an Israeli statement said.
    Israeli and UAE officials meeting in Abu Dhabi signed the understanding, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in the statement.
    One focus, Netanyahu said, would be on “cooperation in the field of financial services and removing financial barriers for making investments between the countries, as well as promoting joint investments in the capital markets.”

9/1/2020 After UAE-Israel Breakthrough, Kushner Pushes Other Arabs To Go Next by Lisa Barrington and Dan Williams
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien pose for a group
photo, at Al Dhafra airbase in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Dan Williams
    AL-DHAFRA AIR BASE, Abu Dhabi (Reuters) – After accompanying an Israeli delegation to the UAE for historic normalization talks, White House adviser Jared Kushner set off on a tour of other Gulf capitals on Tuesday, looking for more Arab support.
    Israel and the United Arab Emirates set up a joint committee to cooperate on financial services at the talks in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.    Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, accompanied the Israeli delegation on Monday on what was billed as the first Israeli commercial flight to the influential Gulf monarchy, which agreed in August to normalize relations.
    Israel exchanged embassies with neighbors Egypt and Jordan under peace deals decades ago.    But until now, all other Arab states had demanded it first cede more land to the Palestinians.
    In remarks reported by the UAE state news agency WAM, Kushner suggested other Arab states could follow quickly.    Asked when the next would normalize ties with Israel, he was quoted as saying: “Let’s hope it’s months.”
    Kushner later flew to Bahrain, and is expected also to visit Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
    While no other Arab country has yet indicated a willingness to follow the UAE, the richest, Saudi Arabia, allowed the El Al charter flight carrying Kushner and the Israelis to use its air space.     In Bahrain, which houses the U.S. naval headquarters for the region, the state news agency reported that during his meeting with Kushner, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa had praised the role the UAE has played in defending Arab and Islamic interests. DISGRACED FOREVER
    The Palestinians have denounced the UAE agreement with Israel, which they say violates a longstanding pan-Arab position that Israel could normalize relations only in return for land. The UAE says it obtained a major concession from Israel to halt plans to annexe territory on the occupied West Bank.     The Gulf Arab states are mainly ruled by Sunni Muslim monarchs who consider their biggest foe to be Shi’ite Iran, and Israel has long held out the promise that their common enemy could bring them together.
    In a fiery speech on Tuesday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said: “The Emiratis will be disgraced forever for this treachery against the Islamic world, Arab nations and Palestine.”
    “The UAE, along with Israelis and evil Americans like the Jewish member of Trump’s family, are working together against the interests of the Islamic world,” Khamenei said, referring to Kushner, who is Jewish.
    Asked about Khamenei’s remarks, UAE Foreign Ministry official Jamal Al-Musharakh told reporters in Abu Dhabi: “The path to peace and prosperity is not paved with incitement and hate speech.”
    Israeli officials have played up the economic benefits of the UAE deal.    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said representatives of the two countries had signed an agreement on cooperation in financial services.
    The state-run Abu Dhabi Investment Office and Invest in Israel, part of Israel’s economy ministry, issued a joint statement saying they had agreed to set out a plan to establish formal cooperation.
    Amid the historic normalization talks, Kushner spent a morning meeting UAE military officials at an Abu Dhabi air base that houses U.S. military F-35 jets, advanced stealth aircraft which the Gulf state has long sought to buy despite Israeli objections.
    The UAE has said normalization should remove any hurdle blocking the sale.    Netanyahu said on Monday Israel still opposes selling the jets to the UAE.
(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi, Alexander Cornwell and Maha El Dahan in DUBAI; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Giles Elgood)
[Khamenei is too stupid to know that the Mideast Arabs are dissing him because they are buying F-35's to defend themselves from him and Iran].

9/1/2020 Amid Talks With Israel, UAE Pursuit Of Stealth Jets Rumbles In Background by Lisa Barrington and Dan Williams
U.S. President Senior Advisor Jared Kushner and U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien pose for a group photo with UAE's Air Force Major General
Falah Al Qahtani, at Al Dhafra airbase in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Lisa Barrington
    Al DHAFRA AIRBASE, Abu Dhabi (Reuters) – Amid historic normalization talks between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, American officials spent a morning at an Abu Dhabi air base housing U.S. stealth jets which the Gulf state hopes to buy despite Israeli objections.
    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner met Emirati military officials at the UAE’s Al Dhafra air base, where the U.S. keeps some of its F-35 advanced stealth warplanes, highlighting the UAE’s years-long drive to obtain the aircraft.
    Israel, which has the F-35, has balked at any other Middle East powers obtaining the plane, citing U.S. laws that it should maintain a military advantage in the region.
    Kushner, son-in-law to U.S. President Donald Trump, arrived in the Gulf Arab state on Monday on a two-day trip with an Israeli delegation for talks with UAE officials following their U.S.-brokered Aug. 13 accord to normalize relations.
    The Gulf state, one of Washington’s closest Middle East allies, has long expressed interest in acquiring the fighter jet made by Lockheed Martin Corp , which Israel has used in combat.
    UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash has said normalization should remove “any hurdle” for the United States to sell the F-35 to the UAE.
    A UAE official said the visit to the Emirati air base, which the U.S. also uses, near the UAE capital Abu Dhabi was not related to the F-35 issue, while another praised three decades of U.S.-UAE military cooperation.
    “Our relationship has been built on trust and mutual support,” Major General Falah al-Qahtani told reporters.    “We have stood together to fight extremism in all of its forms.”
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday F-35 plane sales were not part of the deal with the UAE, underscoring Israel’s concern not to dilute its access to advanced American weapons systems in the region.
    “The Americans acknowledged that.    Our position hasn’t changed,” Netanyahu said.
    He said that White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien made clear to him during a visit to Israel this week that the United States is committed to preserving Israel’s military edge in the volatile region.
    The United States has sold the F-35 to allies including Turkey, South Korea, Japan and Israel.
    “The F-35 issue is a long-standing request of the UAE and it’s not by any means a driver of reaching this accord,” Jamal Al-Musharakh, chief of policy planning and international cooperation at the UAE foreign ministry, told reporters.
    Kushner, who traveled on to Bahrain from the UAE on Tuesday, said he hoped another Arab country would normalize ties with Israel within months.
    No other Arab state has said so far it is considering following the UAE.    Several have ruled out normalization under current conditions.    Only two other Arab states have forged full relations with Israel – Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
(Reporting by Lisa Barrington and Dan Williams in Abu Dhabi, Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

9/1/2020 Erdogan Calls For Stricter Laws On Turkish Lawyers Accused Of Terrorism Links
FILE PHOTO: Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the nation in Istanbul,
Turkey, August 21, 2020. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called on Tuesday for the suspension of lawyers accused of links to terrorism, following protests over the death of a hunger-striking lawyer last week.
    Ebru Timtik died in an Istanbul hospital after a 238-day hunger strike following her conviction last year for membership of a terrorist organization.
    She was a member of the Contemporary Lawyers’ Association (CHD), a leftist group accused of having close ties to the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), a Marxist organization.
    Following her death, the Istanbul Bar Association hung a picture of Timtik outside its headquarters, in a protest dismissed by Erdogan.
    “We should be discussing whether methods such as expulsion from the profession should be introduced for lawyers,” he told judges and prosecutors at a ceremony in Ankara.
    Just as thieves should not be called on to defend burglars, “a lawyer who defends terrorists should not be a terrorist,” he said.
    The European Union said it was deeply saddened by the death of Timtik, who had been jailed for 13 years.    The EU said she was the fourth prisoner to die this year as a result of a hunger strike.
    “The tragic outcome of their fight for a fair trial painfully illustrates the urgent need for the Turkish authorities to credibly address the human rights situation in the country,” it said.
    Erdogan defended recent changes to the structure of Turkey’s bar associations, many of which have been strongly critical of the president.    The changes will dilute their powers by allowing multiple associations, instead of just one, to be formed in each province.
    “It is very painful that the bars, which should be institutions of justice, turned into the backyard of terror organizations,” Erdogan said, adding that further measures would be taken to reform the bar associations.
(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Dominic Evans and Gareth Jones)

9/2/2020 Stop Or Suspend West Bank Annexation? Devil In The Detail For Israel-UAE Deal by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams
FILE PHOTO: Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat, U.S. President's Senior Advisor Jared Kushner
and UAE's National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan hold a meeting in Abu Dhabi,
United Arab Emirates August 31, 2020. Ministry of Presidential Affairs/WAM/Handout via REUTERS
    GAZA/ABU DHABI (Reuters) – A difference between English and Arabic versions of a trilateral statement after an historic flight from Israel to the UAE has been seized upon by Palestinians to suggest the Gulf state has overstated Israeli readiness to drop West Bank annexation plans.
    The English version of a joint communiqué by the United Arab Emirates, Israel and the United States in Abu Dhabi on Monday said the accord had “led to the suspension of Israel’s plans to extend its sovereignty.”
    But the Arabic version, carried by the UAE state news agency WAM, said “the agreement … has led to Israel’s plans to annex Palestinian lands being stopped.”
    The discrepancy was highlighted by Palestinians after President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner flew with U.S. and Israeli delegations on the first Israeli commercial flight to the UAE to cement the normalisation accord, the first by a Gulf state.
    “Compare yourself the two versions… suspension of extending sovereignty, not stopping annexation of Palestinian lands,” tweeted Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation on Tuesday.
    The UAE has portrayed the accord, announced by Trump on Aug. 13, as a means to halt Israeli annexation of occupied West Bank lands, where Palestinian hope to build a future state.
    Jamal Al-Musharakh, chief of policy planning and international cooperation at the UAE foreign ministry, said the difference in wording was merely a translation issue.
    “If anyone can think of a better synonym than ‘Eeqaf’ (stopping) for ‘suspending’, then please let me know,” he told reporters.
    “One of the prerequisites of the commencing of bilateral relations was the halting of the annexation,” said Musharakh.    The Emirati government did not respond when asked for further comment.
    But Hanan Ashrawi, a senior PLO official, said it was a “forked tongue” attempt to influence public opinion in the Arab world.
NO CHANGE IN MY PLAN
    “I don’t think it is a problem of translation, I think it is a disingenuous way of trying to manipulate the discourse,” she told Reuters.
    “The Arabic translation is a way of misleading Arab public opinion by saying they have succeeded in stopping the annexation, while actually they suspended it.”
    In recent election campaigns Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to apply Israeli sovereignty to West Bank areas, including Jewish settlements, but said he needed a green light from Washington.
    Speaking in Hebrew and using the biblical terms for the West Bank, Netanyahu told Israelis on Aug. 13 – the day the deal was announced: “There is no change in my plan to apply our sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, in full coordination with the United States.    I am committed, it has not changed.”
    Keeping annexation hopes alive is widely seen as Netanyahu’s attempt to placate his right-wing voter base.    Settler leaders have accused him of repeatedly floating annexation, only to cave in to international pressure.
    An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman on Wednesday said it had nothing to add to the original Aug 13. statement, which said: “As a result of this diplomatic breakthrough …Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in the President’s Vision for Peace.”
    The White House declined to comment on the UAE trip communique, but a U.S. source familiar with the matter said the White House was not responsible for the Arabic translation.
    At the briefing to reporters in Washington after the Aug 13 announcement Trump said annexation was “right now off the table,” and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman added: “The word suspend was chosen carefully by all the parties.    ‘Suspend’ by definition, look it up, means a temporary halt.    It’s off the table now but it’s not off the table permanently.”
    During his UAE trip this week Kushner also used the word “suspend.”
    “Israel has agreed to suspend the annexation, to suspend applying Israeli law to those areas for the time being,” he told the WAM agency.    “But in the future it is a discussion that I am sure will be had.    But not in the near future.”
(This story was refiled to fix typo in ‘spokeswoman’ in paragraph 16, adds ‘Aug 13’ in paragraph 18 to establish time element)
(Writing and reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi in Dubai, and Stephen Farrell in Jerusalem. Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem and Alexandra Alper in Washington, Editing by William Maclean)

9/2/2020 French Roadmap Sets Blistering Pace For Lebanon To Change Course by Tom Perry and Raya Jalabi
FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron looks on as he attends a news conference at the Pine Residence, the official
residence of the French ambassador to Lebanon, in Beirut, Lebanon September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – A French roadmap for Lebanon’s next government calls for the immediate resumption of talks with the International Monetary Fund to fix the shattered economy and swift moves to fight graft and introduce other reforms that have been delayed for years.
    The draft program was reviewed by Reuters on Wednesday, a day after French President Emmanuel Macron on a visit to Beirut delivered a stark message to Lebanon’s leaders: deliver on reforms by the end of October or face sanctions.
    Macron, whose pressure prompted Lebanon’s bickering leaders to agree on a new prime minister, has spearheaded international efforts to set Lebanon on a new course after decades of corrupt rule led to its deepest crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
    Lebanon’s banks are paralyzed, its currency has crashed and sectarian tensions are rising.    On top of that, a huge port blast last month smashed a swathe of Beirut, killing more than 190 people and causing damage estimated at up to $4.6 billion.
    Reuters obtained the draft, which lays down detailed demands in line with Macron’s call for “credible commitments,” from two Lebanese officials.    It was also reported by Lebanese media.
    The French presidency and Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    Within 15 days of taking office, Lebanon’s new government should have set out a timeframe for IMF talks, the draft says.
    Within a month, it must implement an IMF-approved capital control law, start auditing the central bank and launch reforms to the electricity sector, which still cannot provide the nation of about 6 million people with 24-hour power.
    Also within a month, it should scrap current plans to build a controversial power station in Selaata, north of Beirut, and set up a national anti-corruption authority.
    Mustapha Adib, the former ambassador to Germany, was designated prime minister hours before Macron arrived.    Before taking up the post, he must secure approval for his cabinet, which usually takes months.    Macron set a two-week deadline.
    “The challenges are overwhelming and cannot bear delay,” Adib said after meeting politicians on Wednesday.
‘SET OF SPOILS’
    Lebanon’s talks with the IMF were launched in May but stalled in July as the government argued with the political parties and banks about the scale of losses in the banking system, which had largely funded a mountain of public debt.
    Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center said the reforms would be a challenge for the political elite as it would make it tough to finance their networks of influence.
    “It shifts politics from the old regime, which looks at public services as a set of spoils, into a new economy in which the old practices cannot go on,” he said.
    But a senior political source said parties were making some concessions, partly due to French pressure.    “It is ambitious but with (Macron) coaching Lebanon, it might work,” the source said.
    While Macron has led international diplomacy on Lebanon, other powers still have considerable sway, such as Iran via its ally the heavily armed Muslim Shi’ite party Hezbollah.
    Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, has exercised influence over Lebanon’s Sunnis and the United States, which lists Hezbollah as a terrorist group, is a major donor.
    Hezbollah official Mahmoud Qamati told Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV he saw regional and international cooperation over Lebanon.    “Therefore this is an opportunity for this government to solve some of the crises at least, if not all of them,” he said.
    The Lebanese Forces, a Christian party staunchly opposed to Hezbollah, said expert ministers in the new government must act independently without having to consult a political master, unlike the previous cabinet now acting as caretaker.
    Gebran Bassil, head of the biggest Christian party, the Hezbollah-allied Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), said “if this government does not succeed it means we are going towards a bigger catastrophe.”
(Reporting by Tom Perry and Raya Jalabi; Editing by Edmund Blair)

9/2/2020 Turkey Seeing Second Peak Of COVID-19 Outbreak, Health Minister Says
FILE PHOTO: Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca speaks during a news conference
in Ankara, Turkey, January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Cagla Durak/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey is seeing the second peak of the coronavirus outbreak due to “carelessness” at weddings and other social gatherings, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Wednesday, amid a rapid rise in the number of daily cases and deaths.
    Coronavirus deaths have jumped to their highest since mid-May, when lockdowns were in place, and new cases have risen to mid-June levels, at almost 1,600.    Ankara mostly reopened the economy and lifted weekend and age-specific lockdowns in early June.
    The number of new COVID-19 cases rose by 1,596 to 273,301 in the last 24 hours, according to Health Ministry data, while the death toll from the virus rose by 45 to 6,462 on Wednesday.    The data showed 246,876 total recoveries.
    Speaking after meeting his coronavirus science team, Koca said the capital Ankara had seen the most rapid rise in the number of cases lately, producing double the case numbers seen in Istanbul, previously the outbreak’s epicenter in Turkey.
    “We are going through the second peak of the first wave of coronavirus.    The carelessness at weddings and religious holidays has bought us to this point,” Koca said, but added lockdowns to curb the outbreak were not on the government’s agenda for now.
    “The outbreak is increasingly continuing.    The virus is spreading to more people each day.    Our test numbers are rising every day, our new patient numbers are not falling,” he said, adding 29,865 health workers were infected, with 52 deaths.
    Doctors and medical groups have warned in recent weeks that some hospitals were at capacity due to COVID-19.    At the weekend, the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara accused the government of downplaying the scale of the pandemic, citing local information.
    The Turkish Medics Association said last month that based on antibody tests, there are likely some 10 times more active coronavirus patients than suggested by the official tally.
    Koca stood by the accuracy of official tallies and urged people to be more cautious.    Turkey recently banned certain events and allowed more flexible work.
    Turkey is 18th globally in total cases, behind Pakistan and ahead of Italy, according to a Reuters tally.
(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Additional reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu, Editing by William Maclean)

9/2/2020 Russia Steps Up Support For Private Military Contractor In Libya: U.N. Report by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: The United Nations logo is seen at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action
Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
    NEW YORK (Reuters) – Russia has stepped up its logistic support for private military contractor Wagner Group in Libya with some 338 military cargo flights from Syria in the nine months to July 31 to aid Wagner fighters backing eastern-based Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar, according to a U.N. report seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
    The report by independent sanctions monitors – submitted to the U.N. Security Council Libya sanctions committee, but not yet public – also found that Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Russia, and Qatar breached an arms embargo on Libya.
    The U.N. missions of Jordan, Russia, Qatar, Turkey and the UAE did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the accusations in the report.    Russian President Vladimir Putin said in January that if there are Russians in Libya, they are not representing or paid by his government. [nR4N29101F]
    The U.N. report assessed “that direct Russian Federation military logistic support to ChVK Wagner, and possibly the other Russian Federation based private military companies … significantly increased from January 2020 to June 2020.”
    It listed some 338 “suspicious flights from Syria by Russian Federation military aircraft” to Libya between Nov. 1, 2019 and July 31, 2020.    In a confidential May report, the sanctions monitors said that Russia-based Wagner Group had up to 1,200 people deployed in Libya. [nL1N2CO16W]
    Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.    Since 2014, it has been split, with an internationally recognized government controlling the capital Tripoli and the northwest, while Haftar rules the east.
    Haftar is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, while the government is backed by Turkey.
    “The arms embargo remains totally ineffective,” the U.N. report said.
    “Since the more direct engagement by Turkey in December 2019 and the United Arab Emirates in January 2020, arms transfers to Libya by those two member states have been extensive, blatant and with complete disregard to the sanctions measures,” it said.
    The report also found that Egypt, Jordan, Russia, Syria, Qatar, Turkey and the UAE breached U.N. sanctions by not inspecting “cargo of suspicious commercial vessels or aircraft destined for Libya for which there were reasonable grounds.”
    The U.N. missions of Egypt and Syria did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

9/3/2020 Lebanese Army Finds More Explosive Chemicals Outside Beirut Port After Huge Blast
FILE PHOTO: Members of the Lebanese army rest at the damaged site of the massive blast
in Beirut's port area, in Beirut, Lebanon August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s army said on Thursday it had found 4.35 tonnes of ammonium nitrate near the entrance to Beirut port, the site of a huge blast last month caused by a large stockpile of the same highly explosive chemical.
    Army engineers were “dealing with it,” according to an army statement carried by the state news agency NNA.    The statement said the chemicals were found outside entrance nine to the port.
    The catastrophic explosion on Aug. 4 that ripped through the city killed about 190 people.    The authorities said it was caused by about 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stacked in unsafe conditions in a port warehouse for years.
    The blast smashed entire neighbourhoods, gutting buildings and injuring 6,000 people.
    Lebanon’s government quit amid public anger in a nation already brought to its knees by an economic crisis.    The public remains anxious that more hazardous materials are being stored badly, putting them at risk.
    Earlier on Thursday, President Michel Aoun ordered repairs to be made to old refuelling infrastructure at Beirut airport and called for an investigation into a report that thousands of litres of fuel had leaked from the system.
    Beirut airport head Fadi el-Hassan told a news conference that a leak of 84,000 litres of fuel had occurred in March 2019 and repairs were completed in two months.    He said international investigators had described the repairs as “satisfactory”.     News of the leak added to concerns about public safety.    “No explosion is awaiting us,” Hassan told the news conference.
(Reporting by Raya Jalabi; Editing by Edmund Blair)

9/3/2020 Israel Announces Partial National Lockdown After Coronavirus Surge by Jeffrey Heller
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel will impose a partial national lockdown next week to battle a coronavirus infection surge, the head of its pandemic task force said on Thursday, shouting his exasperation in an emotional television address.
    The health official, Ronni Gamzu, said Israel was facing a “pivotal moment” in trying to contain the spread of COVID-19, with some 3,000 new cases now reported daily in a population of nine million.
    He put much of the blame on what he called apathy among the Arab minority to social distancing rules and high infection rates in close-knit ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.
    Other health experts have said political in-fighting among members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government has led to a slow response to a second wave of cases after a national lockdown flattened the infection curve in May.
    “Please, no weddings now, no mass gatherings … anywhere,” Gamzu, his voice rising to a shout, implored on TV.    “There are cities in Israel that will be put under curfew and closure in the coming week and face economic, social and personal hardship.”
    He spoke after Netanyahu’s “coronavirus cabinet” approved on Thursday a lockdown of so-called “red towns” with high infection rates.    About 30 communities, mainly with Arab or ultra-Orthodox populations, have already been put in that category.
    In the Arab town of Nazareth – identified by health authorities as “red” – residents have bypassed restrictions by having wedding parties and receptions at home, packing hundreds of people into driveways or gardens for events usually held in now-closed event halls.
    Nazareth’s municipality said after Gamzu spoke that it was being unfairly targeted.
    Gamzu said infection rates were also high in Jewish seminaries in ultra-Orthodox areas, and he appealed to religious leaders to ensure social distancing rules were followed.    Israel’s school year began on Sept 1, with in-class teaching.
    There have been 122,799 confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel and 976 deaths.
(Additional reporting by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

9/3/2020 Greece, Turkey Agree To Talks Over Eastern Mediterranean, NATO Says by Robin Emmott and Daren Butler
FILE PHOTO: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speak to reporters after meeting German Chancellor
Angela Merkel at chancellery in Berlin, Germany August 27, 2020. Michael Kappeler/Pool via REUTERS
    BRUSSELS/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Greece and Turkey have agreed to talks to avoid accidental clashes in the Eastern Mediterranean, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday, part of efforts to defuse the worsening dispute over energy resources in the region.
    Germany is also leading a diplomatic push for broader dialogue and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan by video conference.
    “Following my discussions with Greek and Turkish leaders, the two allies have agreed to enter into technical talks at NATO to establish mechanisms for military deconfliction to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.
    North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies Turkey and Greece vehemently disagree over claims to natural gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean and the extent of their continental shelves.
    They have drawn the European Union and nearby countries into the dispute, which earlier this month flared into a light collision between Turkish and Greek frigates.
    Greece has been joined by NATO allies France and Italy in its military drills in the same area of the Mediterranean, while Turkey has also carried out naval exercises.
    “Deconfliction” in military parlance can mean setting up communications links between rival militaries in the same theatre, as the United States has done with Russia in Syria, but Stoltenberg did not go into details.
    Erdogan and Merkel discussed the dispute and the Turkish president said Greece, Cyprus and the countries which supported them were “taking steps which heightened deadlock and tensions.”
    “Our president said it was unacceptable for some countries to support the selfish and unjust attitude of Greece,” a statement from Erdogan’s office said, adding that he was grateful for Merkel’s efforts to contribute towards a solution.
    Greece, with support from the European Union, in turn accuses Turkey of aggressive actions and infringing on its maritime borders.
    “We have taken note of the NATO secretary general’s will to work to set up de-escalation mechanisms … However, only the immediate removal of all Turkish vessels from the Greek continental shelf would constitute a de-escalation,” a Greek diplomat said.
(Additional reporting by Renee Maltezou in Athens; Editing by Catherine Evans and Tom Brown)

9/3/2020 Turkey’s Erdogan, Germany’s Merkel Discuss East Mediterranean
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting of his ruling AK Party
in Ankara, Turkey, August 13, 2020. Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday that support given by some countries for Greece’s “selfish and unjust stance” in the eastern Mediterranean was unacceptable, Erdogan’s office said.
    Ankara and Athens have been locked in a bitter dispute over claims to potential hydrocarbon resources in the region, based on conflicting views on the extent of their continental shelves. The two leaders spoke by video conference, the statement said.
(Reporting by Can Sezer; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Catherine Evans; Editing by)

9/3/2020 High-Flying Drone Drops Weed Over Tel Aviv
Packets that were dropped from a drone over a main Tel Aviv square and which Israeli police suspect contained
cannabis are seen on the ground in Tel Aviv, Israel September 3, 2020. Israel Police/Handout via REUTERS
    TEL AVIV (Reuters) – A drone dropped packets of what looked like cannabis over a main square in Tel Aviv on Thursday after activists seeking to legalize the drug in Israel promised free weed from the air on social media.
    Police said they arrested two men who operated the quadcopter that flew over Rabin Square, a site often used for street protests and political rallies.
    “The time has come,” the Green Drone pro-legalization group said on its Telegram web messaging channel. “Is it a bird?    Is it a plane?    No, it’s the Green Drone sending you free cannabis from the skies.”
    In a statement, police said they suspected the baggies were filled with “a dangerous drug” and that officers managed to recover dozens of them.    Photos distributed by the police showed what appeared to be cannabis inside.
    The Maariv news website, which carried photos of the drone dropping the packets, said passersby took some of them before police arrived.    Footage showed people walking through busy traffic to pick up packets that had fallen on a road.
    Currently, medical use of cannabis is permitted in Israel while recreational use is illegal but largely decriminalized.
    In May, Israel gave approval for exports of medical cannabis, paving the way for sales abroad that the government expects to produce hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

9/4/2020 Rescuers Sift Beirut Rubble Amid Signs Of Life A Month After Blast
Rescue team members search through buildings damaged due to the massive explosion at
Beirut's port area, in Beirut, Lebanon September 4, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Rescue workers in Beirut dug through the rubble of a collapsed building with their hands on Friday after signs of life were detected under a mound of debris one month after a huge explosion shattered the capital.
    A group of workers pulled up chunks of concrete and other broken masonry as they dug down in the residential district of Gemmayze after rescue workers said on Thursday, they had detected signs of a pulse and breathing, a Reuters witness said.
    The Aug. 4 explosion at the nearby Beirut port was caused by massive amounts of badly stored ammonium nitrate.    It killed about 190 people and injured 6,000, adding to the woes of a nation already crippled by a deep economic crisis.
    A crane was brought to the search area to help by carefully lifting up steel girders and other heavy pieces of debris.
    Residents gathered nearby, holding out hope that someone could be found, while some voiced frustration that not enough had been done earlier to find survivors.
    “How many people could have survived if there had been a state and rescue operations ready?” asked 28-year-old Chadem.
    The explosion ripped through a swathe of the capital, smashing up districts such as Gemmayze, home to many old, traditional buildings, some of which collapsed in the shockwave.
    The team of rescue workers included volunteers from Chile, as well as Lebanese volunteers and members of the civil defense.
    The building where the search was being conducted had once housed a bar on its ground floor.
(Reporting by Beirut bureau; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Andrew Heavens)

9/4/2020 Rival Palestinian Factions Hold Rare Joint Meeting Over Israel-UAE Deal by Ali Sawafta
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a virtual meeting with Palestinian factions over Israel and the United Arab Emirates'
deal to normalise ties, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank September 3, 2020. Alaa Badarneh/Pool via REUTERS
    RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held a rare meeting with rival factions on Thursday as they sought to present a united front over Israel and the United Arab Emirates’ deal to normalise ties.
    The meeting was held through video-conference between Ramallah in the West Bank and Beirut, where Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ziyad al-Nakhalah attended.
    It is rare for Islamist Hamas and Abbas’s secular Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization to have such high-level contacts after years of in-fighting.
    Palestinians were dismayed by the Gulf state’s ‘normalisation’ accord with Israel, seeing it as a betrayal likely to weaken a long-standing pan-Arab position that calls for Israel to withdraw from occupied territory.    The deal was brokered by U.S. President Donald Trump, Abbas has refused to deal with Trump’s administration for more than two years, accusing it of pro-Israel bias, and rejected Trump’s Mideast plan, unveiled in January.
    “Our meeting comes at a very dangerous stage, in which our national cause faces various plots and dangers,” Abbas said on Thursday.
    “In order to stand together in the trench of confrontation and peaceful popular resistance to the occupation, I invite you here to agree on the formation of a national leadership.”
    Speaking from the fortified Palestinian embassy in Beirut, Haniyeh also said it was important to have a unified strategy.
    “We must succeed in ending the division and building a unified Palestinian position,” he said.    “At this stage, failure is forbidden.”
    Senior U.S. and Israeli officials visited Abu Dhabi on Monday on a historic trip to cement the UAE accord.    Trump adviser Jared Kushner told Palestinians they should accept the deal, restart negotiations with Israel and not be “stuck in the past.”
(Additional reporting by Rami Ayyub in Jerusalem and Zainah El-Haroun in Ramallah; Editing by Dan Grebler)
[Palestinians have to make a choice to join and have a future in peace or suffer and find themselves with no backing except from terrorists regimes.].

9/4/2020 Ethiopia’s Tigray Region To Holds Poll, Defying Federal Government by Giulia Paravicini
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attends a signing ceremony with European Commission
President Ursula von der Leyen in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia December 7, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region will head to the polls on Wednesday in defiance of the federal government, the latest challenge to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed from a slew of regional leaders flexing their muscles ahead of next year’s national elections.
    Abiy has overseen sweeping democratic reforms since taking power in Africa’s second most populous nation two years ago.    But the federal government – and major opposition parties – agreed to postpone national and regional elections due in August until the COVID-19 pandemic was under control.
    Tigray, whose leaders dominated the previous administration and have often bitterly denounced Abiy, announced it would hold elections anyway.
    “We know there is an open threat by Abiy to militarily intervene against Tigray and to cut funds, but we will still go ahead with the vote,” said Getachew Reda, a former federal information minister and now a spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.    “We know there will be consequences.”
    Abiy has given little away about his plans.    A spokeswoman for his office said in a text message that the vote would provoke “a constitutional response” and referred Reuters to parliament.
    The spokesman for parliament, Ato Gebru Gebresilasie, did not return calls seeking comment, but a report by the International Crisis Group think tank warned last month that the two sides were on a “collision course” and said: “If Tigray proceeds, Abiy’s government is ready to consider any new regional administration illegitimate.”
    Tigrayans are only a small minority in the Horn of Africa nation of 110 million, but dominated power since 1991, when the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front drove a Marxist military dictator from power.    The Front was a coalition of four ethnically-based parties, including the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
    Last year, three of the four parties in the coalition joined to create the new Prosperity Party under Abiy.    The Tigrayans refused.    Some said they felt persecuted – many former officials who have appeared on trial since Abiy took power are Tigrayan.
    But in a dynamic playing out all over Ethiopia, the long-ruling regional party is itself facing pressure from more zealous ethnic nationalists.    A new party is openly pushing Tigrayan secession from Ethiopia, a polyglot nation of more than 80 ethnic groups.
    For now, that’s a fringe idea, said Dr Asnake Kefale, associate professor of political science at Addis Ababa University.     “Among the people there isn’t a will to become independent,” he said.    “It’s an idea that is played with by the elites.”
(Reporting by Giulia Paravicini, Editing by William Maclean)

9/4/2020 Thousands Rally To Support Congo’s Threatened Nobel Laureate by Crispin Kyala
Protesters march in support of Denis Mukwege, the Congolese Nobel Laureate who received death threats in recent weeks after he called for justice over
serious human rights violations, in Bukavu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo September 3, 2020. REUTERS/Crispin Kyalangalilwa
    BUKAVU, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – A city in eastern Congo has rallied in support of Denis Mukwege, the Congolese Nobel Laureate who received death threats in recent weeks after he called for justice over serious human rights violations.
    On Thursday his supporters snaked through the streets of Bukavu, the lakeside home of the doctor who has helped thousands of survivors of sexual violence, honking motorcycle horns, singing and waving signs like “Don’t touch our Nobel Prize.”
    Mukwege has won international recognition, including the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, for his decades of work treating female victims conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
    Last week the United Nations said his life was in danger after he and his family received death threats via social media and by phone.
    Alongside his medical work at Panzi hospital in Bukavu, Mukwege has long been an advocate for prosecuting armed groups responsible for the endemic sexual violence in eastern Congo.
    “Our sisters in the forest got raped and ruined.    Some completely lost their wombs, and some carried their wombs in their hands,” said Safina Kusimwa, one of the demonstrators.
    “Mukwege put all his efforts into rescuing these women… we do not want to see this.    They should leave him in peace.”
    On August 24 he commemorated the anniversary of a 1998 massacre in Kasika where, he said in a statement, “more than a thousand civilians, including many women as well as children and babies” were killed, and “most of the women were raped, tortured, and had their genitals mutilated.”
    “Without truth and justice there will be no lasting peace in DR Congo and neither the victims nor the torturers will be able to rebuild a peaceful future for future generations,” Mukwege said.
    On Thursday the marchers called on the government to protect Mukwege, who narrowly survived an assassination attempt in 2012.
(Reporting by Crispin Kyala; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

9/4/2020 Serbia, Kosovo To Open Israel Embassies In Jerusalem
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Senior U.S. Presidential Adviser Jared Kushner (not pictured) make
joint statements about the Israeli-United Arab Emirates peace accords in Jerusalem, August 30, 2020. Debbie Hill/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel and Kosovo have agreed to establish diplomatic ties and Kosovo, along with Serbia, will open embassies in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday.
    Netanyahu’s statement came shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump made a similar announcement in Washington, where he met with leaders of Serbia and Kosovo as they agreed to normalize economic ties between them.
    “Kosovo will be the first country with a Muslim majority to open an embassy in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said.    “As I’ve said in recent days – the circle of peace and recognition of Israel is expanding and more countries are expected to join.”
    Only two countries – the United States and Guatemala – have already opened embassies in Jerusalem.    Palestinians have opposed such moves.
    The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to forging a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, who with broad international backing want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, as their capital.
    Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector it annexed after the 1967 war, as its capital.
    Israel and the United Arab Emirates last month agreed to normalize diplomatic ties in an accord Trump helped broker.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

9/4/2020 Libyan Families File U.S. Lawsuit Accusing LNA Leader Haftar Of War Crimes by Humeyra Pamuk
FILE PHOTO: Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar meets Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (not pictured)
at the Parliament in Athens, Greece, January 17, 2020. REUTERS/Costas Baltas
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two Libyan families filed a civil lawsuit in a U.S. federal court late on Thursday accusing Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), of war crimes, human rights abuses and torture during a 2016-2017 offensive to seize a key Libyan district, a court filing showed.
    The complaint, the third filed in a U.S. court against the military commander, is linked to 2016-2017 siege of the Libyan district of Ganfouda, which had been encircled for months as Haftar waged a years-long military campaign to drive Islamist-led opponents from eastern city of Benghazi.
    The fate of civilians trapped in Ganfouda had been a major point of contention, with the United Nations and international human rights groups calling for them to be granted safe passage amid allegations of human rights abuses by both sides.
    The criminal complaint, filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, seeks compensatory damages from Haftar, who is a U.S. citizen and previously lived in Virginia, according to media reports.    Lawyers for the Libyan families also wrote a letter to Attorney General William Barr, calling him to launch criminal proceedings against Haftar.
    “Mr. Haftar and his forces, which are being supported by countries such as Russia, have been accused of horrific war crimes and crimes against humanity by respected international organizations across the world,” the families’ lawyer said in the letter.
    In the complaint, plaintiffs detailed how Haftar’s forces, during their assault on Ganfouda in 2016-2017, repeatedly struck their block by shelling and air strikes, preventing their safe evacuation.
    Duncan Levin of New York law firm Tucker Levin PLLC, who represents Haftar and his sons, had no comment on Friday.
    Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.    Since 2014, it has been split into rival camps.    An internationally recognized government and allied armed factions control the northwest, while Haftar’s LNA holds sway over the east.
    Haftar is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, while the internationally recognized government is backed by Turkey.
    President Donald Trump’s April 2019 phone call to Haftar raised questions about where Washington stood on Libya.    Months later, the United States began to openly oppose Haftar’s Tripoli offensive, express its discontent against Russian involvement and called on all external forces to stand down.

9/5/2020 ‘No Signs Of Life’ In Beirut Rubble After Three-Day Search For Blast Survivors
Volunteers dig through the rubble of buildings which collapsed due to the explosion at the port area, after
signs of life were detected, in Gemmayze, Beirut, Lebanon September 5, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Rescue workers digging through the rubble of a Beirut building for the third day on Saturday said there was no longer hope of finding someone alive more than a month after a massive port explosion shattered Lebanon’s capital.
    About 50 rescue workers and volunteers, including a specialist team from Chile, had worked for three days to locate anyone after sensors on Thursday detected signs of breathing and heat.
    “Technically speaking, there are no signs of life,” Francisco Lermanta, the head of volunteer rescue group Topos Chile, said in a news conference on Saturday evening, adding that rescuers had combed 95% of the building.
    The signs of life detected in the past two days, Lermanta said, were breaths of fellow rescuers already inside the building picked up by their sensitive equipment.    He said efforts would now focus on clearing the rubble and finding remains.
    “We never stop with even one percent of hope,” Lermanta said, of finding a body.    “We never stop until the job is done.”
    The Aug. 4 blast killed about 190 people, injured 6,000 more, and devastated whole neighborhoods.    The authorities held ceremonies on Friday to mark a month since the explosion tore into a city already reeling from a crippling economic crisis.
    Rescue efforts dominated local and social media, as the Lebanese were transfixed, desperate for a miracle.    None came.
    The ruined building where the search was continuing lies between the residential districts of Gemmayze and Mar Mikhael, among the hardest hit areas by the blast and home to many old buildings that crumbled as the shockwave ripped through.
    Work was slow, rescue workers said earlier in the day, as the badly damaged building was at risk of complete collapse.
    “The building is really crumbling, it’s scary and there’s a lot of danger to the team,” Abou Moussa said.
    Workers used shovels and their hands to dig, while mechanical diggers and a crane lifted heavy debris.    Scanning equipment was also used to create 3D images of the wrecked building.
(Reporting by Raya Jalabi and Ali Abdallah; Writing by Raya Jalabi; Editing by Ros Russell and Jonathan Oatis)

9/5/2020 Ousted Mali President Keita Leaves Country As Transition Talks Begin by Tiemoko Diallo
FILE PHOTO: Colonel-Major Ismael Wague, one of the junta leaders of the National Committee for the Salvation
of the People (CNSP), which overthrew Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, attends a mass rally to
celebrate the coup, at the Independence Square in Bamako, Mali August 21, 2020. REUTERS/Moussa Kalapo
    BAMAKO (Reuters) – Ousted Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita left the country on Saturday for medical treatment in Abu Dhabi, an adviser said, as talks about a transition back to civilian rule following last month’s military coup got off to a chaotic start.
    Keita, 75, was hospitalised in the capital Bamako on Tuesday, six days after he was released from detention by the ruling junta, which seized power on Aug. 18.
    His former chief of staff, Mamadou Camara, told Reuters that Keita left Bamako on Saturday evening aboard a plane chartered by the United Arab Emirates at the request of Mali’s ruling junta.
    “It is a medical visit of between 10 and 15 days,” Camara said.
    Keita’s medical condition is unclear.    He had a benign tumour removed from his neck in 2016.
    West African leaders, fearing the coup could set a precedent that would undermine their power and an international fight against Islamist militants in the wider Sahel region, initially insisted Keita be restored to power.
    But they have since dropped that demand and are now calling for elections within a year: a timeline the junta, the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), has not committed to.
    Talks about the shape of the transition period opened on Saturday with hundreds of representatives from the junta, political parties and civil society groups attending an opening ceremony in Bamako.
    But less than an hour after it began, supporters of the M5-RFP coalition, which led mass demonstrations against Keita before the coup, began to protest, accusing the junta of excluding them from most working groups.
    M5-RFP supporters in the conference hall shouted down the moderator onstage, bringing proceedings to a halt.
    The moderator later announced that the M5-RFP would be able to participate in all of the working groups, which calmed the coalition’s supporters and allowed the event to resume.
    The talks, which are also being held in regional capitals across Mali, are scheduled to continue on Sunday and then resume again late next week.
(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Peter Graff)

9/6/2020 Israeli Business Delegations Led By Banks Hapoalim, Leumi To Visit UAE
FILE PHOTO: A woman uses an automated teller machine (ATM) outside a Bank Hapoalim
branch in Tel Aviv, Israel May 30, 2013. REUTERS/Nir Elias/File Photo
    TEL AVIV (Reuters) – The heads of Israel’s two biggest banks will travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this month, the first such visits since the two countries agreed to normalize relations.
    One delegation led by Bank Hapoalim will leave on Sept. 8 and visit Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where it will meet with government and trade officials as well as the heads of the largest banks in the UAE.
    Hapoalim CEO Dov Kotler on Sunday called it “a unique opportunity to establish economic relations and cooperation between our countries and their financial systems, which will yield economic growth for both parties.”
    He added there was an “immediate bilateral desire” to establish strong economic ties.
    The chairman and CEO of Bank Leumi will head a second delegation on Sept. 14.    Leumi said it hoped to build on the diplomatic accord by kick-starting cooperation in finance, technology, health, tourism, agriculture and industry.
    Israel and the UAE announced in August they would normalize diplomatic ties and forge a broad new relationship in a U.S.-brokered deal.    Last week, they agreed to set up a joint committee to cooperate on financial services, aiming to promote investment between the two countries.
    First Abu Dhabi Bank , the UAE’s largest lender, said last week it would open discussions with Hapoalim and Leumi.
(Reporting by Tova Cohen; Editing by Mark Potter)

9/6/2020 Turkey’s Erdogan, EU’s Michel Discuss East Med – CNN Turk
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a ceremony
in Ankara, Turkey, September 4, 2020. Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and European Council President Charles Michel discussed developments in the Eastern Mediterranean on Sunday, CNN Turk reported.
    NATO allies Turkey and Greece have been locked in a row over hydrocarbon exploration in the sea’s disputed waters and the extent of their continental shelves.    There was no official confirmation of the talks.
(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

9/6/2020 ‘Fateful Times’: Lebanese Patriarch Says New Cabinet Must Spurn Old, Corrupt Ways
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai speaks after meeting with Lebanon's President
Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon July 15, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s top Christian cleric said on Sunday a new government must deliver urgent economic and other reforms in the national interest, rather than returning to past corrupt ways that have plunged the Middle Eastern nation into an economic crisis.
    Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, leader of the Maronite church, has an influential role as religious leader of the biggest Christian community in Lebanon, where political power is divided between its main Christian, Muslim and Druze sects.
    Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib, a Sunni Muslim, is in talks to swiftly form a cabinet by mid September, under pressure from French President Emmanuel Macron.    Picking ministers in the past has taken months of haggling.
    Macron has led international efforts to fix the country of about six million people that has been crushed by debt and which is reeling from a huge Aug. 4 port blast that shattered Beirut, exacerbating Lebanon’s deepest crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.
    The patriarch called for an emergency government that was “small, qualified and strong” in his Sunday sermon, saying the new cabinet should not return to past ways of “clientelism, corruption and bias.”
    “Fateful times require a government in which there is no monopoly of portfolios, no sharing out of benefits, no dominance by one group, and no landmines that disrupt its work and decisions,” he said, adding it must “negotiate responsibly” with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
    His comments were carried by an-Nahar newspaper website and other Lebanese media.
    Talks with the IMF were started this year by the outgoing government, but quickly stalled amid a row between ministers, politicians and banks about the scale of losses in the banking system that has been brought to its knees, sending the currency into tailspin and driving many people into poverty.
(Reporting by Edmund Blair; Editing by Mark Potter)

9/7/2020 Russia’s Lavrov Lands In Syria For Talks With Assad: RIA
FILE PHOTO: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with United Nations Special Envoy to
Syria Geir Pedersen in Moscow, Russia September 3, 2020. Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Damascus on Monday for talks with President Bashar al-Assad and Syria’s foreign minister, the RIA news agency reported.
    Russia is a close ally of Assad.
(Reporting by Anton Kolodyazhnyy; writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Toby Chopra)

9/7/2020 Amid Talks With Israel, UAE Pursuit Of Stealth Jets Rumbles In Background by Lisa Barrington and Dan Williams
U.S. President Senior Advisor Jared Kushner and U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien pose for a group photo with UAE's Air Force Major General Falah Al Qahtani,
at Al Dhafra airbase in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Lisa Barrington
(This story updates Sept. 1 article to add background on F-35 programme)
    Al DHAFRA AIRBASE, Abu Dhabi (Reuters) – Amid historic normalisation talks between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, American officials spent a morning at an Abu Dhabi air base housing U.S. stealth jets which the Gulf state hopes to buy despite Israeli objections.
    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner met Emirati military officials at the UAE’s Al Dhafra air base, where the U.S. keeps some of its F-35 advanced stealth warplanes, highlighting the UAE’s years-long drive to obtain the aircraft.
    Israel, which has the F-35, has balked at any other Middle East powers obtaining the plane, citing U.S. laws that it should maintain a military advantage in the region.
    Kushner, son-in-law to U.S. President Donald Trump, arrived in the Gulf Arab state on Monday on a two-day trip with an Israeli delegation for talks with UAE officials following their U.S.-brokered Aug. 13 accord to normalise relations.
    The Gulf state, one of Washington’s closest Middle East allies, has long expressed interest in acquiring the fighter jet made by Lockheed Martin Corp , which Israel has used in combat.
    UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash has said normalisation should remove “any hurdle” for the United States to sell the F-35 to the UAE.
    A UAE official said the visit to the Emirati air base, which the U.S. also uses, near the UAE capital Abu Dhabi was not related to the F-35 issue, while another praised three decades of U.S.-UAE military cooperation.
    “Our relationship has been built on trust and mutual support,” Major General Falah al-Qahtani told reporters.    “We have stood together to fight extremism in all of its forms.”
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday F-35 plane sales were not part of the deal with the UAE, underscoring Israel’s concern not to dilute its access to advanced American weapons systems in the region.
    “The Americans acknowledged that.    Our position hasn’t changed,” Netanyahu said.
    He said that White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien made clear to him during a visit to Israel this week that the United States is committed to preserving Israel’s military edge in the volatile region.
    The United States has sold the F-35 to allies including South Korea, Japan and Israel.    Turkey’s participation in the F-35 programme was suspended over its purchase of an advanced Russian anti-aircraft system.
    “The F-35 issue is a long-standing request of the UAE and it’s not by any means a driver of reaching this accord,” Jamal Al-Musharakh, chief of policy planning and international cooperation at the UAE foreign ministry, told reporters.
    Kushner, who travelled on to Bahrain from the UAE on Tuesday, said he hoped another Arab country would normalise ties with Israel within months.
    No other Arab state has said so far it is considering following the UAE.    Several have ruled out normalisation under current conditions.    Only two other Arab states have forged full relations with Israel – Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
(Reporting by Lisa Barrington and Dan Williams in Abu Dhabi, Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

9/7/2020 Saudi King Tells Trump That Kingdom Is Eager To Achieve Fair Solution To Palestinian Issue
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz meets with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (not pictured) in
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia January 14, 2019. Picture taken January 14, 2019. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman told U.S. President Donald Trump in a phone call on Sunday that the kingdom was eager to achieve a fair and permanent solution to the Palestinian issue, which he said was the main starting point of the kingdom’s proposed Arab Peace Initiative, the state news agency reported.
    The leaders spoke by phone following a historic U.S. brokered accord last month under which the United Arab Emirates agreed to become the third Arab state to normalise ties with Israel after Egypt and Jordan.
    King Salman told Trump he appreciated U.S. efforts to support peace and that Saudi Arabia wanted to see a fair and permanent solution to the Palestinian issue based on the Arab Peace Initiative proposed by the kingdom in 2002.
    Under the proposal, Arab nations have offered Israel normalised ties in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians and full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
    Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and site of its holiest shrines, does not recognise Israel.
    However, this month the kingdom said it would allow flights between UAE and Israel, including by Israeli airliners, to use its airspace.
    White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner has said he hopes another Arab country normalizes ties with within months.
    No other Arab state has said so far it is considering following the UAE.
    King Salman’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Kushner discussed the need for the Palestinians and the Israelis to resume negotiations and reach a lasting peace after Kushner visited the UAE last month.
    The UAE-Israel deal was met by overwhelming Palestinian opposition.
(This story corrects to say a fair and permanent solution of Palestinian issue is the main starting point of the Arab Peace Initiative, not based on the Initiative)
(Reporting by Alaa Swilam, writing by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Peter Cooney and Richard Pullin)
[I do not think that the policies noted above will be the final decisions so lets see what will happen in the near future as God is in charge of this issue as prophesied in Daniel 9:27 and remember we are dealing with the descendants of Ishmael the son of Abraham by a concubine Hagar and the twelve Arab nations of the Middle East OPEC who controlled all the oil until recently and now are going to nuclear energy and want to move their nations to new economic growth and we are waiting to see who or what will initiate this endeavor].

9/7/2020 Saudi Arabia Jails Eight Over Khashoggi Murder, Fiancee Decries Trial by Marwa Rashad and Raya Jalabi
FILE PHOTO: The Committee to Protect Journalists and other press freedom activists hold a candlelight vigil in
front of the Saudi Embassy to mark the anniversary of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom's
consulate in Istanbul, Wednesday evening in Washington, U.S., October 2, 2019. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger.
    RIYADH/BEIRUT (Reuters) – A Saudi Arabian court jailed eight people for between seven and 20 years on Monday for the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, state media reported, four months after his family forgave his killers and enabled death sentences to be set aside.
    The trial was criticised by a U.N. official and human rights campaigners who said the masterminds of the murder remained free.
    Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, where he had gone to obtain documents for his impending wedding. His body was reportedly dismembered and removed from the building and his remains have not been found.
    The murder caused a global uproar and tarnished the reformist image of Prince Mohammed, son of King Salman and the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
    State media reported that five people were handed 20-year prison sentences, one person was sentenced to 10 years and two people were handed seven-year sentences for the killing.
    None of the defendants was named.
    After the ruling, Khashoggi’s fiancee said the eight jailed were not the only ones responsible for the murder.     “The Saudi authorities are closing the case without the world knowing the truth of who is responsible for Jamal’s murder,” Hatice Cengiz wrote in a statement.    “Who planned it, who ordered it, where is his body?
    In December, the court sentenced five people to death and three to jail, saying the killing was not premeditated but carried out on “the spur of the moment.
CRITICISM FROM ABROAD
    Some Western governments, as well as the CIA, had said previously they believed Prince Mohammed had ordered the killing.
    Saudi officials denied he played a role, though in September 2019 the prince indicated some personal accountability, saying “it happened under my watch.”
    In May, the family of the slain journalist said they forgave his murderers, paving the way for a reprieve for the five defendants sentenced to death.
    In Saudi Arabia, which lacks a codified legal system and follows Islamic law, forgiveness from a victim’s family in such cases can allow for a formal pardon and a stay of execution.
    Many Saudis hailed Monday’s ruling in comments on Twitter, a platform favoured by pro-government supporters.    Some said the ruling ended one of the most difficult political cases the kingdom has faced.    Others said the ruling makes Saudi Arabia the “land of justice,” a “country where rights are never lost.”
    But Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions accused Saudi Arabia of making a “mockery of justice” by not punishing more senior officials who, she said, were behind the murder.
    She said on Twitter the trial was not fair or transparent and “the responsibility of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has not even been addressed.”
    Adam Coogle, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said the conviction of individuals “does not hide the fact that the Saudi legal process has shielded top officials from any and all scrutiny.”
    “How can the regime be accused of the murder and at the same time it is responsible for the trial…?” said Yahia Assiri, founder of London-based Saudi rights group ALQST.
(Reporting by Marwa Rashad, Raya Jalabi and Yousef Saba, additional reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi, writing by Marwa Rashad, editing by Gareth Jones, William Maclean and Timothy Heritage)

9/7/2020 Iraq To Reopen Borders For Trade, Bring Back Sports And Dining
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Iraq is reopening its land border crossings, restaurants, hotels, and bringing back sporting events without spectators, the prime minister said on Monday, three days after it recorded its highest daily increase in coronavirus infections.
    Land crossings would be open for trade only so as to secure local market needs, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said in a statement.    Restaurants and five-star hotels must adhere to public health guidelines, he added.
    Sporting events would resume as of Sept. 12.    Government agencies can now bring back to work up to 50% of their employees, he said.
    Iraq registered its biggest daily increase in coronavirus infections on Friday with 5,036 cases as Iraqis continue to flout lockdown rules, the health ministry said.
    It recorded 4,314 new cases on Monday, the health ministry said, and 77 deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 264,684 and the total deaths to 7,589.
    Kadhimi said the electoral commission would be allowed to open voter registration centres and that its employees would be exempt from curfew.
    The prime minister took office in May as the third head of government in a chaotic 10-week period that followed months of unrest in a country exhausted by war with Islamist militants, corruption and economic decay.
    He was appointed to head a government tasked with organising an early election, a main demand of anti-government protesters who staged months of mass demonstrations last year, and has called one, to be held in June.
(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

9/7/2020 IAEA Providing Support For Saudi Arabia As It Plans To Adopt Nuclear Energy: Saudi TV
FILE PHOTO: A flag with the logo of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) flutters in front
of their headquarters in Vienna, Austria July 10, 2019. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Rafael Grossi was quoted on Monday as saying that Saudi Arabia was preparing to adopt nuclear energy and the agency was providing support, Saudi state TV Al-Ekhbariya reported.
    “Saudi Arabia is interested in nuclear energy and we are working on providing it with the necessary support,” Al-Ekhbariya quoted Grossi as saying.
    The kingdom has said it wants to tap nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and use nuclear power to diversify its energy mix.
(Reporting by Dahlia Nehme; Editing by Rania El Gamal and Susan Fenton)

9/7/2020 UAE Planning First Official Visit To Israel On Sept. 22: Source by Dan Williams
FILE PHOTO: Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat elbow bumps with an Emirati official as he makes his
way to board the plane to leave Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Nir Elias//File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates is planning to make its first official visit to Israel on Sept. 22 to build up the countries’ agreement to normalize relations, a source familiar with the provisional itinerary said on Monday.
    Israeli officials declined to comment and UAE officials did not respond to calls seeking comment.
    The two countries announced on Aug. 13 they would normalize diplomatic relations in a U.S.-brokered deal that was hailed as a breakthrough by Washington and Israel but spurned by the Palestinians.
    The UAE delegation’s trip to Israel, which has yet to be finalized, would come in reciprocation of a groundbreaking trip to Abu Dhabi last week by senior Israeli and U.S. envoys, the source told Reuters.
    The source said the UAE was expected to finalize the trip after a date is announced for a ceremony, likely in Washington, where the countries’ leaders will sign their normalization accord.    That ceremony is likely to take place in mid-September, the source added.
    The source declined to be identified by name or nationality due to the sensitivity of the evolving contacts.
    The trip would be the first publicly acknowledged visit to Israel by an official delegation from the UAE.
    Israel exchanged embassies with neighbors Egypt and Jordan under peace deals decades ago.    But until the UAE accord, all other Arab states had demanded Israel first cede more land to the Palestinians.
    An Israeli minister said on Monday annual trade between Israel and the UAE is expected to reach $4 billion.
(Additional reporting by Rami Ayyub in Jerusalem and Aziz El Yaakoubi in Dubai; Editing by Maayan Lubell and Andrew Heavens)

9/7/2020 Saudi King, France’s Macron Discuss G20: SPA
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz attends a virtual cabinet meeting in
Neom, Saudi Arabia August 18, 2020. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Saudi King Salman discussed with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday the Group of 20 (G20) major economies and latest developments in the region, Saudi state news agency (SPA)reported.
    They discussed, in a phone call, efforts made by the group to work on supporting economies and health systems to face the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, SPA said.
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah; Editing by Sandra Maler)

9/8/2020 Somali Architect Looks At City’s Ruined Past And Dreams Of The Future by Abdi Sheikh
Omar Degan Somali-Italian architect walks past the statue of Hawo Tako, in Mogadishu,
Somalia August 28, 2020. Picture taken August 28, 2020. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
    MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Mogadishu is a city of ruined glory: crenellated towers crumble by the sea and sand whirls against the pockmarked archways of the roofless old cathedral. But one young man, returning to his family’s homeland, walks through the streets and dreams of their future.
    Omar Degan, 30, was born in Italy to Somali parents who left three years before civil war broke out in 1991.    He studied architecture in Italy and Hong Kong before returning to Mogadishu in 2017, part of an influx of young diaspora Somalis returning to rebuild their country.
    “I feel extremely sad and angry when I see Mogadishu the way it is now,” he said, walking through streets scarred by fighting and choked with rubbish.    “It used to be the most beautiful city in Africa.”
    The population has swelled since Islamist al Shabaab insurgents pulled out of the city nine years ago, leaving it to African Union peacekeepers and Somali security forces.    But Degan worries a building boom is taking place with little regard for civic life.    Right now the only public space in the city is the sugar-white sandy beaches.
    “There is no accountability, there are no rules and regulations promoting spacing and design.    No public parks, not enough public space,” he explained.
    The government is trying: it reopened the National Theatre in July and the National Museum in July but repeated insurgent attacks mean citizens cannot just wander in and out: security has to be tight. Al Shabaab still mounts attacks in the city almost daily.
    Degan wants the government to set aside some of the city’s rapidly vanishing land for public spaces where families can gather in the evening.    He had found powerful allies: the former mayor of Mogadishu, and the prime minister.    But a suicide bomber killed the mayor a year ago and the prime minister was fired after a vote of no-confidence.
    For now, Degan is concentrating on smaller projects, some of which he does pro bono.    He’s designed a school with gardens in central Somalia, and a public library in the town of Las Anod.
    In Mogadishu, the cool white walls of the Salsabil restaurant he designed are adorned with pictures showcasing old Somali houses and men in the traditional mawais, a length of cloth wrapped around the waist.
    “Public space, especially in a post conflict reconstruction context, it means a lot because it really helps the people to take ownership,” Degan said.    “Having a public space, will help the reconciliation and the peace that Somalia needs and is looking for.”
(Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

9/8/2020 Palestinians Set To Soften Stance On UAE-Israel Normalisation: Draft Statement
FILE PHOTO: President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting with the Palestinian leadership to discuss the United Arab Emirates' deal with
Israel to normalize relations, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank August 18, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman/File Photo
    RAMALLAH (Reuters) – The Palestinian leadership has watered down its criticism of the normalisation deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates before an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Wednesday at which the accord will be debated.
    A draft resolution presented by the Palestinian envoy, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, does not include a call to condemn, or act against, the Emirates over the U.S.-brokered deal.
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also issued instructions on Tuesday banning any offensive statements or actions towards Arab leaders, including UAE rulers.
    Announced on Aug. 13, the accord was the first such accommodation between an Arab country and Israel in more than 20 years, and was forged largely through shared fears of Iran.
    The draft Palestinian resolution to be debated by Arab foreign ministers said the Israel-U.S.-Emirates announcement “doesn’t diminish Arab consensus over the Palestinian cause, the Palestinian cause is the cause of the entire Arab nation.”
    “The trilateral announcement doesn’t change the principal Arab vision based on the fact that the two-state solution on the 1967 borders is the only way to achieve peace in the Middle East,” the draft said.
    The tone is markedly different from that of Abbas, whose office on Aug. 13 called the accord “betrayal” and a “stab in the back of the Palestinian cause.”
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump have described the accord as historic, and urged other Arab countries to follow suit.
    Emirati leaders said the deal shelved Israeli plans to annex territory in the occupied West Bank.
(Reporting by Ali Sawafta and Nidal Almughrabi, Editing by Timothy Heritage)
[ABBAS IS NOW BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE AS THE ARAB NATIONS ARE STARTING THE PEACE PROCESS FOR THEM.].

9/8/2020 Italy Adds To European Calls For Change In Lebanon Amid Crisis
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte visits the site of last month's massive explosion at
Beirut port, in Beirut, Lebanon, September 8, 2020. Government handout/Handout via REUTERS
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Italy’s prime minister said on Tuesday it was time for Lebanon to rebuild trust between its people and institutions, joining France’s call for change in a nation devastated by economic crisis and last month’s explosion at Beirut port.
    Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was visiting Beirut a week after a trip by French President Emmanuel Macron, who has led international efforts to push through reforms in Lebanon to end decades of state corruption and mismanagement.
    Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib has until early next week to get a cabinet in place under a timetable promised during Macron’s visit to a nation facing its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
    Adib held talks with President Michel Aoun on Tuesday but made no announcements about ministerial appointments.
    “Now is the time to look ahead and build trust between the citizens and institutions, and to turn a new page in Lebanon’s history,” Conte said after talks with Aoun earlier on Tuesday.
    Conte, whose comments were carried in Arabic by Lebanese media, said Italy and the European Union were ready to help.
    During last week’s visit, Macron said Lebanese politicians, who usually bicker for months over ministerial posts, had promised to agree on a new cabinet in two weeks, or by mid-September.
    “We are at the stage of dialogue with his excellency, the president, and God willing it will go well,” Adib said after his meeting at the presidential palace.
    Lebanese media and political sources say Adib has discussed a cabinet of about 14 ministers, instead of the usual 20 or more posts.    He has not announced any plans.    A senior political source said Tuesday’s meeting went well.
    The swift formation of a government is the first step on a French political roadmap intended to open the way for heavily indebted Lebanon to receive international aid to get back on its feet.
    Billions of dollars of aid pledged at an international conference in 2018 were never delivered because Lebanon did not carry out reform pledges.
    Lebanon is also recovering from the Aug. 4 blast at Beirut port which killed about 190 people, injured 6,000 more and devastated whole neighbourhoods.
(Reporting by Edmund Blair and Tom Perry; Editing by William Maclean and Timothy Heritage)

9/8/2020 Palestinian Economic Woes Compounded By COVID-19: U.N. Report by Stephanie Nebehay
Palestinians shop at a market in the West Bank city of Ramallah March 25, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman/File Photo
    GENEVA (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic is compounding dire economic conditions in the Palestinian territories, where GDP per capita was already projected to fall by 3% to 4.5% this year, a United Nations agency said on Tuesday.
    Lockdown measures have had “grave fiscal implications” for authorities and residents of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and come as donors are cash-strapped, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said in a report.
    “The ‘pre-existing conditions’ in the occupied territories are essentially malignant.    And they will get worse over the coming years as the consequences of COVID-19,” said Richard Kozul-Wright, director of UNCTAD’s division on globalisation and development strategies.
    “Inequality, indebtedness, insecurity, (and) insufficient investment have been long-standing problems in the Palestinian occupied territories,” he told a news briefing.
    Palestinian health officials have reported 215 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 35,000 infections across the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
    A U.N. aid group has warned that a lack of key medical items in Gaza could make it hard to treat the disease effectively.
    “The situation in the occupied Palestinian territories is going from bad to worse,” Mahmoud Elkhafif, UNCTAD’s coordinator of the assistance to the Palestinian people, told the briefing.
    Donor support is expected to decline in 2020 to $266 million, “the lowest in more than a decade,” he said.
    Unemployment was already at a “depression-level” of 33% last year, the report said.
    By April 2020, revenues collected by the Palestinian National Authority from trade, tourism and transfers had declined to their lowest levels in 20 years, it said.
    To allow for expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Israeli zoning and planning regime “makes it nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain permits to build in their own land for any purpose,” the report said.
    Last year, Israel demolished or seized 622 Palestinian structures in the West Bank, it said.
(additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; and Rami Ayyub in Jerusalem; Editing by Peter Graff)

9/8/2020 Israel Imposes Week-Long Restrictions On Coronavirus Contagion Zones
FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians, some wearing masks, prepare to cross the street as some businesses reopened at the end of last month under a host of new rules,
following weeks of shutdown amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, in Tel Aviv, Israel June 4, 2020. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel on Tuesday began a week-long campaign of night curfews and school closures in dozens of towns and neighbourhoods with high coronavirus counts, hoping it will help stem a spike in cases.
    Most of the 40 zones subject to the partial lockdowns are identified with Israeli Arabs or ultra-Orthodox Jews, minorities where crowding has helped spread the pandemic.
    Israel, with a population of 9 million, has recorded 135,288 cases of COVID-19 and 1,031 deaths.
    Some government officials have called for a nationwide lockdown if the partial measures fail.    That could disrupt celebrations of the Jewish high holy days, which run from Sept. 18 to Oct. 10.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

9/8/2020 Netanyahu And Chad Official Discuss Possible Exchange Of Envoys: Israeli Statement
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Chad's President Idriss Deby, during
a meeting in N'Djamena, Chad January 20, 2019. Kobi Gideon/Government Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel and a Chadian envoy discussed a possible upgrading of relations on Tuesday that would include a mutual exchange of ambassadors, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said.
    Chadian President Idriss Deby visited Israel in 2018 to start a process of reviving ties that the African country severed in 1972.    Israel has cast the process as part of an outreach to the Arab and Muslim world.
    That process now includes the announcement last month of a normalisation deal with the United Arab Emirates.
    In Tuesday’s talks, a Chadian delegation led by Abdelkarim Deby, the president’s son, and Netanyahu discussed “appointing ambassadors and opening diplomatic missions, including (by Chad) in Jerusalem,” a statement by the prime minister’s office said.
    The delegation could not immediately be reached for comment.
    According to the Israeli statement, the delegation – which included Chad’s intelligence chief – also discussed bilateral cooperation on counter-terrorism and other matters.
    In a separate statement, Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said Netanyahu governments would send a business delegation to develop possible mineral projects in Chad.
(Writing by Dan Williams, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

9/8/2020 Russia Offers To Mediate Any Cyprus-Turkey Talks
Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides meets with Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov, in Nicosia, Cyprus September 8, 2020. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou
    MOSCOW/NICOSIA (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Cyprus on Tuesday that Moscow was ready to help mediate in any talks with Turkey over energy exploration in the east Mediterranean Sea.
    A decades-old rift between Turkey and Cyprus, which is backed by Greece, has come to a head this year in disputes over commercial rights in the east Mediterranean, an area thought to be rich in natural gas.
    “As far as your relations with Turkey are concerned, we are ready to promote dialogue, pragmatically based on mutual interests and in search of decisions, which will be fair and based on international law,” Lavrov said at a meeting with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades in Nicosia.
    “Russia considers any steps that could lead to a further escalation of tensions (in the east Mediterranean) unacceptable,” he later added in a news conference.
    NATO allies Turkey and Greece are at loggerheads over the extent of their continental shelves.    Ankara also disputes the rights of Cyprus to explore for natural gas in the sea area around the island.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova and Alexander Marrow; Additional reporting by Michele Kambas in Nicosia; Editing by Gareth Jones)

9/9/2020 Trump Will Announce Reduction In U.S. Troops In Iraq On Wednesday by Jeff Mason
U.S. President Donald Trump pumps his fist at the crowd after signing an extension of the ban on offshore drilling off the
coast of the state of Florida in front of a crowd of Trump supporters as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Director Andrew Wheeler
and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis look on in Jupiter, Florida, U.S. September 8, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
    ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will announce a further drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq on Wednesday, a senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday.
    That announcement will be followed by another one in the coming days on a further reduction in U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the official said.
    The decision comes as Trump, a Republican, faces blowback from a report that he allegedly made disparaging remarks about U.S. war dead.
    Trump is trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election.    His announcement, and the timing of it, may be aimed at convincing voters that he is following through on promises to end what he has described as America’s endless wars.
    The United States has around 5,200 troops that were deployed in Iraq to fight the Islamic State militant group.
    A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said last month that the United States was expected to reduce the number of its troops in Iraq by about a third in the coming months.
    The United States currently has about 8,600 troops in Afghanistan.    Trump said in an interview with Axios released last month that the United States planned to lower that number to about 4,000.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Sandra Maler)

9/9/2020 U.S. Blacklists Ex-Lebanese Ministers Over Hezbollah Ties, Vows More Action by Humeyra Pamuk and Daphne Psaledakis
FILE PHOTO: A United Nations peacekeeper (UNIFIL) stands near a poster depicting Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed
Hassan Nasrallah, in Adaisseh village, near the Lebanese-Israeli border, Lebanon August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Karamallah Daher
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States expanded its sanctions on Lebanon on Tuesday, blacklisting two former government ministers it accused of providing material and financial help to Hezbollah and warning that more actions targeting the Iran-backed Shi’ite group were coming.
    U.S. officials also said Washington was coordinating with France on Lebanon but voiced criticism over a meeting French President Emmanuel Macron held with Lebanese politicians, including a member of Hezbollah, seen as a terrorist organization by the United States.
    In a statement, the U.S. Treasury Department said it had designated former Lebanese Transport Minister Yusuf Finyanus and former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil for engaging in corruption and leveraging their political power for financial gain.
    “Finyanus and Khalil were involved in directing political and economic favors to Hezbollah and involved in some of the corruption that made Hezbollah’s work possible in Lebanon,” David Schenker, assistant secretary for Near East Affairs at the U.S. State Department told a briefing call.
    “This should be a message to both to those who cooperate with Hezbollah, those who enable Hezbollah but also to Lebanon’s political leaders,” Schenker said.    “Everyone should absolutely expect more designations to come,” he added.
    Media reports suggested that Washington had been initially looking to designate Gebran Bassil, the influential son-in-law of Lebanese President Michel Aoun and a former foreign minister who heads the largest Christian political bloc in the sectarian power-sharing system.
    Asked by reporters if Bassil and Riad Salama, a Lebanese central bank governor, were next to be sanctioned by the United States, senior U.S. government officials on a separate briefing call declined to comment.
    Fifteen years after the assassination of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, heavily armed group Hezbollah has risen to become the overarching power in a country that is now collapsing under a series of devastating crises.
    Lebanon’s banks are paralyzed, its currency has crashed and sectarian tensions are rising.    On top of that, a huge port blast last month smashed a large swath of Beirut, killing more than 190 people and causing damage estimated at up to $4.6 billion.
    Macron, whose pressure prompted Lebanon’s bickering leaders to agree on a new prime minister, has spearheaded international efforts to set Lebanon on a new course after decades of corrupt rule led to its deepest crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
    While France, Lebanon’s former colonial power, is at the forefront of diplomacy, Iran through its support for Hezbollah also has influence.    The United States is also a major donor to Lebanon, including to the Lebanese army.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Humeyra Pamuk; Additional Reporting by Raya Jalabi in Beirut; Editing by Tom Brown)

9/9/2020 Palestinians Fail To Persuade Arab Ministers To Condemn UAE-Israel Deal by Ahmed Tolba and Nadeen Ebrahim
A banner showing Arab countries's flags is seen as a woman walks during a protest against normalizing ties with Israel, in
Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as Arab foreign ministers meet September 9, 2020. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Palestinian leaders won renewed Saudi support for Palestinian statehood on Wednesday, but failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn last month’s normalisation deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
    At a video conference of foreign ministers, the Palestinian leadership softened its own censure of the UAE for the U.S.-brokered Aug. 13 accord, which is to be formalised at a signing ceremony at the White House next week, but to no avail.
    “Discussions regarding this point were serious.    It was comprehensive and took some time.    But it did not lead in the end to agreement about the draft communique that was proposed by the Palestinian side,” Arab League Assistant Secretary General Hossam Zaki told reporters.
    The UAE-Israel accord was the first such accommodation between an Arab country and Israel in more than 20 years, and was forged partly through shared fears of Iran.
    Palestinians were dismayed by the UAE’s move, fearing it would weaken a long-standing pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.
SAUDI SUPPORT
    A Saudi statement on remarks made by Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud included no direct mention of the normalisation deal.
    But the prince said Riyadh supported the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the borders in place before the 1967 Middle East war, with East Jerusalem as its capital, according to the statement.
    The United States, Israel and the UAE have urged Palestinian leaders to re-engage with Israel.    On a trip to the Emirates, U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner said Palestinians should not be “stuck in the past
    In televised comments at the meeting, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki referred to the accord as a “surprise,” and an “earthquake” for Arab consensus, and voiced dismay at the failure to call an emergency Arab summit after the deal was announced.
    But he avoided stronger words such as “betrayal” that Palestinian leaders had used in the immediate aftermath of the announcement.     Maliki used tougher language against Israel, referring to “colonial and racist occupation”, and accused the United States of blackmail, pressure and assault against Palestinians and some Arab states.
(Reporting by Ali Sawafta, Ahmed Tolba, Nidal Al Mughrabi, Maher Chmaytelli, Ulf Laessing, Stephen Farell, Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Kevin Liffey)

9/9/2020 Exclusive: EU Prepares To Lift Sanctions On Libyan Powerbroker, Diplomats Say by John Irish and Robin Emmott
FILE PHOTO: A member of the Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by Khalifa Haftar sits in a tent at one of their sites
in west of Sirte, Libya August 19, 2020. Picture taken August 19, 2020. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori -/File Photo
    PARIS/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union plans to remove an east Libyan powerbroker from its sanctions blacklist to encourage peace efforts and ensure the EU plays a central role in any negotiated settlement, three diplomats said.
    After months of inaction, European powers see a chance to reassert their role in Libya, in turmoil since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi, after a ceasefire in August and to counter growing Turkish and Russian military involvement.
    The EU has blacklisted Aguilah Saleh, leader of rebel-held eastern Libya’s parliament, since 2016, accused of obstructing peace efforts.    But the diplomats said he was now a key figure in a push to bring the two sides of the Libyan conflict together.
    Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) declared the ceasefire last month and called for a lifting of a seven-month blockade on oil facilities.    Saleh also appealed for a halt to hostilities.
    That was met with rebuke from eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, whose Libyan National Army has been backed by Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, but whose stock has waned after a failed assault on Tripoli following Turkish military support to the GNA.
NO LONGER ‘SPOILERS’
    With Libya’s migration routes close to European shores and its energy supplies, Italy, France and Germany, along with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, want to show unity and defend interests on their southern doorstep.
    “There’s a window of opportunity now for the EU to move. Borrell is pressing EU states to realize just how close and how important Libya is,” one EU diplomat said.
    According to the diplomats, EU states are working to remove the travel bans and asset freezes on Saleh and also on Nouri Abusahmain, president of Libya’ s General National Congress in Tripoli, one of two rival parliaments, and Khalifa al-Ghwell, prime minister of the Tripoli government.
    “We are heading towards a delisting of Saleh.    It enables us to send a signal to ‘spoilers’ because frankly everybody is talking to him,” a second EU diplomat said.
    Jalel Harchaoui at the Clingendael Institute said there was a consensus that Haftar’s time had passed and Russia and Egypt had sought to bring Saleh to the diplomatic fore.
    “Given that reality, other nations, including Europeans, are now joining the bandwagon.    It is important to have one or more interlocutors that are not Haftar or his sons,” he said.
    The senior figures could first see a freeze of the sanctions, or the sanctions, which come up for renewal in October, could be extended for a limited period.
    The bloc has also agreed in principle to add sanctions on two Libyan individuals and three Libyan companies, including those linked to the maritime and aviation sector, as part of efforts to enforce a U.N. arms embargo.
    Final agreement could come later this month, although EU governments must overcome delays from Cyprus, which is holding up all sanctions approval until the EU agrees a tougher line on Turkey in a dispute over energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.     Sanctions need all 27 EU states to agree.
(Reporting by John Irish and Robin Emmott; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

9/9/2020 Possible War Crimes In Yemen Fueled By Arms Flows From West, Iran: U.N. by Stephanie Nebehay
FILE PHOTO: Smoke and dust rise from the site of an air strike on the outskirts
of Sanaa, Yemen July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah/File Photo
    GENEVA (Reuters) – Weapons provided by Western powers and Iran to the warring sides in Yemen are fuelling the six-year-old conflict, marked by deadly Saudi-led coalition air strikes and Houthi shelling, U.N. investigators said on Wednesday.
    Coalition air strikes in the past year may amount to war crimes, while the Iran-aligned Houthi movement carried out killings and other abuses that may also constitute war crimes, they said in a report.
    It was the third successive year that the panel of independent experts found that all parties had violated international law.    This year’s findings covered incidents from June 2019 to June 2020.
    “After years of documenting the terrible toll of this war, no one can say ‘we did not know what was happening in Yemen’,” said Kamel Jendoubi, chairman of the Group of Experts.
    Panel member Melissa Parke told reporters: “Responsibility for these violations rests with all the parties to the conflict – namely the government of Yemen, de facto authorities (Houthis), the Southern Transitional Council, and members of the coalition, in particular Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”
    Britain, Canada, France, Iran and the United States continued their support to the warring sides “including through arms transfers, thereby helping to perpetuate the conflict,” the U.N. panel said.
    “This year we added Canada because there has been an uptick in arms sales by Canada in 2019,” said panel member Ardi Imseis, adding that Spain, Poland and Italy had also sold arms.
    “We therefore reiterate our call for states to stop transferring arms to the parties to the conflict.”
DISPROPORTIONATE ATTACKS
    The three exerts urged the U.N. Security Council to refer the situation in Yemen to the International Criminal Court for possible prosecutions and to extend its list of people under sanctions.
    The Saudi-led Sunni Muslim coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognized government from power in the capital, Sanaa, in 2014.
    The conflict is widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and its regional foe, Shi’ite Muslim Iran.    More than 100,000 people have been killed and millions are on the brink of famine, aid agencies say.
    “During this reporting period, the Group verified a further four airstrikes or series of airstrikes involving similar failures to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian objects,” the report said of the coalition backing the government of Yemen’s exiled president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
    “Disproportionate attacks constitute war crimes under customary international law,” it said.
    Mortar bombs fired by the Houthis hit a central prison in the frontline city of Taiz in April, killing six women and two girls, according to the report, which said it could constitute a war crime.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

9/9/2020 Israel’s Netanyahu Demands Probe Of Investigators In His Corruption Trial by Rami Ayyub
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a statement as Israel imposes nightly curfews in dozens of towns and neighbourhoods to
stem the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Beit Shemesh, Israel September 8, 2020. Alex Kolomoisky/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Wednesday for an inquiry into the investigators who brought corruption charges against him, in a move that critics said was an attempt to distract from his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Amid a surge in coronavirus cases, Israel’s attorney general has accused Netanyahu of trying to discredit the country’s criminal justice system while he is on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.    He denies any wrongdoing.
    Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and allies voiced anger this week after Israel’s Channel 12 news reported that police and prosecutors had failed to disclose alleged conflicts of interest by an investigator who the report said was involved in the cases against him.
    “It is clear that the police and prosecution are making political decisions against justice and law in order to topple a right-wing prime minister,” Netanyahu said at the start of a Likud meeting on Wednesday evening.
    “This conduct must be investigated,” said Netanyahu, who has consistently accused police and prosecutors of bias against him.    A spokesman for Israel’s State Attorney Office declined to comment on Netanyahu’s remarks.
    In a statement, Israel’s justice ministry said the investigator referenced in the Channel 12 report was not involved in the case in which the person allegedly had a conflict of interest.
    Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit called claims of judicial impropriety “baseless falsehoods entirely intended to delegitimise the justice system and its decisions regarding the prime minister.”
    Israel’s longest-serving prime minister faces public anger over the corruption allegations and his handling of the pandemic, drawing thousands to the streets in almost daily protests.
    The country has seen a sharp rise in new cases after initial success at the start of the pandemic, and on Tuesday began a week-long campaign of night curfews and school closures.    It has reported 1,048 deaths and over 139,000 cases among its nine million population.
    Netanyahu, whose corruption trial began in May and is set to resume in January, was sworn in for a fifth term this summer after striking a unity deal with his principal election rival, former armed forces chief Benny Gantz.
    Speaking after Netanyahu’s remarks, Gantz, who has been at odds with the premier over the coronavirus response and fiscal policy, said: “Sharp attacks by the government against the law enforcement system are a danger to Israeli democracy.”
(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Stephen Farrell and Mark Potter)

9/10/2020 Fear And Poverty In Turkey As Pandemic Hits Erdogan’s Base by Jonathan Spicer and Ali Kucukgocmen
FILE PHOTO: Business and residential buildings are seen in Sisli district as the outbreak of the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) continues, in Istanbul, Turkey September 7, 2020. Picture taken September 7, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Huseyin Goksoy, a tailor who was so stressed about going hungry during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic that he was briefly bedridden with a hernia, is increasingly worried about his future as Turkey strains to curb poverty.
    He is not alone.
    Though a two-month lockdown ended in June, about four million Turks still rely on state aid to get by, while even more informal workers missed out on most of the financial support.
    Polls and academic research paint a grim picture ahead of the day when President Tayyip Erdogan’s government is expected to lift a temporary ban on layoffs, possibly as soon as November.
    Goksoy, 48, makes face masks to help cover losses from earlier this year when he could not get a subsidized small-business loan because there was no guarantor in his conservative neighborhood in central Istanbul.
    “People don’t get dressed up when they don’t work, so I only repaired tears and it was 5-10 liras ($1) a day – if that,” he said.    “I still can’t send money to my kids when they want it.    If I do a bad job, I’d go hungry.”
    Data and polls show that fear and disillusionment like this are unprecedented across the labor market.    Those hardest hit are the same Turks who benefited from years of Erdogan’s welfare policies that helped to sharply reduce income inequalities.
    One study by Turkish economists Ayse Aylin Bayar, Oner Guncavdi and Haluk Levent predicts the number of impoverished Turks could double this year to nearly 20 million, and set back by two decades progress in narrowing inequality.
    That would effectively wipe out the successes of Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party (AKP) and could test his staunchest voter base at the next general election set for 2023.
    Goksoy – whose shop is near the president’s childhood home – said he still supported AKP though he would change his mind if he thought the party was no longer honest.
UNSUSTAINABLE
    Erdogan said on Monday the economy would emerge stronger from the pandemic even though its effects linger, adding that the government’s 100 billion lira ($13 billion) aid program helped lower-income households.
    Representatives of the presidency and the finance ministry, which administers the aid, did not immediately respond to questions about rising poverty.
    The aid scheme partially covers wages of many registered workers and funded some 2 million needy households.    Big cities run by the main opposition party chipped in other funds and food supplies.
    But Turkey’s mix of low-skilled labor in which a third of workers informally earn cash daily, a private sector dominated by small businesses and public finances already strained from a 2018-2019 recession leaves the country uniquely vulnerable.
    Reserves at the central bank, which backstopped much of the pandemic response, have fallen sharply and accelerated a plunge in the Turkish lira to all-time lows.    That in turn raises prices for basic imported goods.
    By law, Erdogan can extend the ban on layoffs beyond November to mid-2021 to shield workers, but at a fiscal cost.
    “These are not sustainable policies,” said Guncavdi, an economist at Istanbul Technical University who co-authored the study predicting a jump in poverty.
    “When they are removed, there is potential for upheaval with mass layoffs, a spike in destitution, family structures being tested and potential demonizing of minorities and refugees.”
    Turkey’s 3.6 million Syrian refugees faced backlash in past downturns, and those left unemployed this year had little safety net.
    Retired florist Kemal Erdogan, 76, said this week he supports AKP but added that with the poor now getting poorer it was clear Turkey welcomed too many foreigners who are “living better lives than you and I.”
LOCKDOWN ANXIETIES
    An unprecedented collapse in employment endured after the lockdown was lifted in June and July, driven by workers not formally on payrolls, government data showed on Thursday.
    A record 1.4 million were too discouraged to search for work, up nearly threefold from a year ago. Of those who had jobs last month, nearly half were “very afraid” of losing them by winter, a poll by Istanbul Economics Research found.
    Can Selcuki, general manager of the consultancy, said that likely reflects workers’ suspicion that they will be laid off “the minute” the layoff ban is lifted.    He added that support for Erdogan’s ruling alliance dipped to 44% in a poll this month, from 46% in August after a summer bounce.
    Turkey, like several other countries, banned layoffs in April when it also closed most businesses, shut borders and intercity travel and adopted partial stay-at-home orders.
    Large gatherings were curbed, leaving Mehmet Coskun, a wedding drummer without social security, only a third of his usual gigs.    “I don’t know what to do when my loan payments come along,” he said.    “Perhaps I can sell water or clean buildings.”
    Such lost jobs in the service, tourism and construction sectors are hurting Turkey’s poorest households the most, according to the World Bank.    The bank, however, predicts that the poverty rate will rise less than forecast in the Turkish study, to about 12% from 10%, contained in part by the state aid.
    A recent rise in coronavirus cases to early May levels only raises anxieties.
    Meryem Yildirim, who opened a women’s clothing shop in Istanbul two months ago, said a return to lockdown was her worst nightmare.
    “All small businesses think this way now,” said the mother of two, adding she took out a loan to pay rent and to cover a second loan on the shop.
(For a graphic on discouraged workers, click https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/TURKEY-POVERTY/nmovaqajava/index.html)
(For a graphic on employment and workforce participation, click https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/TURKEY-POVERTY/gjnvwadxgvw/index.html)
($1 = 7.4894 liras)
(Additional reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun in Istanbul; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

9/10/2020 Huge Blaze At Beirut Port Alarms Residents A Month After Massive Blast by Tom Perry and Alaa Kanaan
Smoke rises from Beirut's port area, Lebanon September 10, 2020. REUTERS/Alaa Kanaan
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – A large fire erupted at Beirut port on Thursday, engulfing parts of the Lebanese capital in a pall of smoke weeks after a massive blast devastated the port and ruined a swathe of the city.
    The blaze began in the shattered duty-free zone of the port, prompting some residents to flee the city still traumatised by last month’s explosion that had followed a port fire.
    Army helicopters dropped water as firefighters battled on the ground to bring the blaze under control.    By nightfall, officials said most flames had been extinguished.    Smoke still rose from smouldering wreckage but it was far less dense.
    The blaze strained nerves already on edge.    The city is reeling from the Aug. 4 port blast and the nation is grappling with a deep economic crisis that has posed the biggest threat to Lebanon’s stability since its 1975-1990 civil war.
    “For sure we were scared, it’s only been a month since the explosion that destroyed Beirut.    We saw the same thing happening again,” 53-year-old Andre Muarbes said after soot and ash settled on vehicles and buildings across parts of the capital.
    Lebanese President Michel Aoun said at a meeting of the Supreme Defence Council about the blaze that the fire could have been the result of sabotage, technical error or negligence, and the cause had to be uncovered quickly.
    Many Lebanese are frustrated that they have yet to be told about any initial findings from an investigation into last month’s port explosion that killed about 190 and injured 6,000.
    Officials said no one had been injured in Thursday’s fire although some suffered shortness of breath.
    A source in the Supreme Defence Council said the port chief told the council in a report the fire was caused by repair welding work.    Sparks fell on warehouses storing flammable items, including food items held there by aid agencies, the source said, adding that the military police would investigate.
    A security source had also blamed welding work for the fire preceding the Aug. 4 port blast.
SHOCK
    The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross said it had aid in a warehouse that was on fire.    “Our humanitarian operation risks to be seriously disrupted,” ICRC Middle East director Fabrizio Carboni wrote on Twitter.
    Beirut’s port is used by aid agencies to supply refugees in Lebanon and people in need in neighbouring Syria.
    A military source said Thursday’s blaze appeared to have started when cooking oil caught fire and spread to stores of tyres.    Television footage had shown flames licking up near a pile of tyres in a warehouse ruined in last month’s explosion.
    Majed Hassanein, 49, was taking his wife and two children out of the capital by car during the height of the blaze.    “I am forced to get them out of Beirut from the smoke and the fire that is happening at the port again,” he said.
    He said his son still suffered from shock from the blast that ruined a swathe of capital and left about 300,000 people without habitable homes and shattering windows across Beirut.
    Carmen Geha, an activist and assistant professor at the American University of Beirut, said the fire was further proof of mismanagement by a ruling elite, who have dragged the nation into crisis after years of corruption and poor governance.
    “It’s a gross crime, gross negligence and gross arrogance,” she said.    “You can’t trust them to manage anything.”
    Firefighters were shown on television dousing the fire surrounded by mangled remains of warehouses destroyed in last month’s explosion, which was caused by a store of ammonium nitrate kept in poor condition at the port for years.
(Reporting by Alaa Kanaan, Tom Perry and Reuters reporters; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Jon Boyle, Toby Chopra, Philippa Fletcher and Lisa Shumaker)

9/10/2020 Trump Says U.S. To Cut Iraq Troops To About 2,000 In ‘Very Short’ Time
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters during a news conference in the Brady Press
Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 10, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that U.S. troop numbers in Iraq would be down to about 2,000 in a very short period of time.
    At a White House news conference, Trump went further than a U.S. official speaking last month, who said the United States would go down to about 3,500 troops in Iraq in the next two to three months. [nL1N2FU176]
    “Iraq will be down to about 2,000 soldiers in a very short period of time,” Trump said.

9/10/2020 President Trump: Other Arab Nations May Join Israel-UAE Deal by OAN Newsroom
President Donald Trump speaks to the press before boarding Air Force One for a trip to a campaign rally
in Freeland, Mich., Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    President Trump has called on other Arab nations to join the latest peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.    The President added countries are “lining up” to join the treaty.
    “Next week at the White House, we’ll be having a signing between the UAE and Israel.    We could have another country added into that. I will tell you, countries are lining up that want to go into it.” – Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States
    He went on to say he’s in talks with the king of Saudi Arabia on the matter.    The President also said even Iran’s ayatollah regime may finally join talks.
    “Two things are going to happen.    If we win the election, Iran will come and sign a deal with us very, very rapidly within the first, I would say, week.    But let’s give ourselves a month, because their GDP was down 25%, which is like an unheard of number.    They’d like to be able to get back to having a successful country again.” – Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States
    The President added he also expects the Palestinian National Authority will want a peace deal with Israel once it discovers the majority of Arab nations have joined.

9/10/2020 Kuwait’ Emir Health Is Stable: Emiri Diwan Statement
FILE PHOTO: Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah attends the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) 40th
Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 10, 2019. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Kuwait’s Emiri Diwan said in a statement on Thursday that the ruling Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah’s health is stable and that the Emir is receiving the scheduled medical treatment following surgery, the state news agency cited the Diwan statement.
    Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah is in the United States completing medical treatment following surgery for an unspecified condition in Kuwait.
(Reporting by Alaa Swilam and Omar Fahmy; Editing by Sandra Maler)

9/11/2020 Lebanese Firefighters Douse Remains Of Beirut Port Fire
FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises after a fire broke out at Beirut's port area, as pictured
from Ashrafieh, Lebanon September 10, 2020. REUTERS/Issam Abdallah
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese firefighters and army helicopters on Friday put out the remains of a huge fire at Beirut’s port that had flared up a day earlier, barely a month after a massive blast devastated the port and the surrounding area.
    Thursday’s fire, which officials said was sparked by welding during repair work after last month’s port explosion, covered several districts of Beirut in a huge cloud of black, acrid smoke, causing panic in a city still on edge after the blast.
    The Aug. 4 port blast exacerbated challenges in a nation that is grappling with a deep economic crisis and facing the biggest threat to its stability since a 1975-1990 civil war.
    The civil defence said in a statement that firefighters had extinguished the flames on Friday morning after working through the night, and were cooling the site to avoid it flaring up again.
    Lebanese President Michel Aoun said at a meeting of the Supreme Defence Council on Thursday night that the fire could have been caused by sabotage, technical error or negligence.    He called for a swift investigation.
    Many Lebanese are frustrated that they have yet to be told about any initial findings from an investigation into last month’s explosion that killed about 190 people and injured 6,000.
    The government resigned after the port blast, and Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib is racing to form a new cabinet by early next week to meet a two-week deadline agreed under French pressure. Forming a government in Lebanon usually takes months.
(Reporting by Edmund Blair; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

9/11/2020 Bahrain Follows Emirates In Normalizing Ties With Israel by Steve Holland, Dan Williams and Aziz El Yaakoubi
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President's senior adviser, Jared Kushner (L) and Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa (R)
pose for a press photo, during Kushner's visit to Manama, Bahrain, September 1, 2020.
Bahrain News Agency/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY./File Photo
    WASHINGTON/JERUSALEM/DUBAI (Reuters) – Bahrain joined the United Arab Emirates in agreeing to normalize relations with Israel on Friday, a move forged partly through shared fears of Iran, but one that threatens to leave the Palestinians further isolated.
    U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted the news after he spoke by phone to Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House said.
    “This is truly a historic day,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, saying that he believed other countries would follow suit.
    “Opening direct dialogue and ties between these two dynamic societies and advanced economies will continue the positive transformation of the Middle East and increase stability, security, and prosperity in the region,” the United States, Bahrain and Israel said in a joint statement.
    A month ago, Bahrain’s fellow Gulf Arab State, the United Arab Emirates, agreed to normalize ties with Israel under a U.S.-brokered deal which is scheduled to be signed at a White House ceremony hosted by Trump on Sept. 15.
    The Israel-UAE ceremony will be attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan.    The joint statement said Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani would join that ceremony and sign a “historic Declaration of Peace” with Netanyahu.
    On Friday, Netanyahu said Bahrain’s decision marks a “new era of peace.”
    “For many long years, we invested in peace, and now peace will invest in us, will bring about truly major investments in Israel’s economy – and that is very important,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.
    Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hend al-Otaiba congratulated Bahrain and Israel, saying it marked “another significant and historic achievement which will contribute enormously to the stability and prosperity of the region.”
    But Palestinians were dismayed, fearing the moves by the UAE and now Bahrain will weaken a long-standing pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.
    A statement issued in the name of the Palestinian leadership condemned the agreement as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.
    “The Palestinian leadership rejects this step taken by the Kingdom of Bahrain and calls on it to immediately retreat from it due to the great harm it causes to the inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people and joint Arab action,” the statement said.
    The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said the Palestinian Ambassador to Bahrain was called back for consultations.
    In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said Bahrain’s decision to normalize relations with Israel “represents a grave harm to the Palestinian cause, and it supports the occupation.”
    Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, a special adviser on international affairs for the speaker of Iran’s parliament, called Bahrain’s decision a great betrayal to the Islamic cause and Palestinians.
    “The imprudent leaders in UAE, #Bahrain must not pave the way for the Zionist schemes,” the official tweeted.
EYES ON SAUDI
    The easing of relations with Israel is happening amid a backdrop of shared fears about the threat of Iran to the region.    The biggest question now is whether Saudi Arabia, one of the most influential countries in the Middle East and a close ally of the United States, will follow suit.
    The Trump administration has tried to coax other Sunni Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, to engage with Israel.    Riyadh has so far signaled it is not ready.
    The agreements are taking place as Republican Trump seeks a second term on Nov. 3, trailing Democratic candidate Joe Biden in several opinion polls.    Foreign policy has not figured prominently in the election campaign, but Trump is eager to present himself as a peacemaker even as he rattles sabers against Iran.
    Trump’s pro-Israel moves have been seen, in part, as an effort to bolster his appeal to evangelical Christian voters, an important segment of his political base.
    Zaha Hassan, a visiting fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Bahrain’s move was “especially disturbing” to Palestinians.
    “This move could not happen without a Saudi green light,” she said.    “[Saudi] is under pressure to normalize, but cannot because of its position as the custodian of Islam’s holy places and the unpopularity of it on the street level."
    “Bahrain was offered up as a consolation that will keep Saudi Arabia in Trump’s good graces.”
    At the Arab League on Wednesday, the Palestinians sought but did not obtain a condemnation of the UAE-Israel accord from their fellow members.    They did secure renewed Saudi support, however, for their right to statehood.
    On Friday, the Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to queries on whether its ambassador or another Saudi representative would attend Tuesday’s signing ceremony.
    Bahrain, a small island state, is home to the U.S. Navy’s regional headquarters.    Riyadh in 2011 sent troops to Bahrain to help quell an uprising and, alongside Kuwait and the UAE, in 2018 offered Bahrain a $10 billion economic bailout.
    Friday’s deal makes Bahrain the fourth Arab country to reach such an agreement with Israel since exchanging embassies with Egypt and Jordan decades ago.
    Last week, Bahrain said it would allow flights between Israel and the UAE to use its airspace.    This followed a Saudi decision to allow an Israeli commercial airliner to fly over it on the way to the UAE.
    The United States, Israel and the UAE have urged Palestinian leaders to re-engage with Israel.    Negotiations last broke down between Israelis and Palestinians in 2014, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to have political dealings with the Trump White House for more than two years, accusing it of pro-Israel bias.
    On Friday Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner told Reuters: “Everyone in the region is just down on the Palestinian leadership.    The Palestinian leadership keeps making their case less and less relevant by acting the way they are.”
(Additional reporting by Dan Williams, Alexander Cornwell, Lisa Barrington, Rami Ayyub, Ali Sawafta, Nidal al-Mughrabi, Matt Spetalnick and Nandita Bose; Editing by Nick Tattersall/ Stephen Farrell and Grant McCool)

9/11/2020 Huge Explosions Rock Military Facility In Jordan, Army Blames Heat Wave by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
Jordanian police check point close the highway between Jordanian capital of Amman and the city of Zarqa, after of large explosions at a Jordanian
army base outside the city of Zarqa on the northeastern edge of capital Amman, Jordan, September 11, 2020. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
    AMMAN (Reuters) – A series of massive explosions that rocked Jordan’s second largest city early on Friday was caused by mortar shells stored at an army munitions depot warping in an intense heat wave, the army said.
    The government had earlier blamed an electric short circuit for the dawn blasts, which lit the desert sky and could be seen in the capital Amman, 35 km (22 miles) to the southwest.    Both it and the army command said there were no reports of injuries.
    Army spokesman Brigadier General Talal al Ghobain said investigations now indicated the intense heat caused the “thermal expansion of mortar shells” in the arms depot on the eastern outskirts of the sprawling city of 1.5 million people.
    The blast site lies within a high security zone where some of the country’s major U.S.-equipped army bases are located, military sources say.
    “We felt like an earthquake had struck.    Our windows shook and glass shattered.    My kids started crying,” said Zarqa resident Nabila Issa, a housewife and mother of five children.
    Government spokesman Amjad Adailah said earlier that mortars stored at the facility were old and not usable.    An army source said on condition of anonymity that some of the weapons at the site were precision-guided anti-aircraft missiles; an army spokesman said no such missiles were stored there.
    Temperatures in the kingdom, along with neighbours Syria, Israel, Palestinian territories and Iraq, have topped 45 degrees Celsius (113°F) this month, levels not seen in decades.
    Army Chief of Staff Major General Yusef al Huneiti told state media the speedy response in dealing with the accident had lessened losses.
    Security forces sealed off Zarqa and prevented traffic from leaving or entering. Journalists wanting to travel through to the blast site about 10 km (6 miles) to the east were prevented from doing so.
    Jordan’s location makes it an ideal logistics and supply hub for the Unites States, including for the U.S. military’s garrison at Tanf in southeastern Syria.
    U.S. officials say that military aid to Jordan helps to build the kingdom’s defensive capabilities as part of a wider regional strategy.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Stephen Coates and Philippa Fletcher)

9/11/2020 Ivory Coast Government Seeks End To Violence Ahead Of October Election
FILE PHOTO: Police officers stand in front of supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo outside the
independent electoral Commission in Abidjan, Ivory Coast August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
    M’BATTO, Ivory Coast (Reuters) – Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara’s government has reached out to his main opponents and religious leaders to intervene and ease tensions following his decision to bid for a third term in next month’s election.
    Ouattara made his appeal to religious leaders during a tour of the east of the country on Friday.    A source in Ouattara’s office told Reuters that informal discussions have been held with political leaders.
    The world’s top cocoa-producing nation has seen a spate of violent protests, with a least 10 killed and over a hundred wounded in clashes between protesters and police since Ouattara announced his bid in August.
    The election is seen as the greatest test yet for stability since a brief civil war killed about 3,000 people following a disputed election in 2010 won by Ouattara.
    Ouattara plans to run in the Oct. 31 election after the sudden death of his handpicked successor, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly in July.
    His opponents say the constitution forbids him because he has already had two terms.    The Ivory Coast Constitutional Council is set to rule on his eligibility, and those of other candidates next week.
    Prime Minister Hamed Bakayoko is expected to meet youth leaders of the main opposition parties next week to restart discussions, and end street violence before the election, a government statement said on Friday.
(Reporting by Ange Aboa; Writing by Bate Felix; editing by Grant McCool)

9/11/2020 Lebanon Faces Hurdles To Deliver Cabinet On Time by Tom Perry and Laila Bassam
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is seen at the presidential palace
in Baabda, Lebanon, November 6, 2017. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon faces an uphill struggle to deliver a new government next week as promised by its leaders to French President Emmanuel Macron, with new U.S. sanctions on Hezbollah allies complicating the process, Lebanese political sources said.
    Any delay would deal a blow to a French initiative aimed at delivering Lebanon from the deepest crisis since its 1975-90 civil war by reforming the corruption-ridden state.    France has warned that Lebanon could disappear unless it reforms.
    Prime Minister-designate Moustapha Adib, nominated by Lebanon’s fractious politicians under French pressure on Aug. 31, has been working to get a cabinet in place within two weeks to set about reforms laid out in a French roadmap.
    The sources said a government could yet emerge in the next few days. The stakes could hardly be higher as Lebanon grapples with a financial meltdown and the aftermath of a catastrophic port explosion in Beirut on Aug. 4.
    The already complex task has been made more so by U.S. sanctions on the senior aide to Shi’ite Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and a Christian politician, three political sources familiar with the process said.
    Forming new Lebanese governments typically takes many months of bartering over how to share out portfolios among Christian and Muslim factions.
    The new U.S. sanctions were imposed on Berri advisor Ali Hassan Khalil, a former finance minister, and Christian politician Yusuf Finyanus, a former public works minister.
    Washington says it shares French goals in demanding reform in Lebanon but differs with Paris over its policy on Hezbollah, a heavily armed Shi’ite group backed by Iran. Washington deems it a terrorist organisation while France views it an elected part of the system.
    Some observers believed the U.S. sanctions and the threat of more to come could catalyse the government formation, arguing this will make Hezbollah allies such as President Michel Aoun’s Christian Free Patriotic Movement more cooperative.
    But Berri, shocked by the sanctions on Khalil, responded by hardening his stance on naming the next finance minister, a post he has decided since Khalil first took the job in 2014, according to the three sources from different Lebanese factions.
KNEE-JERK REACTION
    This makes it harder for Adib to achieve his goal of changing the leadership in that ministry and others where donors want to see reform, said one of the sources, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity due to political sensitivities.
    Several of these ministries have been controlled by the same factions for years and they will resist letting go if Berri gets to name the next finance minister.
    “There is definitely a complicating factor from the U.S. sanctions,” said the source from outside the Shi’ite camp.
    “Hours if not minutes before the sanctions, all the indications were positive, that (the Shi’ite camp) were going to facilitate the government formation.    Immediately after the sanctions, there was this knee-jerk reaction,” the source said.
    The question now is whether Berri and Hezbollah will give ground, to support the French initiative and stop Lebanon slipping deeper into trouble.    This should become clear in the next 48 hours, the source said.
    A political source familiar with Hezbollah and Amal’s thinking said that, while the finance ministry had been up for negotiation before the sanctions, Berri was now completely determined to name the minister.
    A diplomat said on Thursday there had always been scepticism that a cabinet could be agreed in two weeks.
    Political sources say Adib, who is seeking to form a cabinet of experts to deliver reform, has said he will step down if he is unable to proceed according to plan.
    The U.S. sanctions are not the only complication.
    Adib, who was nominated by former prime minister Saad al-Hariri, is drafting his cabinet line-up without consulting other parties, a Christian political source said.
    “Shi’ites and Christians will find it unacceptable that their ministers are picked by the Sunni prime minister unilaterally,” said a Christian political source.    The source said the ministers should be picked jointly, the same way Adib was.

9/11/2020 Firefighters Extinguish Beirut Port Fire by OAN Newsroom
Black smoke rises from a fire at warehouses at the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Sept. 10. 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
    Lebanese firefighters, along with Army helicopters, have extinguished the remains of a huge fire at Beirut’s port.    The fire erupted in a tire and oil facility on Thursday, weeks after a deadly blast devastated the area.
    Firefighters were able to put out the blaze on Friday and are cooling the site to prevent areas from reigniting.
    Some residents have said they are feeling hopeless after experiencing both incidents.
    “It was harder than August 4th, (when) we did not know what was happening,” stated one resident.    “…Yesterday, just seeing this smoke made me feel there is no hope.”
Fire burns in the port in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Sept. 10. 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
    According to officials, the fire was sparked during welding repairs at several local facilities, which had been damaged or destroyed in last month’s explosion.
    However, Lebanon’s president believes the fire could have been caused by sabotage, technical error or negligence.    An investigation is underway.

9/12/2020 Libya’s Haftar Committed To Ending Oil Blockade, U.S. Embassy Says
FILE PHOTO: Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar meets Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis
(not pictured) at the Parliament in Athens, Greece, January 17, 2020. REUTERS/Costas Baltas
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar has committed to ending a months-long blockade of oil facilities, the U.S. embassy in the country said in a statement on Saturday.
    The statement said the Libyan National Army (LNA) had conveyed “the personal commitment of General Haftar to allow the full reopening of the energy sector no later than Sept. 12.”
(Reporting by Hesham Abdul Khalek and Omar Fahmy; Editing by Pravin Char)

9/12/2020 Palestinians Rally Against Bahrain-Israel Normalisation by Nidal al-Mughrabi
Palestinians burn pictures depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan,
Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Bahrain?s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and U.S. President Donald Trump during a
protest against Bahrain's move to normalize relations with Israel, in the central Gaza Strip September 12, 2020. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
    GAZA (Reuters) – Palestinians in Gaza burnt pictures of Israeli, U.S., Bahraini and United Arab Emirates leaders on Saturday in protest over the two Gulf countries’ moves to normalize ties with Israel.
    Bahrain on Friday joined the UAE in agreeing to normalize relations with Israel, a move forged partly through shared fears of Iran but one that could leave the Palestinians further isolated.
    The Gaza protest, attended by a few dozen, was organized by the ruling Islamist group Hamas.
    “We have to fight the virus of normalization and block all its paths before it succeeds, to prevent it from spreading,” said Hamas official Maher al-Holy.
    Demonstrators set fire to pictures of U.S. President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nayhan.
    While the United States, Israel, the UAE and Bahrain hail the diplomatic moves as a major step toward Middle East peace and stability, the Palestinians see it as a betrayal.
    They fear a weakening of a longstanding pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.
    Despite a deep political rift going back to 2007, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority has limited rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and his Hamas rivals have been united against the Gulf states’ move.
    In the West Bank, the Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Saeb Erekat, said the diplomatic push will not achieve peace if the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not resolved first.
    “The Bahraini, Israeli, American agreement to normalize relations is now part of a bigger package in the region, it isn’t about peace, it is not about relations between countries.    We are witnessing an alliance, a military alliance being created in the region,” Erekat told Reuters.
    Iran meanwhile said on Saturday that Bahrain’s move meant it would be complicit in Israeli policies that threatened regional security, Iranian state TV reported.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Additional reporting by Adel Abu Nemeh in Jericho; Writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Maayan Lubell and Frances Kerry)
[WELL THEY ARE LIKE CHILDREN THROWING A TANTRUM BECAUSE THEY DID NOT GET THEIR WAY.].

9/12/2020 Pompeo Says U.S. ‘Deeply Concerned’ Over Turkey Actions In East Med
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives for a news conference with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades
at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, September 12, 2020. Petros Karadjias/Pool via REUTERS
    NICOSIA (Reuters) – The United States remains “deeply concerned” about Turkey’s actions in the eastern Mediterranean, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday, urging a diplomatic end to a simmering crisis over offshore natural resources.
    Tensions in the eastern Mediterranean have risen over claims and counter claims pitting Turkey against Greece and Cyprus to maritime areas thought to be rich in natural gas.
    “Countries in the region need to resolve disagreements including on security and energy resource and maritime issues diplomatically and peacefully,” Pompeo said in a fleeting trip to Cyprus on Saturday night, where he met with President Nicos Anastasiades.
    “Increased military tensions help no one but adversaries who would like to see division in transatlantic unity,” he said.
    Turkey has sent two survey vessels to separate areas in the region, drawing strong protests from both Cyprus and Greece, which say Ankara is operating on their respective continental shelves.
    Turkey says it has a legitimate claim over the area.    There is no agreement between Greece and Turkey delimiting their continental shelves, while Turkey disputes any claims by Cyprus, with which it has no diplomatic relations.
    “We remain deeply concerned by Turkey’s ongoing operations … the Republic of Cyprus has the right to exploit its natural resources including the right to hydrocarbons found … in its exclusive economic zone,” Pompeo said.
    The east Mediterranean island was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup.    Its internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government represents the whole island in the European Union, though its authority is effectively contained to the southern part.    North Cyprus is an unrecognised Turkish Cypriot state recognised only by Ankara.
    Earlier this month the United States said it would lift a 33-year embargo on “non lethal defence articles” applied on Cyprus in 1987 and deepen its security cooperation with Nicosia, prompting an angry response from Turkey.
    Pompeo said he also raised with Anastasiades concerns over Russian money laundering — something Cyprus repeatedly denies — as well as frequent port calls by the Russian navy to the island.
    “We know that all the Russian military vessels that stop in Cypriot ports are not conducting humanitarian missions in Syria and we ask Cyprus and the president to consider our concerns,” Pompeo said.
(Reporting by Michele Kambas; Editing by William Maclean and Daniel Wallis)

9/12/2020 Smoke From Beirut Port Remnants Of Thursday Fire, ‘No Danger To City’ - Source
FILE PHOTO: People stand as smoke rises after a fire broke out at Beirut's port area, Lebanon September 10, 2020. REUTERS/Emma Freiha
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – A pall of smoke could be seen rising above Beirut’s port overnight on Saturday, just two days after a large fire erupted and engulfed large parts of the Lebanese capital in a cloud of smoke and ash.
    A security source told Reuters the smoke was coming from remnants of Thursday’s blaze, which reignited on Saturday. Firefighters, who have been stationed at the scene since Thursday, were putting out the embers, the source said, adding that there was no immediate danger to the city.
    George Abou Moussa, head of Lebanon’s civil defense, said there was nothing to worry about.
    Local media carried images of a small fire and smoke emanating from the devastated port.
    Thursday’s blaze, which began in the shattered duty-free zone of the port, came weeks after a massive blast devastated the port and ruined a swathe of the city.    It prompted some residents, still traumatised by last month’s explosion that had itself followed a port fire, to flee the city.
(Reporting by Beirut bureau; Writing by Raya Jalabi; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

9/13/2020 Libyan Medics Already Faced War, Now The Pandemic Is Surging There Too
FILE PHOTO: Medical team wearing protective suits walk to a clinic, following the outbreak of the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19), in Misrata, Libya May 29, 2020. Picture taken May 29, 2020. REUTERS/Ayman Al-Sahili
    MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) – As the pandemic started to rage through Libya last month, medics working in the war-ravaged country’s few functioning hospitals faced their nightmare scenario – a surge in cases and dwindling resources.
    Hamza Abdulrahman Jelwal, 35, a supervising nurse at a quarantine centre in the coastal city of Misrata, has not seen his family since Libya’s lockdown began in March.    He has also not been paid.
    He tested positive for the coronavirus in August and was quarantined in the same facility. As soon as he got better, he got up and went back to work.
    “We work 12 hours a day.    It is exhausting for medical staff because there is no rest,” he said.
    His experience underscores the high stakes and growing challenges for Libyan medics as the number of confirmed cases spikes.    Figures have climbed rapidly from a few hundred last month to almost 20,000 now.
    The United Nations’ acting Libya envoy, Stephanie Williams, has told the Security Council that the real number of cases in Libya is almost certainly far higher and that the health system is “unable to respond.”
    Libya has been divided since 2014 between the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and the west, and areas of the east and south held by Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
    The two rival administrations operate parallel governments that have issued differing public health orders aimed at controlling the spread of the virus, but both closed their foreign borders early in the crisis.
SHORTFALLS AND DELAYS
    Despite that measure, an outbreak began in July in the southern desert city of Sebha, attributed by some local people to the return of Libyans flown home after being stranded abroad.
    The virus then spread into the main urban centres in the coastal cities of Tripoli and Misrata on the GNA side and Benghazi, controlled by Haftar.
    The quarantine centre where Jelwal works, in the Gharara district, had been a private clinic but was taken over for the crisis by the state-operated Misrata Medical Centre.
    Administrative issues closed it for most of a month early this summer, he said, contributing to the accelerating number of cases as people could not come in to quarantine.
    That was when staff started to quit because they had not been paid, he said.    There are few ventilators and little other equipment.    State funding, regularly hit by shortfalls and delays, has been particularly disrupted this year because of a blockade on oil exports by the LNA and its allies.
    Jelwal was not the only member of staff to fall ill as they tried to cope with the onslaught of new cases.
    A colleague, Aisha Milad Belhassna, another nurse at the centre also caught the disease.
    “Suddenly the air starts to decrease until you reach the point where you feel like you are losing your life,” she said.
(Reporting By Ayman al-Sahily, writing by Angus McDowall, editing by Andrew Heavens)

9/13/2020 Macron Presses Lebanese Politicians As Cabinet Deadline Looms
FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron looks on as he attends a news conference at the Pine Residence, the official
residence of the French ambassador to Lebanon, in Beirut, Lebanon September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool/File Photo
    PARIS/BEIRUT (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron has been pressing Lebanese politicians to deliver on promises to form a new government this week and haul the country out of its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, his office said on Sunday.
    Lebanon’s leaders promised Macron on Sept. 1 during his visit that they would form a cabinet of technocrats without party loyalties in about two weeks to end a crippling economic crisis made worse by a huge blast in Beirut on Aug. 4.
    An official source said Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib was expected to present his plan for a cabinet to President Michel Aoun on Monday, seeking to accelerate a process that typically takes months of haggling over ministries.
    “The (French) president continues his calls with the various political players in Lebanon,” the French presidential office said, without giving details about any discussions.
    Macron held phone talks on Saturday with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a top Shi’ite politician, in an effort to remove an obstacle over the finance ministry post, which is traditionally controlled by Shi’ites, a political ally of Berri said.
    Berri, head of the Amal Movement, an ally of the politically powerful and heavily armed Shi’ite group Hezbollah, said in a statement on Sunday his group opposed the manner the cabinet was being formed and did not want to join.    But he said he would cooperate to stabilise the nation.
    Berri cited a concern about a lack of consultation and what he called resorting to “foreign leverage” in forming the cabinet.    The same phrase was used in a speech on Sunday by another Hezbollah ally, Christian politician Gebran Bassil.
    The prime minister-designate, a Sunni, has made few public comments.    But sources say he wants to shake up the leadership of ministries, some of which have been controlled by the same groups for years.
    Donors have demanded reforms to unlock billions of dollars in aid that was originally pledged in 2018 but never disbursed.
    Any government needs the blessing of the main Christian and Muslim factions to ensure it conforms with Lebanon’s sectarian system of power sharing.
    France has drawn up a detailed roadmap for tackling corruption and other problems that have paralysed the banking system and sent the currency into tailspin.
    Political sources say Berri’s position towards the cabinet hardened after the United States imposed sanctions on allies of Hezbollah, a group Washington deems a terrorist group but which Paris says has a legitimate political role.
(Reporting by the Beirut and Paris bureaus; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Catherine Evans and Frances Kerry)

9/13/2020 Survivor Recalls Horror After Congo Mine Collapse by Crispin Kyala
FILE PHOTO: Congolese miners work at an artisanal gold mine near Kamituga in the east of the
Democratic Republic of Congo, May 22, 2019. Picture taken May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Djaffar Al Katanty
    KAMITUGA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Kinyenye Furaha passed out from shock when he realised a mine collapse in eastern Congo had buried more than 50 fellow miners including his brother, he said on Sunday, as the hunt continued for bodies two days after the disaster.
    Miners searching the site near the town of Kamituga in Democratic Republic of Congo have yet to recover any remains since heavy rains on Friday caused the artisanal gold mine to cave in, burying those working below ground.
    Before the rain started, Furaha had left the site to remove some large rocks.    Soon after, a child ran up to say water was rising in the mine, Furaha told Reuters.
    “We went back there and found only the pit filled with water.    And that’s when I lost consciousness,” he said.
    Dozens of people die each year in accidents in largely unregulated artisanal mines in Congo, where often ill-equipped diggers borrow deep underground in search of ore.
    This time, miners were caught out because the wet season is yet to get fully underway, said Kamituga Mayor Alexandre Bundia.
    “The main problem is that people did not heed the rain,” he said outside his office in the mining town in Congo’s mountainous and mineral-rich South Kivu province.
    Scores of men in rubber boots gathered again on Sunday at the mine site on a muddy hillside.    A rescue team passed sacks of earth out of the pit in the search for the buried miners, who are all presumed dead.
    Back in Kamituga, women gathered to mourn their lost relatives.    Sitting close together on the floor, they stared into the distance without speaking, while one held a sleeping baby to her chest.
(Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Frances Kerry)

9/13/2020 Israel To Impose A Three-Week Nationwide Lockdown – Media Reports
FILE PHOTO: People wear face masks as they shop in a main market in Jerusalem July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s government has approved the imposition of a three-week nationwide lockdown, starting on Friday, to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Israel’s Ynet news website and Channel 12 television reported on Sunday.
    During the lockdown Israelis will have to stay within 500 metres of their houses, Channel 12 reported. But Israel’s Ben Gurion airport will remain open, another TV channel reported.
    The new measure was approved after cases of COVID-19 spiked in recent weeks, and amid criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the virus and the economy.
    Netanyahu was expected to give a televised address Sunday night regarding his cabinet’s decision.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, Editing by William Maclean)

9/13/2020 Qatar Ruler Meets Afghan, Taliban Delegations During Peace Talks In Doha
FILE PHOTO: Delegates attend talks between the Afghan government and Taliban
insurgents in Doha, Qatar September 12, 2020. REUTERS/Ibraheem al Omari
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Qatar’s ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani met representatives of both the Afghan government and the Taliban to wish them success during peace talks taking place in the Gulf state, Qatar state media reported on Sunday.
    Talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban began in the Qatari capital Doha on Saturday, aimed at ending 19 years of war in Afghanistan.
    Sheikh Tamim met with the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation Chairman Abdullah Abdullah and the accompanying delegation, QNA said on Twitter.
    Sheikh Tamim told Abdullah he wished the negotiations success and to achieve the Afghan people’s aspirations for national unity, progress and prosperity, Qatar News Agency said.
    He expressed the same remarks in a meeting with Taliban political office head Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, which was also attended by a delegation, QNA said in a separate tweet.
(Writing by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Susan Fenton)

9/13/2020 Thousands Of Israelis Protest Outside Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Residence by OAN Newsroom
Protesters wave flags and signs during a demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside
his official residence in Jerusalem, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
    Thousands of Israelis gathered outside the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this weekend.    On Saturday, an estimated 10,000 people came together to protest his alleged corruption and the government’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.
    According to local media, authorities detained several protesters.    Demonstrators have called for Netanyahu’s resignation.
    “I came to protest about the occupation and about the social situation in Israel, which is very bad,” stated protester David Alara.    “People do not have food in the fridge, people don’t have a job, they don’t have a future, so we have to make a change.”
Israeli protesters hold signs during a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside
the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
    The country is also facing a nationwide lockdown, which is expected to start next week just ahead of the Jewish New Year.
    The prime minister maintains his innocence and has called his trial a political witch hunt.

9/14/2020 Turkey Does Not Expect EU Sanctions Over East Med Dispute
FILE PHOTO: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks to the media in
Ankara, Turkey September 4, 2020. Turkish Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey does not expect to face European Union sanctions over a dispute with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday, a day after a Turkish survey ship pulled out of contested waters.
    The EU says it fully supports member states Greece and Cyprus in their dispute with Turkey and has said it is drawing up potential sanctions if dialogue does not begin.    The bloc’s leaders could make a decision at a summit on Sept. 24-25.
    Cavusoglu repeated Turkey was open to talks without pre-conditions, but added that the seismic research vessel Oruc Reis will soon resume operations after it anchored off Turkey’s southern coast on Sunday.
    He said he did not expect EU leaders, who have already agreed modest sanctions against Turkey, to take further steps next week but such measures could not be ruled out.
    “It could be against our ship, our company, individuals.    They took such decisions in the past.    Have we given up on our determination?    No, our determination increased,” he told broadcaster NTV.
    Tensions have risen over claims and counter claims pitting Turkey against Greece and Cyprus – which are backed by France – to maritime areas potentially rich in natural gas.    Several countries have conducted naval exercise in the region, and Turkey has other vessels searching for oil and gas off Cyprus.
    The threat of sanctions has in part pushed the Turkish lira deeper into record low territory, complicating the country’s recovery from a sharp economic slump due to the coronavirus pandemic.
    Turkey’s Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin tweeted on Monday that a peaceful solution could be found.    “Greece and EU countries must not waste the chance given for diplomacy and must take reciprocal steps,” he said, without elaborating.
    In a brief visit to Cyprus on Saturday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States remains “deeply concerned” about Turkey’s actions at sea. Ankara responded that Washington needed to be more neutral.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Daren Butler; Writing by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Dominic Evans)

9/14/2020 Bahraini, Israeli Defence Ministers Hold First Phone Call
FILE PHOTOT: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a cabinet meeting of the new government at the
Chagall Hall in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem May 24, 2020. Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The defence ministers of Bahrain and Israel held their first publicly acknowledged phone call on Monday since their countries agreed to normalise ties.
    Bahraini state news agency BNA and a spokeswoman for Israel’s defence ministry said Bahrain’s minister of defence affairs, Abdulla bin Hassan Al-Nuaimi, and Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz had spoken as Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates prepare to sign agreements with Israel in Washington on Tuesday.
    The ministers discussed the importance of the agreement for regional stability and “common expectations for establishing a close partnership between the two defence ministries,” the BNA statement said.
    Gantz invited the Bahraini minister to make an official visit to Israel, and the two agreed to continue their dialogue, a statement from Gantz’s office said.
    Earlier on Monday, BNA said Bahrain’s industry and trade minister and Israel’s regional cooperation minister had spoken by phone and discussed trade, industry and tourism cooperation between the two countries.
    Normalization will “positively impact both countries’ economies,” BNA said.
(Reporting by Maher Chmeytelli and Dan Williams, Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Toby Chopra and Timothy Heritage)

9/14/2020 IAEA In Wide-Ranging Talks With Saudi Arabia On Tougher Nuclear Checks
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi, wearing a protective mask, arrives for a news conference
during a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
    VIENNA (Reuters) – The U.N. nuclear watchdog is in wide-ranging talks with Saudi Arabia about tougher supervision of the kingdom’s nuclear activities, the agency said on Monday, part of a wider effort to eliminate a “weakness” in the global inspections regime.
    Saudi Arabia has a nascent nuclear programme that it wants to expand to eventually include proliferation-sensitive uranium enrichment.    It is unclear where its ambitions end, since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in 2018 it would develop nuclear weapons if regional rival Iran did.
    Riyadh has yet to fire up its first nuclear reactor, allowing its programme to still be monitored under the Small Quantities Protocol (SQP), an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency that exempts less advanced states from many reporting obligations and inspections.
    “We are in conversation with them.    They are interested in developing nuclear energy, for peaceful purposes of course,” IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said when asked about verification in Saudi Arabia.
    “So it is obvious that when they upgrade their activities including by the introduction of nuclear material in the kingdom, then we will have to have a stronger safeguards system.    And nothing makes me think that this is not going to be the case.”
    If Saudi Arabia were to introduce nuclear material into the research reactor in Riyadh that is near completion, it would void the SQP and its exemptions from regular safeguards.
    The sides are also discussing an extra agreement known as the Additional Protocol that provides for tougher checks including snap inspections at undeclared locations, Grossi said.
    Asked whether Riyadh should sign up to the Additional Protocol, he said: “We are discussing everything.”
    The talks are part of a push to get 31 states with early versions of the SQP to rescind them or switch to upgraded texts.
    “This is essential to address a weakness in the IAEA safeguards system,” Grossi said in a statement to the IAEA Board of Governors.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

9/14/2020 Israeli Government Announces New 3 Week Lockdown, Starts Ahead Of The Jewish New Year by OAN Newsroom
A man wears a face mask against the coronavirus pandemic in Netanya Netanya, Israel, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. Israel will
reinstate a strict new countrywide lockdown this week amid a stubborn surge in coronavirus cases. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
    Israel’s government agreed to a three week lockdown just ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday. The decision was made Sunday, restricting citizens to a one-third mile radius around their residences.
    Israel is now the first country to reimpose coronavirus lockdown restrictions.    Supermarkets and pharmacies will stay open as well as government jobs with fewer staff, but non-government businesses will be required to close.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said warnings by health officials led to the decision.
    “I know those measures will exact a heavy price on us all…this is not the kind of holiday we are used to and we certainly won’t be able to celebrate with our extended families,” he stated.    “And there will also be those affected by the lockdown such as business owners and others.”
    The lockdown is slated to begin Friday afternoon ahead of the Jewish New Year, which begins in the evening hours.    Netanyahu said he’s instructed his finance minister to come up with a new economic package to help businesses hurt by the lockdown.

9/15/2020 ‘Unbelievable’: Another Fire In Beirut Unnerves Shattered Residents by Edmund Blair
Civil defence members participate in efforts to put out a fire that broke out in a
building in Central Beirut, Lebanon September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Edmund Blair
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – A fire erupted in a landmark building in Beirut’s commercial district on Tuesday, the second blaze this month to send shudders through a capital still in shock after a massive port blast in August ripped through the Mediterranean city.
    There were no immediate reports of casualties and the blaze was quickly extinguished, but it left residents exasperated in a nation that has been hammered by a deep economic crisis and which is waiting for its politicians to form a new government.
    “It’s terrible.    It’s unbelievable,” said Joe Sayegh, 48, who had been on a jog through the city before coming to the scene.    “Every day we have a problem.”
    Fire trucks quickly doused the flames that charred a corner of the futuristic building designed by the practice set up by the late Zaha Hadid, the renowned British-Iraqi architect.
    The building near the seafront which has been under construction for years and its curved lines have become a prominent feature of the central commercial area rebuilt from the 1975-1990 civil war.
    During the reconstruction, skyscrapers designed by international architects have gone up and historical Ottoman-era buildings have been renovated.
    But protests during an economic crisis that was caused by a mountain of debt had already driven many businesses out of the city centre and left many buildings scarred, before the Aug. 4 port blast ruined another swathe of the capital.
    The government resigned after the port blast, which was blamed on highly explosive ammonium nitrate kept in poor storage conditions for years.    This month, a big port fire flared up among the ruined warehouses, adding to the devastation.
    France is pressing Lebanon to form a new government to tackle endemic corruption and implement reforms to unlock aid.    But many Lebanese remain sceptical that Lebanon’s political elite can chart a new course.
    “With these people, if they are the same people, nothing will change,” Sayegh said.
(Additional reporting by Tom Perry; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Ed Osmond)

9/15/2020 EU-Turkey Ties At ‘Watershed Moment’, EU’s Top Envoy Says
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s relationship with Turkey is at a turning point, the bloc’s top diplomat said on Tuesday, urging Ankara to back down from conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean and uphold basic human rights in the country.
    Ties “are at a watershed moment in history, which will go to one side or the other, depending on what happens in the next days,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told the European Parliament.
    EU leaders are set to meet next week to discuss Turkey.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott, editing by Marine Strauss)

9/15/2020 As Arab Gulf Starts Opening To Israel, Palestinians Face A Reckoning by Rami Ayyub
FILE PHOTO: Palestinians pray next to a mock coffin of Arab League during a protest against normalizing ties with Israel,
in Kafr Qaddum town in the Israeli-occupied West Bank September 11, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s rapprochement with Gulf Arab states has left the Palestinians feeling abandoned by traditional allies and clutching an old playbook in a rapidly changing Middle East, analysts and critics say.
    As the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain prepare to sign normalization accords with Israel at a White House ceremony on Tuesday, Palestinian leaders face calls to overhaul their strategy to avoid becoming marginalized in a region where Israel and most Sunni Arab regimes share a fear of Iran.
    The Palestinian approach to securing freedom from Israeli occupation has for years relied on a longstanding pan-Arab position that called for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and Gaza and Israel’s acceptance of Palestinian statehood, in return for normal relations with Arab countries.
    But the Palestinians last week failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn nations breaking ranks.
    Tuesday’s ceremony, hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump, will be “a black day in the history of Arab nations,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday.
    Shtayyeh said the Palestinians are now discussing whether to “adjust Palestine’s relationship with the Arab League.”
    But critics say the proposed move is too little too late, with President Mahmoud Abbas facing mounting criticism for their increasingly isolated position.
    “There is very little indication that the (Palestinian) leadership is contemplating a break from its approach,” Tareq Baconi, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, told Reuters.
    The Palestinians’ strategy centers on holding Israel to account in international legal tribunals, and trying to break the United States’ dominance over the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Baconi said.
    “Arab and European support in that strategy is crucial, but it is questionable that the Palestinians will be able to secure either to the level required to ensure a just peace.”
TWO-STATE SOLUTION
    Despite signs of shifting Arab support, Saeb Erekat, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said the underlying Palestinian strategy for achieving a state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza would not change.
    “To stay on the grounds of international law, international legality, to seek peace based on ending Israeli occupation and a two-state solution … we cannot depart from these squares,” he told Reuters.
    While conceding difficulties faced by a Palestinian leadership under Israeli occupation, analysts nevertheless say Abbas does have some options.
    After years of in-fighting between the two main Palestinian factions, Abbas’s Fatah and Islamist Hamas, long-overdue elections would refresh the president and parliament’s mandate and boost their leverage abroad by increasing their legitimacy at home, analysts say.
    “We need to … rebuild the PLO’s institutions from the ground up and cement relations between Palestinians here and in the diaspora,” Gaza analyst Talal Okal said.
    Over six million diaspora Palestinians, he said, “can influence the communities they live in so the Palestinian cause has a place on the agendas of their host governments.”
TRUMP BOYCOTT
    One area where Abbas has widespread public support – 70% in recent polls – is his two-year boycott of the Trump administration, which he accuses of pro-Israel bias over its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and endorsement of Israel’s West Bank settlements.
    Frustrated by the Palestinians’ refusal to take part in Trump-led talks, the White House has sought to bypass Abbas and his team, apparently hoping they will see the deals with the UAE and Bahrain as incentives to return to negotiations.
    For more than two years Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has tried sidestepping Abbas to appeal to Palestinians directly, telling Al-Quds newspaper in 2018: “The world has moved forward while you have been left behind.    Don’t allow your grandfather’s conflict to determine your children’s future.”
    That has had little apparent success.    And the Palestinian leadership at first engaged with the Trump administration.    Until, said Erekat, they concluded that “these people want to dictate a solution, not negotiate a solution … they’re the ones who are departing from international law.”
    Dennis Ross, who served as a Middle East adviser under Republican and Democratic administrations, had cautionary words for both sides.
    While the Gulf deals served notice that Palestinians “don’t have a veto on normalization as regional dynamics shift” the Israelis, he said, “cannot wish the Palestinians away — and standing pat also means increasing the risk of one state for two peoples.”
GRAPHIC: Trump’s Middle East peace plan map – https://graphics.reuters.com/ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS-PLAN/0100B5B73B0/ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS-PLAN.jpg
(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Adel Abu Nemeh in Jericho and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Stephen Farrell, William Maclean)

9/15/2020 After UAE And Bahrain Deals, Is Saudi Arabia Softening Its Stance On Israel? by Marwa Rashad and Aziz El Yaakoubi
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman escorts White House senior advisor
Jared Kushner and his wife White House senior advisor Ivanka Trump at the Global Center for Combatting Extremist
Ideology in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 21, 2017. Picture taken May 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
    RIYADH/DUBAI (Reuters) – When one of Saudi Arabia’s leading clerics called this month for Muslims to avoid “passionate emotions and fiery enthusiasm” towards Jews, it was a marked change in tone for someone who has shed tears preaching about Palestine in the past.
    The sermon by Abdulrahman al-Sudais, imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, broadcast on Saudi state television on Sept. 5, came three weeks after the United Arab Emirates agreed a historic deal to normalise relations with Israel and days before the Gulf state of Bahrain, a close Saudi ally, followed suit.
    Sudais, who in past sermons prayed for Palestinians to have victory over the “invader and aggressor” Jews, spoke about how the Prophet Mohammad was good to his Jewish neighbour and argued the best way to persuade Jews to convert to Islam was to “treat them well.”
    While Saudi Arabia is not expected to follow the example of its Gulf allies any time soon, Sudais’ remarks could be a clue to how the kingdom approaches the sensitive subject of warming to Israel – a once inconceivable prospect.    Appointed by the king, he is one of the country’s most influential figures, reflecting the views of its conservative religious establishment as well as the Royal Court.
    The dramatic agreements with the UAE and Bahrain were a coup for Israel and U.S. President Donald Trump who is portraying himself as a peacemaker ahead of November elections.
    But the big diplomatic prize for an Israel deal would be Saudi Arabia, whose king is the Custodian of Islam’s holiest sites, and rules the world’s largest oil exporter.
    Marc Owen Jones, an academic from the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, said the UAE and Bahrain’s normalization has allowed Saudi Arabia to test public opinion, but a formal deal with Israel would be a “large task” for the kingdom.
    “Giving the Saudis a ‘nudge’ via an influential imam is obviously one step in trying to test the public reaction and to encourage the notion of normalisation,” Jones added.
    In Washington, a State Department official said the United States was encouraged by warming ties between Israel and Gulf Arab countries, viewed this trend as a positive development and “we are engaging to build on it.”
    There was no immediate response to a request by Reuters for comment from the Saudi government’s media office.
    Sudais’ plea to shun intense feelings is a far cry from his past when he wept dozens of times while praying for Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque – Islam’s third-holiest site.
    The Sept. 5 sermon drew a mixed reaction, with some Saudis defending him as simply communicating the teachings of Islam.    Others on Twitter, mostly Saudis abroad and apparently critical of the government, called it “the normalisation sermon.”
    Ali al-Suliman, one of several Saudis interviewed at one of Riyadh’s malls by Reuters TV, said in reaction to the Bahrain deal that normalisation with Israel by other Gulf states or in the wider Middle East was hard to get used to, as “Israel is an occupying nation and drove Palestinians out of their homes.”
MUTUAL FEAR OF IRAN
    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de-facto ruler often referred to as MbS, has promised to promote interfaith dialogue as part of his domestic reform. The young prince previously stated that Israelis are entitled to live peacefully on their own land on condition of a peace agreement that assures stability for all sides.
    Saudi Arabia and Israel’s mutual fear of Iran may be a key driver for the development of ties.
    There have been other signs that Saudi Arabia, one of the most influential countries in the Middle East, is preparing its people to eventually warm to Israel.
    A period drama, “Umm Haroun” that aired during Ramadan in April on Saudi-controlled MBC television, a time when viewership typically spikes, centred around the trials of a Jewish midwife.
    The fictional series was about a multi-religious community in an unspecified Gulf Arab state in the 1930s to 1950s.
    The show drew criticism from the Palestinian Hamas group, saying it portrayed Jews in a sympathetic light.
    At the time, MBC said that the show was the top-rated Gulf drama in Saudi Arabia in Ramadan.    The show’s writers, both Bahraini, told Reuters it had no political message.
    But experts and diplomats said it was another indication of shifting public discourse on Israel.
    Earlier this year, Mohammed al-Aissa, a former Saudi minister and the general secretary of the Muslim World League, visited Auschwitz.    In June, he took part in a conference organised by the American Jewish Committee, where he called for a world without “Islamophobia and anti-Semitism
    “Certainly, MbS is intent on moderating state-sanctioned messages shared by the clerical establishment and part of that will likely work towards justifying any future deal with Israel, which would have seemed unthinkable before,” said Neil Quilliam, associate fellow with Chatham House.
ISOLATED PALESTINIANS
    Normalisation between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel, which will be signed at the White House on Tuesday, has further isolated the Palestinians.
    Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, has not directly addressed Israel’s deals with the UAE and Bahrain, but said it remains committed to peace on the basis of the long-standing Arab Peace Initiative.
    How, or whether, the kingdom would seek to exchange normalisation for a deal on those terms remains unclear.
    That initiative offers normalised ties in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians and full Israeli withdrawal from territories captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
    However, in another eye-catching gesture of goodwill, the kingdom has allowed Israel-UAE flights to use its airspace.    Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who has a close relationship with MbS, praised the move last week.
    A diplomat in the Gulf said that for Saudi Arabia, the issue is more related to what he called its religious position as the leader of the Muslim world, and that a formal deal with Israel would take time and is unlikely to happen while King Salman is still in power.
    “Any normalisation by Saudi will open doors for Iran, Qatar and Turkey to call for internationalising the two holy mosques,” he said, referring to periodic calls by critics of Riyadh to have Mecca and Medina placed under international supervision.
(Additional reporting by Davide Barbuscia, Alexander Cornwell in Dubai and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; editing by Maha El Dahan, Michael Georgy and William Maclean)

9/15/2020 U.N. Chief To Appoint Special Envoy To Broker Peace In Libya by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres poses for a photograph during an interview with
Reuters at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday asked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a special envoy to broker peace in Libya, although Russia and China abstained from voting on the resolution that also extended the U.N. mission in the country.
    Ghassan Salame, who headed the U.N. political mission and was also charged with trying to mediate peace, quit in March due to stress.     Guterres informally proposed a replacement, but the United States wanted the role split to have one person run the U.N. mission and a special envoy to focus on mediation.
    The Security Council agreed to that proposal on Tuesday.
    “With the new structure, we will have to present a new candidate and we will have to naturally consult with the Security Council for that purpose,” Guterres told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
    The Security Council traditionally agrees – informally – by consensus to such appointments.    Several months ago, the United States proposed that Guterres appoint former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt to be special envoy, but diplomats said she had since withdrawn herself.
    Russia and China said they abstained on the resolution on Tuesday because it did not include their suggested amendments.
    Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.    Since 2014, it has been split, with an internationally recognized government controlling the capital, Tripoli, and the northwest, while military leader Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi rules the east.
    Haftar is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, while the government is backed by Turkey.
    “I’m shocked with the fact that so many spoilers, so many countries, have been interfering with the Libyan situation, building up military capacity on both sides … completely disregarding resolutions of the Security Council in relation to the arms embargo, or mercenaries,” Guterres told Reuters.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

9/15/2020 Egypt Cuts Highways Across Pyramids Plateau, Alarming Conservationists by Patrick Werr
People walk as a new superhighway cuts across desert within a view of the Red Pyramid, the world's
third tallest and the Bent Pyramid behind in Giza, Egypt September 5, 2020. REUTERS/Staff
    MEMPHIS, Egypt (Reuters) – Egypt is building two highways across the pyramids plateau outside Cairo, reviving and expanding a project that was suspended in the 1990s after an international outcry.
    The Great Pyramids, Egypt’s top tourist destination, are the sole survivor of the seven wonders of the ancient world and the plateau is a UNESCO world heritage site.
    The highways are part of an infrastructure push spearheaded by Egypt’s powerful military and championed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is building a new capital city to ease the population pressure on Cairo, home to 20 million people.
    The northern highway will cross the desert 2.5 km (1.6 miles) south of the Great Pyramids.    The southern one will pass between the Step Pyramid of Saqqara – the oldest one – and the Dahshur area, home to the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid.
    Each highway appears to be about eight lanes wide.
    Critics say they could cause irrevocable damage to one of the world’s most important heritage sites. Authorities say they will be built with care and improve transport links, connecting new urban developments and bypassing central Cairo’s congestion.
    “The roads are very, very important for development, for Egyptians, for inside Egypt,” said Mostafa al-Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.    “Know that we take good care of our antiquities sites everywhere in Egypt.”
    Some Egyptologists and conservationists say the highways will disrupt the integrity of the pyramids plateau, pave over unexplored archaeological sites, generate pollution that could corrode monuments, produce litter and expose closed areas packed with hidden archaeological treasures to looting.
    Al-Waziri said existing roads were much closer to the pyramids and carried a lot of tourist buses.    “That is why we are doing a lot of development,” he said, noting plans to use electric tourist buses within the plateau to avoid pollution.
MEMPHIS
    The highways, which will dissect the plateau into three, will cross a section of ancient Memphis, one of the world’s biggest and most influential cities for almost 3,000 years.
    “I was flabbergasted by what I saw,” said former senior UNESCO official Said Zulficar, who visited a portion of the southern highway two months ago.    “All the work that I had done nearly 25 years ago is now being put into question.”
    Zulficar led a successful campaign in the mid 1990s to suspend construction of the northern highway, a branch of Cairo’s first ringroad.    UNESCO said it had requested detailed information on the new plan several times and asked to send a monitoring mission.
    The state press centre referred a Reuters request for further comment on the plans to a communications advisor of the tourism and antiquities ministry, who could not be reached.
    Construction began well over a year ago in desert areas largely out of public sight and became more visible around March, Egyptologists and Google Earth images indicate.
    On a recent visit, Reuters journalists saw heavy machinery clearing fields and building bridges and junctions along both highways.    Hundreds of uprooted date palms lay in piles.
    The southern highway is a part of Cairo’s second ringroad that will connect the western satellite city of Sixth of October to the new capital city east of Cairo via 16 km of desert on the pyramids plateau, farmland and a corner of Memphis.
    In 2014, the World Bank estimated congestion in the greater Cairo area cut about 3.6 percentage points off Egypt’s output.
    “The road cuts through archaeologically unexplored cemeteries of the little-known 13th Dynasty, in walking distance of the pyramids of Pepi II and Khendjer and the Mastabat el-Fara’un,” said an Egyptologist who knows the area.
    The person was among six Egyptologists Reuters spoke to.    Most of them declined to be named for fear of losing clearance to handle antiquities.
    One said caches of statues and blocks with hieroglyphs had been unearthed since highway construction began; the antiquities authority said on its Facebook page these had been discovered on nearby private property.
    Memphis, said to have been founded in about 3,000 B.C. when Egypt was united into a single country, was eclipsed but not abandoned when Alexander the Great moved the capital to Alexandria in 331 B.C.
    It extended more than 6 square kilometres, the Nile valley’s largest ancient settlement site.
    The new road comes close to the ancient city’s commercial districts, its harbour walls and the former site of an ancient Nilometer, used to measure the height of the annual flood, said David Jeffreys, a British Egyptologist who has been working on Memphis for the Egypt Exploration Society since 1981.
    It also endangers a Roman wall that once bordered the Nile that Jeffreys said few people were aware of.
    “Memphis has long been neglected, even by Egyptologists, as it is a complicated site to excavate,” another Egyptologist said.    “But it is enormously rich, bursting with temples, archives, administrative buildings and industrial areas.”
(Editing by Aidan Lewis; and Philippa Fletcher)

9/15/2020 West Africa Bloc Fails To Reach Agreement With Mali Junta by Christian Akorlie
FILE PHOTO: Colonel Malick Diaw, one of the junta leaders of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP),
which overthrew Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita,attends a meeting with representatives of political parties and civil society
groups to discuss forming a transitional government in Bamako, Mali September 5, 2020. REUTERS/Moussa Kalapo
    ACCRA (Reuters) – West African mediators failed to persuade leaders of a military coup in Mali to immediately hand over power to a civilian government during talks on Tuesday, the chairman of the regional bloc said.
    Leaders of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met the heads of a junta that on Aug. 18 overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, in the bloc’s latest attempt to quicken the transition from military leadership.
    ECOWAS imposed economic sanctions after the coup, and said a new president should be appointed by Tuesday.    Those actions, and multiple diplomatic interventions, appear to have had little effect so far, reinforcing the difficulty regional powers face in shaping events inside the turbulent country.
    “We have not reached any agreement with the military junta,” said Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo, the acting ECOWAS chair, after the talks.    He said that a mediating mission would return to Mali next week to try to resolve outstanding issues.
    “We need a civilian leadership of the transition and we have also made it clear that the minute that leadership input is in place…the sanctions…would be lifted,” he said.
    Regional leaders fear the coup could set a dangerous precedent in West Africa and undermine a fight in Mali and neighbouring countries in the Sahel region against Islamist militants with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State.
    Before the talks began this morning, Akufo-Addo said that the junta leaders needed to hand over power to a transitional government immediately.
    But the junta pushed through a charter on Saturday that says the interim president can be a soldier or a civilian and has not yet indicated when the new government would be named.    A spokesman for the junta did not respond to a request for comment after the talks.
    West African leaders have not said what the consequences would be for failing to meet the deadline.    The sanctions include border closures and the suspension of financial flows, though these were eased so they did not hit ordinary civilians.
    The leaders said that they would be willing to allow a transitional government to stand for 18 months, longer than the original year it asked for, Akufo-Addo said.
(Writing by Edward McAllister and Aaron Ross; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

9/15/2020 Battle Of The Battlements – Jerusalem Walls Used As Political Canvas by Stephen Farrell
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is depicted on a banner hung on the walls of Jerusalem's Old City August 20, 2020.
The writing in Arabic reads, "The rightful owner Is stronger than all the capitals. We call upon the government of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates
to revert to the inclusive Arab and Islamic position and to withdraw from the shameful agreement, and not to participate in making
the American Deal of the Century pass. Jerusalem's wounds are not to be treated with the salt from your capitals." REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The ramparts of Jerusalem, built for battle, were commandeered for a messaging war between Israelis and Palestinians in the build-up to Israel’s normalisation deals with two Gulf Arab states.
    During the White House signing ceremony Israel projected flags of Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and the U.S. onto the Old City walls as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood alongside President Donald Trump in Washington hailing what he called “historic” peace agreements.
    But the same walls, built in the 16th century by Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, were also used by Palestinians to proclaim their opposition to deals that they see as a betrayal by their fellow Arabs.
    A week after the Israel-Emirates deal was announced, Palestinians draped a black banner of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over the wall near Damascus Gate with the accompanying headline “The rightful owner
    It continued: “We call upon the government of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to revert to the inclusive Arab and Islamic position and to withdraw from the shameful agreement.”
    Jerusalem, claimed by both sides for their capital, lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    Israel views all of Jerusalem, including the walled Old City that it captured in the 1967 Middle East war, as its “eternal and indivisible” capital.
    But Palestinians want East Jerusalem – including the Old City – to be the capital of a state they seek to establish in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
(Reporting by Stephen Farrell; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

9/16/2020 French Initiative Is Last Chance To Save Lebanon, Jumblatt Says
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt leaves the Elysee Palace in Paris following a
meeting with French President Francois Hollande, February 21, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Leading Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt said on Wednesday it seemed some people did not understand that French-led efforts to lift Lebanon out of crisis were the last chance to save the country.
    Lebanon is in the throes of a crippling economic and financial meltdown that marks the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war.
    France has been leaning on its fractious politicians to set up a new government to start reforming the corruption-ridden state, but a Tuesday’s deadline that they had agreed with Paris for establishing the new cabinet has already been missed.
    “It appears that some did not understand or did not want to understand that the French initiative is the last opportunity to save Lebanon and to prevent its disappearance, as the (French) foreign minister said clearly,” Jumblatt, the main figure in Lebanon’s Druze community, wrote on Twitter.
    French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said last month that Lebanon risked disappearing without critical reforms.
    A lawmaker in a major Christian party said the country faced a critical 24 hours in which either the “logic of reason” would win and a government would be formed or Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib would step down.
    “We have a historic opportunity via the initiative launched by President Emmanuel Macron,” Simon Abi Ramia of the Free Patriotic Movement said in a tweet.
(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Edmund Blair)

9/16/2020 Gaza Rockets, Israeli Air Strikes Accompany Israel-Gulf Pacts
Smoke and flame are seen following an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip September 16, 2020. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
    JERUSALEM/GAZA (Reuters) – Militants in Gaza launched rockets into Israel and Israeli aircraft hit targets in the Palestinian enclave in an explosive backdrop to the signing of pacts for formal ties between Israel and two Gulf Arab countries.
    The Israeli military said it launched about 10 air strikes in Hamas Islamist-run Gaza early on Wednesday and that 15 rockets had been fired from the territory at Israeli communities near the border, where sirens sounded before dawn.
    On Tuesday, a rocket from Gaza struck the coastal Israeli city of Ashdod, wounding two people, at the same time as Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed agreements at the White House to establish diplomatic relations.
    “I’m not surprised that the Palestinian terrorists fired at Israel precisely during this historic ceremony,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before his flight returning to Israel.
    “They want to turn back the peace.    In that, they will not succeed,” he told reporters.    “We will strike at all those who raise a hand to harm us, and we will reach out to all those who extend the hand of peace to us.”
    Palestinians, who seek an independent state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, view the U.S.-brokered deals as a betrayal of their cause.
    No casualties were reported on either side of the Israel-Gaza frontier.    The military said eight of the rockets launched on Wednesday were intercepted by its Iron Dome anti-missile system.
    In a statement, the military said targets in Gaza included a weapons and explosives manufacturing factory and a compound used by Hamas for training and rocket experiments.
    Without naming specific factions, the Islamic Jihad group in Gaza said that in response to the air strikes, the “resistance” fired rocket salvoes at Israel.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

9/16/2020 Lebanon’s Hariri Says No Sect Has Exclusive Right To Ministries
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said on Wednesday no sect had the exclusive right to the ministry of finance or other government portfolios, a reference to an issue at the centre of a dispute over the formation of a new government.
    In a tweet, Hariri said rejecting the idea of switching control of ministries was frustrating “the last chance to save Lebanon and the Lebanese,” in reference to a French efforts to get Lebanese leaders to adopt a new government and reforms.
(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Edmund Blair)

9/16/2020 Turkish Police Detain 106 Over Alleged Gulen Links: Anadolu
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish police detained more than 100 people, mostly soldiers on active duty, in an operation on Wednesday targeting supporters of the Muslim preacher who Ankara says was behind a failed coup in 2016, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.
    The operation marks a fresh wave in a four-year-old crackdown targeting the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.    He denies involvement in the July 2016 putsch, in which some 250 people were killed.
    The Istanbul state prosecutor’s office issued detention warrants for 132 suspects, 82 of them serving military personnel and the rest retired or expelled from the armed forces, Anadolu said.    So far 106 people have been arrested in raids by counter-terrorism police across 34 provinces, it said.
    On Tuesday, prosecutors in the western province of Izmir ordered the arrest of 66 suspects, including 48 serving military personnel, in an investigation of the armed forces.
    Since the coup attempt, about 80,000 people have been held pending trial and some 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others sacked or suspended.    More than 20,000 people had been expelled from the Turkish military alone.
    Ankara prosecutors on Friday ordered the detention of dozens of lawyers suspected of operating in support of Gulen.
    Turkish and international lawyers’ groups said the lawyers were simply doing their job representing clients accused of Gulen links.
(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans)

9/16/2020 Erdogan Told Germany’s Merkel: Turkish Drill Ship Did Not End Operations In East Med
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talks to media after attending Friday prayers at
Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
    ANKARA (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan told German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a video call on Wednesday that the docking of Turkey’s Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel for maintenance does not mean its operations in the eastern Mediterranean are done, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
    Oruc Reis returned to waters near Turkey’s southern province of Antalya on Sunday for what Ankara called routine maintenance, a move Greece said was a positive first step in easing tensions over offshore natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
    Cavusoglu told an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk that Oruc Reis’ maintenance may take “a few weeks,” according to the energy ministry.    “Once maintenance is finished, we will continue our operations with determination,” he said.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay)

9/16/2020 Turkish, Russian Officials Nearing Deal On Libya Ceasefire, Political Process: Minister
FILE PHOTO: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks to the media in
Ankara, Turkey September 4, 2020. Turkish Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey and Russia have moved closer to an agreement on a ceasefire and political process in Libya during their latest meetings in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk late on Wednesday.
    Ankara and Moscow are the main power brokers in Libya’s war, backing opposing sides. Russia supports the eastern-based forces of Khalifa Haftar, while Turkey backs Libya’s internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).    The GNA and the leader of a rival parliament to the east called for a ceasefire last month, but Haftar dismissed the move.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay)

9/17/2020 Algerian Referendum Looms As Test For President And Opposition by Lamine Chikhi
People walk past the building of the lower parliament chamber in Algiers, Algeria
September 16, 2020. Picture taken September 16, 2020. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
    ALGIERS (Reuters) – A vote on a new constitution in Algeria in November marks a turning point for a country that has been rocked by huge protests and political upheaval and which is now struggling to move on from the tumult.
    For President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, adoption of the charter would be a welcome new beginning after his predecessor and many top officials were toppled by mass demonstrations last year.
    For the “Hirak” opposition movement, the Nov. 1 referendum will show what clout it still has, after its protests ended the 20-year rule of veteran leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika but failed to achieve its ambitions of deeper change.
    The weekly mass protests, which sought to sweep away the entire ruling elite, were put on hold when the coronavirus pandemic reached the north African country in March.
    Abdelaziz Djerad, the prime minister appointed by Tebboune in January, recently told parliament the referendum should be a “day for consensus” among all Algerians.
    It fits with Tebboune’s narrative of the mass demonstrations as a moment of national renewal that ousted corrupt officials and, its ends achieved, is now over.
    “Hirak demands are in the new constitution.    It is important to pass it,” Abdelhamid Si Afif, a senior ruling party member, told Reuters.
    However, though it is now six months since they last paraded through the boulevards of central Algiers, prominent figures in the leaderless opposition do not see it Tebboune’s way.
    Their goal was to force from power the entire generation of officials that has ruled since independence in 1963, along with the military and security figures in the background who, they say, pull the strings.
    Influential people in the Hirak, such as Islam Benatia, see the constitution as doing little to answer their demands and the referendum as a tactic to sideline their movement.
    “We are in a state of obstruction.    There is a lack of consensus over the constitution that will be submitted to referendum without any real debate,” he said.
    The disquiet among Hirak activists was only strengthened on Tuesday when an appeals court confirmed the jailing of journalist Khaled Drareni, only reducing his sentence from three years to two, for his role in the protests.
    Several other prominent Hirak supporters have also been imprisoned.    Some in the movement see it as a signal from the authorities that they will not tolerate any resumption of protests.
    Internally, Hirak supporters seem unsure whether to push for more street demonstrations or seek other ways of pressing their case.
TURNOUT KEY
    Tebboune’s proposed constitution gives parliament more rights to open inquiries into government work and limits the president to two terms in office.
    It has passed a vote in parliament despite some opposition.    “We boycotted the vote… because there has been no debate.    It is unacceptable to pass it without discussion,” said Lakhdar Benkhelaf, a leading member of the Front for Justice and Development, an Islamist party.
    Many street protesters regard the constitution as irrelevant in any case – what matters is not so much the laws as they are written, they say, as who enforces them and how.
    It all points to a vote in November much like that which took place in December when Tebboune was elected.    The Hirak also opposed that vote, arguing that no election could be fair until the ruling elite was swept from power and the military stepped back from politics.
    However, despite a turnout of only 40% according to official figures, Tebboune won an outright majority, and even before the pandemic shut down the protests, witnesses attending them said that the numbers taking part had started to fall.
    The courts meanwhile jailed a succession of once senior officials on corruption charges, while the ageing head of the military, the bete noire of some protesters, died suddenly of a heart attack.
    It allowed Tebboune to present his administration, though it was rejected by the protesters, as a new broom and the referendum as the next stage in the process of reform.
    “If turnout is high it would give Tebboune the needed political strength to move forward,” said political analyst Farid Ferrahi.
    On the streets, it is far from clear whether many Algerians will choose to vote.    Mohamed Khelafi, a 29-year-old taxi driver who has not worked in months because of the lockdown, said improving living conditions should be the priority.
    “I don’t care about politics or voting.    I am too busy with how to secure a daily income,” he said.
(Reporting By Lamine Chikhi, editing by Angus McDowall and William Maclean)

9/17/2020 Head Of Libya’s Tripoli Government Says He Wants To Quit
Libya's internationally recognised Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj speaks during a televised speech in Tripoli, Libya
September 16, 2020 in this still image taken from a video. Picture taken September 16, 2020. The Media Office of the
Prime Minister/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
    TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libya’s internationally recognised Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj said on Wednesday he wants to quit by the end of October, which could feed political tensions in Tripoli amid new efforts to find a political solution to the country’s conflict.
    “I declare my sincere desire to hand over my duties to the next executive authority no later than the end of October,” he said in a televised speech.
    Citing the work of U.N.-sponsored talks in Geneva, he pointed to progress in agreeing a way to unify Libya’s fragmented state and prepare for elections.
    Sarraj is head of the Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, while eastern Libya and much of the south is controlled by Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
    The civil war has drawn in regional and international powers with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia backing the LNA and Turkey supporting the GNA.
    However, both sides are made up of unstable coalitions that have come under stress since Turkey helped the GNA turn back a 14-month LNA assault on Tripoli in June.
    “This is effectively the starting gun for a new round of maneouvering for what comes next,” said Tarek Megerisi, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
    “Ultimately it’ll leave the GNA as an entity, and western Libya, a bit degraded,” he added.
    An LNA blockade of energy exports since January has deprived the Libyan state of most of its usual revenue, worsening living standards and contributing to protests in cities controlled by both sides.
    In Tripoli, the protests fuelled tensions between Sarraj and the influential Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, whom he briefly suspended last month before restoring him to his post.
    Serraj’s departure could lead to new infighting among other senior GNA figures, and between the armed groups from Tripoli and Bashagha’s coastal city of Misrata that wield control on the ground.
    “The militia issue will be more vivid,” said Jalel Harchoui, a research fellow at the Clingendael Institute.
    Serraj has headed the GNA since it was formed in 2015 as a result of a U.N.-backed political agreement aimed at uniting and stabilising Libya after the chaos that followed the 2011 uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.
    Despite the failings and weakness of the government he led, he has been seen as a moderate with whom parts of the eastern faction and their foreign allies, as well as other international players, were comfortable dealing.
(Reporting By Tripoli newsroom, Alaa Swilam and Ahmed Tolba in Cairo, additional reporting by Hani Amara in Istanbul, writing by Angus McDowall; editing by Grant McCool)

9/17/2020 In U.S. Ally Bahrain, Israel Deal Rallies A Weakened Opposition by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Lisa Barrington
FILE PHOTO: Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister
Abdullah bin Zayed display their copies of signed agreements while U.S. President Donald Trump looks on as they participate in the
signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords, normalizing relations between Israel and some of its Middle East neighbors, in a strategic realignment
of Middle Eastern countries against Iran, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Bahrain may have won international praise for following in the United Arab Emirates’ footsteps and establishing ties with Israel, but the dramatic move by the close U.S. ally could stir a new wave of opposition at home.
    While the deal will enable Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim monarchy to win more support from Western and regional partners, it risks deepening political tensions and may energise a long demoralised opposition led by the Shi’ite majority.
    Bahrain, host to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and other international naval operations, was the only Gulf Arab state to witness a sizeable pro-democracy uprising in the 2011 “Arab Spring,” which it quashed with Saudi and Emirati help.
    Low-level dissent has continued, periodically flaring into rock-throwing skirmishes and crude bomb and shooting attacks, putting the kingdom on the frontline of a region-wide tussle for influence between Iran and its Sunni rival Saudi Arabia.
    The government has used an array of powers to quell the unrest: Arrests, security raids, revoking of citizenship and bans on opposition parties and newspapers have helped reduce the risk of big popular protests.
    But anger has boiled anew since the deal was announced on Friday.
    Sporadic street protests have taken place each night since the accord, which the government says supports “peace between Bahrain and Israel.”    The authorities avoid the contested term “normalisation,” which to some suggests entrenching Israel’s diplomatic and military superiority over Palestinians.
    “I am Bahraini and the Bahraini regime does not represent me,” read one protest banner, shared on social media.
    “Normalisation is treason,” read others.
    Asked to comment on opposition to the deal, including opposition allegations that the government has limited the scope of parliamentary debate, a government spokesperson said freedom of opinion and expression are protected by the constitution and the government continued to uphold them robustly.
    “The historic diversity of Bahrain has shaped a society that embraces coexistence and tolerance.    These principles are vital to securing lasting regional stability and peace, and underpin the declaration of peace signed by the Kingdom of Bahrain and the State of Israel,” the spokesman said in a statement to Reuters.
SHI’ITE CLERIC
    Speaking largely from abroad, opposition figures rejected the deal. Bahrain’s top Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim called, from exile in Iran, for the region’s people to resist.
    Manama accuses Shi’ite Muslim Iran of seeking to subvert Bahrain.    The government denies repressing the opposition and says it is protecting national security from groups it calls terrorists backed by Iran.    Tehran denies it backs subversion.
    Analysts say despite the surge in popular anger, the deal may have strengthened the government, since traditional allies are more likely to turn a blind eye to any further crackdown.
    “The move will garner Bahrain some credit in Washington, which could reduce the already limited pressure Manama faces on its domestic policies from the U.S.,” said Graham Griffiths, associate direct at Control Risks.
    Bahrain’s interior minister said shortly after the announcement that the deal with Israel protects Bahrain’s interests amid what he called the danger from Iran.
    The island nation has long been heavily dependent on close ally Saudi Arabia, and was bailed out financially in 2018 with a $10 billion aid package from Saudi, the UAE and Kuwait.
    “Bahrain is squarely focused on its critical ties with the United States and with its Gulf allies in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.    These political dependencies condition immediate Bahraini alignment with the leadership in Abu Dhabi and Washington on this critical issue,” said Kristin Smith Diwan of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
STATE-SANCTIONED CAUSE
    Opposition figures say that a week before the agreement was announced, the government prepared for opposition to it by amending a law to further control parliament.    A royal decree, announced on Sept. 3, ordered both houses of parliament to limit daily speaker numbers and banned criticism, blame or “accusations that harm the country’s interests.”
    “Eroding parliament’s power has been ongoing since 2011 and the last royal decree has actually signed its death certificate,” said Ali Alaswad, a former lawmaker of the main Shi’ite opposition group al-Wefaq, now in exile.
    Defending Palestinian rights has been a state-sanctioned cause uniting Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims in Bahrain for decades, and its accord with Israel has left some in a tricky position.
    Founded in 2002 and with an office in the capital Manama, the Bahraini Society Against Normalisation with the Zionist Enemy said it was taken unawares.
    “Some social media influencers started to accuse us of intolerance and called on the government to dissolve our organisation,” said a founding member, declining to be named.
    “The accord with Israel was a complete surprise for us,” he said.
    Both UAE and Bahraini officials have sought to reassure the Palestinians their countries are not abandoning their quest for statehood in the West Bank and Gaza, despite Palestinian leaders having decried the deals as a betrayal of their cause.
    Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani told state media on Sept. 11 that Bahrain supported the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, a proposal under which normalisation with Israel would entail full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in 1967.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Lisa Barrington; editing by Maha El Dahan, William Maclean)

9/17/2020 Turkey Says Conditions Conducive To Launching Talks With Greece
FILE PHOTO: Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis is seen in Istanbul, Turkey, August 22, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey believes conditions are conducive to restarting talks with fellow NATO member Greece after Ankara’s Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel left contested waters in the eastern Mediterranean, Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Thursday.
    Turkey and Greece have been locked in a bitter dispute over conflicting claims on the extent of their continental shelves and exploration for potential energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean.    Tensions flared last month when Turkey sent the Oruc Reis to contested waters also claimed by Greece and Cyprus.
    On Sunday, Oruc Reis returned to Turkey’s southern province of Antalya for what Ankara called “routine maintenance,” a move Greece called a positive first step in easing tensions.    The two countries began talks at NATO to avoid military accidents in the region, after a small naval collision last month.
    Speaking at an online panel, Kalin said Oruc Reis’ return to Antalya was an opportunity to advance talks and this “should not be squandered,” adding that Ankara hopes this will be “reflected positively” at a European Union summit on Sept. 24-25.
    “We want to see a new page turned in the relations between Turkey and Greece, but also in relations between Turkey and the EU,” Kalin said.
    “We are hopeful, we believe the climate is conducive to that at the moment and we have, I think, reached an understanding with regards to which steps we need to be taking over the next few weeks to resume these talks,” he said.
    On Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Oruc Reis’ maintenance may take “a few weeks” according to the energy ministry, but added the vessel will resume its operations afterwards.
    EU leaders will address the issue at the summit later this month and evaluate potential sanctions.    Germany wants more time for talks with Turkey while France, Cyprus and Greece demand a punitive response to Turkey.
    Turkey has two exploration vessels off the divided island of Cyprus, which has long been at odds with Ankara over oil and gas drilling.     Turkey recognised a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north of the island, but not the internationally-recognised Greek Cypriot government.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

9/17/2020 Israel, Bahrain Tourism Ministers Speak, Discuss Joint Ventures With UAE
FILE PHOTO: Bahrain's Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister, Zayed bin Rashid Al Zayani speaks
during the Gateway Gulf at Manama, Bahrain May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
    JERUSALEM/DUBAI (Reuters) – The tourism ministers of Israel and Bahrain held a first publicly acknowledged phone call on Thursday and discussed possible ventures including three-way travel packages involving the United Arab Emirates, an Israeli statement said.
    The conversation between Israel’s Asaf Zamir and Bahrain’s Zayed bin Rashid Al Zayani followed a White House ceremony on Tuesday at which their countries pledged to establish relations. The UAE and Israel also formalised ties at the same event.
    In an interview with a local Emirati newspaper, Zamir said he hopes tourism between Israel and the UAE could start early next year.
    “Agreements to do with visas and tourism are at an advanced stage, and the two sides are expected to reach a deal soon,” al-Ittihad newspaper quoted the Israeli minister as saying on Thursday.
    Emirates Flight Catering also said earlier it had signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a dedicated production facility, Kosher Arabia, for kosher food at its premises in the UAE with production beginning in January.
(Writing by Dan Williams and Maha El Dahan; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

9/17/2020 Israelis Celebrate Deal With Bahrain And United Arab Emirates by OAN Newsroom
Tel Aviv City Hall is lit up with the words for peace in Hebrew, Arabic and English in honor of the recognition agreements Israel will be signing with
the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain at the White House, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
    Citizens of Israel recently expressed their appreciation for the historic peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.    On Wednesday, Jerusalem residents stated they hope this will lead to lasting peace in the region.
    The three Middle Eastern countries signed the deal in Washington earlier this week, officially formalizing their diplomatic relationship.     The deal was reached through their common opposition to Iran amid its recent actions in the region.
    Locals are hopeful this is just the beginning of a series of changes to come in the region.
    “That will hopefully send a message throughout the region that many of these other countries and groups that thought they could just use violence for the last 70 years to somehow dislodge Israel will understand they are living in a whole new world order,” explained one Jerusalem resident.    “Hopefully, this will bring a lot more good times to come.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, President Donald Trump, Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and
United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan react on the Blue Room Balcony after signing the Abraham Accords
during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
    The Trump administration helped broker the deal, which is the latest in a series of peace negotiations in the Middle East.

9/18/2020 White House Says Five More Countries Seriously Considering Israel Deals
FILE PHOTO: White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speaks to reporters during a news
briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
    MOSINEE, Wis. (Reuters) – White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Thursday that five more countries are seriously considering striking a normalization deal with Israel after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed accords this week.
    Meadows, speaking to reporters on Air Force One on the flight that carried President Donald Trump to a campaign rally in Wisconsin, would not identify the five nations.
    But he said three were in the region.    He would not comment further.
    Trump has spoken optimistically about more countries agreeing to a normalization of relations with Israel following the UAE and Bahrain deals.
    One possibility is Oman, whose ambassador attended the White House ceremony on Tuesday.    Trump predicted on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia would eventually agree to a deal.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Peter Cooney)

9/18/2020 Netherlands Prepares Case Against Syria For ‘Gross Human Rights Violations’
FILE PHOTO: Syria's President Bashar al-Assad addresses the new members of parliament in
Damascus, Syria in this handout released by SANA on August 12, 2020. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
    AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Netherlands is preparing a case against Syria at the U.N.’s highest court, seeking to hold the government of President Bashar al-Assad accountable for human rights violations, including torture and the use of chemical weapons, the Dutch foreign minister told parliament on Friday.
    Syria has been informed of the legal step, which precedes a possible case at the International Court of Justice, the U.N.’s court for disputes between states in The Hague.
    “Today the Netherlands announced its decision to hold Syria responsible under international law for gross human rights violations and torture in particular,” Foreign Minister Stef Blok wrote in a letter to legislators.    It cites Syria’s obligation to uphold the U.N. Convention against Torture, which Damascus ratified in 2004.
    The Netherlands decided to take action after Russia blocked multiple efforts at the United Nations Security Council to refer a case on human rights violations in Syria to the International Criminal Court, which prosecutes individuals for war crimes and is also based in The Hague.
    “The Assad regime has committed horrific crimes time after time.    The evidence is overwhelming.    There must be consequences,” the letter said.    “Large numbers of Syrians have been tortured, murdered, forcibly disappeared, and subjected to poison-gas attacks, or have lost everything fleeing for their lives.”
    Syria’s decade old civil war has killed at least 200,000 civilians, left 100,000 missing and forced 5.5 million to flee to neighbouring countries, the Netherlands said.
(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Jon Boyle)

9/18/2020 Erdogan Says Turkey Withdrew Survey Vessel To Allow For Diplomacy
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan arrives for a meeting with EU Council President
Charles Michel in Brussels, Belgium March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey recalled an oil and gas exploration vessel from disputed eastern Mediterranean waters to allow for diplomacy with Greece but Turkey’s work in the region is not finished, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.
    NATO members Turkey and Greece bitterly disagree over maritime jurisdiction and energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean and tensions flared last month when Turkey sent Oruc Reis to waters also claimed by Greece.
    On Sunday the Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel returned to port for what Ankara called routine maintenance, a move Greece said was a positive first step in easing tensions.
    “Let’s give diplomacy a chance, let’s put forth a positive approach for diplomacy.    Greece should also positively meet this approach of ours, and let’s take a step accordingly,” Erdogan said in Istanbul after Friday prayers.    “This is why we did it.”
    “But this does not mean that because Oruc Reis was pulled back for maintenance, our seismic activities will fully stop,” he told reporters.    “Once the maintenance period is finished, Oruc Reis will go back to its operations again and continue its work there.”
    Erdogan said he was ready to discuss the issue with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in person or via videoconference.
    Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that maintenance work on Oruc Reis may take “a few weeks.”
    Turkish and Greek officials have been holding talks at NATO to avoid military accidents, after a minor collision of warships last month.    They have held four meetings but Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, in an interview with British broadcaster Channel 4, on Friday accused Greece of slowing down discussions by imposing pre-conditions.
    European Union leaders will evaluate possible sanctions against Turkey at a summit on Sept. 24-25.    Germany wants more time for talks with Turkey while France, Cyprus and Greece demand a punitive response.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Ece Toksabay and Dominic Evans)

9/18/2020 France’s Macron Calls Lebanese Leaders Over Cabinet Plans by Tom Perry and John Irish
FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron wears a face mask as he arrives to attend a meeting with Lebanon's
President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool
    BEIRUT/PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron called Lebanese leaders on Friday over stalled efforts to form a new government, a diplomatic source said, as Paris seeks to give a new push to its bid to pull the country out of a deep financial crisis.
    France has been leaning on Lebanon’s sectarian politicians to name a cabinet swiftly and embark on reforms to get the country out of the worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
    But the process hit a logjam because of a dispute over cabinet portfolios.    Lebanon’s main Shi’ite Muslim factions, Iran-backed Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, say they must name Shi’ite ministers who should include the finance minister.
    A Sept. 15 deadline agreed between Lebanese politicians and Paris for forming the new government has already been missed.
    President Michel Aoun, a Christian under Lebanon’s sectarian system of power sharing, received a phone call from Macron “dealing with the government situation and the necessity to continue efforts to secure the creation of the government as soon as possible,” the Lebanese presidency said.
    A diplomatic source said Macron had also called Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, the leader of Amal, and the leading Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri, a former premier who has been backing Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib.
    Adib, a Sunni, said on Thursday he would give more time for talks on forming the cabinet after reports indicated he might resign. He had proposed switching control of ministries, some of which have been held by the same factions for years.
    The diplomatic source said Macron had spoken to Adib on Thursday to tell him to keep calm and not step down.
    Christian opposition politician Samir Geagea, a fierce opponent of Hezbollah, said the Shi’ite groups’ demands had struck at the core of the French initiative.
    “God willing I am wrong, but it has really broken down, what can save it now?” Geagea said in a televised news conference.
    He said that giving into the demands of Hezbollah and Amal would lead other factions making demands, obstructing reform.
    Asked what would happen if the opportunity presented by the French push was lost, he said: “More collapse, but faster.”
(Reporting by Tom Perry in Beirut and John Irish in Paris; Editing by Edmund Blair)

9/18/2020 Israel Reinstates Full Lockdown As Cases Soar by OAN Newsroom
A police roadblock is seen on a highway on the first day of the three-week nationwide
lockdown, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, Sept 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
    Israel has returned to a full lockdown as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise in the country.    The lockdown began on Friday and is set to last for three weeks.
    Schools, restaurants, hotels, gyms and other businesses have been ordered to close to the public.
    The decision to close down coincided with the beginning of the Jewish High Holiday season, when many people usually attend religious services and gather with loved ones.
    “I know those measures will exact a heavy price on us all,” stated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.    “This is not the kind of holiday we are used to, and we certainly won’t be able to celebrate with our extended families.”
Capsules for up to 20 women to worship, a measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus, at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, sit empty on
Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, on the first day of a nationwide three-week lockdown in reaction to a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
    Israel has reported more than 1,100 deaths since the start of the pandemic and is currently averaging about 5,000 cases per day.
    The prime minister has suggested more restrictions may need to be enforced to stop the spread of the virus in the region.
[Israel rise in virus was probably from all the demonstrations against Netanyahu and Palestinians gatherings as the same thing is occuring in the United States in Democratic controlled cities demonstrating, looting and violence as God is watching this.].

9/19/2020 Lebanon’s Army Finds Firework Cache At Devastated Beirut Port
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s army said it had found 1.3 tonnes of fireworks during a search of Beirut port, which was devastated last month in a huge blast that was blamed on a large quantity of chemicals kept in poor condition.
    The army said in a statement, released on its website on Friday, that 1,320 kgs of fireworks were found in 120 boxes in a warehouse during a search of the port.    It said army engineers disposed of them.
    The port and a swathe of central Beirut was ruined by the huge blast on Aug. 4 that killed at least 190 people.    It was blamed on 2,750 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate kept at the port for years in poor condition.
    Warehouses and concrete grain silos at the port were destroyed.
    Lebanon’s army said on Sept. 3 it had also found a further 4.35 tonnes of ammonium nitrate near the entrance to Beirut port, which the army said at the time it was dealing with.
(Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Mark Potter)

9/19/2020 Lebanese Christian Party Offers Idea To Resolve Dispute Over New Cabinet by Edmund Blair
FILE PHOTO: Gebran Bassil, a Lebanese politician and head of the Free Patriotic movement, talks
during an interview with Reuters in Sin-el-fil, Lebanon July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – A party founded by Lebanon’s Christian president made a proposal to end a dispute that has blocked the formation of a new cabinet and threatened a French drive to lift the country out of its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
    The proposal, put forward on Saturday, involved handing major ministries to smaller sectarian groups in a country where power is shared between Muslims and Christians.
    There was no immediate comment from Shi’ite Muslim groups, which have insisted they choose who fills several posts.    But a political source familiar with the thinking of dominant Shi’ite groups said the idea was unlikely to work.
    Lebanon’s efforts to swiftly form a new government have run into the sand over how to pick ministers in a country where political loyalties mostly follow sectarian religious lines.
    A Sept. 15 deadline agreed with France to name a cabinet has passed.    Paris, which is leading an international push to haul Lebanon back from economic collapse, has voiced exasperation and told Beirut to act “without delay.”
    The leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), the party founded by President Michel Aoun and allied to Hezbollah, proposed “undertaking an experiment to distribute the so-called sovereign ministries to smaller sects, specifically to the Druze, Alawites, Armenians and Christian minorities
    The statement was issued after Gebran Bassil, FPM head and son-in-law of the president, chaired a meeting of the party’s political leadership.    Bassil is a Maronite, Lebanon’s largest Christian community.
    Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib, a Sunni Muslim under Lebanon’s sectarian system of power sharing, wants to shake up the leadership of ministries, some of which have been controlled by the same factions for years.
    Lebanon’s main Shi’ite groups – the Amal Movement and the heavily armed, Iranian-backed Hezbollah – want to select the figures to fill a number of positions, including the finance minister, a top position often called a “sovereign” ministry.
    An FPM official said the party had not discussed the idea about distributing ministries with Hezbollah or Amal.    “We are proposing an exit strategy for those who are stuck up a tree without a ladder,” the official told Reuters.
    With the nation buried under a mountain of debt and with its banks paralysed, the finance minister will play a crucial role as Lebanon seeks to restart stalled talks with the International Monetary Fund, one of the first steps on France’s roadmap.
(Additional reporting by Tom Perry and Laila Bassam; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Pravin Char)

9/20/2020 ‘Political Paralysis’: Lebanese Patriarch Points At Shi’ite Leaders For Cabinet Delay by Edmund Blair
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai speaks after meeting with Lebanon's President
Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon July 15, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s top Christian cleric took a swipe at leaders of the Shi’ite Muslim community on Sunday for making demands he said were blocking the formation of a new government and causing political paralysis in a nation in deep crisis.
    Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, leader of the Maronite church, did not mention Shi’ites directly but asked how one sect can demand “a certain ministry.”    Shi’ite politicians have said they must name the finance minister.
    Sunday’s sermon adds to tensions in a nation facing its worst crisis since a civil war ended in 1990 and where power is traditionally shared out between Muslims and Christians.
    France has been pushing Lebanon to form a new cabinet fast.    But a deadline of Sept. 15 that politicians told Paris they would meet has been missed amid a row over appointments, notably the finance minister, a post Shi’ites controlled for years.
    Shi’ite politicians say they must choose some posts because rivals are trying to use “foreign leverage” to push them aside.
    “In what capacity does a sect demand a certain ministry as if it is its own, and obstruct the formation of the government, until it achieves its goals, and so causes political paralysis?” the patriarch of Lebanon’s biggest Christian community said.
    He said the Taif agreement, a pact that ended the 1975-1990 civil war, did not hand specific ministries to specific sects.
    Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib, a Sunni Muslim, wants to appoint specialists and shake up the leadership of ministries.
    The main Shi’ite groups – the Amal Movement and the heavily armed, Iranian-backed Hezbollah – want to select the figures to fill several posts, including the finance minister, a vital position as Lebanon navigates through its economic crisis.
    A French roadmap for Lebanon includes the swift resumption of talks with the International Monetary Fund, a first step to helping deal with a mountain of debt and fix Lebanon’s broken banking sector.    But it first needs a government.
(Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Alex Richardson)

9/20/2020 Turkey May Resume Talks With Greece, Warns Against EU Sanctions
FILE PHOTO: Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis sails in the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Yoruk Isik/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey and Greece could soon resume talks over their contested Mediterranean claims but European Union leaders meeting this week will not help if they threaten sanctions, Turkey’s presidential spokesman said on Sunday.
    The NATO members and neighbours have been locked in a bitter dispute over the extent of their continental shelves in the eastern Mediterranean.    Tensions flared last month when Turkey sent a vessel to survey for gas and oil in contested waters.     European Union member Greece condemned the move as illegal and pressed, along with Cyprus, for a strong response from EU leaders when they meet on Thursday.
    Ankara withdrew the Oruc Reis vessel last week.    It described the move as a routine maintenance stop but later said it opened up the chance for diplomacy to reduce tensions with Athens.
    “At this point, the climate has become much more suitable for negotiations to begin,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told Dogan News Agency.    “…Exploratory talks may start again.”
    Last month Greece and Turkey were on the verge of resuming those “exploratory” talks, suspended in 2016.    But Turkey broke off contact and sent Oruc Reis into disputed waters after Greece signed a maritime demarcation deal with Egypt, angering Ankara.
    Graphic – Overlapping claims in disputed east Med exploration area: https://graphics.reuters.com/TURKEY-GREECE/qmyvmbgynpr/GREECE-TURKEY.jpg
SANCTIONS THREATS
    Erdogan has had talks with EU Council president Charles Michel, who chairs the meetings of EU leaders, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is seeking to ease the crisis.
    But Cyprus, protesting the presence of two Turkish exploration vessels in waters off the divided island, insists on sanctions against Ankara and has blocked EU action against Belarus for alleged election fraud until its demands are met.
    “Threats of blackmail and of sanctions against Turkey does not give results,” Kalin said.    “European politicians should know this by now.”
    Erdogan tweeted at the weekend that Turkey believed the dispute could be resolved through dialogue while still defending its rights in the region.
    “We want to give diplomacy as much space as possible, by listening to every sincere call,” he tweeted.    “With this vision, we will continue to defend any drop of water and area of our country to the end.”
(Reporting by Dominic Evans and Irem Koca; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

9/21/2020 Bahrain King Says Accord With Israel Not Directed Against Any Country
FILE PHOTO: Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa attends during the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) 40th Summit
in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 10, 2019. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Bahrain’s move to establish ties with Israel was not directed against any entity or power but aimed to bring about a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said on Monday.
    The king, in a cabinet statement reported by state news agency BNA, reaffirmed Bahrain’s support for the Palestinians and for an Arab peace initiative drawn up in 2002 that offered Israel normalised ties in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians and full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
    Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates became the first Arab states in a quarter of a century to normalise ties with Israel but without a resolution of Israel’s dispute with the Palestinians, in a strategic realignment of Middle East countries against Iran.
    The accord called for “full diplomatic relations” but avoided the term normalization.
    “Tolerance and co-existence define our true Bahraini identity…Our steps towards peace and prosperity are not directed against any entity or power, rather they are in everyone’s interest and aim for good neighbourliness,” King Hamad said, quoted by BNA.
    Sporadic street protests have broken out in Bahrain since it signed the accord with Israel earlier this month.
    Bahrain was the only Gulf Arab state to witness a sizeable pro-democracy uprising in 2011, which it quashed with Saudi and Emirati help.     The Sunni-ruled country accuses Shi’ite Muslim Iran of backing subversion, a charge Iran denies.
(Reporting by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

9/21/2020 Aoun Warns Lebanon Going To Hell Unless Government Agreed
FILE PHOTO: Mustapha Adib talks to the media after being named Lebanon's new prime minister
at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – President Michel Aoun warned on Monday Lebanon was going “to hell” if a new government could not be formed but agreeing one might take a miracle after positions had hardened between rival factions.
    His comments in a televised address underlined the severe difficulties facing French efforts to lift Lebanon out of economic and financial crisis by getting its fractious politicians to form a new government and carry out reforms.
    The crisis, exacerbated by the devastating Aug. 4 Beirut port explosion, marks the worst threat to Lebanon’s stability since the 1975-90 civil war.    A deadline agreed with Paris for forming the government passed last week.
    The process has hit a logjam over the demand of Lebanon’s two dominant Shi’ite parties, the Iran-backed Hezbollah and its ally the Amal Movement, to name Shi’ite ministers in cabinet including the finance minister.
    Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, said he had proposed compromise solutions that had not been accepted and depicted the problem as a standoff between the Shi’ite parties on the one hand and the Sunni Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib along with former prime ministers who support him on the other.
    Asked by a reporter after his speech where Lebanon was headed if there was no agreement on the issue, Aoun, a Maronite Christian, said “of course, to hell.”    Asked by reporters if his comments meant there was no hope of agreeing a government, Aoun said: “No, there might be a miracle
    “We are today facing a government formation crisis which should not have happened because the events that await Lebanon do not allow a minute to be wasted,” Aoun said in his speech.
    Aoun appeared to direct criticism at both the Shi’ite parties and Adib, whom he said did not want to consult the parliamentary blocs.br>     He said on the one hand parliamentary blocs could not be excluded from the government formation process while on the other it was not permissible for one party to impose ministers.
    “With the hardening of positions there does not appear to be any solution on the horizon because all the proposed solutions amount to a ‘victor and a vanquished’,” he said.
(Reporting by Ellen Francis and Tom Perry; Editing by Alex Richardson and Raissa Kasolowsky, William Maclean)

9/21/2020 Palestinians Arrest Supporters Of Abbas Rival Based In UAE
FILE PHOTO: Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah security chief, gestures in his office
in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
    RAMALLAH, West Bank/GAZA (Reuters) – Palestinian security forces arrested over half a dozen supporters of an exiled Palestinian politician who some have accused of involvement in the United Arab Emirates deal to forge ties with Israel, a spokesman for his faction said.
    Mohammed Dahlan has lived in the UAE since being driven out of the Israeli-occupied West Bank in 2011 after a bitter row with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his political party Fatah, of which Dahlan is a member.
    The Gulf Arab country’s deal to establish diplomatic relations with Israel has angered Palestinians and stirred widespread speculation that Dahlan played a role.
    Dahlan’s faction has criticised Arab countries forming relations with Israel before its conflict with the Palestinians is resolved, though he has not outright denied involvement.
    On Monday, seven members of Dahlan’s faction were arrested by security forces from Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA), which has limited self-rule in the West Bank, according to Dahlan faction spokesman Imad Mohsen, who called the arrests “politically motivated.”
    The arrests were carried out in the West Bank and included Haytham al-Halabi and Salim Abu Safia, both senior members of Dahlan’s faction, a statement from the group said.
    In a statement, the Palestinian security forces said they had detained Halabi from a village near the West Bank city of Nablus as part of “a continuation of efforts to impose security and order.”
    The statement did not mention any other arrests.
    The PA’s interior ministry declined comment.
    A former Gaza security chief, Dahlan has long been floated as a potential successor to Abbas.    He has cultivated close ties with UAE leaders since his exile.
    The UAE and fellow Gulf Arab state Bahrain signed normalisation agreements with Israel at the White House last week in a ceremony hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump.
    The deals were the first such accommodations between Arab countries and Israel in more than 20 years, and were forged partly through shared fears of Iran.
    Palestinians have called the moves a betrayal, fearing they would weaken a longstanding pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of a Palestinian state in return for normal relations with Israel.
(Reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Howard Goller)

9/22/2020 In Tel Aviv COVID-19 Ward, Warnings Of Dwindling Hospital Capacity by Ronen Zvulun
    TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Inside a fast-filling coronavirus ward in a Tel Aviv hospital, doctors rush to treat critical-care patients amid a surge in new cases that has forced Israel into a second nationwide lockdown.
    Health officials fear that the three-week lockdown, imposed on Friday, may not be long or restrictive enough to slow the daily case toll and relieve hospitals that they warn could soon reach capacity.
    New cases have reached daily highs of more than 5,000 among Israel’s 9 million population, sharply rebounding from single-digit lows following a relatively stricter initial lockdown from March to May.
    On the front lines of Israel’s second COVID-19 wave are doctors and nurses working around the clock at Ichilov hospital, where half of 60 COVID-19 patients are in serious condition and require ventilation, according to a hospital spokesman.
    Guy Chosen, director of Ichilov’s coronavirus ward, said the hospital has begun admitting patients from Jerusalem and districts in northern Israel “because of (their) incapacity to handle this increase in numbers.”
    Dressed in head-to-toe protective gear, nurses on two-hour shifts weaved through the crowded ward to check on patients, separated from one another by glass and metal partitions.
    “Right now we are 72 percent full, and every day we have more and more new patients.    There’s not enough capacity,” Ichilov spokesman Avi Shoshan said.
    Preparing for what he called “worst case scenarios,” Defence Minister Benny Gantz said on Monday he had told the military to be ready to erect a field hospital to relieve the overload.
    Some officials have advocated for tightening the current lockdown.    While schools have been closed, Israelis are still allowed to travel to work, gather in small groups and attend protests, among a wide list of other exceptions.
(Additional reporting by Rami Ayyub; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

9/22/2020 Mali Coup, Third-Term Bids Fan Fears Of West African Democracy Backslide by Aaron Ross
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Guinea President Alpha Conde arrives for an African Union summit meeting
in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 10, 2020. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo/File Photo
    DAKAR (Reuters) – Until this year, West Africa looked to have shed its “coup-belt” moniker, winning plaudits as a model of democratic progress on the continent.    But last month’s putsch in Mali is fuelling fears among activists that gains of the past decade are unravelling.
    The power grab came at a time when the presidents of Ivory Coast and Guinea are seeking third terms after winning referendums to alter constitutions that barred them from running again.
    While elections are now held consistently across the region, such moves, combined with governments’ attempts to stifle political opposition, are making many West Africans lose faith in the ballot box as a way of holding leaders accountable, activists and analysts say.
    “We are asking for strong institutions. But while the institutions exist on paper, the politicians manipulate them from the inside until there’s nothing left,” said Veronique Tadjo, an Ivorian novelist who co-authored a manifesto against third terms.
    Political instability could further undermine security in a region where militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State are threatening to overrun state forces in inland countries like Mali and extend their influence into coastal nations like Ivory Coast.
    Complaints that the March legislative elections in Mali lacked credibility were one factor behind last month’s coup, and tinkering with term limits can also breed instability, experts said.
    More than a dozen people have been killed in protests in Ivory Coast since President Alassane Ouattara announced last month that he would seek a third term in October.    His opponents called on Sunday for a fresh civil disobedience campaign.
    In Guinea, at least 30 people have died during demonstrations since last year against constitutional changes that allow President Alpha Conde to contest next month’s vote.
    Both Ouattara and Conde say they have the right to run again, arguing that the new constitutions – approved in 2016 and this March, respectively – reset term limits.    Their opponents dispute this.
    “In democracy, there is nothing more legitimate than the popular will expressed at the ballot box,” Tibou Kamara, one of Conde’s spokesmen, told Reuters.
    Conde, whom critics have long accused of angling for a third term, says he needs more time to carry out his development agenda, which was interrupted by the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak.
    An Ivorian government spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.    Ouattara said in March that he wouldn’t be a candidate, but reversed himself after his preferred successor, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died in July.    Ouattara called the decision to run a “true sacrifice,” necessary to protect the economic and social gains of his presidency.
DOUBLE STANDARD?
    Already in 2019, West Africa showed the greatest decline in political rights and civil liberties of any region in the world, according to U.S. watchdog Freedom House, which cited flawed elections in Senegal and Nigeria and political crackdowns in Benin.
    There is no single reason for the democratic backsliding, although several experts pointed to the waning influence of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc.
    In 2015, the 15-member body came close to banning third terms in what would have been a first for an African regional body.    But analysts say ECOWAS failed to follow through on the issue, weakened by divisions between Francophone and Anglophone countries and regional powerhouse Nigeria’s preoccupation with domestic concerns.
    International powers such as the United States have become less outspoken on democracy issues, said Mathias Hounkpe, one of the experts commissioned by ECOWAS who recommended the two-term limit.
    “What we are experiencing today is a weakening of the position of the international community when it comes to liberal values,” he said.
    ECOWAS leaders took a hard line against the Mali coup by immediately imposing economic sanctions.
    Those measures, which were softened when some leaders demanded exceptions for fuel and other essential products, failed to force the junta to restore the deposed president.
    The coup leaders did, however, announce on Monday that a civilian interim president had been appointed, acceding to one of ECOWAS’s main demands.
    The bloc’s actions have also drawn criticism from pro-democracy activists who see a double standard at play in its forceful condemnations of the coup, the second in Mali in eight years, but official silence on Ouattara and Conde’s candidacies.
    An ECOWAS spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
    Analysts say it is more difficult for ECOWAS to mobilise its members against constitutional changes that were approved by referendums and domestic courts than extra-legal coups.
‘CONTAGION EFFECT’
    Analysts say they don’t expect a return to the days of West African coups in the years after independence.    The region also bears little resemblance to other parts of Africa, where some leaders have managed to cling to power for decades.
    In East Africa, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will seek to extend his 34-year rule next year, while in Central Africa, Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang and Cameroon’s Paul Biya have governed for even longer.
    Of ECOWAS members, only Togo’s president has served more than two terms.    Niger’s Mahamadou Issoufou and Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari have both promised to step down after completing their second terms.
    But some other presidents could be toying with the idea of hanging on.
    After previously ruling out a third term bid in 2024, Senegal’s Macky Sall refused to confirm that position when asked by journalists last year, saying his ministers would stop working hard if he did.
    On Sunday, the head of the majority in parliament, Aymirou Gningue, told a radio station that Sall has the right to run for a third term. Sall’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
    “It is always a contagion effect,” said Christopher Fomunyoh, senior associate for Africa at the National Democratic Institute in Washington, citing previous waves of military coups and democratic reforms across the continent.
    “If the pendulum begins to swing backward, copycat actions … (are) quite likely.”
(Reporting by Aaron Ross; Additional reporting by Diadie Ba in Dakar, Ange Aboa in Abidjan and Saliou Samb in Conakry; Editing by Nick Macfie)

9/22/2020 Exclusive: U.S. Eyes December Agreement On F-35 Jets With UAE by Mike Stone
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Air Force F-35 flies during an aerial demonstration at a graduation ceremony for
Israeli air force pilots at the Hatzerim air base in southern Israel June 27, 2019. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and the United Arab Emirates hope to have an initial agreement on the sale of F-35 stealth fighter jets to the Gulf state in place by December, as the Trump administration studies how to structure a deal without running afoul of Israel.
    Sources close to the negotiations said the goal is to have a letter of agreement in place in time for UAE National Day celebrated on Dec. 2.
    Any deal must satisfy decades of agreement with Israel that states any U.S. weapons sold to the region must not impair Israel’s “qualitative military edge,” guaranteeing U.S. weapons furnished to Israel are “superior in capability” to those sold to its neighbors.
    With that in mind Washington is studying ways to make the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 more visible to Israeli radar systems, two sources said.    Reuters could not determine if this would be done by changing the jet or providing Israel with better radar, among other possibilities.
    Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz was due to meet his U.S. counterpart Mark Esper in Washington on Tuesday.
    The UAE embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.    The White House declined to comment.
    A Pentagon spokeswoman told Reuters, “as a matter of policy, the United States does not confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they are formally notified to Congress.”
    Michael Biton, minister in the Defence Ministry of Israel, said on Israel’s Army Radio that if the UAE buys F-35s it would be possible to “preserve the relative defensive advantage” of Israel’s military.
    Once a letter of agreement is signed, a fine may be levied against any party that terminates the deal.    Several political and regulatory hurdles must be cleared before the sale may be completed and Capitol Hill aides cautioned a deal may not be possible this year.
    Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, told reporters in August that in general, the United States aims to complete a letter of agreement for new F-35 sales in about six months.
    Because of the qualitative military edge restriction, the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 has been denied to Arab states, while Israel has about 24 jets.
    The United Arab Emirates, one of Washington’s closest Middle East allies, has long expressed interest in acquiring the stealthy jets and was promised a chance to buy them in a side deal made when they agreed to normalize relations with Israel.
    Sources familiar with the negotiations said a working idea was for Israeli air defenses to be able to detect the UAE F-35s with technology that effectively defeats the stealth capabilities of the jets.
    F-35 fighter jets sold to the United Arab Emirates could also be built in a way that ensures the same planes owned by Israel outperform any others sold in the region, defense experts say.
    Washington already demands that any F-35 sold to foreign governments cannot match the performance of U.S. jets, said both a congressional staffer and a source familiar with past sales.
    The F-35’s technical sophistication is tied to its mission systems and processing power and “it’s the computing power that allows you to sell a higher tech jet to Israel than to the UAE,” said Doug Birkey, executive director of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies in Washington.
    “When foreign pilots are in training in the U.S. they type a code into a user interface as they board the jet, the code will pull a different jet for each pilot based on legal permissions,” Birkey said.
    Either way, actual delivery of new jets is years away.    Poland, the most recent F-35 customer, purchased 32 of the jets in January, but will not receive its first delivery until 2024.
(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington, with additional reporting from Patricia Zengerle; editing by Chris Sanders and Howard Goller)

9/22/2020 France’s Macron Says Working For New Libya Meeting To Solve Crisis
    PARIS (Reuters) – France’s president said on Tuesday he wanted to gather together all of Libya’s neighbours to help find a solution to the country’s conflict.
    “This is the initiative that France wishes to lead in the coming weeks in conjunction with the Secretary General of the United Nations: bringing together all the neighbouring countries to help bring about the Libyan solution.    This re-engagement of the Libyan neighbourhood is essential in the long-term,” Emmanuel Macron said in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
    He did not name which countries he wanted to involve in the talks or elaborate on the details.
(Reporting by John Irish and Michel Rose; Editing by Alison Williams)

9/22/2020 Turkey, Greece Agree To Resume Talks After Four Years by Renee Maltezou and Tuvan Gumrukcu
European Council President Charles Michel is displayed on a screen as he waves during a video conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, at the European Council Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium September 22, 2020. Aris Oikonomou/Pool via REUTERS
    ATHENS/ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey and Greece have agreed to resume talks over their contested maritime claims in the eastern Mediterranean after a four year hiatus following weeks of tensions that culminated in a collision between their warships.
    The talks, which broke off in 2016 after 60 rounds that made little progress over 14 years, will resume in “the near future” in Istanbul, the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.
    Turkey also gave no timing for a resumption of the talks but a senior official said they could begin by the end of the month.    “There are positive developments,” the official said.
    Tensions flared last month after Ankara sent its Oruc Reis seismic survey ship into disputed waters, escorted by gunboats, to map out sea territory for possible oil and gas drilling.
    A Turkish and a Greek warship collided during the standoff.
    Since then, Turkey has recalled the Oruc Reis, saying the move would allow for diplomacy ahead of an EU summit where members Greece, Cyprus and France are pushing for tough action against Turkey.    The meeting was postponed on Tuesday to Oct. 1-2.
    On Tuesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan held a video summit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country has mediated in the dispute, and EU Council President Charles Michel.
    “At the summit, where developments in the eastern Mediterranean were … discussed, it was stated that Turkey and Greece are ready to start exploratory talks,” Turkey’s presidency said in a statement.
    Omer Celik, spokesman for Erdogan’s ruling AK Party, said preparations for the resumption of talks were under way and that the two sides were working on the parameters.
    Erdogan said he hoped the EU summit would bring new impetus to Turkey-EU ties, adding steps on updating a customs union between the two sides, visa-free travel and migration would help put ties on a positive basis.
    For a graphic on Overlapping claims in disputed east Med exploration area Overlapping claims in disputed east Med exploration area: https://graphics.reuters.com/TURKEY-GREECE/qmyvmbgynpr/GREECE-TURKEY.jpg
    In a video address to the U.N. General Assembly, Erdogan also called for a regional conference of Mediterranean coastal states, which he said should include the breakaway Turkish Cypriots, to address maritime disputes.
    Turkey has two oil and gas exploration ships in waters off the coast of the divided island of Cyprus, angering authorities in Nicosia.     Ankara does not recognise the southern Greek Cypriot government on the divided island, and is the only country to recognise the Turkish Cypriot state to the north.
    Turkey has also signed a maritime demarcation deal with Libya which conflicts with a rival deal between Greece and Egypt.
    Erdogan said Turkey preferred to solve disagreements “justly and in an appropriate way” through talks, but added that “futile” attempts to exclude Turkey from plans in the eastern Mediterranean could not succeed.
(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun and Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by William Maclean and Alison Williams)

9/22/2020 Arms Depot Of Iran-Backed Hezbollah Explodes In Lebanon, Source Says
People and members of the Lebanese army gather near the site of an explosion in the village of Ain Qana in southern Lebanon September 22, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – An arms depot of the Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah exploded in southern Lebanon on Tuesday, a security source said, injuring several people and sending a new shockwave across a nation grappling with its deepest crisis in three decades.
    The security source said the arms depot blast, which sent a huge column of black smoke into the sky, was caused by a “technical error.”
    The explosion rocked the village of Ain Qana in south Lebanon, a region that is a political stronghold of the heavily armed and politically powerful group which has fought wars with neighbouring Israel.
    The blast has further rattled a nation grappling with its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war and still reeling from a devastating explosion at Beirut port that ripped through the capital, killing at least 190 people.
    Since the Beirut blast on Aug. 4, subsequent fires at the port and elsewhere in the capital have caused panic in Beirut and across the country, whose economy is in meltdown while politicians have yet to agree on how to form a new government.
    The previous government resigned after Beirut blast and is acting in a caretaker capacity.    Forming the new cabinet has hit a logjam as Hezbollah and its main Shi’ite ally have demanded they name the finance and some other ministers.
    Another security source said Hezbollah had set up a security cordon around Tuesday’s blast site, about 50 km (30 miles) south of Beirut.    Journalists were prevented from approaching the area.     There was no immediate statement from Hezbollah.    The group’s television channel Al Manar said in a news broadcast that the cause of the blast was still not clear.
    Security sources said there were several injuries without giving figures.
    A witness near the village said they felt the ground shake.
    Footage from the area broadcast by Al-Jadeed showed men walking over scorched ground littered with debris.    Damage was shown in an adjacent house where the floor was covered in glass and what appeared to be a pool of blood.
    At least one fire was still burning in the location, the footage showed.
(Reporting by Reuters Beirut Bureau; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)

9/22/2020 France Still Pushing For New Lebanese Cabinet After Missed Deadline
FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron and Lebanon's President Michel Aoun wear face masks as they arrives
to attend a meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool/File Photo
    PARIS/BEIRUT (Reuters) – France is pressing Lebanese politicians to form a new government in a “reasonable timeframe” to lift the nation out of a deep crisis but has not fixed a new deadline after the last one in mid-September was missed, a French diplomatic source said.
    Lebanon’s Christian president, Michel Aoun, told fractious political leaders on Monday the country was heading “to hell” if a new cabinet was not formed swiftly to dig the nation out of its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
    But the nation’s sectarian politicians remain deadlocked over how to pick ministers to draw up economic reforms.
    Politicians had told President Emmanuel Macron during his visit after a huge August explosion in Beirut that they would form a cabinet of experts in 15 days, accelerating a process that usually takes months.    That deadline passed last week.
    Nerves in the nation were further rattled on Tuesday after a blast rocked southern Lebanon.    A security source said it occurred at an arms depot of Hezbollah, a heavily armed and politically powerful Shi’ite Muslim group.
    Political talks have hit a logjam over a demand by Hezbollah and its ally, Lebanon’s other main Shi’ite group, the Amal Movement, that they name several ministers including the finance minister.
    The source said Paris was reluctant to set a new deadline and was instead giving politicians more time provided they worked towards a French demand for a cabinet of ministers with expertise to deliver reforms.
    “France is letting them move forward, but within a reasonable timeframe,” the French source told Reuters.
    France has said it was ready to host an international conference in the second half of October to secure aid from donors, who demand reforms before giving cash.    Paris has drawn up a roadmap for a new government to tackle corruption and rebuild the economy.
    But there has been no indication that Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib, a Sunni under Lebanon’s sectarian system of power sharing, is any closer to naming a cabinet.
    A senior Shi’ite political source said the two main Shi’ite groups insisted on choosing the finance minister or they would not take part in a government, a move that would likely mean any government policies would be blocked once sent to parliament.
    “Everyone is waiting,” said another source familiar with the cabinet process.    “I don’t think the French initiative is dead.”
(Reporting by Michel Rose in Paris and Tom Perry and Laila Bassam in Beirut; Writing by Michel Rose; Editing by Edmund Blair)

9/22/2020 Turkey’s Erdogan, France’s Macron Discuss Eastern Mediterranean Tensions
President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaks during the 75th annual U.N. General Assembly, which is being held mostly virtually due to the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., September 22, 2020. United Nations/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and France’s Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday they had held their first conversation in months following a standoff between the two NATO allies over mounting tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
    In a statement after a call between the two leaders, the Turkish presidency said Erdogan emphasized the need for using diplomatic opportunities to de-escalate the situation and achieve sustainable negotiations.
    The French foreign ministry said following the call, which lasted over an hour, that it hoped a dialogue between Turkey and Greece could continue, and said Macron had called for a similar approach with Cyprus.
    “He (Macron) urged Turkey to fully respect the sovereignty of European Union member states as well as international law, and to refrain from any further unilateral action which could provoke tensions,” the French foreign office said, adding that Macron and Erdogan had agreed to keep in contact.
    Relations between the EU and Turkey are badly strained on a number of issues, including exploration for hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean, where Ankara has been at loggerheads with EU member states Cyprus and Greece.
(Reporting by Can Sezer and Tuvan Gumrukcu and Sarah White in Paris; Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Chris Reese and Matthew Lewis)

9/22/2020 Egypt’s Sisi Committed To Ridding Libya Of Militia, Regional Interference
FILE PHOTO: Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrives at Buckingham Palace in London, Britain January 20, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/Pool
    NEW YORK (Reuters) – Egypt is committed to helping Libyans “rid their country of armed militias and terrorist organizations, and put an end to the blatant interference of some regional parties,” Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.
    Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.    Since 2014, it has been split, with an internationally recognized government controlling the capital, Tripoli, and the northwest, while military leader Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi rules the east.
    Haftar is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, while the government is backed by Turkey.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Sandra Maler)

9/23/2020 Saudi King Salman Assails Iran In United Nations Debut by Michelle Nichols and Ghaida Ghantous
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz attends a virtual cabinet meeting in Neom, Saudi Arabia August 18, 2020. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS
    NEW YORK/DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz took aim at Iran during his debut on Wednesday at the annual United Nations meeting of world leaders, calling for a united front to contain Riyadh’s rival and stop it from getting weapons of mass destruction.
    He said Iran exploited a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers “to intensify its expansionist activities, create its terrorist networks, and use terrorism,” adding that this had produced nothing but “chaos, extremism, and sectarianism.”
    “A comprehensive solution and a firm international position are required,” the Saudi king, 84, told the 193-member General Assembly in a video statement that was pre-recorded due to the coronavirus pandemic.
    The United States, a strong ally of Saudi Arabia, quit the Iran nuclear pact in 2018, with President Donald Trump calling it the “worst deal ever.”    Washington has since imposed unilateral sanctions on Tehran and asserts that all countries also should reinstate U.N. sanctions to try to push the Islamic Republic to negotiate a new deal.
    French President Emmanuel Macron told the world body on Tuesday that Washington’s sanctions campaign against Iran had failed.
    All the remaining parties to the nuclear deal, including longtime U.S. allies, and 13 of the 15 U.N. Security Council members say the U.S. claim on U.N. sanctions is void.    Diplomats say few countries are likely to reimpose the measures.
    “Our experience with the Iranian regime has taught us that partial solutions and appeasement did not stop its threats to international peace and security,” King Salman said.
‘DISARM HEZBOLLAH’
    Iran’s U.N. mission spokesman Alireza Miryousefi rejected what he called “the baseless allegations.”
    “The unconstructive and unwarranted statement by the Saudi leader only emboldens certain powers who are intent in sowing discord among regional countries with the aim of creating permanent division and selling more deadly weapons to the region,” he said in an apparent swipe at the United States.
    Sunni Muslim-majority Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite-dominated Iran are locked in several proxy wars in the region, including in Yemen where a Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Tehran-aligned Houthi movement over five years.
    Riyadh has blamed Iran for attacks on the kingdom’s oil facilities last year, a charge Tehran denies.    Iran denies arming groups in the Middle East, including the Houthis, and blames regional tensions on the United States and its Gulf allies.
    Trump made only a passing reference to Iran during his U.N. address on Tuesday, focusing instead on attacking China.    Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani told the General Assembly on Tuesday Washington could impose “neither negotiations nor war” on his country.    All U.N. statements are pre-recorded videos.
    Gulf Arab states have also been alarmed by the rising influence of Iran’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon, withholding financial support to the government needed to tackle Lebanon’s worst financial crisis in decades.
    King Salman said a deadly blast in Beirut’s port last month “occurred as a result of the hegemony of Hezbollah … over the decision-making process in Lebanon by force of arms.”    Authorities have blamed the blast on a stockpile of ammonium nitrate unsafely stored at the port.
    “This terrorist organization must be disarmed,” the king said.
NO IRAQ ‘PLAYGROUND’
    Iraq has often been the scene of spillover violence from U.S.-Iran tensions, but seeks to avoid being drawn into any regional conflagration. A U.S. drone strike killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad airport in January.
    “We do not want Iraq to become a sort of playground for other forces which will kill themselves on our territory.    We have witnessed enough wars and enough attacks on our sovereignty,” Iraqi President Barham Salih told the General Assembly on Wednesday.
    On attempts to mediate peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the Saudi monarch said a 2002 Arab Peace Initiative is the basis for a “comprehensive and just solution” ensuring the Palestinians obtain an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
We support the efforts of the current U.S. administration to achieve peace in the Middle East by bringing the Palestinians and the Israelis to the negotiation table to reach a fair and comprehensive agreement,” he said.
    Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and site of its holiest shrines, drew up the 2002 initiative by which Arab nations offered to normalize ties with Israel in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians and full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in 1967.
    The king stopped short of endorsing recent U.S.-brokered agreements by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to establish ties with Israel, a strategic realignment of Middle East countries against Iran.    Saudi Arabia has quietly acquiesced to the deals but has signaled it is not ready to take action itself.
    Palestinian leaders have condemned the UAE and Bahrain’s warming of relations with Israel, describing it as a betrayal of their efforts to win statehood in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
(Additional reporting by Marwa Rashad, David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Mary Milliken, Paul Simao and Howard Goller)

9/23/2020 U.S. Ambassador Says Turkey Ignores Pharma Debt At Its Peril
FILE PHOTO: Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, David Satterfield, prepares ahead of his address to the 11th Annual
International Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) Conference in Tel Aviv, Israel January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The U.S. ambassador to Turkey said on Wednesday companies will consider abandoning its market if it fails to fully meet debt payments to American pharmaceutical firms, and he criticised a new Turkish law clamping down on big social media sites.
    Addressing a trade conference streamed online, David Satterfield said debts owed by government hospitals to pharmaceutical companies in the United States and elsewhere had risen to around $2.3 billion from some $230 million a year ago.
    Satterfield said U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had raised the issue with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak a year ago and was assured that arrangements would be made for prompt payment.
    A year later those companies were being asked to accept significant reductions in the amounts owed, Satterfield said, adding there will be consequences for non-payment of debt or reductions in payment.
    “Companies will consider departing the Turkish market or will reduce exposure to Turkish market.    This is not a direction which serves the interests of Turkey,” he said.
    Bilateral trade amounted to some $21 billion last year and the NATO allies have said they aim to lift that to $100 billion.
    Yet there are hurdles including U.S. tariffs on Turkish steel, and Ankara’s purchase of Russian missile defences last year that prompted Washington to oust Turkey from a consortium producing F-35 jets.
    At Tuesday’s conference hosted by the U.S.-Turkey Business Council, Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan said the steel tariffs and the removal of Turkey from a U.S. trade preference programme have damaged efforts to reach the trade goal.
    “Such policies by the U.S. severely limit Turkish firms’ ability to enter the U.S. market,” she said.
    Satterfield also voiced concern over a law adopted in July that Erdogan’s party says will make mostly U.S. social media sites more accountable to Turkish authorities’ concerns over content. Critics say it will silence dissent.
    “A policy that mandates large social media firms to store consumer data only in Turkey can create an inherently uneven playing field,” he said, adding it could ultimately compel U.S. firms to leave the market.
(Reporting by Jonathan Spicer and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

9/23/2020 Lebanon’s Fractious Politics Puts French Lifeline At Risk by Ellen Francis
FILE PHOTO: A view of the damaged grain silo at the site of the massive explosion at Beirut's port area, as Lebanon
marks one month since the August 4 explosion in Beirut, Lebanon September 4, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s sectarian politicians have overshot one deadline they had agreed with France and missing more may put at risk a French lifeline to haul the Middle East nation out of its worst crisis since a 1975-1990 civil war.
    France has drawn up a timeline for Lebanon to tackle corruption and deliver reforms to help secure billions of dollars in foreign aid to save a country drowning in debt.
    But the leaders who oversaw years of wasted state spending and corruption have stumbled at the first hurdle by failing to deliver on a promise to French President Emmanuel Macron to form a new cabinet by mid-September.
    Yet choosing a cabinet may prove the easy bit. Once named, the ministers have a mountain of challenges, ranging from reviving a paralysed banking industry to fixing a power sector that cannot keep the lights on in a nation of about 6 million.
    Macron, who visited Beirut after a devastating Beirut port blast in August, has told politicians they could face sanctions if graft gets in the way.    And Paris has repeatedly said there will be no aid without change.
WHAT PREVENTED LEBANON NAMING A GOVERNMENT QUICKLY?
    Factional, sectarian politics is to blame.    At the heart of the cabinet logjam has been a demand by the two main Shi’ite Muslim parties, Iran-backed Hezbollah and its ally Amal, to pick several ministers and to keep the finance post in their hands.
    The finance ministry will have a vital role in drawing up plans to exit the economic crisis.
    Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib, a Sunni under Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system, had sought to shake up the leadership of ministries, some of which have been controlled by the same factions for years.
    Hezbollah, whose political influence has grown, and Amal view moves to shift them out of key cabinet posts as a bid to weaken their sway, politicians say.
    They have a parliament majority with their Christian and other allies, although the cabinet dispute has put them at odds. President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian allied to Hezbollah, has said no sect should claim any ministry.
    But Washington’s decision in September to impose U.S. sanctions on Hezbollah’s allies deepened the Shiite bloc’s resolve to dig in over cabinet appointments, political sources say.    Washington deems Hezbollah a terrorist group.
    Yet foreign pressure could also deliver results.    Macron’s intervention prompted Lebanon’s bickering leaders to agree on the prime minister-designate hours before the French president arrived in Beirut on his second visit in less than a month.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
    France has said Lebanon faces collapse if it doesn’t change course.    The Lebanese president has said the country is going “to hell” if doesn’t name a cabinet.    Many Lebanese, thousands of whom took to the streets last year to demand change, have already been plunged into poverty as the economy has crashed.
    Lebanon needs cash – and fast – after defaulting on its towering sovereign debt and with its banks on their knees.    The Beirut port blast, which killed almost 200 people, handed the nation with a new repair bill estimated at up to $4.6 billion.
    The central bank has been using up dwindling foreign reserves to subsidise vital imports of wheat, fuel and medicine.    Lifting subsidies, which the central has said cannot go on indefinitely, will bring more misery and may stoke tensions.
    Minor episodes of sectarian unrest and factional skirmishes have accompanied the economic freefall.    Further deterioration threatens more flare-ups, while security forces are paid in a currency that is rapidly losing its value.
    Donors who promised billions of dollars to help Lebanon in a 2018 Paris conference refused to hand over the cash when the country failed to deliver reforms.    They have made changing course a condition for any future help.
    Macron delivered a stark message in Beirut on Sept. 1: “If your political class fails, then we will not come to Lebanon’s aid.”
WILL THINGS GET EASIER WITH A GOVERNMENT IN PLACE?
    There are big challenges ahead. France has drawn up a detailed roadmap for the new cabinet, ranging from swiftly restarting talks with the International Monetary Fund to launching tenders to start building new power stations.
    Crucially, France has said the government must start to tackle endemic corruption quickly in order to secure funds at another donor conference that Paris has said it is ready to hold in the second half of October.
    This means any new government faces a tight deadline.    It may prove a tall order for Lebanon’s fractious politicians who have already failed to name a cabinet on time.
(Editing by Tom Perry and Edmund Blair)

9/23/2020 Nigerian Gas Tanker Explosion Kills At Least 28
People inspect the damage at the site of a gas tanker explosion in the central Nigerian state of Kogi, Nigeria September 23, 2020. REUTERS/Haruna Yahaya
    ABUJA (Reuters) – At least 28 people were killed on Wednesday when a gas tanker exploded in the central Nigerian state of Kogi and started a blaze, a road safety agency official said.
    Bisi Kazeem, spokesman for the Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC), said nine children were involved in the accident, which happened opposite a petrol station along Lokoja-Zariagi highway in the state.
    State governor Yahaya Bello said in a statement the accident, which occurred early on Wednesday, led to loss of lives and destroyed many vehicles, properties and other valuables in the tanker fire.
    Traffic accidents are common in Nigeria, where roads are bad and safety standards poor.
(Reporting by Camillus Eboh and Tife Owolabi; Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Alex Richardson)

9/23/2020 Somali President Names Newcomer Roble Premier As Elections Loom by Abdi Sheikh
FILE PHOTO: Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, President of Somalia, addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General
Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo
(This September 18 story corrects typo in paragraph 4 from 2017 to 2007)
    MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has picked political newcomer Mohamed Hussein Roble as prime minister, his office said on Friday, cementing power around the presidency ahead of elections due next year.
    Roble studied civil engineering and previously worked for the International Labour Organisation, a United Nations agency.    He replaces Hassan Ali Khaire, who was sacked in July after a power struggle over whether to delay a national election due next year.
    Somalia, a Horn of Africa nation that has been riven by civil war since 1991, is coming to a crossroads.
    An African Union peacekeeping force set up in 2007 has clawed back control of much of the country from Islamist insurgents, giving space for fragile political institutions to emerge.    Young diaspora Somalis are coming home and construction in the capital is booming.
    But corruption is endemic, the peacekeepers have begun reducing their presence, and the Islamist al-Shabaab insurgency still mounts deadly attacks on a near-daily basis, even within the capital.
    Relations have also been rocky between the federal government and regional states as they quarrel over power and resources.
    Mohamed – usually referred to by his nickname of “Farmaajo” – is likely to run for a second term as president when polls are held, competing against at least two other former presidents.
    Somalia’s international backers had hoped to hold the first one-person, one-vote election since the war began, but it is unclear whether that will be possible.
    Previous national elections have consisted of clan delegates choosing members of parliament, who in turn chose a national leader.
(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Duncan Miriri and Katharine Houreld; Editing by Diane Craft and Kevin Liffey)

9/23/2020 Three Egyptian Policemen, Four Militants Killed In Prison Break Attempt
FILE PHOTO: People stand in front of security tower outside Cairo's Tora prison, in Cairo, Egypt June 17, 2019. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Three Egyptian policemen were killed while preventing four Islamist militants on death row fleeing a Cairo prison on Wednesday, the interior ministry said.
    All four militants were killed in the failed attempt to escape from Tora prison, it added in a statement.
    Three of the prisoners named in the statement were convicted in 2018 with establishing and joining a militant group called Ansar al-Sharia and killing at least 10 policemen in a series of attacks between August 2013 and May 2014.
    The fourth was convicted in 2018 of killing a Christian doctor, local newspapers said.
    The interior ministry statement did not give further details.
    Ansar al-Sharia announced its formation in Egypt in July 2013, saying the army’s ousting of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in the same month was a declaration of war on its faith and threatening to use violence to impose Islamic law.
(Reporting by Haitham Ahmed and Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Alex Richardson)

9/24/2020 UAE Reopens All Seven Regions To Foreign Visitors
FILE PHOTO: A man walks at the beach in front of Atlantis The Palm hotel, as the Emirates reopen to tourism amid
coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates will resume issuing visas to foreign visitors to all seven of its regions as of Thursday after a six-month suspension imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, state media reported.
    Dubai, the region’s tourism and business hub and one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, had already lifted its own visa ban in July.
    The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship said in a statement carried in state media that the decision was taken as part of the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the Gulf state as well as efforts to support economic recovery plans.
    All six Gulf Arab countries have lifted internal curfews and lockdowns, but restrictions on gatherings and foreign travel remain in the oil-producing region, where the total number of COVID cases stands at over 800,000, with more than 6,800 deaths.
    Neighbouring Oman said on Thursday it would resume scheduled international flights on Oct. 1 with strict measures to protect the country and aviation staff from the virus.
(Reporting by Dubai bureau; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

9/24/2020 Israel Tightens COVID Lockdown As Infections Climb by Jeffrey Heller
FILE PHOTO: People walk by the shore of the Mediterranean during sunset as Israel operates under a nationwide lockdown to
fight a surge in the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, in Tel Aviv, Israel, September 22, 2020. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet decided on Thursday to tighten Israel’s coronavirus lockdown after he said a surge in infections was pushing the nation to “the edge of the abyss.”
    Israel went back into lockdown, its second during the pandemic, on Sept. 18.    But over the past week, the number of daily new cases has reached nearly 7,000 among a population of 9 million, severely straining the resources of some hospitals.
    “If we don’t take immediate and difficult steps, we will reach the edge of the abyss,” Netanyahu said in public remarks to the cabinet, which met for about eight hours.
    The new restrictions require all businesses and workplaces, except for those designated essential, to shut down for at least two weeks starting on Friday. A list will be released later in the day, an official statement said.
    Finance Minister Israel Katz and Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron objected to the new curbs, according to the finance ministry, which estimated the damage of a three-week lockdown to the economy at around 35 billion shekels ($10.06 billion).
    Israel is already in a recession and unemployment is above 11%.
    Schools will remain closed, but synagogues will stay open on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, next week, although the number of worshippers will be limited.    Religious parties in the coalition government had fiercely opposed shuttering synagogues.
    A survey published by the non-partisan Israel Democracy Institute on Wednesday showed only 27% of Israelis trust Netanyahu’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
    Protesters have been gathering weekly in their thousands outside his Jerusalem residence to call for his resignation over alleged corruption.
    Netanyahu has rejected allegations from activists that the tougher lockdown rules, some pending parliamentary approval, are in part intended to quash these demonstrations.
    The current 1-kilometre (0.6-mile)- limit on travel from home, except for activities such as grocery and medicine shopping and commuting to work, will now also apply to attendance at street protests.
    Netanyahu has denied charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in a trial that resumes in January.
    Since the outbreak began, 1,316 people have died in Israel and some 200,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported.
    The current second wave of infections followed an easing in May of a lockdown imposed in March.
(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell and Steve Scheer; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel)

9/24/2020 Unusually Heavy Rains In Senegal Expose Big Gap In $1.4 Billion Flood Plan by Alessandra Prentice
A general view of Keur Massar, flooded by heavy rains, in Senegal September 16, 2020. Picture taken with a drone on September 16, 2020. REUTERS/Christophe Van Der Perre
    DAKAR (Reuters) – More than two weeks after heavy rains hit Senegal, thigh-high stagnant water still fills streets in Dakar’s suburbs, as angry residents ask what happened to a $1.4 billion government plan to protect citizens from rising flood risk.
    Three months’ worth of rain fell on Sept. 5, forcing over 3,200 people to abandon their homes in the poor, low-lying outskirts of the capital and nearby region of Thies.
    “My children used sand, rocks, whatever was available to stop the water,” said Fatou Dioum, whose family of 10 moved to emergency shelter in Dakar’s Keur Massar district.
    Many stricken residents likened their situation to more widespread floods in 2009 and 2012, crises which the authorities promised would be averted in the future through its 766 billion CFA franc ($1.4 billion) 2012-2022 Flood Management Program.
    After the latest deluge critically impacted over 16,700 people, according to figures from the international Red Cross, civil society groups and opposition leaders are now asking what happened to that plan.
    “People are having to use boats to get in and out of their homes,” said Babacar Ngaraf, president of a group campaigning for better sanitation.    “You’d think that after eight years, we’d not be seeing floods this big.”
    The plans included improving stormwater drainage – a priority in many West African countries, where seasonal floods are proving increasingly destructive due to rapid urbanisation in flood-prone areas and more intense rainfall.
    However, in 2014 a report by the World Bank-managed Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery expressed concern that over 700 billion CFA francs, or 90%, of Senegal’s landmark flood plan had not been funded.
    “The government is working to resolve the gap as we go along,” the World Bank told Reuters in emailed comments, without detailing the current size of the shortfall.
    The president’s office did not respond to a request for comment.    On Sept. 8, President Macky Sall said the government would soon provide an update on the plan and efforts to source funding for its completion.
    Some goals have been achieved. A $73 million stormwater management project, financed mainly by the World Bank, built over 50 kilometres (31 miles) of canals and 21 basins.
    This and other measures have protected 167,000 people from flooding, the lender said.
    In Dakar’s Yeumbeul district, the authorities built a system that drains excess water through a chain of basins. But some areas flooded again this season because of a lack of maintenance, locals said.
    “The pump’s not worked since 2014,” said resident Ismaila Faye, as young children sloshed through water that had spilled into houses bordering a trash-logged swamp.
    The World Bank said the government had yet to follow through on a commitment to create a fund to finance the critical work of operating and maintaining drainage infrastructure.
    Meanwhile the threat to neighbourhoods like Keur Massar is rising.
    Floods in West Africa, partly due to extreme weather events, have increased from fewer than two per year on average before the 1990s to over eight per year during the 2000s, according to a 2018 paper in the Journal of Flood Risk Management.
    The authorities must develop a better flood management programme, prioritising the relocation of thousands of households from these highly flood-prone areas, said Oumar Cisse, director of the Dakar-based African Institute of Urban Management.
    “In reality, we don’t see a well-documented and constructed plan.”
(Editing by Bate Felix and Jan Harvey)

9/24/2020 Down But Not Out, Haftar Still Looms Over Libya Peace Process by Aidan Lewis
FILE PHOTO: Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar at the Parliament in Athens, Greece, January 17, 2020. REUTERS/Costas Baltas
    CAIRO (Reuters) – His assault on Libya’s capital has collapsed. Foreign powers have tried to sideline him.    But military commander Khalifa Haftar still sits astride oil terminals, with enough fire power and political sway to thwart any plans for peace.
    Having failed in his bid for national rule, Haftar, 76, is now severely diminished.    His troops have been driven out of western Libya, while in his eastern stronghold foreign powers that backed him are making overtures to rivals.
    But his role in partially lifting an oil blockade over the past week shows that he remains a linchpin in eastern Libya, where he has built up a security apparatus over the past six years.
    Foreign countries are now promoting talks to push warring factions towards a unity government.    But diplomats say Haftar’s role bedevils negotiations, as it has done for years.
    “That’s the big missing piece of the puzzle – what to do with Haftar and how to engage him,” said one Western diplomat.
    Libya has been without strong central rule since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011, and rival camps have set up parallel administrations based in the east and west since 2014.    Haftar, a Gaddafi-era military commander who spent two decades in the United States, gradually took control of the east.
    After gaining support from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Russia and France, he launched an assault to capture Tripoli last year.
    But the advance collapsed in June this year after his enemy Turkey reinforced the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).    Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) withdrew to a front line running south from the city of Sirte, in the centre of Libya’s Mediterranean coastline.
    Both of Libya’s rival administrations are funded by oil exports, and both have been crippled since Haftar’s LNA and its allies imposed a blockade that shut the main eastern oil terminals eight months ago.    Since Sept. 19, oil has gradually resumed flowing, demonstrating Haftar’s lasting relevance.
    But both the oil restart and the halt to fighting are on shaky ground. Haftar said the blockade would initially be lifted for just one month.    His deal with a deputy prime minister of the Tripoli government provoked a backlash in western Libya, where many fear it will give the LNA more control over revenues.
    The military truce, meanwhile, has yet to be converted into a formal ceasefire, and is holding partly because of the risks of a regional conflagration, with Turkey looking to consolidate gains and Haftar’s foreign backers determined to contain it.
    Publicly, the LNA says it is committed to a unilateral ceasefire it announced in June, but won’t withdraw from Sirte.
    “In the presence of Syrian and Turkish mercenaries and threats of an attack on Sirte, of course the Libyan army won’t leave,” said Khaled Al-Mahjoub, an LNA spokesman.
    Western countries have proposed a demilitarised zone around Sirte.    The LNA’s willingness to accept that could depend on decisions by foreign backers and Russian military contractors deployed alongside it, analysts say.
INTERNAL TENSIONS
    Since fighting eased in June, internal divisions have emerged on both sides, with protesters in both the east and west demonstrating against corruption and failing public services.
    In Tripoli, a dispute burst into the open within the GNA between the prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, and the interior minister, Fathi Bashagha, both key contacts for the government’s Turkish backers. Sarraj says he plans to step down next month, but manoeuvring by factions that have gained power under his watch makes it tricky to find a successor.
    In the east, international powers looking beyond Haftar have resurrected Aguila Saleh, the head of a rump parliament who was previously sanctioned by the EU and United States.    In Sirte, the LNA’s control has stirred resistance along tribal lines, prompting Haftar’s forces to make arrests.
    But Haftar retains military and financial power, and may use it to try to reassert himself politically, said Mohamed Eljarh, an expert on politics in the east.
    “I think Haftar is not happy, this is why I think there is the possibility of him trying to do what he does best – sabotage these attempts at political talk through military action,” he said.
    U.N.-led talks, running in awkward parallel to talks between Turkey and Russia as well as talks in Morocco this month between members of rival Libyan parliaments, aim to replace the GNA and plan a roadmap for elections.
    Some Western states want Haftar confined to military talks.    But France is still pushing for him to have a political role.    One French diplomat said Paris was trying to appear less pro-Haftar and work with European partners to counter Turkey. Another said Haftar was crucial to a political solution.
    There are no signs the UAE, Haftar’s most committed backer, is withdrawing support, two Western diplomats said.
    “Sure they’re being slightly tougher with him,” said one.    “But the fact is that nobody is reducing support for the LNA and nobody is genuinely turning the screw on Haftar.”
(Additional reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli, Ayman al-Sahli and John Irish)

9/24/2020 U.S. To Provide $720 Million Syria Aid And Funds For Sahel, South Sudan
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun speaks at a news briefing with South Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister
Cho Sei-young after their meeting at the foreign ministry in Seoul, South Korea, July 08, 2020. Chung Sung-Jun/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Thursday it would provide more than $720 million in humanitarian assistance in response to the crisis in Syria, plus nearly $152 million for Africa’s Sahel region and almost $108 million for South Sudan.
    Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun made the announcement on Syria at an event on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.    He said the money would go “both for Syrians inside the country and for those in desperate need across the region.”
    At the same event, acting USAID Administrator John Barsa announced nearly $108 million for the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan.
    Barca also said Washington would provide nearly $152 million in new humanitarian assistance for Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania to help them cope with population displacements and food insecurity because of conflict in the Sahel region.
    Biegun said the additional funds for Syria would bring total U.S. support since the start of the crisis there to more than $12 billion.
    A crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on protesters in 2011 led to civil war, with Iran and Russia backing the government and the United States supporting the opposition.    Millions have fled Syria and millions more have been internally displaced.
    In July, the United States imposed new sanctions aimed at cutting off funds to Assad.
    Syrian authorities blame Western sanctions for civilian hardship in the country, where a collapse of the currency has led to soaring prices and people struggling to afford food and basic supplies.
    Washington says its sanctions are not intended to harm the people and do not target humanitarian assistance.
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said heavy rains, fighting between armed groups, food insecurity, a deteriorating economic situation and the COVID-19 pandemic had compounded an already dire humanitarian crisis in South Sudan.
    He said the funds for South Sudan would go to help South Sudanese in the country and in neighboring states.
    In 2018, South Sudan formally ended five years of civil war that killed an estimated 400,000 people, caused a famine and created a massive refugee crisis, but efforts to conclude a peace process have stalled.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)

9/25/2020 Palestinian Leader Calls For U.N.-Led Peace Conference Early Next Year
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a virtual meeting with Palestinian factions over Israel and the United Arab
Emirates' deal to normalise ties, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank September 3, 2020. Alaa Badarneh/Pool via REUTERS
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday called for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to convene an international conference early next year to launch “a genuine peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians.
    Abbas urged Guterres to work with the Middle East Quartet of mediators – the United States, Russia, the European Union and the U.N. – and the U.N. Security Council on a conference “with full authority and with the participation of all concerned parties, early next year, to engage in a genuine peace process.”
    The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with east Jerusalem as its capital, all territory captured by Israel in 1967.    Palestinian leaders rejected a peace proposal unveiled in January by U.S. President Donald Trump, in which Washington would recognize Jewish settlements in occupied territory as part of Israel.
    “There will be no peace, no security, no stability and no coexistence in our region while this occupation continues and a just, comprehensive solution to the question of Palestine, the core of the conflict, remains denied,” Abbas told the 193-member U.N. General Assembly in a video pre-recorded due to COVID-19.
    He said the Palestinians remained committed to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, drawn up by Saudi Arabia, in which Arab nations offered to normalize ties with Israel in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians and full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in 1967.
    The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed agreements last week to establish ties with Israel, becoming the first Arab states in a quarter century to break a longstanding taboo.    The Palestinians denounced the move.
    Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz, in his debut speech to the United Nations on Wednesday, said the Arab Peace Initiative is the basis for a “comprehensive and just solution,” but also said he supported U.S. peace efforts. He stopped short of endorsing the recent U.S.-brokered agreements.
    Saudi Arabia has quietly acquiesced to the deals but has signaled it is not ready to take similar action.
(This story corrects date of Arab Peace Initiative to 2002)
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Ali Sawafta and Nidal Al Mughrabi; Editing by Dan Grebler)
[As I have said Abbas with the Palestinians is going to force the United Nations, European Union and Russia to get into this deal which I think will being the He out to make a peace deal with the Arabs and United States in the near future to get the prophecy in process .].

9/25/2020 Turkey Orders 82 Arrests, Including Kurdish Opposition Members, Over 2014 Protests
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey on Friday ordered the arrest of 82 people including members of a pro-Kurdish opposition party over violent protests in 2014 against an attack on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani.
    Protesters flooded streets in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast that October, accusing the Turkish army of standing by as the Islamic State militant group besieged Kobani in plain view just across the Syrian border.    The protests led to the deaths of 37 people.
    Turkish authorities accuse the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought for greater autonomy for the southeast since 1984, of inciting the demonstrations.
    They also accuse the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) of links to the PKK and supporting the protests.    The HDP, the third largest party, denies links to terrorism.
    Former HDP leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag have been in jail since 2016 on charges related to the Kobani protests.
    In a statement on Friday, the Ankara prosecutor’s Terror Crimes Investigation Bureau said arrest warrants had been issued over “several calls made to invite the public to the streets and carry out terror acts.”
    Those detained on Friday included the mayor of the northeasterly Kars province, Ayhan Bilgen, and former lawmaker Sirri Sureyya Onder, both prominent HDP figures, as well as some party executives.
    Mithat Sancar, the party’s current co-leader, said the AK Party of President Tayyip Erdogan “wants to intimidate the opposition and spread fear among the public by silencing the HDP.”
    He said the HDP’s own requests that the Kobani protests be investigated had been dismissed.
    Since local elections in 2019, Ankara has removed dozens of mayors belonging to the HDP, accusing them of links to terrorism, and appointed trustees in their place.    Two HDP lawmakers have been ejected from parliament since elections in 2018 after being convicted on terrorism charges.
    Eleven others were ejected in the previous term.
    The Ankara prosecutor’s office is now preparing proceedings against seven more HDP lawmakers that could lead to their immunity being lifted to allow them to be charged, the state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.
    The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul; Editing by Ece Toksabay, Dominic Evans and Kevin Liffey)

9/25/2020 Israel Tightens Second-Wave Lockdown As PM, Critics Argue Over Protest Curbs by Rami Ayyub
A general view shows Ayalon highway after Israel imposed a second nationwide coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown
amid a rise in infections in Tel Aviv, Israel September 25, 2020. REUTERS/Corinna Kern TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
    TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Israel tightened COVID-19 lockdown measures on Friday and critics accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of trying to curb protests against his handling of the health and economic crises.
    Netanyahu’s government decided on Thursday to tighten a three-week lockdown imposed on Sept. 18, forcing Israelis to stay mostly at home, shutting down most businesses and curbing group prayers during the Jewish high-holiday season.
    The measures had also sought to restrict protests by citizens to within 1 km (0.6 miles) of their homes, which would have effectively halted protests outside Netanyahu’s residence over his handling of the economy, the pandemic and over corruption allegations. He denies all wrongdoing.
    But parliament failed on Friday to agree on that measure before adjourning for the Yom Kippur holiday weekend, meaning protests outside Netanyahu’s residence can continue for now.
CABINET RIFT
    In an attempt to bypass parliament, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party earlier said it had proposed for cabinet approval emergency regulations that would “prevent mass demonstrations” until parliament reconvenes on Tuesday.
    It was not clear whether Likud’s emergency measures would win cabinet assent.    Defence Minister Benny Gantz said his Blue and White party “will not allow emergency regulations to be used to prevent demonstrations”
    “The decision on a stringent lockdown was designed to stop the spread of the virus, not to block protests,” he wrote on Twitter.
    Without mentioning the curbs on protests, Netanyahu said the pandemic, which he called a “state of emergency,” required difficult decisions.
    “Lockdown is not a punishment – it is a rescue, I call on everyone to abide by the rules,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter.
    The Movement for Quality of Government, a civil liberties group and critic of Netanyahu’s government, said: “Despite the tightening of the lockdown, we will continue to protest in accordance with the law and with approval from Israel’s police.”
    Separately, more than 25,000 Israelis subscribed for a “virtual” protest to be held over Facebook Live on Saturday.    Other protesters said they planned to organise a car convoy to Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem, Israeli media reported.
    A survey published by the non-partisan Israel Democracy Institute on Wednesday showed only 27% of Israelis trust Netanyahu’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
    Israel imposed its first lockdown to counter the spread of COVID-19 in late March and relaxed it in May as new cases tapered off.    But infections have surged again in recent weeks, reaching a record daily high of more than 8,000 in data released on Friday.
    The cost of the entire three-week closure from Sept. 18 is estimated at between 11 and 12 billion shekels ($3.2-$3.5 billion), said finance ministry chief economist Shira Greenberg.
    The Bank of Israel said the cost of the tightened portion of the lockdown, to last two weeks from Sept. 25, would be around 10 billion shekels.    Any additional week of closure thereafter would cost the economy around 9 billion shekels, it said.
(Additional reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

9/25/2020 King Of Bahrain Praises UAE-Israeli Peace Deal In UN Address by OAN Newsroom
In this image made from UNTV video, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, of Bahrain, speaks in a pre-recorded message which was played
during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday Sept. 24, 2020, at UN headquarters. (UNTV via AP)
    The King of Bahrain praised the recent peace accord with Israel and the United Arab Emirates.    During his United Nations address Thursday, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said President Trump is advancing security and stability in the region.
    The Bahraini King suggested the deal will end hostilities in the Middle East and said the normalization of relations with Israel will make regional affairs more civilized, peaceful and constructive.
    Bahrain became the first third-party Arab nation to join the Israeli-Emirati deal, which was signed earlier this month.    King Khalifa also noted that the deal will establish fair and comprehensive peace.
    “This peace is the best guarantee for the future of all peoples of the region,” he stated.    “The courageous step of the brotherly United Arab Emirates to rekindle hope in achieving peace and stability in the region is a successful and commendable step.”
    The Bahraini King also gave his support for a Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem while suggesting lengthy talks could be up ahead.

9/26/2020 Lebanon’s Prime Minister-Designate Steps Down In Blow To French Initiative by Edmund Blair and Raya Jalabi
FILE PHOTO: Mustapha Adib, talks to the media after being named Lebanon's new prime minister
at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s prime minister-designate quit on Saturday after trying for almost a month to line up a non-partisan cabinet, dealing a blow to a French bid aimed at rallying sectarian leaders to tackle the worst crisis since the nation’s 1975-1990 civil war.
    Mustapha Adib, former ambassador to Berlin, was picked on Aug. 31 to form a cabinet after President Emmanuel Macron intervened to secure a consensus on naming him.
    Under the French roadmap, the new government would take swift steps to tackle corruption and implement reforms needed to trigger billions of dollars of international aid to fix an economy that has been crushed by a mountain of debt.
    The nation took a further knock when a huge explosion on Aug. 4 at Beirut port ruined a swathe of the capital.
    Adib, a Sunni Muslim based on the sectarian system of power sharing, announced he was stepping down but said Lebanon must not abandon the French plan or squander Macron’s goodwill.
    “I stress that this initiative must continue,” he said after meeting President Michel Aoun, a Christian.    He wished his successor well in the “hard task” of forming a government.
    Adib had sought to form a government of specialists in a nation where power is shared between Muslims and Christians and political loyalties tend to follow confessional lines.
    Politicians had promised Paris they would have a government in place by mid-September.    But Adib’s efforts stumbled over how to make appointments, particularly the post of finance minister, who will have a key role in drawing up an economic rescue plan.
ROADBLOCK
    Talks with the International Monetary Fund on a vital bailout package stalled this year, and one of the cabinet’s first tasks would have been to restart the negotiations.
    There was no immediate comment from Paris about Adib’s resignation.
    A senior Lebanese political source said much now depended on whether the French would give up.    Macron said when he launched the plan that he was gambling his political capital on it.
    The cabinet formation hit a roadblock over a demand by Lebanon’s two main Shi’ite groups, Amal and the heavily armed Iran-backed Hezbollah, that they name several ministers, including finance, a position previously held by a Shi’ite.
    Adib held several meetings with senior Shi’ite politicians but failed to reach agreement on how the minister would be chosen.
    Shi’ite leaders feared being sidelined as Adib sought to shake up appointments to ministries, some of which have been controlled by the same faction for years, politicians said.
    Former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, a leading Sunni politician, said in a statement that anyone celebrating the collapse of Macron’s initiative “will bite your fingers in regret.”
    The street value of the Lebanese pound, which has plunged from an official peg of 1,500 to the dollar since the economic crisis erupted last year, weakened further after the news.    One trader said it was now trading at 8,200 from 7,700 on Friday.
(Additional reporting by Ellen Francis and Laila Bassam; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Jason Neely and Helen Popper)

9/26/2020 Palestinian President Abbas Calls On UN To Lead Peace Talks With Israel by OAN Newsroom
In this image made from UNTV video, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks in a pre-recorded message which was played during
the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, at UN headquarters, in New York. (UNTV via AP)
    On Friday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced he’s seeking a “genuine peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians.    In an address to the United Nations General Assembly this week, he called on the UN to lead future peace talks.
    His decision to ask for the UN’s assistance came as a rejection of President Trump’s proposal to end the conflict.    He has claimed that deal favored Israel.
    The foreign leader went on to say peace talks should aim to end the occupation, grant Palestinians their freedom and establish East Jerusalem as the capital of their own state.
    “You should all know that there can be no peace, no security, no stability or coexistence in our region without an end to the occupation, without a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian question, which is at the heart of the conflict,” stated President Abbas.
    Palestinians also recently rejected decisions by two Arab nations to normalize ties with Israel, which they called a “violation of lasting peace.”

9/26/2020 Israelis Protest Outside Netanyahu’s Home After Bid To Curb Demonstrations by Maayan Lubell
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a statement as Israel imposes nightly curfews in dozens of towns and
neighbourhoods to stem the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Beit Shemesh, Israel September 8, 2020. Alex Kolomoisky/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Crowds protested outside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home on Saturday demanding he quit over his handling of COVID-19 – many angered by what they said were government attempts to use lockdown measures to stifle demonstrations.
    Long lines of cars drove along the main highway to Jerusalem in a protest convoy and groups gathered on bridges and junctions in other cities, also demonstrating about corruption charges against Netanyahu – charges he denies.
    The protests came a day after the government tightened COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, though parliament failed to pass one measure to restrict citizens’ protests to within 1 km (0.6 miles) of their homes.
    That measure would have effectively halted the weekly demonstrations outside Netanyahu’s residence which have built up over the summer.
    “I’m here to stop the destruction of Israel, to stop democracy dying,” said Amit Tirosh, 42, a doctor from central Israel.
    “Luckily parliament managed to stop the demonstrations’ halt at the last minute.    Everyone should be here.    We are at the edge of an abyss.”
    Netanyahu has rejected allegations that the tougher lockdown rules were in part intended to quash the protests, which he has often called “anarchist” and “ludicrous.”    “We need the lockdown in order to save lives,” he said on Thursday.
    There was no official figure for the number of protesters on Saturday but Israel’s N12 News said thousands took part.    Police said most of them complied with social distancing and face mask rules.
    Netanyahu’s government decided this week to tighten a three-week lockdown imposed on Sept. 18, hoping to keep Israelis at home, shutting down many businesses and limiting group prayers during the ongoing Jewish high-holiday season.
    On Saturday, Netanyahu urged Israelis in a video message on Twitter to pray in the open air rather than inside synagogues on Yom Kippur, the upcoming Jewish day of atonement and the holiest day in the Jewish calendar which begins on Sunday.
    Only 27% of Israelis trust Netanyahu’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, according to a survey published by the non-partisan Israel Democracy Institute on Wednesday.
    Israel imposed its first lockdown in March and then relaxed it in May as new cases tapered off. But infections have since surged, reaching daily highs of more than 7,000 among the population of nine million.    The country is in recession with unemployment above 11%.
(This story refiles to fix garble in para 2)
(Additional reporting by Rami Amichay; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

9/27/2020 Palestinians Say Egyptian Fire Killed Two Gaza Fishermen
The mother of two Palestinian fishermen Hassan and Mahmoud al-Zazoua reacts during their funeral after their
bodies were returned from Egypt, in the central Gaza Strip September 27, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    GAZA (Reuters) – The bodies of two Palestinian fishermen who Palestinian officials say were shot dead by Egyptian naval forces were returned to Gaza on Saturday, the territory’s ruling Islamist group Hamas said.
    The fishermen, who were brothers, were shot on Friday off the coast near the southern border town of Rafah.    A third brother was wounded and was undergoing treatment in Egypt.
    “There is no justification for the repeated violent treatment against those who seek to eke out a living for their children,” said a Hamas statement.
    Egyptian officials could not immediately be reached for comment and it was unclear whether the fishing boat had crossed into Egyptian waters.
    Citing security concerns, Israel maintains a naval blockade off the Gaza Strip and sets a varying fishing limit.    Egypt also restricts movement of people and goods along its border with the coastal enclave.
(Writing by Nidal Almughrabi, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

9/27/2020 Yemen’s Warring Parties Agree Largest Prisoner Swap by Stephanie Nebehay
A view of the venue where the closing plenary of the fourth meeting of the Supervisory Committee on the Implementation of the
Prisoners' Exchange Agreement in Yemen takes place, in Glion, Switzerland, September 27, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
    GLION, Switzerland (Reuters) – Yemen’s warring parties have agreed to exchange around 1,000 prisoners, including 15 Saudis, as part of trust-building steps aimed at reviving a stalled peace process, the United Nations and sources said on Sunday.
    The Yemeni government, backed by a Saudi-led military coalition, and the Houthi movement they have been battling for over five years, in late 2018 signed a deal to swap some 15,000 detainees split between both sides but the pact has been slowly and only partially implemented.
    The two sides will now free 1,081 detainees and prisoners, U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths said in a joint news briefing with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) after a nearly 10-day meeting of the prisoners’ exchange committee held in the Swiss village of Glion above Lake Geneva.
    Heads of the two sides of the committee hugged at the end of their meeting, with Griffiths telling them: “Well done, well done.”
    Sources familiar with the talks and Houthi-run Masirah TV said the movement would release 400 people, including 15 Saudis and four Sudanese, while the coalition would free 681 Houthi fighters in the largest swap since peace talks in Stockholm in December 2018.
    “I urge the parties to move forward immediately with the release and to spare no effort in building upon this momentum to swiftly agree to releasing more detainees,” Griffiths said.
    ICRC Middle East director Fabrizio Carboni, sitting next to Griffiths, called on the two warring parties to provide “security and logistical guarantees” for swift releases.    The ICRC team will interview those released and give them medical checks.
    Yemen has been mired in conflict since the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the Western-backed coalition to intervene in March 2015.
    Griffiths is trying to restart political negotiations to end the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and caused what the United Nations describes as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis with millions on the brink of famine.
    “What matters to us is implementing the prisoners (exchange) and not just signing it,” senior Houthi political official Mohammed Ali al-Houthi tweeted earlier on Sunday.
    In unilateral moves, the Houthis last year freed 290 prisoners and Saudi Arabia released 128, while a locally mediated swap in Taiz governorate saw dozens freed.    In January 2020, the ICRC facilitated the release of six Saudis held by the Houthis.
    The conflict, seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been in military stalemate for years with the Houthis holding Sanaa and most big urban centres.
    Riyadh launched informal talks with the Houthis late last year for a ceasefire as it seeks to exit a costly war ahead of hosting a summit of the Group of 20 nations in November.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Mohammed Ghobari, Aziz El Yaakoubi and Mohammed Mokhashaf; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by William Mallard and Nick Macfie)

9/27/2020 Lebanese Politician Bassil Infected With Coronavirus, His Party Says
FILE PHOTO: Gebran Bassil, a Lebanese politician and head of the Free Patriotic movement, talks during an
interview with Reuters in Sin-el-fil, Lebanon July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Leading Lebanese politician Gebran Bassil has been infected with a “mild” case of the coronavirus, his party said, as cases surge throughout the country.
    Bassil, the son-in-law of Lebanese President Michel Aoun and a former foreign minister who heads the country’s largest Christian political bloc, discovered he was infected on Saturday after several tests, a statement released by his party said.
    “Bassil wanted to issue this statement to inform all those he was recently in contact with, as they could not all be contacted individually, and to apologize for not knowing in advance about the matter,” the Free Patriotic Movement said in the statement.
    Bassil will self-quarantine and work remotely, the statement, which did not specify when Bassil last met with the 85-year-old Aoun, said.    Lebanon’s leading politicians have been meeting frequently in recent weeks amid efforts to form a new government.
    The country has seen a spike in coronavirus infections following a devastating Aug. 4 port blast.    On Saturday, the country registered a record 1,280 new daily infections. The virus has killed at least 340 people.
(Reporting by Beirut bureau; writing by Raya Jalabi; Editing by Nick Macfie)

9/27/2020 Betrayed Macron Says Will Continue Lebanon Efforts, Eyes Hezbollah by John Irish and Matthias Blamont
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a news conference on the political situation in Lebanon following Lebanon's
Prime Minister-designate Moustapha Adib's resignation, in Paris, France September 27, 2020. Lewis Joly/Pool via REUTERS
    PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron admonished Lebanon’s leaders on Sunday for serving their own interests ahead of their country and vowed to push ahead with efforts to prevent chaos, but appeared to have no back up plan should his initiative fail.
    Lebanon’s prime minister-designate, Mustapha Adib, quit on Saturday after failing to line up a non-partisan cabinet, dealing a blow to a French plan aimed at rallying sectarian leaders to tackle the country’s crisis. [nL8N2GN016]
    “I am ashamed of Lebanon’s political leaders,” Macron told a news conference in Paris.    “The leaders did not want, clearly and resolutely, to respect the commitments made to France and the international community.    They decided to betray this commitment.”
    For the first time, Macron also specifically questioned the role of the heavily armed Hezbollah and the influence of Iran, saying that the group needed to lift its ambiguity on the political arena.
    Adib was picked on Aug. 31 to form a cabinet after Macron’s intervention secured a consensus on naming him in a country where power is shared out between Muslims and Christians.
    Under the French roadmap, the new government would take steps to tackle corruption and implement reforms needed to trigger billions of dollars of international aid to fix an economy crushed by a huge debt.
    But there was deadlock over a demand by Lebanon’s two main Shi’ite groups, Amal and Hezbollah, that they name several ministers, including for finance, who will have a big role in drawing up economic rescue plans.
    Macron, who also took a swipe at leading Sunni Muslim politician Saad al-Hariri, criticised both parties for blocking efforts to form a government by a mid-September deadline.
    “Hezbollah can’t be at the same time an army at war with Israel, an unrestrained militia against civilians in Syria and a respectable party in Lebanon,” Macron said, adding that he saw no evidence Tehran was interfering in his initiative.
    “Is it really a political party or does it proceed just in a logic dictated by Iran, and its terrorist forces?    I want us to see if in the next few weeks something is possible.    I’m not naive.”
    Macron said he would convene international partners within 20 days to assess where his efforts stood and hold an aid conference by the end of October.
    Describing the events of the last few days as a betrayal, he said political leaders had chosen “to deliver Lebanon to the game of foreign powers,” destabilising the region further.
    He warned them that they had 4-6 weeks to play ball.    When asked whether sanctions were on the table, he said he would only consider them at a later stage in conjunction with other powers because he could not see their use for now.
    “This is a system of terror.    This system is no longer advancing and a few dozen people are bringing down a country and its people,” Macron said.    “The French initiative will persist.    My commitment … will not falter.”
(Additional reporting by Raya Jalabi; writing by John Irish and Raya Jalabi; editing by Timothy Heritage and David Evans)

9/27/2020 Diplomat Named Mali PM, Meeting Regional Bloc Demand For Civilian
FILE PHOTO: Malian Foreign Minister Moctar Ouane attends a foreign ministers' meeting in Algiers March 16, 2010. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi/File Photo
    BAMAKO (Reuters) – Former foreign minister Moctar Ouane was named as Mali’s interim prime minister, state television said on Sunday, a move likely to trigger the lifting of sanctions imposed by the West Africa regional bloc in the aftermath of the military coup last month.
    The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said on Friday it would lift sanctions, which have caused imports to the landlocked country to slump 30%, once a civilian premier was named.
    It had softened initial demands that a purely civilian leadership be installed, and the appointment of Ouane comes two days after retired colonel Bah Ndaw was sworn in as president, and coup-leader Colonel Assimi Goita as vice president.
    International powers feared the coup could further destabilise the country and undermine a joint fight against Islamist insurgents there and in the wider Sahel region.
    A veteran diplomat, Ouane, 64, served as Mali’s ambassador to the United Nations in 1995-2002, and as foreign minister in 2004-2011.
    The men will be tasked with overseeing an 18-month transition back to civilian rule after the Aug. 18 overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
    Ndaw, a retired colonel and former defence minister, signed a decree authorising Ouane’s selection, which the M5-RFP coalition of opposition groups welcomed, even though he was not their first choice.
    “The M5-RFP must be willing to focus on the struggle, the reforms, the transparent elections, the crisis in the north and the centre… to support men capable of bringing the country out of this crisis,” said Nouhoum Togo, the group’s spokesman.
(Reporting by Cheick Diouara and Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Bate Felix and Alison Williams)

9/27/2020 Lebanese Patriarch Warns Of ‘Multiple Dangers’ Without A Government
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai speaks after meeting with Lebanon's President Michel
Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon July 15, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s top Christian cleric said on Sunday the nation faced “multiple dangers” that would be hard to weather without a government, speaking after the prime minister-designate quit and dealt a blow to France’s bid to lift the country out of crisis.
    Muslim religious figures also said Lebanese needed to unite following Mustapha Adib’s decision to step down on Saturday after his efforts to form a cabinet hit a roadblock over ministerial appointments in the sectarian system.
    It leaves Lebanon, with its arrangement of sharing power between Muslims and Christians, rudderless as it faces its deepest crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
    French President Emmanuel Macron, who had pressed Lebanon’s fractious politicians to reach a consensus over naming Adib on Aug. 31, will speak about the crisis later on Sunday.
    Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, leader of the Maronite church, Lebanon’s biggest Christian community, said Adib’s resignation had “disappointed citizens, especially the youth, who were betting on the start of change in the political class.”
    Many top politicians, both Christian and Muslim, have held sway for years or even decades. Some are former warlords.
    Rai said Lebanon now had to navigate “multiple dangers” without a government at the helm.
    Rai’s comments were echoed on the streets of Beirut, where mass protests erupted in 2019 as years of mismanagement, corruption and mounting debts finally led to economic collapse.
    “We need new people. We need new blood,” said Hassan Amer, 24, serving coffee at a roadside cafe in the capital, which was hammered by a huge port blast on Aug. 4 that killed almost 200 people.
    Frustration at Adib’s failure to form a government was voiced by many across religious communities.
    A senior Shi’ite Muslim cleric, Sheikh Ahmed Qabalan, said it was a “disaster” that Adib had resigned and called for national unity, state news agency reported.
    “We don’t want sectarian or confessional talk,” Lebanon’s top Sunni Muslim religious leader, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, was quoted by broadcasters as saying.
    He said Lebanon’s communities needed to show “understanding and balance” to face the major challenges ahead.
    The cabinet formation effort stumbled after Lebanon’s two main Shi’ite groups, Amal and the heavily armed Iran-backed Hezbollah, demanded they name several ministers, including finance, a key role as the nation draws up a rescue plan.
    Saad al-Hariri, a former prime minister and leading Sunni politician, said he would not be involved in naming any new premier and that the French plan was “the last and only opportunity to halt Lebanon’s collapse
    A French roadmap lays out a reform programme for a new government to help trigger billions of dollars of international aid.
(Writing by Raya Jalabi; Editing by Edmund Blair and Nick Macfie)

9/27/2020 Jordan’s Monarch Dissolves Parliament In Preparation For November Election by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
FILE PHOTO: King of Jordan Abdullah II addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler/File Photo
    AMMAN (Reuters) – Jordan’s King Abdullah dissolved parliament on Sunday, officials said, paving the way for an election in November at a time of rising popular discontent over worsening economic conditions and curbs on public freedoms under emergency laws.
    Under constitutional rules, the government must resign within a week.
    In July, Jordan’s electoral commission set Nov. 10 as the date for a parliamentary election after the monarch called for countrywide polls to be held at the end of the parliament’s four-year term.
    The king issued a royal edict ordering the dissolution of parliament, effective Sunday.    The assembly comprises 130 lawmakers, mainly pro-government tribal officials, businessmen and ex-security officials.
    The move is likely to be followed by a wider government shake-up to ward off popular disenchantment over economic hardship worsened by the economic blow dealt by COVID-19 and over allegations of official corruption.
    Jordan’s economy is expected to shrink by 6% this year as it grapples with its worst economic crisis in many years, with unemployment and poverty aggravated by the pandemic.    "Citizens have lost confidence in this government,” said Munzir al Huwarat, a political analyst.
    Liberal and independent politicians say the government has used emergency laws enacted last March at the start of the coronavirus lockdown to limit civil and political rights.
    The authorities have arrested hundreds of teacher activists after dissolving their opposition-led elected union last July and detained scores of dissidents for criticism on social media.
    King Abdullah appointed Prime Minister Omar al Razzaz in the summer of 2018 to defuse the biggest protests in years over tax increases pushed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce Jordan’s large public debt.
    The elections will be held under an existing system that limits the representation of those of Palestinian origin in favour of native Jordanians who are the backbone of the country’s political establishment.
    Jordan’s main political opposition comes from the Muslim Brotherhood movement but it faces legal curbs on its activities, leaving mostly pro-monarchy parties and some independent Islamists and politicians to compete in these elections, political analysts say.
    Constitutionally, most powers rest with the king, who appoints governments and approves legislation.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Timothy Heritage and David Evans)

9/28/2020 Turkey Sees EU Summit As Chance For Reset: Erdogan Spokesman by Orhan Coskun and Daren Butler
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin is pictured during an interview
with Reuters in Istanbul, Turkey September 27, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey sees a European Union summit this week as an opportunity to reset relations between them, but the bloc must produce specific proposals and a timetable to work on a roadmap together, President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said.
    Tensions flared between Turkey and EU member Greece after Ankara sent a seismic vessel to explore for hydrocarbons in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean last month and the Oct. 1-2 summit aims to calm the bitter dispute.
    A Turkish and a Greek warship collided during the standoff and Turkey has since recalled the Oruc Reis vessel to allow for diplomacy.    Ankara and Athens have agreed to resume talks over their contested maritime claims.
    However, the row has also brought to a head strains between EU candidate Turkey and the bloc over issues such as migration, Turkey’s involvement in Syria and Libya and what the EU says is growing authoritarianism under Erdogan.
    “I believe the EU summit has a chance to have a reset in Turkey-EU relations.    It is an important opportunity.    We can have a reset there.    And I see this willingness on the part of many EU member countries,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters.
    “They also have to understand that they cannot expect Turkey to do everything,” Kalin said in an interview.    “It must be a mutual process.    If Turkey is expected to do X, Y, Z, EU countries must fulfil their responsibilities as well.”
    Senior EU diplomats and officials have said the bloc is unlikely to follow through on a threat to impose sanctions on Turkey after Ankara’s agreement last week to resume exploratory talks with Greece, which were halted in 2016.
    Work was continuing on deciding a date for the resumption of talks, Kalin said, adding the talks would continue where they left off and focus not just on issues of continental shelves and maritime limits, but on islands and air space.
    He said he believed the talks would have a positive impact and would also focus on political consultation and military-to-military talks.    “In all of these three tracks we believe we will make some good progress very soon,” he said.
    Turkey got involved in a war of words with France during the east Mediterranean dispute and Erdogan last week held his first talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in months in a bid to ease the tensions.
    Kalin said there was a positive atmosphere in those talks with the two leaders agreeing to try and find ways to minimise their differences.
    “I believe all these things will produce a more positive agenda and a more positive atmosphere between Turkey and France,” he said.
(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

9/28/2020 Israel Doubly Deserted On Yom Kippur During Holiday And COVID-19 Lockdown by Dan Williams
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – In ordinary times Yom Kippur brings much of Israel to a standstill, as businesses close and roads empty for the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
    But the world has looked very different this year, so deserted highways in city centres have become something of a familiar sight, even on days other than religious holidays when.
    Israel entered its second-wave lockdown on Sept. 18 after a surge of new cases had hospitals worrying about the strain on admissions.    The country of nine million people has logged at least 1,441 deaths from COVID-19.
    Health ministry directives that prayers be held in small, socially-distanced groups outdoors spelled an effective shutdown order for many synagogues, the first widespread curbs on the houses of worship during Yom Kippur since Israel’s founding in 1948, according to a spokesman for the Chief Rabbinate.
    “At this period of atonement and forgiveness, I would like to ask this of all citizens of Israel,” the head of the pandemic taskforce, Ronni Gamzu, said in a letter quoted by Israeli media.
    “And my apologies to everyone in Israel – security, traditional, religious or ultra-religious – for the holiday period that will be constrained this year.”
    Closures were also imposed on entry and exit from the occupied Palestinian Territories, as during most Israeli holidays.
(Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

9/28/2020 Young Palestinians Seek New Ways To Achieve Goals, 20 Years After Second Intifada by Zainah El-Haroun, Stephen Farrell and Rami Ayyub
Ziad Abu Zayyad, 33, poses for a photograph as the Dome of the Rock is seen in the background, at an observation point
overlooking the Mount of Olives, in Jerusalem September 23, 2020. Picture taken September 23, 2020. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Al-Aqsa Mosque is as quiet today as it was turbulent 20 years ago when it gave its name to the Palestinian uprising that began beneath its walls and carved a bloody new chapter in the Middle East.
    The Al-Aqsa Intifada – also known as The Second Intifada – began with rocks and tear gas before mushrooming into an armed conflict in which more than 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis were killed.
    When it petered out five years later, suicide bomb attacks on Israeli cities, and Israeli air strikes and tank raids on Palestinian towns, had polarised opinion on both sides.    The last peace talks flopped in 2014, and stalemate has simmered since.
    Gazing over the walled Old City from the Mount of Olives, Palestinian Jerusalemite Ziad Abu Zayyad sees many parallels between the situation two decades ago and now.
    Now 33, and after two intifadas, the first in the late 1980s, the statehood that Abu Zayyad has sought all his life still seems as far off as it was then.
    But his generation also harbours vivid childhood memories of violence during the years of the intifada, and despite recent political setbacks, many are reluctant to revisit that trauma.
    “I do believe the Palestinian people need to be smart and think wisely before they choose the path that they want to go into.    It is not only the end of the road that matters, but also the journey itself that history will remember,” said Abu Zayyad.
    “Intifada can be made in different shapes.    It may be by using a pen and writing, by opening a blog and reaching out to the people, by having a diplomatic effort – even though it has proved to be useless these days.”
WEST BANK
    The uprising ignited on Sept. 28, 2000 after Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon – a right-wing former general detested by many Palestinians – held a walkabout on Jerusalem’s most hotly contested holy site.
    Protests broke out around the hilltop plateau in the Old City compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and Jews as the Temple Mount, and quickly escalated.
    Israel blamed then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who two months earlier at Camp David had failed to clinch a peace agreement with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
    The abortive summit proved a watershed for both sides – Palestinians unwilling to accept less than a viable state in what is now Israeli-occupied territory with its capital in East Jerusalem – which includes the Old City, and Barak publicly concluding that Israel had “no partner for peace.”
    Thirteen km (eight miles) north of the Old City – a plaque near her home marks the exact distance – Palestinian engineer Leen Anabtawi can see Jerusalem from one side of her balcony, and an Israeli settlement from the other.
    She remembers playing with empty bullets as a four-year-old in the West Bank town of Jenin during the intifada, her first encounter with Israelis, she said, being soldiers who took over the upper floors of her family’s building to fire into Jenin’s refugee camp, considered a stronghold for Palestinian militants.
    Growing up in Jenin, studying in Nablus and now working in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinians’ limited self-rule administration, Anabtawi has watched her generation evolve since the “scary” intifada years.
    “My friends started focusing on different things,” she said.    “It’s hard to take action when you have so much to care about… your children, your school, your future, your life, your loans.”
    Her own focus is now personal – to compete with Israeli engineers as an equal.
Existing as a Palestinian is resisting,” she said.    “Growing up to be a strong, powerful intellectual person who has a (voice), who has an idea and an aim is resisting these days.”
HEBRON AND GAZA
    While Israel looms large in discussions, many young Palestinians are also frustrated at their own leaders – plagued by years of infighting that has undermined young people’s faith in political action.
    Some accuse the leadership of suppressing political expression, arresting activists and journalists and – in their view – cooperating with Israel in policing the West Bank.
    Some have established their own grassroots initiatives.
    Basil al-Adra, 24, set up tourist routes around his village near Hebron to teach Palestinians what it is like to live in a rural area among fortified Israeli settlements.
    “The best way of resistance for me is national peaceful resistance,” he said at a recent awards ceremony to recognise his family’s project.    “The most important thing in life to have my own legitimate rights like any other person in the world.”
    But others still believe that force of arms is the only way to achieve their goals, including in Gaza, from which Israel withdrew its settlers and soldiers unilaterally in 2005.
    Two years later the enclave was taken over by the Islamist movement Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, and Gaza has been under a tight Israeli-led blockade ever since.
    In the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, Mohammad Shahin, 24, often attended weekly protests that were held on the border with Israel in 2018, hurling stones and rolling burning tyres at Israeli soldiers.
    “We want a new Intifada in order to break the blockade and drive the enemies out of our occupied land,” said Shahin, 24.
    “They have no place here, these are our lands and they came from Western countries.    I support resistance whether by stones, rockets, arms, tires or petrol bombs.”
(Reporting by Stephen Farrell and Rami Ayyub in Jerusalem and Zainah El-Haroun in Ramallah, with additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

9/28/2020 Threat To Evacuate U.S. Diplomats From Iraq Raises Fear Of War by John Davison
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo faces the news media with Iraq's Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein
at the State Department in Washington, U.S., August 19, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Washington has made preparations to withdraw diplomats from Iraq after warning Baghdad it could shut its embassy, two Iraqi officials and two Western diplomats said, a step Iraqis fear could turn their country into a battle zone.
    Any move by the United States to scale down its diplomatic presence in a country where it has up to 5,000 troops would be widely seen in the region as an escalation of its confrontation with Iran, which Washington blames for missile and bomb attacks.
    That in turn would open the possibility of military action, with just weeks to go before an election in which President Donald Trump has campaigned on a hard line towards Tehran and its proxies.
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to close the embassy in a phone call a week ago to President Barham Salih, two Iraqi government sources said.    The conversation was initially reported by an Iraqi news website.
    By Sunday, Washington had begun preparations to withdraw diplomatic staff if such a decision is taken, those sources and the two Western diplomats said.
    The concern among the Iraqis is that pulling out diplomats would be followed quickly by military action against forces Washington blamed for attacks.
    Populist Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who commands a following of millions of Iraqis, issued a statement last week pleading for groups to avoid an escalation that would turn Iraq into a battleground.
    One of the Western diplomats said the U.S. administration did not “want to be limited in their options” to weaken Iran or pro-Iranian militias in Iraq. Asked whether he expected Washington to respond with economic or military measures, the diplomat replied: “Strikes.”
    The U.S. State Department, asked about plans to withdraw from Iraq, said: “We never comment on the Secretary’s private diplomatic conversations with foreign leaders … Iran-backed groups launching rockets at our Embassy are a danger not only to us but to the Government of Iraq.”
PERENNIAL RISK
    In a region polarised between allies of Iran and the United States, Iraq is the rare exception: a country that has close ties with both.    But that has left it open to a perennial risk of becoming a battle ground in a proxy war.
    That risk was hammered home in January this year, when Washington killed Iran’s most important military commander, Qassem Soleimani, with a drone strike at Baghdad airport.    Iran responded with missiles fired at U.S. bases in Iraq.
    Since then, a new prime minister has taken power in Iraq, supported by the United States, while Tehran still maintains close links to powerful Shi’ite armed movements.
    Rockets regularly fly across the Tigris towards the heavily fortified U.S. diplomatic compound, constructed to be the biggest U.S. embassy in the world in central Baghdad’s so-called Green Zone during the U.S. occupation after a 2003 invasion.
    In recent weeks rocket attacks near the embassy have increased and roadside bombs targeted convoys carrying equipment to the U.S.-led military coalition.    One roadside attack hit a British convoy in Baghdad, the first of its kind against Western diplomats in Iraq for years.
    Two Iraqi intelligence sources suggested plans to withdraw American diplomats were not yet in motion, and would depend on whether Iraqi security forces were able to do a better job of halting attacks.    They said they had received orders to prevent attacks on U.S. sites, and had been told that U.S. evacuations would begin only if that effort failed.
DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD
    Iraqis are concerned about the impact of November’s presidential election on the Trump administration’s decision-making.
    While Trump has boasted of his hard line against Iran, he has also long promised to withdraw U.S. troops from engagements in the Middle East.    The United States is already drawing down its force sent to help defeat Islamic State fighters in Iraq from 2014-2017.
    Some Iraqi officials dismissed Pompeo’s threat to pull out diplomats as bluster, designed to scare armed groups into stopping attacks.    But they said it could backfire by provoking the militias instead, if they sense an opportunity to push Washington to retreat.
    “The American threat to close their embassy is merely a pressure tactic, but is a double-edged sword,” said Gati Rikabi, a member of Iraq’s parliamentary security committee.
    He and another committee member said U.S. moves were designed to scare Iraqi leaders into supporting Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who has tried to check the power of Iran-aligned militia groups, with scant success.
HAWKS ON BOTH SIDES
    The militias are under public pressure to rein in supporters who might provoke Washington.    Since last year, public opinion in Iraq has turned sharply against political groups seen as fomenting violence on behalf of Iran.
    Publicly, the powerful Iran-backed Shi’ite militia groups which control large factions in parliament have tried to distance themselves from attacks on Western targets.
    U.S. officials say they think the Shi’ite militias or their Iranian backers have created splinter offshoots to carry out such attacks, allowing the main organisations to evade blame.
    A senior figure in a Shi’ite Muslim political party said he thought Trump might want to pull out diplomats to keep them out of harm’s way and avoid an embarrassing pre-election incident.
    Militia attacks were not necessarily under Tehran’s control, he said, noting that Iran’s foreign ministry had publicly called for a halt to attacks on diplomatic missions in Iraq.
    “Iran wants to boot the Americans out, but not at any cost.    It doesn’t want instability on its Western border,” the Shi’ite leader said.    “Just like there are hawks in the U.S., there are hawks in Iran who have contact with the groups carrying out attacks, who aren’t necessarily following state policy.”
(Reporting by John Davison, additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by Peter Graff)

9/28/2020 Palestinians Out Of Sight, Almost Out Of Mind For Israelis Seared By 2000 Uprising by Stephen Farrell, Dan Williams and Maayan Lubell
A mosque in the Palestinian village of at-Tayba, also known as Khirbat al-Taibe, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is seen behind a
fence, part of the Israeli barrier, from the Arab-Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm, northern Israel September 23, 2020. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    NITSANEI OZ, Israel (Reuters) – A huge Palestinian flag suddenly looms up above the grey concrete slabs of Israel’s West Bank barrier, a rare glimpse of “the other” before it disappears in your rear-view mirror.
    Farther north around ancient Armageddon and the tourist lookout points of Mount Gilboa, a wrong turn leads to a warning sign, or a gap in the trees reveals a West Bank Palestinian village below in the distance.
    The relative rarity of these fleeting glimpses shows how, 20 years after the Second Palestinian Intifada (uprising), many Israelis ceased seeing the Palestinians as prospective peace partners, and prefer not to see them at all.
    Israel credits the barrier with having stemmed Palestinian suicide bombings and shooting attacks during the five-year intifada, in which more than 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians were killed.
    Palestinians say it was a land grab that cuts miles into the West Bank and was designed to annex parts of the territory that Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, and which Palestinians seek for a future state.
    The International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled in an advisory opinion in 2004 that the barrier was illegal under international law.    Israel rejected this, accusing the court of being “politically motivated.”
    But there is little argument that the barrier has shifted the geographical terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – radically changing the dynamic between two intertwined peoples.
    While West Bank Palestinians could before 2000 easily walk or drive into Israel, a generation later, some Israelis are now most likely to encounter them while serving as soldiers at a checkpoint – unless they are among the 450,000 Israelis now living in West Bank settlements.
    And from border communities such as Nitsanei Oz just inside Israel, miles of fencing, walls and watchtowers between them and the West Bank have become an immutable reality.
    “By building the fence we did create a fact on the ground – a one-side fact,” said Shachar Goldrat, 36, in Tel Aviv.
    “It did create a situation of some measure of security, so yes, it was a way to give up and say, ‘We are not going to have a peace treaty any time soon.’
SEPARATION PROCESS
    The uprising erupted on Sept. 28, 2000 after Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon paid a high-profile visit to Jerusalem’s most fiercely disputed holy site, the walled Old City compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
    Palestinians regarded Sharon’s walkabout as a calculated provocation, but Israel accused then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat of inciting violence – two months after a failed peace summit in the United States.
    Palestinians signalled they would accept nothing less than a viable state in what is now Israeli-occupied territory with its capital in East Jerusalem, while many Israelis concluded that they had no “partner for peace
    Just 60 km (40 miles) south of Israel’s coastal metropolis Tel Aviv lies Gaza, where two million Palestinians live under the control of the Islamist movement Hamas, which is regarded as a terrorist organisation by Israel and the United States.
    Since Israel unilaterally withdrew troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 and Hamas took over the narrow enclave, there has been even less direct contact – besides the frequent threat of rockets fired by Palestinian militants into Israel, and of Israeli air strikes into densely populated Gaza.
    The West Bank barrier and Gaza pull-out were both spearheaded by Sharon, who was by then prime minister.
    “What we intended was a process of separation from the Palestinians,” a former Sharon former adviser, Eival Giladi, told Reuters.    “It was a vision of putting down the Intifada so that then we could make progress, not under the pressure of terrorism, but by being proactive and strong.”
    Giladi regrets what he calls a “lost decade,” when, he believes, Israel “did not make wise use of the positive conditions we had to hand” to bring about “a more successful result with the Palestinians.”
    The last round of peace talks collapsed six years ago.
    But Israeli historian Benny Morris said that after living with the daily fear of explosions in buses and restaurants, the main impact of the intifada was the “hardening of Israelis’ positions” toward Palestinians.
    The barrier was one expression of that, Morris said.
    “Israelis have gone off Palestinians.    They want as little as possible to do with them, want as few of them around as possible and the fence helps that situation emerge,” he told Reuters.
    “Over 1,000 Israelis were killed by bombers, snipers, in restaurants and so on and this made Israelis extremely angry.    I’m sure the Israeli reaction to that made the Palestinians angry.    But it made the Israelis understand that the Palestinians are really not interested in making peace but only in destroying Israel.    I think that was the major effect on Israelis.”
    Some Israelis, however, want a rethink – not least after months in which the coronavirus pandemic – respecting neither religion nor politics – has forced lockdowns everywhere.
    “I think that we cannot look to the past, we have to look to the future,” said Dror Gal, a 65-year-old lawyer in Tel Aviv.
    “And mainly during these days of the virus…we should have to cooperate, we should live together – to survive together.”
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

9/28/2020 Jordan Reopens Trade Gateway With Syria After Month-Long COVID Closure by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
FILE PHOTO: People wait to travel to Syria at Jordan's Jaber border crossing, near Syria's Nassib checkpoint,
near Mafraq, Jordan, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
    AMMAN (Reuters) – Jordan on Sunday resumed its land border traffic with Syria, following a more than month-long closure, after applying new rules to prevent truck drivers spreading the novel coronavirus into the kingdom, officials and businessmen said.
    They said authorities imposed back-to-back handling of goods to ensure Syrian, Lebanese truck drivers and others entering the kingdom maintain a social distance from Jordanian customs officials.
    Officials said in mid-August they had to close the crossing, the main gateway for goods from Lebanon and Syria to the Gulf, after dozens of infections among border officials linked to a spike in cases in neighbouring Syria.
    Before the decade-old conflict in Syria, the Nasib-Jaber crossing was also a transit route for hundreds of trucks a day transporting goods between Europe and Turkey and the Gulf in a multi-billion dollar annual trade.
    The closure hit trade that had already shrunk because of the impact of COVID-19 and the Caesar Act – the toughest U.S. sanctions yet that came into force in June and prohibited foreign companies trading with Damascus.
    “We have had millions of dollars of losses as a result of the closure,” said Mohammad al Daoud, the president of the Jordanian Truck Owners’ Association that represents over 17,000 trucks.
    The country’s other land crossings with Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian territories have been only open for commercial goods since a lockdown in March to stem the pandemic.
    Syrian authorities said 70 trailers carrying, mostly fresh produce, entered Jordan on Sunday, including transit cargo heading to Gulf markets and Iraq.
    While the crossing was closed, Syria’s only normally operating frontier crossing had been with Lebanon, which itself has no other functioning land borders.
    Lebanon was also hit hard by the closure.    It relies on the crossing for overland connections to all other countries because its only other frontier is with Israel, with which it has no ties.
    “This crossing is an economic lifeline for all our land exports,” said Ibrahim al Tarshishi, the head of the Lebanese farmers’ association.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; editing by Barbara Lewis)

9/29/2020 Puzzled Scientists Seek Reasons Behind Africa’s Low Fatality Rates From Pandemic by Alexander Winning
FILE PHOTO: A health worker walks between beds at a temporary field hospital set up by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) during the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Khayelitsha township near Cape Town, South Africa, July 21, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Africa’s overburdened public health systems, dearth of testing facilities and overcrowded slums had experts predicting a disaster when COVID-19 hit the continent in February.
    The new coronavirus was already wreaking havoc in wealthy Asian and European nations, and a United Nations agency said in April that, even with social-distancing measures, the virus could kill 300,000 Africans this year.
    In May the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that 190,000 people on the continent could die if containment measures failed.    Yet as the world marks 1 million COVID-19 deaths, Africa is doing much better than expected, with a lower percentage of deaths than other continents.
    The continent’s case fatality count stands at 2.4%, with roughly 35,000 deaths among the more than 1.4 million people reported infected with COVID-19, according to Reuters data as at late Monday.    In North America, it is 2.9% and in Europe 4.5% Hard-hit countries such as Italy and Britain have recorded fatality counts of 11.6% and 9.0% respectively, compared to 1.6% for Ethiopia, 1.9% for Nigeria and 2.4% for South Africa, the continent’s worst affected country.
    Hospitals in many African countries say COVID-19 admission rates are falling.
    “Based on what we have seen so far it is unlikely that we are going to see anything at the scale that we are seeing in Europe – both in terms of infections and mortality,” said Rashida Ferrand, a London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine professor working at the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in the Zimbabwean capital Harare
    Experts say that some COVID-19 deaths in Africa probably are being missed.    Testing rates in the continent of about 1.3 billion people are among the lowest in the world, and many deaths of all types go unrecorded.
    South Africa saw some 17,000 extra deaths from natural causes between early May and mid-July, 59% more than would normally be expected, according to a July report from the South African Medical Research Council.    That suggests the death toll from COVID-19 could be significantly higher than the official figure, currently over 16,000, researchers say.    Even so, there is wide agreement that COVID-19 fatality rates have not so far been as bad as predicted.
    Why?    Scientists and public health experts cite a number of possible factors, including the continent’s youthful population and lessons learned from previous disease outbreaks.    African governments also had precious time to prepare due to the relative isolation of many of their citizens from airports and other places where they could come into contact with global travellers.
    Some scientists also are exploring the possibility that a tuberculosis vaccine routinely given to children in many African countries might be helping reduce deaths from COVID-19.
    Another theory being considered is whether prior exposure to other coronaviruses including those that cause the common cold has provided a degree of resistance in some of the very communities once thought to be most vulnerable.
    “There is a lot of circumstantial evidence,” Salim Abdool Karim, a South African infectious disease specialist who has advised the government on COVID-19, told Reuters, “but there is no smoking gun.”
LESSONS LEARNED
    The virus hit Africa later than other continents, giving medical personnel time to set up field hospitals, source oxygen and ventilators, and learn from improvements in treatment elsewhere.
    “We got the gift of time,” said Thumbi Mwangi, senior research fellow at the University of Nairobi’s Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases.    “We had an amount of preparation that others did not.”
    One reason could be that international travel is limited in many African countries, and travelling domestically can be more difficult than on other continents, Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, told a news conference on Thursday.
    The continent’s governments have also battled deadly infectious diseases such as Ebola, which killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa in 2013-16.    So officials took notice when the new coronavirus started spreading around the globe rapidly early this year.
    Many African countries were quick to introduce screening at airports, suspend flights from heavily affected nations and enforce social distancing measures and mask wearing.
    Within a week of Kenya reporting its first case, schools were shut, incoming travellers had to undergo a mandatory quarantine and large gatherings were banned. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, imposed a ban on interstate travel and a curfew.    Many of its land borders had already been closed since August 2019 to cut down on smuggling, which helped fight the pandemic too.
    South Africa introduced one of the world’s toughest lockdowns in late March, when the country had confirmed just 400 cases.
    “Africa brought down the hammer earlier in terms of coronavirus lockdowns,” said Tim Bromfield, regional director for East and Southern Africa at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, a U.K.-based think tank.
    Experts also point to the continent’s demographics.
    Research has found that the risk of developing severe COVID-19 increases with age.
    A 2019 United Nations report said 62% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population was under 25 and just 3% 65 or over.    In the U.N.’s Europe and North America region, 28% were under 25 while 18% were age 65 and up.
    Chikwe Ihekweazu, director general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, attributed his country’s relatively low case mortality rate in part to the fact that the majority of patients were between the ages of 31 and 40.
CROSS-PROTECTION?
    Scientists in several countries including South Africa are testing whether the century-old Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, widely used on the continent against tuberculosis, provides a degree of cross-protection.
    BCG vaccines have been shown to protect against other viral respiratory illnesses, and a study published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in July found that countries with higher vaccination rates for tuberculosis had lower peak mortality rates from COVID-19.
    Studies have also started in South Africa and Zimbabwe to assess the impact of past exposure to other coronaviruses.
    More than half of Africa’s urban population is concentrated in slums, where access to water for hand washing is scarce, and physical distancing is near-impossible.
    Diseases spread rapidly under such conditions, but some scientists wonder whether that may have been an unexpected boon in this case.    There is some evidence that T cells developed by the body’s immune system after exposure to other common cold coronaviruses could help fight off COVID-19.
    “I would say that is at least a plausible explanation as to why there are different levels of resistance to the virus in different populations,” said Thomas Scriba, an immunologist and deputy director of the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative.
    Others are more sceptical.
    “All other regions have been exposed to coronaviruses, have poor people and slums and have received BCG vaccination,” said Humphrey Karamagi, team leader for data and analytics at the WHO’s Africa office.    “We are most probably looking at a mix of multiple factors working together – and not a single magic bullet.”
    For Sam Agatre Okuonzi, from the Arua Regional Referral Hospital in Uganda, the doomsday predictions were informed by entrenched prejudices, including that the continent is prone to disease.
    “COVID-19 has shattered a lot of biases about disease in general but also about Africa,” he told Thursday’s briefing.    “The severity of the pandemic has not played out in line with the outrageous predictions.”
(Additional reporting by Wendell Roelf in Cape Town and Tim Cocks in Johannesburg, MacDonald Dzirutwe in Harare, Ed McAllister in Dakar, Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos, Katharine Houreld in Nairobi and Giulia Paravicini in Addis Ababa; Editing by Alexandra Zavis and David Gregorio)

9/29/2020 Reports: Turkish Plane Attacks Armenian Forces by OAN Newsroom
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a symposium, in Istanbul, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (Turkish Presidency via AP. Pool)
    A Turkish warplane reportedly attacked Armenian forces this week amid an ongoing escalation of its military conflict with Azerbaijan.    On Tuesday, Armenia’s Ministry of Defense stated its military jet was attacked by a Turkish plane that took off from an airbase in the Azeri territory.     According to ministry officials, the Turkish plane flew 40 miles into Armenian airspace, violating international law.
    NATO member Turkey has supported the Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia, which in turn is a formal ally of Russia.    Armenian officials claimed they have repelled all attacks so far and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy.
    “We are fighting against a joint Azerbaijan-Turkey force and program,” said Nagorno-Karabakh President Arayik Harutyunyan.    “Tactically, our enemies did not seize important positions, but we inflicted damage on many pieces of the enemy’s equipment and on its manpower.”
A youth from the Turkey Youth Foundation organisation, holds an Azerbaijan flag during a protest supporting
Azerbaijan in front of Azerbaijan’s consulate in Istanbul, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
    Russia has yet to openly support Armenia.    Moscow has only called for a ceasefire while selling weapons to both sides.
    In the meantime, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for an end to the violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region.

9/29/2020 Israel’s Netanyahu Urges Beirut Neighborhood To ‘Act Now’ Over Hezbollah Arms Depot
People are seen during a Hezbollah guided tour in the Jnah neighborhood of Beirut, Lebanon September 29, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    NEW YORK (Reuters) – Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday accused Lebanon’s Hezbollah of storing weapons next to a gas company in a residential neighborhood of Beirut, urging the people to “act now” by protesting against the depot.
    In a video address to the United Nations General Assembly, pre-recorded due to the coronavirus pandemic, Netanyahu warned that the arms depot in the Janah neighborhood was “where the next explosion could take place” following an Aug. 4 blast at Beirut’s port, which left nearly 200 people dead.
    Lebanon has been pushed to breaking point by a financial meltdown and a political vacuum following the resignation of the caretaker government over the August blast, which authorities blamed on highly explosive ammonium nitrate kept in poor storage for years.
    “I say to the people of Janah, you’ve got to act now.    You’ve got to protest this. Because if this thing explodes, it’s another tragedy,” Netanyahu said.    “I say to the people of Lebanon, Israel means you no harm.    But Iran does.”
    “Iran and Hezbollah have deliberately put you and your families in grave danger.    And what you should make clear is that what they have done is unacceptable.    You should tell them, tear these depots down,” he said.
    Hezbollah’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah denied Netanyahu’s accusations and said that Netanyahu was trying to provoke the Lebanese against Hezbollah with accusations of missile sites in Beirut.
    Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    The Israeli military spokesman’s office said in a statement after Netanyahu’s speech that Israel and the Israel Defense Forces had reported the site, and others “numerous times, both to the U.N. and additional diplomatic networks, as well as via various media channels.”
    “The exposure of these sites today was made with the aim of calling the Lebanese government again, with the support of the international community, to intervene in the matter; and to allow Lebanese civilians to protect themselves,” it said.
    A photo displayed by Netanyahu during his speech, that purportedly shows the entrance to the “missile factory,” was taken on the ground in Beirut, suggesting an Israeli intelligence asset provided it.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

9/29/2020 Kuwait Mourns Emir Sheikh Sabah, Veteran Defender Of Arab Unity by Ahmed Hagagy
The Kuwait national flag flies at half-mast as the country starts mourning the death of Kuwait's ruling Emir
Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, in Kuwait City, Kuwait, September 29,2020. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee
    KUWAIT (Reuters) – Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah died on Tuesday aged 91, plunging his country into mourning for a leader regarded by many Gulf Arabs as a savvy diplomatic operator and a humanitarian champion.
    The cabinet announced his brother and designated successor Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah as the new ruler in a statement read on state television.    The parliamentary speaker tweeted that Sheikh Nawaf, 83, would be sworn in on Wednesday.
    Sheikh Sabah had ruled the wealthy oil producer and U.S. ally since 2006, and steered its foreign policy for more than 50 years.
    “With hearts filled with pain and sadness for the Kuwaiti people, the Islamic and Arab world and nations of the world, and with faith in the will of God, the cabinet mourns … Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah who died in the United States on Tuesday,” the statement said.
    The emir’s body will arrive on Wednesday in Kuwait from the United States, where he had been in hospital since July following surgery in Kuwait that month, state media reported on Tuesday, citing the Amiri Diwan.
    The minister of the Amiri Diwan said on Tuesday that in compliance with safety and public health requirements, the burial ceremony for the deceased emir will be limited to relatives only, state media reported.
    Flags were flying at half-staff in Kuwait, which announced 40 days of mourning.    “Goodbye, Emir of Humanity,” read a large banner on a street near the Kuwait Stock Exchange.    Kuwait Towers, a seaside landmark normally lit at night, went dark.
    Condolences poured in from Arab leaders and several countries in the region announced mourning periods.
    Sheikh Sabah sought to balance relations with Kuwait’s bigger neighbours – forging close ties with Saudi Arabia, rebuilding links with former occupier Iraq and keeping open dialogue with Iran.
    He tried to mediate in a Gulf dispute in which Riyadh and its allies imposed a boycott on Qatar, and made fundraising for humanitarian aid in Syria one of Kuwait’s priorities.
    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in an Arabic-language tweet, lauded Sheikh Sabah for fostering “moderation and balance” in Kuwait and the region.
    “Today we lost a big brother and a wise and loving leader … who spared no effort for Arab unity,” said Jordan’s King Abdullah, also on Twitter.
    Sheikh Sabah kept strong ties with the United States, which led a coalition that ended Iraq’s 1990-91 occupation of Kuwait and used the Gulf state as a launch pad for the 2003 Iraq invasion.
    U.S. President Donald Trump said in a statement he was saddened by the death of a dear friend and called Sheikh Sabah an “unwavering friend and partner to the United States.”
    Trump earlier this month awarded the U.S. Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander, to Sheikh Sabah in what the White House said was the first time the honour has been given since 1991.    The emir’s eldest son, Sheikh Nasser, accepted the award.
    United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres praised the emir as “an extraordinary symbol of wisdom and generosity, a messenger of peace, a bridge builder.”
SMOOTH SUCCESSION
    The Kuwaiti dinar fell against the dollar in the forward market on Tuesday and Kuwaiti stocks plunged, ahead of the official announcement of the emir’s death.     Under Kuwait’s constitution, the crown prince automatically becomes emir but assumes power only after taking an oath in parliament, for which elections are due this year.
    “I don’t see a major change in foreign policy under the new emir, largely because Kuwaiti foreign policy is pretty popular domestically and regionally and is seen as effective,” Courtney Freer, research fellow at LSE Middle East Centre, told Reuters.
    The succession is not expected to affect oil policy or foreign investment strategy through the Kuwait Investment Authority, one of the world’s biggest sovereign wealth funds.
    The new emir’s choice of crown prince and premier – who would be tasked with managing the government’s often difficult relationship with parliament – will be watched closely.
    “The new Emir will accede to the throne facing several tough challenges, including the coronavirus crisis, low oil prices, and delicate foreign politics,” London-based Capital Economics said in a research note.
    An immediate priority would be a long-awaited debt law allowing Kuwait to tap global markets to finance a budget deficit, it said.    Parliament, which analysts say has posed an obstacle to reform efforts, has repeatedly rejected the law.
    Although most political power in Kuwait is in the hands of the emir, its parliament is one of the most influential elected bodies among Gulf monarchies.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi, Lisa Barrington, Ahmed Hagagy, Hadeel Al Sayegh, Marwa Rashad, Davide Barbuscia, Nayera Abdallah, Ahmed Tolba, Michelle Nichols; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Giles Elgood and Matthew Lewis)

9/29/2020 U.S. ‘Outraged’ By Rocket Attack In Baghdad - State Department
Mourners pray near coffins containing the dead bodies of victims, who were killed in rocket attacks, in Abu
Ghraib district, on the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq September 29, 2020. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is “outraged” by Monday’s rocket attack in the Iraqi capital Baghdad that killed five civilians https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN26J2LD, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday, urging Iraqi authorities to take immediate action to hold the perpetrators accountable.
    On Monday three children and two women were killed when two militia rockets hit a family home, the Iraqi military said.    Police sources said Baghdad airport was the intended target.
    The attack coincided with Iraqi officials and Western diplomats saying Washington has made preparations to withdraw diplomats https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN26J1Z4 from Iraq after warning Baghdad it could shut its embassy.    Any move by the United States to reduce its diplomatic presence in a country where it has thousands of troops would be seen in the region as an escalation of its confrontation with Iran, which Washington blames for missile and bomb attacks.
    Iraqis fear their country could become a battleground in a proxy war.
    “We have made the point before that the actions of lawless Iran-backed militias remains the single biggest deterrent to stability in Iraq,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
    “We are outraged by yesterday’s rocket attack in Baghdad that killed civilians, including a mother and her children,” she said.
    Two Iraqi intelligence sources have suggested plans to withdraw American diplomats were not yet in motion, and would depend on whether Iraqi security forces were able to do a better job of halting attacks.    They said they had received orders to prevent attacks on U.S. sites, and had been told that U.S. evacuations would begin only if that effort failed.
    Rockets regularly fly across the Tigris towards the heavily fortified U.S. diplomatic compound, constructed to be the biggest U.S. embassy in the world in central Baghdad’s so-called Green Zone during the U.S. occupation after invading in 2003.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk. Additional reporting by Idrees Ali; editing by Grant McCool)

9/29/2020 Hezbollah’s Nasrallah: Israeli PM Is Lying About Group’s Missile Sites
FILE PHOTO: A man rides a motorbike past a picture of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, near Sidon, Lebanon July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, on Tuesday said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was lying about missile sites in Lebanon.
    “A short while ago, the enemy’s prime minister spoke directly in a speech at the United Nations, saying things in order to incite the Lebanese people against Hezbollah, as usual,” said Nasrallah.
    He added that Netanyahu was trying to provoke the Lebanese against Hezbollah with accusations of missile sites in Beirut. (Reporting by Ellen Francis; writing by Raya Jalabi)

9/30/2020 Kuwait’s New Emir Takes Oath, Calls For Unity At Tense Time For Region by Ahmed Hagagy
Kuwait's new Emir Nawwaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah gesture as he takes the oath of office at the parliament, in
Kuwait city, Kuwait September 30, 2020, in this still image taken from a video. Kuwait TV/Handout via REUTERS
    KUWAIT (Reuters) – Kuwait’s new emir was sworn in at parliament on Wednesday as the country prepared to lay to rest late ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, a Gulf Arab elder statesman who helped steer his people through some of the Middle East’s most turbulent decades.
    The cabinet swiftly named designated successor Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah as ruler on Tuesday following the death of Sheikh Sabah, 91, whose body is due to arrive in Kuwait on Wednesday from the United States were he had been hospitalised since July.
    Nawaf, 83, pledged to work for the OPEC member country’s prosperity, stability and security after taking the oath of office, raising both hands to his head as lawmakers applauded.
    “Our dear nation today faces difficult situations and dangerous challenges that can only be overcome … by unifying ranks and working hard together,” he told the National Assembly.
    The funeral has been restricted to ruling family members due to concerns about coronavirus, which along with low oil prices has strained the wealthy petroleum producer’s finances.
    The emir of Qatar, which has been boycotted by Saudi Arabia and its allies in a dispute that Sheikh Sabah tried until his death to resolve, will attend the funeral, state media said.
    When the previous emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, died in 2006, thousands of Kuwaitis attended the funeral and many, along with expatriates, lined the streets.
    “We honestly feel like we’re gong to be lost without his guidance,” said Fajer, a Kuwaiti woman.
    Dignitaries from around the world paid respects to the seasoned diplomat and savvy politician, widely respected as a humanitarian who strove to heal rifts in the Middle East, mending ties with former occupier Iraq, maintaining dialogue with Iran and championing the Palestinian cause.
    Analysts saw his death following that earlier this year of Oman’s Sultan Qaboos, who also played a moderating and balancing role in the region, as the end of an era in the Gulf where an aggressive younger generation has risen to power, particularly in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which have taken hawkish stands against rival Iran.
    “Though the incoming power brokers in neighbouring Gulf countries did not always heed his advice, the Emir was a reminder of an order hard-fought to achieve that was the basis for the goodwill international partners bear the region,” wrote Kirsten Fontenrose, director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Middle East.
    Sheikh Nawaf takes the reins of the small nation, which holds the world’s seventh-largest oil reserves, at a time when the government is trying to boost the finances of a country whose citizens enjoy a cradle-to-grave welfare system.
    Kuwait’s oil, investment and foreign policy are not expected to change.
    Nawaf lacks his brother’s experience as a conciliator and is likely to focus on domestic matters such as naming a crown prince who would manage ties with a parliament that has often clashed with the government and hindered economic reform efforts, diplomats and analysts say.
    Under the constitution, the emir chooses the crown prince but traditionally the ruling family, some of whose senior members have been jostling for the position, convenes a meeting to build consensus.    Parliament also has to approve the choice.
(Reporting by Lisa Barrington, Ahmed Hagagy and Dahlia Nehme; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Nick Macfie, William Maclean)

9/30/2020 Home Learning In Gaza Hindered By Blackouts And Poverty by Nidal al-Mughrabi
Palestinian student Raseel Hussein uses her smartphone to review her online lessons in her family home, amid the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Gaza City September 22, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    GAZA (Reuters) – Routine blackouts and shaky internet service have made remote learning in the Gaza Strip a challenge for students during the coronavirus pandemic.
    With schools closed across the Palestinian enclave since a lockdown in August, hundreds of thousands of students have been stuck at home and learning has moved online.
    In Gaza, where poverty is rampant and infrastructure lacking, siblings are often left to argue over precious screen time during the hours when the power is on.
    On average Gazans in the Hamas Islamist-run territory get eight hours of electricity a day from its lone generating plant and Israeli power lines.    Most families are dependent on foreign aid and struggle to pay for internet or buy extra computers or phones.
    “We have to wait until electricity is back so we can recharge the phones,” said 10th grader Raseel Hussein.    “Work is sent over the internet and we have to download it, and that depends on how weak or strong the signal is.”
    Her mother, Yasmine, said that “many families are poor and … can’t afford smart phones or internet to connect with teachers.”
    Hamas declared a lockdown on Aug 24 after the first cases of coronavirus were reported outside of quarantine facilities for people entering Gaza.    Since then there have been 2,800 cases and 20 people died.
    Gaza is home to two million Palestinians in cities, towns and refugee camps squeezed within an area of 360 square km (139 square miles), with its borders sealed off by neighbouring Israel and Egypt.
    The lockdown has been partially eased but schools, mosques, and other public facilities remain closed.    A nightly curfew is in effect.
    Moatasem Al-Minawai, an official with Gaza’s education ministry, said challenges will continue even after schools reopen.    With limitations on classroom attendance, students will be in school only part-time.
(Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

9/30/2020 Iraq Pledges To Protect Diplomats After U.S. Embassy Shutdown Threat
    (Reuters) – Iraq will protect foreign mission buildings and ensure only the state has weapons, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi told 25 top diplomats on Wednesday, after Washington warned it could shut down its Baghdad embassy.
    The United States has made preparations to withdraw diplomats from Iraq after warning Baghdad it could shut its embassy, two Iraqi officials and two Western diplomats said, a step Iraqis fear could turn their country into a battle zone.
    “Iraq is keen on enforcing the rule of law, the state’s monopoly on having weapons, protecting foreign missions, and diplomatic buildings,” Kadhimi told a meeting of 25 ambassadors and Charges d’Affaires, his office said in a statement.
    “Those who carry out attacks on foreign missions are seeking to destabilise Iraq and sabotage its regional and international relations,” he said.
    Rockets regularly fly across the Tigris towards the heavily fortified U.S. diplomatic compound.
    In recent weeks rocket attacks near the embassy have increased and roadside bombs targeted convoys carrying equipment to the U.S.-led military coalition.    One roadside attack hit a British convoy in Baghdad, the first of its kind against Western diplomats in Iraq for years.
    On Monday three children and two women were killed when two militia rockets hit a family home, the Iraqi military said.    Police sources said Baghdad airport was the intended target.
    “These attacks do not target foreign missions alone, but have hurt innocent citizens, including children,” Kadhimi said.
    Washington blames such attacks on Iranian-backed militia groups.    Iran has not directly commented on the incidents but groups believed to be connected to Iran-aligned militias have claimed responsibility for some attacks.
    “We expressed our deep concern at the rise in the number and sophistication of attacks against diplomatic premises in Iraq,” the 25 diplomats said in a joint statement.
    “We welcome the actions that Prime Minister Kadhimi and his government have taken to address these concerns.”
    The U.S. ambassador was at Wednesday’s meeting, the joint statement showed.
(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Giles Elgood)

9/30/2020 U.S. Blacklists More Syrians In Fresh Push For Assad To End War by Daphne Psaledakis
FILE PHOTO: A picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is seen on a door of a butcher shop, during a lockdown to prevent the
. spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Damascus, Syria April 22, 2020. REUTERS/Yamam Al Shaar/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday blacklisted what it called “key enablers” of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, reinforcing efforts to push Damascus back to United Nations-led negotiations to end Syria’s nearly decade-long civil war.
    The United States imposed sanctions on 13 entities and six individuals, including the governor of the Central Bank of Syria, in a fresh round of sanctions aimed at cutting off revenue for Assad’s government.
    “The United States will continue to employ all of its tools and authorities to target the finances of anyone who profits from or facilitates the Assad regime’s abuse of the Syrian people,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo separately warned that the targeting of officials, commanders and “corrupt business leaders will not cease until the Assad regime and its enablers take irreversible steps to end their campaign of violence against the Syrian people and genuinely implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254.”
    A crackdown by Assad on protesters in 2011 led to the civil war, with Iran and Russia backing the government and the United States supporting the opposition.
    Millions of people have fled Syria and millions more have been internally displaced.
    Washington also blacklisted on Wednesday the head of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, the Syrian Ministry of Tourism and a Syrian businessman, Khodr Taher Bin Ali, who the Treasury said was connected to the Assad government, as well as his network of businesses.
    The Treasury authorized until Dec. 30 transactions and activities necessary for the winding down of business with Emma Tel LLC, which was founded by the businessman.
    Wednesday’s action freezes any U.S. assets of those blacklisted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them.
    The State Department, as part of Wednesday’s move, imposed sanctions on the commander of the 5th Corps of the Syrian Arab Army, accusing Milad?    Jedid of being involved in preventing a ceasefire in the country, and also designated two other Syrians.
    Syria has been under U.S. and European Union sanctions that have frozen the assets of the state and hundreds of companies and individuals.    Washington already bans exports to Syria and investment there by Americans, as well as transactions involving oil and hydrocarbon products.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Mary Milliken and Paul Simao)

9/30/2020 Rockets Land In Erbil Hours After Iraqi PM Pledges To Protect Diplomats by Ali Sultan and Jamal Badrani
FILE PHOTO: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi reacts during a news conference
after a meeting, in Baghdad, Iraq September 2, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool
    SULAIMANIYA/MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) – Iran-backed militias launched rockets targeting U.S. troops that landed near Erbil airport in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq, a Kurdish security agency said on Wednesday, hours after Iraq’s premier pledged to protect foreign missions.
    Iraqi Kurdistan’s counterterrorism service blamed the attack on the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), an umbrella grouping of mostly Iran-backed Iraqi Shi’ite militias that is part of Iraq’s armed forces.
    “Six rockets were launched from the borders of the Sheikh Amir village in Nineveh province by the Popular Mobilisation Forces who were targeting (U.S.-led) coalition forces in Erbil International Airport,” the service said.
    Four rockets landed at the edge of the airport compound and two did not explode, it added in a statement.
    The Kurdish interior ministry condemned the attack, which it said took place at 8:30 p.m. (1730 GMT).    It did not directly blame the PMF but said the rockets were launched from an area under the jurisdiction of the PMF’s 30th Brigade.
    U.S. Army Colonel Wayne Marotto, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said initial reports were that indirect fire did not land on coalition forces in Erbil.    “There was no damage or casualties.    Incident is under investigation,” he posted on Twitter.
    No group claimed immediate responsibility for the attack, which occurred hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi pledged in a meeting with top diplomats to protect foreign missions and limit possession of weapons to state forces following a U.S. threat to shut down its embassy in Baghdad.
    “Those who carry out attacks on foreign missions are seeking to destabilise Iraq and sabotage its regional and international relations,” Kadhimi told 25 foreign emissaries, including the U.S. ambassador, earlier on Wednesday.
    Sirens were heard inside a nearby military base housing U.S. troops, Kurdish media said. A rocket fell 200 metres (220 yards) away from a Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) base, spokesman Mohamed Qadiri told Reuters.    It was not clear if the KDPI was an intentional target.
    Media reports had suggested Washington could move diplomatic staff to Erbil, with the Kurdistan Region long seen as a safe haven from the violence gripping the rest of Iraq and far from the reaches of the Iran-backed Iraqi militias the United States blames for increasingly regular attacks on its interests.
    Kurdish Prime Minister Masrour Barzani condemned the attack and called on Kadhimi to hold those responsible accountable.
    “I strongly condemn tonight’s rocket attack in Erbil.    The KRG will not tolerate any attempt to undermine Kurdistan’s stability and our response will be robust,” Barzani, who leads the Kurdistan Regional Government, wrote on Twitter.
    “I have spoken to PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi on the importance of holding the perpetrators accountable,” he said.
    The Iraqi military blamed a “terrorist group” for the attack and said there were no casualties.    The local commander responsible for securing the launch area has been suspended pending an investigation, it said in a statement.
    The United States has made preparations to withdraw diplomats from Iraq after warning Baghdad it could shut its embassy, two Iraqi officials and two Western diplomats said, a step Iraqis fear could turn their country into a battle zone.
    Rockets regularly fly across the Tigris towards the heavily fortified U.S. diplomatic compound.
    In recent weeks rocket attacks near the embassy have increased and roadside bombs targeted convoys carrying equipment to the U.S.-led military coalition.    One roadside attack hit a British convoy in Baghdad, the first of its kind against Western diplomats in Iraq for years.
    On Monday three children and two women were killed when two militia rockets hit a family home, the Iraqi military said. Police sources said Baghdad airport was the intended target.
    Washington blames such attacks on Iranian-backed militia groups.    Iran has not directly commented on the incidents but groups believed to be connected to Iran-aligned militias have claimed responsibility for some attacks.
(Reporting by Ali Sulatan in Sulaimaniya and Jamal Badran in Mosul; Additional reporting by Kawa Omar in Duhok and Nayera Abdallah in Cairo; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Giles Elgood, Grant McCool and Jonathan Oatis)

9/30/2020 Flooding Devastates Farms In Parts Of Sudan: U.N.
FILE PHOTO: A truck is seen in the waters of the Blue Nile floods within the Al-Ikmayr area of
Omdurman in Khartoum, Sudan August 27, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Record floods in Sudan have affected nearly one third of cultivated land and about 3 million people from agricultural households, worsening already acute levels of food insecurity, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said on Wednesday.
    The floods have added to hardship in Sudan, already struggling with an economic crisis and one of the world’s highest rates of inflation when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
    About 2.2 million hectares of cropland has been flooded and 108,000 head of livestock lost, according to an FAO assessment.    Some 1.1 million tonnes of grain was destroyed in planted areas, most of it sorghum, a staple in Sudan, said Dominique Burgeon, a senior FAO official.
    Women from some of nearly 600,000 affected agricultural households told the FAO they were cutting down to one small meal per day after their sorghum was washed away just before harvest, he said.
    Commercial crops including bananas and mangos have also been badly hit.
    The floods have also destroyed or damaged tens of thousands of homes and left more than 100 people dead.    They have affected about 150,000 refugees and displaced people, the U.N. refugee agency has said.
    “It’s a severe situation that needs mobilisation and support from the international community,” Burgeon said.
    The United Nations estimates that 9.6 million people face acute food insecurity in Sudan, the highest number on record.
    Locust swarms that have devastated crops in the Horn of Africa this year also still threaten the country, the FAO says.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz and Aidan Lewis; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams)

10/1/2020 Turkey Rebuffs Russia, France And U.S. Over Nagono-Karabakh Ceasefire Moves by Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan
FILE PHOTO: A man walks next to an apartment building that was allegedly damaged by recent shelling during the fighting over
the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, in the Tartar border district of Azerbaijan September 29, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov
    BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – The presidents of France, Russia and the United States called on Thursday for an immediate ceasefire between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces around Nagorno-Karabakh, but Turkey said the three big powers should have no role in peace moves.
    France, Russia and the United States are co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group, set up in 1992 to mediate in the decades-old conflict over the mountainous enclave in the South Caucasus.
    They appealed for peace as the death toll rose in the heaviest clashes since the 1990s around Nagorno-Karabakh – part of Azerbaijan, but run by its mostly ethnic Armenian inhabitants.
    “We call for an immediate cessation of hostilities between the relevant military forces,” the joint French, Russian and U.S. statement said.
    They urged the ex-Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan to “commit without delay to resuming substantive negotiations, in good faith and without preconditions” under what is called the Minsk process.
    But in a speech to the Turkish parliament just before the three countries’ statement, President Tayyip Erdogan said he opposed their involvement.
    “Given that the USA, Russia and France have neglected this problem for nearly 30 years, it is unacceptable that they are involved in a search for a ceasefire,” Erdogan said.
    He said a lasting ceasefire could be achieved only if “Armenian occupiers” withdrew from Nagorno-Karabakh.
    His comments are likely to fuel tension with his NATO allies as fears mount that the conflict could draw in regional powers Russia, which has a military base in majority Christian Armenia, and Turkey, a close ally of mainly Muslim Azerbaijan.
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart had spoken by phone and expressed their willingness to cooperate closely to stabilise the situation, Lavrov’s ministry said.
MOUNTING DEATH TOLL
    Dozens of people have been reported killed and hundreds wounded since Sunday in fighting that has renewed concern about stability in the South Caucasus, a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas to world markets.
    Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan in a 1991-94 war that killed 30,000 people, but is not recognised internationally as an independent republic.
    Azerbaijan’s civilian death toll has risen to 19, with 55 wounded, its prosecutor general’s office said.    Azerbaijan has not reported on casualties among its military forces.
    Nagorno-Karabakh has said 103 of its servicemen have been killed and more than 200 wounded but has given no figures on civilian casualties.
    Armenia said two French nationals working for France’s Le Monde newspaper had been wounded during Azeri shelling of the town of Martuni in Nagorno-Karabakh, clarifying earlier confusion over the location of the incident.    An Armenian government source said they were in a serious condition.
    French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on the need for a ceasefire in a telephone call late on Wednesday.    Their joint statement with U.S. President Donald Trump was issued hours later on Thursday.
    Macron’s office said he and Putin had shared “concern regarding the sending of Syrian mercenaries by Turkey to Nagorno-Karabakh.”
    A Kremlin statement did not mention this. But the Russian news agency TASS quoted the Kremlin as saying the alleged deployment of fighters from Syria and Libya to Nagorno-Karabakh was extremely dangerous.
    Turkey has said it will “do what is necessary” to support Azerbaijan, but has denied sending mercenaries.
    Macron, whose country is home to about 600,000 people of Armenian origin, has accused Turkey of “warlike” rhetoric.
    A German government source said EU leaders would discuss the conflict at an ongoing summit meeting. [nL8N2GS1HU]
(Additional reporting by Elisabeth Pineau, John Irish and Michel Rose in Paris, by Darya Korsunskaya, Katya Golubkova and Maxim Rodionov in Moscow, and by Daren Butler and Ezgi Erkoyun in Turkey; Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Kevin Liffey/Mark Heinrich)

10/1/2020 Lebanon And Israel Agree To Talks To End Sea Border Dispute by Ellen Francis and Rami Ayyub
Lebanon's parliament speaker Nabih Berri looks on during a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon October 1, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    BEIRUT/TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Lebanon and Israel have agreed to a framework for U.S.-mediated talks aimed at ending a long-running dispute along the border between the two nations that have fought several conflicts.
    Still in a formal state of war, Lebanon and Israel have contested their land and maritime borders for decades, namely over an area in the sea on the edge of three Lebanese offshore energy blocks.    Israel said the talks would cover the sea border.
    Washington has mediated between the two sides.
    “This is a framework agreement, not a final one,” Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri told reporters, less than a month after the United States imposed sanctions on his top aide for corruption and financially enabling Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese group which Washington deems a terrorist organisation.
    The heavily armed Hezbollah and Israel, sworn enemies, last fought a war in 2006.
    The announcement comes with Lebanon facing its worst crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.    The country’s financial meltdown was compounded by a massive port explosion that wrecked a swathe of Beirut in August, killing nearly 200 people.
    Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz confirmed the two sides would hold U.S.-brokered talks on the maritime border, a major point of contention.
    The U.S. State Department welcomed the agreement and said it had taken three years of diplomacy to achieve.
    Talks will begin in the week of Oct. 12, David Schenker, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, told reporters in a telephone briefing, adding that he will represent the United States in the negotiations.
    It follows deals signed last month, brokered by Washington, between Israel and two Gulf Arab states to normalise relations.
SANCTIONS
    Berri, a Hezbollah ally and influential Shi’ite leader in charge of the border file, said talks would be held under the auspices of the United Nations at a U.N. base in Naqoura near the boundary with Israel, known as the Blue Line.
    He told a news conference in Beirut that Washington would push for agreement as soon as possible.
    Berri mentioned the land and maritime border at the news conference, while Israel and the United States only mentioned the maritime boundary.    One reason previous efforts to launch talks floundered was the two sides disagreeing over which frontier to discuss, analysts say.
    A Lebanese official source suggested Berri was prompted to make the announcement now because of the economic crisis and U.S. sanctions imposed last month on his right-hand man, Ali Hassan Khalil.    A Western diplomat echoed this.
    Berri denied being swayed.    “I, Berri, cannot be softened by force,” he told reporters.
    Speaking after the agreement was announced, Schenker, the State Department official, said the United States will continue to impose sanctions on Lebanese individuals allied with Hezbollah or engaged in corruption, adding that further sanctions remained in play.
    In 2018, Beirut licensed a group of Italy’s Eni, France’s Total and Russia’s Novatek to carry out Lebanon’s first offshore energy exploration in two blocks.    One of them, Block 9, contains waters disputed with Israel.
    Berri said he had asked French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been at the centre of foreign efforts to help Lebanon out of crisis, to press Total not to delay exploration for gas in the offshore area.
    As well as the maritime border row, the two countries disagree over a border wall Israel started building in 2018.    A U.N. peacekeeping force monitors the boundary since Israel’s military withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000, ending a 22-year occupation.
(Reporting by Ellen Francis, Samia Nakhoul and Laila Bassam in Beirut; Rami Ayyub in Tel Aviv and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Kirsten Donovan)

10/1/2020 Iraqis Gather In Baghdad To Mark Anti-Government Protests Anniversary
Men light candles as Iraqi demonstrators gather to mark the first anniversary of the
anti-government protests, in Najaf, Iraq October 1, 2020. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A few hundred Iraqis gathered in Baghdad’s central Tahrir square on Thursday to mark the anniversary of anti-government unrest that erupted last year and to put pressure on the government to meet their demands.
    Protesters waved the Iraqi flag and chanted “free revolutionaries, we will continue the path.”
    Some sang patriotic songs while clapping.
    “We are here to start the revolution again … We haven’t forgotten about the blood of the martyrs,” said Abbas Younis, 25, wearing an Iraqi flag as a cape and a surgical mask.
    More than 560 people, mostly unarmed demonstrators but also some members of the security forces, have been killed since a wave of popular unrest began on Oct. 1, 2019, with both security forces and unidentified gunmen shooting people dead.
    Protesters, most of them young, are demanding an overhaul of a political system they see as profoundly corrupt and keeping most Iraqis in poverty.
    The protests have shaken the country out of two years of relative calm following the defeat of Islamic State insurgents.
    Infighting between political parties clinging to power has fuelled the crisis and threatens to cause more unrest.
    Last year’s protests caused the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who was replaced in May by Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who pledged to investigate the deaths and incarceration of hundreds of protesters.
    But protesters on Thursday said they are giving the new government an ultimatum to meet their demands by Oct. 25.
    “Our demands are simple and legitimate … we demand the killers of the protesters be prosecuted,” said Mustafa Makki.
    Dressed in combat trousers and wearing a shirt with an image of a killed protester and a necklace made out of an empty tear gas canisters, the 24-year-old said he had four bullet wounds, and one of them had cost him his vision in his left eye.
    “Within 25 days if the government doesn’t meet our demands we will hold a general strike,” Makki added.
    Kadhimi in July called an early general election for June 6, 2021, roughly a year ahead of when it would normally be held, a key demand of the protesters.    But Iraqi’s parliament must still ratify the election date and amend the election law.
    In separate statements on Thursday, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and Iraqi President Barham Salih pledged to meet the demands of the protesters.
    “We affirm our loyalty to our people and to the roadmap imposed by the blood and scarifies of its youth,” Kadhimi’s statement said.
(Reporting by Amina Ismail, additional reporting by Charlotte Bruneau; editing by David Evans)

10/1/2020 Kuwaiti Opposition Hopes New Emir Permits Political ‘Detente’ by Aziz El Yaakoubi
FILE PHOTO: Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al Ahmad al Sabah reads his opening speech at the start of the 4th ordinary
session of the 15th Legislative Parliament in Kuwait city, Kuwait, October 29, 2019. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Kuwaiti opposition figures proposed electoral reforms and a pardon for dissidents in recent meetings with the prince who has since become the new emir, they said, seeking to improve stormy ties with the government that have sometimes flared into unrest.
    The opposition figures, both liberals and Islamists, presented the proposals to Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah last month while he was still crown prince and before the death on Tuesday of late ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad, they said.
    The Kuwaiti government did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.    Sheikh Nawaf was sworn in as emir at parliament on Wednesday.
    Political stability in the oil producing state traditionally depends on cooperation between the government and the outspoken parliament, the oldest legislature in the Gulf Arab states and one often dominated in the past by opposition groups.
    It has the power to pass and block legislation, question ministers and submit no-confidence votes against senior government officials, actions that have in effect stalled economic reforms or led to cabinet reshuffles.
    While the government tolerates criticism to a degree rare among Gulf Arab states, the emir has the last say in state affairs and criticising him is a jailable offence.
    Sheikh Sabah in 2012 broke the hold of opposition groups on parliament by using executive powers to amend the voting system, sparking some of the largest protests in the country’s history.
    “We look forward for a political detente with Sheikh Nawaf who has shown some positive signs, including by meeting with opposition leaders,” said Ahmad Deyain, secretary general of the opposition group Kuwaiti Progressive Movement.
    “A pardon for the exiles would be a good start especially with the upcoming (parliamentary) elections,” he added.
BREAKTHROUGHS
    Under the old electoral system, voters were allowed to cast ballots for up to four candidates, which the opposition has said allowed alliances that partly made up for the absence of political parties, which officially are barred.
    The voting system introduced in 2012 allows votes for only a single candidate, which the opposition says makes alliances difficult.
    Among those in self-imposed exile are lawmakers who took part in the storming of parliament by protesters and opposition MPs in 2011 over alleged government graft and mismanagement.
    Others include Kuwaitis who openly criticised the emir, who the constitution says is above politics, or other Gulf rulers.
    Opposition figures said they presented the new emir with a proposal entitled “Kuwait Document” that calls for a reformist government, the launch of an anti-corruption campaign, greater judicial independence and changes to the electoral law.
    “Starting the discussion is already a good step; I expect that we will continue on that path, which could lead to breakthroughs in several issues including reconciliation with some political blocs,” Mohammad Al-Dallal, a current MP from the opposition Islamic Constitutional Movement, told Reuters.
    Courtney Freer, research fellow at LSE Middle East Centre, said the new emir would start with economic reforms, including an anti-corruption drive, as most Kuwaitis wanted that.
    “The big question for the opposition is whether the new emir will change the electoral law,” Freer told Reuters.
    Parliamentary elections are due this year.
    Abdul Hameed Dashti, a Shi’ite MP in exile in Geneva since 2016, was sentenced to jail in absentia on in several cases, including charges of insulting Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
    Dashti, who has accumulated sentences of 73 years in jail, told Reuters by telephone he hoped pardons would be issued.
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Hagagy, Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi, editing by Ghaida Ghantous, William Maclean)

10/1/2020 Kuwaitis Await New Crown Prince As Arab Leaders Mourn Late Emir by Ahmed Hagagy
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi offers condolences to Kuwait's new Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah on the death of late
Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, in Kuwait City, Kuwait, October 1, 2020. Kuwait News Agency/Handout via REUTERS
    KUWAIT (Reuters) – Arab leaders headed to Kuwait on Thursday to offer condolences for the death of its ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad, who worked to unify a polarised region, as Kuwaitis waited for the new emir to name a crown prince to help guide state affairs.
    Jordan’s king, the presidents of Egypt and former occupier Iraq, and Oman’s sultan were among those paying respects to Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the brother and successor of Sheikh Sabah, who died on Tuesday aged 91.
    Gulf power Saudi Arabia, with which Kuwait has its closest but most complex relationship, was represented by Mansour bin Mutib, an adviser to King Salman, who had surgery in July and whose son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is de facto ruler.
    Bahrain, who joined Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in boycotting neighbouring Qatar in a row that Sheikh Sabah tried in vain to end, sent its crown prince.
    Qatar’s emir was the only Gulf ruler to attend Wednesday’s funeral rites for Sheikh Sabah, who was admired around the world for his humanitarian efforts and pursuit of moderation and balance in a region mired in conflict.
    Sheikh Nawaf, who lacks his brother’s diplomatic heft, is likely to uphold U.S.-allied Kuwait’s foreign policy but may struggle to navigate between a new generation of Sunni Muslim Gulf leaders who have taken a more hawkish approach, especially against Shi’ite rival Iran, with which Kuwait maintained ties.
NEW CROWN PRINCE
    The focus now for the low-profile Sheikh Nawaf will be naming a crown prince at a time when low oil prices and COVID-19 have hit the finances of the OPEC member state, which has a cradle-to-grave welfare system.
    “He is the world’s oldest crown prince at 83 so it is uncertain how long his reign will last and makes it crucial whom he will appoint as (the next) crown prince,” said Courtney Freer, fellow researcher at LSE Middle East.
    Under the constitution, the emir has up to a year to name an heir but analysts expect a decision in the coming weeks as dozens of senior al-Sabah dynasty members jostle for position. Parliament must approve the choice.
    “The choice of crown prince will indicate the emir’s ability to control differences within the family…and clarify to the people whether there will be a continued smooth transition of power,” said Haitham Abu Hossein, a small business owner.
    Among the mooted candidates are the late emir’s eldest son Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad, 72; his nephew Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad, 79; and his brother Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Jaber.
    Kuwaiti sources and a diplomat told Reuters this week that Meshal, deputy chief of the National Guard, appears most likely to get the role that traditionally manages the government’s often difficult relationship with the parliament.
    Last year, business-minded Sheikh Nasser Sabah, who lost his job as defence minister in late 2019 amid ruling family infighting over alleged government corruption, was seen as front runner and the sources said he remains a strong contender.
(Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy, Aziz El Yaakoubi, Dahlia Nehme and Alexander Cornwell; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/2/2020 Europe Key To Middle East Peace Process After Abraham Accord, Pompeo Says
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends the Mining, Agriculture, and Construction (MAC) Protocol Signing
Ceremony, at Villa San Sebastiano, in Rome, Italy, October 1, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/Pool
    ROME (Reuters) – European countries have a fundamental role in supporting the Middle East peace process after the signing of the so-called Abraham Accord, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview on Friday.
    “I believe that European leaders have a strategic role…(also in) stemming and rejecting the Islamic Republic of Iran, which still is the greatest force of destabilisation in the entire Middle Eastern region,” Pompeo told Italian daily La Repubblica.
    He added that he hoped Palestinians would join the United States, committing to serious negotiations with Israel.
    “(The Palestinians) must commit to dialogue,” Pompeo said, when asked what was needed to do so, given that the Palestinian Authority considered the agreements void.
(Reporting by Giulia Segreti; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

10/2/2020 Blasphemy Convictions Spark Nigerian Debate Over Sharia Law by Alexis Akwagyiram and Abraham Achirga
A still image taken from TV footage shows Professor of Islamic Studies, Taiwo Salisu, displaying a book during an
interview with Reuters at Lagos State University, in Lagos, Nigeria September 30, 2020. Reuters TV via REUTERS
    LAGOS/ABUJA (Reuters) – Fuad Adeyemi, an imam in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, respects those who believe that a 22-year-old man accused of sharing a blasphemous message on WhatsApp should be punished.    But he thinks the death sentence is too harsh.
    He was referring to a ruling handed to Yahaya Aminu Sharif by a sharia court in the northern state of Kano in August.    On the same day, the court sentenced a 13-year-old boy, Omar Farouq, to 10 years in prison, also for blasphemy.
    The sentences caused an international outcry and sparked a broader debate in Nigeria about the role of Islamic law in a country roughly evenly split between a predominantly Muslim north and mainly Christian south.
    “They should review the judgment … and reduce the punishment,” said Adeyemi, clad in a white robe and sitting on the concrete floor of a half-built Abuja mosque where moments earlier he had led more than a dozen men in prayer.
    Sharia, or Islamic religious law, is applied in 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states, raising questions about the compatibility of two legal systems where sharia courts operate alongside secular ones.
    Kola Alapinna, a lawyer representing both Sharif and Farouq, told Reuters that appeals against the convictions had been lodged at the Kano state high court, although no dates for the hearings had yet been set.
    He said the move was made on the grounds that sharia courts of appeal do not have criminal jurisdiction.    Any further appeals should, he added, be held in secular courts up to the Supreme Court, the country’s highest legal authority.
    “We are a secular country,” said Alapinna, one of a team of lawyers working on behalf of the Lagos-based Foundation for Religious Freedom rights group, referring to the country’s secular constitution.
    “Nigeria is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation where everybody is welcome.”
    The convictions were condemned by some rights groups, the United Nations and the head of Poland’s Auschwitz Memorial.
    In Nigeria, they divided opinion on social media and in the street.
    “How does Sharia law even exist alongside Nigeria’s Constitution?” posted a Twitter user called Obi.
    In Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city built in the middle of the country to promote unity, insurance executive Hamid Abubakar took a different view.
    One of dozens of Muslim men who gathered beside a busy road to perform prayers outdoors, Abubakar said he believed the punishments were “in order,” and sharia’s role in Nigeria should be respected.    He also warned against Western interference.
    “People should not come to others’ faith and push their thinking,” he said.
(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos and Abraham Achirga in Abuja; Additional reporting by Angela Ukomadu in Lagos; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

10/2/2020 Ethiopia Region Arrests 503 On Feared Violence At Weekend Festival by Dawit Endeshaw
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaks during a media conference
at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 29, 2018. Michel Euler/Pool via REUTERS//File Photo
    ADDIS ABABA, Oct 2 (Reuters) – Police in Ethiopia’s Oromiya region have arrested 503 people on accusations they planned to cause violence during an annual thanksgiving festival this weekend and seized guns and hand grenades, the state-run news agency reported.
    State-affiliated Fana Broadcasting also reported on Friday that police and intelligence services had foiled what they said were plans to incite violence in Addis Ababa and other parts of Ethiopia ahead of the Irreecha festival of the Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group.
    The latest arrests happened a week after Ethiopia’s attorney general said about 2,000 people had been charged over deadly violence after the killing of popular Oromo musician Haacaaluu Hundeessaa in June.
    Ethiopia News Agency, quoting Oromiya region police commissioner Ararsa Merdasa, said on Thursday officers seized guns and hand grenades during the arrests, ahead of a celebration in the capital Addis Ababa on Saturday and in Bishoftu in the Oromiya region of Ethiopia on Sunday.
    In the violence following the musician’s killing in June, at least 166 people were killed.    More than 9,000 people were arrested, including some politicians from Oromiya, Ethiopia’s most populous province and the home of the murdered singer.
    Long-suppressed frustrations frequently explode into ethnic violence.
    Last year’s Irreecha festival in Addis Ababa was held peacefully amid tight security.    But in 2016, a stampede, triggered by a clash between police and protesters, at the capital’s celebrations left more than 50 dead.
    Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation, is one of the continent’s fastest growing economies and is due to hold elections next year.
    Decades of frustration over government repression and democratic reforms by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office in April 2018, have emboldened regional power-brokers keen to challenge the ruling party.
    Abiy won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for his peacemaking, which ended two decades of hostility with neighbouring Eritrea.
    But his critics have accused him of heavy-handed tactics – such as mass arrests or the detention of political opponents – similar to those of the regime that preceded him.
(Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; writing by George Obulutsa; editing by Barbara Lewis)

10/2/2020 EU Removes Libya’s Powerbroker Saleh From Sanctions List
FILE PHOTO: Aguila Saleh, leader of a rival parliament in eastern Libya, listens to remarks during
a visit to the Greek parliament in Athens, December 12, 2019. REUTERS/Costas Baltas/File Photo
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union on Friday removed an east Libyan powerbroker from its sanctions blacklist to encourage peace efforts and ensure the EU plays a central role in any negotiated settlement in Libya.
    Aguila Saleh, leader of a rival parliament in eastern Libya, no longer faces EU travel bans and asset freezes imposed four years ago, the EU said, confirming a Reuters report on Sept. 9 that the so-called de-listing was planned.
    “The de-listing of speaker Saleh was agreed in light of his recent constructive engagement in support of a negotiated political solution to the Libyan crisis,” an EU statement said.
    After months of inaction, European powers see a chance to reassert their role in Libya – which has been in turmoil since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi – after a ceasefire in August and to counter growing Turkish and Russian military involvement.
    The EU supports the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) based in the capital Tripoli.
    But Saleh is seen to have gained clout as a negotiating force relative to another eastern powerbroker, Khalifa Haftar, who commands the rebel Libyan National Army (LNA).
    The EU now sees Saleh as pivotal figure in a push to bring the two sides of the Libyan conflict together.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/3/2020 Thousands Of Israelis Protest Against Netanyahu Despite Lockdown
A demonstrator scuffles with police officers as Israelis protest against legislation banning them from
holding demonstrations more than 1 km (0.6 miles) from their homes, a measure the government said was aimed at curbing
the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, in Tel Aviv, Israel October 3, 2020. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Thousands of Israelis protested across the country on Saturday, flouting a new law meant to curb anti-government demonstrations during a coronavirus lockdown.
    The street protests, just three days after parliament approved an edict to limit the scope of such demonstrations, kept pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his handling of the coronavirus crisis and over allegations of corruption, which he denies.
    The new law bans Israelis from holding demonstrations more than 1 km (about half a mile) from their homes and forces stricter social distancing, a measure the government said was aimed at curbing COVID-19 infections.    Critics have called it a blow to freedom of speech.
    Most protests on Saturday night were small and scattered throughout the country, though a crowd of thousands gathered in Tel Aviv.    A small number of protesters scuffled with police and tried to block city streets. About fifteen people were arrested, a police spokesman said.
    Israel has shut down much of its economy and instructed people to stay within a kilometre of their homes whenever possible in an effort to contain a second-wave surge in coronavirus infections.
(Reporting by Amar Awad; Editing by Giles Elgood)

10/3/2020 Jordan’s King Abdullah Accepts Resignation Of Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
FILE PHOTO: Jordan's Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz speaks to the media
during a news conference in Amman, Jordan April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
    AMMAN (Reuters) – Jordan’s King Abdullah on Saturday accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Omar al Razzaz but asked him to stay on as a caretaker premier until he designates a successor to oversee parliamentary elections on Nov. 10, state media said.
    The monarch dissolved parliament last Sunday at the end of its four-year term in a move that under constitutional rules meant the government had to resign within a week.
    A new government will pave the way for the November vote, as the country grapples with the rapid spread of COVID-19 infections over the last month for which the last government had been widely criticised.
    King Abdullah appointed Prime Minister Omar al Razzaz in the summer of 2018 to defuse the biggest protests in years over tax increases sought by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce Jordan’s large public debt.
    The monarch told Razzaz in a letter accepting his resignation that mistakes were made in the handling of the pandemic, echoing medical fears the health care system could come to the brink of collapse if the community spread gets out of control.
    Jordan reported 1,099 new cases on Saturday bringing the cumulative total to 14,749 infections with 88 deaths.
    The monarch hopes a wider shake-up and a new assembly can ease popular disenchantment over economic hardships worsened by the blow of COVID-19 and limits on civil and political freedoms under emergency laws.
    The authorities have arrested hundreds of teacher activists after dissolving their opposition-led elected union last July and detained scores of dissidents for criticism on social media.
    Jordan’s economy is expected to shrink by 6% this year as it tackles its worst economic crisis in many years, with unemployment and poverty aggravated by the pandemic.
    The elections will however not usher political reforms because of a law that keeps intact a system that limits the representation of those of Palestinian origin in favour of native Jordanians who are the backbone of the country’s political establishment.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Giles Elgood, Hugh Lawson and Chizu Nomiyama)

10/3/2020 Tunisia To Ban Gatherings, Cut Public-Sector Work Hours Due To Pandemic
The deserted empty Marsa beach is pictured, as the country extended the lockdown by two weeks to contain the
spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Tunis, Tunisia April 1, 2020. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
    TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisian authorities will ban all gatherings and reduce working hours for employees in the public sector in order to stop the rapid spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said on Saturday.
    The decision was taken amid strong fears that hospitals in the North African nation will be unable to cope with a high number of patients because of the shortage of intensive-care beds.
    The total number of coronavirus cases has jumped to more than 20,000 compared with roughly 1,000 cases before the country’s borders were reopened on June 27.
    In a speech announcing the latest measures to combat the virus, Mechichi said he gave orders to Tunisia’s governors to implement a regional lockdown if necessary.    But he added it was unthinkable to reimpose a nationwide lockdown because of the unprecedented economic collapse caused by the first lockdown in March.
    Tunisia’s tourism-dependent economy shrank 21.6% in the second quarter compared to the same period last year as a result of the pandemic and measures to curb it.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Paul Simao)

10/3/2020 Egypt Unveils 59 Ancient Coffins In Major Archaeological Discovery
Sarcophagi that are around 2500 years old, are seen inside the newly discovered burial site near
Egypt's Saqqara necropolis, in Giza, Egypt, October 3, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt on Saturday put on show dozens of coffins belonging to priests and clerks from the 26th dynasty nearly 2,500 years ago, with archaeologists saying tens more were found in the vast Saqqara necropolis just days ago.
    The 59 coffins were discovered in August at the UNESCO world heritage site south of Cairo, buried in three 10-12 meter shafts along with 28 statues of the ancient Egyptian God Seker, one of the most important funerary deities.
    They belonged to priests and clerks from the 26th dynasty, said Mostafa al-Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.
    The Egyptian archaeological mission behind the discovery had been active since 2018 and previously unveiled a cache of mummified animals and a well-preserved tomb of a fifth dynasty royal priest called ‘Wahtye’ in the area.
    Waziri explained the team had uncovered the three shafts where the coffins were laid in “perfect condition” due to a protective seal that preserved them from chemical reactions.
    The mission will continue opening the coffins and studying their contents before their eventual display at the Grand Egyptian Museum, expected to open next year.
(Reporting by Ahmed Fahmy; Writing by Seham Eloraby; Editing by Nadine Awadalla and Clelia Oziel)

10/4/2020 Umrah Pilgrims Return To A Mecca Stilled By COVID-19 Slump by Marwa Rashad
The first group of Muslims, allowed in the mosque compound by appointment, practice social distancing, as they perform Umrah in the Grand Mosque, after
Saudi authorities ease coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, October 3, 2020. REUTERS/Yasser Bakhsh
    MECCA, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) – Mecca slowly stirred from a seven-month hibernation on Sunday as pilgrims trickled in after Saudi authorities partially lifted a coronavirus ban on performing umrah – a pilgrimage to Islam’s two holiest sites that is undertaken at any time of year.
    Millions of Muslims from around the world usually descend on Saudi Arabia for the umrah and haj Islamic pilgrimages.    The two share common rites, but the haj, held once a year, is the main lengthier ritual that is a once-in-a-lifetime duty for Muslims.
    Saudi Arabia, which held a largely symbolic haj earlier this year limited to domestic worshippers, has allowed citizens and residents to start performing umrah as of Sunday at 30% capacity, or 6,000 pilgrims a day.    It will open for Muslims from abroad starting Nov. 1.
    Last year the Gulf state drew 19 million umrah visitors.
    “All of Mecca is happy today, it’s like the end of a jail term.    We have missed the spiritual feeling of pilgrims roaming the city,” said Yasser al-Zahrani, who became a full time Uber driver after losing his construction job during a three-month national lockdown imposed in March.
    “It was a nightmare … there was barely any work to cover my bills,” he told Reuters.
    Before the pandemic, more than 1,300 hotels and hundreds of stores buzzed around the clock to cater to pilgrims visiting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
    Now many are closed, the windows of some gathering dust.
    At midnight, tens of registered pilgrims wearing face masks prepared to enter the Grand Mosque in small groups.
    “This year has been heavy and full of tragedies.    I am praying for God’s forgiveness for all mankind,” said Eman, a Pakistani national who resides in Saudi Arabia, accompanied by her daughter.
    As pilgrims circled the Kaaba, a stone structure that is the most sacred in Islam and the direction which Muslims face to pray, officials made sure they kept a safe distance apart.
    Worshippers are no longer allowed to touch the Kaaba, draped in black cloth adorned with Arabic calligraphy in gold.
    Some enjoyed a respite from the usual crowding.    “This is the easiest umrah I have ever made,” said a Saudi who identified himself as Abu Fahad.
NEW REALITY
    Pilgrimage is the backbone of a plan to expand tourism under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s drive to diversify the economy of the world’s top oil exporter.    It aimed to boost umrah visitors to 15 million by 2020, a plan disrupted by coronavirus, and to 30 million by 2030.
    Religious pilgrimage generates $12 billion in revenues from worshippers’ lodging, transport, gifts, food and fees, according to official data.
    Saudi Arabia hosted a drastically reduced haj in late July for the first time in modern history, with a few thousand domestic pilgrims instead of the usual white-clad sea of some 3 million Muslims.
    Near the Grand Mosque, hotels at high-rise towers were mostly empty and shopping malls closed hours before the resumption of umrah.    Dozens of stores and restaurants were shut.
    Economists have estimated Mecca’s hotel sector may lose at least 40% of pilgrimage-driven income this year.
    Five hotel workers, who declined to be identified, said they were put on unpaid leave during the lockdown and said hundreds of others in the hospitality sector were laid off.
    “We forgot what it feels like to actually interact with people, everything was online over the past months,” a supermarket employee, who declined to be named, said as he restocked empty shelves.
(Reporting by Marwa Rashad; Editing by Ghaida Ghantous and Frances Kerry)

10/4/2020 Kuwait’s New Emir Meets Senior U.S., Iranian Officials
FILE PHOTO: Kuwait's new Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah gestures as he takes the oath of office
at the parliament, in Kuwait City, Kuwait September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee
    KUWAIT (Reuters) – Kuwait’s new Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah met on Sunday with senior U.S. and Iranian officials who separately paid respects over the death of the Gulf Arab state’s former ruler.
    Sheikh Nawaf assumed power after the death last Tuesday of his brother Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad.    The late emir balanced his nation’s ties between larger neighbours Saudi Arabia and Iran and kept a strong relationship with the United States, which led a coalition that ended Iraq’s 1990-91 occupation of Kuwait.
    “He will be remembered as a great man and a special friend to the United States,” U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper said in comments tweeted by the U.S. Embassy during his visit.
    Kuwait’s state news agency said Sheikh Nawaf also received Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had lauded the late emir for fostering “moderation and balance.”
    Sheikh Nawaf, 83, is expected to uphold the OPEC member state’s oil and foreign policy, which promoted regional detente.
    He has yet to name a crown prince to help guide state affairs at a time when low crude prices and COVID-19 have hit state finances and amid tensions between foes Riyadh and Tehran.
    The emir has up to a year to name an heir but analysts expect a decision in coming weeks as senior al-Sabah dynasty members jostle for position.    Parliament must approve the choice.
    “An appointment would end this competition and send a signal of stability,” Dr. Mohamed Alfili, a professor of constitutional law at Kuwait University, told Reuters.
    Among mooted candidates are Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad, a former defence minister; Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad, a former premier; and Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Jaber, deputy chief of the National Guard.
    Another potential contender is Sheikh Mohammed Sabah al-Salem, a former foreign minister and the only candidate under discussion from the less powerful al-Salem family branch.
    Kuwaiti sources say Meshal, the eldest among them, appears most likely to get the role.
    Saudi Arabi’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called Sheikh Meshal on Saturday to offer his condolences, the Saudi state news agency reported.
(Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Frances Kerry)

10/4/2020 Protests Continue In Israel Amid COVID-19 Restrictions by OAN Newsroom
Israeli protesters holding Israeli flags stand on a bridge to demonstrate against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
and his government during Sukkot holiday in Hefer Valley, lsrael, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
    Several protesters were arrested during the ongoing demonstrations in Israeli, where some are calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation.    Despite coronavirus restrictions, residents gathered near the prime minister’s home on Saturday.
    This came after a new law was instituted to limit protests to within 0.6 miles of a person’s residence.    Protesters have accused Netanyahu of passing the law in an attempt to muzzle dissent.
    The prime minister has faced months of protests regarding his corruption trial and the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Israeli police officers on horseback block Israeli protesters during a demonstration against lockdown measures that they believe are aimed
at curbing protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
    “I am here in a limited demonstration because we have one huge dictatorship,” stated one protester.    “He (Prime Minister Netanyahu) destroyed almost everything of our democracy, our society.”
    The country’s tourism minister, Asaf Zamir, resigned in protest against the law on Friday.    He has said he will not “stay in a government that prevents de facto protests.”

10/4/2020 Israeli Minister Says Turkey Opposed To Regional Peace
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Defence Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz speaks to Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi
as both wear masks during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem May 31, 2020. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s defence minister accused Turkey on Sunday of destabilising the region and working against peacemaking efforts, and called for international pressure to bring about a change in the NATO power’s conduct.
    Israel generally shies from public censure of Turkey, with which it maintains trade and diplomatic relations despite the pro-Palestinian stance of Ankara’s government for more than a decade.
    Briefing Gulf Arab reporters as a follow-up to Israel’s founding of ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Defence Minister Benny Gantz described Turkey and Iran as “denying promotion of peace and supporting regional aggression.”
    Iran – Israel’s chief enemy – and Turkey have criticised the U.S.-brokered Sept. 15 normalisation deal between Israel and the Gulf powers, seeing a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.
    Citing Turkey’s actions in northern Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as its Libya intervention and contacts with Palestinian Hamas militants, Gantz said: “All of this pushes away from stability.”
    “Definitely the question of Turkey is a very complicated one, because Turkey is part of NATO,” Gantz told the Zoom conference, which was organised by The Arab Council for Regional Integration, a group that encourages Israeli-Arab outreach.
    “So we must take all the options that we have in our hands and try to influence it through international pressure to make sure that they are pulling their hands from direct terrorism.”
    The Palestinians have been dismayed by Israel’s diplomatic inroads in the Gulf, which side-step long-stalled talks on their statehood goal in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in Gaza.
    Israel, like the United States, has argued that the deals with the UAE and Bahrain could usher in a Palestine deal too.
    “We just want to make sure that we find the right balance between maintaining our security and enabling Palestinian sovereignty,” Gantz said.
(Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Barbara Lewis)

10/4/2020 Erdogan Says Turkey Aims To Boost Ties With Libya’s GNA
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with Libya's internationally recognized Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj
in Istanbul, Turkey, October 4, 2020. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTER
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday Turkey aims to strengthen relations with Libya’s internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) after a meeting with the country’s prime minister, who plans to step down this month.
    Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj signed a military cooperation deal with Erdogan last year that turned the tide in the GNA’s favour in a conflict against eastern Libyan forces under Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
    After a meeting between the men and their top deputies in Istanbul, the Presidency said Turkey will continue to stand in “full solidarity” with the GNA, aims to strengthen ties and remains ready to provide all kinds of support.
    Last month Erdogan said Turkey was upset by ally Sarraj’s decision to step down.    Serraj’s government declared a ceasefire on Aug. 21 in the north African country’s conflict.
    The Ankara-Tripoli military deal was signed alongside a maritime demarcation agreement that emboldened Turkey to ramp up hydrocarbon exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, prompting an ongoing clash with Greece and Cyprus over territorial rights.
(Reporting by Jonathan Spicer and Can Sezer; Editing in Daniel Wallis)

10/5/2020 Syria’s Assad Says Russian Bases In His Country Keep Balance Of Power In Region by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
FILE PHOTO: Syria's President Bashar al-Assad addresses the new members of parliament in
Damascus, Syria in this handout released by SANA on August 12, 2020. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
    AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian President Bashar al Assad said the continued presence of Russia’s major naval and air bases in his country help counter the influence of Western powers in the region as the battle to crush insurgents was winding down.
    In an interview with Russia’s Ministry of Defence TV channel Zvezda on the fifth anniversary of Moscow’s intervention in Syria that tipped the conflict in his favour, Assad said Russia’s two main bases were important to counter the West’s military presence in the region.
    “This global military balance needs Russia’s role ..this needs (military) bases..we benefit from this,” Assad said adding Syria needed such a presence that his military commanders say countered Washington’s dominance in the region.
    Alongside the Hmeimim base, from which Russia launches air strikes in support of Assad, Moscow also controls the Tartus naval facility in Syria, its only naval foothold in the Mediterranean, in use since the days of the Soviet Union.
    Russia launched air strikes in Syria in 2015 and began cementing its permanent military presence in 2017, following a deal with the government in Damascus.
    A Russian government document published last August showed that Syrian authorities have agreed to give Russia additional land and coastal waters in order to expand its military air base at Hmeimim. [L8N2FL5GB]
    Assad said his army, before Moscow’s military intervention, had been facing a “dangerous situation” with an armed opposition directly funded and equipped by Washington and other Western powers, alongside Saudi Arabia and Qatar who had seized main cities and towns.
    Assad has been able with Moscow’s massive aerial power and Iranian-backed militias’ support to regain most of the territory he lost in a decade long conflict.
    Washington and backers of the Syrian opposition say the Russian and Syrian bombing of opposition-held areas amounted to war crimes and were responsible for the displacement of millions and the death of thousands of civilians.
    Moscow and Damascus deny indiscriminate bombing of civilians and say they are fighting to rid the country of Islamist militants.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Michael Perry)

10/5/2020 Yemen’s War Shifts Focus To Marib, Thousands Of Displaced At Risk
A girl is pictured at a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Marib,
Yemen October 1, 2020. Picture taken October 1, 2020. REUTERS/Nusaibah Almuaalemi
    MARIB, Yemen (Reuters) – In Yemen’s gas-rich region of Marib, fighters loyal to the Saudi-backed government recited Koranic verses before launching a hail of mortar and machine gun fire towards rocky mountains, in a desperate bid to push back Houthi forces.
    The commanding officer peered through his binoculars at the dust and plumes of black smoke thrown up by the firing, aimed at a group of elusive enemy Houthi snipers.
    A few dozen kilometres (miles) away, hundreds of displaced civilians in makeshift camps waited for water, food and medicine from humanitarian groups – a further sign that despite United Nations peace efforts, the near six-year-old war grinds on.
    “We have more than 1,500 families in this camp and they already moved three times … because the fighting keeps following them,” said Mohsen Mushalla, director of al-Sowaida camp some 15 km from Marib city.
    “They don’t have water, electricity, a hospital and the nearest town is 10 km away. Just bringing water is enough hardship,” Mushalla added.
    Fighting has raged for months in Marib, the last stronghold of the internationally recognised government.
    It was ousted from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014 by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, prompting a Saudi-led coalition to intervene.
    The war, which has caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, has been in stalemate for years.    The government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has also fought separatists in the south who seek independence.
CEASEFIRE REMAINS ELUSIVE
    Some diplomats and experts say that a Houthi victory in Marib, which would hand the group complete control of the northern half of Yemen, could have “ripple effects” on the conflict across Yemen and scupper U.N. efforts to secure a nationwide ceasefire.
    Houthi forces have opened three frontlines in Marib region, advancing in recent months from the northern district of Madghal, the southern town of Rahabah and from the west in Sarwah.
    The group has seized six districts and large parts of Sarwah, which lies 80 km from Marib city – the last line of defence before Yemen’s biggest gas and oil fields. But progress has slowed and victory is not guaranteed.
    “Marib is a military operation for both sides but it is a pressure tool for the Houthis on the negotiating table,” said a diplomat involved in the talks.
    “Luckily, the fighting has slowed down over the last two weeks, thanks to the Houthi-Saudi indirect talks and because the battle has been exhausting for both sides.”
    Saudi Arabia and the Houthis began back-channel talks last year.
    The Saudi-led coalition and Houthi officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the status of fighting in Marib or the broader conflict.
SWEEPING DESERT LANDSCAPES
    The violence has escalated since U.N. Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths pressed both parties to agree on a ceasefire deal that would pave the way for broader negotiations to end the war that has killed more than 100,000 people.
    Earlier this month, Griffiths told the 15-member U.N. Security Council that he sent an advanced draft of the agreement to the parties, and warned the international community not to underestimate the political importance of Marib.
    The fighting in Marib has displaced nearly a million people, the U.N. said, and threatens around 750,000 refugees who have settled in the city since the war started in 2014.
    “We know that any intensification of the conflict will put them (displaced civilians) at extreme risk and we’re very worried that many of the people who live in Marib city will themselves become displaced by the conflict,” Lise Grande, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, told Reuters.
    In Marib city, giant billboards expressed support for President Hadi, while the red, white and black national colours flew in crowded streets.    Vendors offered grilled corn on the cob.
    “I fled the fighting in Aden, this city hosts refugees from all over Yemen … we call on the international community to stop missile strikes on the city as only refugees and children suffer from them,” said Nermeen al-Hashidi, a Marib resident.
    In al-Sowaida camp, tents are set amid the towering hills of the desert, and children walk barefoot while others drink water directly from big white cisterns left in the fierce heat.
    “I have a wife and five children living inside this tent,” said Mohamad Abdullah Qassim, a refugee.
    “The international organisations have provided us with it, but I’m not sure that they are very helpful.    Other tents burned in a big fire next to us.”
(Additional reporting by Mohamed Ghobari in Aden and Jacob Greaves and Tarek Fahmy in Dubai; Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

10/5/2020 Palestinian Business Leader Hopes UAE, Bahrain Will Press Israel To Stop Settlements by Rami Ayyub
Bashar Masri, a prominent Palestinian businessman and founder of Rawabi, the first planned Palestinian city
in the West Bank, poses during an interview with Reuters in Rawabi, October 5, 2020. REUTERS/Rami Ayyub
    RAWABI, West Bank (Reuters) – A top Palestinian business executive said on Monday that new Gulf Arab ties with Israel, condemned by Palestinian leaders, could also be an opportunity to apply fresh pressure to halt Jewish settlement in occupied land.
    Bashar Masri, a Palestinian-American who runs two of the Palestinians’ largest holding companies, said the Palestinians must find a way to turn agreements Israel struck last month with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain into “a positive thing for us.”
    Under the U.S.-brokered diplomatic push, Israel agreed to suspend plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
    Palestinian leaders have called Arab agreements to normalise relations with Israel a blow to their quest for an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territory Israel captured in a 1967 war.
    Masri, 59, said the Palestinian message to the UAE and Bahrain should now be: “Hey, why don’t you pressure Israel, who you’re talking to, to stop the settlements?.”
    “I hope they can turn these agreements to pressure Israel into concessions for the Palestinians,” he said.
    But Masri, chairman of Massar International, told Reuters he was uncertain that halting settlement expansion in the West Bank would be a priority for Gulf Arab states that agreed to official ties with Israel in part over shared concern over Iran.
    Most countries view the settlements that Israel has built on occupied land as illegal. Israel disputes this.
    Israel has hailed ties with the UAE and Bahrain as a major business opportunity, and Masri said Palestinian enterprises would not be inherently opposed to accepting investment from the two Gulf nations.
    Massar International oversees and manages more than 30 subsidiaries and investments in finance, tech, agriculture, media and real estate, including Rawabi, the first planned Palestinian city in the West Bank.
    Masri said that now that emotions over the deals have calmed down – “we burned the flags” – Palestinians have “no choice but to be optimistic.”
    “Our enemies want us to give up hope.    If we give up hope, they have exactly what they want, and there will be no Palestine, and no Palestinian people,” he said.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Peter Graff)

10/5/2020 Kurdish Official Says Thousands Of Syrians To Leave Crowded Camp In Northeast
FILE PHOTO: Women walk through al-Hol displacement camp in Hasaka governorate, Syria April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Kurdish-led authorities said on Monday up to 15,000 Syrians could be moved out of the overcrowded al-Hol camp in northeast Syria which holds displaced people and families of Islamic State fighters.
    Kurdish fighters have seized much of northern and eastern Syria from Islamic State with U.S. backing.    They have since held thousands of militants in prisons, while their wives and children – numbering tens of thousands, many of them foreigners – are living in camps.
    Al-Hol camp alone houses nearly 65,000 people, including about 28,000 Syrians, 30,000 Iraqis and some 10,000 other foreigners of many nationalities, according to U.N. estimates.
    “A decision will be issued to empty the Syrians from the camp completely,” said Kurdish leader Ilham Ahmed in a video published by the Syrian Democratic Council, the political arm of the Kurdish-led SDF forces holding the region.
    “Those who want to remain in the camp, this would not be the responsibility of the administration.”
    UNICEF said in August eight children had died in al-Hol, where it said children from 60 countries were languishing and COVID-19 infections among camp workers had worsened conditions.
    Badran Jia Kurd, a vice president of the Kurdish-led authority that runs the SDF region, said some Syrians had already left the camp and that the process would be sped up.
    He cited a need to reduce the burden on the camp and step up measures to curb security incidents which he said had risen.
SECURITY THREAT
    Kurdish leaders have repeatedly warned that the Islamic State fighters and their families pose a security threat and that they cannot detain the foreigners indefinitely, but foreign governments have hesitated to repatriate their citizens.
    The United States said last week all known Americans allegedly supporting Islamic State and being held in Syria had been returned, some to face criminal charges.    It urged European countries to account for their citizens.
    Jia Kurd said that of the estimated 28,000 Syrians in the al-Hol camp, about 15,000 were from the mainly Arab areas of Raqqa and Deir al-Zor, which the SDF captured from Islamic State, and would be able to return if they chose to.
    Many of the rest may not be able to leave if they have nowhere to go or do not want to return to territory under Syrian state rule, he added.
(Reporting by Ellen Francis and Beirut bureau; Editing by Gareth Jones)

10/5/2020 Ethiopia Says GERD Dam Will Begin Generating Power In Next 12 Months
FILE PHOTO: Water flows through Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam as it undergoes construction work on the
river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s giant new hydropower dam on the Blue Nile will begin generating power in the next 12 months, the country’s president said on Monday.
    “This year will be a year where the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will start generating power with the two turbines,” Sahle-Work Zewde said in a speech to parliament.
    Ethiopia is locked in a dispute with Egypt and Sudan over its $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Cairo has said could threaten its main supply of water.
(Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

10/5/2020 Ethiopia Bans Flights Over Dam For Security Reasons: Aviation Chief by Dawit Endeshaw
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile
in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia has banned all flights over its giant new hydropower dam on the Blue Nile for security reasons, the head of its civil aviation authority said on Monday, as the president pledged the dam would begin generating power in the next 12 months.
    The move could worsen Ethiopia’s dispute with Egypt and Sudan over its $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Cairo has said could threaten its main supply of water.
    “All flights have been banned to secure the dam,” the director-general of the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority, Wesenyeleh Hunegnaw, told Reuters by phone.    He declined to give more details on the reasons.
    Later on Monday in a speech to parliament, Ethiopia’s president Sahle-Work Zewde said: “This year will be a year where the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will start generating power with the two turbines.”
    She also said that work was underway to enable a second filling of the dam within the next 12 months.
    In July, Ethiopia said it had achieved its first year of filling the dam thanks to rainfall in the area.
    Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told the United Nations last month that the country has “no intention” of harming Sudan and Egypt with the dam, days after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi reiterated his concerns over the project. [L2N2GM1RF]
    Last week, air force chief Major General Yilma Merdasa told local media that Ethiopia was fully prepared to defend the dam from any attack.
    Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan failed to strike a deal on the operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam before Ethiopia began filling the reservoir behind the dam in July.
    The dam is at the centre of Ethiopia’s bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter.
    The structure is about 15 km (9 miles) from the Ethiopian border with Sudan on the Blue Nile – a tributary of the Nile river, which gives Egypt’s 100 million people about 90% of their fresh water.
    The United States decided last month to cut $100 million in aid to Ethiopia amid the dispute over the dam.    A U.S. State Department official who did not want to be identified told Reuters at the time that the decision to pause some funding to Ethiopia was triggered by concern over Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to start filling the dam before an agreement.
(Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; Editing by Maggie Fick and Andrew Heavens)

10/6/2020 Kuwait’s Cabinet Hands In Resignation, Emir Asks PM To Prepare For Election: KUNA
FILE PHOTO: Kuwait's new Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah takes the oath of office at
the parliament, in Kuwait City, Kuwait September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee
    KUWAIT (Reuters) – Kuwait’s new emir has asked the Gulf state’s cabinet to carry on its duties and prepare for parliamentary elections due this year after the prime minister handed in his government’s resignation, state news agency KUNA reported on Tuesday.
    Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah met Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who assumed power last Wednesday, and as per the country’s constitution “submitted his resignation and that of his government to ensure ministerial responsibilities are held by those who enjoy the emir’s confidence,” KUNA said.
    It said Sheikh Nawaf expressed his full confidence in the current cabinet, which was formed last December.
    Sheikh Nawaf, 83, took the helm of the U.S.-allied OPEC member state following the death of his brother Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed last Tuesday aged 91.
    Kuwaitis have been waiting for Sheikh Nawaf to name a crown prince to help guide state affairs at a time when low oil prices and COVID-19 have hit state finances against the backdrop of continued tensions between Kuwait’s larger neighbours Saudi Arabia and Iran.
    His choice must be approved by parliament.
(Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy, Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Alison Williams and Ed Osmond)

10/6/2020 Syria’s Assad Blames Turkey For Fighting Between Azeris And Armenians by Nvard Hovhannisyan and Nailia Bagirova
FILE PHOTO: A picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is seen on a door of a butcher shop, during a lockdown to prevent
the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Damascus, Syria April 22, 2020. REUTERS/Yamam Al Shaar/File Photo
    YEREVAN/BAKU (Reuters) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan of being the main instigator in the deadliest fighting between Armenian and Azeri forces for more than 25 years.
    In an interview published on Tuesday that is likely to exacerbate international frictions over the clashes in the South Caucasus region, Assad also said militants from Syria were being deployed to the conflict area.
    Turkey has denied involvement in the fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain enclave that belongs to Azerbaijan under international law but is governed by ethnic Armenians, and has dismissed accusations that it sent mercenaries to the area.
    But Assad told Russian news agency RIA: “He (Erdogan) … was the main instigator and the initiator of the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh between Azerbaijan and Armenia.”
    Reiterating accusations first levelled by French President Emmanuel Macron that Turkey has sent Syrian jihadists to fight in the conflict, Assad said: “Damascus can confirm this.”
    Assad appeared, however, to provide no evidence for his allegation.    Ankara did not immediately respond but has described similar accusations as part of attempts by Armenia to create “dark propaganda” about Turkey.
    The fighting that broke out on Sept. 27 has increased concern that a wider conflict could be triggered, dragging in Turkey, which has expressed solidarity with Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia.
    Azerbaijan and Armenia have accused each other of starting the fighting – the latest in long-running conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh that is closely watched abroad partly because of its proximity to pipelines that carry Azeri gas and oil to Europe.
    More than 250 people have been reported killed – and many more are feared dead – in clashes that have been fought with artillery, drones and tanks.    The sides have also posted footage of devastated and burning buildings, and people taking cover during heavy bombardments.
    Azerbaijan says Azeri cities outside Nagorno-Karabakh have been struck, and Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of targeting densely populated areas.    Both deny targeting civilians.
CALMER NIGHT
    Armenia on Tuesday reported a calmer night.
    “After the calls of the international community to immediately stop military actions in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, the line of conflict was relatively calm,” Defence Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan said.
    Armenia’s foreign ministry issued a new call for an immediate ceasefire and said “any attempt of military solution will be resolutely prevented.”
    Ceasefire appeals by the United States, Russia and France have failed to halt the fighting.    The three countries have for years led mediation efforts in a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed and has killed about 30,000 people.
    U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun spoke separately to the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia on Monday and urged the sides to agree to a ceasefire immediately and resume negotiations.
    The United States, Russia and France issued a new condemnation of the violence on Monday.
    Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was due to hold talks with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev in Baku on Tuesday.
    Officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said on Monday 223 of its servicemen and 19 civilians had been killed since the latest fighting began.    Many more people have been wounded.
    The Azeri prosecutor’s office said on Monday 25 Azeri civilians had been killed since fighting began.    Azerbaijan has not provided details of military casualties.
    Azerbaijan did not immediately issue an update on fighting on Tuesday.    But its foreign ministry accused Canada of “double standards” over a decision to suspend exports of some military technology over allegations the equipment was used by Azeri forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
(Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi, Maxim Rodionov in Moscow; Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

10/6/2020 North Cyprus To Reopen Beach Abandoned In No-Man’s Land Since 1974 Conflict by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Michele Kambas
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with Ersin Tatar, prime minister of the breakaway state of
Northern Cyprus, in Ankara, Turkey October 6, 2020. Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    ANKARA/NICOSIA (Reuters) – Northern Cyprus said on Tuesday it will reopen the beach area of an abandoned resort in no-man’s land, a move condemned by Greek Cypriots and likely to conjure up memories of the 1974 Turkish invasion that partitioned the island.
    Ersin Tatar, premier of the breakaway state of Northern Cyprus, made the announcement in Ankara alongside Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who said he backed the decision on Varosha, sealed off within barbed wire for decades.
    The move could weigh on Turkey’s dispute with European Union members Cyprus and Greece over territorial rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.    Tensions had eased after Ankara and Athens agreed to resume talks, but Cyprus, a close ally of the Greece, promptly condemned the move to partially reopen the abandoned resort and said it would file a recourse to the United Nations Security Council.
    Greece also criticised the move, and said it would support Cyprus.
    “God willing, we will start to use the Maras beach on Thursday morning together with our people,” Tatar said, using Varosha’s Turkish name.    Northern Cyprus is only recognised as a state by Turkey.
    Sources in Cyprus said the plan was to open up about 1.5 km (1 mile) of beachfront to the public and not the approximately 6 square km (2.3 sq miles) inland that includes abandoned hotels and residences which its population of 39,000 people fled in 1974 during a Turkish invasion following a Greek inspired coup.
    “We hope that the whole of Maras is opened to use after ongoing work is completed by respecting property rights,” Erdogan said, pledging support for Turkish Cypriot officials.
    Nicos Anastasiades, president of Cyprus’s internationally-recognised government – and who as recently as last week was involved in a tense stand-off with his EU peers for his push for sanctions on Turkey, said: “this is an exceptionally unacceptable situation.”
    Varosha is a suburb of the larger city of Famagusta, which, in Greek – Ammochostos – means “buried in sand.”    It has a pristine coastline of thick golden sand, most of it in the now out-of-bounds Varosha quarter.
    Presently, about 200 metres (660 ft) of it is accessible to the public under the towering shadow of a hotel and a three-storey resort bombed during the war and left rotting since then.    The rest of it is fenced off by rusting barbed wire which extends into the sea, guarded by Turkish soldiers.
    Nicosia had already been in touch with the governments of the five permanent members of the Security Council in the hours leading up to the announcement, people with knowledge of the matter said.
    Tatar had signalled steps to reopen Varosha in August, saying a revival of the area, which contains derelict hotels, churches and residences, would bring trade and tourism benefits.
    Presidential elections are scheduled to be held in Northern Cyprus on Sunday, with Tatar a candidate.
    Varosha has been off limits along ceasefire lines to all but the Turkish military since 1974 and has stood as a bargaining chip in the decades-long dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
    Several peacemaking efforts have made no significant progress and the discovery of offshore energy resources has complicated efforts to resolve the island’s partition.
(Additional reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer, Mark Heinrich and Marguerita Choy)

10/6/2020 UAE Foreign Minister Emphasizes Return Of Hope To Palestinians And Israelis To Work For Two-State Solution: WAM
UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan speaks during a news conference with his
Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (not pictured) following their
historic meeting at Villa Borsig in Berlin, Germany, October 6, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/Pool
    CAIRO (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister said on Tuesday, in a joint statement with Israeli and German counterparts, that the most important thing that must be emphasized today is the return of hope to Palestinians and Israelis to work for a two-state solution, UAE state news agency (WAM) reported.
    Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said he also discussed with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi in Berlin cooperation in the energy field, WAM said.
    The foreign ministers met in Germany on Tuesday to discuss further steps in normalizing relations after signing an agreement last month in Washington to normalise diplomatic ties and forge a broad new relationship.
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah and Alaa Swilam; Editing by Leslie Adler)

10/6/2020 Turkey’s Erdogan To Visit Qatar, Kuwait On Wednesday
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during a meeting in
Ankara, Turkey October 6, 2020. Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will visit Qatar and Kuwait on Wednesday, his office said.     He will meet Qatar’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.    In Kuwait, he is due to meet the new ruler, Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, and convey condolences over the death of the emir’s predecessor and half brother, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed, who died at 91 last week.
    The visit to Qatar is notable as Qatar is one of the few Arab countries that supports Turkey’s intervention in Libya, where it helped the Tripoli-based government defeat an assault on the capital by forces based in the east.
(Reporting by Alaa Swilam; Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Editing by Chris Reese and Peter Graff)

10/6/2020 Turkey’s EU Membership Bid Evaporating, Commission Says by Robin Emmott
FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters
in Brussels, Belgium August 21, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s executive said on Tuesday that Turkey’s government was undermining its economy, eroding democracy and destroying independent courts, leaving its bid to join the EU further away than ever.
    The criticism drew an angry retort from Ankara.
    Blaming “excessively” centralised presidential power for deteriorating conditions in freedom of speech, prisons and the central bank, the European Commission said the government was also exposing Turkey to “rapid changes in investors’ sentiment.”
    “The EU’s serious concerns on continued negative developments in the rule of law, fundamental rights and the judiciary have not been credibly addressed by Turkey,” the Commission said in its annual report on the country.
    “Turkey’s (EU) accession negotiations have effectively come to a standstill,” it said.
    A NATO ally, Turkey has been negotiating EU membership since 2005 after economic and political reforms that made it an important emerging market economy and trade partner.
    Although never easy because of disputed Turkish claims over Cyprus, talks rapidly unravelled after a failed coup in Turkey in 2016 and President Tayyip Erdogan’s ensuing crackdown on perceived opponents.
    “In Turkey, the serious backsliding observed since the 2016 coup attempt continued,” the Commission said.
    The Turkish Foreign Ministry dismissed the report as “biased, far from constructive” and rejected criticism of its economy, democracy and courts.
    “Just as it (Turkey) is not straying from the EU, it remains committed to the EU membership process despite attempts by some circles to push it away,” the ministry said.    “Turkey is acting within the framework of universal norms, in line with fundamental rights, democracy and the principle of rule of law.”
    Turkey has faced several years of harsh Commission reports, and the EU executive once again intensified its criticism, citing monetary policy, public administration and widespread corruption as failures of the Turkish government.
    While the EU, Turkey’s biggest foreign investor, relies on the country to house some 4 million Syrians fleeing civil war rather than let them proceed to Europe, Brussels also reiterated its threat to impose economic sanctions on Ankara over an energy dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Giles Elgood)
[I laugh about the above article because Turkey was the first Muslim country that let the Pope come into it, and that is why he chose Turkey because he knew they would not kill him if they wanted to get into the European Union.    So after all this time the EU is dissing them.].

10/6/2020 After Signs Of Rapprochement, Turkey-EU Ties Sour Again by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ali Kucukgocmen
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talks to the media after attending Friday prayers in Istanbul, Turkey, August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
    ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s relations with the European Union appeared to take a turn for the worse on Tuesday, as Ankara voiced dissatisfaction with the result of last week’s EU summit and the bloc said the country’s bid for membership was evaporating.
    Tensions between the EU and Ankara had eased in recent weeks as Turkey and EU member Greece agreed to hold exploratory talks to solve several longstanding disputes, including a standoff over maritime claims in the eastern Mediterranean.
    Last Friday EU leaders assuaged concerns raised by Cyprus, which had been pushing for sanctions on Ankara, by assuring it that the bloc would punish Turkey if it continues oil and gas drilling in disputed areas of the eastern Mediterranean.
    But President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the outcome of last week’s EU summit was not sufficient to overcome the problems in Turkey-EU ties.
Erdogan “stated that the EU had succumbed to pressure and blackmail from Greek Cypriots and Greece despite Turkey’s good faith,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement.
    In an interview with Italy’s Nova agency, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey was disappointed by the decisions from the EU summit, which he described as “far from objective” and not carefully drawn out.
CYPRUS, FRANCE
    Tensions were further stoked on the island of Cyprus on Tuesday when Erdogan and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar announced the reopening of a beach in the abandoned town of Varosha in northern Cyprus.
    The move is likely to anger Greek Cypriots, 39,000 of whom once lived in Varosha before fleeing advancing Turkish forces 46 years ago during a Turkish invasion that split the island.
    Announcing the move, Erdogan accused the EU of stalling Turkey’s membership bid for years and said the same had occurred during last week’s summit.
    “We know this will disturb a lot of places but some people have to know that it was the Turkish Cypriots who were patient until today,” he told a news conference.
    Turkey began negotiations in 2005 to join the EU but they have long been stalled amid disagreements over human rights, Cyprus and other issues.
    The European Commission accused Erdogan’s government on Tuesday of undermining Turkey’s economy, eroding its democracy and destroying independent courts, and said this record left Ankara further away than ever from EU membership.
    Turkey’s foreign ministry dismissed the report as “biased, far from constructive,” saying Ankara rejected the criticisms directed at its economy, democracy and courts, and remained committed to the EU membership process.
    In a further sign of fraying ties, Erdogan upbraided French President Emmanuel Macron over comments he made last week promising to fight “Islamist separatism.”    He said the remarks showed the French leader’s “impertinence.”
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu, Ali Kucukgocmen and Can Sezer; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer, Gareth Jones and Alexandra Hudson)

10/7/2020 In Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, Erdogan Eyes Turkey’s “Place In World Order” by Orhan Coskun and Jonathan Spicer
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin
(not pictured) following their talks in Moscow, Russia March 5, 2020. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS
    ANKARA (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan’s strong backing for Azerbaijan in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has set Turkey apart from other big nations and alarmed NATO allies that are demanding a ceasefire.
    But for Erdogan, the resolute stance is a strategic priority and a costly necessity that reinforces his strategy of flexing military muscle abroad to retain support at home.
    The president has described Ankara’s support for Azerbaijan as part of Turkey’s quest for its “deserved place in the world order.”
    He sees an opportunity to alter the status quo over Nagorno-Karabakh – in which France, the United States and Russia have for decades led international mediation efforts and ethnic Armenians have retained control of the enclave even though it is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.
    “Turkey’s logic in almost all corners of the map is disruption.    Anything that undermines the status quo is good for it, because the previous status quo was seen to counter its interests,” said Galip Dalay, fellow at Robert Bosch Academy.
    “In Nagorno-Karabakh there was a frozen conflict in which it remained in Armenia’s hands. Turkey wants to undermine this game even if it cannot fully determine it” given Russia’s traditional influence in the region, he said.
    Turkey’s stance – sending an implicit threat to Armenia and a message of caution to Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia – reflects its confidence in drone warfare used in Syria, Libya and Iraq, political analysts said.
    Turkish-made drones are now spearheading Azeri attacks and one senior official in Ankara told Reuters that Turks were providing infrastructure and support for the weapons, though there are no troops in the field.
    Erdogan is also betting that, despite their differences over Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey and Russia get on well enough to prevent a wider conflict in the region.br> YEARS OF “NEGLECT
    Russia, the United States and France have led calls for a ceasefire over Nagorno-Karabakh but Erdogan says they have neglected the crisis over the past three decades and should not lead peacemaking.    Turkey says a lasting peace will depend on proposals being made for what happens after hostilities end.
    Erdogan’s stance had worsened a war of words with France, whose population includes many of Armenian origin, but it is accepted by Turkey’s main opposition parties.
    Military successes and the flexing of military muscle in other parts of the world have helped his ruling AK Party, allied with nationalists, retain an edge in opinion polls despite a currency depreciation that has worsened economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
    Erdogan’s job approval rose nearly 5% last month, according to MetroPoll research group, after a standoff with the European Union over Mediterranean territorial rights.
    “All of these conflicts out there boost the perception that Turkey is a country under siege, rightly or wrongly,” said Sinan Ulgen, chairman of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank.
    But he said that “ultimately it’s the economy that determines the political contest.”
OBLIGATION AND PRIORITY
    Two economic contractions in as many years have halted the boom years under Erdogan, and Moody’s ratings agency says Turkey risks a balance-of-payments crisis after a nearly 25% drop in the lira this year.
    Ankara’s reliance on gas imports from Azerbaijan, which jumped 23% in the first half of 2020, are also an incentive to take a firm position on Nagorno-Karabakh.
    Defence spending jumped 16% this year to $7 billion, or 5% of the overall budget, and the military budget has soared nearly 90% in a decade.
    But cross-border campaigns such as those waged by Turkey in northern Syria, Iraq and Libya are a priority for Erdogan, a second Turkish official said.
    “Neither the pandemic nor the deterioration of the budget will be an obstacle to defence spending,” the official said.    “It’s not preferable but it’s obligatory.    Turkey is in the field with the United States and Russia.    We cannot think or act small.”
    A diminished U.S. presence in the region has left gaps that Turkey and Russia have sought to fill, using diplomacy to help contain conflicts in Syria’s Idlib province and in Libya, two protracted proxy wars in which they are on opposing sides.
    Ankara has denied allegations – including by Russia – that it has sent Syrian mercenaries to support Azerbaijan.
    Close cooperation with Moscow in many areas means “there is no concern over being dragged into a conflict with Russia,” the second official said.
(Reporting by Jonathan Spicer and Orhan Coskun; Additional reporting by Ece Toksabay and Can Sezer; Editing by Timothy Heritage)
[LIKE TRUMP SAID THESE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN FIGHTING FOR 200 YEARS OVER RELIGION AND TERRITORY AND WE WILL NOT GET INVOLVED UNLESS THEY ATTACK A NATO COUNTRY AFTER GIVING THEM A CHANCE TO MAKE PEACE.].

10/7/2020 Kuwait’s New Crown Prince Is A Security Czar Who Shunned Limelight by Ahmed Hagagy
FILE PHOTO: Kuwait's new Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah takes the oath of office at the parliament,
in Kuwait City, Kuwait September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee/File Photo
    KUWAIT (Reuters) – Kuwait’s crown prince in waiting, Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah, is a forceful figure who steered clear of political battles and public roles and spent much of his career helping build the Gulf Arab state’s security and defence apparatus.
    Close to the late emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad and new ruler Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad, Kuwait experts say, he is expected to help guide state affairs in the U.S.-allied OPEC member state.
    “The emir will listen to his views, he will have an impact in that way,” said Kuwaiti political scientist and former U.N. envoy Ghanim Alnajjar.    “His focus will be security, the judiciary and other domestic issues.”
    Sheikh Meshal, 80, has been deputy chief of the National Guard since 2004 and was head of State Security for 13 years after joining the interior ministry in the 1960s.    He had been offered several senior positions in the past but declined them, the experts say.
    Sheikh Meshal, who attended Britain’s Hendon Police College, was credited with helping to reform Kuwait’s National Guard, and Kuwaiti journalist Faisal al-Qanae once described him as the “biggest enemy” of cronyism and lawbreaking.
    Sheikh Meshal’s appointment, which must be approved by parliament, temporarily halts jostling among senior members of the ruling Al Sabah dynasty for a position that had traditionally managed the government’s often tense relationship with the assembly, for which elections are to be held this year.
    The roles of heir apparent and prime minister were split in 2003 due to the health of the then-crown prince.    The premier has since dealt with frequent gridlock between the hand-picked cabinet and the assembly, which has hindered investment and economic reforms.
    Observers say that while both Sheikh Nawaf and Sheikh Meshal kept a low public profile, the latter has stronger views.
REFORMS
    Sheikh Nawaf, who is seen upholding Kuwait’s current oil, investment and foreign policies, takes the helm as the country faces a liquidity crisis caused by low oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic, which the National Guard has played a visible role in combating.
    Diplomats and analysts say the immediate focus will be on domestic issues with perceived corruption, living standards and the economy the top priorities for most Kuwaitis in a country with a cradle-to-grave welfare system and where expatriates constitute a big part of the workforce.
    Deutsche Bank has estimated that Kuwait’s nearly $140 billion economy could shrink by 7.8% this year in what would be one of the worst economic crunches among Gulf oil exporters.
    Key will be cooperation between cabinet and the outspoken assembly, the Gulf region’s oldest legislature that wields power to block bills and question ministers.    Clashes have led to successive government reshuffles or dissolution of parliament.
    The body was often in the past dominated by opposition groups until Sheikh Sabah in 2012 broke their hold by using executive powers to amend the voting system, sparking some of the largest protests in the country’s history.
    Kuwaiti opposition figures have proposed electoral reforms and a pardon for dissidents in recent meetings with Sheikh Nawaf before he assumed power.
    “Reformers and independents are looking for reconciliation (with the government), enhancing freedom of speech, economic and political reforms, combating corruption, demographics,” Alnajjar said.
    “It will be difficult to amend the electoral law with elections coming up … but anything is possible.”
(Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy and Ghaida Ghantous; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Giles Elgood)

10/7/2020 Lebanon’s President Says Consultations On New Government Start Next Week
Lebanese President Michel Aoun delivers televised address to the public on eve of Lebanon's centenary at the presidential
palace in Baabda, Lebanon in this undated handout released on August 30, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS/Files
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said on Wednesday parliamentary consultations to choose a new prime minister who will form the country’s next government will begin on Oct. 15.
    Lebanon’s government resigned on Aug. 10 in the wake of a devastating blast that killed nearly 200 people and wrecked swathes of the capital, Beirut.
    Mustapha Adib, the country’s former ambassador to Berlin, was picked on Aug. 31 to form a cabinet after French President Emmanuel Macron intervened, securing a consensus on naming him in a country where power is shared out between Muslim and Christian sects.
    He quit in late September, however, after trying for almost a month to line up a non-partisan cabinet.    His resignation dealt a blow to a French plan aimed at rallying sectarian political leaders to tackle the worst crisis since the nation’s 1975-1990 civil war.
    Under the French roadmap, the new government would take steps to tackle corruption and implement reforms needed to trigger billions of dollars of international aid to fix an economy that has been crushed by a mountain of debt.
    But Adib’s efforts stumbled in a dispute over appointments, particularly the post of finance minister, who will have a key role in drawing up economic rescue plans.
    Macron admonished Lebanon’s leaders following Adib’s resignation, saying the failed efforts amounted to a collective “betrayal”, but vowed to push ahead with his efforts.
    The country’s leaders bristled at Macron’s accusations, but there has been little movement since.
(Reporting by Raya Jalabi; Editing by Dominic Evans)

10/7/2020 Armenia Says Turkey Seeks To Continue Genocide In Nagorno-Karabakh
An ethnic Armenian soldier fires an artillery piece during a military conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh,
in this handout picture released October 5, 2020. Press office of Armenian Defense Ministry/PAN Photo/Handout via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) – Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said the actions of Turkey and Azerbaijan amounted to a “terroristic attack” over Nagorno-Karabakh that formed part of the continuation of Armenian genocide.
    “What we are facing is an Azeri-Turkish international terroristic attack,” Pashinyan told Sky News.    “To me there is no doubt that this is a policy of continuing the Armenian genocide and a policy of reinstating the Turkish empire.”
    The Armenian genocide refers to the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923.
    Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One, but contests the figures and denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute a genocide.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

10/7/2020 Exclusive: Qatar Makes Formal Request For F-35 Jets – Sources by Mike Stone
FILE PHOTO: An F-35 pilot prepares for take off from the Vermont Air National Guard Base with the flag of the United States, before a flyover
in South Burlington, Vermont, U.S. May 22, 2020. Picture taken May 22, 2020. U.S. Air National Guard/Miss Julie M. Shea/Handout via REUTERS.
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Qatar has submitted a formal request to the United States to buy stealthy F-35 fighter jets, three people familiar with the deal said, in a deal that if pursued could strain U.S. ties with Saudi Arabia and Israel.
    The request for the Lockheed Martin Co jets was submitted by the Persian Gulf state in recent weeks, the people said.
    A U.S. State Department spokesman said, “As a matter of policy, the United States does not confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they are formally notified to Congress.”
    The Qatari embassy in Washington, D.C. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    Keen to counter Iran in the region, the U.S. helps to arm allies including Qatar, host to the largest U.S. military facility in the Middle East, and home to 8,000 U.S. service members and Department of Defense civilian employees.
    The request follows an August deal between the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates in which Washington agreed to consider giving the Gulf state approval to buy F-35s in a side deal to a U.S.-brokered agreement called the Abraham Accord to normalize diplomatic ties with Israel.
    Israel has signaled stiff opposition to a UAE sale and would likely be just as resistant to one with Qatar, fearing it could undercut its military advantage in the Middle East.
    In Washington, a fourth person familiar with the matter said concern about Qatar’s links to Hamas have frequently surfaced over arms sales to the Gulf state.    But in the case of an advanced warplane like the F-35, it could be a deal breaker.
    One of the people said Qatar’s letter of request for the jets, the first formal step in the legal process of foreign military sale, was not directly linked to its adoption of the Abraham Accord. Nor has Qatar shown any sign it will normalize ties with Israel.
    U.S. and Qatar have close ties. In September Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani met in Washington as the U.S. hopes to move forward with naming Qatar as a major non-NATO ally.
    Despite being U.S. allies, both the potential Qatari and UAE F-35 deals must satisfy a decades-old agreement with Israel that states any U.S. weapons sold to the region must not impair Israel’s “qualitative military edge,” guaranteeing U.S. weapons furnished to Israel are “superior in capability” to those sold to its neighbors.
    Saudi Arabia, Washington’s most powerful and closest partner among the Gulf Arab states, is also likely to oppose the United States supplying F-35s to Qatar.    Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt remain locked in a three-year standoff with Qatar that the Trump administration has tried to end, so far without success.
    A formal letter of request typically contains specifications that would be used to furnish pricing data to a customer, but currently the F-35A, a fifth generation stealthy fighter jet, costs around $80 million.
    Any F-35 sale could take years to negotiate and deliver, giving a new U.S. presidential administration ample time to halt the deals.    Any sale would also need congressional approval.
    Poland, the most recent F-35 customer, purchased 32 of the jets, but will not receive its first delivery until 2024.
(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington D.C., additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Chris Sanders and Edward Tobin)

10/7/2020 U.S. Senators Urge Sanctions On Turkey Over Russian Missile System
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Republican and a Democratic U.S. senator called on Wednesday for President Donald Trump’s administration to impose sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft system, after a report that Turkey may be planning a comprehensive test.
    Republican James Lankford and Democrat Chris Van Hollen wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking about the report and saying that Washington’s failure to act more decisively about the S-400 purchase had “emboldened” Turkey’s government.
    Turkey bought a batch of the missile systems from Russia last year, leading to its suspension by Washington from the U.S. F-35 stealth fighter jet program.    The United States has said Turkey risks U.S. sanctions if it deploys the Russian-made S-400s, but has not yet imposed them.
    The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.
    Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Turkey was planning to conduct a comprehensive test of the S-400 missile-defense system, citing people familiar with the matter.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

10/7/2020 Jordan’s King Abdullah Appoints Palace Aide Bisher Al Khasawneh PM
FILE PHOTO: Jordan's Foreign Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh poses as he arrives for the
Mideast peace conference in Paris, France, January 15, 2017. REUTERS/Bertrand Guay/POOL
    AMMAN (Reuters) – Jordan’s King Abdullah on Wednesday appointed veteran diplomat and palace aide Bisher al Khasawneh as the new prime minister, days after accepting the resignation of Omar al-Razzaz, the royal palace said.
    The monarch dissolved parliament on Sept. 27 at the end of its four-year term, a move that under constitutional rules meant the government had to resign within a week.
    In a letter of designation, the monarch said he entrusted Khasawneh, who has been a palace advisor since last year after a career mostly spent as a diplomat and peace negotiator with Israel, to form a cabinet of qualified ministers who would rise to the country’s challenges.
    Khasawneh will oversee parliamentary elections due on Nov. 10 whose outcome is expected under an electoral law that marginalises the Islamist opposition to maintain a majority of pro-government deputies.
    The country is facing a peak in COVID-19 infections at a time of rising popular discontent over worsening economic conditions and curbs on public freedoms under emergency laws.
    Jordan’s economy is expected to shrink by 6% this year as it grapples with its worst economic crisis in many years, with unemployment and poverty aggravated by the pandemic.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Catherine Evans)

10/8/2020 Israel’s Second Lockdown Carries A Hefty Economic Price by Maayan Lubell, Tova Cohen and Steven Scheer
A youth wearing a protective face mask sits on a pavement near shuttered shops amid Israel's second national coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) lockdown in Ashkelon, Israel October 7, 2020. Picture taken October 7, 2020. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    JERUSALEM/TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Restaurateur Tamir Barelko has had enough.
    Israel’s decision last month to impose a second nationwide lockdown after a resurgence in coronavirus infections has dealt a hammer blow to the economy and the livelihoods of small business owners, Barelko says.
    He launched a petition calling for small businesses to defy the lockdown and reopen from Sunday, the end of the Jewish holiday season, and has attracted more than 60,000 supporters for his campaign on Facebook over the past two weeks.
    The finance ministry and central bank support reopening offices of companies that can avoid face-to-face contact with customers, or employ less than 10 workers – highlighting growing tensions over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the pandemic, which is set to see Israel’s economy shrink this year for the first time in nearly two decades.
    “The economy is breaking down, people’s hope is breaking down,” said Barelko, speaking in the Tel Aviv restaurant he runs, now empty of customers.    “If the government does not give us the opportunity to live and to provide for our families, we’ll do it ourselves.”
    Thousands of people have taken to the streets across Israel for almost daily protests that have built up since July, demanding Netanyahu resign over his handling of the crisis and over corruption charges he faces in court, which he denies.
    The country, with a population of nine million, has reported nearly 280,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 1,800 deaths.
    Schools and most offices, shops and restaurants are closed, unless they provide “vital services” such as supermarkets, pharmacies and banks, and people must stay within a kilometre from their home – harsher restrictions than in many other countries fighting a second wave.
    Netanyahu had wide public backing when he imposed the first lockdown, lasting from mid-March until late May, which flattened the first wave of COVID-19.
    But as infections soared after schools and businesses reopened, the cabinet bowed to pressure from some coalition partners and watered down limited lockdowns on infection epicentres to the extent that the curbs became ineffective.
    On Sept. 18 the entire country was put under full lockdown again, extended on Wednesday until Oct. 13, a measure now widely seen as an avoidable failure for which Israelis will pay dearly.
    An Israeli official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said political pressures were “only part of the picture.”    Partial restrictions would not have been sustainable in such a small, close-knit country.    “A partial lockdown is very difficult to do in Israel,” the official said.
    Opinion polls, however, show only about a quarter of Israelis have confidence in government policies to contain the spread of the virus.
    “The second lockdown signals to investors and consumers that this is a whole different story, the health crisis is much worse,” said Momi Dahan, an economist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.    “(It) also signals that the management of the crisis is poor and amateur.”
    Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron told Army Radio on Thursday that the government’s decision making “could certainly have been more orderly.”
    Israel’s economy tipped into recession in the second quarter and is set to shrink by 6% this year, the OECD forecast in a report published on Sept. 23, its worst performance ever, as lockdowns depress business activity and consumer confidence.
    Without a budget in place amid political bickering, Israel has fewer resources to deal with the crisis.    So far it has allocated 100 billion shekels ($29 billion) on measures including aid to businesses whose revenue has fallen by at least 25% due to the pandemic.
SLOW RECOVERY
    Economists initially predicted the economy would rebound quickly from the pandemic, but the OECD now cautions “the recovery will be slow,” forecasting gross domestic product will grow by only 2.1% in 2021.
    Daily infections of COVID-19 have dropped from around 8,000 to below 5,000 since the second lockdown began, but Netanyahu has said restrictions could persist for many more months.
    “There is cautious optimism that the lockdown is working but it is too early to say,” Netanyahu said on Twitter on Thursday.    “I will continue to make the right decisions and do what is right for you, the citizens of Israel.    I will not bow to political pressure from either side, from inside the government or outside it.”
    But pressure is growing.
    “It is important we resume activity of the small businesses,” Yaron told Army Radio.    “Businesses that don’t receive customers, where data has not shown high infection risk, comprise almost 10% of the workforce and product – almost 400,000 workers.”
    Asked if he thought they should open, Yaron replied: “Yes.”
    The finance ministry said on Tuesday that small businesses and businesses that don’t serve customers should reopen from next week, after the Sukkot holiday.
    Israel’s unemployment rate has tripled since the first quarter of this year to above 11%, a 15-year high, and the finance ministry’s chief economist, Shira Greenberg, estimates a 5-1/2-week-lockdown would cost the economy 25 billion shekels, or 1% of economic output.
    Business analytics firm Dun & Bradstreet has estimated 80,000-85,000 firms in Israel will go out of business this year, a 7-8% decline in the number of businesses.
    It is not clear how many small businesses will defy the lockdown and reopen on Sunday, but Jonathan Katz, chief economist at Leader Capital Markets, said that if businesses can get back to normal by the end of the year Israel’s economy could grow by 5% in 2021.
    “If we avoid a third shutdown and most of the damage is in Q4 of 2020 we would be starting 2021 with a clean slate,” he said.
    The Israeli official said small businesses would likely be the first to open when lockdown is relaxed, “but we are not there yet.”
    Katz said the Bank of Israel may cut its benchmark interest rate to zero for the first time at its monetary policy meeting on Oct. 22, from 0.1%.
    Other measures the bank could take to support the economy include doubling its government bond purchase programme to 100 billion shekels and extending long-term loans to banks at negative interest rates, on condition the loans translate to credit for the private sector, he said.
($1 = 3.3916 shekels)
(Additional reporting by Rami Amichay; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Susan Fenton)

10/8/2020 Jordan Returns To Weekend Lockdown As COVID-19 Cases Mount by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective masks shop in a mall amid fears of a rising number
of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Amman, Jordan October 7, 2020. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
    AMMAN (Reuters) – Jordan will enter a nationwide 48-hour lockdown on Friday for the first time in months as health officials worry a major spike in coronavirus infections could threaten its stretched healthcare system, officials said.
    The country has seen what officials say is an “exponential” rise, with around 10,000 cases confirmed in just over a week – a near-doubling of the total number of infections since the first cases in early March and a reversal what had been among the lowest infection and death rates in the Middle East.
    Senior officials are struggling to avoid a broader lockdown that the hard-hit economy can ill afford.    The IMF forecasts the economy, which was struggling even before the health crisis, will shrink 6% this year, the first contraction since 1990.
    “The last thing we want is a complete lockdown for two weeks or three weeks, we don’t want to reach this ..It remains the last weapon if cases rise unbelievably high and lead to our hospitals being overwhelmed,” Health Minister Saad Jaber told state television this week.
    The community spread of the virus has forced authorities to maintain the closure of schools for 2 million pupils, after a brief resumption of lessons at the start of last month, and impose strict bans on large public gatherings.
    Thousands of troops have been deployed to enforce the lockdown, which begins at midnight.
    Daily cases hit a peak of 1,824 last Monday, with total number of infections now standing at 20,200 and 137 deaths.
    Officials blamed the initial outbreak in Jordan on infected truck drivers crossing the northern border with Syria.    Authorities have tried to control the spread of the virus with partial curfews to isolate neighbourhoods in the capital and outlying towns.
    King Abdullah has criticised the government for mistakes in handling the pandemic, and ordered newly appointed Prime Minister Bisher al Khaswaneh on Wednesday to raise hospital capacity in coming weeks and ramp up testing.
    The king has also pushed the armed forces to help set up a 2,000-bed field hospital in the Dead Sea region.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Alex Richardson)

10/8/2020 Israel’s Parliament To Ratify UAE Deal On Monday, Netanyahu Says
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces a peace agreement to establish diplomatic ties, between Israel and
the United Arab Emirates, during a news conference at the prime minster office in Jerusalem, August 13, 2020. Abir Sultan /Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that he will bring diplomatic accords with the United Arab Emirates before the Israeli parliament on Oct. 12.
    Israel and the UAE signed agreements in Washington in September to normalize diplomatic ties and to forge a broad new relationship.
    Netanyahu said he intends to get cabinet and parliamentary ratification for the deal, which marks a strategic realignment of Middle East countries against Iran.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Toby Chopra)

10/8/2020 Kuwait’s New Crown Prince Pledges Commitment To Democracy And Peace by Ahmed Hagagy
Kuwait parliament members and ministers attend a session to approve the appointment of Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad
as Kuwait's crown prince in Kuwait City, Kuwait October 8, 2020. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee
    KUWAIT (Reuters) – Kuwait’s new Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah took the oath of office in parliament on Thursday, pledging the Gulf Arab state’s commitment to democracy and peace and calling on Kuwaitis to shun divisions.
    The assembly unanimously endorsed the octogenarian Sheikh Meshal for the role in what has been a smooth succession that retained power firmly within the ruling family’s oldest ranks following last week’s death of Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad.
    New ruler Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad, 83, assumed power last Wednesday in the U.S.-allied OPEC member state as it faces a liquidity crunch caused by low oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic against the backdrop of continued tensions between larger neighbours Saudi Arabia and Iran.
    Sheikh Meshal, addressing parliament, said Kuwait would uphold its regional and international commitments and “its path of peace and democratic approach,”
    He pledged to “raise the banner of popular participation and promote a tolerant spirit that shuns division.”
    Diplomats and analysts say that due to Sheikh Nawaf’s low-key style and age, he may delegate a larger portion of responsibilities to Sheikh Meshal, a forceful figure who had been deputy head of the National Guard since 2004 and before that headed State Security for 13 years, shunning public-facing roles.
    The succession is not expected to alter oil policy or a foreign policy shaped by Sheikh Sabah that defended Arab unity and balanced ties with Saudi Arabia, Iran and former occupier Iraq.     Sheikh Meshal’s rise stands in contrast to some other Gulf states, most notably Saudi Arabia, where ruling families are starting to give top jobs to younger princes.
    Sheikh Nawaf and Sheikh Meshal, both brothers of the late ruler, are expected to focus on domestic issues as the country prepares for parliamentary elections this year and the government tries to shore up its finances.
    Frequent clashes between the hand-picked cabinet, in which ruling family members hold most senior posts, and the assembly have led to successive government reshuffles and dissolution of parliament, hindering investment and economic reforms.
    “We face a challenging period … which does not allow for divisions, and maintaining national unity is a serious and joint responsibility,” Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid said in parliament on Thursday.
(Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy and Maher Chmaytelli, Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/9/2020 Lebanon’s Sunni Leader Hariri Urges Revival Of French Plan
FILE PHOTO: Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks to the media after a session of the United Nations-backed Lebanon
Tribunal handing down a judgement in the case of four men being tried in absentia for the 2005 bombing that killed former prime
minister Rafik al-Hariri and 21 other people, in Leidschendam, Netherlands August 18, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s leading Sunni Muslim politician, former premier Saad al-Hariri, called for the restoration of a French plan to lift the nation out of its worst financial crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.
    Former colonial power France, which has led foreign aid efforts, has tried to rally have Lebanese leaders to launch reforms to tackle the crisis.    But they failed to agree a new government – the first step in the French roadmap – and drawn a rebuke from French President Emmanuel Macron.
    Lebanon urgently needs foreign cash to get out of a financial meltdown which has slashed the value of the currency since last year.
    “I call on political parties to think well so as not to waste this chance…French President Macron’s initiative still stands and we can still enact it,” Hariri said in a TV interview late on Thursday.    “If we let it fail, it would be a crime.”
    Talks on a new cabinet hit a logjam as politicians wrangled over ministerial posts, with Iran-backed Hezbollah and its ally Amal demanding they name the finance minister. Hariri and Hezbollah have blamed each other for the deadlock.
    Hariri added that he would only return as prime minister – a post he has already held three times – if there was agreement by Lebanon’s fractious parties on securing an International Monetary Fund deal.
    His coalition government was toppled a year ago by huge protests by Lebanese furious at an entrenched ruling elite that has overseen a state riddled with graft and drowning in debt.
    Hariri, a Western ally traditionally aligned with Gulf Arab states, also said Lebanon had no way out of the crisis other than a programme with the IMF.
    Foreign donors have made clear there will be no fresh aid unless Lebanese leaders launch reforms to tackle graft and improve governance, and engage in IMF negotiations.
    IMF talks stalled this year over a row among Lebanese government officials, bankers and political parties about the vast scale of financial losses.
    Hariri warned that he feared civil strife as the crisis spirals.    It has fuelled unrest in a country where divisions run deep since the war, which was fought along sectarian lines by factions still dominating Lebanese politics.
    “What is happening in terms of carrying arms and what we are seeing in terms of military displays in the street…means the collapse of the state,” Hariri said.
(Reporting by Laila Bassam and Samia Nakhoul in Beirut with additional reporting by Hesham Abdul Khalek in Cairo; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/9/2020 ‘We’re Scared’: Lebanon On Edge As Time And Money Run Out by Ellen Francis and Issam Abdallah
A worker arranges bottles of oil inside inside a supermarket in Beirut, Lebanon October 8, 2020. Picture taken
October 8, 2020. The sign reads: "This product is supported by the Ministry of Economy". REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Fouad Khamasi fills his taxi every day with about 40,000 Lebanese pounds’ worth of fuel.    It could cost at least four times that much if subsidies come to an end.
    The Beirut cab driver, 53, can just about afford to buy fuel and feed his kids. He worries the price of subsidised foods and key imports – wheat, fuel, medicine – will skyrocket.
    “These are the toughest days I’ve ever seen,” he said.    “Some days, you stick your hand in your pocket and find nothing … I leave the house and just pray.    Whatever I make, it does nothing.    It’s a joke.”
    Time and money are running out for Lebanon.
    Foreign reserves have dropped far below what the state already deemed “dangerous levels” when it defaulted on its huge debt in March, meaning it cannot afford to keep subsidies for long.
    Leaders in power for decades have yet to enact a financial rescue plan, a year after huge protests against them swept the country, and they have failed to secure aid from foreign donors.
    Talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stalled earlier this year when Lebanese government officials, bankers and political parties could not agree over how big the losses were in the financial system and who should bear them.
    After a massive explosion at Beirut’s port in August that killed nearly 200 people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage, former colonial power France stepped in.
    But rival sectarian politicians could not get past the first hurdle on the French roadmap towards financial aid: naming a new cabinet quickly.
    The currency, which has lost more than 80% of its value against the U.S. dollar since last autumn, weakened after the French effort faltered.
    Meanwhile, comments from officials indicating an end to some subsidies within months have triggered panic buying, raising the spectre of food shortages and a more dramatic crash in the currency.
    In the nation of some six million people, more than 55% of whom are below the poverty line, many are bracing for hunger and cold as winter looms.
KICKING THE CAN
    “Everything that happened since last October could have been avoidable,” Nasser Saidi, a former vice central bank governor, told Reuters.
    He said targeted aid to the poorest Lebanese would be more effective than subsidies across the board, which had benefited smugglers taking goods into Syria.
    “It’s all kicking the can down the road.    What should have been done is a full economic and financial plan,” Saidi said.
    Importers of key commodities said they had not been given a timeline to plan for how long subsidies could last.br>     Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh has said the bank could not finance trade indefinitely, although he gave no timeframe. President Michel Aoun said recently of reserves: “The money will run out.    What can we say?
    An official source close to the government told Reuters the money left for subsidies would last six more months by cutting support for some goods. [nL8N2GZ3NR]
    The state, which critics say is mired in corruption, and the paralysed banking sector, its biggest creditor, have traded blame for the crisis.
    Meanwhile, the wealth gap, already one of the region’s largest, widens.    In a country that relies heavily on imports and produces little, prices for many items including diapers have tripled.     In Beirut, men and women, some with young children, can often be seen digging for food in dumpsters near city intersections.
STOCKPILING MEDICINE
    Two months after the port blast, Lebanese expect life to get even harder.
    Many families now rely on charity.    The meltdown could render people more dependent on political factions for aid and security, in a throwback to the militia days of the civil war.
    Some analysts have warned that security forces, their wages fast losing value, would not be able to contain rising unrest.
    Hospitals fighting a surge in COVID-19 cases are overstretched.    Fuel shortages have left city streets dark.    Cars line up at petrol stations for rationed fuel. [nL8N2GW2UK]
    “We’re scared we won’t be able to go on,” said Siham Itani, a pharmacist who fears price hikes and being robbed.    She said supplies of insulin and blood pressure medication had dwindled.
    Another pharmacist said a masked man had held her up at gunpoint, asking for baby food.
    Mostafa al-Mohalhal, who at 62 suffers from diabetes, stored four insulin vials in his fridge, but the daily power cuts spoiled them.
    “If the price rises, how will I pay for them?” he said.    “People will die in the streets.”
(Writing by Ellen Francis; Editing by Samia Nakhoul and Mike Collett-White)

10/9/2020 Lebanon’s Caretaker PM Says Lifting Subsidies Would Cause ‘Social Explosion’
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab is pictured after submitting his resignation to Lebanon's
President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon August 10, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab said on Friday any step to lift subsidies now on vital goods would be unacceptable and would cause a “social explosion.”
    In a televised address, Diab, who resigned two months ago after a huge explosion damaged much of Beirut and worsened the country’s economic crisis, said $4 billion had been spent so far in 2020 on subsidizing food, medicine, flour and wheat imports.
    He warned that the country’s central bank and “all those who support such a decision” on subsidies would be responsible for the ensuing chaos in the country, already gripped by a financial meltdown.
    Crushed by a mountain of debt, Lebanon is facing its worst economic crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.    As prices soar, many Lebanese have been plunged into poverty and are increasingly reliant on subsidised food, medicine and fuel.
    Lebanon has $1.8 billion of foreign exchange reserves left for subsidising food and other imports but could make this last for six more months by scrapping support for some goods, an official source told Reuters on Thursday.
    Diab said the subsidies should not be completely removed, but suggested targeting them to support those most in need.
    Parliamentary consultations to choose a new prime minister will begin on Oct. 15, in an effort to push Lebanon’s fractious political class to move on forming the country’s next government.
    Recent efforts faltered amid bickering over cabinet posts among the country’s various political factions, dealing a blow to a French plan aimed at rallying politicians to tackle the country’s woes.
    Diab said it was incumbent upon the country’s feuding sectarian political leaders to revive the French road map and form a government swiftly because the country “cannot wait another two months.”
(Reporting by Raya Jalabi; Editing by Dominic Evans and Giles Elgood)

10/9/2020 Palestinian Negotiator Erekat Facing ‘Difficult’ Coronavirus Symptoms
FILE PHOTO: Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat looks on during a news conference following his meeting with foreign
diplomats, in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Friday he was suffering “difficult” symptoms after contracting coronavirus, but that things were “under control.”
    Erekat, 65, a lawmaker from Jericho in the occupied West Bank, said on Twitter that he was in isolation and receiving medical treatment at home one day after he confirmed that he had caught the virus.
    He has cancelled all meetings and appointments.    There is heightened concern over his vulnerability because he underwent a lung transplant in the United States in 2017.
    In tweets on Friday, Erekat said he was experiencing “difficult symptoms resulting from my lack of immunity as a result of lung transplantation.”    But he thanked well-wishers and said “things are under control, thank God.”
    Erekat is secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization and is one of the youngest members of the PLO’s most senior bodies, the Executive Committee.
    A member of Fatah, the most powerful faction within the PLO, he has been one of the most high-profile faces of the Palestinian leadership for decades, especially to international audiences.     A veteran negotiator and spokesman, he is one of the most senior advisers to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and also served in senior positions under Abbas’ predecessor, Yasser Arafat.
    His negotiating days date back to the earliest public negotiations with Israel in 1991 at the Madrid Conference during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, when Erekat was part of the PLO team that also included Hanan Ashrawi.
(Reporting by Stephen Farrell; Editing by Frances Kerry)

10/10/2020 Turkish Court Approves New Indictment Against Philanthropist Kavala by Ali Kucukgocmen
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a news conference during a visit to Moscow, Russia, March 5, 2020. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A Turkish court has approved an indictment accusing philanthropist Osman Kavala of helping organise an attempted coup in 2016, his lawyers said, eight months after he was acquitted on charges of financing nationwide protests in 2013.
    In the new indictment seen by Reuters, Kavala is accused of collaborating with Henri Barkey, a prominent Turkey scholar in the United States.    The indictment accuses Barkey of links to the network of U.S.-based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, which Ankara accuses of orchestrating the coup.
    Kavala, Barkey and Gulen have all denied any involvement.
    Kavala, in jail for nearly three years, was acquitted in February along with eight others of charges related to the Gezi protests, which threatened the grip on power of then-premier, now President Tayyip Erdogan.
    A court ordered Kavala’s release in February, but the same day a new detention warrant was issued for him related to the failed coup.
    Turkey’s Western allies and rights groups have called for Kavala’s release and voiced concern that his indictment points to a politicisation of Turkey’s justice system.
    In a statement, Kavala’s lawyers said the court had cleared the indictment, which they said was no more than “presumptive fiction” and was not based on any concrete evidence.
    Nacho Sanchez Amor, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, said the indictment “without any real evidence is outrageous.”    He said it “disdains” a European Court of Human Rights ruling that called for Kavala’s immediate release.
    Amnesty International called the indictment “absurd.”
ACCUSATIONS
    In an emailed response, Barkey said the indictment, which includes accusations first levelled against him in Turkish pro-government media four years ago, was a “complete fabrication.”
    He and Kavala are charged with attempting to overthrow the constitutional order. Conviction on the charge carries a life sentence without parole.    A further charge is espionage, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in jail.
    The indictment says Kavala and Barkey spoke twice by phone on Oct. 8, 2016, nearly three months after the failed July 15 coup.    It says that many times between 2013 and 2016, signals on Barkey and Kavala’s phones came from the same area and that they met at an Istanbul restaurant on July 18, 2016.
    Barkey said the two had run into each other at the restaurant and chatted briefly.    “On the basis of a chance encounter, officials concocted this absurd story,” he said, adding that their phones could easily have been in the same district of a crowded city at other times without them meeting.
    The indictment also says Barkey left a bell featuring a map of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, where Gulen lives, at the reception of an Istanbul hotel where he organised a meeting at the time of the coup attempt.
    Barkey said he arranged the meeting to save on travel costs for the attendees, most of whom he said came from Turkey and the Middle East.    He said he did not leave any bell behind.
    “You cannot defend yourself against such concoctions,” he said of the assertions in the indictment.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/9/2020 Four Dead, Several Injured In Beirut Fuel Tank Explosion
Rescuers carry a child that was evacuated from a building after a fuel tank exploded in the
al-Tariq al-Jadida neighborhood of Beirut, Lebanon October 9, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Four people were killed and several more were wounded when a fuel tank exploded in a Beirut building on Friday, the Lebanese Red Cross said.
    The explosion caused a large fire to break out in the building in the Tariq al-Jadida neighborhood, a security source said.
    One person was critically wounded, while several others were treated for smoke inhalation, the Red Cross and a hospital source said.
(Reporting by Beirut bureau; writing by Raya Jalabi; editing by Chris Reese)

10/10/2020 Palestinian President Meets World Jewish Congress Head
FILE PHOTO: World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder visits the former Nazi German concentration and
extermination camp Auschwitz II-Birkenau, near Oswiecim, Poland, February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder in the West Bank on Saturday, a Palestinian minister said, following a call by Lauder for Palestinians to revive peace talks with Israel.
    Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh revealed the meeting in a Twitter posting but gave no details.
    Lauder, a U.S. businessman who also met Abbas a year ago in New York, attended the Sept. 15 White House signing ceremony of an agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to forge formal ties.
    He told Saudi newspaper Arab News on Sept. 16 that he hoped the accord would bring the Palestinians and Israel back to peace talks, which collapsed in 2014.
    The World Jewish Congress said in a statement that Lauder met the Palestinian leader on Saturday “for a private visit at Abbas’ invitation, to discuss a range of issues regarding Palestine and the Middle Eastz.”
    In Washington, a person familiar with the matter said Lauder’s visit was not coordinated with or on behalf of the Trump administration but was in a strictly private capacity.
    The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    The Palestinians have cut off diplomatic ties with the Trump administration, which they have long accused of pro-Israel bias, and spurned the Gulf states’ diplomatic moves with Israel.
    A Palestinian official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Lauder was not carrying a message from the White House.    A second Palestinian source said Abbas discussed the call he made at the United Nations last month for a U.N.-led peace conference early next year.
(Reporting by Ali Sawafta, additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by John Stonestreet and Aurora Ellis)

10/11/2020 South Sudan Families Displaced By Fighting Forced Out Again By Floods
FILE PHOTO: Women wade through flood waters after the River Nile broke the dykes in
Pibor, Greater Pibor Administrative Area, South Sudan October 6, 2020. REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu
    LANYARIS, South Sudan (Reuters) – By the time the waters started rising, ethnic violence had already forced South Sudanese mother Vorgol Poulo, her husband, and their seven children to flee their home twice this year.
    They were desperate to stay home when the rains began in July but ten days of heavy rainfall destroyed most of their possessions, forcing them out for a third time.
    “The cows are sick. We have lost so many, we don’t know the number,” said Pulo, who sold charcoal before flooding put most of the market under water.
    She spoke to Reuters on a patch of grass poking above standing water, near the remote town of Pibor as thin cows limped by.
    The family cannot afford plastic sheeting for shelter or firewood, she said. Like most people in the area, they now eat once a day.
    The worst rains in living memory have forced nearly 370,000 people to flee their homes since July, and roughly half of South Sudan’s 78 counties have large swathes of land underwater, the U.N. says.
    Scientists attribute the unusual rains to cyclical weather pattern that has been exacerbated by climate change.
    Oil-rich South Sudan was already reeling from five years of civil war, which ended in 2018 with a fragile peace deal.    Attacks by bandits, ethnic militias and hold out groups are still common.
    Nurse Regina Ngachan cannot say which is worse: the rainy season, which floods her home, or the dry season, which brings violence.
    Standing barefoot in a half metre of water outside her thatched roof hut in Pibor this week, she said she is struggling to help her sister and her five children, who fled the nearby village of Gumuruk after fighting broke out.
    “They came with empty hands,” she said.
    Twelve months of cycling between flooding and violence have left communities desperately needing food, shelter, and water, said Joshua Rosenstein, Pibor field coordinator for the aid group Doctors Without Borders.    The town is also seeing a spike in measles and malaria cases, he said.
(Reporting by Andreea Campeanu; Additional reporting by Denis Dumo in Juba; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/11/2020 Iraqi Militias Say They Have Halted Anti-U.S. Attacks by John Davison
FILE PHOTO: A U.S. soldier is seen during a handover ceremony of Taji military base from US-led coalition troops
to Iraqi security forces, in the base north of Baghdad, Iraq August 23, 2020. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani/File Photo
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) – An array of Iran-backed Iraqi militia groups have suspended rocket attacks on U.S. forces on condition that Iraq’s government present a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops, one of the groups said on Sunday.
    A spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, one of the most powerful Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq, said the groups were presenting no set deadline, but that if U.S. troops “insisted on staying” they would unleash much more violent attacks.
    Washington, which is slowly reducing its 5,000 troops in Iraq, threatened last month to shut its embassy unless the Iraqi government reins in Iran-aligned militias that have attacked U.S. interests with rockets and roadside bombs.
    The U.S. warning caused alarm in Iraq, where it was seen as a step towards air strikes, potentially turning Iraq into a battleground in a proxy war between the United States and Iran.    A broad array of politicians called on the militia to stop provoking the Americans.
    “The factions have presented a conditional ceasefire,” Kataib Hezbollah spokesman Mohammed Mohi told Reuters.    “It includes all factions of the (anti-U.S.) resistance, including those who have been targeting U.S. forces.”
    On Saturday, militia groups calling themselves the “Iraqi Resistance Coordination Commission” published a statement suggesting they would suspend attacks in return for a clear plan for U.S. troops to leave.    Mohi did not specify which groups had drafted the statement.
    He said the Iraqi government must implement a parliamentary resolution in January calling for foreign troops to withdraw.
ROADSIDE BLAST
    Iraq is one of the few countries with close ties to both the United States and Iran, both of which provided military support to help defeat Islamic State fighters, who were beaten back in a three-year war after seizing a third of Iraq in 2014.
    Iraqis have long feared their country could become a proxy battleground, especially since Washington killed Tehran’s military mastermind Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike at Baghdad airport in January.
    Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi leader of pro-Iran militias, was also killed. Factions that Soleimani and Muhandis commanded, including Kataib Hezbollah, swore to avenge them.
    But pro-Iran militias have faced a popular backlash from Iraqis who accuse them of putting the country’s security at risk by attacking the Americans.
    Mohi said there was no deadline for the government to expel foreign troops, but “if America insists on staying and doesn’t respect the parliament’s decision then the factions will use all the weapons at their disposal.”
    He said rockets fired at U.S. forces and diplomatic compounds were a message, and worse attacks could follow.
    U.S. officials blame Kataib Hezbollah for dozens of rocket attacks against U.S. installations in Iraq.
    Kataib Hezbollah denies involvement, and some attacks have been claimed by smaller, little-known militias, though Iraqi officials believe these may be fronts for bigger groups.
    A roadside blast hit a convoy in southern Iraq on Sunday delivering equipment to the U.S.-led military coalition in the country, damaging a tyre but causing no casualties, the military said.    There was no claim of responsibility.
(Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Ahmed Rasheed, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Peter Graff)

10/11/2020 Nigeria’s Police Disbands Controversial Anti-Robbery Squad After Protests by Alexis Akwagyiram and Abrahim Achirga
Nigerians take part in a protest against alleged violence, extortion and harassment from Nigeria's
Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), in Lagos, Nigeria October 11, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja
    LAGOS (Reuters) – The head of Nigeria’s police dissolved its Special Anti-Robbery Squad with immediate effect on Sunday, a police statement said, prompted by days of protests across the country against alleged brutality by the controversial unit.
    The protests broke out after a video circulated last week allegedly showing members of the unit – known as SARS – shooting dead a man in Delta state.    It also prompted a globally-trending social media campaign to abolish the squad.
    Demonstrators also alleged that police shot dead another man while marching in the southwestern city of Ogbomosho on Saturday. Police did not respond to requests for comment on the allegations.
    “The dissolution of SARS is in response to the yearnings of the Nigerian people,” the police statement said.
    It added that the police was redeploying unit members and would announce a new strategy to tackle SARS’ remit of fighting armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crime.
    Protesters and rights groups met the announcement with scepticism and calls for justice.    Police officials and politicians have said they were disbanding or reforming SARS multiple times in recent years, with little visible change, critics say.
    “They all need to be punished or disciplined,” said Charles Avackaa, a Lagos media executive who alleged SARS officers have extorted 100,000 naira ($262.7) from him.
    “But they mess up and (their bosses) carry them and put them somewhere else, there is nothing on how they operate,” he said.
    For years, Nigerians have accused SARS of heavy-handed methods, particularly the young, who say officers regularly target, beat and extort them.
    An Amnesty International report in June documented 82 alleged cases of SARS mistreating, torturing and extra-judicially executing detainees.
    On Sunday, Nigerian police used teargas to disperse hundreds of protesters in the capital Abuja, a repeat of what witnesses said were similar events on Friday.
(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos, Angela Ukomadu in Lagos and Abraham Achirga in Abuja; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

10/11/2020 North Cyprus President To Face Prime Minister In Runoff
FILE PHOTO: Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci poses at his office in the Turkish Cypriot northern part of the
divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus, August 5, 2019. Picture taken August 5, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Northern Cyprus’s President Mustafa Akinci and Prime Minister Ersin Tatar will go to a run-off in a week’s time after each won about 30% support in Sunday’s presidential poll, official media said.
    Career politician Akinci, 72, supports reuniting the Mediterranean island which split after a 1974 Turkish invasion in response to a brief Greek-inspired coup.
    Tatar, 60, who has also served as finance minister, supports separate sovereign administrations.
    There were 11 candidates in total in Sunday’s vote where Turkish Cypriot voters cast ballots in masks and gloves to curb the risk of coronavirus infection.    With a population of 326,000, Northern Cyprus has reported 807 infections and four deaths.
    Northern Cyprus is recognised as an independent state only by Turkey. Other countries consider it part of Cyprus.
    The latest United Nations-mediated peace negotiations failed in 2017 and there has been no progress in talks since.
    On Thursday, Northern Cyprus reopened part of the beachfront of a resort abandoned for 46 years in a move that could hurt efforts to revive dispute settlement talks.
    The president of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, called the move “illegal.”
    As well as having an impact on inter-island talks, the result of North Cyprus’ election may influence negotiations between Turkey and Greece over their contested maritime claims in the eastern Mediterranean.
(Reporting by Yesim Dikmen in Istanbul and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

10/11/2020 Israel Finance Minister Promises Budget By December, Another Official Quits by Steven Scheer and Ari Rabinovitch
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to Foreign Minister Israel Katz during the
weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem October 27, 2019. Gali Tibbon/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s finance minister promised on Sunday the long awaited 2021 state budget would be ready in December amid accusations the government was dragging its heels for political reasons and after a third senior economic official quit in three months.
    Failure to pass last year’s budget was a big factor in the unprecedented political turmoil in Israel that led to three elections in a year, the last one held in March.
    Uncertainty regarding 2021’s budget has again threatened to topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fractious emergency government, which he formed with rivals to help the country weather the coronavirus crisis.
    Finance Minister Israel Katz said they are now starting to prepare the 2021 budget with discussions in the coming days to determine budget goals and targets.
    “The budget will address the need to deal with the continuing coronavirus pandemic as well as the need to lead the economy back to full employment and activity and growth,” Katz said in a statement.
    Israel’s economy has been hit hard from the COVID-19 outbreak and is expected to contract in 2020 for the first time in nearly two decades.    It still using a pro-rated version of the 2019 budget, although lawmakers have approved more than 100 billion shekels ($30 billion) in state aid to help businesses and households hurt by the virus.
    Shortly before Katz announced progress on the budget, the ministry’s director-general, Keren Turner-Eyal, said she would be stepping down in the coming weeks.    No reason for her departure was given, and Katz named Eran Yaacov, the head of Israel’s tax authority, as interim director-general.
    Turner-Eyal was appointed to the post in May by Katz, but disagreements between the two quickly became apparent, culminating in a public censure after budget chief Shaul Meridor resigned in August.
    Meridor said at the time he was quitting because he believed the government was grossly mishandling the fallout from the coronavirus crisis by making “short-sighted” decisions and ignoring economic norms.
    Turner-Eyal tweeted in support of Meridor after he was criticized by government officials, including Netanyahu.    Katz responded swiftly by saying she was out of line.
    In July, Accountant General Rony Hizkiyahu said he would step down later in 2020.
($1 = 3.3771 shekels)
(Reporting by Steven Scheer and Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/12/2020 Erdogan Tells EU’s Michel That Progress Needed On Improving Turkey-EU Ties
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a news conference during a visit to Moscow, Russia, March 5, 2020. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told European Council President Charles Michel on Monday that progress was needed on improving ties between Ankara and the bloc, the Turkish presidency said, amid renewed tensions between Turkey and Greece over the eastern Mediterranean.
    In a statement, the presidency said Erdogan told Michel in a phone call that Turkey expected “concrete steps” from the EU on holding a regional conference with eastern Mediterranean states, and that Greece was “continuing steps to escalate tensions in the eastern Mediterranean despite Turkey’s well-intentioned approach.”
    The phone call comes after a Turkish ship set sail to carry out seismic exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, prompting Greece to issue a furious new demand for EU sanctions on Ankara in a row over offshore exploration rights.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Can Sezer; Editing by Chris Reese)

10/12/2020 Jordan’s King Abdullah Swears In New Government To Speed Reforms by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
FILE PHOTO: King of Jordan Abdullah II addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
    AMMAN (Reuters) – Jordan’s King Abdullah on Monday swore in a new government led by veteran diplomat Bisher al Khaswaneh that will seek to accelerate IMF-backed reforms as the economy faces its sharpest contraction in decades due to the coronavirus crisis.
    British-educated Khasawneh, 51, was appointed on Wednesday to replace Omar al Razzaz, at a time of rising popular discontent about worsening economic conditions and curbs on public freedoms under emergency laws to contain the pandemic.
    The new premier, who comes from a family that has long held senior political posts, has spent most of his public career as a veteran diplomat and peace negotiator with Israel with a last stint as palace adviser.
    Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and Finance Minister Mohamad Al Ississ, who oversees the country’s reform program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), kept their posts in a 32-member cabinet dominated by a mix of technocrats and conservative politicians who held sway in previous governments.
    The new government faces an uphill task to revive growth in an economy that is expected to shrink by around 6% this year as it grapples with its worst economic crisis in many years, with unemployment and poverty aggravated by the pandemic.
    Jordan this month saw a near-doubling of total infections since the first cases in early March, bringing warnings of a collapse in health services if it gets out of control.
    Khasawneh will oversee parliamentary elections due on Nov 10. The contest will take place under an electoral law that marginalises the main Islamist opposition and independent political parties to keep a majority of pro-government deputies.
    Outgoing premier Razzaz, appointed in 2018 to calm protests over IMF austerity moves, had faced criticism for his handling of the pandemic and use of emergency laws to silence dissent.
    International rights groups lambasted the authorities for arresting hundreds of teacher activists after dissolving their opposition-led elected union last July.
    The detention of dissidents and activists for criticising government policies raised alarm over a tighter authoritarian grip, rights groups and independent politicians say.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Edmund Blair, William Maclean)

10/12/2020 Israeli Cabinet Approves UAE Deal, Netanyahu Says Will Meet Its Leader by Jeffrey Heller and Rami Ayyub
A combination picture shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem
June 28, 2020, and Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan attending a news conference at the
Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, June 12, 2019. Pictures taken June 28, 2020 and June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun (L)/Hannibal Hanschke
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s cabinet approved a normalisation deal with the United Arab Emirates on Monday and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he and Abu Dhabi’s crown prince had spoken and agreed to meet soon.
    The U.S.-brokered “treaty of peace” establishing full relations with the Gulf Arab country broke new diplomatic ground in the region, where concern over Iran is high, even as Palestinians condemned the pact as betrayal of their quest for statehood in Israeli-occupied land.
    Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the UAE’s de facto leader, tweeted on Monday that he and Netanyahu had discussed strengthening bilateral ties and the prospects for peace in the area.
    In an official statement that coincided with an Israeli cabinet vote approving the Sept. 15 agreement with the UAE, Netanyahu said he and Sheikh Mohammed would meet soon, without specifying a date.
    “At the weekend, I spoke with my friend, the crown prince … and invited him to visit Israel,” Netanyahu said.    “He invited me to visit Abu Dhabi.    But first, we will see a UAE delegation here and another one of our delegations will go there.”
    A source familiar with plans for the delegations’ visits said Israeli representatives accompanied by U.S. officials will fly to Bahrain on Oct. 18 and travel on to the UAE the next day before returning to Israel with a UAE team on Oct. 20.
    Commenting on his conversation with Sheikh Mohammed, Netanyahu said: “We spoke about cooperation that we are promoting in investment, tourism, energy, technology and other spheres.”
    In a sign of burgeoning Israel-UAE cooperation, a ship from the UAE docked on Monday at Israel’s port of Haifa, carrying a cargo of 15 containers along a shipping line between India, the UAE, Israel and the United States.
    While the normalisation accord has already inspired commercial deal-making with the Gulf’s trade, finance, tourism and travel hub, Israeli officials have objected to the UAE’s potential purchase of U.S.-made F-35 stealth fighter jets in a separate side deal.
    Israel is the only Middle East country flying the advanced warplane and has voiced concern its supply to other nations in the region could jeopardise its military edge.
    Israel has also said it would oppose any sale of the plane to Qatar, whose Iran links trouble Israel, after a Reuters report that Doha had submitted a formal request to Washington to buy the Lockheed Martin Corp. stealth jet.
    Israeli cabinet approval of the accord with the UAE opened the way for Israel’s parliament to ratify it, in a vote likely to be held later this week.
    In the UAE, the federal cabinet must still approve the accord, following which the government would issue a decree.
    Israel and Bahrain, which signed a “declaration of peace” at the White House ceremony last month, are still discussing details of a full accord.
(Additional reporting by Maher Chmaytelli and Dan Williams; Editing by Kevin Liffey, William Maclean)

10/12/2020 Lebanon’s Sunni Leader Hariri Urges Revival Of French Plan
FILE PHOTO: Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks to the media after a session of the United Nations-backed Lebanon
Tribunal handing down a judgement in the case of four men being tried in absentia for the 2005 bombing that killed former prime
minister Rafik al-Hariri and 21 other people, in Leidschendam, Netherlands August 18, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s leading Sunni Muslim politician, former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, called for the restoration of a French plan to lift the nation out of its worst financial crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.
    Former colonial power France, which has led foreign aid efforts, has tried to rally Lebanese leaders to launch reforms to tackle the crisis.    But they have failed to agree a new government – the first step in the French roadmap – and drawn a rebuke from French President Emmanuel Macron.
    Lebanon urgently needs foreign cash to get out of a financial meltdown which has slashed the value of the currency since last year.
    “I call on political parties to think well so as not to waste this chance…French President Macron’s initiative still stands and we can still enact it,” Hariri said in a TV interview late on Thursday.    “If we let it fail, it would be a crime.”
    Talks on a new cabinet hit a logjam as politicians wrangled over ministerial posts, with Iran-backed Hezbollah and its ally Amal demanding they name the finance minister. Hariri and Hezbollah have blamed each other for the deadlock.
    President Michel Aoun will hold consultations with lawmakers next week to pick a new prime minister, in a bid to reach a breakthrough on naming a new government.
    Hariri added that he would only return as prime minister – a post he has already held three times – if there was agreement by Lebanon’s fractious parties on securing an International Monetary Fund deal.
    His coalition government was toppled a year ago by huge protests by Lebanese furious at an entrenched ruling elite that has overseen a state riddled with graft and drowning in debt.
    Hariri, a Western ally traditionally aligned with Gulf Arab states, also said Lebanon had no way out of the crisis other than a programme with the IMF.
    Foreign donors have made clear there will be no fresh aid unless Lebanese leaders launch reforms to tackle graft and improve governance, and engage in IMF negotiations.
    IMF talks stalled this year over a row among Lebanese government officials, bankers and political parties about the vast scale of financial losses.
    Hariri warned that he feared civil strife as the crisis spirals.    It has fuelled unrest in a country where divisions run deep since the war, which was fought along sectarian lines by factions still dominating Lebanese politics.
    “What is happening in terms of carrying arms and what we are seeing in terms of military displays in the street…means the collapse of the state,” he said.
(Reporting by Laila Bassam and Samia Nakhoul in Beirut with additional reporting by Hesham Abdul Khalek in Cairo; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/13/2020 Lebanon And Israel, Long-Time Foes, To Start Talks On Disputed Waters
UN peacekeepers (UNIFIL) drive in a vehicle in Naqoura, near the Lebanese-Israeli border, southern Lebanon October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    BEIRUT/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Lebanon and Israel, formally still at war after decades of conflict, launch talks on Wednesday to address a long-running dispute over their maritime border running through potentially gas-rich Mediterranean waters.
    The U.S.-mediated talks follow three years of intense diplomacy by Washington and were announced less than a month after the United States stepped up pressure on political allies of the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.
    They also come after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreed to establish full relations with Israel, under U.S.-brokered deals which realign some of Washington’s closest Middle East allies against Iran.
    Hezbollah, which fought a five-week conflict with Israel in 2006, says the talks are not a sign of peace-making with its long-time enemy.    Israel’s energy minister also said expectations for Wednesday’s meeting should be realistic.
    “We are not talking about negotiations for peace and normalization, rather an attempt to solve a technical, economic dispute that for 10 years has delayed the development of offshore natural resources,” minister Yuval Steinitz tweeted.
    Nevertheless, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has described the decision to go ahead with the talks as historic, and said Washington looked forward to separate talks later over disagreements on the two countries’ land border.
    Wednesday’s meeting will be hosted by the United Nations peacekeeping force UNIFIL, which has monitored the disputed land boundary since Israel’s’ military withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000, ending a 22-year occupation.
    A Lebanese security source says the two sides will meet together in the same room in UNIFIL’s base in south Lebanon, but will direct their talks through a mediator.
LEBANON CRISIS
    Disagreement over the sea border had discouraged oil and gas exploration near the disputed line.
    That may be a minor irritation for Israel, which already pumps gas from huge offshore fields.    For Lebanon, yet to find commercial reserves in its own waters, the issue is more pressing.
    Lebanon is desperate for cash from foreign donors as it faces the worst economic crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war, and its currency has collapsed.    The financial meltdown was compounded by an explosion that wrecked a swathe of Beirut in August, killing nearly 200 people, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Struggling to form a new government to tackle the multiple crises, some Lebanese politicians even argued this week over the formation of their negotiating team, with the prime minister’s office complaining it was not consulted by the presidency.
    Hezbollah’s political ally, the Shi’ite Amal party, has also come under pressure.    Last month the United States sanctioned Amal leader Nabih Berri’s top aide for corruption and financially enabling Hezbollah, which it deems a terrorist organisation.
    For Hezbollah and Amal, the decision to start the border talks was a “tactical decision to neutralize the tensions and the prospect of sanctions ahead of the US elections,” said Mohanad Hage Ali, a fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center.
    Berri, an influential Shi’ite leader in charge of the border file, has denied being pushed into the talks.
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    In 2018 Beirut licensed a group of Italy’s Eni, France’s Total and Russia’s Novatek to carry out long-delayed offshore energy exploration in two blocks.    One of them, Block 9, contains waters disputed with Israel.
(Reporting by Ellen Francis and Dominic Evans in Beirut, and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem, Editing by William Maclean)

10/13/2020 Greece Says No Talks With Turkey As Long As Survey Ship In Area
FILE PHOTO: Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis sails in the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Yoruk Isik/File Photo
    ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece will not engage in exploratory talks with Turkey as long as Turkish survey vessel Oruc Reis remains in its continental shelf waters, the government’s spokesman said on Tuesday.
    “As long as the Oruc Reis is in the area we will not hold exploratory contacts with Turkey,” Stelios Petsas told Skai Radio.
    On Monday, Greece said Ankara’s decision to send the vessel close to Kastellorizo, a Greek island near the Turkish coast, was a “major escalation” and a “direct threat to peace in the region.”
    Turkey had withdrawn the vessel from contested waters in the eastern Mediterranean last month to “allow diplomacy” before an EU summit at which sanctions against Turkey were discussed.
    At the summit, the EU said that if Turkey continued operations in the region, sanctions could be imposed as soon as December.
(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Catherine Evans)

10/13/2020 Lebanon’s Bassil Criticises Hariri Efforts To Form Government
FILE PHOTO: Gebran Bassil, a Lebanese politician and head of the Free Patriotic movement, talks during
an interview with Reuters in Sin-el-fil, Lebanon July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese Christian politician Gebran Bassil criticised Sunni former prime minister Saad al-Hariri on Tuesday for putting himself forward to lead a government that would champion a French initiative to resolve the country’s deep economic crisis.
    Hariri has begun consultations with the president, parliamentary speaker and Lebanese political blocs about forming a government that would implement President Emmanuel Macron’s roadmap for reforms and unlock international aid.
    He has said his mission was to form a six-month government of technocrats to rapidly carry out the reform plan set out in Macron’s initiative.
    “We were not aware, and nobody informed us, that President Macron had appointed a high commissioner… to Lebanon, and made a prefect for us to oversee his initiative and the extent of its implementation,” Bassil said in a speech to supporters.
    “Whoever wants to head a government of technocrats has to be a technocrat himself,” said Bassil, who heads Lebanon’s biggest Christian bloc, the Free Patriotic Movement. A former foreign minister, Bassil is also President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law.
    Aoun will hold formal consultations on Thursday about nominating a prime minister to form a new government to replace Hassan Diab’s cabinet, which resigned two months ago after a powerful explosion damaged much of Beirut and killed 200 people.
    Diab’s nominated replacement has been unable to form a government after the powerful Shi’ite group Hezbollah and its political allies insisted on nominating the finance minister.
    Lebanon is suffering its worst financial collapse since a 1975-1990 civil war.    Foreign donors have made clear there will be no fresh aid unless Lebanese leaders launch reforms to tackle graft and improve governance, and engage in IMF negotiations.
(Reporting by Samia Nakhoul and Ellen Francis, writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Gareth Jones)

10/13/2020 Palestinian, Israeli Rights Groups Fear For Life Of Palestinian Hunger Striker by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Ismael Khaderbr>
Demonstrators take part in a protest to show solidarity with Maher Al-Akhras, 49, a Palestinian jailed by Israel, who has been
on hunger strike for 79 days, protesting his detention without trial, in Gaza City October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    GAZA/REHOVOT, Israel (Reuters) – Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups voiced concern on Tuesday over the condition of a Palestinian who began a hunger strike 79 days ago against his detention without charge by Israel.
    Maher Al-Akhras, 49, is now in an Israeli hospital suffering from heart pain and convulsions and has slipped occasionally into a coma, his wife said.
    A resident of the city of Jenin in the north of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Akhras was taken into custody in July under an Israeli “administrative detention” order.
    Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency said Akhras was detained after it received information that he was an operative of the Islamic Jihad militant group, an allegation his wife denied.
    He was moved three weeks ago to Kaplan hospital in the Israeli city of Rehovot, where he has been drinking water but refusing solid food, according to his family.
    At the hospital, Akhras’s wife Taghreed told Reuters that he would continue the hunger strike for his immediate release despite a decision on Monday by Israel’s Supreme Court not to extend his four-month detention term beyond Nov. 26.
    “The responsibility for what happens next lies with those who can prevent his further deterioration and even death,” the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, which is monitoring the case, said in statement.    “They can still stop this from happening.”
    Ahkras’s wife said her husband, too weak to leave his bed, was not handcuffed in the hospital, and there were no guards visible near his room.
    The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights called on international rights groups to intervene immediately to “save the life of Akhras before it is too late.”
    There are around 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails, 350 of them under administrative detention, Palestinian officials said.    Israeli officials say detention without trial is sometimes necessary to protect the identities of undercover operatives.
    In Gaza, activists linked to Islamic Jihad said they had resumed launching incendiary balloons into Israel.    A poster with Akhras’s picture and the words “our patience is running out” were attached.
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Writing by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Heinrich)

10/14/2020 Lebanon, Israel Start Talks On Disputed Maritime Border: U.N. Source
FILE PHOTO: A couple wearing face masks, visit the Rosh Hanikra border crossing with Lebanon,
in Rosh Hanikra, northern Israel October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    NAQOURA, Lebanon (Reuters) – Long-time foes Lebanon and Israel met on Wednesday for unprecedented talks on their disputed maritime border, a United Nations source said.
    The talks, at a United Nations base on the land border between the two countries, were mediated by the United States which has pushed for three years for negotiations to resolve the argument over potentially gas-rich Mediterranean waters.
    Two Lebanese military helicopters were seen bringing the Lebanese delegation to the meeting.    The Lebanese team was expected to be led by a military officer, and the Israeli side by the director general of its energy ministry.
    Agreement to hold the talks was announced weeks after the United States stepped up pressure on allies of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, imposing sanctions on senior politician from its main Shi’ite parliamentary ally.
    Hezbollah, which fought a month-long war with Israel in 2006, says the talks are not a sign of peace-making with its long-time enemy.     Israel’s energy minister also said expectations should be realistic.
    The talks come after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreed to establish full relations with Israel, under U.S.-brokered deals which realign some of Washington’s closest Middle East allies against Iran.
(Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)

10/14/2020 Hezbollah, Amal Criticize Lebanon Team For Border Talks With Israel
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Iran-backed Hezbollah and its ally Amal criticized on Wednesday a delegation set to represent Lebanon at U.S.-mediated talks with Israel over their disputed maritime border, hours before the first meeting.
    The statement from Lebanon’s two main Shi’ite parties called for reform of the negotiating team which they said must include only military officials, without any civilians or politicians.
    Formally still at war after decades of conflict, Lebanon and Israel agreed this month to negotiate over a long-running row relating to a sea border running through potentially gas-rich Mediterranean waters. [nL8N2H454E]
(Reporting by Ellen Francis; editing by Richard Pullin)

10/14/2020 Israel Approves First New Settler Homes Since Suspending Annexation
FILE PHOTO: A view shows Palestinian houses in the village of Wadi Fukin as the Jewish settlement of Beitar Illit
is seen in the background, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank June 23, 2019. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel approved more than 1,300 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday in the first such go-ahead since it suspended annexation plans in the territory.
    The decision drew an angry response from Palestinians, who seek to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
    “We urge the international community to intervene immediately to stop this settlement madness, which destroys any chance for a genuine peace process,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
    The construction could help mute criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from settler leaders, who are traditional allies.
    They had bristled at the annexation suspension that helped pave the way for last month’s deals to forge diplomatic ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
    Israel’s West Bank Civil Administration planning committee gave final approval for building 1,313 housing units in several settlements, it said in a statement.    Plans for another 853 units were advanced but have not yet been given final approval.
    A statement from Beit El settlement said 350 new housing units would be built there.    It hailed the committee’s decision as “a tremendous achievement for Beit El.”
    The forum, which last held such a hearing eight months ago, was due to reconvene on Thursday to advance additional projects in settlements, its publicly available agenda showed.
    Peace Now, an Israeli settlement watchdog, said that in total the committee was set to move forward with projects comprising more than 4,000 new settler homes.
    Most countries view settlements Israel has built in territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war as illegal and as an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.    The United States and Israel dispute this.
    Israel cites historical and biblical links to the West Bank and around 450,000 of its settlers live there, among 3 million Palestinians.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller and Ali Sawafta; Editing by Maayan Lubell and Mike Collett-White)

10/14/2020 U.S. Pleased Iraq Doing More To Protect U.S. Embassy: Pompeo by Humeyra Pamuk and Jonathan Landay
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends the Mining, Agriculture, and Construction (MAC) Protocol
Signing Ceremony, at Villa San Sebastiano, in Rome, Italy, October 1, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/Pool
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday the United States was pleased that the Iraqi government was doing more to protect the U.S. embassy in Baghdad from Iran-backed Shiite Muslim militias but declined to provide an update on whether Washington was still considering to shut down its embassy.
    “We are happy that the Iraqis are doing more to provide increased security for our team on the ground there,” Pompeo told a State Department news conference.
    Washington, which is slowly reducing its 5,000 troops in Iraq, threatened last month to shut its embassy unless the Iraqi government reins in Iran-aligned militias that have attacked U.S. interests with rockets and roadside bombs.
    A spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, one of the most powerful Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq, on Sunday said it has suspended rocket attacks on U.S. forces on condition that Iraq’s government present a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops.
    Asked if the United States saw the announcement as progress and whether it would still follow through on its threat to shut down the embassy, Pompeo did not specifically answer but sounded doubtful about the militia’s ceasefire declaration.
    “We have a rogue set of militias who have now promised not to violate the Iraqi people’s sovereignty and to take aim at the U.S. diplomats serving there that are designed to help the Iraqi people,” he said.
    The U.S. warning caused alarm in Iraq, where it was seen as a step toward air strikes, potentially turning Iraq into a battleground in a proxy war between the United States and Iran. A broad array of politicians called on the militia to stop provoking the Americans.
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)

10/14/2020 More Nigerian Protests Against Police Brutality As Reforms Fail To Convince by Temilade Adelaja and Alexis Akwagyiram
Demonstrators carry banners during a protest over alleged police brutality, in Lagos, Nigeria October 14, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja
    LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigerian protesters demanding an end to police brutality returned to the streets on Wednesday, saying they were unconvinced by the creation of a new police unit and a pledge not to use violence against demonstrators.
    Protesters have staged daily marches nationwide for a week, calling for an overhaul of police forces.    Police have responded to the demonstrations with beatings, tear gas and gunfire, which human rights group Amnesty International said had killed at least 10 people.
    The protests have prompted a raft of announcements.    The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a police unit that demonstrators have long accused of beatings, killings and extortion, was officially disbanded on Sunday.
    On Tuesday, police agreed to stop using force against protesters.    They also announced the formation of a new unit, the Special Weapons and Tactics team (SWAT), to “fill the gaps” left by the disbanded SARS.
    But protesters said on Wednesday they feared the new unit will simply be a rebranded version of SARS.
    Hundreds gathered on Wednesday in the capital Abuja, as well as megacity Lagos and Warri – both in the south – to press their calls for police reforms.
    “What they do is… give them new uniforms, call them a different name, but they are still the same people in these police forces,” said blogger Folu Oyefeso, in Lagos.
    Demonstrators in Lagos, who gathered despite heavy rain, sang, danced and chanted.    Many held placards, including one that read “Stop killing our dreamers.    #EndSARS now.”
    Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in a statement on Wednesday, urged protesters to wind down demonstrations, saying that the gridlock caused in recent days had disrupted businesses still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
    “People are just coming back to businesses.    It would be unfair for those businesses not to be able to get back on their feet again,” he said.
(Reporting by Temilade Adelaja in Lagos and Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Editing by Peter Graff; Additional reporting by Tife Owolabi in Yenagoa, Camillus Eboh and Paul Carsten in Abuja; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Peter Graff)

10/14/2020 Saudi Finance Minister Says Vision 2030 ‘Tried And Tested’
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed al-Jadaan speaks during an interview with Reuters
at the Four Seasons hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia September 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hadeel Al Sayegh
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s finance minister said on Wednesday that the kingdom’s Vision 2030 to diversify the economy away from oil has been “tried and tested,” particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
    “It proved to be the right plan.    The economy was able actually to deal with it (the coronavirus crisis), the government was able to deal with it in a very adequate way,” Mohammed al-Jadaan said.
    He added that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, was investing to catalyse the private sector, including in the industrial sector.
(Reporting by Marwa Rashad and Davide Barbuscia; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Gareth Jones)

10/14/2020 Lebanon’s President Postpones Talks On Nominating New Prime Minister
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese President Michel Aoun delivers televised address to the public on eve of Lebanon's centenary at the
presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon in this undated handout released on August 30, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun has postponed by a week consultations aimed at choosing a prime minister to form a new government to tackle the country’s worst economic crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war, the presidency said on Wednesday.
    Aoun had been due to hold the consultations on Thursday and was expected to assess whether Sunni Muslim leader Saad al-Hariri could rally support of a majority of parliamentarians to try to form a new government.
    However two prominent Christian politicians had indicated in the last 24 hours that they had reservations about nominating Hariri, who resigned as prime minister a year ago after mass protests.
    The country has plunged into financial turmoil and seen the value of the Lebanese pound collapse.    The COVID-19 pandemic and a huge explosion at Beirut’s port two months ago compounded the crisis and pushed many Lebanese into poverty.
    French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed a roadmap that could unlock billions of dollars of international aid, conditional on major reforms which Hariri pledged to support.
    The Lebanese presidency said Aoun was delaying the planned consultations on nominating a new premier until Oct. 22, citing requests “from some parliamentary blocs due to difficulties emerging that need to be solved.”
    However, the head of the Shi’ite Amal party and parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri opposes any delay in the consultations, his office said in a statement released minutes after the presidency’s announcement.
    Earlier on Wednesday Samir Geagea, whose Lebanese Forces party has the second biggest Christian bloc in parliament, said the party would not nominate anyone to be the new prime minister at official consultations to fill the post.
    On Tuesday Gebran Bassil, who heads the country’s largest Christian bloc, the Free Patriotic Movement and its allies, criticised Hariri for seeking to form a government pledged to implement Macron’s plan.
(Reporting by Ellen Francis and Dominic Evans; Editing by Franklin Paul and Tom Brown)

10/14/2020 Secy. Pompeo: U.S. Will Fulfill Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia by OAN Newsroom
Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud listens to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, speaks
during their meeting at the State Department, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, POOL)
    According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the U.S. remains committed to fulfilling its arms sales deal with Saudi Arabia as part of an effort to deter Iran.    Pompeo reaffirmed the commitment on Wednesday following his meeting with Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister in Washington.
    The secretary also announced the U.S. is acquiring a 26-acre site for a new embassy in Riyadh.    The move is expected to further strengthen relations between the two.
    He then encouraged Saudi Arabia to begin normalizing ties with Israel.
    “They (the Abraham Accords) reflect a changing dynamic in the region, one in which countries rightly recognize the need for regional cooperation to counter Iranian influence and generate prosperity,” stated Pompeo.    “We hope Saudi Arabia will consider normalizing its relationships as well, and we want to thank them for the assistance they’ve had in the success of the Abraham Accords so far.”
    His statement came after the Trump administration brokered the historic Abraham Accords last month, normalizing ties between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

10/15/2020 G2O Agrees To 6 Month Debt Suspension For Developing Nations by OAN Newsroom
FILE – Mohammed Al-Jadaan, Saudi Minister of Finance, gestures during a news conference announcing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo/REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser)
    The G20 has agreed to extend the suspension of debt payments for nation’s struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic.    The Group of 20 nations made the announcement on Twitter Wednesday, suspending service payments by an additional six-months.
    The group’s finance ministers and central bank governors cited their decision on the needs of less fortunate nations.    They said the extension will allow them to focus on health and emergency programs rather than repayments.
    “Have agreed to extend the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) by another six-months,” stated Saudi Arabian Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan.    “And not only that, but we also agreed that we will revisit during our spring meeting in April next year whether we need to extend this gain for another six-months depending on the economic and financial situation at that time.”
    The suspension of more than $14 billion in debt payments will now be due by the end of June 2021.

10/15/2020 Saudi Minister Stresses Bringing Israel, Palestinians Into Talks
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during his meeting with Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs
Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud at the State Department, in Washington, U.S., October 14, 2020. Manuel Balce Ceneta
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The main focus of Middle East peace efforts should be to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, the Saudi foreign minister said on Thursday in a comment suggesting that Israeli-Saudi normalization is unlikely any time soon.
    “I believe that the focus now needs to be on getting the Palestinians and the Israelis back to the negotiating table.    In the end, the only thing that can deliver lasting peace and lasting stability is an agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said in a virtual appearance at a U.S. think tank.
    There has been speculation Saudi Arabia could follow in the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which on Sept. 15 signed agreements to establish formal ties with Israel, the first Arab states to do so in a quarter of a century.
    Speaking to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank, the Saudi foreign minister also said he hoped it may soon be possible to resolve a dispute that led Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to sever political, trade and transport ties with Qatar in mid-2017.
    The four accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and cozying up to regional foe Iran.    Doha denies the charges and says the embargo by its fellow Gulf Arabs aims to undermine its sovereignty.
    “We hope … that we are able to find a path forward to address the legitimate security concerns … that drove us to take the decisions we took,” he said.    “I think there is a path towards that and we are hoping that we can find that in the relatively near future.”
    Asked when that might happen, he replied: “Your guess is as good as mine.”
(Reporting By Jonathan Landay and Arshad Mohammed, Editing by Franklin Paul and Alexandra Hudson)

10/16/2020 White House Election Race Reaches Streets Of Tel Aviv by Rami Ayyub
Activists from Republicans Overseas Israel, paste a pro-Trump election campaign ad on a minibus in Tel Aviv, Israel
October 14, 2020. The poster in Hebrew reads, "You have to thank Trump". Picture taken October 14, 2020. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    TEL AVIV (Reuters) – “You have to thank Trump” posters in Hebrew suddenly started appearing on minibuses in Tel Aviv this week, as Republican ads brought the race for the White House onto the streets of Israel.
    Democrats are also targeting American-Israelis.    They arranged a 40% discount with the courier service DHL for voters whose home states require overseas ballots to be sent by mail.
    Votes everywhere are precious as the U.S. election approaches.    Israel is in focus because many dual nationality American-Israelis are registered in swing states such as Florida and Pennsylvania, which could help decide the race.
    There are no reliable statistics on American-Israelis’ political leanings, but Marc Zell, chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel, estimated there were 25,000-30,000 eligible Florida voters in the country.
    “That could be the deciding factor in that state’s contest,” he said, pointing to George W. Bush’s narrow Florida victory in 2000, which handed him the election.
    Republican President Donald Trump has had an outsized influence in Israel during his term in office, delighting many by recognising Jerusalem as its capital and moving the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
    Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s supporters have sent election postcards to Israeli Democrats and independents from swing states, where, they say, around half of American-Israeli Democrats are registered.
    “Trump has used Israel as a partisan football to serve his own constituencies, like Christian Evangelicals,” Democrats Abroad Israel chair Heather Stone told Reuters.
    Biden, she said, was “a long-time friend of Israel who will help keep alive” the vision of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
BIDEN OR TRUMP
    The parties’ estimates of the number of eligible dual citizens resident in Israel range from 100,000 to 300,000. Some experts who track the information said it was likely to be more than 250,000.
    Half a dozen American-Israeli voters interviewed by Reuters identified the coronavirus crisis, economic policy and candidates’ stands on Israel as guiding their decisions.
    One New York voter, Hezi Kugler, said he was voting for Biden to bring “a return to decency and a restoration of integrity” at the highest level of government.
    “Trump has done some things that are good for Israeli interests, but his lack of global leadership has created an enormous vacuum in the region that is generally bad for Israel,” said Kugler, 62, an energy industry professional in Tel Aviv.
    In the Israeli city of Beit Shemesh, Republican David Wiener said Trump was the right choice because he approached thorny Middle East conflicts “from a business perspective.”
    Last month, Trump hosted a White House ceremony in which Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed deals to establish formal relations.
    “Gulf countries see Israel as an opportunity to expand their industries … Trump took advantage of that with the UAE,” said Wiener, 39, an aerospace engineer registered in Pennsylvania.
PALESTINIAN OUTREACH
    Although the election is most visible in Israel, there are also many Palestinians eligible to vote.
    The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem has encouraged voting by both sides, hosting Facebook live events with Arabic subtitles geared towards residents of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza.
    For Democrats Abroad, Stone said she was working with Palestinian activists in East Jerusalem and in the Palestinian diaspora to get out the vote.
    One East Jerusalem activist, Kefah Abukhdeir, said Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza face multiple barriers to sending votes abroad, including unreliable postal services that she called “practically non-existent.”
    “We haven’t had much luck turning out voters here,” she said.
    In Gaza, where an estimated 300 American-Palestinians live, Kamal Abusharia said he hoped to vote for the first time since the early 1990s in part due to anger towards Trump.
    But he held out little hope that Biden would reverse all of Trump’s pro-Israeli moves were he to win.
    “I don’t think that Biden would work to (return) the embassy (to Tel Aviv) or put the issue of Palestinian refugees back on the table,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mike Collett-White)

10/16/2020 Yemen’s Warring Parties Swap Prisoners For Second Day
Houthi prisoners board a plane before heading to Sanaa airport after being released by the Saudi-led
coalition in a prisoner swap, at Sayoun airport, Yemen October 15, 2020. REUTERS/Ali Owidha
    SANAA/ADEN (Reuters) – Planes carrying prisoners to be exchanged by Yemen’s warring parties took off on Friday on the second day of an operation to return about 1,000 men home and help build momentum for a new push to end a catastrophic war.
    A Saudi-led military coalition, which supports the internationally recognised Yemeni government, and Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement agreed last month in Switzerland to exchange 1,081 prisoners, including 15 Saudis, in the largest swap of its kind in the five-year-old conflict.
    More than 700 prisoners were exchanged on Thursday as the operation started, said the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is managing the process.
    An ICRC plane took off on Friday morning from Aden city, the temporary capital of the Yemeni government, ferrying detainees to the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa, a Reuters witness and the ICRC said.
    It was carrying 101 Houthi prisoners, an ICRC spokesperson said.
    At the same time, an ICRC plane took off from Sanaa airport carrying 76 prisoners to Aden, the ICRC spokesperson said.    Houthi-run al-Masirah TV said two planes would depart from Sanaa on Friday carrying around 150 prisoners in total.
    Men descending from the plane when it landed in Aden prostrated and kissed the tarmac.    Some embraced waiting friends and relatives.
    Around 355 prisoners are expected to be exchanged on Friday, Al Arabiya TV said.
    Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam said on Thursday the swap “brings hope for peace-building.”
    U.N. Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths told the Security Council on Thursday the swap was an “airlift of hope,” adding that both parties remain in negotiations for a permanent ceasefire, which he hoped could be agreed by the end of the year.
    The warring sides had agreed in 2018 to swap 15,000 detainees split between both sides to pave the way for political negotiations to end the conflict, but progress has been slow.
    Yemen has been at war since the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from power in Sanaa in late 2014, prompting the coalition to intervene in 2015.
(Reporting by Yemen team; Writing by Lisa Barrington, Editing by William Maclean)

10/16/2020 Pompeo Seeks Reversal Of ‘Provocative’ North Cyprus Move To Reopen Varosha
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department,
in Washington, DC, U.S., October 14, 2020. Manuel Balce Ceneta/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U..S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced deep concern about Northern Cyprus’ reopening part of a beachfront resort abandoned since Turkey invaded the island in 1974, calling it provocative and seeking its reversal, the State Department said on Friday.
    Pompeo made the comments in a call with Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, the Department said, referring to Turkish Cypriot authorities partial reopening of the beach town of Varosha, a former resort area fenced off and abandoned in no-man’s land since the 1974 invasion divided the island.
    “The Secretary expressed deep concern and noted such a move was provocative and inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolutions 550 and 789 and not conducive to a return to settlement talks,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
    “The Secretary urges a reversal of the re-opening,” she added.    “The United States continues to support a comprehensive settlement to reunify the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation, which would benefit all Cypriots and the entire region.”
    An affluent neighborhood of high rise hotels, residences and shops, Varosha’s 39,000 Greek Cypriot residents fled in the second wave of an invasion mounted by Turkey in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek inspired coup.    It was sealed off by the Turkish military, and effectively left to rot.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Tom Brown)

10/16/2020 Video Shows Missile Fired Where Turkey Cleared Way For S-400 Test, Prompting U.S. Warning
FILE PHOTO: A new S-400 "Triumph" surface-to-air missile system is shown after its stationing at a military
base outside the town of Gvardeysk near Kaliningrad, Russia, March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Vitaly Nevar
    ISTANBUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A missile was fired into the sky on Friday on Turkey’s Black Sea coast where the military was expected to test its Russian-made S-400 defence systems, according to local video obtained by Reuters, drawing a strong warning from the U.S. State Department.
    The video, taken in the coastal city of Sinop, showed a narrow column of smoke headed high into the blue sky.    In recent days Turkey had issued notices restricting air space and waters off the coastal area to allow firing tests.
    Tests of the S-400s, if verified, could stoke tensions between Turkey and the United States, which sharply opposed Ankara’s purchase of the weapons from Moscow on grounds they compromise shared NATO defence systems.
    State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the United States has expressed to the most senior levels of the Turkish government that the acquisition of Russian military systems such as the S-400 is unacceptable, adding that Washington has been clear on its expectation that the system should not be operationalized.
    “We have also been clear on the potential serious consequences for our security relationship if Turkey activates the system,” Ortagus said.
    “If confirmed, we would condemn in the strongest terms the S-400 test missile launch as incompatible with Turkey’s responsibilities as a NATO Ally and strategic partner of the United States,” she added.
    Turkey’s defence ministry said it would neither deny nor confirm missile tests.
    Washington reacted last year by suspending Turkey from its F-35 jet programme and has threatened sanctions.
    Defence analyst Turan Oguz said a preliminary assessment of the colour, intensity, angle and route of the smoke in the video coincided with S-400 missiles.    The angle of the column suggested the target “must not be too high,” he added.
    Last year the military conducted radar tests of the surface-to-air defences, which is among the world’s most advanced and can spot and track incoming aircraft at medium and long ranges.
    Turkey signed the S-400 deal with Russia in 2017. Deliveries of the first four missile batteries, worth $2.5 billion, began in July last year.
    Last week – after reports of the planned tests circulated – two U.S. senators called again for President Donald Trump’s administration to impose sanctions on Turkey.
(Additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Spicer, Jon Boyle and David Gregorio)

10/16/2020 For Iraq’s Persecuted Yazidis, Return Plan Is Fraught With Risk by Kawa Omar and Charlottle Bruneau
FILE PHOTO: A Yazidi fighter walks near Yazidi temple Sharaf al-Din, in Sinjar, Iraq
February 4, 2019. Picture taken February 4, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily/File Photo
    DOHUK, Iraq (Reuters) – The Yazidis of northern Iraq, an ancient religious minority brutally persecuted by Islamic State, want nothing more than peace, security and a better life in their home town of Sinjar – but they want it on their terms.
    Many there distrust a new security and reconstruction plan unveiled this week by the Baghdad government and Kurdish regional authorities which hailed it as a “historic” agreement.
    “The deal could pacify Sinjar – but it might also make the situation even worse,” said Talal Saleh, a Yazidi in exile in nearby Kurdistan.
    The Yazidis have suffered since IS marauded into Sinjar in 2014, one of the Sunni extremist group’s conquests that shocked the West into military action to stop it.
    IS viewed the Yazidis as devil worshippers for their faith that combines Zoroastrian, Christian, Manichean, Jewish and Muslim beliefs.
    It slaughtered more than 3,000 Yazidis, enslaved 7,000 women and girls and displaced most of its 550,000-strong community.
    Since Islamic State was driven out of Sinjar by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in 2015, the town and its surrounding areas are controlled by a patchwork of armed groups including the Iraqi army, Shi’ite Muslim militia, and Yazidi and Kurdish militants with different loyalties.
    The government plan would enforce security and allow the return of tens of thousands of Yazidis afraid to go back because of a lack of security and basic services, according to the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
    But many Sinjar natives feel the plan is vague, dictated by Baghdad and the Kurdish capital of Erbil.    They say it has not included them and entails security reforms that could mean more division and violence.
    “The PKK and their Yazidi allies are not just going to leave Sinjar without a fight,” Saleh said.
    The security arrangements include booting out the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that has fought a decades-long insurgency in Turkey and bases itself in northern Iraq.
    It would also drive out PKK “affiliates,” an apparent reference to a Yazidi force of hundreds of fighters.
ESCAPE
    The PKK with Yazidi volunteers helped thousands of Yazidis escape the IS onslaught to Syria after the Iraqi army fled many areas of Nineveh province and Erbil’s peshmerga forces retreated.
    The peshmerga returned to help recapture Sinjar? ?with U.S. air support.?
    The PKK is under attack by Turkish forces in Iraq and exists uneasily alongside the peshmerga and the Iraqi army.
    The army and the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), Iraq’s state paramilitary body dominated by Shi’ite militias, would oversee the ejection of the PKK, according to a copy the plan seen by Reuters.
    Some locals fear this could split up families where siblings sometimes belong to different militias, forces and groups.    The Yazidis also have their own force in the PMF, separate to the Yazidi PKK affiliate.
    “There are about six political groups in Sinjar now.    Brothers belonging to the same family each join different parties,” said Akram Rasho, another displaced Yazidi in Kurdistan.
    Baghdad and Erbil defend the plan.
    “This is a good step to solve problems,” said Kurdistan government spokesman Jotiar Adil.
    Sinjar has also been caught up in a territorial dispute between Baghdad and Erbil since a failed Kurdish bid for full independence in 2017.
    Under the plan for Sinjar, the Baghdad and Erbil governments would choose a new mayor and administrators and appoint 2,500 new local security personnel.
    Supporters of the PKK suspect those would include returning Yazidis affiliated with the peshmerga.
    At a demonstration against the deal in Sinjar on Sunday, Yazidi tribal leader Shamo Khadida shouted, “Sinjar belongs to its people and we are the people.”
    Others distance themselves from the politics and simply want to see delivery of services on the ground.
    “If actual efforts are made to improve our situation, the people of Sinjar will find agreement,” said Rasho.
(Kawa Omar reported from Dohuk and Charlotte Bruneau from Baghdad; Additional reporting, writing by John Davison in Baghdad; Editing by Giles Elgood)

10/16/2020 Mnuchin To Lead U.S. Delegation To Israel, Bahrain, UAE Oct. 17-20
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies during a Senate's Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs hearing
examining the quarterly CARES Act report to Congress, in Washington, DC, U.S., September 24, 2020. Drew Angerer/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will lead a U.S. delegation traveling to Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on Oct. 17-20, the Treasury Department said in a statement on Friday.
    The visit comes one month after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed agreements to establish formal ties with Israel, becoming the first Arab states to do so in a quarter-century, in deals that were denounced by Palestinian leaders.
(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

10/17/2020 Erdogan Tells Trudeau Suspension Of Drone Exports Is Against Alliance Spirit
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin
(not pictured) following talks in Moscow, Russia March 5, 2020. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Canada’s suspension of the export of some drone technology was not in line with the spirit of alliance, Erdogan’s office said late on Friday.
    Canada suspended the export of some drone technology to Turkey earlier this month as it probes allegations the equipment was used by Azeri forces involved in fighting with Armenia.
    In a phone call on Friday, Erdogan and Trudeau discussed improving relations and increasing bilateral trade, the Turkish presidency said, adding that they also talked about overcoming issues regarding cooperation in the defence sector.
    “During the call, President Tayyip Erdogan said Canada’s suspension of the export of some military goods to Turkey due to the Azerbajian-Armenia conflict… is against the spirit of alliance,” the presidency said.
    Turkey and Canada are both members of NATO.
    Following Canada’s announcement, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry had said the suspension showed a double standard.
    Turkey’s military exports to its ally Azerbaijan have risen six-fold this year, with sales of drones and other military equipment rising to $77 million last month alone before fighting broke out over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, according to exports data.
    Canadian arms control group Project Ploughshares says video of air strikes released by Azerbaijan indicates the drones had been equipped with imaging and targeting systems made by L3Harris Wescam, the Canada-based unit of L3Harris Technologies Inc.
    Ankara has said it stands firmly beside its close ally in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Can Sezer; Editing by Frances Kerry)

10/17/2020 Lebanon’s Protest Flame Still Flickers On Anniversary Of ‘Revolution’ by Imad Creidi
Anti-government demonstrators take pictures of a metal sculpture spelling out the word "revolution" topped by flames during a protest
as Lebanese mark one year since the start of nation-wide protests, near Beirut's port, Lebanon October 17, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Demonstrators marched through Lebanon’s capital on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of a protest movement that toppled the government but was then overwhelmed by economic crisis, coronavirus and a devastating explosion in Beirut.
    The demonstrations that broke out last October spread nationwide against a political elite that had ruled since the 1975-1990 civil war, presiding over an economic crisis and a collapse in the currency.
    While the turmoil led to the resignation of prime minister Saad al-Hariri, politicians have since failed to form a government capable of addressing the country’s challenges.
    The global pandemic and the Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut’s port, which killed nearly 200 people, brought further suffering and robbed the protests of momentum.
    Those marking the anniversary in Beirut said they were not abandoning their demand for revolution and for President Michel Aoun to step aside.
    “The revolution did not die,” said activist Rabih al-Zein.    “We can hold this corrupt authority accountable and the proof is we brought down two governments.”
    Hundreds of protesters marched past the central bank, a target of protesters’ anger over a financial crisis that has seen the Lebanese pound lose nearly 80% of its value, and the parliament building before gathering near the damaged port.
    A metal sculpture spelling out the word “Revolution” and topped by flames lit up the evening sky in front of the port.
    The protests come ahead of talks between Aoun and parliamentary blocs to choose a prime minister.    Hariri is in the running to form a government, although obstacles remain.
    The legitimate grievances of the Lebanese people have gone unheeded during a “harrowing year” of crises, said Jan Kubis, the United Nations special representative for Lebanon.
    “People’s commitment to and yearning for deep reforms and changes continues to be strong, even if the momentum has receded,” Kubis said.
    “They have planted the seeds for systemic changes.    One year on, their struggle continues.”
(Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Mike Harrison)

10/17/2020 Nigerian Army Plans Nationwide Exercise As Protests Rock Country by Camillus Eboh and Alexis Akwagyiram
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators gesture during a protest over alleged police brutality,
in Lagos, Nigeria October 14, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja/File Photo
    ABUJA/LAGOS (Reuters) – The Nigerian army will begin a two-month national exercise, it said on Saturday, while denying the move was part of any security response to recent widespread demonstrations against alleged police brutality.
    Operation Crocodile Smile would run across the country from Oct. 20 to Dec. 31, the first time the annual exercise, typically concentrated in the Delta region, will be nationwide, Musa said.
    The move comes just days after the army said it was ready to step in and restore order, but Musa said in a statement that the exercise “has no relationship with any lawful protest under any guise whatsoever.”
    Nigerians demanding an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) police unit and pressing for reforms and accountability have been rallying across the country.
    The army had on Wednesday issued a statement warning what it termed “subversive elements and trouble makers” that it was “ready to fully support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order and deal with any situation decisively.”
    Protesters have been using Twitter and the #EndSars hashtag to spread photos and videos showing alleged police brutality.    Social media is also a hub for organising demonstrations and Nigerians are using it to collect money and food to feed protesters and support those who are arrested.
    Additionally, a group calling itself Anonymous has claimed to have hacked various government websites in recent days, and warned it will continue to hack government websites and Twitter accounts in order to aid the #EndSars movement.
    “The army hereby enjoins all law abiding Nigerians to go about their lawful activities unhindered as the exercise has nothing to do with ENDSARS protest, but a yearly event set out by the (army) in its efforts to ensuring safety and security of Nigeria and her citizens,” Musa said in a statement.
    Government officials have not responded to requests for comment on whether any websites were hacked, and Reuters could not independently confirm the claims.    However Musa said the exercise would for the first time include cyber warfare training.     “The exercise is deliberately intended to be all- encompassing to include cyber warfare exercises designed to identify, track and counter negative propaganda in the social media and across the cyberspace,” Musa said in the release.
(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos and Camillus Eboh in Abuja; Writing by Libby George; Editing by David Holmes)

10/17/2020 ICC Delegation To Visit Sudan To Discuss Case Against Bashir
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's former president Omar Hassan al-Bashir sits inside a cage at the courthouse where he
is facing corruption charges, in Khartoum, Sudan September 28, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – An International Criminal Court delegation is to visit Sudan to discuss the cases of ousted president Omar al-Bashir and other former officials, the government said on Saturday.
    The delegation, led by prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, will discuss “cooperation” with Sudan over the wanted men, the government said in a statement.
    The court said Bensouda and a delegation would be in Khartoum for a few days, for the court’s first visit since Bashir was ousted.
    Bashir, who has been in jail in Khartoum since he was toppled after mass protests last year, has been indicted by the ICC for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
    The court in The Hague accused him in 2009 and 2010 of masterminding atrocities in his campaign to crush a revolt in the Darfur region in which an estimated 300,000 people died.
    Two other former officials wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity in Darfur, Ahmed Haroun and Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein, also in detention in Khartoum.
    Bashir’s lawyer has repeatedly denounced the charges against the former president as politically motivated.
    The civilian government that is running Sudan under a three-year transition with the military has signed a peace agreement with former rebels in Darfur and other neglected regions that had been fighting Bashir’s government for years.
(This story was refiled to add missing word ‘said’ in first paragraph, deletes extraneous words ‘last year’ in paragraph 3 and ‘also’ in paragraph 6.)
(Reporting by Khaled Abdelaziz and Stephanie van den Berg, Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Mike Harrison and Kevin Liffey)

10/17/2020 Lebanon’s Biggest Christian Party Says Won’t Back Hariri For PM
FILE PHOTO: Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks to the media after a session of the United Nations-backed Lebanon
Tribunal handing down a judgement in the case of four men being tried in absentia for the 2005 bombing that killed former prime minister
Rafik al-Hariri and 21 other people, in Leidschendam, Netherlands August 18, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s largest Christian political party said on Saturday it would not back the nomination of former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to lead a government to tackle a deep economic crisis, further complicating efforts to agree a new premier.
    Hariri, who quit as prime minister last October in the face of nationwide protests, has said he is ready to lead a government to implement reforms proposed by France as a way to unlock badly needed international aid.
    But Hariri, Lebanon’s most prominent Sunni Muslim politician, has failed to win backing from the two main Christian parties – the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Lebanese Forces.
    Parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister were due to be held last Thursday, but President Michel Aoun postponed the discussions after receiving requests for a delay from some parliamentary blocs.
    The FPM, which is led by Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil, said it could not back a political figure such as Hariri because French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal had called for a reformist government made up of and led by “specialists.”
    As a result, the party’s political council “decided unanimously not to nominate… Hariri to lead the government,” a statement said, adding that Aoun’s week-long postponement would not lead the party to reconsider its position.
    Hariri could still secure a parliamentary majority if the powerful Shi’ite group Hezbollah and its ally Amal endorse him for premier.
    But the absence of support from either of the main Christian blocs would hand him at best a fragile mandate to tackle Lebanon’s gravest crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
    The country has plunged into financial turmoil and the value of the Lebanese pound has collapsed.    COVID-19 and a huge explosion at Beirut’s port two months ago have compounded the crisis and pushed many Lebanese into poverty.
    Hariri, who has served twice as prime minister, resigned two weeks after huge protests erupted exactly a year ago.
    The demonstrations, triggered by plans to tax voice calls made through the Facebook-owned WhatsApp messaging application, grew into wider protests against Lebanon’s political elite.
(Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Helen Popper)

10/18/2020 Israel Sends Treaty Delegation To Bahrain With Trump Aides by Dan Williams
FILE PHOTO: National flags of Bahrain, UAE, Israel and the U.S. are projected on
the walls of Jerusalem's Old city September 15, 2020. REUTERS/ Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel is due to send delegates to Bahrain on Sunday to formalise nascent relations and broaden Gulf cooperation that Washington has promoted as an anti-Iran bulwark and potential economic bonanza.
    Bahrain followed the United Arab Emirates in agreeing last month to normalise ties with Israel, stunning Palestinians who had demanded statehood before any such regional rapprochement.
    The breakthrough, overseen by U.S. President Donald Trump, is a foreign policy flourish ahead of his reelection bid next month. For the U.S. allies, it is a chance to close ranks more overtly on Iran.
    Sunday’s delegation, led by Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, will be accompanied by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, whose office said the mission seeks “expanded economic cooperation” among Israel, Bahrain and UAE.
    An official involved in the visit said Israel and Bahrain would sign a communique upgrading their relationship: from the declaration of intent delivered at a White House ceremony on Sept. 15 to a formal establishment of ties.
    The delegates travel to Manama on El Al flight 973, a nod to Bahrain’s telephone code.    The Israeli airliner will overfly Saudi Arabia, an accommodation by the Gulf powerhouse that has so far resisted U.S. appeals to normalise ties with Israel.
    Mnuchin and another senior Trump aide, Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz, will continue on Monday to UAE, whose accord with Israel has uncorked bilateral commerce.    On Tuesday, the U.S. dignitaries will accompany the UAE’s first delegation to Israel.
    Though less oil-rich than UAE, Bahrain – host to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet – has geo-strategic significance.
    Ruled by a Sunni Muslim monarchy, it was the only Gulf Arab state to experience a sizeable pro-democracy uprising, led by the Shi’ite majority population, in the 2011 “Arab Spring.”
    The Israel deal drew anger among Bahrainis at home and abroad.    Manama has said the deal protects its interests from Iran. [nL8N2GE0RA]
    A Sept. 13 report by Israel’s Intelligence Ministry saw potential for defence cooperation with Bahrain, describing it as threatened by “Shiite political sedition, directed by Iran and its proxies.”
    Israel could also help Bahrain with renewable energy, food security and banking and finance technologies, it said.
(Reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

10/18/2020 Saudi Arabia Allows Citizens, Residents To Perform Prayers In Al-Haram Mosque: State TV
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia allowed its citizens and residents inside the kingdom to perform prayers in one of the most holy religious sites in Islam, Al-Haram mosque in Mecca, for the first time in seven months, state television reported early on Sunday.
    Earlier this month Saudi Arabia allowed citizens and residents to perform the Umrah pilgrimage at Islam’s holiest sites, Mecca and Medina, after a seven-month pause due to coronavirus concerns.
(Reporting by Hesham Abdul Khalek; Editing by William Mallard)

10/18/2020 Senior PLO Official Erekat Taken To Hospital After COVID-19 Condition Worsens by Ali Sawafta
FILE PHOTO: Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat looks on during a news conference following his meeting with
foreign diplomats, in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    JERICHO, West Bank (Reuters) – Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Israel on     Sunday for treatment of a worsening case of COVID-19, the Palestine Liberation Organization said.
    Witnesses said Erekat, 65, was on a stretcher when he was placed inside an Israeli ambulance outside his home in Jericho, in the occupied West Bank.    Erekat, who is also secretary-general of the PLO, disclosed on Oct. 8 that he had contracted coronavirus.
    He was rushed to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center.
    There is heightened concern over Erekat’s vulnerability to the illness because he underwent a lung transplant in the United States in 2017.
    “Following his contraction of COVID-19, and due to the chronic health problems he faces in the respiratory system, Dr. Erekat’s condition now requires medical attention in a hospital,” the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department said in a statement.
    The initial statement said he would be treated at a hospital in Tel Aviv, but the PLO later said he was taken to the hospital in Jerusalem.
    A member of Fatah, the most powerful faction within the PLO, Erekat has been one of the most high-profile faces of the Palestinian leadership for decades, especially to international audiences.
    Erekat is one of the most senior advisers to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and also served in top positions under Abbas’ predecessor, Yasser Arafat.
    His negotiating days date back to the earliest public negotiations with Israel in 1991 at the Madrid Conference during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, when Erekat was part of the PLO team.
    A proponent of a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Erekat has been a leading Palestinian voice in opposing Israel’s settlement policy in territory it captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
(Reporting by Ali Sawafta, Adel Abu Nimeh and Rami Ayyub; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Frances Kerry)

10/18/2020 Premier Tatar Ousts Incumbent President In Northern Cyprus Vote
Turkish Cypriot presidential candidate Ersin Tatar casts his vote at a polling station during Turkish
Cypriot presidential elections in northern Nicosia, Cyprus October 18, 2020. REUTERS/Harun Ucar
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Ersin Tatar, prime minister of the breakaway state of North Cyprus, won a presidential election runoff on Sunday with 51.74% of votes, said Narin Ferdi Sefik, head of the electoral board.
    Tatar, 60, was facing Mustafa Akinci, the 72-year-old incumbent president, who received 48.26% after all votes were counted.
    Tatar supports separate sovereign administrations on the island, while Akinci wants to work to reunite the island, which split after a Turkish invasion in 1974 in response to a brief Greek-inspired coup.
    Only Turkey recognises Northern Cyprus as an independent state. As well as having an impact on inter-island talks, the result of Northern Cyprus’ election may influence negotiations over contested maritime claims in the eastern Mediterranean, which has Turkey at odds with Greece and Cyprus.
    Earlier this month, Tatar, speaking alongside Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, said Northern Cyprus was reopening part of the beachfront of a resort abandoned for 46 years, a move that could hurt efforts to revive dispute settlement talks.
    The president of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, called the move illegal.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

10/18/2020 Sudan’s Premier Backs Demands For Justice As ICC Prosecutor Visits
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's Prime Minister in the transitional government Abdalla Hamdok in Khartoum, Sudan December 25, 2019. REUTERS/ Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said on Sunday his government was committed to achieving justice as an International Criminal Court (ICC) delegation visited for the first time since the overthrow of ex-leader Omar al-Bashir.
    The ICC issued arrest warrants against Bashir in 2009 and 2010 on charges of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity during his campaign to crush a revolt in Darfur in which an estimated 300,000 people died.
    The delegation, led by Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, arrived in Sudan late on Saturday to discuss the cases of Bashir and two other former officials wanted by ICC.
    Bensouda also met the powerful deputy leader of Sudan’s ruling council, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who said the government was willing to cooperate with the court, state news agency SUNA reported.
    Though Sudanese transitional authorities have said they will work with the ICC for those accused of war crimes to appear before the tribunal, it is unclear where and how hearings would take place.
    Bashir and the two other former officials, Ahmed Haroun and Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein, were jailed after the uprising that led to Bashir’s overthrow in April last year.
    “Sudan’s commitment to achieving justice is not only part of international obligations, but also comes in response to popular demands to establish justice,” a cabinet statement cited Hamdok as saying as he met the ICC delegation.
    Bashir has already been sentenced to two years in prison on corruption charges and is currently on trial over the military coup in which he took power in 1989.
    His lawyer has denounced the various charges against the former president as politically motivated.
    Hamdok’s civilian government is working under a military-civilian ruling council during a three-year transition that is meant to lead to elections.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Mahmoud Mourad; editing by Aidan Lewis and Kirsten Donovan)

10/18/2020 Israel, UAE To Sign Agreement For 28 Weekly Flights, Ministry Says
FILE PHOTO: The Israeli flag carrier El Al's airliner carrying Israeli and U.S. delegates approaches to land at Abu Dhabi
International Airport, United Arab Emirates August 31, 2020. Ministry of Presidential Affairs/WAM/Handout via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel and the United Arab Emirates will a sign a deal on Tuesday to allow 28 weekly commercial flights between Israel’s Ben Gurion airport, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Israel’s Transportation Ministry said on Sunday.
    The agreement, which also allows unlimited charter flights to a smaller airport in southern Israel and 10 weekly cargo flights, comes after Israel and UAE agreed to normalize relations.
    The aviation deal will be signed at Ben Gurion airport and flights are expected to begin within weeks, the ministry said.
(Reporting by Tova Cohen and Ari Rabinovitch)

10/18/2020 Israel, UAE Agree Deal To Boost Investment In Each Other’s Economies by Steven Scheer
FILE PHOTO: Emirati and Israeli flags fly upon the arrival of Israeli and U.S. delegates at Abu Dhabi
International Airport, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Christopher Pike
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have reached a bilateral agreement that will give incentives and protection to investors who make investments in each other’s countries, both finance ministries said on Sunday.
    The agreement is one of the first between the UAE and Israel after they agreed to normalise relations in August.
    It is also the first such agreement Israel has forged with an Arab country and will become the 37th such treaty for Israel, with the 36 others mainly Western countries.    The last was signed with Japan in 2017.
    The UAE has signed 99 investment protection treaties and this one with Israel would strengthen economic ties, encourage competition and increase the attractiveness of investments between the two countries, UAE Finance Ministry Undersecretary Younis Haji Al Khoori said in a statement.
    Under the deal, which still needs to be signed by both finance ministers, investors would be protected from arbitrary changes in regulation and political situations and they will be able to transfer funds out of country if needed — a framework the Israeli ministry said would put investors’ minds at ease.
    The UAE finance ministry said the agreement would protect investments from non-commercial risks such as “nationalisation, confiscation, judicial seizures, freezing assets, establishing licensed investments, and transferring profits and revenues in convertible currencies.”
    Israeli Finance Ministry chief economist Shira Greenberg said the agreement would benefit the private sector while promoting competition in the Israeli economy.
    Last week, the UAE and Israel reached a preliminary agreement on a separate deal that would avoid double taxation.
(Reporting by Steven Scheer; Addititional reporting by Davide Barbuscia. Editing by Jane Merriman)

10/18/2020 Lebanese Top Cleric Urges Leaders To Stop Delays In Forming Government
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai speaks after meeting with Lebanon's President
Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon July 15, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s top Christian cleric urged Lebanese leaders to stop delaying talks on forming a government in a scathing Sunday sermon in which he blamed them for the country’s financial crisis and political deadlock.
    Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, leader of the Maronite church, was speaking a day after demonstrators marched through Beirut to mark the     first anniversary of a protest movement which erupted last October against corruption and mismanagement.
    In the year since, Lebanon’s problems have been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and a devastating explosion in Beirut in August.
    “Take your hands off the government and liberate it.    You are responsible for the crime of plunging the country into total paralysis in addition to the implications of the corona pandemic,” the patriarch said in his sermon.
    His remarks came after two main Christian parties, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Lebanese Forces, said this week they would not back the nomination of former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to lead a new government to tackle the deep economic crisis, further complicating efforts to agree a new premier.
    “The responsibility and accountability is collective.    Who among you officials has the leisure of time to delay consultations to form a government?” he said.
    “No one is innocent of Lebanon’s (financial) bleeding.”
    Hariri, who quit as prime minister last October in the face of the nationwide protests, has said he is ready to lead a government to implement reforms proposed by France as a way to unlock badly needed international aid.
    Parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister were due to be held last Thursday, but President Michel Aoun postponed the discussions after receiving requests for a delay from some parliamentary blocs.
(Reporting By Maha El Dahan and Samia Nakhoul; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/18/2020 Israel, U.S. Delegates Board Flight To Formalize Diplomacy With Bahrain by OAN Newsroom
Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, left, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin disembark from an Israeli
flag carrier El Al airliner on their arrival in Muharraq, Bahrain, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool Photo via AP)
    Israeli and U.S. delegates boarded the first commercial flight from Israel to Bahrain this weekend.
    While speaking to reporters on Sunday, delegates stated they were excited to travel to Bahrain.    There, they will formalize diplomatic ties between Bahrain, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
    Officials will take part in the first ever “Abraham Accords Business Summit,” which was named after the historic peace deal brokered through President Trump last month.
    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin voiced his excitement and appreciation for the agreements shortly before boarding the plane to Bahrain.
    “I couldn’t be more thrilled to be here to take the first commercial flight to Bahrain,” he stated.    “I especially want to thank the prime minister and the king for their bold leadership, and for President Trump bringing this all together for this incredible day.”
From left, Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, U.S. Treasury Secretary
Steve Mnuchin, and U.S. Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz, deliver statements before boarding Israeli flag carrier El Al
plane to Bahrain, at Ben Gurion airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool Photo via AP)
    Delegates from each side will discuss economic expansion, culture and technology in an effort to establish peace between the countries.
    Mnuchin and other U.S. officials will travel to the UAE after the meeting, where they will join the country’s first delegation to Israel.

10/18/2020 Saudi Arabia Restructures Top Religious And Advisory Bodies
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz attends a virtual cabinet meeting in Neom,
Saudi Arabia August 18, 2020. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman issued a series of orders on Sunday restructuring the kingdom’s advisory Shura Council, the supreme court and the highest religious body.
    The orders, carried on state media, appointed a new speaker and two deputies for the Shura Council, an influential advisory body which is due to start a new term this week.    One of the deputies is a woman.
    The king also ordered a “reformation” of the Council of Senior Scholars to be headed by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, and appointed a new Supreme Court chief, Khaled bin Abdullah al-Luhaidan.
    He also named Ghayhab Mohammed al-Ghayhab as a senior adviser to the royal court.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Samar Hassan; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Alexandra Hudson)

10/19/2020 With Instagram, Hashtags And Bitcoin, Young Nigerians Boost Anti-Police Protests by Alexis Akwagyiram
Demonstrators gather beside an electronic billboard displaying the slogan "End police brutality," during
a protest in Lagos, Nigeria October 17, 2020. Picture taken October 17, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja
    LAGOS (Reuters) – Ozioma Egemasi says Nigerian police slapped, whipped and struck him with the butt of a pistol when he refused to pay them a bribe.    Then he heard them discuss whether to kill him.
    The 24-year-old music label manager shared his experience on Instagram, one of thousands of mostly young Nigerians who are taking to social media to speak out against alleged abuses by police and to coordinate ongoing protests.
    Thousands of people have taken to the streets daily across the country in one of the biggest shows of public anger in 30 years, posing a major challenge to President Muhammadu Buhari amid an economic slump made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
    “I was scared.    It meant they were willing to do anything to get whatever they wanted to get from me,” said Egemasi, recalling the January encounter with members of Nigeria’s Special Anti-robbery Squad
    Reuters could not independently verify his account.    A Lagos state police spokesman did not respond to phone calls and a text message seeking comment on the allegations.
    The police force has previously denied accusations against SARS that are fuelling the unrest, although it said earlier this month that “unruly and unprofessional” officers had been arrested and were facing disciplinary actions.
    Other concessions have been made since nationwide demonstrations began on Oct. 8: SARS was disbanded on Oct. 11 and a new police unit, the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, was created to “fill the gaps.”
    But it has not had the desired effect.    Protesters say they have heard such promises before and demand deeper changes, including the prosecution of police accused of wrongdoing.
    Rallying under the #EndSars hashtag and harnessing social media to raise awareness and funds and to garner support from international celebrities, protesters have built a momentum that previous actions led by civil groups and unions failed to do.
    There are clear parallels with anti-government movements in places like Hong Kong and Belarus, said Antony Goldman, chief executive of London-based political risk advisory firm ProMedia Consulting.
    “They have increasingly connected young, urban populations that have found a cause, and social media has triggered very rapid momentum,” Goldman said.
    The Nigerian protesters have drawn support from Black Lives Matter activists in the United States, including the movement’s co-founder Opal Tometi, and from Canadian rapper Drake and British-Nigerian actor John Boyega.
    A Twitter account using the name of the internet activist collective Anonymous said last week it had hacked into Nigerian government websites in solidarity with the #EndSars campaign.    Government officials did not confirm any breaches.
[L8N2H80L6]
TECH TARGETS?
    Members of Nigeria’s burgeoning tech industry, a bright spot for foreign investors in Africa’s most populous nation, say they are often singled out by police for spot checks.
    Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, co-founder of software developer training firm Andela and payments company Flutterwave, said so many employees had been harassed that his companies had protocols in place to call senior police officials in the event of an arrest.
    Egemasi said his laptop and financial transactions on his cell phone aroused the suspicion of the five SARS officers who stopped him in a Lagos street at the start of the year.
    “This happens all the time to young people because they believe we are young and not supposed to have that kind of money,” he told Reuters.
    He said he was freed after paying a 500,000 naira ($1,300) bribe.
    As he spoke, Egemasi was surrounded by more than a thousand protesters at a toll gate in the upmarket Lekki district of Lagos on Saturday.
    Music blared out of tall speakers.    A giant electronic billboard displayed slogans such as “Soro Soke,” a Yoruba phrase meaning “Speak Up.”    And activists doled out free food and collected litter in black plastic bags.
CROWDFUNDING
    Such gatherings have largely been financed through crowdfunding, activists say.
    The Feminist Coalition, a Nigerian rights group coordinating some of the logistics, said on its fundraising page it had received more than 73 million naira ($192,000) as of Sunday.
    The funds have been used to hire private security guards to defend protesters against armed gangs who attacked some demonstrations last week, pay for private ambulances and cover the legal bills of more than 70 participants arrested across Nigeria, according to a spokeswoman for the group.
    The crowdfunding is necessary to avoid political interference, said the spokeswoman, who asked not to be identified for fear of censure by the government.
    “This is a decentralized, democratic process.”
    Two Nigerian banks closed the group’s accounts last week, so they converted their savings to bitcoin and started fundraising in the cryptocurrency, she added.
    Donations soared after Twitter Inc CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday posted a tweet https://twitter.com/jack/status/1316485283777519620?s=20 encouraging his nearly 5 million followers to contribute.
    The crowdfunding has helped make the demonstrations among the biggest and longest-running in decades, said Cheta Nwanze of SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based risk advisory firm.
    The provision of free food was a “very good use of resources,” he added.    Most people live on less than $2 a day.
    “It’s helping to sustain the momentum.”
($1 = 380.6000 naira)
(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Alexandra Zavis and Mike Collett-White)

10/19/2020 Turkey Withdraws From Base In Northwest Syria, Sources Say by Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Orhan Coskun
FILE PHOTO: A Syrian army soldier stands near the Turkish observation point in the town
of Morek, Hama province, Syria August 24, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki/File Photo
    AMMAN/ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey is withdrawing troops from a military post in northwest Syria that was surrounded by Syrian government forces last year, but is consolidating its presence elsewhere in the region, sources familiar with the operation said on Monday.
    The observation post at Morek was one of a dozen set up by Turkish soldiers in 2018 under an ill-fated deal to calm fighting between Syrian government troops and Turkey-backed rebels controlling the northwestern Idlib region.
    Morek and several other Turkish posts were surrounded last year by advancing Syrian government forces.    Ankara has kept them manned and re-supplied since then, while reinforcing the remaining rebel-held territory to hold back government forces and prevent millions of refugees streaming towards Turkey.
    Turkish officials have in the past ruled out pulling back from a single observation post, but the sources said there was no longer any military value in staying at Morek.
    “The dismantling of the base has begun,” a senior Syrian opposition figure close to Turkey told Reuters.
    The withdrawal from the exposed position would take several days, he said, describing it as part of Turkish efforts to “consolidate ceasefire lines” reached in a March agreement with Russia which halted the heaviest fighting in years around Idlib.
    Two other sources familiar with the operation, who asked not to be named, said the withdrawal started early on Monday.    “The Turkish armed forces are not considering evacuating another observation post at this stage,” one of them said.
    Syrian rebels say Turkey retains between 10,000 and 15,000 troops in the pocket of northwest Syria, alongside rebel fighters backed by Ankara and jihadist forces it has committed to disarm and contain.
    Already home to 3.6 million Syrian refugees, Turkey is determined to prevent a further influx of people fleeing fighting.    The United Nations says there are around 4 million people in north-west Syria, of which 2.7 million have been displaced during the nine-year-old conflict.
    Turkey has backed rebels who sought to overthrow Bashar al-Assad.    But the Syrian president, supported by Russia and Iran, has driven back the rebel fighters who once threatened to encircle Damascus and are now confined to their small pocket in the northwest of the county.
(Writing by Dominic Evans, Editing by William Maclean)

10/19/2020 Worried About Weak Oil Demand, OPEC Pledges Action by Alex Lawler, Ahmad Ghaddar and Vladimir Soldatkin
FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed oil pump jack is seen in front of displayed stock graph
and Opec logo in this illustration picture, April 14, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
    LONDON/MOSCOW/DUBAI (Reuters) – OPEC and allied producers on Monday pledged action to support the oil market as concerns mounted that a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic will hobble demand and an earlier plan to raise output from next year would further depress prices.
    Saudi Arabia, the biggest member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), said no-one should doubt the group’s commitment to providing support, while three sources from producing countries said a planned output increase from January could be reversed if necessary.
    Already Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held two phone calls last week.    Kremlin Dmitry Peskov spokesman said regular contact was necessary as the markets were volatile.     OPEC and its allies, including Russia, collectively known as OPEC+, have curbed output since January 2017 to try to support prices and reduce inventories.
    “This group has shown, especially in this year, that it has the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances when required.    We will not dodge our responsibilities in this regard,” Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said.
    “Nobody in the market should be in any doubt as to our commitment and our intent,” Prince Abdulaziz told the opening of an OPEC+ ministerial monitoring committee (JMMC).
    For now, OPEC+ is reducing production by 7.7 million barrels per day (bpd), down from cuts totalling 9.7 million bpd enforced from May 1 to Aug. 1.    OPEC+ is due to reduce the cuts by a further 2 million bpd in January.
    OPEC watchers, including analysts from U.S. bank J.P. Morgan, have said a weak demand outlook could prompt OPEC+ to delay the reduction in curbs.
    “Demand recovery is uneven… Today this process has slowed down because of a second coronavirus wave, but has not yet fully reversed,” Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told JMMC. Novak previously insisted on easing the cuts.
    Four OPEC+ sources speaking on condition of anonymity said Monday’s panel did not make any formal recommendation on changing policy for 2021 ahead of the next full OPEC meeting on Nov. 30-Dec. 1.
    Brent oil prices traded flat at $43 per barrel. [LCOc1]
(Reporting by Alex Lawler and Ahmad Ghaddar in London, Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow and Rania El Gamal in Dubai; Editing by David Goodman and Barbara Lewis)

10/20/2020 UAE Government Delegation Heads To Israel For First Official Visit
A man rides a scooter near the flags of the U.S., United Arab Emirates, Israel and Bahrain
as they flutter along a road in Netanya, Israel September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Nir Elias
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The first ever official United Arab Emirates delegation to Israel took off on Tuesday as the two countries look to broaden cooperation after normalising ties last month under a U.S.-brokered accord, forged largely over shared fears of Iran.
    An Etihad Airways plane carrying Emirati government officials, with U.S. dignitaries accompanying them, left the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, headed to Ben-Gurion Airport, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.
Israeli officials said the visit would be restricted to the airport due to coronavirus concerns.
    The UAE and fellow Gulf state Bahrain in September became the first Arab states in a quarter of a century to sign deals to establish formal ties with Israel, a move that Washington and its allies have said would foster regional peace and stability but which has been rejected by the Palestinians.
    The Emirati delegation is led by Economy Minister Abdullah bin Touq al-Mari and Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid al-Tayer, a UAE foreign ministry spokeswoman tweeted.
    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Middle East envoy Ari Berkowitz are joining them on the trip, after having accompanied an Israeli delegation to Bahrain on Sunday for a signing ceremony to formalise ties.
    Israel and the UAE have already signed several commercial deals since mid-August, when they first announced they would establish full relations.
    Israeli officials said the two sides were expected to sign a mutual visa-exemption agreement – Israel’s first with an Arab country.
(Reporting by Lisa Barrington, Dan Williams and Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Andrew Heavens and John Stonestreet)

10/20/2020 France’s Macron, Iraq PM Highlight Importance Of Fight Against Terrorism
French President Emmanuel Macron, wearing a protective face mask, waits for the arrival of Iraqi Prime Minister
Mustafa al-Kadhimi at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France October 19, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
    PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron and Iraq Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi both highlighted the importance of the fight against terrorism following a meeting in Paris, a statement from Macron’s office said on Tuesday.
    Macron hosted the meeting on Monday, which followed the French leader’s own trip to Iraq in September, when he expressed his support for Iraq’s sovereignty and said Iraq’s main challenges were Islamic State militants and foreign interference in its affairs.
    The statement from the French president’s office also said the two leaders had also welcomed French group Alstom’s plans to work on a Baghdad metro project.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Jean Terzian; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

10/19/2020 U.S. May Delist Sudan As State Sponsor Of Terror by OAN Newsroom
A Sudanese flag is seen waving as protesters chant slogans. (ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP via Getty Images)
    According to reports, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could normalize U.S. relations with Sudan if the country establishes diplomatic relations with Israel.
    State Department officials have said Sudan should also join in the Israeli-Emirati peace deal brokered by President Trump.
    The President stated Sudan’s new government has agreed to pay $335 million to U.S. victims of Islamic terror and restrictions could be lifted once the money is deposited.
    European officials have noted they see major economic opportunities in Sudan.
    “We will of course continue to plead with the United States for Sudan to be removed from the list of states who support terrorism, which will allow it to normalize its relationships with international financial institutions,” French President Emmanuel Macron.    “It is an essential battle and we will fully support you.”
French president Emmanuel Macron speaks during a call conference. (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
    Officials have also noted Sudan urgently needs debt relief and foreign financing, which might be achieved by recognizing Israel and its capital in Jerusalem.

10/20/2020 EU Takes Legal Action Against ‘Golden Passport’ Schemes In Cyprus, Malta
FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters
in Brussels, Belgium August 21, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s executive said on Tuesday it was launching legal action against Cyprus and Malta over their investor citizenship programmes, also known as “golden passport” schemes.
    The schemes allow wealthy foreigners to buy citizenship in exchange for an investment of around 1 million euros ($1.2 million) in Malta and 2 million euros in Cyprus.
    The European Commission said the decision was taken because the two member states granted nationality – and thereby EU citizenship – without requiring “a genuine link with the country,” as passport holders were not obliged to reside there.
    The Commission also sent a letter to Bulgaria raising concerns about its passport-for-sale scheme, it said in a statement.
    “There cannot be a weak link in EU efforts to curb corruption and money laundering,” Values and Transparency Commissioner Vera Jourova said.
    Malta’s Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said on Tuesday the country was replacing its current scheme with a new programme that would introduce tighter vetting of applicants, who will have to be residents of the islands for a year before their applications can be considered.
    The commission has refrained from launching legal actions against EU states that sell residence permits, also known as “golden visa schemes,” without requiring investors to stay in the country for a meaningful period, despite a European Parliament resolution urging such a move.
    In a 2019 report the commission acknowledged golden visa and golden passport schemes posed similar money-laundering and organised crime risks.
    Portugal, Greece and Bulgaria currently offer golden visa schemes under these lax conditions, a practice of which Latvia was pioneer in Europe.
    Cyprus said last week it was suspending its citizenship-for- investment programme, ditching a scheme the government had acknowledged was open to abuse after an investigation by Al Jazeera, a media outlet.
    The commission said it would need concrete actions to stop the practice.
    The EU cannot ban such schemes, but it can force countries to require “effective residence,” meaning physical presence for a regular and extended period in the territory of the state concerned.
    Both states circumvented those rules, the commission said.
    The Cypriot and Maltese governments have two months to take action.    Without meaningful changes, the commission could refer them to the bloc’s Court of Justice and ultimately it can ask the court to impose penalties.
(Reporting by John Chalmers and Francesco Guarascio; additional reporting by Chris Scicluna in Valletta; Editing by Alex Richardson)

10/20/2020 Nigeria’s Police Chief Orders Immediate Deployment Of Anti-Riot Police Unit, Spokesman Says
A demonstrator paints 'End Sars', referring to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad police unit, on a street
during a protest demanding police reform in Lagos, Nigeria October 20, 2020. REUTERS/Seun Sanni
    LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigeria’s police chief has ordered the immediate nationwide deployment of its anti-riot police unit, spokesman said on Tuesday, in the wake of increased attacks on police facilities as protests over alleged police brutality rage.
    A police station in the Orile Iganmu area of Lagos was set ablaze on Tuesday, a local TV station reported.
(Reporting by Libby George; Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Alison Williams)

10/20/2020 Battle Over Israel’s Budget Risks Election, More Economic Gloom by Steven Scheer and Maayan Lubell
FILE PHOTO: A banner depicts Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White party, and Israel Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as part
of Blue and White party's campaign ahead of the upcoming election, in Tel Aviv, Israel February 17, 2020. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A festering government crisis over passage of a national budget could push Israel into its fourth election since mid-2019, further straining an economy hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
    Crunch time is approaching: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bickering coalition, patched together in May, has by law until Dec. 23 to pass the 2020 budget, a move held up by political stalemate and successive national ballots.
    Failure to do so by the deadline would automatically trigger an election that both right-wing Likud leader Netanyahu and his main governing partner, centrist Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz, insist they do not want.
    Yet, Gantz wants a 2021 budget passed in tandem, saying it would speed up Israel’s economic recovery and is demanding real progress be made soon.    “It’s either a budget or elections,” he told Ynet TV last week.
    Netanyahu says that with the December passage date fast approaching, working out the details of such a longer-term package now was impractical.
    It’s a game of thrones, political and economic commentators said, with a budget crisis a potential means for Netanyahu to hold a new election and scupper a “rotation” pact under which he would hand over the premiership to Gantz in November 2021.
    Rating agencies have cautioned that further budget delays would raise concerns about Israel’s ability to implement prudent fiscal policies and could affect credit ratings.
    Two national lockdowns to lower COVID-19 infection rates have dealt heavy blows the economy, already in recession and set to contract for the first time in two decades, with unemployment now above 12%.
    “We’ve been giving the government the benefit of the doubt and expect some reasonable medium-term fiscal consolidation action — steps taken by the government,” Karen Vartapetov, a sovereign ratings director at S&P, told Reuters.
    S&P is carrying out a review of Israel’s rating next month and Vartapetov said all options were open, including no ratings action, an outlook downgrade to “negative” from “stable” as well as a ratings reduction.
    Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron has urged Netanyahu’s government to accelerate the 2021 budget, saying last week on Army Radio that it could be completed in December.
    While the budget battle plays out, Momi Dahan, a Hebrew University economist, said concern over “amateur management” of the economic crisis could weigh on investors and consumers.
STREET PROTESTS
    Three top finance ministry officials have already quit, in a sign of frustration over the budget bickering.    Israel is still using a pro-rated version of the 2019 budget.
    The power-sharing accord between Netanyahu and Gantz stipulated Israel would pass a biennial budget for 2020 and 2021 – a de-facto insurance policy for a smooth transition of power.
    But with Netanyahu’s trial over alleged corruption, which he denies, due to resume in January, a fresh ballot next year could delay proceedings.
    A renewed mandate gained by Netanyahu at the ballot box might help supporters promote legislation to freeze his trial.
    “Forget the pandemic, forget the economy, forget everything. Netanyahu wants to survive,” said Reuven Hazan, a political scientist at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.    “We’re basically in the hands of one person.”
    But another election soon would be risky for Netanyahu, even as he hails the economic potential of agreements on formal relations with United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
    “The budget by nature is political.    But it’s normally political with a sense of responsibility,” said former Bank of Israel Deputy Governor Nadine Baudot-Trajtenberg. “Now it’s political with no sense of responsibility.    And that’s what’s so worrisome.”
    A spokesman for Netanyahu declined to comment and a Likud spokesman did not respond to a request to comment.
    Street protests calling for Netanyahu’s resignation have become commonplace.    Opinion polls show only about 30% of Israelis believe he has handled the health crisis effectively, while Likud may lose a quarter of its parliament seats in an election.
    Gantz has said Blue and White could quit the coalition and dissolve parliament if the crisis is not resolved, despite surveys showing weak support for his party in an imminent election.
    Netanyahu, who has spearheaded free market reforms for nearly two decades, denies any ulterior motive in budget policy.
    “I have always worked for the benefit of Israel’s economy, many times against no small experts and I was always right,” he said on Saturday.
(Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller, William Maclean)

10/20/2020 Kuwait’s New Emir Calls For National Unity Ahead Of Elections by Ahmed Hagagy
FILE PHOTO: Kuwait's new Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah gestures as he takes the oath of office
at the parliament, in Kuwait City, Kuwait September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee
    KUWAIT (Reuters) – Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah called on Tuesday for national unity to meet challenges facing the Gulf state, in a speech to lawmakers ahead of elections on Dec. 5.
    The parliamentary elections come at a time when the wealthy OPEC member is facing a liquidity crisis caused by low oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic against the backdrop of continued tensions between larger neighbours Saudi Arabia and Iran.
    “National unity has proven to be our strongest weapon in facing challenges, dangers and crises,” said the emir, who assumed power last month on the death of the previous ruler.
    Frequent clashes between the cabinet and parliament have led to successive government reshuffles and dissolutions of parliament, hindering investment and reform efforts.    The outspoken assembly, the Gulf’s oldest legislature, can block bills and question ministers.
    Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah, also addressing the opening of a supplementary legislative session, called for greater efforts to “diversify revenue sources and rationalize spending and consumption … without detriment to citizens” in the cradle-to-grave welfare state.
    He said the government was seeking more sustainable tools to finance the budget, in which public sector salaries and subsidies accounted for 71% of spending for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
    The nearly $140 billion economy is facing a yawning deficit of $46 billion this year.    A priority will be overcoming legislative gridlock on a bill that would allow Kuwait to tap international debt markets.
    Lawmakers opposed to the debt law have called for clarity on government plans to reduce reliance on oil exports, which accounted for 89% of revenues in the last fiscal year.
    The emir is expected to maintain oil and investment policy and a balanced foreign policy that strove for Arab unity.
    In his speech, the premier said Kuwait would continue mediation efforts to end a Gulf dispute that has seen Saudi Arabia and its allies boycott Qatar since mid-2017.    He reiterated his country’s support for Palestinians’ rights.
(Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous and Ahmed Hagagy; Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Catherine Evans, Philippa Fletcher and Giles Elgood)

10/20/2020 U.S. To Remove Sudan From State Sponsors Of Terrorism List by OAN Newsroom
Sudanese Finance Minister Heba Mohamed Ali speaks during a press conference in Khartoum, Sudan, Tuesday Oct. 20, 2020.
President Donald Trump on Monday said Sudan will be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism if it
follows through on its pledge to pay $335 million to American terror victims and their families. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)
    The U.S. is expected to remove Sudan from the state sponsors of terrorism list.    On Monday, President Trump announced the move after the East African country agreed to pay $335 million in settlements for American terror victims and their families.
    Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok quickly thanked the President and said he looks forward to a transition into democracy for his people.
    “Last year, we started a serious discussion with the American administration to remove Sudan’s name from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism,” Hamdok explained.    “I spent the whole of last year in constant contact with you (the Sudanese people), telling you that we have come close to this moment, the moment of removing Sudan’s name from that list, and today this was achieved.”
    Sudan has been on the list since 1993 When its former leader was believed to have supported militia groups.    After two years of formal negotiations, the new government has been cooperating with the US. on counter-terrorism efforts.
    “Concerning the issue of the terror list, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been working with Sudan for years to bridge gaps between the United     States and Sudan, and we managed to contribute to this process,” stated Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi State Minister for Foreign Affairs.    “We worked and we continue to work with Sudan in order to remove Sudan from sponsors of terrorism list and we believe it is a matter of time.”
    The deal could also pave the way for Sudan to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. However, officials have made it clear that the normalization between the two countries should remain separate from the de-listing of the African country.
    As of recent, Hamdok had opposed to doing so as Sudan’s transitional government remains divided on formalizing diplomacy with Israel.    A U.S. official explained Israel and Sudan could later work to establish relations, but only after the U.S. confirms its list removal.
    The move would add to the string of foreign policy achievements that have been brokered by President Trump with the most recent being the normalization of Israel’s relations with the UAE and Bahrain.

10/20/2020 Israel Uncovers Tunnel From Gaza, Military Says Holds Hamas Responsible
FILE PHOTO: An Israeli tank and a military vehicle can be seen next to a security barrier
near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, Israel March 18, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Israel discovered a new cross-border tunnel from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday that its military said extended “dozens of metres underground” and into southern Israel.
    The military said its engineers discovered the tunnel using underground sensors attached to a concrete barrier that, once completed, will run 65 kilometres (40 miles) around Gaza.
    Soon after the announcement, a rocket was fired from Hamas-ruled Gaza toward Israel and intercepted by its Iron Dome anti-missile system, the military said.    In response, Israeli aircraft struck a Hamas facility in southern Gaza, it added.
    There were no reports of casualties on either side.
    Palestinians have used underground tunnels to smuggle in all manner of commercial goods to Gaza, as well as to bring in weapons for militants from Hamas and other groups.
    Militants have also used the tunnels to launch attacks inside Israel, which maintains a land and sea blockade of Gaza, citing threats from Hamas.
    The new tunnel originates in the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, extending across the Israeli border before terminating underground before reaching the barrier, military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said.
    He added: “We have not seen an exit point from the tunnel.    So you could deduce from that that the aim was not for the terrorists to emerge from that location, but rather further inside Israel.”
    Conricus said the military had not yet determined who had built the tunnel, but that it holds “Hamas responsible for everything emanating from the Gaza Strip.”
    A Hamas spokesman declined comment.
    Israel and Hamas last fought a large-scale war in 2014 and have engaged in dozens of smaller cross-border skirmishes since.    Hamas and other Gaza militants have defended the tunnels as part of what they call their preparation for fighting.
    Conricus said the military would “neutralise” the tunnel in the coming days.    The military has discovered around 20 tunnels since the 2014 war, he added.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub; Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Alex Richardson and Grant McCool)

10/21/2020 U.N. Acting Libya Envoy ‘Optimistic’ On Talks
FILE PHOTO: Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Political Affairs in Libya Stephanie Williams wearing a face mask attends the talks between
the rival factions in the Libya conflict at the United Nations offices in Geneva, Switzerland October 20, 2020. Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via REUTERS
    GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations’ acting Libya envoy said on Wednesday she was “quite optimistic” that talks between the warring sides would lead to a lasting ceasefire after they agreed to reopen land and air routes between them.
    Speaking at a news conference, Stephanie Williams said the two sides meeting in Geneva this week had also agreed to maintain “the current state of calm on the front lines and to avoid any military escalation.”
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Angus McDowall in Tunis; Editing by Gareth Jones)

10/21/2020 Nigerian Soldiers Fire At Protesters, At Least Two Hit: Witnesses by Alexis Akwagyiram and Libby George
Police vehicles are seen parked during a protest, as authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew on the Nigerian state
of Lagos, in response to protests against alleged police brutality, Nigeria October 20, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja
    LAGOS (Reuters) – Soldiers opened fire on Nigerians protesting against police brutality in the Lekki district of the commercial capital Lagos on Tuesday, and at least two people were shot, four witnesses told Reuters.
    Thousands of Nigerians have demonstrated https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN27418O nationwide every day for nearly two weeks against a police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), that rights groups had for years accused of extortion, harassment, torture and murders.    The unit was disbanded on Oct. 11 but the protests have persisted with demonstrators calling for a raft of law enforcement reforms.
    “They started firing ammunition toward the crowd.    They were firing into the crowd,” said Alfred Ononugbo, 55, a security officer after the soldiers opened fire.    “I saw the bullet hit one or two persons,” he said.
    The condition of those two people was not immediately known.    Amnesty International has said at least 15 people had been killed since the protests began.
    In a Twitter post, the Nigerian Army said no soldiers were at the scene of the shooting on Tuesday night in Lekki, an upmarket district where the toll gate has been the site of daily protests in Lagos, Africa’s biggest city.
    Lagos State Goveror Babajide Sanwo-Olu tweeted pictures of him visiting people in hospital who were victims of what he referred to as the “unfortunate shooting incident at Lekki.”
    He said 25 people were being treated for mild to moderate injuries, two were receiving intensive care and three had been discharged.
    “As the Governor of our state, I recognise the buck stops at my table and I will work with the FG (federal government) to get to the root of this unfortunate incident and stabilise all security operations to protect the lives of our residents,” said Sanwo-Olu, adding that he would give a state broadcast on Wednesday morning.
    The Lagos state government earlier said it would open an investigation into the shooting, which witnesses said began at about 7 p.m. (1800 GMT).
    A Nigerian army spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    Inyene Akpan, 26, a photographer, said more than 20 soldiers arrived at the toll gate in Lekki and opened fire.    He said he saw two people being shot.
    Akinbosola Ogunsanya, a third witness, said he saw around 10 people being shot.    Ogunsanya, who said lights went out shortly before the soldiers arrived, also said he saw soldiers remove bodies.
    Another witness, Chika Dibia, said soldiers hemmed in people as they shot at them.
    Video verified by Reuters showed men walking slowly in formation toward demonstrators, followed by trucks with flashing lights, and the sound of gunfire popping.    Another video showed the toll gate itself, with a protester waving a Nigerian flag, as people ran amid the sounds of gunfire.
    A Reuters witness heard sirens and gunfire.
DEFENCE MEETING
    President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday held scheduled talks with the defence minister and the chief of defence staff around 6:15 p.m. (1715 GMT) to discuss national security, two presidency officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
    A spokesman for the president did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    The Nigerian army was due to begin a two-month national exercise on Tuesday.    When the move was announced on Saturday, it denied the move was part of a security response to the demonstrations.    Days earlier, the military said it was prepared to help maintain law and order.
    The weeks-long protests were sparked by a video that began circulating in early October purportedly showing SARS https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN2711TK officers shooting a man in southern Delta state. Police denied the shooting.
    Authorities on Tuesday imposed a round-the-clock curfew on Lagos as the state governor said protests had turned violent.
    It is one of five of Nigeria’s 36 states to have announced such measures in the last two days.    The national police chief also ordered the immediate deployment of anti-riot forces nationwide following increased attacks on police facilities, a police spokesman said.
(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram and Libby George in Lagos, and Paul Carsten; Additional reporting by Felix Onuah and Camillus Eboh in Abuja, Nneka Chile in Lagos and Tife Owolabi in Yenagoa; Editing by Grant McCool and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

10/21/2020 Lagos Under 24-Hour Lockdown After Protesters Fired On by Angela Ukomadu and Alexis Akwagyiram
People walk despite a round-the-clock curfew imposed by authorities statewide, in response to
protests against alleged police brutality, in Lagos, Nigeria October 21, 2020. REUTERS/Seun Sanni
    LAGOS (Reuters) – Lagos was under a round-the-clock curfew on Wednesday enforced by a heavy police presence, as smoke rose from a flashpoint area in Nigeria’s biggest city where soldiers had opened fire on protesters the previous evening, witnesses said.
    The state governor said 30 people were hurt in the shooting, at a toll gate in the Lekki district of the commercial capital on Tuesday evening.
    Four witnesses said soldiers had fired the bullets and at least two people had been shot.    In a Twitter post, the Nigerian Army said no soldiers were at the scene.
    On Wednesday, a witness saw smoke rising from around the Lekki toll gate area.
    Thousands of Nigerians have demonstrated nationwide every day for nearly two weeks against a police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), that rights groups had for years accused of extortion, harassment, torture and murders.
    Authorities imposed the 24-hour curfew on Lagos on Tuesday after the state governor said the protests had turned violent.
    On Wednesday, Police had set up roadblocks in the city and were not allowing vehicles to pass, although there were a few cars and people walking, two Reuters witnesses said.
    They said some of the police were armed and wore body armour.    Witnesses also heard the sound of gunfire in the Okota and Ebute Metta areas of mainland Lagos.
‘THE BUCK STOPS AT MY TABLE’
    The SARS unit was disbanded on Oct. 11 but the protests have persisted with demonstrators calling for law enforcement reforms.
    Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu tweeted pictures of him visiting people in hospital who were victims of what he referred to as the “unfortunate shooting incident” in Lekki, an upmarket district where the toll gate has been the site of daily protests.
    He said 25 people were being treated for mild to moderate injuries, two were receiving intensive care and three had been discharged.
    “I recognise the buck stops at my table and I will work with the FG (federal government) to get to the root of this unfortunate incident and stabilise all security operations to protect the lives of our residents,” said Sanwo-Olu, adding that he would give a broadcast on Wednesday morning.
    People who attended the protest late on Tuesday described being shot at by soldiers.
    Inyene Akpan, 26, a photographer, said more than 20 soldiers arrived at the toll gate in Lekki and opened fire. He said he saw two people being shot.
    Akinbosola Ogunsanya, a third witness, said he saw around 10 people being shot.    Ogunsanya, who said lights went out shortly before the soldiers arrived, also said he saw soldiers remove bodies.
    Another witness, Chika Dibia, said soldiers hemmed in people as they shot at them.
    A Nigerian army spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
    Nigeria sovereign Eurobonds fell more than 2 cents on the dollar on Wednesday in the wake of the shooting.
(Reporting by Angela Ukomadu, Alexis Akwagyiram and Libby George in Lagos; editing by John Stonestreet)

10/21/2020 Fiancee Of Khashoggi, Human Rights Group Sue Saudi Crown Prince In U.S.
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
meets with at Al Salam Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia June 24, 2019. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The fiancee of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and a human rights group that he founded filed a lawsuit in a U.S. court on Tuesday with allegations that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince ordered him killed.
    The civil lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also named more than 20 other Saudis as defendants.    It coincides with complications in the U.S.-Saudi relationship over the 2018 slaying of Khashoggi, Riyadh’s human rights record, its role in Yemen’s civil war and other issues.
    The Saudi embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.    The crown prince – known by his initials MbS – has denied ordering Khashoggi’s murder.
    Khashoggi, who criticized the policies of the crown prince, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, in Washington Post columns, was killed and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.    He went there to obtain papers he needed to marry Hatice Cengiz, a Turkish citizen.
    Cengiz and Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), a U.S.-based human rights group founded by Khashoggi, a legal resident of Virginia, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It names several of the crown prince’s aides and officials who were convicted in Saudi Arabia of the murder. The prosecution declared the Saudi case closed.
    The lawsuit charged that MbS, his co-defendants and others carried out a plot to “permanently silence Mr. Khashoggi” no later than the summer of 2018 after discovering his “plans to utilize DAWN as a platform to espouse democratic reform and promote human rights.”
    A lawsuit was filed in August in a U.S. court by a former top Saudi intelligence official who accused the crown prince of sending a hit team to kill him in Canada, where he lives in exile.
    Both lawsuits were brought under a law allowing U.S. court actions against foreign officials over allegations of involvement in torture or extrajudicial killings.
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool)

10/20/2020 Rebel Militant Group Breaks Out 1,337 Prisoners In Congo by OAN Newsroom
Soldier of the FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) sit on a military vehicle in an area
of exchanges of fire with members of the ADF. (Photo credit should read ALAIN WANDIMOYI/AFP via Getty Images)
    Over a thousand prisoners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have escaped following a planned attack by a militant group in the area.
    On Tuesday, members of the Allied Democratic Forces stormed a prison in Beni. According to authorities, the prison held individuals belonging to the rebel group.
A man walks outside at the FLAIS Quranic School in Beni. (Photo credit should read EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP via Getty Images)
    The mayor of the town noted 110 prisoners decided to stay despite having the opportunity to escape, while 20 more who did escape returned after the incident.
    Officials said some of the returning prisoners claimed they were taken by force during the raid.
    “We’ll do a tally and work out how many have come back,” said Beni Mayor Modeste Bakwanamaha.    “Those that came back…say they had to escape from their abductors, the Allied Democratic Forces, and those that came back are mostly our troops who chose to come back and not live as enemies in the bush.”
    Meanwhile, residents in the area fear the escaped prisoners who still remain free will cause an increase in violence in the region.

10/21/2020 Sudanese Police Fire Tear Gas To Disperse Hundreds Gathered Across The Capital
Sudanese protesters burn tyres used as a barricade as they gather ahead of a rally to put pressure on the government to
improve conditions and push ahead with reform in Khartoum, Sudan October 21, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudanese security forces fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of people in demonstrations across the capital Khartoum on Wednesday, as crowds gathered to put pressure on the government to improve conditions and push ahead with reform.
    The rallies came just days after President Donald Trump announced the United States would remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, a designation that dates back to toppled ruler Omar al-Bashir and which made it difficult for the transitional government to access urgently needed debt relief and foreign financing.
    At least one protester was killed and several others were injured in the clashes with police, a local doctors’ committee said in a statement late on Wednesday.
    Calls for protests started days earlier, aiming to coincide with the anniversary of the overthrow of the country’s first military regime in 1964, but wound down following Trump’s announcement on Monday.
    A Reuters witness said security forces had blocked off all the bridges connecting Khartoum, Bahari and Omdurman across the Blue and White Nile to prevent protesters from reaching the downtown area.
    Sudan has been in economic crisis for decades.    The Sudanese pound has fallen to 220 to the dollar on the black market from 50 pounds two years ago, and the country has $60 billion in foreign debts.    The crisis has accelerated since the overthrow of Islamist autocrat Bashir last year.
    Some of Bashir’s remaining supporters were expected to join Wednesday’s protests to voice their opposition against the government but crowds largely gathered to call for justice for those killed in violence throughout the protests last year, the Reuters witness said.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Giles Elgood and Jonathan Oatis)

10/21/2020 Secy. Pompeo Addresses First U.S.-UAE Strategic Dialogue by OAN Newsroom
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (Nicholas Kamm/Pool via AP)
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently stressed the strategic importance of the relationship between the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates as well as the two countries’ ongoing efforts to promote greater regional stability in the Middle East.
    He addressed this during remarks at the virtual inauguration of the first U.S.-UAE strategic dialogue on Tuesday.    Pompeo opened his message by taking a moment to celebrate the landmark deal recently brokered by President Trump and underlining its promise for the future of the region.
    “‘During the Trump administration, the United States and the United Arab Emirates relationship has grown deeper and broader than at any point before,” stated the U.S. official.    “I think having this dialogue is evidence of that.”
    The strategic dialogue introduces a new framework of binational cooperation aimed at creating a guideline for progress across different areas of vital importance to long-term goals of regional development and stabilization.
    While speaking on this, Pompeo declared himself optimistic over the prospects raised by increased cooperation between the U.S. and regional powers as well as by the Trump administration’s continued efforts to heal historic rifts between Arab states and Israel.    He also reasserted America’s dedication to support Middle Eastern states committed to promoting democratic ideals and individual freedoms.
    “Today’s MOU will build on those hopes in eight key areas of partnership: politics, defense, law enforcement and border security, intelligence and counterterrorism, human rights, economics, cultural and academics, and space,” announced the secretary.
    “I am confident that the United States and the UAE’s strategic partnership across every one of these dimensions will grow in the years to come.”
    The secretary of state also highlighted how increased cooperation between the U.S., Israel and Arab nations will enable the region to better contain the expansionist ambitions and mounting aggression of Iran’s totalitarian regime.
    Pompeo pointed out the Trump administration has already, through its increased focus on Middle Eastern diplomacy, taken several strides to counter Iranian attempts at regional destabilization.
    “And we stand together on the international stage to counter the greatest destructive force in the Middle East: the Iranian regime,” he stated.    “I want to personally thank the UAE for its support of our maximum pressure campaign, which has denied Tehran access to weapons valued at more than $70 billion.”

10/21/2020 Israeli Delegation Travels To Sudan To Discuss Normalisation: Israeli Radio Kan
FILE PHOTO: An Israeli flag and an American flag fly at Abu Dhabi International Airport before the arrival
of Israeli and U.S. officials, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Christoper Pike
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli delegation made a rare visit to Sudan on Wednesday to discuss normalising ties, Israeli public broadcaster Kan radio said, as a minister predicted a possible diplomatic breakthrough between the two countries.
    Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Israel’s Channel 13 News that he believed Israel was “very close to normalising ties with Sudan.”
    Kan radio gave no further details about the discussions held in Khartoum.    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office and the Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment when asked about prospects for a breakthrough with Sudan.
    In a foreign-policy flourish ahead of his re-election bid, top aides to U.S. President Donald Trump this week escorted Israeli delegates to Bahrain and UAE delegates to Israel, cementing Israel’s new, U.S.-brokered relations with the Gulf states.
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that the United States had begun the process of removing Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and was also working “diligently” to get Khartoum to recognise Israel.
    Pompeo stopped short of saying Sudan’s removal would be linked to whether it would agree to normalise relations with Israel.    Sudanese sources have not indicated so far that normalisation talks were far advanced.
    Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis said that the United States would announce another deal establishing ties between Israel and an Arab or Muslim country before the U.S. election.
    “I have a reasonable basis to believe that the announcement will come before Nov. 3 – that, if you’ll permit me, is what I understand from my sources,” Akunis told Israel’s Army Radio.
    Akunis said several countries were candidates to normalise relations with Israel.    He did not name these, saying that it was “customary” to let the first official word come from Washington.
    But U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman did not indicate any imminent diplomatic breakthrough.
    “More nations that are in the Arab League will normalise and make peace with Israel, I have no doubt, it is a certainty.    How many, in what order, I think everyone is just going to have to wait and see,” he told a conference hosted by Israel Hayom newspaper and the Kohelet Policy Forum think-tank.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell and Dan Williams; Editing by Peter Graff, Alex Richardson and Kim Coghill)

10/22/2020 Lebanon’s Hariri On Course To Be Named PM Again
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's President Michel Aoun speaks during a news conference at the presidential
palace in Baabda, Lebanon October 21, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS
    BEIRUT, (Reuters) – Saad al-Hariri appeared on course to be chosen for a fourth term as Lebanon’s prime minister on Thursday to try forming a new government to tackle the country’s deepest crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.
    Hariri would still face major challenges to navigate Lebanon’s power-sharing politics and agree a cabinet, which must then address a mounting list of woes: a banking crisis, currency crash, rising poverty and crippling state debts.
    A new government will also have to contend with a COVID-19 surge and the fallout of the huge August explosion at Beirut port that killed nearly 200 people and caused billions of dollars of damage.
    Sunni leader Hariri’s last coalition government was toppled almost exactly a year ago as protests gripped the country, furious at Lebanon’s ruling elite.
    He needed to win support on Thursday from parliamentarians who were meeting President Michel Aoun, after weeks of political wrangling that has delayed a deal on a new government.
    Hariri was backed by his own Future lawmakers, Druze politician Walid Jumblatt’s party and other small blocs.
    The Shi’ite group Hezbollah said it was not nominating anyone, but added it would seek to facilitate the process.
    “We will contribute to maintain the positive climate,” Mohammed Raad, head of its parliamentary bloc, told reporters at the presidential palace.
    The FPM led by Aoun’s son-in-law, which has the largest Christian bloc, has said before it would not nominate Hariri.
    The second main Christian party and a staunch Hezbollah opponent, the Lebanese Forces, declined to name Hariri, saying a veteran politician should not lead a planned cabinet of specialists.
    “Has this political class that took people hostage learned that they cannot continue in this way?” MP Georges Adwan said. “It is now facing a test.”
    Former colonial power France has tried rallying Lebanon’s sectarian leaders to pull the nation from crisis, but has been frustrated by the apparent lack of urgency or progress.
    Hariri has presented himself as the “natural candidate” to build a cabinet that can revive the French roadmap, which set out reforms needed to trigger foreign aid.
    Thursday’s consultations were postponed from last week amid political rifts.    Aoun is required to choose the candidate with the most support from lawmakers.    Iran-backed Hezbollah and its political allies – including the party founded by Aoun and Shi’ite Amal – have a majority in parliament.
(Reporting by Ellen Francis, Maha El Dahan, Laila Bassam and Dominic Evans, Editing by William Maclean)

10/22/2020 Nigerian Military Offered To Deploy In Lagos If Needed: Governor by Libby George
People are seen near burning tires on the street, in Lagos, Nigeria October 21, 2020,
in this image obtained from social media. UnEarthical/via REUTERS
    LAGOS (Reuters) – The Nigerian military has offered to deploy in Lagos state if needed to protect key business and government sites amid anti-police protests, the governor said on Thursday.
    Unrest has broken out across the state, which is under 24-hour curfew, sparked by protests and the shooting of civilians by security forces on Tuesday evening.
    Governor Babjide Sanwo-Olu, in an interview on local station Arise TV, said the chief of defence staff and the chief of army staff had called around midday on Wednesday “to say that if indeed I require for the military to come out, they will deploy them.”
    He said the primary concern was the security of key business and government installations, such as Lagos’ ports.
    “It’s really just a conversation around security support that we’ve got,” he said.
    Sanwo-Olu did not say whether he would accept the offer, but called on leaders to keep young people including protesters off the streets.
    Fires burned across the commercial capital on Wednesday as roving groups of young men, some protesters still on the streets, and armed police clashed in some neighbourhoods.
    The army has denied soldiers were at the site of the shooting at Lekki toll gate in Lagos, where people had gathered in defiance of the curfew.    Four witnesses told Reuters soldiers had fired bullets there and at least two people had been shot.    Rights group Amnesty International said the Nigerian army and police killed at least 12 peaceful protesters at two locations in Lagos – Lekki and Alausa – on Tuesday.
    Sanwo-Olu said he did not send soldiers to the toll gate, and President Muhammadu Buhari, while appealing for calm in a statement on Wednesday, has not directly addressed the incident.
    Buhari said that CCTV cameras on Lekki Bridge, which social media posts suggested had been removed prior to the incident, were there and working at the time of the shooting and would form part of the state’s investigation into the incident.
    He added that he would “absolutely” make the footage public.
(Reporting By Libby George; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Tomasz Janowski)

10/22/2020 Honeymoon Over? Saudi Arabia-U.S. Ties Face Reset With Biden Win by Marwa Rashad, Ghaida Ghantous and Jonathan Landay
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a voter mobilization event at
the Michigan State Fairgrounds in Novi, Michigan, October 16, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo
    RIYADH/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s crown prince enjoyed a near free pass under his personal relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump, but the kingdom’s brazen young leader will have to tread more carefully should Democrats take the White House and reset strategic ties.
    Riyadh’s human rights record, with the brutal 2018 murder of Washington Post Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and detention of women activists, will be a prime point of friction with a Joe Biden administration, as will the Yemen war.
    At issue for the Gulf powerhouse, which lobbied hard for Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against foe Iran, is how Biden will address Tehran’s ballistic missiles and support for regional proxies in any talks to revive an international nuclear pact with Iran that Washington quit in 2018.
    While Riyadh and its Gulf allies prefer a Trump administration that also prioritised lucrative deals over human rights concerns, a Biden win would not upend decades-long alliances, five regional sources and diplomats said.    Biden may, however, place stronger conditions on U.S. support, they said.
    “There will be challenges but there are long-term strategic institutional relationships and no one wants to break the camel’s back, though a Biden administration will want compromises,” said one Gulf source.
    A foreign diplomat in the region echoed the view that Saudi-U.S. ties would not be unduly harmed: “I imagine (Biden) would demand a few high-profile concessions … something on women’s rights defenders maybe.”
    In his campaign Biden pledged to reassess ties with Saudi Arabia, an oil exporting giant and major buyer of American arms, demand more accountability over Khashoggi’s killing in Riyadh’s Istanbul consulate and end U.S. support for the Yemen war.
    “Instead of giving blank checks to dictators and authoritarians around the world, as the Trump Administration has done, Joe Biden will stand up for universal values with friends and foes alike, and stand with the democratic world as we address common challenges,” a campaign spokesman told Reuters.
    De facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has firmly consolidated power, crushing dissent and detaining rivals to the throne, measures that tainted a reformist image initially lauded abroad as he moved to open up the kingdom.
    He has denied ordering Khashoggi’s killing, which sparked global outrage and spooked investors, but in 2019 indicated some personal accountability by saying it happened under his watch.
    Riyadh jailed eight people for between seven and 20 years in the case.    The kingdom’s foreign minister, in a webinar this month, said it was also reforming security services so “something like this cannot happen again.”
    Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud though struck a defiant tone over Western condemnation of the trials of women activists, saying they are charged with “serious crimes.”
    The detainees are accused of harming Saudi interests.    Few charges have been made public but some relate to contacts with foreign journalists, diplomats and rights groups.
SECURITY PARAMOUNT
    Trump has objected to punitive measures against Riyadh over human rights.    But in April he threatened withholding military support — boosted after 2019 attacks on Saudi energy facilities — after an oil war between Riyadh and Moscow wreaked havoc on markets, threatening the U.S. oil industry.
    Prince Faisal stressed that despite “occasional divergences,” the Saudi-U.S. alliance “goes much deeper than just one king or one president.”
    Riyadh and its Gulf allies strongly disagreed with the Obama administration over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the 2011 “Arab Spring,” warning Washington against abandoning traditional allies and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood.
    State-backed media in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates recently focused on emails linked to Hillary Clinton and the Brotherhood — a move one Saudi source said aimed to show Democrats had erred and could do so again.
    “There is concern that a Biden presidency would at best, mean a reduced U.S. focus on the Middle East, and at worst … a more hardline approach towards Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries,” said Abdulaziz Sager, chairman of Riyadh-based Gulf Research Center.
    “There is a desire for clarity among Saudis in terms of what Biden’s concrete foreign policy would be towards Saudi Arabia.”
    Gulf states are also trying to push through arms deals, with the UAE and Qatar seeking U.S. F-35 fighter jets.
HOLDING CARDS CLOSE
    The UAE has hedged its bets, reducing its military presence in Yemen and becoming the first Arab state in a quarter century to normalise ties with Israel, creating a new axis against Iran and Islamists deemed a threat to Gulf dynastic rule.
    Bahrain followed suit, handing Trump a win in U.S.-brokered accords that also garnered bipartisan support.
    “One of the reasons Gulf states are establishing relations is because they realised a few months ago they might not have the U.S. to rely on as in the past.    Israel is a natural partner,” said a source familiar with the process.
    Saudi columnist Mohammed Al Al-Sheikh, writing in local daily Al Jazirah, said this “created a new reality on the ground that candidate Biden cannot overlook” when dealing with Iran.
    Trump initially said the United States was “locked and loaded” after the 2019 attacks on Saudi oil facilities, blamed by Riyadh and Western powers on Tehran, but a conventional military response did not materialise.    The apparent attempt to avoid a war was watched closely around the Gulf.
    Saudi Arabia tacitly backed the Israel deals but is unlikely to join soon given its position as custodian of Islam’s holiest sites and architect of a 2002 Arab Peace Initiative that offered Israel ties in return for Palestinian statehood.
    Riyadh has said only an Israeli-Palestinian deal could deliver lasting peace and stability.
    “The Saudis will probably not move to recognize Israel before the election in large part because this is a card they can play with a new Biden administration,” said David Rundell, a former chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Riyadh.
    Gulf rivals are also biding time over a political row that has seen Riyadh and its allies boycott Qatar, two of the Gulf sources said, despite pressure from Trump to end the dispute.
    If Trump wins, Riyadh would seek to end the row and form a united Gulf Arab front against Iran, one of the sources said.    “It may not be as big an issue for Biden, but if he also pushes for it, then we’ll see progress.”
(Additional reporting by Lisa Barrington, Davide Barbuscia and Trevor Hunnicutt; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous, Editing by William Maclean)

10/22/2020 Hariri, Designated Lebanon’s PM Again, Vows To Halt Collapse by Ellen Francis and Maha El Dahan
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's President Michel Aoun speaks during a news conference at the presidential
palace in Baabda, Lebanon October 21, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS
    BEIRUT, (Reuters) – Lebanese veteran politician Saad al-Hariri was named prime minister for a fourth time on Thursday and pledged to form a new government that can tackle the country’s worst crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.
    After his nomination, Hariri said he would quickly form a cabinet of specialists “with a mission to enact the economic and financial reforms” set out in a French roadmap to unlock foreign aid.
    But he faces major challenges to navigate Lebanon’s sectarian politics to agree a cabinet, which must then fix a mounting list of woes: a banking crisis, currency crash, rising poverty and crippling state debts.
    A new government will also have to contend with a COVID-19 surge and the fallout of the huge August explosion at Beirut port that killed nearly 200 people and caused billions of dollars of damage.
    At 50, Hariri has already served three terms since 2009 as premier – a post reserved for a Sunni Muslim in Lebanon’s power-sharing system.    His last coalition cabinet was toppled almost exactly a year ago as protests gripped the country, furious at the ruling elite for decades of state graft and waste.
    Hariri, the sole candidate in Thursday’s talks, was backed by a majority of parliamentarians.
    “I tell the Lebanese who are suffering from hardships to the point of despair that I am determined to work to stop the collapse that is threatening our economy, our society and security,” he told reporters.
    The nomination of Hariri, long aligned with Western and Gulf states, follows weeks of political wrangling that has delayed a deal on a new government.    He was backed by his own Future Movement, the Shi’ite Amal party, Druze politician Walid Jumblatt’s party and other small blocs.
    The heavily armed Shi’ite group Hezbollah, which took part in Hariri’s last cabinet, did not nominate anyone but said it would facilitate the process.
    “We will contribute to maintain the positive climate,” said Mohammed Raad, head of Hezbollah’s bloc.    Together with its allies, including Amal and Aoun’s party, they hold a majority in parliament.
    Lebanon’s two main Christian blocs did not nominate Hariri.    The Free Patriotic Movement, led by Aoun’s son-in-law, said a veteran politician could not lead a technocrat government.
    Its rival the Lebanese Forces, the second biggest Christian bloc and a staunch Hezbollah opponent, also declined to name him.    “Has this political class that took people hostage learned they cannot continue in this way?” MP Georges Adwan said.
    Former colonial power France has tried rallying Lebanon’s sectarian leaders but has been frustrated by the apparent lack of urgency or progress.
    Hariri has presented himself as the “natural candidate” to build a cabinet that can revive the French plan, which lists long-neglected reforms and calls for resuming IMF talks.
(Additional reporting by Laila Bassam and Dominic Evans; Writing by Dominic Evans and Ellen Francis; Editing by Kevin Liffey, William Maclean)

10/22/2020 Egypt Upgrades Visitor Experience At Giza Pyramids Site
FILE PHOTO: People take pictures in front of the Great Pyramids during the opening of a new restaurant called "9 Pyramids
Lounge" by Orascom Pyramids Entertainment (OPE) in Giza, Egypt October 20, 2020. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt has unveiled new visitor facilities on the plateau outside Cairo where the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Great Sphinx are situated, the country’s most visited heritage site and the sole remaining wonder of the ancient world.
    Developers late on Tuesday night opened a new restaurant, “9 Pyramids Lounge,” which covers an area of 1,341 square meters and overlooks the Giza pyramids.    There will also be a fleet of new environmentally-friendly buses to guide tourists around the plateau.
    “One of the problems always faced is that people say there are no special services for tourists, that there is no cafeteria, no restaurant, nothing that can be offered to visitors,” said Mostafa Waziri, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
    The new facilities are all easily taken part and reassembled so as to protect the antiquities and Waziri said the open-air restaurant offered “a panorama view that cannot be matched anywhere in the world.”
    Tourism accounts for up to 15% of Egypt’s national output.    However, officials have said previously the sector is losing around $1 billion each month after largely shutting down for several months from March due to the spread of coronavirus.
    The changes at the plateau are part of wider efforts to develop key tourist sites in the country.    Next year the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is set to be the world’s largest archaeological museum, is due to open just beyond the Giza Pyramids.
    Egyptian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, the plateau’s main developer, said the 301 million Egyptian pound ($19.23 million)project is part of a greater plan to develop the UNESCO world heritage site and streamline tourists’ experience.
    “We will organise the salespeople,” said Sawiris.    “We will not deprive them of their income but we will put them into suitable, nice places.”
(Reporting by Ahmed Fahmy; Writing by Nadeen Ebrahim, Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

10/22/2020 Exclusive: Sudan Premier Ready For Israel Ties If Parliament Approves – Sources by Khaled Abdelaziz
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) address the media
at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is ready to proceed with normalizing relations with Israel once a yet-to-be-formed transitional parliament has approved the step, two Sudanese government sources told Reuters on Thursday.
    The comments are the clearest sign that Hamdok, under pressure from the United States, is willing to contemplate Sudan establishing ties with former adversary Israel.
    Such a move would not be imminent, because the council still needs to be established under a power sharing deal between the military officers and civilians who have been running Sudan jointly since the overthrow of autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
    It is unclear when the assembly will be formed.
    There was no immediate response from the government to requests for comment.
    Hamdok’s technocratic government has so far rebuffed U.S. advances aimed at pushing Sudan to follow the lead of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, both of which signed agreements to establish formal ties with Israel at the White House last month.
    In contrast, military figures leading Sudan’s political transition have appeared open to normalising ties, although civilian groups including left-wing and Islamist politicians are more reluctant.
    “The prime minister will proceed in the steps taken by Transitional Council Head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to establish ties with Israel if the legislative council, after it is formed, approves the decision to normalise ties,” a senior source said.
    The subject is sensitive in Sudan, which used to be among the hardline Arab foes of Israel.
    Khartoum’s caution reflects concerns that such a major foreign policy move at a time of deep economic crisis could upset the delicate balance between military and civilian factions, and even put the government at risk, two senior Sudanese government sources said.
    But an agreement between Sudan and Israel may have edged closer on Monday when U.S. President Donald Trump signalled that Washington would remove Khartoum from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, hindering Sudan’s ability to get debt relief.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Nadine Awadalla and Ulf Laessing, Editing by William Maclean)

10/22/2020 Pro-Sisi Party Set To Lock In Control As Egypt Heads To Polls
Campaign banners of candidates are seen in a street market before the first round of the parliamentary election,
in the Giza suburb of Awsim, Egypt October 18, 2020. Picture taken October 18, 2020. REUTERS / Shokry Hussien
    CAIRO (Reuters) – As Egyptians prepare to vote for a new parliament,
a party that champions the president seems assured of a sweeping victory.
    In the wake of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s broad crackdown on political dissent, Mostaqbal Watn, or Nation’s Future, has emerged as the main force likely to carry Sisi’s programme in a compliant parliament, and is expected by both voters and politicians to benefit from new electoral rules to lock in control of the chamber.
    The party has no formal link to Sisi but is flourishing at a time when the state’s grip over politics and the media is at its tightest for decades.
    Many in rural and poor areas refer to Nation’s Future as “the party of the president.”    A music video produced by the party that has aired on state TV shows consumer goods including fridges and cookers being distributed to grateful citizens in packaging adorned with Sisi’s image alongside the party logo.
    Ahead of the vote, which begins on Saturday and lasts several weeks, the party’s candidates have promised to help bring infrastructure and services to local areas.
    “The Nation’s Future Party is a party that naturally dominates on the ground,” one candidate, Ramadan Abu Hassan, told a gathering of villagers near Beni Suef city, about 100km (60 miles) south of Cairo.    “For any disaster that happens, it will be by the citizen’s side.”
    Reuters was unable to obtain an interview with Nation’s Future.    The state press centre did not respond to questions.
    Created in 2014, the year Sisi won his first term as president, Nation’s Future held 57 seats in the outgoing parliament, which was dominated by a coalition of pro-Sisi parties.
    More recently, in Egypt’s newly recreated Senate, an advisory 300-member upper chamber with 200 elected members, it won nearly 75% of contested seats in elections in August.
    A new electoral law means 50% of 568 contested parliamentary seats – up from 20% – will be elected from closed party lists.    If the list wins a majority, everyone on it is elected and no candidates from competing lists win seats.
    Critics say the change further shrinks the space for political competition.
    The goal is “to basically pretend that there is a political process surrounding Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, but what we really have is a one-man rule,” said Hisham Kassem, a former newspaper publisher and political activist.    “It wasn’t even this bad with (former president Hosni) Mubarak or with (former president Gamal Abdel) Nasser.”
APATHY
    Seven prospective parliamentary candidates contacted by Reuters said they were required to make large donations to Nation’s Future or a national fund set up by Sisi to get their names on the party’s lists.
    The deputy head of Nation’s Future has said in televised comments that the party takes only voluntary donations, and denied using money to influence voters.
    As Sisi has consolidated control, interest in politics has dropped, with electoral turnout gradually declining.
    A political coalition that Kassem joined, which aimed to reverse political apathy, fractured after two members were arrested last year.    Kassem said any charges were unclear. State media said they were arrested on suspicion of links to a banned group and spreading false news.    They are still jailed.
    With Islamist and liberal opposition already sidelined, even some outwardly pro-Sisi candidates have found themselves excluded.
    One is 70-year-old Major General Tariq al-Mahdi, who was on the military council that took over when Mubarak was toppled in 2011, before serving as information minister and a regional governor.
    Speaking in a Cairo office adorned with medals and pictures from his military career, Mahdi said he tried to put forward parliamentary lists in reaction to the “arrogance” with which the Senate elections were organised, but was blocked by a court ruling, which he appealed.
    He said he supports Sisi and state institutions but wanted to help “transfer the pulse of the street into parliament.”
    He criticized the use by some parties of handouts to mobilise support, without naming them.
    “I cannot enter the money contest or the (grocery) box contest, but I can get into the idea of choosing the best people available,” Mahdi said.
    Mohamed Abdelghany, a member of a small independent block in parliament who is standing for reelection, said economic pressures had made voters more susceptible to incentives, while the government had become more afraid of subversion and political opposition.
    Sisi has referred to plots against the state by unnamed enemies in recent public comments.    Last month and in September 2019 there were small anti-Sisi protests, which led to hundreds of arrests.
    “The best is to open the air vents for people and citizens to breathe and talk and hear another opinion, and this will put an end to any conspiracy of sabotage,” said Abdelghany.
(Reporting by Cairo bureau)

10/23/2020 Israel Won’t Oppose U.S. Sale Of F-35 To UAE by Dan Williams and Mike Stone
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces a peace agreement to establish diplomatic ties, between Israel and the United Arab Emirates,
during a news conference at the prime minster office in Jerusalem, August 13, 2020. Abir Sultan /Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    JERUSALEM/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Israel will not oppose U.S. sales of “specific weapons systems” to the United Arab Emirates, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Benny Gantz said on Friday, in an apparent reference to the F-35 warplanes sought by Abu Dhabi.
    Under a principle of preserving Israel’s “qualitative military edge,” the United States consults with it on proposed sales of advanced arms to other countries in the region.
    Israel has reiterated a need to maintain its military superiority even since forging official ties with the UAE and its fellow Gulf Arab state Bahrain under deals brokered by U.S. President Donald Trump last month.
    Washington agreed to consider allowing the UAE to buy F-35 stealth jets in a side deal to a normalisation agreement between Israel and the UAE.
    Gantz reached agreements in Washington this week with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper that he and Netanyahu, in a joint statement, said would significantly upgrade Israel’s military capabilities.
    “Since the U.S. is upgrading Israel’s military capability and is maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge, Israel will not oppose the sale of these systems to the UAE,” they said.
    The Israeli statement did not mention the F-35 explicitly.
    But it added that the Trump administration had informed Israel – which uses the F-35 – of its plan to notify Congress that it intends to provide certain weapons systems to the UAE.
    The removal of Israeli opposition clears one important hurdle to U.S. congressional approval of F-35 sales to the UAE.
    Israel enjoys broad support in Congress and if Israel stood in the way of the deals it would be nearly impossible for them to advance.
    The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees, whose members have criticised the UAE’s role in civilian deaths in Yemen, have the right to review and block weapons sales under an informal review process.
    U.S. lawmakers have tried to rein in the Trump administration’s plans for arms sales to UAE and Saudi Arabia over concerns over their involvement in the war in Yemen.
    Past measures to block arms sales passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support, but failed to get enough Republican backing to override Trump’s vetoes.
(Additional reporting and writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

10/23/2020 Sudan Becomes Third Arab State To Set Aside Hostilities With Israel This Year by Matt Spetalnick, Steve Holland and Jeff Mason
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) address
the media at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Israel and Sudan agreed on Friday to take steps to normalize relations in a deal brokered with the help of the United States, making Khartoum the third Arab government to set aside hostilities with Israel in the last two months.
    U.S. President Donald Trump, seeking re-election on Nov. 3, sealed the agreement in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Transitional Council Head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, senior U.S. officials said.
    Trump’s decision this week to remove Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism paved the way for the accord with Israel, marking a foreign policy achievement for the Republican president as he seeks a second term trailing in opinion polls behind Democratic rival Joe Biden.
    Netanyahu hailed it as a “new era” for the region, but the Palestinian leadership, watching as more of their Arab brethren appear to give their quest for statehood a lower priority, called it a “new stab in the back.”
    “The leaders agreed to the normalization of relations between Sudan and Israel and to end the state of belligerence between their nations,” according to a joint statement issued by the three countries that also promised U.S. help for Khartoum to secure international debt relief.
    Israel and Sudan plan to begin by opening economic and trade links, with an initial focus on agriculture, the joint statement said. A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said such issues as formal establishment of diplomatic ties would be resolved later.
    Trump touted the deal to reporters in the Oval Office with the Israeli and Sudanese leaders on the line in a three-way phone call, saying at least five other countries wanted to follow suit and normalize relations with Israel.
    “Do you think ‘Sleepy Joe’ could have made this deal?” Trump asked Netanyahu, using the president’s pejorative nickname for Biden a day after their final, rancorous debate of the 2020 presidential campaign. “Somehow I don’t think so.”
Netanyahu, reliant on bipartisan support for Israel in Washington, responded haltingly: "Well, Mr. President, one thing I can tell you, is, um, uh, we appreciate the help for peace from anyone in America."
    Trump’s aides view his pro-Israel policies as appealing to Christian evangelical voters, who are among his biggest supporters.
    Trump insisted the Palestinians also “are wanting to do something” but offered no proof.    Palestinian leaders have condemned recent Arab overtures to Israel as a betrayal of their nationalist cause and have refused to engage with the Trump administration, seeing it as heavily biased in favor of Israel.
    “No one has the right to speak in the name of the Palestinian people and in the name of the Palestinian cause,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement.
DROPPING SUDAN FROM TERRORISM LIST
    Trump announced on Monday he would take Sudan off the terrorism list once it had deposited $335 million it had pledged to pay in compensation.    Khartoum has since placed the funds in a special escrow account for victims of al Qaeda attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
    The White House called Trump’s intention to remove Sudan from the terrorism list a “pivotal turning point” for Khartoum, which is seeking to emerge from decades of isolation.
    Trump’s aides have been pressing Sudan to normalize ties with Israel after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain became the first Arab states in a quarter of a century to agree to formal links with Israel, forged largely through shared fears of Iran.
    The military and civilian leaders of Sudan’s transitional government have been divided over how fast and how far to go in establishing ties with Israel. A sticking point in the negotiations was Sudan’s insistence that any announcement of Khartoum’s delisting from the terrorism designation not be explicitly linked to relations with Israel.
    The Sudanese premier wants approval from a yet-to-be formed parliament to proceed with broader normalization, and that may not be a quick progress given sensitivities and civilian-military differences.
    Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi wrote on Twitter that he welcomed U.S.-backed efforts by Sudan and Israel to normalize relations, saying he valued “all efforts aimed at establishing regional peace and stability.”
    Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.
    The new agreement was negotiated on the U.S. side by Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security aide Miguel Correa.
    Kushner called the normalization deals the start of a “paradigm shift” in the Middle East.    He said Sudan’s decision was symbolically significant because it was in Khartoum in 1967 that the Arab League decided not to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
    Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism dates to its toppled ruler Omar al-Bashir and has made it difficult for its transitional government to access urgently needed debt relief and foreign financing.
    Many in Sudan say the designation, imposed in 1993 because Washington believed Bashir was supporting militant groups, has become outdated since he was removed last year.
    U.S. congressional legislation is needed to shield Khartoum from future legal claims over past attacks to ensure the flow of payments to the embassy bombing victims and their families.
(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Khaled Abdelaziz in Khartoum, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Rami Ayyub in Tel Aviv Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Ahmed Tolba and Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Howard Goller)

10/23/2020 U.S., Sudan Press For Amicable Solution Over Ethiopia Dam Dispute
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's Prime Minister in the transitional government Abdalla Hamdok addresses people as they celebrate
the first anniversary of the start of the uprising that toppled long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir, at the
Friendship Hall in Khartoum, Sudan December 25, 2019. REUTERS/ Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on Friday called for an agreement to be reached over the dam dispute with Ethiopia and Egypt.
    “We hope to reach an amicable solution soon,” Hamdok said, speaking by phone with Trump following Sudan and Israel’s announcement to normalize ties.
    Trump, who held the call in front of reporters at the White House, said he had also told Egypt the same thing, saying it was a dangerous situation and that Cairo could end up “blowing up that dam.”
    Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt have been at odds over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), and Trump on Friday said he had brokered an agreement to resolve the issue but that Ethiopia had broken the pact, forcing him to cut funds.
    “I had a deal done for them and then unfortunately Ethiopia broke the deal, which they should not have done. It was a big mistake,” Trump said.    “They will never see that money unless they adhere to the agreement … You can’t blame Egypt for being a little upset.”
    Trump urged Hamdok to get Ethiopia to agree come accept the deal to resolve the water dispute.
    “I’m telling Egypt the same thing,” Trump added.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Idrees Ali; writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)

10/23/2020 Warring Libya Rivals Sign Truce But Tough Political Talks Ahead
FILE PHOTO: Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Political Affairs in Libya
Stephanie Williams wearing a face mask attends the talks between the rival factions in the Libya conflict at the
United Nations offices in Geneva, Switzerland October 20, 2020 . Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    GENEVA/TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libya’s warring factions signed a permanent ceasefire agreement on Friday, but any lasting end to years of chaos and bloodshed will require wider agreement among myriad armed groups and the outside powers that support them.
    Acting U.N. Libya envoy Stephanie Williams said the ceasefire would start immediately and all foreign fighters must quit Libya within three months.
    As a first commercial passenger flight in more than a year crossed front lines from Tripoli to the eastern city of Benghazi on Friday, Williams noted Libya’s “fraught” recent history, one of numerous broken truces and failed political solutions.
    “But we shouldn’t let the cynics win,” she said, hailing both sides for their “courage” in agreeing a ceasefire and saying they deserved international support.
    Friday’s agreement was reached after the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in June beat back Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) from its 14-month assault on the capital.
    Since then, frontlines have stabilised near the central coastal city of Sirte and the LNA has ended its eight-month blockade of Libyan oil output, which was strangling state finances on both sides.
However, Turkey, the main backer of the GNA, immediately voiced scepticism that the ceasefire would hold, with President Tayyip Erdogan saying “it does not seem too achievable
    Turkey, along with the LNA’s main foreign backers Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, has funnelled weapons and fighters into Libya despite a U.N. arms embargo which they all publicly backed.
    There was caution inside Libya too.    “We all want to end the war and destruction.    But personally I don’t trust those in power,” said Kamal al-Mazoughi, 53, a businessman sitting in a Tripoli cafe.
    “If there is no force or mechanism to apply this on the ground… this deal will only be ink on paper,” said Ahmed Ali, 47, in Benghazi.
‘POSTURING AND POSITIONING’
    Key details on implementing the ceasefire, including monitoring the departure of foreign fighters and merging armed groups, have been left to subcommittees in future talks.
    Both sides have deployed thousands of foreign fighters in Libya, including Syrians, Sudanese, Chadians and European mercenaries brought in by Russia’s Wagner group.    Since June, they have entrenched along the Sirte frontlines with new weapons and defensive positions.
    Meanwhile, political talks scheduled in Tunisia early next month, with a view to holding national elections eventually, will need to reach agreement on historically elusive issues and overcome widespread mistrust.
    “There is still no clear sign that Libyan belligerents are looking at this as anything other than a period of posturing and positioning,” said Tarek Megerisi, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
    Libya has enjoyed no political stability since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, and has been split since 2014 between east and west.
    Haftar’s assault on Tripoli last year was launched as U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres had arrived in Tripoli to prepare for peace talks.
    As that assault collapsed this summer, thanks to Turkish backing for the GNA, Egypt threatened to intervene directly, raising the spectre of a bloody regional escalation.
    Libya’s energy facilities, the biggest prize for both sides, were on the front line as mercenaries marched into ports and oilfields.
    However, the United Nations is also pushing an economic track to seek agreement between the major factions on the future management of Libya’s wealth and its sovereign institutions.
    “What prevails among (Libyan factions) is a desire to re-start the economy,” said Jalel Harchaoui, an analyst working on Libya.    “That alignment is frail and temporary.”
    Guterres said he hoped to appoint the current U.N. Middle East envoy, the Bulgarian Nickolay Mladenov, as the new Libya envoy to replace Ghassan Salame, who quit in March due to stress.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Reuters Libya newsroom, Angus McDowall, and by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by William Maclean and Kevin Liffey)

10/23/2020 Trump Tells Congress He Will Rescind Sudan’s Status As State Sponsor Of Terrorism
U.S. President Donald Trump listens during the third and final presidential debate with Democratic presidential nominee
Joe Biden at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., October 22, 2020. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/Pool
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump has told the U.S. Congress he will rescind Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, the White House said on Friday, after Sudan transferred $335 million into an account for victims and their families.
    “President Donald J. Trump has informed Congress of his intent to formally rescind Sudan’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” the White House said in a statement.    “This follows on Sudan’s recent agreement to resolve certain claims of United States victims of terror and their families.”
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

10/23/2020 Erdogan Says Turkey Tested Russian S-400s, Shrugs Off U.S. Objections
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a news conference during a visit to
Moscow, Russia, March 5, 2020. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan confirmed on Friday that Turkey had been testing the S-400 air defence systems that it bought from Russia and said U.S. objections on the issue did not matter.
    Washington says Ankara’s purchase of the Russian systems compromises NATO defences, and has threatened sanctions.    An apparent firing test of S-400s test last week prompted a furious response from the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon.
    “(The tests) have been and are being conducted.    The United States’ stance absolutely does not concern us.    If we are not going to test these capabilities at our disposal, then what are we going to do?” Erdogan told reporters.
    The two NATO allies have long been at odds over the S-400s and Washington reacted last year by suspending Turkey from its F-35 jet programme.    Turkish officials have said the systems will not be integrated into NATO’s defence infrastructure.
    Turkey signed the S-400 deal with Russia in 2017. Deliveries of the first four missile batteries, worth $2.5 billion, began in July last year.
    Erdogan said Turkey will continue testing military equipment including light, medium and heavy weapons, including many bought from the United States.
    “It seems that the gentlemen (in the U.S.) are especially bothered that this is a weapon belonging to Russia.    We are determined, we are continuing on our path as always,” he said.
(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Daren Butler and Andrew Heavens)

10/23/2020 Iran Blacklists U.S. Ambassador In Iraq, Reciprocating U.S. Move
FILE PHOTO: Matthew Tueller, nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Iraq, testifies during his confirmation hearing before the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran on Friday blacklisted the U.S. ambassador in Iraq and two other diplomats following a similar move by the United States against Iran’s envoy to Baghdad, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said.
    “US Amb(assador) to Iraq, Matthew Tueller, has had a central role in coordinating terrorist acts in Iraq & beyond, in … assassination of Gen. (Qassem) Soleimani… Today, Iran designated him & two other officials involved,” ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Twitter.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Jon Boyle)

10/24/2020 Ethiopia Says It Will Not Cave To ‘Aggression’ In Dam Dispute
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Ethiopia said on Saturday that threats of any kind towards resolving a dispute with its neighbours over the filling and operation of a massive hydropower dam were “misguided, unproductive and clear violations of international law.”
    Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office made no mention of any person or any country in a statement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which is at the centre of a dispute over Nile water supplies.
    But his comment came hours after U.S. President Donald Trump held a phone call with the Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in which they called for an amicable solution between Ethiopia and Egypt.
    In the call, held in front of reporters at the White House, Trump said he had also told Egypt the same thing, saying it was a dangerous situation and that Cairo could end up “blowing up that dam.”
    Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt have been locked in a bitter dispute over the filling and operation of the GERD, which remains unresolved although the reservoir behind the dam began filling in July.
    “Occasional statements of belligerent threats to have Ethiopia succumb to unfair terms still abound,” Abiy’s office said.    “These threats and affronts to Ethiopian sovereignty are misguided, unproductive, and clear violations of international law.”
    The first phase of filling the dam completed in August, Abiy’s office said.
    Egypt says it is dependent on the Nile for more than 90% of its scarce fresh water supplies, and fears the dam could have a devastating effect on its economy.
    Trump said on Friday said he had brokered an agreement to resolve the issue but that Ethiopia had broken the pact, forcing him to cut funds.
    Abiy’s office said there was significant progress made in resolving the dispute since the African Union took over the negotiations.
    “Ethiopia will not cave in to aggressions of any kind, nor do we give recognition to a right that is based on colonial treaties,” it said.
(Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Giulia Paravicini and Frances Kerry)

10/24/2020 Iran Says U.S.-Brokered Sudan-Israel Deal Secured By ‘Ransom’
    (Reuters) – Iran’s foreign ministry on Saturday described a U.S.-brokered Sudan-Israel deal to normalise ties as “phoney” and accused Khartoum of paying a ransom in return for Washington removing it from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.
    The deal agreed on Friday marked the third Arab government after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to set aside hostilities with Israel in the last two months.
    “Pay enough ransom, close your eyes to the crimes against Palestinians, then you’ll be taken off the so-called ‘terrorism’ blacklist,” the ministry tweeted in English.    “Obviously, the list is as phoney as the U.S. fight against terrorism. Shameful.”
    U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Monday he would take Sudan off the list once it had deposited $335 million it had pledged to pay in compensation.
    Khartoum has since placed the funds in a special escrow account for victims of al Qaeda attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
    Trump also said the Palestinians “are wanting to do something” but offered no proof.    Palestinian leaders have condemned recent Arab overtures to Israel as a betrayal of their nationalist cause for statehood in Israeli-occupied territories.    They have refused to engage with the Trump administration, seeing it as biased in favour of Israel.
    In recent weeks the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain became the first Arab states in a quarter of a century to agree to formal relations with Israel, forged largely through shared fears of Iran.
    The military and civilian leaders of Sudan’s transitional government have been divided over how fast and how far to go in establishing ties with Israel.
    A sticking point in the negotiations was Sudan’s insistence that any announcement of Khartoum’s delisting from terrorism designation not be explicitly linked to relations with Israel.
    Sudan’s 1993 designation as a state sponsor of terrorism dates to its toppled ruler Omar al-Bashir and has made it difficult for the transitional government in Khartoum to access urgently needed debt relief and foreign financing.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich and Jason Neely)

10/24/2020 Nigeria’s Megacity Lagos Reopens As Curfew Relaxed After Protest Shootings Unrest by Angela Ukomadu
    Cars drive past people cleaning the streets, as Nigeria's Lagos state eases a round-the-clock curfew imposed in
response to protests against alleged police brutality, after days of unrest, in Lagos, Nigeria October 24, 2020. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde
    LAGOS (Reuters) – Workers began a clean up of the streets of Lagos on Saturday after the relaxation of a round-the-clock curfew after days of unrest sparked by the shooting of protesters demonstrating against police brutality in Nigeria.
    Groups of men armed with knives and sticks blocked major roads and burned buildings and street signs in recent days as the city became the main flashpoint of the worst street violence since Nigeria’s return to civilian rule in 1999 and the most serious political crisis confronting President Muhammadu Buhari.
    Violence in the sprawling commercial hub of Africa’s largest economy, a city of 20 million, escalated after protesters in the Lekki district on Tuesday night were shot by what witnesses said were soldiers, hours after the curfew was announced.
    Amnesty International said soldiers and police killed at least 12 protesters on Tuesday in Lekki and Alausa, two Lagos districts.    The army has denied soldiers were at the site of the shooting.
    Lagos state said on Friday the restrictions on movement would be eased from Saturday, with the curfew in place from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.    Workers took to streets to sweep away broken glass. Meanwhile, cars filled the roads.
    “We need to sweep it so that the road can be free for the cars and motors to be going so that they cannot have accidents,” said cleaner Ajala Eyiwunmi.
    Disruption has not been limited to Lagos.    Several states in southern Nigeria have imposed curfews after two weeks of confrontations between security services and protesters.
    On a call between Buhari and former Nigerian presidents, including his immediate predecessor Goodluck Jonathan, the head of state said 51 civilian fatalities and 37 injuries had been recorded as a result of “hooliganism” in recent weeks.
    Many businesses, already hit hard by restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, had been affected by the protests.
    The Lagos Chamber of Commerce said Nigeria’s economy had suffered an estimated loss of 700 billion naira ($1.84 billion) due to lockdowns, before the violence.
    “I thank God that today Lagos is good.    We are happy at least I can go for my business now,” said shopkeeper James Odudo.
(Reporting by Angela Ukomadu; Additional reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Alison Williams)

10/24/2020 Ethiopia Summons U.S. Ambassador Over Trump Comments In Dam Dispute by Dawit Endeshaw
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda,
Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia September 26, 2019. Picture taken September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia on Saturday summoned the U.S. ambassador over what it called an “incitement of war” between Ethiopia and Egypt from President Donald Trump over their dispute about the filling and operation of a massive hydropower dam.
    Trump called on Friday for an agreement between the countries, but added it was a dangerous situation and that Cairo could end up “blowing up that dam.”
    Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Minister Gedu Andargachew summoned U.S. Ambassador to Addis Ababa Mike Raynor to seek clarifications on the comments.
    “The incitement of war between Ethiopia and Egypt from a sitting U.S. president neither reflects the longstanding partnership and strategic alliance between Ethiopia and the United States nor is acceptable in international law governing interstate relations,” Gedu’s ministry said in a statement.
    Trump made the comments during a call with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok following Sudan and Israel’s announcement to normalise ties.
    Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt have been locked in a bitter dispute over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which remains unresolved although the reservoir behind the dam began filling in July.
    Trump said on Friday he had brokered an agreement to resolve the issue but that Ethiopia had broken the pact, forcing him to cut funds, adding: “They will never see that money unless they adhere to the agreement … You can’t blame Egypt for being a little upset.”
    He said he had also urged Egypt to resolve the dispute.
    Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said earlier on Saturday: “Occasional statements of belligerent threats to have Ethiopia succumb to unfair terms still abound.”
    The first phase of filling the dam was completed in August, it said.
    Egypt says it is dependent on the Nile for more than 90% of its scarce fresh water supplies, and fears the dam could have a devastating effect on its economy.
    Abiy’s office said there had been significant progress made in resolving the dispute since the African Union took over the negotiations.
    “Now is the time for action and not for increasing tensions,” European Union’s European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said before the Ethiopian ministry issued its statement.
(Additional reporting by George Obulutsa in Nairobi and Giulia Paravicini in Milan; Editing by Alison Williams)

10/24/2020 Turkey’s Erdogan Says Macron ‘Needs Treatment’ Over Attitude To Muslims
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talks to media after attending Friday prayers
at Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan launched a fresh attack on his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Saturday, saying he needed mental treatment over his attitude towards Muslims and Islam.
    Earlier this month, Macron pledged to fight “Islamist separatism,” which he said was threatening to take control in some Muslim communities around France, drawing a sharp rebuke from Erdogan.
    France has since been shaken by the beheading of a history teacher by an Islamist radical, who had wanted to avenge the teacher’s use of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a class on freedom of expression.     “What is the problem of this person called Macron with Muslims and Islam? Macron needs treatment on a mental level,” Erdogan said in a speech at a provincial congress of his AK Party in the central Turkish city of Kayseri.
    “What else can be said to a head of state who does not understand freedom of belief and who behaves in this way to millions of people living in his country who are members of a different faith?” Erdogan added.
    Erdogan is a pious Muslim and since his Islamist-rooted AK Party first came to power in 2002 he has sought to shift Islam into the mainstream of politics in Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim but secular country.
    The Turkish president said on Oct. 6 after Macron’s initial comments on “Islamist separatism,” that the remarks were “a clear provocation” and showed the French leader’s “impertinence.”
    Turkey and France are NATO members but have been at odds over issues including policies in Syria and Libya, maritime jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean and the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
    Erdogan and Macron discussed their disagreements in a phone call last month and agreed to improve ties and keep communication channels open.
(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Frances Kerry)

10/24/2020 Egypt Begins Voting To Elect New Parliament
A man casts his ballot at a school used as a polling station, during the first round of Egypt's
parliamentary elections in Giza, Egypt, October 24, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Polls opened in Egypt on Saturday for parliamentary elections that will stretch over several weeks and are set to be dominated by supporters of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
    A first round of voting will end on Sunday, with a second round on Nov. 7-8. Run-offs will take place in late November and early December.
    The polls are being held under a new electoral law under which 50% of 568 contested seats will be allocated to pre-selected lists, a system critics say benefits Sisi’s backers.
    The remaining contested seats will be allocated to individual candidates, and Sisi can appoint up to 28 legislators directly.
    Mostaqbal Watn (Nation’s Future), which in August won nearly three-quarters of the contested seats in an election for Egypt’s Senate, an advisory body, is the favourite to come out top.
    Sisi has overseen a sweeping crackdown on political dissent since leading the ouster in 2013 of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi, who was freely elected in 2012 before mass protests engulfed his rule.
    Both Islamists and liberal opponents have been targeted.
    Supporters say the measures have been necessary to stabilise the country and carry out economic reforms that have won praise from many economists and international financial institutions.
    As Sisi has consolidated control, interest in politics has dropped, with electoral turnout gradually declining.
(Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/24/2020 Israeli Envoys Will Travel To Sudan For Normalisation Deal, Netanyahu Says
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a briefing on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) development
in Israel at his office in Jerusalem September 13, 2020. Yoav Dudkevitch/Yedioth Ahronoth/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli delegation will travel to Sudan in coming days after the two countries agreed to take steps to normalise ties, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday.
    The agreement, brokered with the help of the United States and announced on Friday, made Sudan the third Arab government to set aside hostilities with Israel in the last two months.
    “An Israeli delegation will leave to Sudan in the coming days to complete the agreement,” Netanyahu said at a news conference.
    It was unclear, however, how long it will take for an accord to be completed. The military and civilian leaders of Sudan’s transitional government have been divided over how fast and how far to go in establishing ties with Israel.
    The Sudanese premier wants approval from a yet-to-be formed parliament to proceed with a broader, formal normalisation, and that may not be a quick process given the sensitivities and civilian-military differences.    It is unclear when the assembly will be created.
    U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision this week to remove Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism paved the way for the accord, marking a foreign policy achievement for the Republican president as he seeks re-election on Nov. 3, trailing in opinion polls behind Democratic rival Joe Biden.
    Trump sealed the Israel-Sudan agreement in a phone call with Netanyahu and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Transitional Council Head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in which he said: “Do you think ‘Sleepy Joe’ could have made this deal?
    Netanyahu, reliant on bipartisan support for Israel in Washington, responded haltingly: “Well, Mr. President, one thing I can tell you, is … we appreciate the help for peace from anyone in America.”
    Asked at Saturday’s news conference whether he was embarrassed by Trump’s question, Netanyahu said: “It is very difficult to embarrass me,” and stressed he was grateful to Trump for his policy toward Israel.    “I hope this policy will continue.    I don’t want to make any prophecies about the election results.”
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by David Holmes)

10/24/2020 France Recalls Envoy After Turkey Scolds Macron Over Muslims by Daren Butler and Geert De Clercq
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talks to media after attending Friday prayers
at Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
    ISTANBUL/PARIS (Reuters) – France recalled its ambassador on Saturday after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said his counterpart Emmanuel Macron needed mental help over his attitude towards Muslims.
    “Outrage and insult are not a method,” Macron’s office said.
    The French leader this month declared war on “Islamist separatism,” which he believes is taking over some Muslim communities in France.
    France has since been shaken by the beheading of a teacher by an Islamist radical, avenging the use of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a class on freedom of expression.
    “What is the problem of this person called Macron with Muslims and Islam?    Macron needs treatment on a mental level,” Erdogan said in a speech in the central Turkish city of Kayseri.
    “What else can be said to a head of state who does not understand freedom of belief and who behaves in this way to millions of people living in his country who are members of a different faith?” Erdogan added.
    Turkey and France are both members of the NATO military alliance, but have been at odds over issues including Syria and Libya, maritime jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean, and the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
    “France has gathered its European partners, who share France’s demand that Turkey puts a stop to its dangerous adventures in the Mediterranean and in the region,” the statement from Macron’s office said.
    Erdogan has two months to respond or face measures, it added, noting the absence of a condolence message from Turkey’s leader after the history teacher’s death last week.
    Erdogan is a pious Muslim and since his Islamist-rooted AK Party first came to power in 2002, he has sought to shift Islam into the mainstream of politics in Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim but constitutionally secular country.
    The Turkish president had also said on Oct. 6 that Macron’s comments on Islamist threats were “a clear provocation” and showed “impertinence
(Reporting by Daren Butler and Geert De Clercq; Editing by Frances Kerry and Andrew Cawthorne)

10/25/2020 Turkey Extends Exploration In Disputed Mediterranean Area To November 4
FILE PHOTO: Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis sails in the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Yoruk Isik/File Photo/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey said it was extending the seismic survey work of its Oruc Reis ship in a disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean until Nov. 4, taking a step which was set to fuel tensions in the region.
    NATO members Turkey and Greece are locked in a dispute over the extent of their continental shelves and conflicting claims to hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
    The row erupted in August when Turkey sent Oruc Reis into waters also claimed by Greece and Cyprus.
    Along with two other ships, the Ataman and Cengiz Han, Oruc Reis will continue work in an area south of the Greek island of Rhodes until Nov. 4, a Turkish naval maritime notice said late on Saturday.
    A previous notice scheduled survey work in the area until Oct. 27.
    Ankara withdrew Oruc Reis last month to allow for diplomacy before a European Union summit, where Cyprus sought sanctions against Turkey.    It was sent back this month, prompting an angry response from Greece, France and Germany.
    After the summit, the bloc said it would punish Turkey if it continued its operations in the region, in a move Ankara said further strained Turkey-EU ties.    Turkey says its operations are within its continental shelf.
(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

10/25/2020 Sudan Says It Will Discuss Trade, Migration Deals With Israel by Khalid Abdelaziz and Dan Williams
A Sudanese migrant stands as an Israeli man walks outside a Sudanese restaurant in south Tel Aviv, Israel October, 25, 2020 REUTERS/ Amir Cohen
    KHARTOUM/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Sudan and Israel will discuss agreements to cooperate on trade and migration issues in the coming weeks, the Sudanese foreign ministry said on Sunday, signalling steps to implement a normalisation pact after decades of hostilities.
    The U.S.-brokered accord made Khartoum the third Arab government to establish relations with Israel in the last two months, and only the fifth since 1948.
    But prominent political factions in Sudan have rejected the accord. Some Sudanese officials have said it should be approved by a transitional parliament that has yet to be formed over a year after mass unrest ousted Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
    Khartoum’s foreign ministry said Sudanese and Israeli delegations would meet in coming weeks to negotiate deals for agriculture, aviation, trade and migration.    It gave no details or time frame for the talks.
    Israel is home to 6,284 Sudanese who it deems to be mostly illegal economic migrants.    But its past efforts to repatriate them were stymied by the official state of hostilities with Sudan, as well as legal challenges in Israeli courts.
    “I understand that they have already agreed on a pilot programme, in the very near future, for several hundred (Sudanese to be repatriated),” Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Ynet TV.    “And I reckon that, after the hundreds, several thousand will come along too – or, to more correctly, several thousand will leave.”
    But an Israeli Interior Ministry spokesman told Reuters it was not aware of such a deal.
    The normalisation deal is sensitive in Sudan, formerly a hardline critic of Israel, dividing opinion among military and civilian leaders heading a post-Bashir transition.
    The Sudanese premier wants approval from a yet-to-be formed parliament to proceed with a broader, formal normalisation, and that may not be a quick process given civilian-military differences over the opening to Israel.
    It remains unclear when the assembly will be constituted as part of the transition towards free elections.
    An Oct. 15 report by Israel’s Intelligence Ministry projected deals in agriculture and desalination with Sudan.    It also called for cooperation to prevent Sudanese soil being used by anti-Israel forces like Iran or Hamas.
(Reporting by Khaled Abelaziz and Dan Williams; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/25/2020 Israel To Start COVID-19 Vaccine Human Trials On Nov. 1
FILE PHOTO: Men wearing protective face masks chat on a bench near shuttered shops amid Israel's second
national coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown in Ashkelon, Israel October 7, 2020.REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel will begin human trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by a research institute overseen by the Defence Ministry on Nov. 1 after receiving regulatory approval, the ministry said on Sunday.
    The Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) began animal trials for its “BriLife” vaccine in March.    The Health Ministry and an oversight committee have now given the green light to take it to the next stage.
    Eighty volunteers aged between 18 and 55 will be monitored for three weeks to see if virus antibodies develop, the ministry said in a statement.    A second phase, expected to begin in December, will involve 960 people over the age of 18.
    Should those succeed, a third, large-scale phase with 30,000 volunteers is scheduled for April/May. If successful, the vaccine may then be approved for mass use.
    The vaccine, the ministry said, has already tested well on a number of animal models and the IIBR has produced more than 25,000 doses for the first and second phases of the clinical trials.
    “Our final goal is 15 million rations for the residents of the State of Israel and for our close neighbours,” said IIBR Director Shmuel Shapira.
    There are no internationally approved vaccines yet, but several are in advanced trials, including from Pfizer Inc, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca Plc and Moderna.
    Israel, with a population of 9 million, has begun easing a second nationwide coronavirus lockdown after a steady decline in the rate of daily infections.    The country saw 692 new cases on Saturday – down from a peak of more than 9,000 several weeks ago.    It has reported 2,372 deaths from the pandemic.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Nick Macfie)

10/25/2020 Seventh Child Dies As Cameroon Reels From Shooting Attack On School by Josiane Kouagheu and Blaise Eyong
Schoolchildren, their parents and teachers hold a protest after gunmen opened fire at a school, killing at least
six children as authorities claim, in Kumba, Cameroon October 25, 2020. REUTERS/Josiane Kouagheu
    KUMBA, Cameroon (Reuters) – A 12-year-old girl died on Sunday from wounds sustained when gunmen stormed a school in the South West Region of Cameroon on Saturday and opened fire on the children, taking the death toll to seven with 12 injured.
    The attack on the school, in the region where separatist insurgents have been battling government forces since 2017, has drawn widespread condemnation and is likely to pile further pressure on the government to do more to end the conflict.
    No one has claimed responsibility for the attack in the town of Kumba, where the grieving father of the 12-year-old girl said he saw the gunmen drive by on motorcycles in the direction of the school, and then back after a barrage of gunfire.
    What began as protests by people in the English-speaking North West and South West regions of Cameroon over perceived marginalisation by the dominant French-speaking majority has escalated into violence with separatists demanding independence.
    More than 3,000 people have died since 2017, with both sides regularly accused of committing atrocities.
    “I blame the government for everything that is happening,” said Claude Ngwane, whose 12-year old daughter Renny, died from her wounds early on Sunday.
    He added that if the Cameroon government would acknowledge that it cannot win a civil war, it would act differently to avoid the escalation of a conflict that has so far displaced over half a million people.
    The Cameroon government organised a national dialogue in September 2019 aimed at addressing some of the issues raised by the two regions. But the talks were boycotted by separatists and moderate politicians, and they ended in acrimony.
    Since then, the bloodshed has festered unabated, leading to towns and villages in the regions emptying out, and schools closing.
    Ngwane, a 36-year old carpenter, said he had sent his daughter to the capital, Yaounde, to complete her primary education due to the conflict.    He brought her back to Kumba to start secondary school this year.
    He said he was at his work shed near the school when he saw the gunmen, 12 of them on four motorbikes, one armed with a rocket launcher, drive by twice.
    “I thought they were just passing. Suddenly we heard sustained gunshots.    It lasted for around five minutes, then they drove by again,” he said.
    “I went out to see what had happened.    I saw my wife and saw a man carrying my daughter.    I was confused.    I saw my child, blood all over her body.    I collapsed,” Ngwane said.
(Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/25/2020 Kuwait Retail Co-Ops Remove French Products Over Prophet Cartoon
Empty shelves are seen where French products were displayed, after Kuwaiti supermarkets'
boycott on French goods, in Kuwait City, Kuwait, October 25, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Hagagy
    KUWAIT/PARIS (Reuters) – Kuwait’s retail co-ops have pulled French products in boycott over the use of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a French school class on freedom of expression whose teacher was then beheaded by a Chechen teenager.
    In Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy, a hashtag calling for the boycott of French supermarket retailer Carrefour was the second most trending on Sunday.
    France’s foreign affairs ministry said there had been calls to boycott French products, notably food products, in several Middle Eastern countries as well as calls for demonstrations against France over the cartoons.
    Muslims see any depiction of the Prophet as blasphemous.
    “These calls for boycott are baseless and should stop immediately, as well as all attacks against our country, which are being pushed by a radical minority,” the ministry said.
    The ministry also called on authorities to speak out against such boycott actions in order to help French companies and ensure the safety of French citizens.
    In Kuwait, the non-governmental Union of Consumer Co-operative Societies, which groups more than 70 establishments, issued the boycott directive in an Oct. 23 circular.    Several co-ops visited by Reuters on Sunday had cleared the shelves of items such as hair and beauty products made by French companies.
    Union head Fahd Al-Kishti told Reuters the products had been removed in response to “repeated insults” against the Prophet.
    The co-ops, some the size of hypermarkets, carry government-subsidised staples and account for a big part of retail in Kuwait.    Kuwait’s imports from France stood at 255 million dinars ($834.70 million) in 2019, according to Kuwait’s Central Statistics bureau.
    Kuwait’s foreign minister, who met the French ambassador on Sunday, condemned the Oct. 16 killing as a horrendous crime but stressed the need to avoid insulting religion in official and political remarks that “inflame hatred, enmity and racism,” the ministry tweeted.
    Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also said on Sunday President Emmanuel Macron had “attacked Islam” by encouraging the display of the cartoons.
    Macron said on Twitter France respected all differences in a spirit of peace, but did not accept hate speech and defended reasonable debate.    “We will not give in, ever,” Macron said.
    France recalled its ambassador to Turkey on Saturday after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Macron, who this month declared war on “Islamist separatism,” needed mental help over his attitude towards Muslims.
    The beheading, in which the assailant was shot dead, carried echoes of the Islamist attack in 2015 on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after it republished the cartoons.
    After a Danish paper first published the cartoons in 2005, protests and boycotts on Danish goods swept the Islamic world. ($1 = 0.3055 Kuwaiti dinars)
(Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy in Kuwait, Marwa Rashad in Riyadh and Geert De Clercq in Paris; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Alison Williams and Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/25/2020 Iraqi Forces, Protesters Clash In Baghdad, Injuries On Both Sides by Thaier Al-Sudani and Haider Kadhim
Demonstrators clash with Iraqi security forces during a gathering to mark the first anniversary of the
anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq October 25, 2020. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi security forces clashed with anti-government demonstrators in Baghdad on Sunday with at least 39 people, most of them police officers, injured by projectiles unleashed from each side, security officials said.
    Police sources said tear gas canisters being fired by security forces had injured at least seven people.
    A separate statement from a military spokesman said at least 32 members of the security forces were injured by hand grenades thrown by a group he suggested had hidden among otherwise peaceful protesters, without elaborating.
    Politicians have expressed concern at the possibility of peaceful protests being hijacked by rioters, which could set off a spiral of violence such as that witnessed last year.
    Renewed anti-government rallies converged on Sunday to mark a year since mass unrest over corruption and widespread deprivation in oil-rich Iraq.    More than 500 people have been killed in the disturbances.
    Threats, killings and abductions of activists, as well as fatigue and lockdown restrictions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, took the steam out of months-long protests earlier this year. Demonstrators numbered in the hundreds rather than thousands on Sunday.
    Earlier in the day, police fired water cannon and tear gas at protesters to prevent them crossing barricades on a bridge leading towards government buildings.
    “We will not stop protesting to demand our stolen rights.    We are the victims of corrupted governments,” said Najim Abdullah, a protester standing near the Jumhuriya bridge in the capital.
    Security forces had deployed in force to control protests that began in the morning, and to stop demonstrators crossing Jumhuriya bridge, which leads to the fortified Green Zone that houses government buildings and foreign missions.
    Sunday’s protests were more subdued than demonstrations last year where thousands rallied in Baghdad and the south, facing off against security forces and militiamen in clashes that maimed and killed mostly young, jobless demonstrators.
    Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who took office in May after his predecessor was driven out by last year’s unrest, has painted himself as a leader who supports demonstrators.
    In a televised address on Saturday he pledged to hold early and fair elections, a demand of many pro-democracy activists, and said security forces would this time around not harm any peaceful protesters.
    Security forces and unidentified gunmen carried out a fierce crackdown on anti-government disturbances that erupted in October 2019, killing hundreds of mostly unarmed protesters using live gunfire and tear gas.
    Protesters accuse the entrenched ruling elite, especially Iranian-backed parties and militia groups, of fuelling endemic graft that kept large swathes of the country in ruins even during times of relative peace.
(Additional reporting by Mohammed Atie in Basra; Writing by Ahmed Rasheed and John Davison in Baghdad; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/25/2020 Qatar Might Get F-35s Despite Israel’s Objections, Israeli Minister Says by Dan Williams
FILE PHOTO: An F-35 pilot prepares for take off from the Vermont Air National Guard Base with the flag of the United States, before a flyover in
South Burlington, Vermont, U.S. May 22, 2020. Picture taken May 22, 2020. U.S. Air National Guard/Miss Julie M. Shea/Handout via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli cabinet minister said on Sunday that a U.S. sale of advanced F-35 warplanes to Qatar could be possible despite Israel’s objections to such a deal given the Gulf state’s links to Iran and Palestinian Hamas.
    “I have no doubt that if they (Qatar) want it and are willing to pay, sooner or later they will get it,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who sits in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, told Ynet TV.
    “This is a supposition that we must take into account,” he said, arguing that the U.S. administration “ultimately looks out for American interests,” especially in the face of rival stealth jets on offer from Russia and China.
    Reuters reported on Oct. 7 that gas-rich Qatar had submitted a formal request to buy the F-35, a Lockheed Martin plane that has so far been supplied only to Israel in the region.    Israel, with which Washington consults on such sales, said it would be opposed.
    Emphasizing that this position would not change, a spokesman for Steinitz said in a follow-up statement to Reuters that should such a sale go ahead, Israel would demand “appropriate compensation” – an apparent reference to U.S. defence assistance.
    U.S. officials have been open to selling the F-35 to the United Arab Emirates after it and Bahrain normalised relations with Israel on Sept. 15.    But they have been tight-lipped on Qatar’s bid to buy the jet.
    Successive U.S. administrations have sought to preserve Israeli military superiority in the region.    Steinitz noted, however, that there had been past U.S. sales of advanced aircraft to Arab countries over Israeli objections.
    Israel initially voiced misgivings about the UAE getting F-35s.    The Netanyahu government dropped these on Friday after Defence Minister Benny Gantz returned from Washington with new U.S. security guarantees for Israel.     There has been speculation in Israeli media that the Trump administration could hold out the F-35 as an inducement for Qatar to normalise ties with Israel.    Qatar has ruled out such a diplomatic move without a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Frances Kerry)

10/25/2020 Lebanese Christian Cleric To Hariri: Avoid ‘Secret Deals’ In Forming Cabinet
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai speaks after meeting with Lebanon's President
Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon July 15, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s top Christian cleric urged Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri on Sunday to avoid back-door deals and to quickly form a new government that will start lifting the country out of financial crisis.
    Veteran Sunni politician Hariri was named premier for a fourth time on Thursday, a year after huge protests against the ruling elite pushed him to quit.
    Hariri promised a cabinet of specialists to enact reforms set out in a French plan to unlock foreign aid.    Political rifts, which plagued his last term, have delayed a deal on a new government for weeks.
    He faces major challenges to navigate Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing politics to agree a cabinet, which must then tackle a list of woes including a banking crisis and currency crash.
    In his weekly sermon, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai congratulated Hariri and urged him to rebuild the devastated capital Beirut after the huge port blast in August that killed nearly 200 people.
    Rai had criticized leaders for delaying cabinet talks, blaming them for the unprecedented economic collapse which has doomed many Lebanese to poverty.    Rai heads the Maronite church in Lebanon, the religious sect from which the head of state must be drawn.
    “Overcome the conditions and counter-conditions of the political groups, avoid the quagmire of interests…Beware of secret bilateral deals and promises,” he told Hariri on Sunday.
    At the same time, Rai said: “Do not put the Christians behind your back.”
    Hariri was not nominated for the PM job by Lebanon’s two main Christian blocs: the Free Patriotic Movement, led by President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law, and the Lebanese Forces led by Aoun’s civil war rival.
    Rai also called on Hariri to work with Aoun to ensure the revival of a French plan to help Lebanon and the success of Lebanon’s talks with Israel over their disputed maritime border.
    The patriarch repeated his calls for the country to be “neutral” from regional conflicts – widely understood as references to Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah movement that is backed by Iran.
(Reporting by Beirut bureau; Editing by Frances Kerry)

10/25/2020 Israeli Cabinet Approves Bahrain Accord, Parliament Vote Pending
FILE PHOTO: The national flags of Bahrain, Israel and America, flutter in near the Israeli flag carrier El Al plane
that will fly an Israeli delegation, accompanied by U.S. aides, to Bahrain to formalise relations and broaden Gulf cooperation,
at Ben Gurion International Airport, in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel October 18, 2020. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/Pool
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet on Sunday approved Israel’s normalisation accord with Bahrain, which now awaits parliamentary ratification, a cabinet statement said.
    The accord, signed at a White House ceremony on Sept. 15 where the United Arab Emirates also established formal ties with Israel, was unanimously approved by Netanyahu’s cabinet, minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Army Radio.
    Bahrain’s cabinet approved the accord on Oct. 19.
    An Israeli parliamentary spokesman said a date had yet to be set for a plenum vote on the accord with Bahrain.    Israel and the UAE ratified their bilateral accord earlier this month.
(Writing by Dan Williams and Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Catherine Evans and Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/26/2020 Turkish Leader Backs Boycott Of French Goods Over Cartoon Row by Christian Lowe and Tuvan Gumrukcu
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during a meeting in Ankara, Turkey October 26, 2020. Presidential Press
Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.
    PARIS/ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan asked his compatriots to stop buying French goods on Monday in the latest expression of anger in the Muslim world over images being displayed in France of the Prophet Mohammad, which some Muslims consider blasphemous.
    In Bangladesh on Monday, protesters unfurled placards with a caricature of French President Emmanuel Macron and the words: “Macron is the enemy of peace,” while Pakistan summoned France’s ambassador in Islamabad to issue a protest.
    Erdogan, who has a history of fraught relations with Macron, said France was pursuing an anti-Islam agenda.
    “I am calling to all my citizens from here to never help French brands or buy them,” Erdogan said.
    In Turkey, French autos are among the highest selling cars, and French-Turkish bilateral trade overall was worth nearly $15 billion last year.    The Turkish president has made similar boycott calls in the past, including an appeal not to buy U.S. electronic goods in 2018 which was not followed through.
    Erdogan on Monday joined a chorus of voices elsewhere calling for a boycott. In Kuwait city, a supermarket had stripped its shelves of L’Oreal cosmetics and skincare products after the cooperative union to which it belongs decided to stop stocking French goods.     In Saudi Arabia, calls for a boycott of French supermarket chain Carrefour were trending on social media, though two stores Reuters visited in the Saudi capital on Monday seemed as busy as normal.
    While the immediate commercial impact of the boycott calls was difficult to assess, French businesses operate in majority-Muslim markets around the world.
    Asked about the boycott calls, Geoffroy Roux de Bezieux, the head of the main French employers’ federation, said on RMC radio station: “Of course it’s bad news for the firms that have a presence there.”
TEACHER BEHEADED
    Earlier, Erdogan had questioned the state of Macron’s mental health, prompting Paris to recall its ambassador in Ankara.
    “What is the problem of this person called Macron with Muslims and Islam?    Macron needs treatment on a mental level,” Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday.
    The row has its roots in a knife attack outside a French school on Oct. 16 in which an 18-year-old man of Chechen origin beheaded Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old teacher who had shown pupils cartoons of Mohammad in a civics lesson on freedom of speech.
    The cartoons had initially appeared years ago in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose Paris editorial office was attacked in 2015 by gunmen who killed 12 people.
    Since the beheading, the caricatures were projected onto the facade of a building in one city and people displayed them at protests around the country.    Macron said he would redouble efforts to stop conservative Islamic beliefs subverting French values.
EUROPEAN ALLIES
    Several of France’s partners in the European Union rallied round on Monday.     Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, in a Twitter post, said Erdogan’s remarks directed at Macron were unacceptable.     “Full solidarity with the President @EmmanuelMacron” Conte wrote.    “Personal invective does not help the positive agenda that the EU wants to pursue with Turkey.”
    German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described Erdogan’s personal attacks on Macron as a new low.    Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his country stands with France for the freedom of speech and against extremism.
    France itself has stood firm.    In a Tweet on Sunday, Macron said France respected all differences in a spirit of peace but he also said: “We will not give in, ever.”
    France’s foreign ministry said in a statement issued at the weekend that the criticism of France was being driven by a radical minority and urged foreign governments to dissociate themselves from boycott calls.
(Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Peter Graff)

10/26/2020 Pompeo Says Libya Ceasefire Agreement A ‘Courageous Step’
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a news conference at the State
Department in Washington, DC, U.S. October 21, 2020. Nicholas Kamm/Pool via REUTERS
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that a ceasefire agreement between Libya’s warring factions was a courageous step and that all foreign fighters must leave the country in 90 days in line with the accord.
    Pompeo, who arrived in New Delhi on the first leg of an Asian trip, said it was important that all parties support the success of the U.N.-facilitated talks in Geneva on Friday.
    “We commend Libyan leadership on all sides for taking this courageous step,” he said in a statement.
(Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Catherine Evans)

10/26/2020 Turkey’s Erdogan Says It’s Time For Two-State Solution In Cyprus
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar attend a news conference at the
Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, October 26, 2020. Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS.
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday it was time for a realistic proposal about a two-state solution on the divided island of Cyprus to be discussed, and added that the parameters of the current talks were not sustainable.
    Cyprus was split after a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup.    The European Union admitted the island into the bloc in 2004, represented by the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government in the south.
    Its north is a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state only recognised by Ankara.
    The latest attempt at reunification between the two Cypriot sides collapsed in disarray in mid-2017.    Both sides blamed each other for the collapse, and Ankara accuses the EU of violating laws by only admitting Greek Cypriots.
    Speaking at a news conference with Turkish Cypriot President Ersin Tatar in Ankara, Erdogan said the approach of Greek Cypriots had blocked previous attempts to find a solution.
    “It must be understood that no result can be achieved under the current parameters following a negotiation process that has lasted more than half a century,” Erdogan said.
    “At this stage, we believe starting talks on the basis of a federation will be a loss of time.    Therefore, we believe a two-state solution must now be brought to the table with a realistic proposal.”
    Turkey has said before a two-state mechanism is needed to solve the Cyprus issue, but has accused the Greek Cypriot government of not engaging in talks.
    Tatar said a Turkish proposal to hold an informal meeting between Turkey, Northern Cyprus, Greek Cypriots, Greece and the United Nations was “the last chance” for an agreement.
    Earlier this month, Northern Cyprus partially reopened the beach town of Varosha, a fenced-off resort area abandoned in no-man’s land since 1974, a move criticised by the United States, Greece and Greek Cypriots.
    Erdogan, who said he would visit Northern Cyprus on Nov. 15, said he wanted to have a picnic in Varosha.
    “I believe it would be beneficial to have a picnic there all together,” he said.    “We are watching from our screens here, but we want to experience it in person.    God willing, we will do that too.”
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Nick Macfie)

10/26/2020 Mali And France At Odds Over Talks With Islamist Militants
    Malian Prime Minister Moctar Ouane meets with French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian
(not pictured) during his official visit in Bamako, Mali October 26, 2020. REUTERS/Paul Lorgerie
    BAMAKO (Reuters) – Mali’s interim prime minister said on Monday he was open to talks with Islamist militants whose insurgency has made vast swathes of the country ungovernable, but former colonial power France signalled opposition to the idea.
    Ousted former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said earlier this year that his government was prepared to negotiate with al Qaeda-linked militants.    National talks in the aftermath of the August coup that overthrew Keita endorsed that policy.
    Malian officials have provided few specifics about what kinds of compromises could emerge, but some proponents of negotiations have said they could include recognition of a greater role for Islam in public life.
    Moctar Ouane, who was appointed interim prime minister last month to manage an 18-month transition after the Aug. 18 coup that toppled Keita, said his government was prepared to pursue talks.
    “The conclusions of the inclusive national talks … very clearly indicated the necessity of an offer of dialogue with these armed groups,” Ouane said at a news conference in Bamako with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian who is on a two-day visit.
    “We need to see in that an opportunity to engage in far-reaching discussions with the communities in order to redefine the contours of a new governance of the areas that are concerned,” he said.
    Le Drian, however, indicated he was opposed, noting that the Islamist groups had not signed a 2015 peace deal that it considers a framework for restoring peace to northern Mali.
    “Let’s say things very clearly: there are peace accords … and then there are terrorist groups that have not signed the peace accords,” Le Drian said.    “It is simple.”
    France has more than 5,000 troops in Mali and neighbouring countries in West Africa’s Sahel region to fight the jihadists, against whom it first intervened in 2013.
    But the militants, many with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State, have grown stronger in recent years, stepping into vacuums left by weakened state authorities.
(Reporting by Paul Lorgerie, Writing by Aaron Ross; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

10/27/2020 Tanzania’s ‘Bulldozer’ President Hopes Mega-Projects Impress Voters
FILE PHOTO: Tanzania's President John Magufuli addresses a news conference during his
official visit to Nairobi, Kenya October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – When Tanzanian President John Magufuli criss-crossed the country on the campaign trail ahead of Wednesday’s elections, he touted the billions of dollars his government has spent on a new hydropower dam, a railway and a revived national airline.
    “Effective leadership must plan and prepare well,” he told a rally in northern Tanzania last week, reeling off figures on how government revenues had nearly doubled, helping fund the railway and dam.
    Magufuli is standing for a second term in the elections, which will also vote in a new parliament.    He promises voters his projects will turbocharge growth in East Africa’s third largest economy, even as the private sector complains it is being made to pay too high a bill.
    The 60-year-old president’s nickname – “The Bulldozer” – is testimony both to his fondness for massive public works and his reputation for pushing through policies despite opposition.
    Both make him popular with many Tanzanians, despite international wariness over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic – he had some colourful criticism of testing then unilaterally declared COVID-19 over.    Independent media and political opponents also say they are facing an escalating crackdown.    The government denies there is such a crackdown.
    Magufuli’s investments and his refusal to shut down Tanzania’s economy this year have buoyed his already strong chances of winning a second five-year term.
    His two main challengers, veteran opposition leader Tundu Lissu and former foreign minister Bernard Membe, could split the opposition vote with 12 other candidates.    The election commission disqualified dozens of opposition parliamentary candidates.
    Some iteration of the ruling party has held power since independence in 1961.
    State-led projects have fueled average growth of just below 7% over the past five years, official figures say, propelling Tanzania to lower middle income status this year. Under Magufuli, construction has become the main driver.
    The government projects economic growth this year will be 5.5% despite COVID-19 battering tourism in places like Zanzibar.    The World Bank predicts only 2.5%.
    Jens Reinke, the International Monetary Fund’s representative in Tanzania, told Reuters he “is cautiously optimistic” the mega-projects will contribute to sustainable growth, but risks remain.
    Some voters in the nation of 58 million are less skeptical.    Gardener Jackson Mwase, 35, praised Magufuli for improving Dar es Salaam’s infrastructure.
    “However, some colleagues don’t have money because there are no jobs,” he told Reuters.    “The upcoming government should increase salaries.”
    Magufuli has promised to raise wages if he is elected.
PRIVATE SECTOR WOES
    As public construction booms, Magufuli’s effort to wring more revenue from the private sector has alienated investors.
    Mining reforms passed in 2017 stipulating a 16% government stake in projects make it hard for companies to secure financing.    The government had a long fight with Acacia Mining over alleged under-reporting of revenues.    Barrick Gold, which took over Acacia last year, ended up paying $300 million to settle the dispute.
    “It is extremely difficult for us to get … investment,” a mining executive told Reuters on condition of anonymity to avoid antagonising officials.    “There is quite a large percentage that the government is demanding.”
    Last year Tanzania displaced Venezuela as the world’s least attractive mining jurisdiction, according to the Fraser Institute’s 2019 investment attractiveness index.
    Between 2015 and 2018 foreign direct investment dropped by a third, from $1.5 billion to $1.0 billion, the World Bank said.
    “Moody’s expects policy unpredictability and a generally adverse business environment to hamper investment,” ratings agency Moody’s said in August.    “This will hinder Tanzania’s capacity to sustain high GDP growth.”
    Aidan Eyakuze, executive director of civil-society body Twaweza East Africa, described Magufuli’s economic policies as highly centralised “muscular nationalism.”
    “I just wonder whether foreign investors will be a bit shy about the prospect of such assertive management of their assets,” he said on Thursday during an online panel about the elections.
(Editing by Katharine Houreld and Frances Kerry)

10/27/2020 ‘Perfect Storm’: How Nigeria’s Peaceful Police Protests Turned Violent by Alexis Akwagyiram
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators gather during a protest over alleged police brutality
in Lagos, Nigeria October 17, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja/File Photo
    LAGOS (Reuters) – Tears fill Ephraim Osinboyejo’s eyes as he recalls the idealism that drove thousands of Nigerians like him into the streets to campaign against police brutality – and the night he saw young activists gunned down.
    The 39-year-old businessman says he returned to Nigeria last year after two decades abroad because he wanted to help his country.    When nationwide demonstrations began on Oct. 8, he volunteered to manage logistics at the main protest site in Lagos.
    But what began as a largely peaceful movement, driven by young, tech-savvy activists who used social media to grab global attention, turned into some of the worst street violence the country has seen since the end of military rule in 1999.
    Police and soldiers enforcing a curfew killed at least 12 people in two Lagos neighbourhoods on Oct. 20, according to witnesses and rights group Amnesty International.    The army and police denied involvement.
    In the following days, crowds set fire to police stations and government offices.    Looting was reported at shopping malls and government food warehouses.    Curfews were imposed on millions.
    Protest organizers, some in hiding, are now urging followers to stay off the streets and campaign online as police have made their presence increasingly felt.
    “I feel defeated.    I feel disappointed.    I feel sad,” Osinboyejo said at the Lekki district toll gate where hundreds had gathered to protest abuses by a notorious police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
    Days later, cars were passing through the toll gate as the protests subsided.    The image of a clenched fist daubed onto the road and a few Nigerian flags lying in a gutter were the only reminders of the joyful crowds who danced and sang there a week ago.
‘PERFECT STORM’
    Protesters and government officials have both said that the people doing the looting and vandalism are not for the most part the same people who mobilised against police brutality.
    “We completely condemn any form of violence or looting,” a coalition of protest groups said in a statement on Saturday.
    Demonstrators accused officials of paying armed gangs to disrupt peaceful protests – a common tactic during elections, according to rights groups.
    “If people cannot afford basic needs, you have people who are willing to do anything to get by,” Osinboyejo said.
    Reuters could not verify the accusation.    Videos of unidentified men attacking demonstrators in Lagos and the capital Abuja with knives and sticks were shared on social media early in the protests.
    Spokesmen for the Nigeria Police Force and Interior Ministry did not respond to calls and text messages seeking comment.
    Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu blamed criminal elements for the unrest, saying “miscreants were hiding under the umbrella of the protests to unleash mayhem.”
    Police used live ammunition to disperse crowds in Lagos, Abuja and Jos, Amnesty International said.
    While such shootings may have been the catalyst for escalating unrest, analysts also point to the parlous state of Africa’s biggest economy.
    Some 35% of people aged 15-34 are unemployed. Families already struggling to put food on the table because of double-digit inflation also face rising fuel and electricity costs which the government can no longer afford to subsidize.
    “The ingredients for a perfect storm have been there for a while,” said Malte Liewerscheidt, a vice president with New York-based risk consultancy Teneo.
    The violence brought widespread criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari, with many questioning his control over security forces and angered by his failure to condemn the killings in his first speech after the incident.    He is in his final term as president but his All Progressives Congress party could lose support from young voters.
LEKKI SHOOTING
    SARS was disbanded on Oct. 11, but protests persisted with demonstrators calling for wider law enforcement reforms.
    Around 2 p.m. on Oct. 20, news of a round-the-clock curfew started spreading through the crowd in Lekki, but many decided to stay, Osinboyejo said.
    Around 7 p.m., armed men in army fatigues arrived, he said.
    He and other organizers urged demonstrators to kneel down, wave flags and sing the national anthem, but the men raised their guns and shot into the crowd, six witnesses told Reuters.
    “This place was a war zone,” Osinboyejo said. “    The gunfire was relentless … I didn’t think we would see tomorrow.”
    The army says its forces were not at Lekki that night.
    Days later, Nicholas Okpe, 37, lay in a Lagos hospital wheezing and coughing from a bullet wound to the chest.
    An unemployed driver, he said he was collecting litter dropped at the Lekki protest site when the shooting happened.    For him the campaign is about more than police reforms – it is about justice.
    “Anger is inside our belly.    Because many of us don’t get work, we just get frustrated,” he said.
    The Feminist Coalition – a rights group that raised 147 million naira ($385,000) for the protests through crowdfunding, said on Thursday it was no longer accepting donations.
    It would use any remaining funds to cover medical and legal bills, and provide financial support to victims of police brutality.
    “We are young Nigerians with hopes, dreams and aspirations for our country. This means we need to stay alive to pursue our dreams to build the future,” the statement said.
    Despite his sadness, Osinboyejo remains optimistic for Nigeria.
    “There are a lot of young people who have come together, for the first time maybe, to say they will not stand by and watch their country burn,” he said, choking back tears.
(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Additional reporting by Angela Ukomadu in Lagos and Camillus Eboh in Abuja; Editing by Alexandra Zavis and Giles Elgood)

10/27/2020 Trump Supporters In Israel Participate In Car Convoy To Jerusalem by OAN Newsroom
US President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu take part in an announcement
of Trump’s Middle East peace plan. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
    Dozens of people in Israel have shown their support for President Trump’s re-election.    On Tuesday, American-Israelis living abroad participated in a car convoy which made its way to the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
    Trump supporters were seen honking their horns, waving the American flag and carrying pro-Trump banners.    The President has had a major influence in Israel as he recognized Jerusalem as the nation’s capital and moved the U.S. Embassy there.
Women pose for a picture next to an inauguration plaque during the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. (Photo by Menahem KAHANA/AFP
    The country has many American-Israeli citizens who are registered voters in key battleground states and their vote could be a deciding factor in the election.

10/27/2020 Libya U.N. Envoy Expects Election Date To Be Set At Coming Talks by Angus McDowall
FILE PHOTO: Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Political Affairs in Libya Stephanie Williams
wearing a face mask attends the talks between the rival factions in the Libya conflict at the United Nations
offices in Geneva, Switzerland October 20, 2020 . Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    TUNIS (Reuters) – The United Nations acting Libya envoy expects coming political talks to designate a date for national elections, she told Reuters on Tuesday, after the country’s two warring sides agreed a ceasefire last week.
    “What resonates is a clear and direct desire for there to be elections in as rapid a timeframe as possible,” Stephanie Williams said.
    Libya has been split since 2014 between factions based in the capital Tripoli, in the west, and in the city of Benghazi, in the east.
    Last week a truce was agreed in Geneva by the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which is recognised by the United Nations, and Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA).
    Previous ceasefires have collapsed and earlier efforts to agree a wider political settlement have run aground. Both sides contain groups that compete with each other and are backed by foreign states that have breached a U.N. arms embargo.
    The political talks have started online and will move to Tunis on Nov. 9. The United Nations has said it is imperative to agree on arrangements to hold elections as soon as possible, including by forming a new unified leadership to oversee them.
    “Whatever executive authority they agree on really needs to have a clear focus – preparing for the elections,” Williams said.    “I do fully expect there to be a date designated for elections.”
    Williams said she was hopeful for the talks, citing a recent lack of fighting, progress in ending an eight-month oil blockade and reopening internal transport routes, and involvement of figures from across Libya’s political spectrum.
    “We have learned from previous political processes not to exclude any political constituency and so in this dialogue you do also have representation from the previous regime,” she said.
    “That’s why I’m much more optimistic because I think there’s more buy in.”
    Some Libyans have been critical of the list of 75 delegates invited to the political talks, arguing they are not representative of the country as a whole.
    Williams said it was important to make sure the relevant political forces active on the ground were “around the table” but also include representatives from other parts of society.
    She acknowledged some in Libya’s political class may seek to block progress but said “they are increasingly in a minority,” citing protests in Tripoli and Benghazi this summer over corruption and poor services.
    Foreign countries involved in the conflict may pose a risk to peace talks too.
    “I hope we hear more voices in the international community pushing, pressuring both the internal and external actors to take advantage of this very positive dynamic,” Williams said.
(Reporting By Angus McDowall, Editing by William Maclean)

10/28/2020 Turkey To Take Legal, Diplomatic Steps Against French Caricature Of Erdogan
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talks to media after attending Friday prayers at
Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey said on Wednesday it will take legal and diplomatic steps in response to a caricature of President Tayyip Erdogan in the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which officials called a “disgusting effort” to “spread its cultural racism and hatred.”
    Turkish anger at the caricature added fuel to a row between Turkey and France about cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, which flared after a teacher who had shown pupils the cartoons in a lesson on freedom of speech was beheaded in France this month.
    The cartoon on the cover of Charlie Hebdo showed Erdogan sitting in white T-shirt and underpants, holding a canned drink along with a woman wearing an Islamic hijab.
    “Our people should have no doubt that all necessary legal and diplomatic steps will be taken against the caricature in question,” Turkey’s Communications Directorate said.
    “Our battle against these rude, ill-intentioned and insulting steps will continue until the end with reason but determination,” it said in a statement.
    Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul told reporters in Ankara that Turkish authorities had taken all necessary initiatives with the relevant authorities.    State media also reported that Turkish prosecutors had launched an investigation into Charlie Hebdo’s executives.
    Top Turkish officials had condemned the caricature, with presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin saying it had no respect for “any belief, sacredness and values” and showed “their own vulgarity and immorality.    He said the caricature could not be considered freedom of expression."
    Turkish presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun said “Macron’s anti-Muslim agenda is bearing fruit!
    “We condemn this most disgusting effort by this publication to spread its cultural racism and hatred,” Altun wrote on Twitter.
    Erdogan sharply criticised Macron at the weekend, saying the French leader needed a mental health check, prompting France to recall its ambassador from Ankara. On Monday, Erdogan urged a boycott of French products.
    The Prophet Mohammad cartoons, considered blasphemous by Muslims, have been displayed in France in solidarity and Macron has said he would redouble efforts to stop conservative Islamic beliefs subverting French values, angering many Muslims.
(Reporting by Daren Butler, Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Robert Birsel and Dominic Evans)

10/28/2020 Egypt Says Freedom Of Expression ‘Stops’ When Muslims Offended
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks during a joint press conference with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades
and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after a trilateral summit between Greece, Cyprus and Egypt,
at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus October 21, 2020. Iakovos Hatzistavrou/Pool via REUTERS
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said on Wednesday freedom of expression should stop if it offends more than 1.5 billion people, following the display of images in France of the Prophet Mohammad that Muslims see as blasphemous.
    Sisi also said he firmly rejects any form of violence or terrorism from anyone in the name of defending religion, religious symbols or icons.
    “We also have rights.    We have the right for our feelings not to be hurt and for our values not to be hurt,” he said during an address to commemorate the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday.
    “And if some have the freedom to express what is in their thoughts I imagine that this stops when it comes to offending the feelings of more than 1.5 billion people,” he added in televised remarks.
    The Grand Imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar university, one of the world’s most eminent seats of Sunni Muslim learning, also called on the international community to criminalise “anti-Muslim” actions.
    Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, who sits at the head of the thousand-year-old institution, also said that al-Azhar strongly rejects the use of anti-Muslim sentiment to rally votes in elections.
    Turkey’s leader Tayyip Erdogan has called for a boycott of French goods and Pakistan’s parliament passed a resolution urging the government to recall its envoy from Paris.
(Reporting by Nadine Awadalla; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Catherine Evans, William Maclean)

10/28/2020 Turkey Will Take Legal, Diplomatic Steps Over French Caricature Of Erdogan
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a ceremony in Malatya, Turkey October 25, 2020. Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey will take all legal and diplomatic steps needed in response to a caricature of President Tayyip Erdogan in the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, Turkey’s Communications Directorate said on Wednesday.
    Top Turkish officials condemned the caricature, calling it a “disgusting effort” to “spread its cultural racism and hatred.”    State media later reported that Turkish prosecutors had launched an investigation into Charlie Hebdo’s executives.
    “Our people should have no doubt that all necessary legal and diplomatic steps will be taken against the caricature in question.    Our battle against these rude, ill-intentioned and insulting steps will continue until the end with reason but determination,” the directorate said.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Dominic Evans)

10/28/2020 Bitter Rivals, Familiar Faces And Fears As Ivory Coast Votes For President by Loucoumane Coulibaly and Aaron Ross
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara waves as he arrives for the meeting of the ruling coalition party RHDP organised to nominate him to
stand for a third term in October's election in Abidjan, Ivory Coast August 22, 2020. Picture taken August 22, 2020. REUTERS/Luc Gnago.
    ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Residents of Ivory Coast’s biggest city Abidjan are stocking up on provisions and sending loved ones to rural villages ahead of a contentious presidential election on Saturday many fear could turn violent.
    Suzanne Ble, 34, her two young daughters and a son, were among the hundreds of passengers at a bus station in Abidjan on Tuesday, sitting atop their luggage, waiting to get a ticket.
    “I’m taking my family to Toumodi, (in the centre of the country) because of the political situation.    We are afraid that it will degenerate,” Ble said.
    Many Ivorians had hoped the 2020 election would help turn the page on a cycle of violence around elections, and see President Alassane Ouattara transfer power to a new generation.
    Instead, ahead of the vote citizens of the relatively prosperous but volatile West African nation of 25 million face a familiar set of choices – and fears.
    After initially saying he wouldn’t stand for a third term, Ouattara, 78, reversed course when his preferred successor died unexpectedly in July.    He argued that a new constitution approved in 2016 reset his two-term limit.
    His decision, denounced by opponents as unconstitutional, sparked violent protests and clashes between rival supporters that have killed nearly 30 people.
    Pro-democracy activists say it also marks a fresh setback for the region after Mali’s military coup in August and Guinea President Alpha Conde’s successful third-term bid earlier this month.
    Ouattara’s two main challengers are veterans of Ivory Coast’s many crises since the 1990s: the 86-year-old former president Henri Konan Bedie and 67-year-old Pascal Affi N’Guessan, a prime minister under Ouattara’s predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo.
    Gbagbo’s refusal to concede defeat when Ouattara beat him in the 2010 election led to a brief civil war that killed 3,000 people.
    “It’s been 10, 15, 20 years that we see some of them,” Francis Ake, a 28-year-old telecommunications worker said of the candidates as he left church.    “We need new people.”
BITTER RIVALS, UNCERTAINTY
    Bedie and Affi have urged their supporters to boycott the electoral process, which they say is rigged.    The have called for the vote to be postponed.
    Bedie, served as president from 1993 to 1999, when he was overthrown in a coup.
    A bitter rival of Ouattara, in 1995, his government barred Ouattara from running for president after questioning his nationality, an issue that contributed to later conflicts.
    As of Monday, only 41.5% of registered voters’ identification cards had been picked up, the electoral commission said.
    With his main rivals boycotting the race, there is little suspense about Ouattara’s likely victory, but great uncertainty remains about nearly everything else.
    Experts and investors say they do not expect an all-out war like the one in 2010 and 2011 since there do not appear to be significant splits within the security forces this time.
    However, they warn about a potentially protracted stand-off marked by protests, strikes and ethnic violence that would make it difficult for Ouattara to govern and weigh on the economy of the world’s top cocoa producer.
    “This is an election that will not produce a true winner,” said Wendyam Herve Lankoande, an analyst with International Crisis Group.    “The country will be divided and weakened.”
    Under Ouattara, Ivory Coast swiftly rebuilt its economy through infrastructure and agriculture investments.    GDP growth over his tenure averaged more than 8% before the pandemic.
    Critics say the economic benefits have not trickled down to the poor and accuse the president of ignoring the persistent ethnic and regional animosities that led to the country’s de facto partition in 2002 and the war in 2010.
    “We were so hungry in 2010,” said nut vendor and mother-of-five Yvette Ouattara, seated in a largely deserted market in Abidjan’s Treichville neighbourhood, where rebels loyal to Ouattara once battled Gbagbo’s Republican Guard.
    “I bought two bags of rice and five bottles of oil because you never know,” she said.
(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly and Aaron Ross; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Bate Felix and Alexandra Hudson)

10/28/2020 Tanzania President Magufuli Seeks Second Term As Polls Open
Tanzanian government officials queue to cast their ballots at a polling centre during the early voting for essential workers at the
presidential and parliamentary polls in the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, Tanzania October 27, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Tanzanians headed to the polls on Wednesday for presidential and parliamentary elections that President John Magufuli hopes will hand him another five-year term despite criticism from rights groups that the government has stifled political dissent.
    Magufuli’s main challengers include Tundu Lissu, who was shot 16 times in 2017, and former foreign minister Bernard Membe.    The attack on Lissu, who returned from three years in exile in July, has never been solved.
    People turned out early to cast their ballots in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday morning.
    “The voting process is good, calm,” local pastor Clement Fumbo told Reuters after voting.    “I expect the election to continue to be peaceful, fair and free.”
    But many Tanzanians complained online that they were are experiencing problems accessing social media platforms.
    “Authorities are now trying to block VPN services,” said ProtonVPN, an open source VPN provider, on Twitter.
    On Tuesday, both Twitter and Internet blockage monitor NetBlocks reported widespread problems.
    “We’re seeing some blocking and throttling of Twitter,” Twitter in a statement from its public policy account.
    East Africa’s third-largest economy has recorded average growth of close to 7% over the last four years, according to official figures, as the government invested billions of dollars in infrastructure including a new railway, a hydropower dam and planes for the national airline.
“THIRSTY FOR JUSTICE”
    The government projects economic growth of 5.5% in 2020 after COVID-19 hit key sectors such as tourism.    But the World Bank predicts growth of only 2.5%.
    Magufuli is promising voters that new infrastructure projects will fuel growth of at least 8% soon.
    “We have told Tanzanians the importance of investing on transport infrastructure…for the betterment of this nation,” Magufuli said on Tuesday in Dodoma at his last rally.
    Lissu told his final rally in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam that he was confident of winning.    “Tanzanians are hungry and thirsty for justice,” he said.    “It’s time to decide.”
    More than 29 million people are registered to vote out of 58 million citizens.    They will choose from 15 presidential candidates and elect lawmakers for 264 parliamentary seats.
    The ruling party CCM, a version of which has held power since independence in 1961, won the presidency with 58% of votes in 2015 and currently holds about three-quarters of parliamentary seats.    Tanzania uses a first-past-the post system.
    The opposition and rights groups say authorities have cracked down on critical voices by closing down media outlets and banning public rallies during Magufuli’s first term.
    Last week, a coalition of 65 international rights groups issued a letter accusing the government of harassing NGOs and abusing the power of the justice system.
    “Tanzania’s criminal justice system has … been misused to target those who criticize the government,” the letter read.
    Opposition parties said police disrupted their campaigns and electoral authorities disqualified dozens of their parliamentary candidates.
    The government has previously denied any crackdown and the National Electoral Commission has rejected accusations of unfair treatment.
    In the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar, the opposition presidential candidate was detained and later released as he tried to vote early on Tuesday after at least nine people were shot dead by security forces.
(Editing by Katharine Houreld, Alexandra Hudson, William Maclean)

10/28/2020 Ahead Of U.S. Poll, Trump Ends A U.S. Restriction Applying To Israeli Settlements
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attend a special ceremony to sign an extension
of the Israel-U.S. scientific cooperation agreement in “Judea, Samaria” (the biblical names for the West Bank) and the Golan Heights,
at Ariel University in the Jewish settlement of Ariel, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank October 28, 2020. Emil Salman/Pool via REUTERS
    ARIEL, West Bank (Reuters) – The Trump administration lifted a decades-old ban on Wednesday that had prohibited U.S. taxpayer funding for Israeli scientific research conducted in Jewish settlements in occupied territory, drawing Palestinian condemnation.
    With Tuesday’s U.S. election approaching, President Donald Trump’s move was praised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and could resonate with evangelical Christian voters who support Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
    The West Bank settlement of Ariel, the site of an Israeli university, was chosen as the venue for a ceremony opening a new avenue of U.S. scientific cooperation with Israeli researchers.
    Palestinians, who seek the West Bank for a future state, said the move made Washington complicit in what they termed Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
    In Ariel, Netanyahu and David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, revised three agreements reached between 1972 and 1977, enabling researchers in settlements to apply for U.S. government funds.    They also signed a new scientific and technology cooperation accord.
    Under the now-lifted prohibition, research money for Israelis could not be distributed in areas such as the West Bank that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.    Most countries view permanent settlements on such land as a violation of the Geneva Conventions, though Israel disputes this.
    “The Trump vision … opens Judea and Samaria to academic, commercial and scientific engagement with the United States,” Netanyahu said at the ceremony in Ariel, using biblical names for West Bank territory.
    “This is an important victory against all those who seek to delegitimise everything Israeli beyond the 1967 lines.”
    Friedman said $1.4 billion had been invested by three U.S.-Israeli research cooperation funds since 1972.
    A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said lifting of the funding ban represented “American participation in the occupation of Palestinian lands
    The Trump administration last year effectively backed Israel’s right to build West Bank settlements by abandoning a long-held U.S. position that they were “inconsistent with international law.”
    At the ceremony, Netanyahu again praised Trump for his “successful approach to bringing peace to our region,” citing U.S.-brokered deals for diplomatic relations between Israel and several Arab states.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Peter Graff)

10/28/2020 Turkey Hits At ‘Crusades’ Against Islam In Cartoons Row With France by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Parliament
in Ankara, Turkey, October 28, 2020. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s president said on Wednesday that Western countries mocking Islam wanted to “relaunch the Crusades,” heightening a confrontation with France over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad that have stirred anger in Muslim-majority countries.
    In a speech to lawmakers of his AK Party in parliament, President Tayyip Erdogan said that standing against attacks on the Prophet was “an issue of honour for us,” suggesting Ankara may be digging in for a prolonged standoff.
    The row with France flared after a French teacher who showed pupils cartoons of the Prophet published in the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo was beheaded in France this month.    The caricatures are considered blasphemous by Muslims.
    In a sign of spreading anger at France’s defence of the right to publish the cartoons, demonstrators denounced France in street protests in several Muslim-majority countries.
    “France down, it insulted our Prophet,” protesters shouted in the Somali capital Mogadishu.
    Furthering Turkish anger, Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon on its cover showing Erdogan sitting in a white t-shirt and underpants, holding a canned drink and lifting the skirt of a woman wearing an Islamic hijab to reveal her naked bottom.
    Turkish officials said Ankara would take legal and diplomatic steps in response to the caricature, calling it a “disgusting effort” to “spread its cultural racism and hatred.”
    The Turkish foreign ministry summoned the charge d’affaires at the French embassy over the magazine cover.
    Erdogan said he had not seen the caricature “because I consider it wrong to even look at these immoral publications” and that his anger was over disrespect towards the Prophet rather than the “disgusting attack directed at me.”
    The West was “once again headed to a period of barbarity,” he said, describing colonial powers as “murderers” for their record in Africa and the Middle East.
    “They literally want to relaunch the Crusades.    Since the Crusades, the seeds of evil and hatred have started falling on these (Muslim) lands and that’s when peace was disrupted.”
    The French government, backed by many citizens, saw the Oct. 16 knife attack – in which a man of Chechen origin beheaded Samuel Paty, a teacher who had shown pupils cartoons of the Prophet in a civics lesson – as an attack on freedom of speech.
    Macron has said he would redouble efforts to stop conservative Islamic beliefs subverting French values.
    Turkish state media said Turkish prosecutors had launched an investigation into Charlie Hebdo’s executives.    Turkey’s Communications Directorate said the battle against “these rude, ill-intentioned and insulting steps” would continue to the end.
PROTESTS WIDEN TO SOMALIA, MALI
    Erdogan sharply criticised Macron at the weekend, saying the French leader needed a mental health check, prompting France to recall its ambassador from Ankara. On Monday, Erdogan urged a boycott of French products.
    France’s foreign ministry on Tuesday issued safety advice to French citizens in Indonesia, Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq and Mauritania, advising them to exercise caution. They were told to stay away from any protests over the cartoons and avoid any public gatherings.
    In Cairo, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said freedom of expression should stop if it offended more than 1.5 billion people.
    The Grand Imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar university, one of the world’s most eminent seats of Sunni Muslim learning, urged the international community to criminalise “anti-Muslim” actions.
    In the Somali capital Mogadishu, hundreds of mostly youthful demonstrators gathered at a busy junction leading to the airport, chanting anti-French slogans and burning French flags. They were responding to calls by clerics to come out and condemn France and boycott French products.     “We are going to use our muscles to defend Islam,” a middle-aged man, Mohamed Ahmed, who was at the demonstration, told Reuters when asked why he was participating.    “We ask people to burn every product of France they come across.”
    Dozens of Iranians gathered in protest in front of the French embassy in Tehran, state media reported.    Some held up placards with red crosses plastered on images of French goods.
    In Dhaka, hundreds of Bangladeshi Muslims took to the streets of the capital for a third consecutive day, chanting slogans such as “Boycott French products” and burning effigies of Macron, whom they described as an enemy of Islam.
    At a much larger protest on Tuesday in Dhaka, thousands had turned out for a protest carrying banners such as “Stop Islamophobia,” “Boycott France” and “Lay siege to the French Embassy in Dhaka.”
(Additional reporting by Abdi Sheikh in Mogadishu, Ruma Paul in Dhaka, Nadine Awadalla and Ulf Laessing in Cairo; Writing by William Maclean; Editing by Jon Boyle, Nick Tattersall and Nick Macfie)

10/28/2020 Tanzanian President Magufuli Eyes Second Term As Polls Close
    Tanzanian government officials queue to cast their ballots at a polling centre during the early voting for essential
workers at the presidential and parliamentary polls in the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, Tanzania October 27, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Polls closed in Tanzania’s elections on Wednesday with President John Magufuli eyeing a second, five-year term in a contest with 14 challengers, amid complaints of restricted internet access and accusations of fraud.
    Magufuli’s leading opponent Tundu Lissu, was shot 16 times in 2017 in what remains an unsolved case.    He returned from three years in exile in July.    He told Reuters he was getting reports of widespread irregularities and his party’s representatives were being prevented from entering polling stations.
    “I am told turnout is massive,” said Lissu, 52.    “The only worry is these irregularities…We will not accept a rigged election.”
    Results from the presidential and parliamentary elections are expected within a week.
    Zitto Kabwe, another opposition leader for the ACT-Wazalendo party, said residents had seized fake ballots in his constituency where he was running for re-election.
    “This election has been ruined by the (National Electoral Commission) NEC,” he said in a tweet.
    The electoral commission denied the allegations.
    “There has been information circulating on social media alleging that there are ballot boxes with fake ballot papers,” chairman Semistocles Kaijage told reporters in Dar es Salaam.    “These allegations … are unofficial and unsubstantiated.”
    There were also nationwide problems accessing and uploading information to some social media platforms.
    “Authorities are now trying to block VPN services,” ProtonVPN, an open source VPN provider, said on Twitter.
    On Tuesday, both Twitter and Internet blockage monitor NetBlocks reported widespread problems.
    “We’re seeing some blocking and throttling of Twitter,” Twitter said in a statement from its public policy account.
    The opposition reported irregularities in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar after two days of unrest.    Police said on Tuesday they had used tear gas and arrested youths blocking the offloading of ballot boxes.
    Magufuli, 60, urged voters to turn out after he cast his ballot in the capital Dodoma.    “Let me also implore that we maintain peace as there is life after elections.”
    The ruling CCM party, a version of which has held power since independence from Britain in 1961, won the presidency with 58% of votes in 2015 and now holds about three-quarters of parliamentary seats.
    Tanzanians on Wednesday also voted for the East African country’s 264-seat parliament on a first-past-the-post basis.
    Magufuli, nicknamed “Bulldozer” for his fondness for massive public works and his reputation for getting his way despite opposition, campaigned promising to turbocharge growth in East Africa’s third largest economy with infrastructure projects.
    But opposition and rights groups say his government has cracked down on critical voices by closing down media outlets and preventing public rallies.
    Opposition parties said police disrupted their campaigns and electoral authorities disqualified dozens of their parliamentary candidates.
    The government has denied suppressing dissent and the electoral Commission rejected accusations of unfair treatment.
(Editing by Katharine Houreld and Mark Heinrich)

10/28/2020 Israel, Lebanon Hold Second Round Of Sea Border Talks
Maritime border markers are seen in the Mediterranean Sea near Lebanon, as seen from Rosh Hanikra, northern Israel October 28, 2020. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    NAQOURA, Lebanon (Reuters) – Israel and Lebanon on Wednesday held a second round of U.S.-mediated talks over their disputed sea border that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich area, though sources said gaps between the sides remain large.
    Delegations from the long-time foes reconvened at a U.N. peacekeeper base to try to reach agreement over their maritime border after an initial meeting earlier this month.
    The sides presented contrasting maps on Wednesday outlining proposed borders that actually increased the size of the disputed area, sources said.
    The Lebanese proposal, which had been carried by local media for days prior to the talks, extended farther south than the border Lebanon had years before presented to the United Nations, according to a Lebanese security source.
    The Israeli team presented its own map that pushed the boundary farther north than Israel’s original position, according to a source familiar with what was discussed.
    The teams will meet again on Thursday to continue negotiating.
    The U.S.-mediated talks follow three years of diplomacy by Washington.    They also come after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreed to establish full relations with Israel, under U.S.-brokered deals which realign some of Washington’s closest Middle East allies against Iran.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem and Dominic Evans in Beirut; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

10/28/2020 Lebanon Speaker Berri: New Government Could ‘See The Light’ In Days
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's parliament speaker Nabih Berri speaks during a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon October 1, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s influential Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Wednesday that a new government could be formed within a few days if talks keep going positively.
    Weeks of political dispute have delayed a deal on a new cabinet that must tackle a crippling financial meltdown – the worst crisis since a 1975-1990 civil war.
    Veteran Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri was named premier for a fourth time last week, pledging to swiftly form a new cabinet which must then address a long list of problems.
    Hariri stepped down a year ago as the crisis erupted and huge protests against the political elite swept the country.    The currency has since collapsed, banks are paralysed and the state has defaulted on its hefty foreign currency debt.
    A new government will have to agree a financial recovery plan, resume talks with the International Monetary Fund and enact overdue reforms to trigger foreign cash Lebanon badly needs. Otherwise, donors have made clear, there will be no aid.
    The country is also grappling with a COVID-19 surge and the fallout of the August explosion at Beirut port that killed nearly 200 people and caused billions of dollars of damage.
    Hariri has presented himself as the candidate to build a cabinet to implement a roadmap by former colonial ruler France which sought to rally Lebanese leaders to tackle the crisis.
    “The coming government could see the light within four or five days if the positive atmosphere continues on the current track,” the office of Shi’ite leader Berri, whose Amal party is allied with Iran-backed Hezbollah, quoted him as saying.
(Reporting by Laila Bassam and Ellen Francis; Editing by Dominic Evans)

10/29/2020 U.S. To Allow Jerusalem-Born Americans To List Israel As Birthplace, Pompeo Says by Jeffrey Hellerbr>
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a news conference at the State Department
in Washington, DC, U.S. October 21, 2020. Nicholas Kamm/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Americans born in Jerusalem will now be able to list Israel as their birthplace on their passports, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Thursday, in a nod to Washington’s recognition of the contested city as Israel’s capital.
    It was the latest in a string of pro-Israel policy shifts by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration ahead of his re-election bid next week.
    Five years ago, when former President Barack Obama was in the White House, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law that would have let Jerusalem-born Americans list Israel on their passports as their country of birth, saying it unlawfully encroached on presidential powers to set foreign policy.
    The status of Jerusalem, a city holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians, is among the tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2017,     Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy and recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.    Most countries do not.
    Pompeo said the decision to allow Jerusalem-born U.S. citizens to choose to enter Israel or Jerusalem as their birthplace was “consistent” with Trump’s 2017 proclamation.
    The Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as capital of the future state they seek in the West Bank and Gaza, cried foul.
    Trump “is trying to write off Palestinian rights,” Wasel Abu Youssef of the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation told Reuters, accusing the U.S. president of trying to “encourage Evangelists and Jewish Americans to step up voting for him.”
    On Wednesday, the Trump administration lifted a ban on U.S. taxpayer funding for scientific research conducted by Israel in its West Bank settlements.
    Trump envoys have also helped establish ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan – countries that had formally shunned the country in solidarity with the Palestinians.
    “Normalisation moves by some Arab countries have led to the weakening of Arab ranks,” Abu Wasel added.
(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

10/29/2020 Africa Must Prepare For Second COVID Wave, Disease Control Group Says by Giulia Paravicini and Duncan Miriri
A coronavirus disease patient holds up his hand inside the COVID-19 ICU of Machakos
Level 5 Hospital, in Machakos, Kenya October 28, 2020. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
    ADDIS ABABA/NAIROBI (Reuters) – COVID-19 cases are accelerating in some parts of Africa and governments should step up preparations for a second wave, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.
    Over the past four week, cases have increased by 45% per week on average in Kenya, by 19% in Democratic Republic of Congo and by 8% in Egypt, the African Union-run organisation’s head John Nkengasong said.
    “The time to prepare for a second wave is truly now,” he said, urging governments “not to get into prevention fatigue mode.”
    The continent of 1.3 billion people has so far managed better than widely expected in terms of containing the epidemic, with a lower percentage of deaths than other regions, partly due to strict lockdown measures imposed in March.
    There have been 41,776 deaths among the 1.74 million people reported infected with the virus, according to a Reuters tally based on official data as of Thursday morning.
    Beginning in August, many governments eased restrictions, however, and a trend of decreasing cases has flattened, Matshidiso Moeti, Africa director for the WHO said in an online press conference on Thursday.
    In Kenya, the government allowed bars to reopen on Sept. 28 and cut the nightly curfew by two hours.    Schools partially reopened on Oct. 12.
    Some easing was justified to help economies in the region to start recovering, Moeti said.
    However, “we will need to be dealing with some of these upticks.    What is important is to contain them.”
    Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday announced a Nov 4 summit to review the surge in infections, and urged Kenyans to wear face masks properly and practice social distancing to avoid “losing hard-fought for ground” in the fight against the disease.
(Additional reporting by George Obulutsa; Writing by Maggie Fick; editing by John Stonestreet)

10/29/2020 White House Moves Forward With Sale Of 50 F-35 Jets To UAE: Sources by Mike Stone and Patricia Zengerle
FILE PHOTO: Two U.S. Air Force F-22 stealth fighter jets are about to receive fuel mid-air from a KC-135 refueling plane over
Norway en route to a joint training exercise with Norway's growing fleet of F-35 jets August 15, 2018. REUTERS/Andrea Shalal
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration notified Congress it intends to sell 50 Lockheed Martin F-35 jets to the United Arab Emirates for about $10 billion, sources said on Thursday, setting up a potential showdown with lawmakers over the deal.
    The United States and the UAE aim to have a letter of agreement for the F-35 jets in time for UAE National Day celebrated on Dec. 2, Reuters reported in September.
    The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees, whose members have criticized the UAE’s role in civilian deaths in Yemen, have the right to review, and block, weapons sales under an informal review process.
    Israel initially balked at the prospective sale but last year dropped its opposition after what it described as U.S. guarantees that Israeli military superiority would be preserved.
    Any deal must satisfy a longstanding agreement with Israel that any U.S. weapons sold in the region must not impair Israel’s “qualitative military edge,” guaranteeing U.S. weapons furnished to Israel are “superior in capability” to those sold to its neighbors.
    “We all face a common threat,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an apparent allusion to Iran, told reporters on Thursday when asked about reports of the impending UAE jet sale.
    “But with that said, it was important that the (Israeli) defense establishment received this clear American undertaking to preserve our qualitative military edge,” added Netanyahu, who earlier on Thursday hosted visiting Pentagon chief Mark Esper.
    Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, confirmed that an informal notification was sent to Congress on Thursday.    “As Congress reviews this sale, it must be clear that changes to the status quo will not put Israel’s military advantage at risk,” he said.
    The sources said the Trump administration aims to send formal notifications for the deal in the coming days.    Once formally notified, Congress can choose to pass legislation to block the sale.
    Typically the informal notification process for complex deals like the F-35 sale is 40 days, but the Trump administration is cutting it to just a few days to meet the goal of a UAE National Day signing ceremony, the sources said.
    “Rushing these sales is not in anyone’s interest,” Engel warned in his statement.
    The UAE, one of Washington’s closest Middle East allies, has long expressed interest in acquiring the stealthy F-35 jets and was promised a chance to buy them in a side deal when it agreed to normalize relations with Israel.
    Because of the qualitative military edge restriction, in the past the F-35 has been denied to Arab states, while Israel has about 24 of the jets.
(Reporting by Mike Stone and Patricia Zengerle in Washington, D.C. and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by David Gregorio, Jonathan Oatis and Tom Brown)

10/29/2020 Israel, Lebanon Agree To Resume Border Talks Next Month
A crow perches on a sign post as the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea is seen in the background,
near Rosh Hanikra, northern Israel October 28, 2020. Picture taken October 28, 2020. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    BEIRUT (Reuters) –  Israel and Lebanon held “productive” talks over their disputed Mediterranean Sea border on Thursday and agreed to meet again next month, the United Nations and the United States said.
    Thursday’s meeting was the third this month between the longtime foes, mediated by the United States and hosted by the United Nations at a base in southern Lebanon.
    The meetings are the culmination of three years of diplomacy by Washington, and follow a series of deals under which three Arab nations – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan – agreed to establish full relations with Israel.
    Lebanon has said its talks are strictly limited to their disputed boundary which lies in an area of potentially gas-rich Mediterranean water.
    On Wednesday the two sides presented contrasting maps outlining proposed borders that actually increased the size of the disputed area, sources said.
    The Lebanese proposal extended farther south than the border Lebanon previously presented to the United Nations, according to a Lebanese security source.    The Israeli map pushed the boundary farther north than Israel’s original position, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
    “Representatives from the governments of Israel and Lebanon held productive talks mediated by the United States and hosted by the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon,” the joint U.S.-UN statement said.    “The parties committed to continue negotiations next month.”
    A senior Lebanese source said the two sides would meet again on Nov. 11.
(Reporting by Dominic Evans and Ari Rabinovitch; editing by Jonathan Oatisditing by Jonathan Oatis)

10/29/2020 Saudi Arabia Says Will Open Umrah Pilgrimage To Muslims From Abroad From November 1: Saudi Media
FILE PHOTO: Muslims, keeping a safe social distance, perform Umrah at the Grand Mosque after Saudi authorities ease the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) restrictions, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, October 4, 2020. Ministry of Hajj and Umrah/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia will open the Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca for Muslims from other countries from Nov. 1, Saudi media reported on Thursday, as the kingdom relaxes measures it had taken to check the spread of the coronavirus.
    “The Umrah pilgrimage is allowed for Muslims from across the world,” Saudi state TV said, citing a statement from the Ministry of Pilgrimage.    The Saudi-owned, Dubai-based TV channel Al-Arabiya said Umrah will be allowed from Nov. 1     Umrah is a pilgrimage which can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to Hajj, which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar.
    Saudi Arabia closed its borders in February to foreign Umrah pilgrims, and in March stopped its own citizens and residents from taking part. In July, it allowed a limited number of domestic pilgrims to perform the Hajj.
(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

10/29/2020 West Bank Palestinians’ Olive Trees Burn As U.N. Urges Protection For Harvest by Ali Sawafta and Rami Ayyub
Grass burns in an olive field after Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters during a Palestinian protest against Jewish settlements,
near Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank October 16, 2020. Picture taken October 16, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    BURQA, West Bank (Reuters) – For many West Bank Palestinians, the olive tree is both a revered cultural emblem and an economic necessity – but it has also become a focal point of a struggle between them and Israeli settlers for a land they both claim.
    More than 1,000 trees owned by Palestinian farmers have been burned or damaged in the Israeli-occupied territory since the harvest began three weeks ago, according to a United Nations report.
    The Oct 23 report by humanitarian affairs office UNOCHA has also logged 19 disruptions “by people believed or known to be Israeli settlers,” with 23 Palestinian farmers injured.
    While the settlers dispute those figures, in normal years peace monitors accompany the farmers to protect the harvest. But the coronavirus pandemic has made this harder.
    Some Israeli activists are still deploying.    “With COVID-19 it is impossible for foreigners to come, harder for Israelis,” said one activist, Guy Butavia.
    Olive farmers in areas near some Israeli settlements say they face problems each year.
    “When we try to reach our fields, the army protects the settlers and prevents us from accessing our olives,” said Adnan Barakat, council head of Burqa village, near Ramallah.
    In Burqa, Israeli settlers “stoned and physically assaulted Palestinian olive pickers on three occasions, triggering clashes,” UNOCHA said.
    Calling on Israel to ensure the farmers’ safety, U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council on Monday: “Each year, the ability of Palestinians to harvest is compromised due to access restrictions, attacks and intimidation.”
    Yigal Dilmoni, head of Yesha, the main settler council in the West Bank, said most of the accusations came from “dubious” sources.
    “For many years now, extremist organisations… have been carrying out provocative actions and exploiting the harvest season to incite against Israeli civilians,” he said.
    “I live on the ground and see thousands of Palestinians harvesting their olives daily without any problem.”
BURNING BUSHES
    Around 430,000 Israeli settlers live among three million Palestinians in the West Bank, territory that Israel captured in 1967. Settlers have also been targets of Palestinian stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks.
    Palestinians claim the West Bank for a future state. But Israel cites its security needs and historical ties to the region.
    Tensions rose this summer over Palestinian fears that newly re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would implement pre-election promises to annex part of the West Bank.
    Last week in Burqa, Reuters journalists there saw Palestinians and Israelis confronting each other.    Israeli security forces intervened, firing tear gas and stun grenades towards Palestinians, who threw stones back.
    A brush fire broke out amid the clashes and Israeli firing, and spread to nearby olive trees.
    The Israeli military said security forces had coordinated with landowners to ensure safe picking, but were met with “rioters” hurling rocks.
    “A few arson attempts were identified,” a military statement said.    “Troops responded with riot dispersal means… During the incident, a fire broke out and several trees were damaged.”
    The military said it “would not allow the olive harvest to be used in order to harm Israeli civilians or security forces.”
(This story corrects Yigal Dilmoni’s title to head of Yesha from spokesman in 10th paragraph)
(Writing by Stephen Farrell and Rami Ayyub; editing by John Stonestreet and David Holmes)

10/30/2020 First Jerusalem-Born American Gets U.S. Passport That Lists ‘Israel’ As Birthplace
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman presents Menachem Zivotofsky, a U.S. citizen who was born in Jerusalem, his passport
that lists Israel as birthplace at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, October 30, 2020. Debbie Hill/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The United States on Friday issued for the first time a passport to a Jerusalem-born American with ‘Israel’ listed as the place of birth instead of the city.
    The U.S. Ambassador to Israel presented the document to 18-year-old Menachem Zivotofsky after a change of policy by President Donald Trump that is likely to please pro-Israel supporters ahead of next week’s election, but that Palestinians condemned as a violation of international law.
    “You have a nation of birth – the state of Israel,” Ambassador David Friedman told the teenager, thanking Trump for having “set this course in motion.”
    The status of Jerusalem, which contains sites holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians, is among the most contentious issues in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, both of whom claim the city as their capital.
    Since Israel was founded in 1948, successive American governments declined to recognize any country as having sovereignty over Jerusalem, and State Department policy was to list only the city as a birthplace, leaving resolution of such a sensitive issue to the parties in the dispute.
    But in 2017 Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and in 2018 moved the U.S. Embassy to the city from Tel Aviv, to reactions of anger and dismay including from European allies.
    On Thursday, reflecting those changes, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the passport change.
    Americans born in Jerusalem can now list either ‘Jerusalem’ or ‘Israel’ as their birthplace, an embassy official confirmed.
    Zivotofsky’s parents had long campaigned for such a change having filed a lawsuit in 2003 in a federal court.
    But in 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law that would have allowed Jerusalem-born Americans to list Israel as their country of birth, saying it unlawfully encroached on presidential powers to set foreign policy.
    The administration of Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, argued that if the law were enforced it would have caused “irreversible damage” to America’s ability to influence the Middle East peace process.    Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians broke down in 2014.
    Trump’s decisions on Jerusalem have been welcomed by Israel, which claims all of the city for its capital, including East Jerusalem, which it captured in a 1967 war and later annexed in a move not recognised by most of the international community.
    But they have been denounced by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who seeks to create a future state of Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza – with East Jerusalem as its capital – to live alongside Israel under a long-standing formula known as the two-state solution.
    Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Abbas, said the passport policy change was a violation of international laws and international resolutions.
    “Attempts by Trump to impose facts on the ground in a race against time ahead of the U.S election will not alter the reality,” he told Reuters on Friday.
(The story removes extraneous words in paragraph 6)
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, additional reporting by Stephen Farrell in Jerusalem, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/30/2020 Tens Of Thousands Of Muslims Protest Over Macron Remarks After Killings In France
People stand next to a defaced poster of France's President Emmanuel Macron on a road as a mark of a protest against the publications
of a cartoon of Prophet Mohammad in France and Macron's comments, in Mumbai, India, October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Niharika Kulkarni
    ISLAMABAD/DHAKA (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Muslims protested in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Palestinian territories on Friday after killings in a French church prompted a vow from President Emmanuel Macron to stand firm against attacks on French values and freedom of belief.
    French Interior Minister Gerald Damarnin said France – home to Europe’s largest Muslim community and hit by a string of militant attacks in recent years – was engaged in a war against Islamist ideology and more attacks were likely.
    In Pakistan, police briefly fired tear gas at protesters who broke through security blockades in Islamabad in a failed attempt to demonstrate at the French Embassy against the printing in France of images depicting the Prophet Mohammad.
    Protests and gatherings marking the occasion were also held in the Pakistani cities of Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar.
    In Bangladesh, tens of thousands marched through Dhaka, the capital, chanting “Boycott French products” and carrying banners calling Macron “the world’s biggest terrorist.”
    “Macron is leading Islamophobia,” said Dhaka demonstrator Akramul Haq.    “He doesn’t know the power of Islam.    The Muslim world will not let this go in vain.    We’ll rise and stand in solidarity against him.”
    Some Bangladeshi demonstrators also burned effigies of Macron and carried cutouts of the president with a garland of shoes around his neck, a severe insult according to Islam.
    In a Muslim-majority district of India’s financial hub Mumbai, some 100 posters showing Macron with a boot on his face and calling him a “demon” were pasted on pavements and roads.
    In Lebanon, security forces fired tear gas to drive back some 300 protesters including supporters of a local Sunni Islamist party who marched from a mosque in the capital Beirut to the official residence of the French ambassador.
    Thousands of Palestinian worshippers rallied after Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, in Jerusalem’s walled Old City to condemn the republication of Mohammad caricatures in France.    “A nation whose leader is Mohammad will not be defeated,” protesters chanted.
    “We hold the French president responsible for acts of chaos and violence that are taking place in France because of his comments against Islam and against Muslims,” said Ikrima Sabri, the preacher who delivered the sermon at al Aqsa.
    In Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinians trampled on a large French flag and burned other French flags.
    In Gaza, ruled by Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, hundreds of Palestinians took part in anti-France rallies, chanting: “With our souls and blood we will redeem the Prophet.”
SOMALI CURSES, CALLS TO BOYCOTT
    Thousands in Somalia turned up for Friday prayers in mosques where sermons were dominated by curses and condemnation of Macron and his government.
    Abdirahman Hussein Mohamed,, a shopkeeper in the capital Mogadishu, set aside all French products including face wash, perfumes and other cosmetics with a large sign, “NOT FOR SALE.”
    “I will never sell those products…as long as France does not apologise. France insulted our Prophet,” Mohamed told Reuters.    Some women shoppers agreed.
    “I used to be one of the consumers of French cosmetics.    Now I will no longer buy,” said Anisa Ahmed, 22.    “I will look for products of other countries.”
    Russian police detained around 15 people in Moscow after dozens gathered outside the French Embassy to protest against Macron.    Some of the protesters stamped on portraits of Macron and chanted “Allahu Akbar.”
FRANCE RAISES SECURITY ALERT
    France raised its security alert to the highest level on Thursday after a knife-wielding man shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) beheaded an elderly woman in a church and killed two more people before being shot and taken away by police.
    “We will not give any ground,” Macron said outside Notre Dame Basilica in the French Riviera city of Nice.    France had been attacked “over our values, for our taste for freedom, for the ability on our soil to have freedom of belief,” he added.
    The violence coincided with growing Muslim anger over France’s defence of the right to publish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad, after an Islamist sympathiser decapitated a French teacher earlier this month for showing such images to pupils during a civics lesson.
AUSTRALIAN, INDIAN LEADERS BACK FRANCE
    Several leaders in Asia, including Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressed solidarity with Macron and France.
    “It is just the most callous and cowardly and vicious act of barbarism by terrorists and should be condemned in the strongest possible way,” Morrison said.    “We share values (with France).    We stand for the same things.”
    He also condemned as absurd comments by ex-Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad that Muslims had a right to be angry and kill “millions of French people for the massacres of the past.”    Mahathir said his comments were taken out of context.
(Reporting by Ruma Paul in Dhaka, Sanjeev Miglani in New Delhi, Gibran Peshimam, Asif Shahzad and Reuters TV in Islamabad, Rozanna Latiff in Kuala Lumpur, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Ellen Francis in Beirut, John Mair in Sydney and Elias Biryabarema in Nairobi; Writing by Clarence Fernandez; Editing by Robert Birsel and Mark Heinrich)
[If this continues you might have to have Trump send NATO to take out these extremist terrorist who think it is okay to behead someone over a sect who promotes a man who lived in 1600 A.D. who started an offshoot of Islam to replace the original GOD of Allah who is the same God of Abraham, which is why the Abraham Accord was accepted among Arab nations who are not part of the beliefs of those who behead people.].

10/31/2020 Israel Hails News Dominican Republic May Move Embassy To Jerusalem
FILE PHOTO: A Christian worshipper holds a baby as he walks in the plaza of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as Israel began easing
a second nationwide coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown, in Jerusalem's Old City October 18, 2020. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel on Saturday welcomed a declaration by the Dominican Republic that the Caribbean country may consider moving its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
    The Dominican Republic’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday it was evaluating the step at the request of the local Jewish community, noting that its embassy in Israel had been in Jerusalem until 1980.
    Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi praised the Dominican Republic and expressed gratitude to his Dominican counterpart Roberto Alvarez Gil for considering it.
    “I thanked him during our phone call yesterday for this important decision and for the many years of friendship between our two countries,” Ashkenazi said on Twitter.
    The announcement came just two months into a new Dominican administration led by President Luis Abinader, the grandson of Lebanese immigrants.    Since taking power, Abinader has described as “very special” the country’s relationship with the United States, the Dominican Republic’s main trade partner.
    Coming just a few days before a U.S. presidential election, the Dominican declaration followed on the heels of other Latin American countries that have recently moved their embassy to Jerusalem or are considering it.
    U.S. President Donald Trump, who is seeking re-election on Tuesday, enraged the Palestinians and angered many world leaders by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in late 2017, and the U.S. embassy moved there the following year.
    Guatemala moved its embassy to Jerusalem soon afterwards, and Honduras has said it aims to do the same by the end of 2020. Brazil is also mulling the move.
    Jerusalem’s status has been one of the thorniest issues in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    The Palestinians want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, as the capital of a future state.    Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector it annexed after the 1967 war, as its capital.
(Reporting by Mayaan Lubell in Jerusalem and Ezequiel Abiu Lopez in Santo Domingo; Editing by Dave Graham and Daniel Wallis)

10/31/2020 U.S. Special Forces Rescue American Held In Nigeria: Officials by Idrees Ali
FILE PHOTO: Nigerian army soldiers board a pickup to escort Nigerians heading north towards Libya as
they leave Agadez, Niger October 29, 2019. Picture taken October 29, 2019. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. special forces rescued an American citizen who had been kidnapped by armed men in an operation on Saturday in northern Nigeria that is believed to have killed several of his captors, U.S. officials said.
    Forces including Navy SEALs rescued 27-year-old Philip Walton, who had been abducted on Tuesday from his home in neighboring southern Niger, two U.S. officials said on condition of anonymity, adding that no U.S. troops were hurt.
    A diplomat source in Niger said Walton is now at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Niamey.
    “Big win for our very elite U.S. Special Forces today,” U.S. President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter.
    White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Fox News that the Trump administration had over the years rescued 55 hostages in 24 countries.
    The Pentagon confirmed the operation but did not provide the identity of the hostage.
    Walton, who kept camels, sheep and poultry and grew mangoes near the border with Nigeria, was kidnapped by six men armed with AK-47 assault rifles who arrived on motorcycles at his home in southern Niger’s Massalata village early on Tuesday.
    His wife, young daughter and brother were left behind.
    Reuters has reported that the perpetrators appeared to be from the Fulani ethnic group, and that they spoke Hausa and some English. They demanded money and searched the family’s home before leaving with Walton.
    Niger, like much of West Africa’s Sahel region, faces a deepening security crisis as groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State carry out attacks on the army and civilians, despite help from French and U.S. forces.
    Four U.S. soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger in 2017, sparking debate about the United States’ role in the sparsely populated West African desert that is home to some of the world’s poorest countries.
    At least six foreign hostages are being held by Islamist insurgents in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.    Islamists have collected millions of dollars in ransom payments in recent years.    The U.S. government has frequently criticized other countries for paying.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by David Lewis in Nairobi and David Morgan in Washington; Editing by Frances Kerry and Daniel Wallis)

10/31/2020 Ivory Coast Votes For President Despite Areas Of Unrest by Aaron Ross and Ange Aboa
People wait for the opening of a polling office during the presidential election in Abidjan, Ivory Coast October 31, 2020. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
    ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Ivory Coast citizens cast their ballots in a largely peaceful presidential vote on Saturday but opposition calls to disrupt or boycott the process caused pockets of unrest in a tense standoff over President Alassane Ouattara’s bid for a third term.
    The streets of the largest city Abidjan were quiet and voting went smoothly in most districts, in contrast to the violent run-up to the election.    The vote is seen as a test of stability in the West African nation, which has one of the continent’s fastest-growing economies.
    “There was fear but it has not stopped us from coming out,” said businesswoman Djenebou Toure, sitting with friends outside a polling station in Adjame district.
    But efforts to obstruct voting led to clashes and the vandalisation of polling stations in other parts of the country, although the opposition and the authorities gave differing accounts of the impact of the disruption.
    “Apart from a few isolated places – a dozen or so – the vote is going well,” Ouattara told journalists as he voted in Abidjan.
    Out of over 22,300 polling stations, 30-40 were vandalised, according to the electoral commission.
    The opposition said whole swathes of the country had not participated in the vote or had been prevented from doing so.    Candidate Pascal Affi N’Guessan said they estimated around 12 people had died as a result of the civil disobedience campaigns.
    A police spokesman said there was no immediate information on the number of casualties.    Clashes in the last 24 hours have caused at least one death, a police source said earlier.     Opponents of 78-year-old Ouattara say he is breaking the law by running again because the constitution limits presidents to two terms, and is jeopardising hard-earned economic gains in the country, the world’s top cocoa producer.
    “Ivorians refused to join in with this farce of an election,” said N’Guessan, who called for the boycott along with fellow candidate, former president Henri Konan Bedie.
    Ouattara says he can run again under a new constitution approved in 2016, and is doing so only because his handpicked successor died unexpectedly in July. He is seen as likely to win.
    Polls closed as scheduled and vote-counting started soon after 6 p.m. (1800 GMT), according to Reuters witnesses in Abidjan.
    Violence linked to the election has killed 30 people since August and brought back memories of the 2010 presidential vote, which unleashed a brief civil war killing 3,000 people after Ouattara’s predecessor Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down.
    Critics call Ouattara’s candidacy a new blow to West African democracy following a military coup in Mali in August and a successful third-term bid this month by the president of Guinea, Alpha Conde.
(Additional reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Aaron Ross and Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Edward McAllister, Ros Russell and Frances Kerry)

10/31/2020 Tanzania Opposition Rejects Presidential Election Result, Wants New Vote
FILE PHOTO: Freeman Mbowe (C), chairman of Chadema, Tanzanian main opposition party arrives
at Kisutu Magistrate Court in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Emmanuel Herman
    DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Tanzania’s two leading opposition parties said on Saturday they would not recognise the results of a presidential election that handed incumbent John Magufuli a second five-year term.
    On Friday, Tanzania’s National Electoral Commission declared Magufuli the winner of Wednesday’s poll, with 84% of the vote against 13% for his opponent, Tundu Lissu of the Chadema party.
    Presidential and parliamentary elections were held simultaneously in mainland Tanzania and semi-autonomous Zanzibar, an Indian Ocean archipelago.
    “We are calling on the international community and bodies not to recognise what was referred to as a general election, and we call on them to take appropriate action,” Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe said in comments posted on the party’s Twitter account.
    “We demand fresh elections as soon as possible.”
    Mbowe, who led the opposition in parliament, lost his long-held seat in the vote and urged opposition supporters to demonstrate on Monday against the handling of the election, which Lissu has called a “travesty.”
    Zitto Kabwe, the leader of another major opposition party, ACT-Wazalendo, was among dozens of opposition candidates who lost their seats in parliament to the ruling CCM party.    ACT-Wazalendo on Saturday joined the calls for protests against the result.
    In a video tweeted by police, senior police official Liberatus Sabas said “illegal assemblies and demonstrations” would not be permitted.
    In Zanzibar, 33 people were detained over alleged election-related offences, police commissioner, Mohammed Haji Hassan, said.
    In his bid for a second term, Magufuli promised to boost the economy by completing infrastructure projects started in his first term, such as a hydro-electric dam, a railway line and new planes for the national carrier.
    But the opposition and rights groups have complained that his administration has cracked down on critical voices, closing down media outlets and preventing opposition rallies.
    The main challenger, Lissu, was shot 16 times in 2017 in what remains an unsolved case.
    The government has denied stifling dissent.
    The United States has said it was concerned about “reports of systematic interference in the democratic process” during the election.
    The vote was marred by allegations of irregularities, including the use of force against unarmed civilians, pre-ticking of ballots, the detention of opposition officials and restrictions on political party agents accessing polling stations, the U.S. Embassy said.
    But in a preliminary statement, the East African Community’s Election Observer Mission said that the electoral commission had “organised the elections in a professional manner
(Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Ros Russell)

    This page created on 9/1/2020, and updated each month by 9/30/2019 and 10/31/2020.

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