From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved
"KING OF THE SOUTH 2021 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 2021 July-August or continue to King Of The South 2021 November-December.

KING OF THE SOUTH 2021 SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER


    So as 2020 has passed do we know who the "King of the South in 2020" 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 lets see what will happen in 2021 regarding the King of the South:

2021 SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER


9/1/2021 U.S. Agency Says Tigrayan Forces Looted Aid Warehouses In Ethiopia’s Amhara Region
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopian porters unload food aid bound for victims of war after a
checkpoint leading to Tigray in Mai Tsebri town, Ethiopia June 26, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Forces from Ethiopia’s Tigray region in recent weeks looted warehouses belonging to the U.S. government’s humanitarian agency in the Amhara region, USAID’s mission director in Ethiopia said on Tuesday.
    War broke out in the mountainous region last November between Ethiopian troops and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the region.    The conflict has killed thousands and caused a humanitarian crisis.
    After retaking control of most of Tigray in late June and early July, Tigrayan forces pushed into the neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions, displacing several hundred thousand more people from their homes.br>     “We do have proof that several of our warehouses have been looted and completely emptied in the areas, particularly in Amhara, where TPLF soldiers have gone into,” mission director Sean Jones told state broadcaster EBC in a televised interview.
    “I do believe that the TPLF has been very opportunistic,” he added.
    Representatives for the TPLF and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    “Any interference or theft of humanitarian aid is unacceptable and prevents critical assistance from reaching people in need. Unfortunately, since the beginning of the conflict in northern Ethiopia, we’ve seen instances of looting from all parties,” a USAID spokesperson said.
    Up to 900,000 people in Tigray are already in famine conditions, while five million others are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, USAID estimates.
    For the first time in nine months of war, aid workers this week will run out of food to deliver to millions of people who are going hungry, the head of USAID said last week, blaming the government for restricting access.
    The Tigrayan forces and the federal government have repeatedly traded accusations of hampering the flow of aid.
(Reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in WashingtonWriting by Duncan MiririEditing by Maggie Fick, Grant McCool and Sandra Maler)

9/1/2021 Israel Opposes Biden Plan To Reopen U.S. Palestinian Mission In Jerusalem by Dan Williams
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks during a news conference as he meets with
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in Rabat, Morocco August 11, 2021. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel said on Wednesday that a U.S. plan to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem that has traditionally been a base for diplomatic outreach to Palestinians is a “bad idea” and could destabilise Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s new government.
    The prior administration of President Donald Trump signalled support for Israel’s claim on Jerusalem as its capital by moving the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. It later subsumed the consulate, in west Jerusalem, in that mission.
    It was among several moves that incensed the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as capital of a hoped-for, future state.
    President Joe Biden has pledged to restore ties with the Palestinians, back a two-state solution and move forward with reopening the consulate.    It has been closed since 2019, with Palestinian affairs handled by the embassy.
    “We think it’s a bad idea,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told a news conference when asked about the reopening.    “Jerusalem is the sovereign capital of Israel and Israel alone, and therefore we don’t think it’s a good idea."
    “We know that the (Biden) administration has a different way of looking at this, but since it is happening in Israel, we are sure they are listening to us very carefully.”
    Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official, told Reuters that the Israeli rejection of the consulate’s opening was expected, adding: “They are trying to maintain the status quo and block any political solution.”
    Asked about Lapid’s remarks, a U.S. Embassy spokesperson said: “As Secretary Blinken announced in May, the United States will be moving forward with the process to reopen our consulate in Jerusalem.    We do not have additional information to share at this time.”
    The spokesperson said the United States was not reversing its decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem nor its recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.
    Israel captured the city’s east, along with the occupied West Bank and Gaza, in the 1967 Middle East war.
    It deems all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital – a status not recognised internationally.    In recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, Trump said he was not taking a position on “any final-status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.”
    Bennett, a nationalist atop a cross-partisan coalition, opposes Palestinian statehood. Reopening the consulate could unsettle Bennett’s government, which ended long-term premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure in June, Lapid said.
    “We have an interesting and yet delicate structure of our government and we think this might destabilise this government and I don’t think the American administration wants this to happen,” he said.
    Divisions among Palestinians also cast doubt about the prospects for diplomacy, Lapid said.    “I am a devoted believer in the two-state solution … but we’ll have to admit the fact this is not feasible in the current situation.”
(Writing by Rami Ayyub;Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Jonathan Oatis)
[IF I WAS ISRAEL I WOULD AVOID ANYTHING BIDEN IS PUSHING ON TO YOU AND ONLY LOOK AT WHAT HE DID TO AFGHANISTAN WHERE HE GAVE THE TALIBAND JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING THEY COULD WANT TO DESTROY THE U.S. AND HE WAS STUPID ENOUGH TO SAY THAT WAS A GOOD MISSION.].

9/1/2021 Lebanon In Free Fall, Must Not Become ‘Horror Story’, U.S. Senator Warns by Maha El Dahan
U.S. Senator Christopher S. Murphy attends a news conference at Beirut International
Airport in Beirut, Lebanon September 1, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon is in free fall and must not become a “horror story,” a U.S. senator said during a visit to Beirut on Wednesday, voicing hope that a government would be formed this week to start addressing its destabilising financial meltdown.
    The comment reflected growing concern https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/eu-worried-lebanons-fast-deterioration-says-time-has-run-out-2021-08-26 about the situation in Lebanon, where a financial collapse that began in 2019 hit a crunch point last month with a crippling fuel shortage that sparked security incidents and warnings of worse to come https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanese-security-chief-warns-crisis-could-be-prolonged-2021-08-27.
    Another senator in the U.S. congressional delegation said Iranian fuel being shipped to Lebanon by the heavily armed Shi’ite group Hezbollah would come with strings attached, dismissing it as an attempted “photo-op by the Iranians.”
    The financial crisis marks the biggest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the 1975-90 civil war.
    More than half of Lebanon’s 6 million people have fallen into poverty.    The World Bank says it is one of the sharpest depressions of modern times https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/world-bank-sees-lebanon-gdp-shrinking-95-further-one-historys-worst-depressions-2021-06-01, with the currency plunging more than 90% and the financial system paralysed.
    “Lebanon is in free fall…We’ve seen this movie before and it’s a horror story…, but the good news is it can, should, and hopefully will be avoided,” Senator Richard Blumenthal told reporters at the end of a two-day visit.
    Lebanese politicians, who have failed to do anything to arrest the collapse, have been squabbling for more than a year over the make-up of a new cabinet to replace the one that quit in the aftermath of the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port explosion.
    A new cabinet capable of implementing reforms is a necessary precursor to foreign aid.    The United States is the biggest foreign aid donor to Lebanon.
    The congressional delegation met Lebanese leaders including President Michel Aoun, the Maronite Christian head of state, who expressed hope the government would be formed this week, the presidency said in a statement.
    Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, has on several occasions expressed optimism about the government being agreed soon.
    “We did hear good news today,” Senator Chris Murphy, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee panel dealing with the Middle East, told reporters, adding he expected a government would be formed by the time he returned home.
    Aoun’s adversaries accuse him and his faction, the Free Patriotic Movement, of obstructing the government formation by demanding a third of the seats, or effective veto power.
    Aoun denies this.    Aoun told the senators “many obstacles had been overcome,” the presidency said.
‘STRINGS ATTACHED’
    With the state floundering, Hezbollah, long part of the ruling system, last month announced it was importing fuel oil from Iran, saying it aims to ease the crisis.    Its adversaries have said this further undermined the authority of the state and exposed Lebanon to the risk of U.S. sanctions.
    Washington designates Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
    Lebanon’s caretaker energy minister said on Wednesday that an import permit had not been requested https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanons-energy-minister-says-he-hasnt-had-request-import-iranian-fuel-2021-09-01 for the fuel shipment.
    The United States has been in talks with Egypt and Jordan over a plan to ease Lebanon’s power crisis.    The Lebanese presidency has said it involves using Egyptian gas to generate power in Jordan that would be transmitted via Syria, which is under U.S. sanctions including the so-called Caesar act.
    “The complication as you know is the transport via Syria,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen.    “We are (urgently) looking for ways to address that despite the Caesar act.”
(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

9/2/2021 Israeli Military Investigates Fatal Shooting Of Palestinian
Mourners cry during the funeral of Palestinian Raed Jadallah, who was shot dead by Israeli forces, according
to health ministry, near Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, September 1, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The Israeli military said on Thursday it was investigating the fatal shooting of a Palestinian civilian in the occupied West Bank, who residents said was killed by soldiers while returning from work in Israel.
    In a statement, the military said troops operating on Wednesday near a highway where Israeli vehicles had come under fire-bomb attack earlier in the week, had fired at a “suspect, who fled the area
    Some 90 minutes later, “a civilian with a gunshot wound” arrived at an Israeli military checkpoint in critical condition and was treated by medical personnel, but died, the statement said.
    Palestinian residents identified the deceased as a 39-year-old man who lives near the scene of the shooting.    They said he could work legally in Israel and was on his way home when he was shot.
    “The incident is under review, and is simultaneously being investigated by the Military Police Criminal Investigation Division,” the military said.    “The findings will be transferred to the Military Advocate General’s Corps for examination.”
    The West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, areas where Palestinians hope to create an independent state, were captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War.    Violence has erupted often since U.S.-sponsored peace talks broke down in 2014.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Stephen Coates)

9/2/2021 From Creaking Cairo, Egypt Plans High-Tech Leap With New Capital by Mahmoud Mourad and Aidan Lewis
FILE PHOTO: A general view of under constructing buildings in the New Administrative Capital (NAC)
east of Cairo, Egypt July 5, 2021. Picture taken July 5, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
    CAIRO (Reuters) – In Egypt’s new capital on the outskirts of Cairo, residents will use smart cards and apps to unlock doors and make payments, and surf the web on public WiFi beamed from lampposts.
    A network of at least 6,000 cameras will monitor activity on every street, tracking pedestrians and vehicles to regulate traffic and report suspicious activity.
    Its “smart city” design is a world away from parts of the existing sprawling capital, where creaking infrastructure can mean patchy internet and phone coverage, doormen at densely built apartment blocks form a human network of look-outs, and administrative errands can involve hours of queuing.
    The city being built from scratch in the desert – so far called the New Administrative Capital – is designed to hold 6.5 million residents and is expected to open to its first civil servants later this year.
    How much Egypt’s centre of gravity shifts from Cairo to the new capital, 45 km from the Nile, is unclear.    For many ordinary Egyptians, for whom the bustling city has been home for generations, the move and cost would be unthinkable.
    But for those who do make the switch, they are promised a single app for paying utility bills, accessing local services, and reporting complaints and problems.
    Officials say advanced technology systems will help reduce waste by detecting leaks or faults, and by allowing residents to keep an eye on consumption.
    “Through their mobile app a citizen will be able to manage all their life affairs from their mobile phone,” said Mohamed Khalil, head of technology for the Administrative Capital for Urban Development (ACUD), the military and government-owned company building the city.
TECHNOLOGY CONTRACTS
    Authorities plan to repeat and synchronise the technology through other developments championed under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, for whom the new city is a flagship project.
    “This model is being applied in all the 14 new cities that are being established … one of our goals is the integration of cities,” said Khalil.
    Some Egyptians see the new capital being for a privileged elite in a country where nearly a third of the population live below the poverty line.    Others see the technological boost as long overdue.
    “It’s all very useful for the citizen,” said Tark Habib, a 53-year-old trader speaking in central Cairo, where the Mugamma, the monolithic and notoriously chaotic headquarters of Egyptian bureaucracy in recent decades, is being emptied.
    Technology and communications contracts for the new capital total $640 million, which could rise to $900 million in later phases, Khalil said. Partners include Huawei, Orange and Mastercard.
    A surveillance system developed by Honeywell will “monitor crowds and traffic congestion, detect incidents of theft, observe suspicious people or objects, and trigger automated alarms in emergency situations,” the company says.
    As building work continues, the level of scrutiny – or any concerns over it – has yet to be tested.
    Officials say surveillance technology would be aimed at detecting crime and enhancing safety, and that data will be protected by Egyptian law and international standards.
    Nonetheless, Egypt has witnessed a sweeping crackdown on dissent under Sisi, enforced by measures including controls on internet activity, spot security checks in the street, an effective ban on protests and a rolling state of emergency.
    While enhanced surveillance could make identification of dissidents easier, “I don’t see what it would really add beyond what they already are doing, which is very extensive,” said Steven Feldstein, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington and author of a book on digital repression.
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Fahmy; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams)

9/2/2021 Russian Troops Patrol Birthplace Of Syria Uprising After Fighting Abates by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
A view shows damaged buildings as smoke rises in Deraa, Syria, in this
handout released by SANA on August 31, 2021. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
    AMMAN (Reuters) – Russian military police on Wednesday began patrolling the last rebel bastion in Syria’s southwest under a deal that halted an Iranian-backed government offensive to retake the birthplace of the 2011 popular uprising, military and civilian sources said.
    Russian generals brokered the deal late on Tuesday to avert bloody urban warfare after the heaviest bombardment by elite Fourth Division government forces of the rebel core of the city of Deraa in a two-month siege. [L1N2Q2278]
    Russian troops hoisted the Russian and Syrian flags inside the Deraa al Balaad district, where the first peaceful protests against Assad family rule in 2011 broke out before security forces cracked down and the unrest morphed into civil war.
    Under the deal, local rebels began to hand over light weapons based on assurances that Russian military police would maintain patrols and checkpoints to bar Iranian-backed militias from entering, preventing feared reprisals, negotiators said.
    President Bashar al-Assad’s army said the agreement finally restored state authority to an area where lawlessness had long prevailed.    Some residents of the longtime rebel redoubt were jittery and upset about the new arrangement.
    “It is a sad day to see the flag of the Russian occupier and the criminal regime in the cradle of the revolution that has seen tens of thousands die for its cause,” Abdallah Aba Zaid, a Deraa resident whose wife and four children died in a Russian air strike on rebel-held Deraa province earlier in the war.
    In 2018 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army, aided by Russian air power and Iranian-backed militias, retook the southwestern province of which Deraa is the capital and which borders Jordan and Israel’s Golan Heights.
    Under a Russian-orchestrated deal then, the Western-backed Deraa rebels handed over heavy weapons but were allowed to continue their own administration of Deraa al Balaad.
    Moscow also gave guarantees to Israel and the United States in 2018 that it would restrain Iranian-backed militias from expanding their influence in the sensitive border region.
    In talks that yielded this week’s deal, Deraa al Balaad officials told Russian officers that any entry of the militias that have been a feared ally of Assad during the war could lead to reprisals, from a wave of arrests to summary executions.
    “The Russian military must live up to their commitment to prevent Iran’s militias from sowing destruction here,” Abu Yusef Masalmeh, a Deraa al Balaad negotiator, said of the latest deal.
    The U.S. State Department on Wednesday condemned what it called “the Assad regime’s ruthless assault on Deraa that has killed civilians and displaced thousands.”
    Most of the 50,000 people who inhabited Deraa al Balaad fled after weeks of shelling during which the army prevented food, medical and fuel supplies coming in but opened a corridor for civilians to leave, residents and local officials say.
    Assad turned the tables against rebel and Islamist groups arrayed against him in the war after Russia intervened on his side in 2015, and has since recaptured about 70% of the country.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

9/2/2021 Israel Hesitant To Approve Reopening Of U.S. Consulate In Jerusalem, Citing Threat To Regional Stability by OAN Newsroom
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with Secretary of State Antony Blinken
in Rome, Sunday, June 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
    Israel has shown concern over possible U.S. plans to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem and warned it could destabilize their government should it proceed. During a news conference Wednesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemned the potential move.
    ”We think it’s a bad idea and we’ve told America that we think it’s a bad idea because for two reasons,” he stated.    One is, I mean the consulate was there for 130 years.    I know the history, but once it was closed reopening it will send the wrong message.    We feel that it will send the wrong message not only to the region, not only to the Palestinians, but also to other countries and we don’t want this to happen.”
    Back in May, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had mentioned the U.S. plan to reopen the consulate in Jerusalem in hopes of normalizing U.S.-Palestinian ties.    However, the move would require Israeli approval.
    The announcement came after discussing the matter with now former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though Netanyahu had reportedly said he preferred the consulate remained part of the U.S. Embassy.
    The conflict arises as Israelis and Palestinians both see Jerusalem as their capital.    The Trump administration had supported Israel’s claim to Jerusalem and had moved the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv while breaking from decades of U.S. policy.
    “I’ve judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America, and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” President Donald Trump stated at the time of the decision.
    The Biden administration has not yet set a date for the potential reopening of the consulate.

9/3/2021 Tunisia’s Powerful Union Calls To Change Political System
FILE PHOTO: Noureddine Taboubi, Secretary General of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT),
speaks during an interview with Reuters in Tunis, Tunisia January 23, 2021. REUTERS/Angus McDowall
    TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisia’s powerful labour union on Friday called on the president to propose changes to the political system and put them to a referendum after his seizure of governing powers in July in a move critics called a coup.
    The UGTT union, which has so far backed President Kais Saied since he sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and said he was taking over executive authority, has for weeks urged him to name a government and announce a roadmap for the crisis.
    On Friday, its leader Noureddine Taboubi, also indicated it would back changes to the constitution and political system, blaming them for the gridlock that preceded Saied’s intervention on July 25.
    “The main problem in Tunisia is the political and constitutional system that has crippled everything and left no way for progress,” he told reporters, adding that any changes must be put to a referendum.
    The president’s actions appear to have widespread support after years of economic stagnation and political paralysis.
    However, Saied’s delay in appointing a new government or announcing his longer-term plans has caused jitters among some Tunisians fearing a lack of direction in the face of major economic challenges or even a return to autocracy.
    The president has rejected that, saying his actions were lawful and that rights will be upheld, and dismissing concerns over the lack of clarity about his next steps.
    “We demand the speedy formation of the government to resolve urgent files such as unemployment, education, health, and the economic and social situation,” Taboubi said.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Alison Williams)

9/3/2021 U.S. Defense Secretary To Travel To Gulf Countries Next Week
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin discusses the end of the military mission in Afghanistan during
a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., September 1, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will travel to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait next week, the Pentagon said on Friday, in a “thank you” tour for allies and troops that helped in the massive U.S.-led airlift from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.
    Austin planned to leave on Sunday and meet with regional officials as well as U.S. service members and other government staff.
    “Throughout his trip, Secretary Austin will meet with regional partners and thank them for their cooperation with the United States as we evacuated Americans, Afghans and citizens from other nations from Afghanistan,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
    The United States’ longest war culminated with a hastily organized airlift that left thousands of U.S.-allied Afghans behind and was punctuated by a suicide bombing outside Kabul’s airport that killed 13 U.S. troops and scores of Afghans.
    It was one of the largest airlifts in history, evacuating more than 120,000 Americans, Afghans and people of other nationalities.
    On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he would travel to Qatar on Sunday to meet with the country’s leaders and thank them for their help during the evacuation.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

9/4/2021 U.S. General Says Most Of Those Evacuated From Afghanistan To Qatar Are Now In Europe, U.S.
FILE PHOTO: Afghan evacuees debark a C-17 Globemaster lll August 23, 2021, at
Al Udeid Air Base, U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Kylie Barrow/Handout via REUTERS
    DOHA (Reuters) – The United States has moved most of more than 57,000 people it evacuated from Afghanistan to Qatar out of the Gulf state, with some now in the United States while others are being processed in Europe, a U.S. general said on Saturday.
    Roughly 124,000 people were evacuated last month from Kabul in a massive U.S.-led airlift of U.S. and other foreign citizens as well as vulnerable Afghans as the Taliban took control there.
    Many of those, including some with no documentation or pending U.S. visa applications, were evacuated through military bases in the Middle East, including Al Udeid in Doha, Qatar.
    There were now fewer than 1,400 evacuees on the base, with many scheduled to be flown out on Saturday while a small group needing medical care would remain until they can travel, Brigadier General Gerald Donohue told reporters.
    It was not immediately clear how many exactly were now in the United States or Europe, and an unspecified number were also at a nearby base in Qatar.
    At one point there were over 17,500 evacuees at Al Udeid, Donohue said, adding that nine babies were born to evacuees.
    Following the scramble to evacuate vulnerable Afghans, thousands of people, some with no documentation or pending U.S. visa applications, others in families with mixed immigration statuses, are now waiting in “transit hubs” in third countries.
    Afghans must overcome immigration hurdles https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/evacuated-afghans-hoping-resettle-us-face-extended-limbo-third-countries-2021-09-02 to eventually enter the United States.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; Editing by Mark Potter and Frances Kerry)

9/4/2021 Syria Says It Welcomes Lebanon’s Request To Import Energy
Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad, attends a news conference with the delegation
from Lebanon's caretaker government in Damascus, Syria September 4, 2021. REUTERS/Yamam al Shaar
    DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Syria said on Saturday that it welcomed Lebanon’s request to import Egyptian gas for energy generation via its territory after Lebanese ministers made the highest level visit to Damascus in years.
    Lebanon is suffering energy shortages that have forced even essential services including hospitals to shut down or scale back operations.    The crisis is the result of a wider financial meltdown that has devastated the economy since 2019.
    The delegation, led by Zeina Akkar, who holds several positions in Lebanon’s caretaker government including the foreign minister, aimed to pave the way for a U.S.-backed plan to ease the power shortages in Lebanon by transmitting electricity via the Syrian grid.
    “The Syrian side welcomed the request and assured it was ready to oblige it,” Nasri Khoury, secretary general of the Lebanese Syrian Higher Council, said in a brief statement after the meeting.
    The plan involves using Egyptian gas to generate electricity in Jordan that will then be transmitted via Syria to Lebanon.
    U.S. sanctions on Damascus are a complicating factor in any effort to help Lebanon via Syria, but congressmen visiting Beirut this week have said Washington is looking at ways to urgently deal with those hurdles.
    U.S. ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea has also said there was a will to make the plan happen.
    Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad received the Lebanese delegation at the border on arrival Saturday, which also included the ministers of energy and finance.
    Lebanese government officials had mostly avoided Syria since war began there in 2011 as Beirut adopted a policy of staying out of regional conflicts, even as the Shi’ite group Hezbollah fought in support of Damascus.
(Writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

9/4/2021 Algerian Court Detains Tunisian Ex-Presidential Candidate Karoui
FILE PHOTO: Tunisia's presidential candidate Nabil Karoui waits for the start of a televised debate with his opponent Kais Saied
(not pictured) ahead of Sunday's second-round runoff electionin Tunis, Tunisia October 11, 2019. REUTERS / Zoubeir Souissi
    ALGIERS (Reuters) – An Algerian court on Saturday ordered former Tunisian presidential candidate Nabil Karoui to be placed in custody on a charge of illegally crossing a border, a judicial source said.
    The court in the eastern city of Constantine also ordered the detention of four Algerians on people-smuggling charges, the source said.    They are accused of helping Karoui enter the country and provide a house for him before his arrest on Sunday.
    Karoui, the owner of the Nessma television channel and head of the Heart of Tunisia political party, the second largest in parliament, was placed in custody along with his brother Ghazi Karoui.
    A court in Tunisia had released Nabil Karoui on June 15 after he spent more than six months in custody on money-laundering and tax evasion charges.
    Tunisia has been embroiled in a constitutional crisis since President Kais Saied this summer announced emergency measures, which he indefinitely extended last week.
(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; editing by John Stonestreet)

9/5/2021 Elite Guinea Army Unit Says It Has Toppled President by Saliou Samb
Guinea's President Alpha Conde addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly
at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
    CONAKRY (Reuters) – Special forces soldiers appeared on Sunday to have ousted Guinea’s long-serving president, telling the nation they had dissolved its government and constitution and closed its land and air borders.
    As the United Nations condemned any takeover by force and the West African region’s economic bloc threatened reprisals, the elite army unit’s head, Mamady Doumbouya, said “poverty and endemic corruption” had driven his forces to remove President Alpha Conde from office.
    “We have dissolved government and institutions,” Doumbouya – a former French foreign legionnaire – said on state television, draped in Guinea’s national flag and surrounded by eight other armed soldiers.    “We are going to rewrite a constitution together.”
    Gunfire erupted near the presidential palace in the capital, Conakry, on Sunday morning.    Hours later, videos shared on social media, which Reuters could not immediately authenticate, showed Conde in a room surrounded by army special forces.
    Military sources said the president was taken to an undisclosed location and that the forces commanded by Doumbouya – who one of the sources, a close colleague, described as calm and reserved by nature – had made several other arrests.
    They included senior government officials, the sources said.
    Guinea’s main opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, denied rumours that he was among those detained.
TAXES AND PROTESTS
    Conde won a third term in October after changing the constitution to allow him to stand again, triggering violent protests from the opposition.
    In recent weeks the government has sharply increased taxes to replenish state coffers and raised the price of fuel by 20%, causing widespread frustration.
    By Sunday evening it was not clear if Doumbouya had taken full control, the defence ministry having issued a statement saying an attack on the presidential palace had been repelled.
    But United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he strongly condemned “any takeover of the government by force” and called for Conde’s immediate release.
    The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) threatened to impose sanctions after what its chairman, Ghana’s President Nana Akuffo-Addo, called an attempted coup.
    The African Union said it would meet urgently and take “appropriate measures” while the foreign ministry in Nigeria, the region’s dominant power, called for a return to constitutional order.
    Videos shared on social media had earlier shown military vehicles patrolling Conakry, and one military source said the only bridge connecting the mainland to the Kaloum neighbourhood, where the palace and most government ministries are located, had been sealed off.
‘THE RICH WERE TAUNTING US’
    By mid-afternoon, when the shooting had stopped, residents were venturing back onto the streets of the capital to celebrate the uprising’s apparent success.
    A Reuters witness saw pick-up trucks and military vehicles accompanied by motorcyclists honking their horns and cheering onlookers.    “Guinea is free! Bravo,” a woman shouted from her balcony.
    Alexis Arieff, at the United States Congressional Research Service, said that, while mutinies and coups were nothing new in West Africa, the region had seen “major democratic backsliding” in recent years.
    Both Conde and Ivory Coast’s leader have moved the legislative goalposts to extend the clock on their presidencies in the past year, while Mali has experienced two military coups and Chad one.
    Guinea has seen sustained economic growth during Conde’s decade in power thanks to its bauxite, iron ore, gold and diamond wealth.
    But few of its citizens have seen the benefits, and critics say his government has used restrictive criminal laws to discourage dissent, while ethnic divisions and endemic graft have sharpened political rivalries.
    “While the president was proclaiming everywhere that he wanted to govern differently by annihilating corruption, the embezzlement of public funds increased.    The new rich were taunting us,” Alassane Diallo, a resident of Conakry, told Reuters.
    “It is all this that made it easier for the military.”
(Reporting by Saliou Samb, Bate Felix, David Lewis and Camillus Eboh; Additional reporting by Fadimata Kontao; Writing by Hereward Holland and John Stonestreet; Editing by Frances Kerry and John Stonestreet)

9/5/2021 Tanzania Suspends Second Newspaper In Less Than A Month
FILE PHOTO: Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan (C) arrives to address a joint Parliament session
of Kenyan Members of Parliament and Senators in Nairobi, Kenya, May 5, 2021. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Tanzania suspended on Sunday another newspaper accused of false stories even though President Samia Suluhu Hassan had pledged to uphold media freedoms quashed by her predecessor.
    Raia Mwema, a leading Swahili-language weekly, was suspended for 30 days from Monday, for “repeatedly publishing false information and deliberate incitement,” Gerson Msigwa, the government’s chief spokesperson, said in a statement.
    Msigwa cited three recent stories, including one about a gunman who killed four people in a rampage through a diplomatic quarter of Tanzania’s main city Dar es Salaam.
    The article linked the gunman to ruling party Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), the statement read, adding that the article violated a 2016 media law.    The newspaper’s management did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    Last month, the government suspended the Uhuru newspaper, owned by the CCM party, for publishing what it called a false story saying Hassan would not vie for office in 2025.    That was the first newspaper suspension in Hassan’s tenure.
    The CCM said after the suspension that Uhuru’s board had already suspended three top managers, including the CEO, over the story, and was investigating why the story was published.
    Hassan took office in March following the death of predecessor John Magufuli, who was Africa’s most prominent COVID-19 sceptic and banned several newspapers during his six-year rule.
    Within weeks of taking office, Hassan called for all the outlets banned by Magufuli to be allowed to reopen immediately.
(Reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

9/5/2021 South Africa’s Former President Zuma Placed On Medical Parole
FILE PHOTO: Former South African President Jacob Zuma speaks to supporters after appearing
at the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Rogan Ward
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s jailed former president Jacob Zuma has been placed on medical parole because of his ill health, the government’s correctional services department said on Sunday.
    Last month prison authorities said Zuma, serving a 15-month sentence in Estcourt prison for contempt of court, underwent unspecified surgery at an outside hospital where he had been sent for observation.    He remained in hospital with more operations planned.
    The 79-year old’s eligibility for medical parole follows a medical report received by the Department of Correctional Services, it said in a statement.
    “Medical parole placement for Mr Zuma means that he will complete the remainder of the sentence in the system of community corrections, whereby he must comply with a specific set of conditions and will be subjected to supervision until his sentence expires,” the department added.
    Its spokesman Singabakho Nxumalo said that Zuma, who was imprisoned in early July, was still in hospital but could go home to continue receiving medical care.    He gave no details on Zuma’s illness, his parole conditions nor whether his health had deteriorated since surgery.
    Mzwanele Manyi, a spokesperson for the Jacob Zuma Foundation, said it welcomed the decision of the parole board and a more detailed statement would be issued after consultation with Zuma’s legal team.
    Zuma was jailed for defying a Constitutional Court order to give evidence at an inquiry investigating high-level corruption during his nine years in office until 2018.
    When Zuma handed himself in on July 7, protests by his supporters escalated into riots involving looting and arson that President Cyril Ramaphosa described as an “insurrection.”
(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by David Goodman and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

9/5/2021 Israel To Reopen For Small Foreign Tour Groups by Steven Scheer
FILE PHOTO: Beachgoers hang out on the shore of the Mediterranean sea in Tel Aviv as
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions eased in Israel May 21, 2020. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel will allow small foreign tour groups from selective countries to visit from Sept. 19 under a pilot programme to kick-start tourism, the government said on Sunday.
    Tour groups of between 5 and 30 people from countries on Israel’s green, yellow and orange lists will be allowed to enter the country provided all group members have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the tourism ministry said.
    Individual tourists, who have not been allowed to visit Israel since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic there in March 2020 unless they are visiting family members, will still not be allowed to enter outside of a tour group.
    In May, amid a drop in COVID-19 infections, Israel had allowed in small tour groups.    More than 2,000 visitors arrived, mainly from the United States and Europe, raising hopes of recovery within a tourism industry battered by the pandemic.
    But the initiative was paused in August as the Delta variant spread, leading to a surge in COVID-19 infections in Israel, despite a world-leading vaccination rollout.
    Under the new plan, there will be no restrictions on the number of tour groups that Israel will let in, the ministry said, but groups from countries on Israel’s red list – which currently comprises Bulgaria, Brazil, Mexico and Turkey – will not be eligible.
    Foreign tourists must show proof they have received a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine within the last six months or a booster shot in order to qualify for entry.
    The tourists will also have to present a negative PCR test, taken up to 72 hours before arrival, and will undergo a serological test once they land at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.
    In 2019, a record high 4.55 million tourists visited Israel, adding 23 billion shekels ($7.2 billion) to the local economy.
    The ministry said “not one corona case was identified among the groups” that entered after the restrictions were eased in May.    It said it hoped individual tourists would be allowed to visit in the near future, “depending on morbidity rates in Israel and around the world.”
    Israel reported nearly 5,000 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, down from a pandemic-high of 11,201 reported last Thursday.
    Out of Israel’s population of 9.3 million, 5.5 million have received a second shot and another 2.5 million have received a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
($1 = 3.1998 shekels)
(Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Susan Fenton)

9/5/2021 Soldiers Say Guinea Constitution, Gov’t Dissolved In Apparent Coup
An army vehicle is seen at Kaloum neighbourhood during an uprising by
special forces in Conakry, Guinea September 5, 2021. REUTERS/Saliou Samb
    CONAKRY (Reuters) – Soldiers who staged an uprising in Guinea’s capital on Sunday said in a short broadcast on the West African nation’s state television that they have dissolved the constitution and the government in an apparent coup.
    An unidentified soldier, draped in Guinea’s national flag and surrounded by eight other armed soldiers, said they planned to form a transitional government and would give further details later.
    Heavy gunfire broke out near the presidential palace in the capital Conakry on Sunday morning, with several sources saying an elite national army unit led by a former French legionnaire, Mamady Doumbouya, was behind the unrest.
(Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

9/6/2021 Newsmaker: Toppled Conde Failed To Live Up To Pledges In Guinea by Aaron Ross
FILE PHOTO: Guinean President Alpha Conde delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the Allied landings
in Provence in World War Two which helped liberate southern France, in Boulouris, France, August 15, 2019. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/Pool
    (Reuters) – The apparent overthrow of President Alpha Conde in Guinea capped a steady slide from grace for the veteran opposition leader and human rights professor whom critics say failed to live up to pledges to deliver democratic restoration and ethnic reconciliation.
    It was not entirely clear what had precipitated the army’s move on Sunday against the 83-year-old Conde.    A special forces commander said in a televised address that “poverty and endemic corruption” had driven his troops to act.
    The putsch came less than a year after a disputed election in which Conde won a third term after changing the constitution to allow himself to stand again.
    For Conde’s critics, the third-term bid was the final nail in the coffin of his claims to be “Guinea’s Mandela” and risked chaos in the West African bauxite and iron ore producer.
    Alioune Tine, an independent human rights expert for the United Nations and founder of the AfrikaJom Center think tank, said Conde’s refusal to cede power had made either a popular uprising or a coup inevitable.
    “Alpha Conde is one of the politicians who worked over 40 years for democracy in Guinea.    Once in power, he totally destroyed it,” Tine told Reuters.
    “He put people in prison.    He killed and he completely refused any political dialogue with the opposition.”
    Conde has previously denied accusations of human rights abuses. Echoing other African leaders who have altered constitutions to hang onto power, he said he needed more time to realize his vision of a modern Guinea.
    Dozens of people were killed in protests in late 2019 and early 2020 against a referendum to approve the new constitution, which passed easily due to an opposition boycott.    Leaders of the protest movement were arrested.
    The lead-up to the election last October was then marred by sporadic violence between members of Conde’s Malinke ethnic group and his main rival Cellou Dalein Diallo’s Peul. Conde was declared the winner with 59.5% of the vote.
    Diallo disputed the results, although there was relatively little violence once they were certified.
‘GUINEA’S MANDELA’
    The 2010 election of Conde, Guinea’s most prominent champion of multi-party democracy, was greeted with optimism by human rights activists and international organisations.
    Until then, Conde had been the chief critic of a succession of autocratic leaders: Ahmed Sekou Toure, who ruled from independence in 1958 until he died in 1984; Lansana Conte, who seized power in a coup after Toure’s death; and Moussa Dadis Camara, who led a coup after Conte’s death in 2008.
    His advocacy earned him a death sentence under Toure, forcing him into exile in France, where he became an assistant professor of human rights at the Sorbonne.
    He lost presidential elections to Conte in 1993 and 1998.    In 1998, he was arrested on the eve of the vote, accused of plotting to overthrow the government and jailed for the next two years.
    After the ruling junta agreed in 2010 to a democratic transition, Conde finally got his chance to stand in an open election and scored an upset victory over Diallo.
    “I will try in my small way to be Guinea’s Mandela and unite every son of Guinea,” he said in his inaugural address.    “The restoration of social cohesion and national unity requires a collective look at our painful past.”
    His government won early international praise for starting to reform the army, seeking to prosecute soldiers who committed rights violations, reforming the mining sector, and winning billions in debt relief.
    But he encountered swift setbacks at home. Ethnic riots between Malinke and Peul broke out in 2012.    Disaffected young people attacked an iron ore project run by Vale, causing millions of dollars in damage.
Faced with opposition protests and labor strikes, his security forces cracked down, drawing criticism from the United Nations and rights groups.
    Then, the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak killed more than 2,500 people in Guinea and dealt a multi-billion dollar hit to the economy.
    Conde won re-election in 2015, but more turmoil followed as his opponents accused him of angling for a third term and started organising large street demonstrations.
    His promises of reconciliation failed to materialise, with his critics instead accusing him of exploiting ethnic divisions to his political advantage.
    “He really tried to play on the ethnic divisions, which split the Guinean population,” said Ryan Cummings, the director of the consultancy Signal Risk.
    As news of his toppling was confirmed on Sunday, some rejoiced.
    “It’s a victory for the Guinean youth in general, we are really happy, we say well done to the Guinean army, to the special forces,” said Conakry resident Thierno Abdourahim Diallo.
    “The youth have won, today we are free, everyone is free today.”
(Reporting by Aaron Ross; Additional reporting by Saliou Samb in Conakry and David Lewis; Editing by Bate Felix and Sandra Maler)

9/6/2021 Elite Guinea Army Unit Says It Has Toppled President by Saliou Samb
Guinea's President Alpha Conde addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly
at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
    CONAKRY (Reuters) – Special forces soldiers appeared on Sunday to have ousted Guinea’s long-serving president, telling the nation they had dissolved its government and constitution and closed its land and air borders.
    As the United Nations condemned any takeover by force and the West African region’s economic bloc threatened reprisals, the elite army unit’s head, Mamady Doumbouya, said “poverty and endemic corruption” had driven his forces to remove President Alpha Conde from office.
    “We have dissolved government and institutions,” Doumbouya – a former French foreign legionnaire – said on state television, draped in Guinea’s national flag and surrounded by eight other armed soldiers.    “We are going to rewrite a constitution together.”
    Gunfire erupted near the presidential palace in the capital, Conakry, on Sunday morning.    Hours later, videos shared on social media, which Reuters could not immediately authenticate, showed Conde in a room surrounded by army special forces.
    The U.S. State Department issued a statement headed, “On the military seizure of power in Guinea,” and said: “The United States condemns today’s events in Conakry.”
    It said violence and any extra-constitutional measures would only erode Guinea’s prospects for peace, stability and prosperity, and added: “These actions could limit the ability of the United States and Guinea’s other international partners to support the country as it navigates a path toward national unity and a brighter future for the Guinean people.”
    Military sources said the president was taken to an undisclosed location and that the forces commanded by Doumbouya – whom one of the sources, a close colleague, described as calm and reserved by nature – had made several other arrests.
    They included senior government officials, the sources said.
    The junta that appreared to have seized power later said that Conde was not harmed, his wellbeing was guaranteed and he was being given access to his doctors.
    Outgoing ministers and heads of institutions were invited to a meeting on Monday morning in parliament, they said in a statement read on the state broadcaster.
    “Any failure to attend will be considered as a rebellion against the CNRD,” the group said referring to its chosen name, the National Rally and Development Committee (CNRD).
    Guinea’s main opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, denied rumours that he was among those detained.
TAXES AND PROTESTS
    Conde won a third term in October after changing the constitution to allow him to stand again, triggering violent protests from the opposition.
    In recent weeks the government has sharply increased taxes to replenish state coffers and raised the price of fuel by 20%, causing widespread frustration.
    By Sunday evening it was not clear if Doumbouya had taken full control, the defence ministry having issued a statement saying an attack on the presidential palace had been repelled.
    But United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he strongly condemned “any takeover of the government by force” and called for Conde’s immediate release.
    The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) threatened to impose sanctions after what its chairman, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, called an attempted coup.
    The African Union said it would meet urgently and take “appropriate measures” while the foreign ministry in Nigeria, the region’s dominant power, called for a return to constitutional order.
    Videos shared on social media had earlier shown military vehicles patrolling Conakry, and one military source said the only bridge connecting the mainland to the Kaloum neighbourhood, where the palace and most government ministries are located, had been sealed off.
‘THE RICH WERE TAUNTING US’
    By mid-afternoon, when the shooting had stopped, residents were venturing back onto the streets of the capital to celebrate the uprising’s apparent success.
    A Reuters witness saw pick-up trucks and military vehicles accompanied by motorcyclists honking their horns and cheering onlookers.    “Guinea is free! Bravo,” a woman shouted from her balcony.
    Alexis Arieff, at the United States Congressional Research Service, said that, while mutinies and coups were nothing new in West Africa, the region had seen “major democratic backsliding” in recent years.
    Both Conde and Ivory Coast’s leader have moved the legislative goalposts to extend the clock on their presidencies in the past year, while Mali has experienced two military coups and Chad one.
    Guinea has seen sustained economic growth during Conde’s decade in power thanks to its bauxite, iron ore, gold and diamond wealth.
    But few of its citizens have seen the benefits, and critics say his government has used restrictive criminal laws to discourage dissent, while ethnic divisions and endemic graft have sharpened political rivalries.
    “While the president was proclaiming everywhere that he wanted to govern differently by annihilating corruption, the embezzlement of public funds increased.    The new rich were taunting us,” Alassane Diallo, a resident of Conakry, told Reuters.
    “It is all this that made it easier for the military.”
(Reporting by Saliou Samb, Bate Felix, David Lewis and Camillus Eboh and Fadimata Kontao; additional reportng by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Writing by Hereward Holland and John Stonestreet; Editing by Frances Kerry, John Stonestreet and Sandra Maler)

9/6/2021 Six Palestinian Militants Escape From High-Security Israeli Prison by Jeffrey Heller
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian commander of the militant Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades Zakaria Zubeid is carried on the
shoulders of supporters in Jenin, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank December 30, 2004. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Six Palestinian militants broke out of a maximum security Israeli prison on Monday in a Hollywood-style escape that left their jailors peering through a hole in the floor of a cell, and had Palestinians celebrating in the streets.
    Israeli security forces mounted a search in northern Israel after farmers tipped off police about suspicious figures seen in their fields in the early morning hours.    Police then alerted officials at Gilboa prison, who discovered that the men had gone.
    Hours after the escape, prison officials transferred some other inmates – Palestinians convicted or suspected of anti-Israeli activities including deadly attacks – to other jails, fearing similar tunnels had been dug.
    Five of the fugitives belong to the Islamic Jihad movement and one is a former commander of an armed group affiliated with the mainstream Fatah party, the Prisons Service said.
    Four were serving life sentences after their conviction on charges of planning or carrying out attacks that killed Israelis.    Another man was held under a special detention order, and the sixth fugitive was awaiting a verdict in his trial.
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said he had spoken with Israel’s internal security minister and “emphasised that this is a grave incident that requires an across-the-board effort by the security forces” to find the escapees.
    A police spokesman said security forces believed the fugitives might try to reach the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule, or the Jordanian border some 14 km (9 miles) to the east.
    In Gaza, Islamic Jihad supporters handed out candy on the street to motorists and passersby in celebration.
    “Today, Islamic Jihad heroes achieved a new victory in the Gilboa prison. This victory smashed the image of the occupier,” said Islamic Jihad official Khamees El-Haitham in Gaza.
    A video released by the Israeli Prisons Service showed authorities inspecting the opening that the prisoners had dug adjacent to the cell’s toilet.
    On social media, Palestinians and Israelis alike swiftly posted photos of a similar scene from the 1994 prison escape movie The Shawshank Redemption.
    Arik Yaacov, the Prison Service’s northern commander, said that after escaping through the hole, the inmates used passages formed by the jail’s construction to make their getaway.
    The facility, about 4 km (2 miles) from the boundary with the occupied West Bank, is one of the highest-security jails in Israel.
    One of the escapees was identified by the Prisons Service as Zakaria Zubeidi, a former commander of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank city of Jenin who once received Israeli amnesty.    He was rearrested by Israel in 2019 after his alleged involvement in new shooting attacks.
    His trial is ongoing.
(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Hugh Lawson)
[IT LOOKS LIKE THE NEW ADMINISTRATION IN ISRAEL IS NOT ENSURING SAFETY OF ITS CITIZENS BY VETTING WHO IS WORKING OR IN CONTROL OF SOME FACTIONS OF THE ADMINISTRATION OR HAVE THE SAME PROBLEM AS THE USA HAS IN STATES CONTROLLED BY DEMOCRATS OR HAVE BEEN INFILTRATED BY ANTI-ISRAEL ENTITIES.].

9/6/2021 Analysis-Turkey And UAE Rein In Dispute That Fuelled Conflict And Hurt Economy by Orhan Coskun and Alexander Cornwell
FILE PHOTO: Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (L) shakes hands with Turkey's
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan before a meeting in Ankara February 28, 2012. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    ANKARA (Reuters) – A truce between bitter regional rivals Turkey and the United Arab Emirates has calmed tensions that fuelled conflicts including Libya’s war, officials and diplomats say, after years of animosity and insults.
    But with political differences still running deep, the two countries are expected to focus on building economic ties and de-escalating, rather than resolving, an ideological rift that has drawn a faultline through the Middle East.
    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and the UAE’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, spoke by phone last week following contacts between intelligence and government officials.
    Erdogan, who a year ago said Turkey could cut diplomatic relations with Abu Dhabi after it set up ties with Israel, also discussed UAE investment in Turkey with Abu Dhabi’s national security adviser.
    “The UAE is interested in exploring prospects of reinforcing ties,” an Emirati official said, pointing to trade and investment opportunities in transportation, health and energy.
    The talks follow earlier efforts by Turkey to ease tensions with UAE allies Saudi Arabia and Egypt, with a delegation from Cairo due in Ankara on Tuesday.    Those contacts have so far yielded little, but some see the UAE track moving more swiftly.
    “It’s going very fast,” said a diplomat in the Gulf.    “Faster than many people thought it would. They have turned the page.”
    A senior Turkish official described Erdogan’s call last week with Sheikh Mohammed as a significant move towards overcoming disputes which have plagued their relations, saying the two countries could work together in the Middle East.
    “But first there will be steps taken in terms of the economy,” the official said.    Other issues “are not agreed, but a desire was formed (to tackle) the large part of these problems.”
COST OF RIVALRY
    The rift stems from the Arab uprisings, when Turkey backed the Muslim Brotherhood and their Islamist allies challenging entrenched autocrats from Tunisia to Syria – alarming the UAE’s dynastic rulers, who see the Brotherhood as a political and security threat.
    Turkey also sided with Qatar in a Gulf dispute, putting it at odds with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, while Turkish support last year helped Libya’s U.N.-backed government drive back UAE-supported forces trying to seize the capital.
    The two countries have traded accusations of interference https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security-turkey-emirates-idUSKBN22O2CF beyond their borders, and Erdogan once chided the UAE’s foreign minister https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-emirates-medina-idUSKBN1EF1U2 as an impudent nouveau riche when he retweeted comments critical of Ottoman forces – forebears of modern Turkey.
    In Somalia, Turkey and the UAE have competed for influence https://www.reuters.com/article/us-somalia-gulf-analysis-idUSKBN1I23B4.    In Syria, Turkey still supports fighters opposed to President Bashar al-Assad while the UAE, which once backed rebels fighting him, has opened an embassy in Damascus https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-emirates-idUSKCN1OQ0QV.
    Turkish officials and Gulf diplomats say both countries recognise their geopolitical tensions came at an economic price, heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
    That cost was felt particularly by Erdogan in Turkey, where stubbornly high 19% inflation has driven up the cost of living and where state banks sold $128 billion in foreign reserves last year in an attempt to support the tumbling lira.
    “The cost of strained ties is not sustainable in the region when it comes to Turkey, the UAE and Saudi Arabia,” a second Turkish official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
    The departure of U.S. President Donald Trump removed a leader who emboldened their rival regional interventions.
    Although no agreement has been announced on investments, the two countries already have an economic platform to build on.
    Unlike Saudi Arabia, which maintains an unofficial boycott of Turkish exports, the UAE says it remains Turkey’s largest regional trading partner.    Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth funds have also made significant recent investments in Turkey’s online grocer Getir and e-commerce platform Trendyol.
    Political differences will be harder to overcome, with Egypt and its Gulf allies insistent that Ankara pull out troops and Turkey-backed Syrian fighters from Libya, a demand which diplomats say is a priority for Cairo and its allies.
    Nevertheless, a decade on from the “Arab Spring” the revolutions are mostly over and the Muslim Brotherhood has been weakened – easing two of Abu Dhabi’s main sources of friction with Erdogan, who strongly backed Brotherhood figures.
    “For Saudi Arabia and the UAE this is not the priority file that it used to be,” said Galip Dalay, a fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin.
    In a gesture to Cairo earlier this year, which would also have been noted in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, Turkey asked Egyptian opposition channels including Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist-leaning broadcasters, to tone down criticism of Egypt https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-egypt-idUSKBN2BB228.
    Turkey still blocks access to the websites of some UAE organisations, including the state news agency, but the government has halted what was once a regular barrage of criticism directed at the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
    “There is a desire on both sides to de-escalate, and see what happens,” Dalay said.
(Reporting by Orhan Coskun in Ankara and Alexander Cornwell and Aziz El Yaakoubi in Dubai; Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

9/6/2021 U.N. Footage From Northern Ethiopia Shows Humanitarian Crisis
FILE PHOTO: Men stand in line to receive food donations, at the Tsehaye primary school, which was turned into a temporary shelter
for people displaced by conflict, in the town of Shire, Tigray region, Ethiopia, March 15, 2021. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Footage of war-hit northern Ethiopia published by the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) on Monday reflected the severe humanitarian crisis there, after the United Nations warned that a de facto blockade on aid is bringing millions to the brink of famine.
    War broke out 10 months ago between Ethiopia’s federal troops and forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the Tigray region. Thousands have died and more than two million people have been forced to flee their homes.
    The United Nations last week called on all parties in the war in Tigray to allow the movement of aid into the region where it said 5.2 million people, or 90% of the population, urgently need humanitarian assistance. Those include 400,000 people who are already facing famine conditions, it said.
    The prime minister’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, last week dismissed allegations that the Ethiopian government is blocking aid.
    The footage showed a distribution of emergency food aid by the WFP on August 23 in Asgede district in northwestern Tigray.    Sacks of grain were loaded on camels and brought to the remote area, where many residents were cut off from outside assistance during months of war.
    The supplies delivered that day were among the last remaining stocks in Tigray region, where no food or other humanitarian aid entered between August 20 and September 5.    The United Nations estimates 100 trucks of aid need to be entering Tigray each day to meet the needs of the population.
    “We don’t have any food stocks at the moment to plan with or to distribute,” said Satyen Tait, a staff member from WFP’s Ethiopia operation.
    The spread of fighting to the Afar and Amhara regions has uprooted at least 300,000 more people and more than 1.7 million in those two regions now need food aid, the world body says.
(Reporting by Maggie Fick, Editing by William Maclean)

9/6/2021 Guinea Coup Lader Restricts Travel For Government Officials by Saliou Samb
Residents cheer on army soldiers after the uprising that led to the toppling of president Alpha Conde
in Kaloum neighbourhood of Conakry, Guinea September 6, 2021 REUTERS/Souleymane Camara
    CONAKRY (Reuters) – Guinea coup leader Mamady Doumbouya on Monday banned government officials from leaving the country, a day after special forces soldiers deposed long-serving President Alpha Conde, drawing international condemnation.
    The takeover is the fourth since April in West and Central Africa, raising concerns over a slide back to military rule in a region that had made strides towards multi-party democracy since the 1990s.
    Doumbouya, a former French legionnaire officer told a meeting of Conde’s ministers and senior government officials that they should also hand back their official vehicles.
    “There will be no witch hunt,” he said at the meeting which was open to the media.
    The government officials who attended were later escorted by soldiers in red berets through a jeering crowd to the army unit’s Conakry headquarters. It was not immediately clear whether they were being detained.
    The takeover in the country that holds the world’s largest bauxite reserves, an ore used to produce aluminium, sent prices of the metal sky-rocketing to a 10-year high on Monday over fears of further supply disruption in the downstream market. There was no indication of such disruption yet.
    Prices for Guinean aluminium ore bauxite also hit their highest in almost 18 months in top consumer china.
    Doumbouya said a curfew imposed in mining areas on Sunday had been lifted.
    Light traffic resumed, and some shops reopened around the main administrative district of Kaloum in Conakry which witnessed heavy gunfire throughout Sunday as the special forces battled soldiers loyal to Conde.    A military spokesman said on television that land and air borders had also been reopened.
‘ENDEMIC CORRUPTION’
    However, uncertainty remains.    While the army unit appeared to have Conde in detention, the coup leaders told the West African nation on state television that they had dissolved the government and constitution, other branches of the army are yet to publicly comment.
    Doumbouya said on Sunday that “poverty and endemic corruption” had driven his forces to remove Conde from office.
    Amnesty International in a statement on Monday called on the coup leaders to clarify the legal basis for Conde’s ongoing detention, and to release those Conde had arbitrarily detained in the months surrounding the election that awarded him a third term.
    Some of Guinea’s strongest allies have condemned the coup. The United Nations quickly denounced the takeover, and both the African Union and West Africa’s regional bloc have threatened sanctions.
    In an overnight statement, the U.S. State Department said that violence and extra-constitutional measures could erode Guinea’s prospects for stability and prosperity.
    “These actions could limit the ability of the United States and Guinea’s other international partners to support the country,” the statement said.
    Regional experts say however that unlike in landlocked Mali where neighbours and partners were able to pressure a junta there after a coup, leverage on the military in Guinea could be limited because it is not landlocked, also because it is not a member of the West African currency union.
    Although mineral wealth has fuelled economic growth during Conde’s reign, few citizens significantly benefited, contributing to pent-up frustration among millions of jobless youths.
    Despite an overnight curfew, the headquarters of Conde’s presidential guard was looted by people who made off with rice, cans of oil, air conditioners and mattresses, a Reuters correspondent said.
(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Bate Felix and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

9/6/2021 ‘Unattainable Power’: The Frustrations That Drove Guinea’s Coup Leader by David Lewis, Edward McAllister and Saliou Samb
Prime Minister of Guinea Ibrahima Kassory Fofana, Defence Minister Mohamed Diane and other government members gather to attend a meeting with
special forces commander Mamady Doumbouya, who ousted President Alpha Conde in Conakry, Guinea September 6, 2021. REUTERS/Souleymane Camara
    DAKAR (Reuters) – In 2016, Mamady Doumbouya, a commander in the Guinean army, asked his superiors if he could have ammunition to train his troops in marksmanship.    He never received it, he said, because they feared he would use the rounds to launch a coup.
    Five years on, Doumbouya did just that https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/heavy-gunfire-heard-guinea-capital-conakry-reuters-witness-2021-09-05.
    On Sunday, after hours of gunfire in the capital Conakry, the 41-year-old appeared in an online video in army fatigues and wrap-around sunglasses to declare President Alpha Conde https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/toppled-conde-failed-live-up-pledges-guinea-2021-09-06 ousted and the government dissolved.
    “We call on our brothers in arms to unite in order to respond to the legitimate aspirations of the people of Guinea,” he said on state television, Guinea’s flag draped around his shoulders.
    Quoting former Ghana president Jerry Rawlings, who seized power twice, Doumbouya said: “If the people are crushed by their elites, it is up to the army to give the people their freedom.”
    The power of Guinea’s institutions, its economy, its democracy, must be restored, he said.    His words may have appealed to a section of society that has seen none of the wealth from the extraction of the country’s natural resources, and who protested against     Conde’s run for a third term in office last year – a move many considered illegal.
    Doumbouya’s exact motives are not yet clear – security analysts said he was once a close ally of Conde.    The coup has been condemned by the United States, the United Nations and African regional bodies.
    He has not outlined a plan to hold democratic elections or establish a transitional government as other coup leaders have done in West and Central Africa in recent months. On Monday, he barred government officials from travelling https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/guinea-coup-leader-bars-travel-government-officials-2021-09-06 and threatened those who did not attend a meeting he summoned them to.
I ASKED FOR AMMUNITION
    However, a speech given in 2017 https://www.emsome.terre.defense.gouv.fr/images/documents/bibliotheque/actes_colloque/Actes_colloque_interculturalit_2017.pdf to a conference hosted by France’s armed forces holds a clue to the character of the country’s unexpected new leader.
    “I asked for ammunition last year (2016) … but never received it,” Doumbouya said in the speech, which was published alongside others on the website of EMSOME, a section of France’s armed forced that specialises in overseas missions.
    “On the other hand, the French who come to provide training for us will immediately receive everything they need.”
    The short speech reveals the frustrations of a politicised soldier who bristled at his lack of power and influence, and what he considered a paucity of support and respect for Guinea’s military.
    French and American troops enjoy greater access to the corridors of power across Africa than domestic forces, he said.
    “Our rulers prefer to trust them rather than us, and consider them to be real advisers, functions we will never achieve.”
    “Whites hold a power that is unattainable to us,” he said.
    Doumbouya was not reachable for comment on Monday.    Army officials could not be reached to confirm his past request for ammunition.
CALM UNDER PRESSURE
    It’s become a familiar sight in West and Central Africa in recent months: a little-known but experienced soldier sits behind a desk and says he is in charge. Events in Guinea on Sunday follow two takeovers in Mali since August 2020, and one in Chad in April.
    Not much is known about Doumbouya’s early life.    Local media reports say he is an ethnic Malinke, like Conde, and comes from the eastern Kankan Region.
    According to a biography circulated by Guinea intelligence officials on Sunday, he has 15 years of military experience including missions in Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, Djibouti and Central African Republic.
    He underwent training in Israel, Senegal and Gabon, and the War College in Paris.    He served in the French foreign legion.    The French defence ministry declined to comment citing the “current situation in Guinea.”
    Spokespeople in the other countries could not immediately confirm this information.
    Doumbouya was appointed head of a special forces unit created in 2018 to counter the growing threat of militants in the region.    The unit was seen as Guinea’s best trained and equipped.
    It is unclear so far what kind of support Doumbouya has across the armed forces.    Still, the information provided by officials paints a rosy picture.
    He is “able to identify and defuse risky situations by remaining calm in the face of a hostile environment and extreme pressure,” the biography said.
(Additional Reporting by Richard Lough in Paris; Writing By Edward McAllister; Editing by Bate Felix and Andrew Heavens)

9/6/2021 Phone Blackout Imposed On Nigerian State Amid Crackdown On Kidnappers
FILE PHOTO: Security forces patrol as people wait for the arrival of the rescued
schoolgirls in Jangebe, Zamfara, Nigeria March 3, 2021. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde
    MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) – Mobile telephone networks were shut down in the northwestern Nigerian state of Zamfara, residents said on Monday, after authorities ordered a telecoms blackout to help armed forces tackle armed gangs of kidnappers terrorising the area.
    Two residents of Zamfara, reached by phone after they travelled to neighbouring Sokoto State, said their mobile networks had stopped functioning over the weekend.    Calls to police and officials inside the state were not going through.
    The blackout was “to enable relevant security agencies (to) carry out required activities towards addressing the security challenge in the state,” according to a letter from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to network provider Globacom.
    Zamfara has been one of the worst-hit states in a wave of mass abductions of pupils from schools across northwestern     Nigeria by armed gangs of ransom seekers operating from remote camps.
    A source at the Nigerian air force, asked to comment on media reports that military operations against the gangs were under way, said: “We are clearing these elements fiercely and decisively.    It’s a total operation.”
    The NCC letter instructed Globacom to suspend phone and internet services to Zamfara from Sept. 3 for an initial two weeks.    Reuters could not immediately reach Globacom for comment.
    Britain’s Foreign Office updated its Nigeria travel advice, warning about the blackout in Zamfara and saying areas of neighbouring states may also be affected.
    In the latest incident in Zamfara, more than 70 pupils were kidnapped from a secondary school in the village of Kaya last week.
    One of the Zamfara residents contacted by Reuters, lecturer Abubakar Abdullahi Alhasan, said he had heard that a military crackdown had been going on since the mobile networks had stopped working.
    “The Nigerian air force and army were succeeding in dislodging some of the bandits’ camps.    They killed many and recovered arms and ammunition while many others were arrested,” he said.
    Military spokespeople in the capital Abuja were not responding to requests for comment.
(Reporting by Maiduguri Newsroom, Ardo Hazzad and Camillus Eboh; writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Alex Richardson)

9/6/2021 Blinken Arrives In Qatar As Four Americans Leave Afghanistan by Humeyra Pamuk
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Ambassador John Desrocher and Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director of Protocol Ambassador
Ibrahim Fakhroo, as he arrives at Old Airport in Doha, Qatar September 6, 2021. Blinken is meeting with Qatari leaders to thank the nation
for its support in the Afghanistan evacuation efforts and to discuss the future of U.S.-Afghanistan relations. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS
    DOHA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Qatar on Monday as Washington seeks support for the evacuation of Americans and at-risk Afghans left behind in Afghanistan and build a consensus among allies on how to respond to the Taliban.
    A senior State Department official told reporters on Blinken’s flight that Washington has facilitated the safe departure of four more Americans overland from Afghanistan.
    “This is the first overland evacuation facilitated by the State Department,” the official said, adding that the Taliban were aware of the operation and did not impede safe passage of the individuals.
    The official did not name the country they transited to.
    Dubbed as a “thank you” tour to Qatar and Germany, which were instrumental in helping Washington evacuate thousands of people out of Kabul, Blinken will meet with senior Qatari and German officials.    In Germany he will also co-host a ministerial meeting on Afghanistan.
    Qatar has emerged as the main mediator between the Taliban, who swept into Kabul on Aug. 15, and Western countries following the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
    Doha said on Saturday it had reopened Kabul airport for humanitarian aid and domestic flights in coordination with the hardline Islamist group.    Other international flights are expected to resume soon, it said.
    Daily flights have been scheduled from Doha to Kabul to deliver aid.
    About 124,000 people were evacuated last month from Kabul in a U.S.-led airlift of U.S. and other foreign citizens as well as vulnerable Afghans as the Taliban took control of the country.
    The evacuation was one of the largest airlifts in history but thousands of at-risk Afghans and about 100 U.S. citizens have remained behind.    Blinken has vowed to continue efforts to get them out and also hold the Taliban to their commitment to provide safe passage to anyone who wishes to leave.
    U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, who is travelling to the Gulf on a separate trip, will also visit Qatar on Tuesday.    Austin’s visit also includes Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi, editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Sonya Hepinstall and Jane Merriman)

9/6/2021 As Its Rivers Shrink, Iraq Thirsts For Regional Cooperation by Charlotte Bruneau and Ahmed Rasheed
Nabil Musa, an Iraqi Kurdish environmental activist, walks near Sirwan River on the
outskirt of Halabja, Iraq June 13, 2021. Picture taken June 13, 2021. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
    HALABJA, Iraq (Reuters) – “Where we are standing right now, there should be a river,” says Nabil Musa, gesturing at a dried-up riverbed in northern Iraq.
    For the environmental activist, the reason the once swirling Sirwan river has dwindled to a trickle lies across the border in Iran, which he says is “controlling all” of the river’s water.
    With this year’s lack of rainfall, Iraq is badly short of water, and officials trying to revive rivers like the Sirwan say lower flows from upstream neighbours Iran and Turkey are worsening home-grown problems such as leaks, ageing pipes and illegal siphoning off of supplies.
    Iran and Turkey are building big dams to solve their own lack of water, but regional cooperation on the issue is patchy.
    Iraqi officials said the Daryan dam across the border in Iran is diverting parts of the Sirwan back into Iranian lands through a 48 km (29 mile)-long tunnel.
    Contacted by Reuters, Iranian officials declined to comment on the allegation.    Iran has said the dam is still being built.
    Local Iraqi villagers say they have felt the impact of reduced volumes from Iran for two years, complaining that the fall has had a punishing effect on communities downstream especially during increasingly frequent years of drought.
    “It’s been two years since I had to stop fishing,” fisherman Ahmed Mahmud told Reuters from the nearby village of Imami Zamen.    With the river drying up, most of the village’s 70 families have already left.    The primary school closed.
    “If it continues like this, we will have to leave as well,” he said.
    The Sirwan begins in Iran and runs along its border with Iraq before flowing into Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region and then on south to join the Tigris.    Once abundant, it’s now dotted with measuring poles showing where water once reached.
    As a heatwave baked the drought-hit region in July, Iraq said the situation in the downstream province of Diyala would worsen without agreement with Iran, where about 18% of Iraq’s Tigris river originates, on ways to share “damage” from lower flows.br>     To try to cope, Baghdad limited this summer’s cultivated surfaces in Diyala in both irrigated and rainfed areas to 30% of last year’s and dug water wells to support struggling farmers.
    Asked about Iraqi allegations that Iran is reluctant to discuss the water crisis, a senior Iranian foreign ministry official noted that drought in Iran had “caused blackouts and protest.”    He told Reuters that following the recent formation of Iran’s new government, scheduling meetings would take time.
    “However, I should underline that because of the water crisis, our first priority would be meeting our domestic need and then our neighbours,” the official added.
    Iraq’s water crisis has been in the making for nearly two decades.    Outdated infrastructure and short-term policies made Baghdad vulnerable to climate change and lower flows from Iran and Turkey, source of about 70% of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-dam-idUSKCN1US194
    Iraqi water ministry spokesperson Aoun Dhiab told Reuters that from June, water flows from Iran and Turkey had halved.
    The Turkish Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    Negotiations with Turkey on how much water it will allow downstream to Iraq are difficult, but at least they are taking place, Iraqi officials say.    In contrast, there are no talks on the subject with Iran, which in the last three decades has contracted the construction of at least 600 dams nationwide.
    Musa said Iran occasionally released water to Iraq.    “But we don’t know (in advance) when and how much,” he said.
    Iraqi water officials last June attempted without success to have a meeting with Tehran to discuss water shortages and seek information about Iran’s water management strategy.
    “We do get information using satellite imagery, on the status of dams and the size of reserves, whether in Turkey or Iran.    But we would prefer to get it through diplomatic channels,” Dhiab told Reuters.
    At a summit in Baghdad on August 28, Middle East countries including Iran discussed regional cooperation, but the issue of regional water policies didn’t make it on to the agenda.
    “We avoided controversial topics that pit them against each other, such as water,” said an Iraqi diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not allowed to speak to media.
(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by William Maclean)
---------------------
    So as in 2021 we know who the "King of the East" is?.    As we all are aware of the allusions in the prophetic scenario: "And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared."    Revelation 16:12.
    So, the above news article may have some concern to changes as to the above image the Tigris River is the light blue line East of the Euphrates River and the Sirwan River on the outskirt of Halabja, a city in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and located about 240 km northeast of Baghdad and 14 km from the Iranian border.    So, this is food for thought is a prophecy coming true.
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9/6/2021 Islamic State Says It Carried Out Sunday’s Attack On Iraqi Police Near Kiruk, Killing 10
Mourners carry the coffin of a policeman, who was killed in an attack in Kirkuk,
during a funeral in Najaf, Iraq, September 5, 2021. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
    KIRKUK, Iraq (Reuters) – Islamic State militants on Monday claimed responsibility for an overnight attack on Sunday on a guard post near the city of Kirkuk that police sources said killed 10 Iraqi policemen and wounded four.
    Islamic State, whose militants are active in the area, claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq News Agency on Telegram.
    The sources said the attackers clashed for two hours with police stationed at a village in the town of Rashad, 30 km (18 miles) southwest of Kirkuk.
    Militants used roadside bombs to prevent police reinforcements from reaching the post, destroying three police vehicles, the sources said.
    Separately, at least three Iraqi soldiers were killed and one was wounded on Sunday when gunmen attacked an army checkpoint southeast of the Iraqi city of Mosul, security sources said.
    Despite the defeat of the Islamic State militant group in 2017, remnants switched to hit-and-run attacks against government forces in different parts of Iraq.
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah; Editing by Dan Grebler)

9/6/2021 West Africa Bloc To Hold Extraordinary Summit On Guinea - Staff Memo
Special forces members are seen during an uprising that led to the toppling of president Alpha Conde
in Kaloum neighbourhood of Conakry, Guinea September 5, 2021. REUTERS/ Saliou Samb
    ABUJA (Reuters) – The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will hold an extraordinary summit on Guinea on Thursday, according to a staff memo shared with Reuters.
    Special forces soldiers ousted long-serving President Alpha Conde and dissolved his cabinet on Sunday, prompting ECOWAS to demand a return to constitutional order and threaten to impose sanctions.
    An ECOWAS spokeswoman did not immediately reply to a request for comment late on Monday.
(Reporting By Camillus Eboh in Abuja, writing by Libby George; Editing by David Gregorio)

9/6/2021 G7 Nations Urge Return To Constitutional Order In Tunisia
FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Kais Saied takes the oath of office in Tunis, Tunisia,
October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souiss/File Photo
    TUNIS (Reuters) – The ambassadors of the G7 group of advanced economies urged Tunisia’s president on Monday to appoint a new head of government as a matter of urgency and return to a constitutional order in which an elected parliament plays a significant role.
    The statement, put out by the British Embassy on social media, is the most significant public expression of unease by major democracies since President Kais Saied seized governing powers in July in moves his opponents called a coup.
    “We underline the urgent need to appoint a new head of government to form a capable government able to address the immediate economic and health crises facing Tunisia,” the statement said.
    Saied did not directly comment on the G7 statement.    But in remarks later on Monday to the National Guard, he said: “Tunisia is a sovereign country and sovereignty belongs to the people.”
    Western democracies have been among the most important donors helping to support Tunisian public finances over the past decade as the economy has slumped since the 2011 revolution that introduced democracy.
    Saied, who was elected in 2019, said on July 25 he was freezing parliament, lifting the immunity of its members, dismissing the prime minister and that he would assume executive authority alongside a new premier.
    He said his intervention was in line with the constitution and necessitated by a national emergency due to political paralysis, high COVID-19 rates, and protests.    He has vowed that rights will not be affected.
    Six weeks on, however, he has not named a prime minister or said what he plans to do, has indefinitely rolled over the emergency measures and said there can be “no going back”, while Tunisians speculate about whether he will amend the constitution.
    The G7 statement said appointing a prime minister would “create space for an inclusive dialogue about proposed constitutional and electoral reforms” and added that democratic values would remain central to their relations with Tunisia.
(Reporting by Angus McDowall and Tarek Amara; Editing by David Goodman and Peter Cooney)

9/7/2021 Guinea Coup Leader Promises National Government As Politicians Arrested by Saliou Samb
Residents cheer on army soldiers after the uprising that led to the toppling of president Alpha Conde
in Kaloum neighbourhood of Conakry, Guinea September 6, 2021 REUTERS/Souleymane Camara
    CONAKRY (Reuters) – The leaders of a military coup in Guinea promised on Monday to set up a transitional government of national unity after ousting President Alpha Conde and dissolving his cabinet.
    Sunday’s coup, in which Conde and other top politicians were detained or barred from travelling, is the third since April in West and Central Africa, raising concerns about a slide back to military rule in a region that had made strides towards multi-party democracy since the 1990s.
    The takeover was widely condemned by international powers, placing pressure on the new military leaders to offer a plan beyond the toppling of the old order, and to reassure investors that Guinea’s significant ore exports would not be cut.
    “A consultation will be carried out to define the major framework of the transition, then a government of national unity will be put in place to lead the transition,” coup leader Mamady Doumbouya, a former French legionnaire officer, told a meeting of Conde’s ministers and senior government officials.
    “At the end of this transitional phase, we’ll set the tone for a new era for governance and economic development,” he said, flanked by armed soldiers in red berets.
    Doumbouya did not say what the transition would entail or give a date for a return to democratic elections.
    His seizure of power was buoyed by widespread disaffection with Conde, 83, who promised stable democracy but once in power violently silenced opponents, failed to reduce poverty and last year decided to run for a third term in power – a move many said was illegal.
    The coup was welcomed by many, but spooked the mining sector.    Guinea holds the world’s largest bauxite reserves, an ore used to produce aluminium.    Prices of the metal shot to a 10-year high on Monday, though there was no sign of supply disruptions.
    In an effort to quell fears, Doumbouya said sea borders would stay open so mining products could be exported.    A nightly curfew now in place does not apply to the mining sector, he said.
    “I can assure business and economic partners that activities will continue normally in the country.    We are asking mining companies to continue their activities,” he said.
POLITICIANS ARRESTED
    Light traffic resumed, and some shops reopened around the main administrative district of Kaloum in Conakry that witnessed heavy gunfire throughout Sunday as the special forces battled soldiers loyal to Conde. A military spokesman said on television that land and air borders had also been reopened.
    Still, a crackdown was evident. Doumbouya prohibited government officials from leaving the country and ordered them to hand over their official vehicles.
    The politicians who attended Monday’s meeting were later escorted by soldiers in red berets through a jeering crowd to the army unit’s Conakry headquarters.
    Two diplomatic sources said Prime Minister Ibrahima Kassory Fofana, Presidential Affairs Minister Mohamed Diané and National Assembly Speaker Amadou Damaro Camara had been arrested.
    Amnesty International, in a statement on Monday, called on the coup leaders to clarify the legal basis for Conde’s detention, and to free those Conde had arbitrarily detained in the months surrounding last year’s election.
    Regional experts say however that unlike in landlocked Mali where neighbours and partners were able to pressure a junta there after a coup in August 2020, leverage on the military in Guinea could be limited because it is not landlocked and also because it is not a member of the West African currency union.
(Additional reporting by David Lewis in London and Helen Reid in Johannesburg; Writing by Cooper Inveen and Edward McAllister; Editing by Bate Felix, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Mark Heinrich)

9/7/2021 Blinken Denies Taliban Blocking Americans From Leaving Mazar-I-Sharif by Humeyra Pamuk
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about Afghanistan during a media briefing
at the State Department, in Washington, U.S., September 3, 2021. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS
    DOHA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken denied on Tuesday reports that the Taliban had blocked Americans attempting to fly out of of a northern Afghan city, but said the group had not allowed charter flights to depart because some people lacked valid travel documents.
    Reports have emerged over the past few days that 1,000 people, including Americans, had been stuck at Mazar-i-Sharif airport https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/some-1000-people-awaiting-taliban-flight-clearance-mazar-i-sharif-new-york-times-2021-09-05 for days awaiting clearance for their charter flights to leave.
    One organizer blamed the delay on the State Department, a criticism echoed by some Republicans https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/us-lawmaker-urges-blinken-clear-private-evacuation-flights-out-afghanistan-2021-09-05 who have called on the Department to do more to facilitate the charter flights.
    Blinken was speaking at a news conference in Qatar, a U.S. ally that has emerged as a key interlocutor to the Taliban, which seized power in Kabul on Aug. 15 after the Western-backed government collapsed.
    Blinken said Washington had identified a “relatively” small number of Americans seeking to depart from Mazar-i-Sharif.
    But one of the main challenges around the charter flights attempting to depart was that some people lacked the valid travel documents which effectively blocked the departure of the entire group, he said.
    “And it’s my understanding is that the Taliban has not denied exit to anyone holding a valid document, but they have said those without valid documents, at this point, can’t leave,” Blinken said.
    “Because all of these people are grouped together, that’s meant that flights have not been allowed to go,” he said.
    The confusion was the latest flashpoint following a chaotic U.S. military withdrawal completed after Taliban Islamist insurgents seized power. The United States completed its withdrawal a week ago after a huge airlift.
    Blinken added that the Taliban were upholding their commitment to allow Americans with valid travel documents to leave.
    “We are not aware of anyone being held on an aircraft or any hostage like situation at Mazar-i-Sharif.    So we have to work through the different requirements and that’s exactly what we are doing,” he said.
“A LOT OF ISSUES TO WORK THROUGH”
    On Sunday, the senior Republican on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Mike McCaul, told “Fox News Sunday” that six airplanes were stuck at Mazar-i-Sharif airport with Americans and Afghan interpreters aboard, unable to take off as they had not received Taliban clearance.
    He said the Taliban were holding passengers “hostage for demands.”
    Noting that there were no longer any U.S. personnel on the ground in Afghanistan, whether in Kabul or Mazar-i-Sharif, Blinken said the United States had no means to verify the accuracy of passenger manifests, among other issues.
    “These raise real concerns.    But we are working through each and every one in close coordination with the various initiatives and charter flights that are seeking to evacuate people,” he said.    “But I just want to emphasize that there are a lot of issues to work through.”
    Speaking alongside Blinken, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said his country hoped Kabul airport would be up and running https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/turkey-says-working-with-qatar-us-operation-kabul-airport-2021-09-07 for passengers in the next few days, but no agreement on how to run it had yet been reached.
    Turkey is working with Qatar to restore passenger flights at Kabul airport.    Both countries have technical teams at the airport and Qatar is chartering near daily humanitarian flights following the U.S. withdrawal, Sheikh Mohammed said.
(Reporting By Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk, Lisa Barrington, Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Tom Perry, William Maclean)

9/7/2021 IAEA Pressures Iran Over Foot Dragging As Nuclear Talks Hang In Balance by Francois Murphy
FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters,
amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Vienna, Austria May 23, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
    VIENNA (Reuters) -The U.N. atomic watchdog on Tuesday criticised Iran for stonewalling an investigation into past activities and jeopardising important monitoring work in Iran, possibly complicating efforts to resume talks on the Iran nuclear deal.
    The International Atomic Energy Agency said in two reports to member states reviewed by Reuters that there had been no progress on two main issues – explaining uranium traces found last year and earlier at several old, undeclared sites and getting urgent access to some monitoring equipment so that it can continue to keep track of parts of Iran’s nuclear programme.
    While the investigation into the uranium traces has been going on for more than a year, diplomats say the IAEA urgently needs access to the equipment to swap out memory cards so there are no gaps in its observation of activities like the production of parts for centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium.
    Without such monitoring and so-called continuity of knowledge, Iran could produce and hide unknown quantities of this equipment that can be used to make weapons or fuel for power plants.
    “The Agency’s confidence that it can maintain continuity of knowledge is declining over time and has now significantly further declined,” one of the two reports said, adding that while the agency needs to access the equipment every three months, it had not had access since May 25.
    “This confidence will continue to decline unless the situation is immediately rectified by Iran,” the report said.
    A senior diplomat added that the agency’s confidence that the equipment is still working properly declines rapidly after three months, and while the memory cards should keep working for slightly longer, inspectors will need access soon.
    Former U.S President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the 2015 deal, under which Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions.    Tehran responded to the U.S. withdrawal and reimposition of sanctions by violating many of those restrictions.
    Indirect talks between the United States and Iran on both countries returning to compliance have stopped while Iran’s new, hardline President Ebrahim Raisi has taken office. France and Germany have called on Iran to return soon https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/iran-says-nuclear-talks-progressing-some-issues-need-more-discussion-2021-06-20 and Raisi has said Tehran is prepared to but not under Western “pressure.”
‘WITHOUT FURTHER DELAY’
    Tuesday’s criticism by the IAEA means the United States and its European allies must now decide whether to push for a resolution at next week’s meeting of the 35-nation IAEA Board of Governors pressuring Iran to make concessions to the IAEA.
    A resolution could also make resuming the talks on the 2015 accord harder, since Tehran has previously bristled at such moves.
    “The Director General is increasingly concerned that even after some two years the safeguards issues outlined above in relation to the four locations in Iran not declared to the Agency remain unresolved,” the second of the reports said.
    It said Iran must resolve outstanding issues relating to the sites, which include questions about a fourth location the IAEA has not inspected, “without further delay.”
    While the talks have stalled, Iran has accelerated its breaches of the deal, including enriching uranium https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/iran-accelerates-enrichment-uranium-near-weapons-grade-iaea-says-2021-08-17 to up to 60% purity, the IAEA has said, and is working on enriched uranium metal, which can be used to make nuclear weapons.    Iran insists its aims are peaceful but Western powers have condemned the moves.
    The enrichment acceleration had yet to show in the quarterly data on its stockpile.    The first report said it had an estimated 10 kg of uranium enriched to that level, a modest increase of 7.6 kg from three months earlier.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Peter Graff and Grant McCool)

9/7/2021 Guinea Military Consolidates Takeover, Opposition Leader Signals Openness To Transition by Saliou Samb
FILE PHOTO: Special forces members take position during an uprising that led to the toppling of president
Alpha Conde in Kaloum neighbourhood of Conakry, Guinea September 5, 2021. REUTERS/Saliou Samb
    CONAKRY (Reuters) – Guinea’s main opposition leader said on Tuesday he was open to participating in a transition following a military coup over the weekend, as the soldiers who seized power consolidated their takeover.
    West African countries have threatened sanctions following the overthrow of President Alpha Conde, who was serving a third term after altering the constitution to permit it.
    His opponents said the change was illegal and frustration boiled over into deadly protests last year.    Eighty political prisoners detained by Conde’s government, including a number who had campaigned against his third term, were released on Tuesday evening, said Hamidou Barry of the Guinean Organisation of Human Rights.
    Regional leaders will meet to discuss Guinea on Wednesday – not Thursday, as suggested in a previous staff memo.
    Coup leader Mamady Doumbouya, a former officer in the French Foreign Legion, has promised a transitional government of national unity and a “new era for governance and economic development.”    But he has not yet explained exactly what this will entail, or given a timeframe.
    Guinea’s main opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, told Reuters on Tuesday he had not yet been consulted about the transition but was ready to participate.
    “We would send representatives, why not, to participate in the process to bring the country back to constitutional order,” said Diallo, a former prime minister who finished runner-up to Conde in three successive elections, most recently last October.
    Sunday’s uprising, in which Conde and other top politicians were detained or barred from travelling, is the third since April in West and Central Africa, raising concerns about a slide back to military rule in a region that had made strides towards multi-party democracy since the 1990s.
    Conakry was calm for a second day after the putsch, with some military checkpoints removed.    Traffic was normal on Tuesday in the capital’s administrative centre, the Kaloum peninsula.
    Moving to consolidate their power, the soldiers that led the coup have installed army officers at the top of Guinea’s eight regions and various administrative districts.
BAUXITE
    The coup raised concerns about supplies of bauxite, the main aluminium ore, from Guinea, a leading producer.
    The benchmark aluminium contract on the London Metal Exchange remained near a 10-year high on Monday.
    However, mines have not reported any disruption. State-run Chinese aluminium producer Chalco’s bauxite project in Guinea said it was operating normally.
    The Australian-listed bauxite and gold exploration firms Lindian Resources and Polymetals Resources also said on Tuesday that their activities were unaffected.
    The Kremlin said it was closely following the political situation and that it hoped Russian business interests, which include three major bauxite mines and one alumina refinery, would not suffer.
    During his decade in power, Conde steered Guinea through economic growth, but unemployment remained high.
    Surveys by Afrobarometer suggest the majority of Guineans think the level of corruption has increased, while dissatisfaction with the economy and personal living conditions has also risen.
    Diallo said corruption became endemic under Conde.
    “An elite that enriched themselves in an insolent way, while poverty was rising and the country’s infrastructure was crumbling.    There was also a general malaise in the country,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Hereward Holland and Bate Felix; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Grant McCool)

9/7/2021 U.S. To Rely On Over-The-Horizon Capabilities To Identify Threats With No Troops On The Ground In Afghanistan by OAN Newsroom
    Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a joint press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Qatari capital Doha, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said there was no question identifying terror threats would become more difficult with U.S. troops no longer in Afghanistan.    During a press conference in Qatar on Tuesday, Austin said the U.S. would now have to rely more heavily on its technological capabilities to identify and engage threats that develop in the region.
    Austin assured Americans and allies the capabilities of the U.S. within the region were robust and continually improved.     “We’ve come a long way in the last 20 years in terms of the development of our capabilities.    I would further say there isn’t a scrap of earth that we can’t reach out and touch when we need to,” he asserted.    “We’ve demonstrated that time and time again, and our job is to make sure we stay vigilant and continue to develop capabilities.”
    The Biden administration has acknowledged ISIS-K as a current and ongoing terror threat. Austin said the Pentagon would maintain focus on the terrorist group, while other top officials suggested the possibility of the U.S. working with the Taliban against ISIS-K.
    Austin went on to admit that their were lessons to be learned from an after-action review of the flawed withdrawal operation.
[ITS ABOUT TIME SOMEONE IN THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION ADMITS THE AFGAN WITHDRAWAL WAS A CLUSTER F….. AND TO LET YOU KNOW THE TALIBAND AND ISIS-K ARE THE SAME PEOPLE THAT YOU DO NOT TRUST IN ANY WAY.].

9/7/2021 Blinken, Austin Vow Help To Evacuated Afghans In Qatar by OAN Newsroom
Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) tours a processing centre for Afghan refugees at
al-Udeid Air Base in the Qatari capital Doha. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
    Joe Biden’s State and Defense secretaries promised to help and assist Afghan allies who have been evacuated from Afghanistan.    During their trip to Qatar on Tuesday, secretaries Lloyd Austin and Antony Blinken met with a group of Afghans and honored them for their services during the War on Terror.
    Austin expressed, “it must take a lot of courage to make a tough decision to leave your homeland to begin a new chapter in your life in a new country.”
    The two officials added how grateful the U.S. has been for the help of Afghan allies throughout the war, while Blinken stressed his department would evacuate more Afghans moving forward.
    Blinken went on to say, “we’re going to make sure, with everything in our power, that we do right by you in the days and weeks ahead, but also by many others who stood by our side in Afghanistan, who are still in Afghanistan and and want to leave.”
    The comments come as six planes with U.S. civilians and Afghan allies have been stuck in the Mazari Sharif airport as their approval to depart was still pending.

9/8/2021 Somalia On Edge As President, PM Clash Over Intelligence Chief by Abdi Sheikh
FILE PHOTO: Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed addresses delegates at the Somali
election negotiation in Mogadishu, Somalia May 27, 2021 REUTERS/Feisal Omar/File Photo
    MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia’s two most powerful leaders were locked in a deepening standoff on Wednesday after they named different men to head the politically unstable Horn of Africa nation’s intelligence service.
    The open row between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble, nominally over a murder investigation, marks an escalation of months of tensions between them in a country already riven by militant attacks and clan rivalries.
    It was triggered on Monday when Roble suspended Fahad Yasin, the director of the National Intelligence Service Agency (NISA), saying he had failed to deliver a report on the case of one of its agents who disappeared in June.
    Roble appointed another man, Bashir Mohamed Jama, as interim head of NISA.
    The president called Roble’s move unconstitutional and, late on Tuesday, named a third man, Yasin Abdullahi Mohamed, to head the agency.
    The African Union, U.N. and foreign donor nations including Britain and the United States on Tuesday urged a de-escalation of the row and called on the president and prime minister to “avoid any actions that could lead to violence.”
    Roble and Mohamed had clashed in April, when the president unilaterally extended his four-year term by two years, prompting army factions loyal to each man to seize rival positions in the capital Mogadishu.
    The confrontation was resolved when the president put Roble in charge of security and organising delayed legislative and presidential elections.    That process was supposed to be concluded next month but several days ago was pushed back again.
    In his late Tuesday statement, the president also named Yasin, the man Roble had sacked, as his personal security advisor.
    Also late on Tuesday, Roble accused Mohamed of “obstructing effective investigation of Ikran Tahlil Farah’s case,” referring the agent who went missing while working in the intelligence agency’s cybersecurity department.
    Her family have said publicly they believe she was murdered, and that they hold the agency responsible.    The agency has not responded to the family’s allegation.
(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh;Writing by Duncan Miriri;Editing by Maggie Fick and John Stonestreet)

9/8/2021 Analysis: The West Owes Qatar A Favour Over Afghanistan. That Was The Point by Alexander Cornwell
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign
Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Dr. Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah arrive
for a joint news conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Doha, Qatar September 7, 2021. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the world’s top diplomats have been beating a path to Qatar, long the gateway to the Taliban and now the essential go-between as the West tries to deal with the new Kabul government.    This is no accident.
    Analysts describe Qatar’s emergence as a broker in Afghanistan as a part of a carefully nurtured strategy by the tiny but rich state to bolster its own security, by becoming indispensable as a venue for international mediation.
    The world’s biggest liquefied natural gas producer, the small desert peninsula country is one of the wealthiest nations per capita.    It is home to barely 3 million people, 85 percent of them foreigners with guest worker visas.    Yet it has long held outsized ambitions, hosting both the Middle East’s biggest U.S. air base and its most influential TV channel.
    It squandered much of its regional clout over the past decade by overreaching in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring revolts, when it backed pro-democracy movements and rebels across the region.    Furious neighbours led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with their ally Egypt, punished it with trade sanctions and diplomatic isolation.
    Now, Qatar is back.    Its dispute with the Arab powers was finally resolved this year, and next year it will host the soccer world cup.    But few moves appear to have paid quite as large a diplomatic dividend as its role over Afghanistan, cultivated since it let the Taliban open the group’s main international office in 2013 and provided the venue for peace talks that led to last year’s U.S. agreement to withdraw.
    That “patient diplomatic facilitation” was a classic means for a small state to elevate its international relevance, said Kristin Diwan, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
    “Given its population size, substantial military projection is a tough proposition.    But Qatar can bring real value through the relationships it maintains, especially across both Western and Islamic parties – and especially those the U.S. is loath to approach directly.”
    In the weeks since the militants swept into power, more than 58,000 of the 124,000 Western citizens and at-risk Afghans who were airlifted out of Afghanistan flew through Qatar.
    And now, as temporary home to the evacuated Afghanistan embassies of the United States and several European allies, it is serving as the main mediator for Western efforts to engage.
STEPPING UP
    “As we carry forward, our diplomacy here, we know that Qatar will be our partner, because this is not the first time that Qatar has stepped up to help in Afghanistan,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who visited this week with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
    A Qatari official said that as an impartial mediator, Qatar has engaged with all sides to provide freedom of movement for those in Afghanistan, and “fight terrorism to prevent any future instability in the region.”
    Working with its close ally Turkey, it has helped the Taliban reopen Kabul airport, allowing humanitarian and domestic flights to resume.
    During Afghanistan’s hasty evacuation, Qatari diplomats on the ground in Kabul helped escort fleeing Afghans through checkpoints to the airport.
    As a small state surrounded by better-armed rivals that would no doubt covet its gas fields, Qatar has long felt the need to protect itself with ambitious diplomacy.    Four years ago, it found itself in peril when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and their allies, with the apparent tacit approval of the Trump administration, imposed trade bans and diplomatic isolation.
    The neighbours accused Qatar of backing Sunni Muslim Islamist groups across the region while simultaneously growing too cosy with Shi’ite Iran.    Some in the region wondered whether Saudi Arabia and its allies might even invade, although Riyadh denied harbouring any such plan.
    Qatar, shielded from the economic impact by its $300 billion sovereign wealth fund, denied wronging its neighbours and held out until the dispute was resolved this January.    But the feud underscored the need for it to cultivate powerful friends.
    Being useful to the West can help, said James Dorsey, a senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
    “It’s much an issue about influence as it is an issue about being relevant to the international community in ways in which the international community – if you are under threat – will step in for you.”
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell, additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Doha; Editing by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Peter Graff)

9/8/2021 Exiled Ghani Apologizes To Afghan People
FILE PHOTO: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani makes an address about the latest developments in the country from exile in United
Arab Emirates, in this screen grab obtained from a social media video on August 18, 2021. Facebook/Ashraf Ghani/via REUTERS
    (Reuters) – Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled Kabul as Taliban forces reached the outskirts of the city last month, apologized on Wednesday for the abrupt fall of his government but denied that he had taken millions of dollars with him.
    In a statement posted on Twitter, Ghani said he had left at the urging of his security team who said that if he stayed there was a risk of “the same horrific street-to-street figting the city had suffered during the Civil War of the 1990s.”
    “Leaving Kabul was the most difficult decision of my life, but I believed it was the only way to keep the guns silent and save Kabul and her 6 million citizens,” he said.
    The statement largely echoed a message Ghani sent from the United Arab Emirates in the immediate aftermath of his departure, which drew bitter criticism from former allies who accused him of betrayal.
    Ghani, a former World Bank official who became president after two bitterly disputed elections marred by widespread allegations of fraud on both sides, dismissed reports that he had left with millions of dollars in cash as “completely and categorically false.”
    “Corruption is a plague that has crippled our country for decades and fighting corruption has been a central focus of my efforts as president,” he said, adding that he and his Lebanese-born wife were “scrupulous in our personal finances.”
    He offered appreciation for the sacrifices Afghans had made over the past 40 years of war in their country.
    “It is with deep and profound regret that my own chapter ended in similar tragedy to my predecessors – without ensuring stability and prosperity. I apologize to the Afghan people that I could not make it end differently.”
(Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Alistair Bell)

9/8/2021 Palestinians Protest In Support Of Escaped Prisoners
Demonstrators take part in a protest in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails,
in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank September 8, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – A few hundred Palestinians held protests in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday in support of six militants who broke out of a maximum security Israeli jail this week in an escape that has boosted Palestinian spirits and alarmed Israelis.
    Israeli forces have mounted a search in an effort to capture the six Palestinian men who on Monday had escaped through a hole in the floor of a prison cell.    The inmates, five of whom are members of the Islamic Jihad militant group and one of the Fatah group, have either been convicted or are suspected of planning or carrying out deadly attacks against Israelis.
    Around 500 Palestinians gathered at nightfall in the cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron and other West Bank locations, some chanting “freedom” and waving Palestinian flags.
    “We came out in solidarity with our prisoners in the occupier’s jails,” said Jihad Abu Adi, 25, as protesters nearby set tyres ablaze.    “It’s the least we could do for our heroic prisoners.”
    The Israeli Prison Service said that in at least two jails, a few Palestinian prisoners had set fire to their cells.
Details of Monday’s prison break investigation are under an Israeli court-issued gag order.
    Palestinians regard brethren jailed by Israel as heroes in a struggle for statehood.    Israel says Palestinians involved in violent anti-Israeli activities are terrorists and is concerned Monday’s escape could ignite clashes in the West Bank and Gaza.
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held consultations with defence and security chiefs on Wednesday, his spokesman said in a statement.    “The events have the potential to impact numerous fronts,” the statement said. “Israel is prepared for any scenario.”
(Reporting by Zainah el-Haroun and Ali Sawafta; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

9/9/2021 Qatari Official Says Kabul Airport 90% Operational, Expects Gradual Reopening
FILE PHOTO: A model of an Ariana Afghan Airlines airplane is seen in front of the international airport
in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 5, 2021. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s Kabul Airport is about 90% ready for operations but its re-opening is planned gradually, a Qatari official said, speaking on the tarmac on Thursday.
    Reopening the airport, a vital lifeline with both the outside world and across Afghanistan’s mountainous territory has been a high priority for the Taliban as they seek to restore order after their lightning seizure of Kabul on Aug. 15.
    Kabul airport had been closed since the end of the massive U.S.-led airlift of its citizens, other Western nationals and Afghans who helped Western countries.
    There would be a flight on Friday, according to another Qatari official, special envoy Mutlaq bin Majed Al Qahtani.    He added that a flight out from Kabul on Thursday was regular flight and not an evacuation.
    Flights into Kabul will fly through Pakistan’s airspace for the time being because the majority of Afghanistan is still not covered by flight radar, the first official said.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell and Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Jon Boyle)

9/9/2021 Libyan Interim PM Discusses Border Closure With Tunisian President
    TUNIS (Reuters) – Libyan interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh met President Kais Saied in Tunisia on Thursday after tensions in recent weeks over border closures during the coronavirus pandemic and security threats.
    Dbeibeh’s office said they had agreed that the Libyan and Tunisian health and interior ministries would prepare a joint protocol for reopening air and land borders as soon as possible.
    Tunisia’s presidency said in a statement that “bilateral relations should be protected to guarantee a better future.”
    The two countries have been in dispute this summer over the pandemic-induced closure of borders, a row that deepened after officials in each country said the other posed a security threat.
    The dispute has developed since Saied’s announcement on July 25 that he was seizing governing power and suspending parliament, moves that his internal critics have called a coup.
    Tunisia has been open to Libya during most of the decade of instability since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and it hosts numerous diplomatic and aid missions focused on Libya.
(Reporting by Angus McDowall; editing by Grant McCool)

9/9/2021 In Risk To Peace Plan, Rivalries Hobble Libya’s Economy by Ahmed Elumami and Ayman al-Warfali
Governor of Central Bank of Libya, Siddiq al-Kabir speaks during an interview with Reuters
in Tripoli, Libya September 1, 2021. Picture taken September 1, 2021. REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed
    TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – Libya must reunify its fragmented economy and public finances if it stands any hope of ending a decade of violent division, but moves towards that goal are making slow progress.
    Businesses and ordinary people struggle to carry out basic financial transactions, underscoring the continued dysfunction while also showing that peace moves have failed to stop rival factions competing to control economic levers.
    “The harm has reached everyone.    Today, money cannot be transferred from two accounts in two different banks within 100 metres in Tripoli on one street.    There is no justification for us to be like this,” said Husni Bey, a prominent businessman.
    Central Bank of Libya (CBL) Governor Sadiq al-Kabir on Thursday joined U.N.-backed online talks with the head of its rival eastern-based branch to discuss reunifying the bodies, though any such moves remain at an early stage.
    The stumbles, visible in disputes over the budget and the lack of clearing operations between eastern and western banks, reflects political manoeuvring at a moment of potential change.
    Libya has been in chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, with control over different parts of the state contested by both political and military means among an array of local forces.
    In March an interim unity government was approved by the major eastern and western factions that have been fighting since 2014, with a goal of holding national elections in December – moves that were seen as the best hope for peace in years.
    However, that progress is now widely seen as having stalled as powerful figures try to prevent any loss of leverage, or to reposition themselves to benefit from a new dispensation.
REUNIFYING THE CENTRAL BANKS
    During the past seven years, a parallel administration emerged in the east with its own central bank, a rival oil company chief and other state institutions, claiming legitimacy from the Tobruk-based parliament that was elected in 2014.
    That has raised critical questions over accountability for spending by each side and how debt taken by the eastern bank – and used to fund a war against Tripoli and pay salaries of eastern-based forces – would be absorbed into national accounts.
    Interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh had a mandate to prepare for elections, unify the divided state institutions and improve services – but has made scant progress.
    Parliament has repeatedly rejected his budget proposals and different parts of the numerous political bodies created during the past years have squabbled over the leadership of major institutions including the oil company and central bank.
    Meanwhile, Dbeibeh has continued to spend money, including on salaries, using existing emergency measures.
    Reunifying the CBL would be the key goal of any effort to end the economic divisions.    The Tripoli-based CBL branch is the one recognised internationally and it cut eastern banks off from most clearing operations in 2014.
    Companies in east or west now avoid using banks based in the other side “so that their financial transactions can be done easily,” said Alaref Algajiji, chief executive of a Libyan business council.
FINANCIAL REVIEW
    Last December, as the peace process advanced, the CBL held a full meeting of its governors for the first time in years to agree on a new unified exchange rate that involved devaluing the currency.
    That move helped ease a liquidity crisis and was seen as a precursor to reunifying the central banks and restoring clearing operations between Tripoli and eastern commercial banks.
    A financial review commissioned from Deloitte as part of the U.N.-backed peace push was completed in July using data supplied by the rival central bank branches, but without conducting an independent audit of either.
    It drew up a roadmap towards reunifying them, which the governor of each has said it is following.
    The Tripoli-based CBL Governor, Kabir, told Reuters in written answers to questions, that it was “starting to take practical measures” towards the reunification.
    He said the CBL was working with the presidency council, the unity government, the U.N.’s Libya mission and the attorney general’s office to agree on a roadmap.
    Jalel Harchaoui of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime said it was politically better for Kabir to move slowly, and that he may also worry about how eastern forces would use renewed access to national banking.
    Eastern CBL Governor Ali al-Hibri said the lack of clearing for eastern banks was “an economic crime,” but added that he, too, was preparing for reunification through the process outlined by Deloitte.
    However, he challenged figures Kabir had given for public debt levels and accused him of using political arguments to sidestep the reunification process.    He also said the unity government’s budget proposals were too high, and went against agreements reached last year to unify the exchange rate.
    “This is a major crime in the history of Libya,” he said.
(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli and Ayman al-Warfali in Benghazi, writing by Angus McDowall, Editing by William Maclean)

9/9/2021 Iranian, Qatari Ministers Meet Amid Iran-U.S. Tensions
FILE PHOTO: Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, is pictured
at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon February 9, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s foreign minister met his visiting counterpart from U.S.-allied Qatar on Thursday, state media reported, as Tehran and Washington appear to be at an impasse over the fate of talks to revive a 2015 nuclear deal.
    Iran on Wednesday warned Western states against rebuking it at the International Atomic Energy Agency after the U.N. atomic watchdog’s latest reports criticised the country, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said time was running out to revive the deal with world powers.
    Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani was in Tehran days after Blinken visited the Gulf Arab state, which has good ties with Iran.
    In his talks with Sheikh Mohammed, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian called for boosting trade ties and reiterated Tehran’s support for an Afghan government including all factions, Iranian state media reported, without referring to any talks about the nuclear negotiations.
    Indirect talks between U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration and Iran on how both countries could return to compliance with the deal have not resumed since President Ebrahim Raisi, an anti-Western hardliner, took office on Aug. 5.
    Qatar has emerged as the main mediator between the Taliban, who swept into Kabul on Aug. 15, and Western countries following the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom)

9/9/2021 Secy. Austin: Al-Qaeda May Attempt To Regenerate In Afghanistan by OAN Newsroom
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a joint press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
in the Qatari capital Doha, on September 7, 2021. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
    Defense officials fear the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan could allow terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda to rebuild in the country.
    “I think you know the nature of Al-Qaeda and ISIS-K is that, you know, they will always attempt to find space to grow and regenerate,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
    Austin spoke to reporters in Kuwait City, saying the extremist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks could regenerate.
    “I think the whole community is kind of watching to see what happens and whether or not Al-Qaeda has the ability to regenerate in Afghanistan.    You know, we put the Taliban on notice that we expect them to not allow that to happen,” stated Austin.
    When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, Al-Qaeda used the country as a staging base to attack the U.S. on 9/11.    The U.S. eventually overthrew the Taliban after they refused to turn over Al-Qaeda leaders following the terrorist attack.     This led to the extremist group diminishing over the course of the 20-year war.
    However, warnings of the group’s resurgence has surfaced as the Taliban regains control of Afghanistan.    Although, Austin said the U.S. is prepared to prevent Al-Qaeda from rising again.
    “We do have the ability to address threats using our over the horizon capability and you’ve also heard me say that our capability has evolved dramatically over the last 20 years,” the Defense Secretary said.
    Under the Trump administration Taliban leaders promised not to support terrorist groups which would threaten the U.S.    However, U.S. officials believe the Taliban has ties to Al-Qaeda and the international community is monitoring the situation in order to track any attempts by the terrorist group to make a comeback.

9/10/2021 Tunisian President Plans To Change Political System, Suspend Constitution - Adviser by Tarek Amara and Angus McDowall
FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Kais Saied takes the oath of office in
Tunis, Tunisia, October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souiss/File Photo
    TUNIS (Reuters) -Tunisian President Kais Saied plans to suspend the constitution and may amend the political system via a referendum, one of his advisers told Reuters on Thursday in the first clear indication of his plans after moves his critics have called a coup.
    More than six weeks after Saied seized governing powers, dismissed the prime minister and suspended parliament on July 25, he has still not appointed a new government or made any broader declaration of his long-term intentions.
    “This system cannot continue … changing the system means changing the constitution through a referendum, perhaps … the referendum requires logistical preparation,” said Walid Hajjem, an adviser to Saied.
    He added that this was the president’s plan, which was at the final stage and was expected to be formally unveiled soon, but he did not expand on what changes Saied was contemplating.
    Saied’s intervention has thrust Tunisia into a constitutional crisis, raising concerns over the future of the democratic system it adopted after the 2011 revolution that led to the Arab Spring.
    Saied has been widely expected to move to a presidential system of government that would reduce the role of the parliament, something that has been frequently discussed during years of gridlock since the 2014 constitution was agreed.
    He has defended his moves as necessary and said they were in line with the constitution, promised to respect Tunisians’ rights and said he will not become a dictator.
    However, arrests of parliament members after Saied lifted their immunity and numerous travel bans against prominent people have alarmed some rights advocates.
NEW GOVERNMENT
    Both domestic and international forces have pushed for Saied to appoint a government and show how he means to exit the constitutional crisis caused by his intervention.
    The head of Tunisia’s human rights league was quoted in a Tunisian newspaper on Thursday as saying that Saied had informed him that a new government would be appointed this week.
    Tunisia faces grave economic problems and a looming threat to public finances, and had just started talks with the International Monetary Fund for a new loan programme when Saied ousted the prime minister.
    Any further IMF talks could not take place until a new government was installed that could credibly discuss fiscal reforms wanted by foreign lenders.
    Years of economic stagnation and declining public services, worsened by political paralysis, have soured many Tunisians on the form of democracy they adopted after the revolution, and Saied’s intervention appeared to have widespread support.
    This week ambassadors from the G7 group of rich democracies urged Saied to appoint a government and return Tunisia to a constitutional order in which an elected parliament played a significant role.
    Tunisia’s powerful labour union, the UGTT, has also urged him to appoint a government and start dialogue to change the political system.    UGTT officials were not immediately available for comment.
    Officials from the largest party in parliament, the moderate Islamist Ennahda, which has been the most vocal opponent of Saied’s moves, were also not immediately available for comment.
(Reporting By Tarek Amara, writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Grant McCool)

9/10/2021 U.S. Urges Immediate Talks Over Ethiopia Conflict As Reported Abuse Grows
FILE PHOTO: Troops in Eritrean uniforms are seen on top of a truck near the
town of Adigrat, Ethiopia, March 14, 2021. 2021.REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is gravely concerned about fighting in parts of Ethiopia, the U.S. State Department said on Friday, urging the Ethiopian government and rebellious forces from the Tigray region to start immediate negotiations to address the conflict.
    “We urge the Ethiopian government and TPLF to enter at once into negotiations without preconditions toward a sustainable ceasefire,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement, using an acronym for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
    Reports of continued human rights abuses and atrocities by parties to the conflict are deeply disturbing, including the reported attack on civilians in a village in the Amhara region this week, Price said.
    Rebellious forces from the Tigray region killed 120 civilians over two days in a village in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, local officials told Reuters on Wednesday.
    The Tigrayan forces later issued a statement rejecting what they called a “fabricated allegation” by the Amhara regional government and denying any involvement in the killing of civilians.
    “We condemn all such abuses against civilians in the strongest possible terms and call on all parties to the conflict to respect human rights and comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law,” Price said.
    There was no immediate comment from the office of Ethiopia’s prime minister.    The spokesperson of the Amhara regional government and Getachew Reda, a spokesman for the Tigrayan forces, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    Eritrea’s Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel said: “Eritrea categorically rejects these intermittent accusations.    Scapegoating Eritrea is neither constructive, nor will it serve the interests of peace and stability in the (Horn of Africa) region.”
    War broke out 10 months ago between Ethiopia’s federal troops and forces loyal to the TPLF, which controls the Tigray region.
    Since then, thousands have been killed and more than 2 million have fled their homes.    Fighting spread in July from the Tigray region into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar, also in the country’s north.
    The United Nations said on Friday that it had completed its joint investigation with Ethiopia’s state-appointed human rights commission of abuses in the Tigray conflict, with a final report due Nov 1.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Giulia Paravicini in Addis Ababa and Elias Biryabarema in Kampala; Editing by Chris Reese, Nick Zieminski and Cynthia Osterman)

9/10/2021 Israeli Officers Shoot Dead Palestinian Attacker In Jerusalem Old City - Officials
Israeli security forces work at the scene of an incident in Jerusalem's Old City September 10, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israeli police shot and killed a knife-wielding Palestinian who attempted to stab police officers in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday, officials said.
    Palestinian officials identified the deceased as a 50-year-old doctor from East Jerusalem, who residents said had faced financial issues in recent months.
    Hundreds of Palestinians had gathered earlier in the walled Old City’s Al Aqsa Mosque compound, where they protested in support of six militants who broke out of a maximum security Israeli jail this week.
    Israel’s military has launched a manhunt after the six men escaped https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/six-palestinians-escape-high-security-israeli-prison-israeli-radio-2021-09-06 through a hole in the floor of a prison cell on Monday.    With the men still at large, the military arrested some of their relatives in the northern West Bank this week, sparking Palestinian protests and clashes with Israeli troops.
    Soon after the Jerusalem protest, a Palestinian wielding a knife attempted to stab police officers near one of the mosque compound’s gates, a police spokeswoman said. Officers shot him before he could strike them, she added.
    The man was transferred in critical condition to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center, where he died of his injuries, a hospital spokeswoman said.
    Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war.    Palestinians seek the territories for a future state.
    Palestinians regard brethren jailed by Israel as heroes in their struggle for statehood.    This week’s escapees, five of whom are members of the Islamic Jihad militant group and one of the Fatah group, have either been convicted or are suspected of planning or carrying out deadly attacks against Israelis.
    Israel’s public security minister said on Thursday he would form a commission of inquiry to probe the escape.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub, Ali Sawafta and Ammar Awad; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Andrea Ricci)

9/10/2021 Israeli Police Catch Two Of Six Palestinian Jail Escapees by Rami Ayyub
Israeli soldiers guard along a fence leading to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as part of search efforts to capture six Palestinian men who
had escaped from Gilboa prison earlier this week, by the village of Muqeibila in northern Israel September 9, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    NAZARETH, Israel (Reuters) - Two Palestinian militants who were among six who broke out of a maximum security Israeli jail this week were caught on Friday on a biblical hilltop in Israel’s northern city of Nazareth, police said, drawing rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
    The other four escapees were still at large amid a massive manhunt by Israeli forces across northern Israel, where the Arab city of Nazareth sits, and the occupied West Bank.
    The six escapees – five of whom are members of the Islamic Jihad militant group and one with the mainstream Fatah party – broke free https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/six-palestinians-escape-high-security-israeli-prison-israeli-radio-2021-09-06 early on Monday by tunnelling through a hole adjacent to their cell’s toilet.
    The two men captured on Mount Precipice were Islamic Jihad members, police said.    Officers were tipped off by Nazareth residents who the two men had asked for food, Israeli media reported.
    Video on social media showed Israeli officers putting two men into the back of separate police vehicles.    The two men did not resist arrest, a police spokeswoman said.
    Hours after the two men’s capture, militants in the Gaza Strip – who fought a deadly conflict with Israel in May – launched a rocket towards Israel which was intercepted by its Iron Dome missile defence system, the Israeli military said.    There were no reports of damage or casualties.
    Palestinian factions said there would be repercussions for the two men’s capture.
    “We hold Israel responsible for the lives of the two liberated prisoners who were arrested,” Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab said.
    The six escapees have either been convicted or are suspected of planning or carrying out deadly attacks against Israelis.    Israel has vowed to capture all of the men, and officials say they will investigate any lapses that allowed their escape.
    Palestinians have protested in support of the men across the West Bank in East Jerusalem, seeing them as heroes in their struggle for statehood in territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
    The facility the men escaped from, about 4 km (2 miles) from the boundary with the occupied West Bank, is one of the highest-security jails in Israel.
    The escapees include Zakaria Zubeidi, a former commander of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank city of Jenin who once received Israeli amnesty. Zubeidi was rearrested by Israel in 2019 after his alleged involvement in new shooting attacks.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub; Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis)

9/10/2021 Palestinian Authority Withdraws From Qatar Funding Scheme For Gaza – Qatari Envoy
FILE PHOTO: Qatari envoy Mohammed Al-Emadi gestures during an interview with
Reuters in Gaza City, August 24, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    GAZA (Reuters) -The Western-backed Palestinian Authority has pulled out of an agreement to provide funding from Qatar to the Gaza Strip over concerns its involvement could expose it to legal issues, the Gulf state’s aid envoy said on Friday.
    Doha has underwritten Gaza rebuilding and infrastructure projects since the 2014 war between the Palestinian enclave’s Islamist Hamas rulers and Israel, but another round of fighting in May prompted Israeli and U.S. demands to revise the payouts.    They have since been on hold.
    Israel and Egypt hold Gaza under a blockade, citing threats from Hamas.    The World Bank has said that the restrictions have contributed to soaring unemployment and poverty in the enclave, home to 2 million Palestinians.
    Envoy Mohammed Al-Emadi had said that Qatar would soon resume separate funding for civil servants and poor families in Gaza under a new mechanism involving the United Nations and the PA, which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank.     Under the scheme, cash would be deposited into PA banks in Gaza.
    But on Friday, Emadi said the PA had withdrawn from the agreement “due to fears of legal prosecution and accusations that banks were ‘supporting terrorism'.”    Hamas is deemed a terrorist group in the West.
    Emadi’s office was working to resolve the issue and find a different route to disperse the funding, it said in a statement.
    The PA did not immediately provide comment.    Hamas said the PA’s move “reflects (its) desire to deepen the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip instead of contributing to a solution.”
    The Qatari funding scheme has won support from Israel, whose defence minister, Benny Gantz, said it would ensure money reached those in need while bypassing Hamas.
    Gas-rich Qatar used to spend $30 million per month to help operate the coastal Gaza’s sole power plant and to support needy families and Hamas-hired public servants.
    Qatar and Egypt have both promised funds to help rebuild the Palestinian territory.    Having already pumped more than $1 billion into Gaza projects since 2014, Qatar pledged another $500 million in late May.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub, Nidal al-Mughrabi and Ali Sawafta; Editing by Louise Heavens)

9/11/2021 Lebanon Agrees New Government To Tackle Economic Collapse by Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's new Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati, gestures as he talks
at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon July 26, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) -Lebanese leaders agreed a new government led by Sunni Muslim tycoon Najib Mikati https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/sunni-tycoon-mikati-leads-lebanons-first-government-year-2021-09-10 on Friday after a year of feuding over cabinet seats that has exacerbated a devastating economic collapse, opening the way to a resumption of talks with the IMF.
    The breakthrough followed a flurry of contacts with France, which has led efforts to get Lebanon’s fractious leaders to agree a cabinet and begin reforms since last year’s catastrophic Beirut port explosion, senior Lebanese political sources said.
    There was no immediate official comment from the French foreign ministry on the developments in Beirut.
    However, one French diplomatic source said Paris had played a constructive role in bringing the government together, though the source added that some scepticism remained over whether Mikati would be able to carry out the necessary reforms.
    In televised comments, Mikati’s eyes welled up with tears and his voice broke as he described the hardship and emigration inflicted by the crisis, which has forced three quarters of the Lebanese population into poverty.
    The crisis, the biggest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the 1975-90 civil war, hit a crunch point last month when fuel shortages brought much of the country to a standstill, triggering numerous security incidents, adding to Western concern https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/eu-worried-lebanons-fast-deterioration-says-time-has-run-out-2021-08-26 and warnings of worse to come https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanese-security-chief-warns-crisis-could-be-prolonged-2021-08-27 unless something is done.
    To secure foreign aid, the government must succeed where its forerunners have failed in enacting reforms to address the root causes of the crisis, including state corruption.
    It may not have long: parliamentary elections are due next spring and Mikati said these should take place on time.
    Mikati and President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, signed the decree establishing the government in the presence of Nabih Berri, the Shi’ite Muslim speaker of parliament.
    Mikati said divisive politics must be set to one side and that he could not engage in talks with the International Monetary Fund if he encountered opposition at home.
    He pledged to seek support from Arab countries, a number of which have shunned Lebanon because of the extensive influence wielded in Beirut by the heavily armed, Iran-backed Shi’ite Islamist group Hezbollah, which is allied to Aoun.
    Addressing the daily hardships, Mikati described how mothers had been forced to cut back on milk for their children.
    Referring to medicine shortages, he said: “If a mother’s eldest son leaves the country and she has tears in her eyes, she can’t buy a Panadol pill.”
    But Lebanon can no longer afford to subsidise goods such as imported fuel because the country does not have enough hard currency reserves, he said.
    Aoun said the government was the best that could be agreed and capable of action.
DIFFICULT TASK
    Like the outgoing cabinet of Prime Minister Hassan Diab, the new one comprises ministers with technical expertise who are not prominent politicians but have been named by the main parties.
    The Diab government failed to enact any of the major reforms sought by foreign donors, a task complicated by resistance from major players in Lebanon’s sectarian and factional politics.
    “I think (Mikati) has a 50-50 chance of accomplishing anything, whether you look at it in terms of a programme with the IMF or aid from the Arab countries,” said economist Toufic Gaspard, who has advised the IMF and Lebanon’s finance ministry.
    Securing support from Arab states such as Saudi Arabia would depend on confronting Hezbollah’s influence, while securing an IMF programme would require reforms that past governments have failed to enact.
    “It is a very delicate political game.    This is not going to be easy,” he said.
    Youssef Khalil, a senior central bank official and aide to governor Riad Salameh, was named finance minister.
    Hezbollah, which is designated a terrorist group by the United States, named two of the 24 ministers.
    The crisis, which came to a head in late 2019, stems from decades of corruption https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanons-financial-meltdown-how-it-happened-2021-06-17 in the state and unsustainable financing.
    Mikati was the third prime minister-designate to attempt to form the government since Diab quit after the port explosion.
    Mikati was designated after Saad al-Hariri, a former prime minister, abandoned his efforts.
    Hariri traded blame for the failure with Aoun. The president’s political adversaries have accused him and his political party of seeking effective veto power in the new government by demanding a third of the seats. Aoun has denied this repeatedly.
    Mikati told a Lebanese media outlet on Friday the government had no blocking third.
(Writing by Tom Perry; Reporting by Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam; Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Editing by Andrew Heavens, William Maclean and Gareth Jones)

9/11/2021 Israel Catches Two More Escaped Palestinian Militants, Police Say by Rami Ayyub
Palestinian demonstrators clash with Israeli forces during a protest in solidarity with prisoners following the escape of six Palestinian
militants from an Israeli prison, in Beita, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, September 10, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    NAZARETH, Israel (Reuters) - Israeli forces on Saturday captured two more of the six Palestinian militants who made a dramatic escape from a maximum security Israeli jail this week, a police spokesperson said.
    The two men were found hiding in a truck parking lot in an Arab village in northern Israel, near the city of Nazareth, where two other escapees were captured hours earlier.
    Their Hollywood-style prison break on Monday, through a hole in their prison cell floor, delighted Palestinians and embarrassed Israel.
    Footage distributed by Israel Police showed officers leading the two men, blindfold and handcuffed, into a police vehicle as a manhunt for two more inmates that are still at large continued.
    The six men have either been convicted or are suspected of planning or carrying out deadly attacks against Israelis.    Israeli officials have pledged a thorough investigation into apparent security lapses that allowed their escape.
    One of the men captured on Saturday morning was Zakaria Zubeidi, a high-profile former commander of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades armed group in the West Bank city of Jenin.
    Zubeidi, who once received Israeli amnesty, was rearrested by Israel in 2019 after his alleged involvement in further shootings.
    The other five prisoners are members of the Islamic Jihad militant group.
    Across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Palestinians have protested in support of the men, seeing them as heroes in their struggle for statehood in territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
    Israel says Palestinians involved in violent anti-Israeli activities are terrorists.
    Palestinian factions said there would be repercussions for the men’s capture.    Gaza militants fired a rocket towards Israel on Friday following the first two rearrests, drawing Israeli air strikes https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/rocket-sirens-blare-near-israels-border-with-gaza-2021-09-10 in the enclave.
    The captures could ignite further clashes.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub in Nazareth; Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and William Mallard)

9/11/2021 Tunisia President Rebuffs Foreign Pressure Over Political Crisis
European Union Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell meets with Tunisia's President Kais Saied
during his visit to Tunis, Tunisia September 10, 2021. Tunisian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS
    TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisian President Kais Saied on Friday said the country would not tolerate any foreign interference as he faces rising pressure from Western governments to restore constitutional order after seizing power in July.
    “The sovereignty of the Tunisian state and the choices of its people were not discussed with international partners … and will not be the subject of negotiations with any party,” the president said in statement.
    Saied, who was elected in 2019, on July 25 froze parliament, dismissed the prime minister and assumed executive authority.    His Islamist opponents have labeled the sudden intervention a coup, but he has said the moves were necessary to save the country from collapse.
    Visiting Tunis on Friday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he conveyed European concerns about preserving democratic gains in Tunisia to Saied.
    Ambassadors from the Group of Seven major economies this week also urged Saied to appoint a new head of government as a matter of urgency and return to a constitutional order in which an elected parliament plays a significant role.
    More than six weeks after Saied’s move, he has still not appointed a new government or made any broader declaration of his long-term intentions.
    Western democracies have been among the most important donors helping to support Tunisian public finances over the past decade as the economy has slumped since the 2011 revolution that introduced democracy.
    Saied’s intervention has thrust Tunisia into a constitutional crisis, raising concerns over the future of the democratic system.
    Saied said his intervention was in line with the constitution and necessitated by a national emergency due to political paralysis, high COVID-19 rates and protests.    He has vowed that rights will not be affected.
(Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

9/11/2021 IAEA Will Have No Access To Surveillance Camera Footage In Iran – State-Run TV
FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters,
amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Vienna, Austria May 23, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have no access to footage captured by surveillance cameras at Iranian nuclear sites, Iran’s state-run Press TV channel said on Twitter on Saturday.
    The channel added that an “informed source rejects reports suggesting that Iran may reconsider (its) decision on IAEA access restrictions.”
    The report, yet to be confirmed by the Iranian government, comes as the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog chief, Rafael Grossi, prepared to fly to Tehran for talks that could ease a standoff between Iran and the West.
    The IAEA informed member states this week that there had been no progress on two key issues: explaining uranium traces found at several old, undeclared sites and getting urgent access to monitoring equipment so that the agency can continue to keep track of parts of Iran’s nuclear programme.
(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

9/11/2021 Thousands Protest New Turkish Vaccine And Test Rules by Dilara Senkaya
A woman holds a placard reading "Freedom is not free. We are ready to pay for it" during a protest against official
coronavirus-related mandates including vaccinations, tests and masks, in Istanbul, Turkey September 11, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – More than 2,000 Turks demonstrated in Istanbul on Saturday against official coronavirus-related mandates including vaccinations, tests and masks, responding to new government measures and an inoculation push.
    In Turkey’s largest such protest, mostly maskless people shouted slogans, held placards and Turkish flags, and sang songs in defence of what they called individual rights, echoing anti-vaccine rallies in some other countries.
    “This pandemic is just going on with even more restrictions on our freedoms and there’s no end to it,” said Erdem Boz, 40, a software developer.    “Masks, vaccines, PCR tests might all become mandatory. We’re here to voice our discontent with this.”
    On Monday the government began requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for all users of intercity planes, buses and trains, as well as for those attending large events such as concerts or theatre performances.
    All unvaccinated school employees are required to take a PCR test twice per week. Masks and social distancing are required in public.
    Some 64% of Turks have received two vaccine shots under a national programme that has administered more than 100 million jabs.
    Still, about 23,000 new cases emerge daily, prompting the health minister, Fahrettin Koca, to warn this month of “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
    On Saturday, Koca said on Twitter: “Vaccines are the final solution!    Rules are very necessary.”
    Protesters attending the government-approved rally in Istanbul’s Maltepe district were not required to show proof of vaccination nor a negative test, according to Reuters witnesses. Police did not intervene.
    “We’re against all these mandates,” said Aynur Buyruk Bilen, of the so-called Plandemic Resistance Movement.    “I think that the vaccines aren’t complete, and that it’s an experimental liquid.”
    Turkey’s top trending Twitter hashtag was: “Maltepe is everywhere, resistance is everywhere.”
(Additional reporting by Murad Sezer; Writing by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Ros Russell)

9/12//2021 Israel Strikes Gaza In Retaliation For Rocket Fire, Military Says
Streaks of light are seen as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts a rocket launched from
the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel September 11, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel carried out air strikes in the Gaza Strip on Sunday in response to Palestinian rocket fire into its territory, the Israeli military said.
    Tension between Israel and the Palestinians has risen over the past week, after six Palestinian militants escaped from a maximum security Israeli jail on Monday.    Israeli forces have since captured four of the inmates.
    Drawing Israeli air strikes, Gaza militants fired a rocket into Israel on Friday when two of the prisoners were apprehended and then again on Saturday, after two more escaped inmates were caught.    The Israeli military said it struck targets belonging to Hamas, the Islamist armed group that rules Gaza.    There were no reports of casualties.
    A fragile truce between Israel and Hamas ended 11 days of fierce fighting in May in which at least 250 Palestinians and 13 in Israel were killed.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

9/12/2021 IAEA Chief In Iran For Talks Before Showdown With West
FILE PHOTO: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi attends a news conference during
a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, June 7, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
    DUBAI (Reuters) – U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi is set for talks in Iran on Sunday that may ease a standoff between Tehran and the West just as it threatens to escalate and scupper negotiations on reviving the Iran nuclear deal.
    Grossi arrived in Tehran overnight, Iranian state media said, ahead of next week’s meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.    The IAEA and Iran’s envoy to the agency said he would meet the new head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammad Eslami.
    Grossi is expected to hold a news conference at Vienna airport around 8:30 p.m. (1830 GMT) after returning later on Sunday, the IAEA said.
    The IAEA informed member states this week that there had been no progress on two central issues: explaining uranium traces found at several old, undeclared sites and getting urgent access to some monitoring equipment so the agency can continue to keep track of parts of Iran’s nuclear programme as provided for by the 2015 deal.
    Separate, indirect talks between the United States and Iran on both returning to compliance with the deal have been halted since June.    Washington and its European allies have been urging hardline President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration, which took office in August, to return to the talks.
    Under the 2015 deal between Iran and major powers, Tehran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
    President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018, re-introducing painful economic sanctions.    Iran responded as of 2019 by breaching many of the deal’s core restrictions, like enriching uranium to a higher purity, closer to that suitable for use in nuclear weapons.
    Western powers must decide whether to push for a resolution criticising Iran and raising pressure on it for stonewalling the IAEA at next week’s meeting of the agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors.    A resolution could jeopardise the resumption of talks on the deal as Tehran bristles at such moves.
    Countries on the IAEA Board of Governors will be watching Grossi’s visit to see whether Iran yields either on granting access to the monitoring equipment to service it or offers the prospect of answers on the uranium particles found at the undeclared former sites.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

9/12/2021 Thousands Protest New Turkish Vaccine And Test Rules by Dilara Senkaya
A woman holds a placard reading "Freedom is not free. We are ready to pay for it" during a protest against official
coronavirus-related mandates including vaccinations, tests and masks, in Istanbul, Turkey September 11, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – More than 2,000 Turks demonstrated in Istanbul on Saturday against official coronavirus-related mandates including vaccinations, tests and masks, responding to new government measures and an inoculation push.
    In Turkey’s largest such protest, mostly maskless people shouted slogans, held placards and Turkish flags, and sang songs in defence of what they called individual rights, echoing anti-vaccine rallies in some other countries.
    “This pandemic is just going on with even more restrictions on our freedoms and there’s no end to it,” said Erdem Boz, 40, a software developer.    “Masks, vaccines, PCR tests might all become mandatory.    We’re here to voice our discontent with this.”
    On Monday the government began requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for all users of intercity planes, buses and trains, as well as for those attending large events such as concerts or theatre performances.
    All unvaccinated school employees are required to take a PCR test twice per week. Masks and social distancing are required in public.
    Some 64% of Turks have received two vaccine shots under a national programme that has administered more than 100 million jabs.
    Still, about 23,000 new cases emerge daily, prompting the health minister, Fahrettin Koca, to warn this month of “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
    On Saturday, Koca said on Twitter: “Vaccines are the final solution! Rules are very necessary.”
    Protesters attending the government-approved rally in Istanbul’s Maltepe district were not required to show proof of vaccination nor a negative test, according to Reuters witnesses.    Police did not intervene.
    “We’re against all these mandates,” said Aynur Buyruk Bilen, of the so-called Plandemic Resistance Movement.    “I think that the vaccines aren’t complete, and that it’s an experimental liquid.”
    Turkey’s top trending Twitter hashtag was: “Maltepe is everywhere, resistance is everywhere.”
(Additional reporting by Murad Sezer; Writing by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Ros Russell)

9/12/2021 Afghan Pilots Start Leaving Uzbekistan For UAE, Despite Taliban Pressure-Source by Phil Stewart
U.S.-trained pilots and other personnel aboard an aircraft which one pilot passenger said was bound for the United Arab Emirates
from Termez, Uzbekistan September 12, 2021. The Afghan air force pilots had fled to Uzbekistan in mid-August, taking a big chunk
of Afghanistan's fleet of aircraft with them. The picture was taken by a pilot who wished to remain anonymous. Handout via REUTERS.
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S.-trained Afghan pilots and other personnel held in an Uzbek camp for about a month began leaving the country on Sunday, one of the pilots told Reuters, under a U.S. deal that came despite Taliban demands for the return of the Afghans and their aircraft.
    The first group is at least initially heading to the United Arab Emirates, the pilot said, speaking on condition of anonymity.    The transfer was expected to take place in several waves, starting on Sunday and ending in the next day or so.
    Reuters was first to report that the pilots have started departing Uzbekistan.    The U.S. State Department and Uzbekistan’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    Reuters previously disclosed tension at the Uzbek camp, with the pilots fearing being sent back to Afghanistan https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/exclusive-theyll-kill-us-afghan-pilots-held-uzbek-camp-fear-deadly-homecoming-2021-09-03 and killed by the Taliban.    The Taliban have said they will not carry out reprisals after taking control of the country in August.
    It was not immediately clear what would happen to the 46 aircraft, including A-29 light attack planes and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, that the pilots flew to neighboring Uzbekistan as ground forces collapsed and the Taliban swept to power.
    Current and former U.S. officials have told Reuters that the Taliban pressured Uzbekistan to hand over the aircraft and personnel.
    John Herbst, a former U.S. ambassador to Uzbekistan, applauded the U.S. evacuation effort, saying the United States owed it to the Afghan pilots.
    “I hope we have plans underway to make sure the aircraft they got out get back to the United States and certainly do not return to the Taliban,” he said.
    The Taliban did not respond to a request for comment on the Uzbek situation.    The group seized aircraft including helicopters and drones as Afghan forces melted away last month, and it has called for the return for the aircraft flown out of the country before its fighters seized power in Kabul.
    Afghanistan’s new rulers have said they will invite former military personnel to join the country’s revamped security forces and that they will come to no harm.
    That offer rings hollow to Afghan pilots who spoke with Reuters. Even before the Taliban takeover, the U.S.-trained, English-speaking pilots had become their prime targets. Taliban fighters tracked them down and assassinated some pilots.
https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/afghan-pilots-assassinated-by-taliban-us-withdraws-2021-07-09
    At the Uzbek camp, near the city of Termez, pilots had described feeling like prisoners, with highly restricted movement, and insufficient food and medicine.
    Hopes began to lift about a week ago when U.S. officials arrived to carry out biometric screening of the Afghans — many of whom fled with just the clothes on their back.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart, additional reporting by Michelle Nichols and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Daniel Wallis)

9/12/2021 Qatar’s Foreign Minister Visits Premier Of Taliban-Ruled Afghanistan
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani attends talks with Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov (not seen) in Moscow, Russia September 11, 2021. Alexander Nemenov/Pool via REUTERS
    CAIRO (Reuters) -Qatar’s foreign minister held talks with the prime minister of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan on Sunday, in the highest-level foreign visit to Kabul since the militant group seized the capital last month.
    Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani called upon the country’s new rulers to “involve all Afghan parties in national reconciliation” when he met Prime Minister Mullah Muhammad Hasan Akhund, Qatar’s foreign ministry said.
    Qatar is considered one of the countries with the most influence over the Taliban and played a pivotal role in the massive U.S.-led airlift of its own citizens, other Western nationals and Afghans who helped Western countries.
    The Qatari capital Doha also hosted the Taliban’s political office, which oversaw the negotiations with the United States that eventually led to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
    Sheikh Mohammed and new premier Akhund also discussed “concerted efforts to combat terrorist organizations that threaten the stability of Afghanistan,” ways to enhance peace in the country and the safe passage of people, according to the Qatar ministry.
    Sheikh Mohammed met the prime minister and a number of other senior ministers, a Taliban spokesman said.
    “The meeting focused on bilateral relations, humanitarian assistance, economic development and interaction with the world,” according to the Taliban.
    Sunday’s meeting in the presidential palace was attended by a number of other Afghan ministers including Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi, Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, Defence Minister Yaqoob Mujahid, Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani and intelligence chief Abdul Haq Wasiq.
    The Taliban said the leadership of the Islamic Emirate, the term used by the group to describe the new order in Afghanistan, thanked the Qatar government for supporting the Afghan people.
    The Doha agreement, signed by the United States and the Taliban, was a “landmark achievement, all sides should adhere to its implementation,” the Taliban added.
    Qatar’s Sheikh Mohammed also met Abdullah Abdullah, a senior official in the previous Afghan government, and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the foreign ministry said.
(Reporting by Ahmad Elhamy, James Mackenzie and Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Catherine Evans/Raissa Kasolowsky/Pravin Char)

9/12/2021 Israeli Minister Says Iran Giving Militias Drone Training Near Isfahan
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz adjusts his mask during the weekly cabinet meeting
at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem August 1, 2021. Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS
    HERZLIYA, Israel (Reuters) - Israel’s defence minister accused Iran on Sunday of providing foreign militias with drone training at an airbase near the city of Isfahan, a month after Tehran came under global scrutiny over a suspected drone attack on an Israeli-managed tanker off Oman.
    Israel has combined military strikes with diplomatic pressure to beat back what it describes as an effort by its arch-foe, whose nuclear negotiations with the West are deadlocked, to beef up regional clout through allied guerrillas.
    In what his office described as a new disclosure, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said Iran was using Kashan airbase north of Isfahan to train “terror operatives from Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon in flying Iranian-made UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles)
    Iran was also trying to “transfer know-how that would allow the manufacturing of UAVs in the Gaza Strip,” on Israel’s southern border, Gantz told a conference at Reichman University near Tel Aviv.
    His office provided what it said were satellite images showing UAVs on the runways at Kashan. There was no immediate comment from Iran.
    A July 29 blast aboard the Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned petroleum product tanker near the mouth of the Gulf, a key oil shipping route, killed two crew – a Briton and a Romanian.    The vessel is operated and managed by London-based Zodiac Maritime, owned by Israeli magnate Eyal Ofer’s Ofer Global group.
    The U.S. military said explosives experts from the Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier – which deployed to assist the Mercer Street – concluded the explosion was from a drone produced in Iran, which was accused by other world powers in the attack.
    Iran has denied involvement.
(Writing by Dan Williams;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

9/13/2021 Palestinian Stabs Two In Jerusalem Shop Before Being Shot, Israeli Police Say
A police officer stands behind a cordon tape near the scene of a suspected
stabbing in Jerusalem, September 13, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A Palestinian stabbed and wounded two people in a Jerusalem cosmetics shop on Monday before being shot and wounded by police, Israeli officials said, amid heightened tensions since a prison escape by Palestinian inmates a week ago.
    The incident came hours after a Palestinian used a screwdriver to try to stab an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank, the military said, adding that troops shot the man, who was taken to hospital for treatment.
    Tensions have been stirred by last Monday’s breakout by six Palestinian militants from the maximum-security Gilboa prison in northern Israel. Four of the men have since been recaptured.
    Palestinians view brethren held in Israeli prisons as heroes in a battle against occupation. Israel says Palestinians involved in violent anti-Israeli activities are terrorists.
    Israeli officials said a Palestinian entered the cosmetics store near Jerusalem’s central bus station and stabbed two people.    Israel’s Magen David Adom ambulance service said they suffered moderate wounds.
    A policewoman then shot the alleged attacker, witnesses and police said.    Israel’s Zaka emergency service said he was critically wounded and taken to hospital.
    “No doubt there is an escalation that we are facing and we are deployed in force in the field for any scenario,” Jerusalem District Police Commander Doron Turgeman told reporters at the scene.
(Reporting by Dedi Hayoun; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Alex Richardson)

9/13/2021 Israeli Prime Minister Visits Egypt In First Official Trip For A Decade by Aidan Lewis
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends a cabinet meeting at the Ministry of
foreign affairs offices in Jerusalem, September 12, 2021. Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS
    CAIRO (Reuters) -Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday for talks on Israeli-Palestinian relations and bilateral ties in the first official trip by an Israeli head of government to Egypt for a decade.
    Bennett, the head of a far-right party who took office in June, was invited to visit by Sisi last month.    Since May, Egypt has played a prominent role brokering and trying to reinforce a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip after 11 days of conflict there between Israel and Palestinian faction Hamas, which controls the enclave.
    Bennett said the talks in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh covered diplomacy, security and the economy.    “We created a foundation for a deep connection going forward,” he said before flying home.
    In the discussions, Sisi cited Egypt’s efforts to maintain calm in the Palestinian territories and the importance of international support for rebuilding efforts there, according to an Egyptian presidency statement.
    An uptick in cross-border violence since late August has tested the fragile truce in Gaza. Over the past week, Palestinian militants have fired rockets into Israel for three nights in a row, drawing Israeli air strikes.
    Sisi also “affirmed Egypt’s support for all efforts to achieve comprehensive peace in the Middle East, according to the two-state solution,” the presidency statement said.
    Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014 and analysts say there is little prospect of reviving them.    Bennett, a nationalist atop a cross-partisan coalition, opposes Palestinian statehood.    His government has focused on policies to improve economic conditions in the Palestinian territories.
BORDER CROSSING
    Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 but relations have remained cool, restricted to security cooperation and limited economic links.
    Israel and Egypt hold Gaza under a blockade, citing threats from Hamas.
    Cairo’s brokering of the Gaza truce allowed it to reassert its diplomatic role https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/gaza-truce-shifts-focus-egypts-regional-role-2021-05-30 in the region in the wake of deals by four Arab states to normalise ties with Israel last year.
    Bennett’s trip appeared to give transport links between Egypt and Israel a boost.
    The Taba crossing between Israel and Sinai, an entry point for Israeli tourists, would become fully operational from Monday as restrictions put in place during the coronavirus pandemic were lifted, Israel’s transport ministry said.
    From October, Egyptair would begin operating several flights a week between Cairo and Tel Aviv, sources at the Egyptian national carrier said.
    Bennett and Sisi had also been expected to discuss regional issues, including Iran’s influence in the Middle East and the crisis in Lebanon, diplomats and security sources said.
    The last official visit by an Israeli prime minister to Egypt was when Benjamin Netanyahu met former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in January 2011 in Sharm el-Sheikh, just before the uprising that toppled Mubarak.
(Reporting by Mohamed Waly, Aidan Lewis, Abdelnasser Aboulfadl, Maayan Lubell, Dan Williams, Ari Rabinovitch and Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Toby Chopra, Alex Richardson, William Maclean)

9/13/2021 Explainer-Lebanon’s Mikati Faces Tricky Path To Safe Economic Ground by Maha El Dahan
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati arrives at the presidential
palace in Baabda, Lebanon September 13, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s new government has vowed to tackle one of the worst economic meltdowns in history.
    The path it must take includes reforms mapped out by donor states and institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund which have repeatedly said they will unlock funds once they see change.
    In exchange, Lebanon stands to gain billions of dollars of assistance.
    The alternative is to sink deeper into a depression that marks the biggest threat to Lebanon’s stability since its 1975-90 civil war.
    Successive governments have failed to implement changes due to Lebanon’s sectarian political system, so what kinds of reforms must its new Prime Minister Najib Mikati carry out and can he succeed where others have not?
    “IMF talks won’t be a walk in the park,” a former Lebanese negotiator in the IMF talks said.
    “It will be very difficult to meet the pre-conditions.”
THE REFORMS
    Many of the reforms concern the financial and banking system, the epicentre of the meltdown that took hold in late 2019, largely paralysing Lebanon’s banks.
    The root cause https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanons-financial-meltdown-how-it-happened-2021-06-17 was decades of borrowing by a state riddled with corruption, much of it from the banks which depended on a steady flow of dollars from abroad to keep the system going. The crisis spiralled when those inflows slowed.
    Multiple exchange rates have sprung up in place of the fixed dollar peg that had underpinned the system for two decades.
    IMF recommendations https://www.imf.org/en/Countries/LBN/faq include bringing public finances into order, rehabilitating the banks and restructuring public debt.
    It has also recommended recognising upfront losses at private banks and the central bank in a way that protects smaller depositors, and establishing a credible monetary and exchange rate system including the unification of multiple exchange rates, and accompanied by formal capital controls.
    “The size of Banque Du Liban’s (BDL) losses is a critical matter: you cannot do any financial programming or plan any financial package for Lebanon without knowing the size of the BDL’s losses.    These issues were brought up last year but were not resolved,” Nasser Saidi, a leading economist and former minister, said.    “They are the elephant in the room.”
    Donors also want to see reforms to improve transparency and combat corruption.    One focal point is the energy sector which, despite being one of the main drains on state coffers, has failed dismally in providing electricity https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-crisis-power-special-report-idUSKCN25626G.
    Many of the reforms were set out in a French roadmap https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-crisis-government-idUSKBN25T2M1 last year, including an audit of the central bank.
WHAT OF THE LAST GOVERNMENT’S EFFORTS?
    The previous government drew up a financial recovery plan that mapped out losses of some $90 billion in the financial sector – a figure endorsed by the IMF.
    But while the cabinet was installed by many of Lebanon’s main political players, they nearly all turned against the plan https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-crisis-imf-analysis-idUSKBN242649, disputing the scale of the losses.
    Some leading politicians said bank deposits must not be touched even as the currency collapse destroyed the value of savings by up to 80%.
    Attempts to perform a forensic audit of the central bank stalled amid rows over banking secrecy laws.
    Former prime minister Hassan Diab’s government also tried to advance energy reforms to build new power generation capacity.    This was derailed by objections from the president’s faction, which wanted a power station built in a Christian area.
    Diab, an academic with no independent political standing, quit after seven months following the Beirut port explosion.
CAN MIKATI SUCCEED?
    With some state officials sounding the alarm about Lebanon’s collapse or fragmentation, some believe that the gravity of the crisis should encourage politicians to make decisions they previously resisted.
    Yet the time it took them to agree on the Mikati government – a deal only clinched after intensive French contacts – shows the factional interests remain a priority and point to the political minefield he will face.
    A billionaire, Mikati has political and financial muscle.
    One of the main issues he must tackle is the central bank’s objections to the distribution of losses in the financial system, the former negotiator said.
    If Mikati’s government begins a successful negotiation with the IMF now, it would probably not receive any funds before the turn of the year, the negotiator said.
    Newly-appointed finance minister Youssef Khalil was a top central bank official and is close to its veteran governor Riad Salameh. He was picked by Nabih Berri, the Shi’ite Muslim Parliament Speaker, a pillar of the system for decades.
    “Restructuring the banking system for example, there is nitty gritty work that has to be done at a certain level for each individual bank, there’s a tonne of work that hasn’t been done,” Mike Azar, a Beirut-based financial advisor said.
    In the past two years, public sector losses have grown with the economy continuing to shrink making its ability to absorb shocks weaker, Azar notes, adding that central bank losses and government debt to GDP has hit more than 700%.
(Reporting by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Tom Perry and Alexander Smith)

9/13/2021 No ‘Magic Wand’ To Fix Lebanon Crisis, New Prime Minister Says by Maha El Dahan
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun heads the new government's first cabinet meeting at the
presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon September 13, 2021. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS
    BEIRUT (Reuters) -Lebanon’s new Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who took office last week promising to revive IMF talks to unlock aid, said on Monday there was no time to lose and no easy path to tackle one of history’s worst economic meltdowns.
    The new government, formed after more than a year of political stalemate, met for the first time on Monday, replacing a caretaker administration that had quit in the aftermath of last year’s Beirut port explosion that killed hundreds, injured thousands and left large swathes of the capital destroyed.
    “It is true that we don’t have a magic wand.    The situation is very difficult,” Mikati, a billionaire-turned-politician told the cabinet, according to a statement published after the government’s first meeting.
    Lebanese hope the new administration will plot a path out of a crisis that has sunk the currency by some 90% since late 2019 and forced three quarters of the population into poverty.
    Mikati pledged to help resolve shortages of fuel and medicine, supplies of which have dried up as the import-dependent nation’s hard currency reserves have run out.
    State electricity is available for a few hours a day, if at all, and most Lebanese homes and establishments increasingly rely on private generators.
    A generator at a dentist’s clinic in Tyre exploded on Monday leaving seven people injured, a reflection of the safety hazards of relying heavily on the alternative source of power.
    Western governments, including the United States and France, have welcomed the cabinet formation, while urging it to quickly implement reforms that international lenders have demanded before loans can flow.
    “We need the help of the IMF, the World Bank, regional and international funds,” President Michel Aoun, who approved the new government after months of bargaining, told the cabinet.    “What is required are urgent, decisive steps to start reforms.”
    Mikati has previously said resuming IMF talks would be a priority.    On Friday, he said divisive politics must be put to one side and that he could not go to IMF talks if he faces opposition at home.
    In a boost to the government, the finance ministry said Lebanon would receive a total of $1.135 billion in IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), more than the $860 million’s worth that had been expected as part an IMF general allocation.
    In addition to the $860 million from 2021, the sum includes$275 million dating from 2009, the ministry said, adding the sum would be deposited with the central bank on Sept. 16.
    IMF talks broke down last summer, with politicians and banks disputing the scale of vast losses mapped out by a government financial recovery plan which the Fund endorsed.    Aoun urged the government to include that financial recovery plan in its policy programme, as well as reforms set out by a French roadmap last year.
    The previous government failed to implement structural reforms which donors have been urging for years, including measures to address state corruption and waste at the root of the crisis.
(Writing by Tom PerryEditing by Peter Graff and Bernadette Baum)

9/13/2021 Lebanon’s Hezbollah Says Iranian Fuel Oil To Arrive Thursday by Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam
FLE PHOTO: Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah speaks through a screen during a religious ceremony marking
Ashura, in this screengrab taken from Al-Manar TV footage, Lebanon August 19, 2021. AL-MANAR TV/Handout via REUTERS
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon’s armed Shi’ite movement Hezbollah, said on Monday that a first ship carrying Iranian fuel oil to help Lebanon through its financial crisis had docked in Syria on Sunday.
    Nasrallah had announced last month that he had organised purchases of fuel from Iran, Hezbollah’s main backer but subject to U.S. economic sanctions, to ease a crippling shortage.
    Nasrallah thanked Syria for receiving the shipment and facilitating its transfer, and said it would reach Lebanon by Thursday.
    “We were told that the arrival of the vessel here (in Lebanon) would harm the country and we don’t want to harm the country so we went for another option,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
    Daily life has been almost paralysed as fuel dries up because Lebanon lacks the dollars to pay for it.
    The state-owned power company is generating only minimal electricity, leaving businesses and households almost entirely dependent on small, private generators that run on fuel oil.
    A financial crisis has wiped 90% off the value of the Lebanese pound since 2019, pushed food prices up by more than 550%, and propelled three-quarters of the population into poverty.    The World Bank has called it one of the deepest depressions of modern history.
    Nasrallah on Monday said a second ship with fuel oil would arrive in the Syrian port of Baniyas in a few days, with a third and fourth, respectively carrying gasoline and fuel oil, also due.
    “We could have got a whole fleet of vessels … but we didn’t because we don’t want to aggravate anyone,” he said.
    Hezbollah’s opponents in Lebanon say the purchase risks bringing down sanctions on a country already on its last legs, especially as Washington has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
    The Donald Trump administration announced in 2018 that it aimed to reduce Iran’s oil sales to zero after withdrawing from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six global powers.
    For its part, the United States is backing an effort to address Lebanon’s power shortages by bringing in Egyptian gas via Jordan and Syria.
    Nasrallah also praised an official trip by Lebanese officials to Damascus this month to try to bring that about.
    He said the first Iranian fuel oil shipment was priced in Lebanese pounds and would go to hospitals, orphanages and old people’s homes.
    “Our aim is not trade or profit,” he said.    “Our aim is to alleviate the suffering of the people.”
(Reporting By Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

9/14/2021 Lebanon’s Mikati Faces Tricky Path To Safe Economic Ground by Maha El Dahan
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati arrives at the presidential
palace in Baabda, Lebanon September 13, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s new government has vowed to tackle one of the worst economic meltdowns in history.
    The path it must take includes reforms mapped out by donor states and institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund which have repeatedly said they will unlock funds once they see change.
    In exchange, Lebanon stands to gain billions of dollars of assistance.
    The alternative is to sink deeper into a depression that marks the biggest threat to Lebanon’s stability since its 1975-90 civil war.
    Successive governments have failed to implement changes due to Lebanon’s sectarian political system, so what kinds of reforms must its new Prime Minister Najib Mikati carry out and can he succeed where others have not?
    “IMF talks won’t be a walk in the park,” a former Lebanese negotiator in the IMF talks said.
    “It will be very difficult to meet the pre-conditions.”
THE REFORMS
    Many of the reforms concern the financial and banking system, the epicentre of the meltdown that took hold in late 2019, largely paralysing Lebanon’s banks.
    The root cause https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanons-financial-meltdown-how-it-happened-2021-06-17 was decades of borrowing by a state riddled with corruption, much of it from the banks which depended on a steady flow of dollars from abroad to keep the system going.    The crisis spiralled when those inflows slowed.
    Multiple exchange rates have sprung up in place of the fixed dollar peg that had underpinned the system for two decades.
    IMF recommendations https://www.imf.org/en/Countries/LBN/faq include bringing public finances into order, rehabilitating the banks and restructuring public debt.
    It has also recommended recognising upfront losses at private banks and the central bank in a way that protects smaller depositors, and establishing a credible monetary and exchange rate system including the unification of multiple exchange rates, and accompanied by formal capital controls.
    “The size of Banque Du Liban’s (BDL) losses is a critical matter: you cannot do any financial programming or plan any financial package for Lebanon without knowing the size of the BDL’s losses.    These issues were brought up last year but were not resolved,” Nasser Saidi, a leading economist and former minister, said. “They are the elephant in the room.”
    Donors also want to see reforms to improve transparency and combat corruption.    One focal point is the energy sector which, despite being one of the main drains on state coffers, has failed dismally in providing electricity https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-crisis-power-special-report-idUSKCN25626G.
    Many of the reforms were set out in a French roadmap https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-crisis-government-idUSKBN25T2M1 last year, including an audit of the central bank.
WHAT OF THE LAST GOVERNMENT’S EFFORTS?
    The previous government drew up a financial recovery plan that mapped out losses of some $90 billion in the financial sector – a figure endorsed by the IMF.
    But while the cabinet was installed by many of Lebanon’s main political players, they nearly all turned against the plan https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-crisis-imf-analysis-idUSKBN242649, disputing the scale of the losses.
    Some leading politicians said bank deposits must not be touched even as the currency collapse destroyed the value of savings by up to 80%.
    Attempts to perform a forensic audit of the central bank stalled amid rows over banking secrecy laws.
    Former prime minister Hassan Diab’s government also tried to advance energy reforms to build new power generation capacity.    This was derailed by objections from the president’s faction, which wanted a power station built in a Christian area.
    Diab, an academic with no independent political standing, quit after seven months following the Beirut port explosion.
CAN MIKATI SUCCEED?
    With some state officials sounding the alarm about Lebanon’s collapse or fragmentation, some believe that the gravity of the crisis should encourage politicians to make decisions they previously resisted.
    Yet the time it took them to agree on the Mikati government – a deal only clinched after intensive French contacts – shows the factional interests remain a priority and point to the political minefield he will face.
    A billionaire, Mikati has political and financial muscle.
    One of the main issues he must tackle is the central bank’s objections to the distribution of losses in the financial system, the former negotiator said.
    If Mikati’s government begins a successful negotiation with the IMF now, it would probably not receive any funds before the turn of the year, the negotiator said.
    Newly-appointed finance minister Youssef Khalil was a top central bank official and is close to its veteran governor Riad Salameh.    He was picked by Nabih Berri, the Shi’ite Muslim Parliament Speaker, a pillar of the system for decades.
    “Restructuring the banking system for example, there is nitty gritty work that has to be done at a certain level for each individual bank, there’s a tonne of work that hasn’t been done,” Mike Azar, a Beirut-based financial advisor said.
    In the past two years, public sector losses have grown with the economy continuing to shrink making its ability to absorb shocks weaker, Azar notes, adding that central bank losses and government debt to GDP has hit more than 700%.
(Reporting by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Tom Perry and Alexander Smith)

9/14/2021 U.S. To Hold $130 Million Of Egypt’s Military Aid Over Human Rights - Sources by Humeyra Pamuk
FILE PHOTO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks during a joint news conference with Greek Prime Minister
Kyriakos Mitsotakis at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece, November 11, 2020. REUTERS/Costas Baltas/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration will withhold $130 million worth of military aid to Egypt to pressure its Arab ally to improve its human rights record, two sources familiar with the matter, including a U.S. official, said.
    Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s move will be a break with his predecessors’ policy of overriding a congressional check on military aid to Egypt.    In the past, an exception was granted to free up $300 million in Foreign Military Financing for Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s government on the basis that it was in the interest of U.S. national security.
    A portion of the financing, $130 million, will be withheld on human rights concerns but will be available in future fiscal years if Egypt improves its record, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
    Human rights groups, which had called on the administration to withhold the entire amount, called the move “a betrayal” of U.S. commitments to put human rights front and center in its foreign policy, and specifically with Egypt.
    “If the administration’s dedication to human rights were sincere, this decision would have been simple: withhold the $300 million in military aid as conditioned by Congress to incentivize al-Sisi to change course,” said a joint statement from nearly two dozen rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
    “Instead, the administration chose to ignore its commitment to human rights by evading the legislative conditions,” it added.
    Sisi, who ousted the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, has overseen a crackdown on dissent that has tightened in recent years.    He denies there are political prisoners in Egypt and says stability and security are paramount.
    President Joe Biden has pledged to put human rights at the heart of his foreign policy and rights advocates have been pushing Washington to get tougher on Sisi, even though ties with Egypt have improved after Cairo’s mediation to help end hostilities in April between Israel and Hamas militants.
    Criticism from rights groups on Biden’s commitment to promote rights and freedoms worldwide is not limited to Egypt.
    They say while his increased emphasis on the issue is an improvement from the position of his predecessor Donald Trump – who praised authoritarian leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin – Biden has so far refrained from impactful action.
    Sources said a formal announcement on the Egypt decision could come later this week.
    A State Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.    Politico reported the move late on Monday.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Dan Grebler)
[WELL BIDEN HAS ALREADY SCREWED UP AFGHANISTAN GOD HELP US IF THEY START TO DO THE MIDDLE EAST.].

9/14/2021 Blinken To Host Event Marking Anniversary Of Israel-Arab Normalization Deals by Matt Spetalnick
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing examining the U.S.
withdrawal from Afghanistan, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 14, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host a virtual meeting on Friday with his counterparts from Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco to mark the first anniversary of normalization agreements between the Arab countries and Israel, officials said.
    The event will be the Biden administration’s highest-profile display of support for the so-called Abraham Accords, which were widely seen as a diplomatic success for former President Donald Trump.
    President Joe Biden has backed the deals since taking office in January, and senior aides have said they were working to get additional Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel after decades of enmity.    But the administration until now had been cool to the idea of commemorating the anniversary of the accords.
    A State Department official and an Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed plans for the meeting, which was first reported by the Axios news website.
    The leaders of Israel, the UAE and Bahrain signed the Abraham Accords at the White House in September of last year.    Israel and Sudan announced in the following month that they would normalize relations, and Morocco established diplomatic ties with Israel in December, after Biden defeated Trump in the U.S. election.
    Palestinian officials said they felt betrayed by their Arab brethren for reaching deals with Israel without first demanding progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state. Until last year, only two Arab states – Egypt and Jordan – had forged full ties with Israel.
    The agreements have led to a slew of trade and investment deals.
    “The event will commemorate the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords and discuss ways to further deepen ties and build a more prosperous region,” the State Department official said.
    Avi Berkowitz, the former Middle East envoy who helped broker the accords together with Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, wrote on Twitter: “Thank you to the Biden administration and specifically @SecBlinken for supporting the Abraham Accords.”
(Reporting By Matt SpetalnickEditing by Sonya Hepinstall)
[AS WHAT WE HAVE SEEN THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION HAS DONE TO DISS TRUMP WITH THE SCREW UPS IN THE AFGHANISTAN WITHDRAW JUST TO GIVE THEM A 9-11 SHOW OF THEIR GREAT ACTION THEN NOW ITS REAL CONCERNING OF HOW MUCH THEY WILL GO TO DISS TRUMP FOR GETTING THE ABRAHAM ACCORD ACHIEVED THAT NO ONE BEFORE HIM COULD DO WHICH SHOULD BE CONCERNED IF THEY BLOW THAT UP COULD CAUSE WORLD WAR III OCCUR AND BRING ON THE PROPHECIES IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION AND IF THEY DID THEY WOULD DENY THEY DID IT BUT THIS TIME THEY WILL HAVE THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB TO DEAL WITH THEN BUT MAYBE THAT IS WHAT THEY WANT TO DO WHO YOU MAY KNOW IS BEHIND THEM PUSHING THEIR CORRUPTION TO THIS WORLD.].

9/15/2021 Exclusive: WHO-Backed Vaccine Hub For Africa To Copy Moderna COVID-19 Shot by Wendell Roelf
FILE PHOTO: Vials of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are seen
in the town of Ricany near Prague, Czech Republic, February 25, 2021. REUTERS/David W Cerny/File Photo
    CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – Efforts to develop an African base for COVID-19 vaccine production will focus on trying to replicate Moderna’s shot, but a lack of progress in talks with the U.S. company mean the project will take time, a senior WHO official told Reuters.
    The drive to produce vaccines in Africa is designed to help more developing countries access COVID-19 shots after rich nations bought up most of this year’s supply.
    Moderna said last October it would not enforce patents related to its shot during the pandemic, raising hopes that other companies might be able to copy it and help boost COVID-19 vaccine production.
    In practice, though, it is hard to replicate a vaccine without the information on how it is made, and the World Health Organization-backed tech transfer hub in South Africa – set up in June to give poorer nations the know-how to produce COVID-19 vaccines – has so far not reached a deal with the company.
    “The talks have not yielded any results,” Martin Friede, WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research coodinator, told Reuters.
    Moderna did not respond to a request for comment.
    The case highlights the challenges faced by the WHO as it battles to expand vaccine production to help address the glaring inequalities between rich and poor nations in the pandemic.
    More than three quarters of the 5.5 billion COVID-19 shots administered worldwide have gone to high and upper-middle income countries, which make up just over a third of the world’s population.
    Currently only 3% of Africa is vaccinated, the African Union’s top health official said last week, compared with more than half of the United States and three quarters of Spain.
    Friede said Moderna’s vaccine had been chosen as an abundance of public information and its pledge not to enforce patents made the shot slightly easier to copy than some rivals.
    “We have to make a choice now. The deadline is upon us; time to start ordering chemicals.    We’ve chosen Moderna,” he said.
    But even if the hub manages without Moderna’s help, it could take more than a year to get a distributable vaccine as clinical trials would only begin in the latter half of 2022, he added.
TUSSLE OVER WAIVERS
    In May, the United States said it would support waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines in order to help speed an end to the pandemic.
    But the idea has faced opposition from pharmaceutical firms, which argue they need to oversee any technology transfer due to the complexity of the manufacturing process.
    Pfizer and its partner BioNTech separately struck a deal in July for South Africa’s Biovac to help make around 100 million doses a year of their COVID-19 vaccine for Africa.    Their shot, like Moderna’s, uses so-called mRNA technology.
    However, the deal is to “fill and finish” the vaccine, the final stages of production where the product is put into vials, sealed and packaged for shipping.    It does not cover the complicated process of mRNA production, which Pfizer and BioNTech will do at their European plants.
    Neither responded to requests for comment.
    The WHO has been trying to persuade Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech to join forces with its African tech transfer hub.
    But COVID-19 vaccine makers have warned that non-authorised producers would compete for vital raw materials and production gear that the established players – most of which have earned huge profits from vaccination – rely on.
    Hub consortium partner Afrigen Biologics will produce the initial batch of doses, before transferring the skills and technology to local manufacturing partner, Biovac Institute – both are Cape Town-based – which will mass produce the vaccines.
    “This is not something that we are asking industry to give us for free,” Friede said about talks with the companies for access to information, adding that royalties, territorial limitations and other constraints could be built into a deal.
    Healthcare analysts doubt the plan can be mobilised quickly.
    “There are many steps which will require lots of iterations before they can be ready for prime time commercial grade production,” said Prashant Yadav, a global healthcare supply chain expert at the Center for Global Development in Washington.
(Additional reporting by Michael Erman in New Jersey, Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago, Nikolaj Skydsgaard in Copenhagen and Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Editing by Tim Cocks and Mark Potter)

9/15/2021 U.S. To Hold $130 Million Of Egypt’s Military Aid Over Human Rights - State Dept by Humeyra Pamuk
FILE PHOTO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks during a joint news conference with Greek Prime Minister
Kyriakos Mitsotakis at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece, November 11, 2020. REUTERS/Costas Baltas/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration will withhold $130 million worth of military aid to Egypt until Cairo takes specific steps related to human rights, a State Department spokesperson said on Tuesday.
    Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s move is a break with his predecessors’ policy of overriding a congressional check on military aid to Egypt.    In the past, an exception was granted to free up Foreign Military Financing for Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government, worth $300 million this fiscal year, on the basis that it was in the interest of U.S. national security.
    But rights groups, which had called on the administration to block the entire $300 million aid, expressed disappointment at the decision, saying it was a “betrayal” of the U.S. commitment to promote human rights.
    The State Department spokesperson said in an emailed statement: “We are continuing to discuss our serious concerns about human rights in Egypt,” Blinken “will move forward with the use of $130 million if the Government of Egypt affirmatively addresses specific human-rights related conditions,” the statement added.
    Earlier, a U.S. official speaking on the condition of anonymity said the administration would approve $170 million but would put a hold on the remaining $130 million, making that available in future fiscal years if Egypt improves its record.
    “What the Biden administration has really done is waive the minimal human rights conditions imposed by Congress on a fraction of U.S. aid, while keeping a small portion of $130 million blocked on even more watered down conditions,” said Sarah Leah Witson, executive director of advocacy group Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN).
    The United States has provided around $1.3 billion in foreign assistance to Egypt annually since the 2017 fiscal year, according to a congressional research report.
    Sisi, who ousted the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, has overseen a crackdown on dissent that has tightened in recent years.    He denies there are political prisoners in Egypt and says stability and security are paramount.
    President Joe Biden has pledged to put human rights at the heart of his foreign policy and rights advocates have pushed Washington to get tougher on Sisi, even though ties with Egypt have improved after Cairo’s mediation to help end hostilities in     April between Israel and Hamas militants.
    “If the administration’s dedication to human rights were sincere, this decision would have been simple: withhold the $300 million in military aid as conditioned by Congress to incentivize al-Sisi to change course,” said a joint statement from nearly two dozen rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
    Criticism from rights groups on Biden’s commitment to promote rights and freedoms worldwide is not limited to Egypt.
    They say while his increased emphasis on the issue is an improvement from the position of his predecessor Donald Trump – who praised authoritarian leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin – Biden has so far refrained from impactful action.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Dan Grebler and Richard Pullin)

9/16/2021 Exclusive-HRW: Eritrean And Tigrayan Forces Killed And Raped Refugees by Katharine Houreld
FILE PHOTO: Eritrean Refugees protest in front of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices to
condemn the attacks on the refugees in Hitsats and Shimelba camps during the fight between Ethiopia?s National Defence Force
and Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 29, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Eritrean soldiers and Tigrayan militias raped, detained and killed Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray, an international rights watchdog said on Thursday.
    Human Rights Watch’s report detailed attacks around two camps in Tigray, where local forces have battled the Ethiopian government and their Eritrean allies since November in a conflict that has rocked the Horn of Africa region.
    Tens of thousands of Eritrean refugees live in Tigray, a mountainous and poor province of about 5 million people.
    Tigrayans distrusted them because they were the same nationality as occupying Eritrean soldiers, Eritreans because the refugees’ loyalty was suspect after they fled their homeland.
    “The horrific killings, rapes, and looting against Eritrean refugees in Tigray are clear war crimes,” said Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), whose work – first reported by Reuters – drew on interviews with 28 refugees and other sources, including satellite imagery.
    Eritrea’s minister of information did not immediately return calls seeking comment, but Eritrea has previously denied atrocities and said their forces have not targeted civilians.
    A spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front said formal, uniformed Tigrayan forces had only recently moved into the area and that it was possible abuses were committed by local militias.
    “It is mostly the last month or so that our forces moved into those areas. There was a huge Eritrean army presence there,” Getachew Reda told Reuters.    “If there were vigilante groups acting in the heat of the moment I cannot rule that out.”
    International investigators were welcome to visit the area, he said.
    Prior to the Tigray conflict, Ethiopia hosted around 150,000 Eritrean refugees, fleeing poverty and authoritarian government.
    Much of the report focused on two camps – Shimelba and Hitsats – destroyed during the fighting. HRW cited U.N. refugee agency UNHCR figures that 7,643 out of 20,000 refugees then living in Hitsats and Shimelba camps are still missing.
    UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, said it was “appalled” at the reports of “immense suffering” in refugee camps, which it was unable to access from November to March.
‘IN EVERY HOUSE, PEOPLE KILLED’
    Eritrean forces arrived in the northern town of Hitsats on Nov. 19, killed residents, and pillaged and occupied the refugee camp, HRW said.    Some refugees helped direct looters, one resident told HRW.
    “In every house, people were killed,” one resident told HRW.
    Four days later, Tigrayan fighters attacked an area near Hitsats camp’s Ethiopian Orthodox church, killing nine refugees and injuring 17, HRW reported.
    “My husband had our 4-year-old on his back and our 6-year-old in his arms.    As he came back to help me enter the church, they shot him,” one refugee told Human Rights Watch.
    Two dozen residents in Hitsats town were reportedly killed in clashes that day, HRW reported.
    The report said that HRW had been unable to determine the extent that Tigray’s formal forces directly commanded over local Tigray militias operating around Hitsats.
    Shortly after, Eritrean soldiers detained two dozen refugees, who were never seen again, HRW said.    They also took the 17 injured refugees back to Eritrea.
    Eritrean forces withdrew from Hitsats camp in early December.    Tigrayan forces returned on Dec. 5, sending refugees fleeing under attack.
    Refugees around the villages of Zelasle and Ziban Gedena, northwest of Hitsats, reported being shot at and attacked with grenades.    Tigrayan forces marched fleeing refugees back to Hitsats, shooting some stragglers, refugees reported to HRW.    Some women also said they were raped by Tigrayan fighters as they fled.    One 27-year-old woman said Tigrayan fighters raped her along with her 17-year-old sister.
    Tigrayan forces withdrew from Hitsats on Jan. 4, HRW said. The Eritrean forces returned, ordered remaining refugees to leave, then destroyed the camp.
    In the northernmost camp, Shimelba, Eritrean forces killed at least one refugee, raped at least four others and killed local residents, HRW said.
    The violence and severe food shortages forced some refugees to return to Eritrea. Others fled south to two other camps, Adi Harush and Mai Aini.    Tigrayan forces took over those camps in June and refugees have reported killings and looting.
    “We are extremely worried about the current situation of over 20,000 Eritrean refugees living in Mai Aini and Adi Harush camp in southern Tigray,” UNHCR told Reuters on Wednesday, saying there were severe food and water shortages and healthcare was unavailable.
(Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

9/16/2021 Factbox-What Is Lebanon’s Hezbollah?
FILE PHOTO: A Hezbollah flag and a poster depicting Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah
are pictured along a street, near Sidon, Lebanon July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho/File Photo
    (Reuters) – Hezbollah began importing Iranian fuel to Lebanon via Syria on Thursday, a move the Shi’ite Islamist group says aims to ease a crippling energy crisis but which its opponents say may expose the country to the risk of U.S. sanctions.
    Organised by Hezbollah, the shipment L1N2QI0CC marks a significant expansion of its role in Lebanon.
    What is Hezbollah?
HISTORY:
* Founded in 1982 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and classified by the United States and other Western countries as a terrorist organisation, Hezbollah (Party of God) is the most powerful group in Lebanon because of a heavily armed militia that fought several wars with Israel.    It grew stronger after joining the war in Syria in 2012 in support of President Bashar al-Assad.
* It is both a political movement and guerrilla army, drawing its support from among Lebanon’s Shi’ite population.    The group and its allies helped form Lebanon’s current government.
* Hezbollah’s arsenal has been a big point of contention.    The group says its arms are needed to deter Israel and, more recently, to guard against Islamist insurgents in Syria.    Its opponents say the group undermines the state, taking decisions on war and peace that affect the entire nation.
* Hezbollah has been designated a terrorist organisation by the United States, Canada, Germany, Britain, Argentina and Honduras as well as the U.S.-allied, mainly Sunni Muslim Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait.    The European Union classifies Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist group, but not its political wing.br> * Shadowy groups, which Lebanese security officials and Western intelligence say are linked to Hezbollah, launched suicide attacks on Western embassies and targets and kidnapped Westerners in the 1980s.    A suicide bombing destroyed the U.S. Marine headquarters and French military barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 241 U.S. servicemen and 58 French paratroopers.    One group, Islamic Jihad, was thought to be led by Imad Moughniyah, a senior Hezbollah military commander who was killed in a car bomb attack in Syria in 2008.
* Argentina blames Hezbollah and Iran for the deadly bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in which 85 people were killed in 1994 and for an attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 that killed 29 people. Both deny any responsibility.
* Bulgaria accuses Hezbollah of carrying out a bomb attack that killed five Israeli tourists in the Black Sea city of Burgas in 2012.
GOVERNMENT:
* 2005: Hezbollah entered Lebanese politics more visibly after the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.    A coalition of anti-Syrian factions took power following an election which gave Hezbollah 14 seats in the 128-seat parliament.
* 2006: Hezbollah and its allies quit a government led by Western-backed Prime Minister Fouad Siniora over the governing coalition’s refusal to give the opposition effective veto power.
* 2008: Hezbollah clashed with domestic foes and briefly seized west Beirut in the worst civil strife since the 1975-1990 civil war, after the government vowed to take action against the group’s military communications network.    After mediation, rival leaders signed a deal to end 18 months of political conflict.
* 2011: Syria’s civil war led to years of political paralysis in Lebanon.    In January, the first government of Saad al-Hariri was toppled when Hezbollah and its allies quit over the U.N.-backed tribunal set up to prosecute those behind the assassination of his father, Rafik al-Hariri.    Six months later, Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced a government dominated by Hezbollah and its allies.
* 2016: Saad al-Hariri, who spent years abroad because of security fears, reached a deal making Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun president, and him premier.    Saad al-Hariri’s ties with backer Saudi Arabia, furious at Hezbollah’s expanding role, hit a nadir in 2017.
* 2018: Hezbollah and its allies won a parliamentary majority.
* 2019: Protests broke out against a deep economic crisis. Hariri quit in October.    Hezbollah and its allies backed Hassan Diab as premier. He formed a new government in January 2020.
CONFLICTS
* U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, sponsored by the United States and France and adopted in 2004, called for all Lebanese militias to be disbanded and disarmed. Hezbollah is the only militia to keep its arms since the civil war.
* 2012: Hezbollah fighters deployed in Syria to aid Syrian government forces facing a mostly Sunni rebellion against Assad.    The group played a role in helping beat back the rebellion.
* 2006: Hezbollah crossed the border into Israel, kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and killed others, sparking a five-week war that killed 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 158 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
* Hezbollah waged a prolonged military campaign against Israeli forces which occupied south Lebanon until their withdrawal in 2000.
HARIRI ASSASSINATION
* In 2020, a U.N.-backed court convicted a Hezbollah member of conspiring to kill Rafik al-Hariri in a 2005 bombing.    Hezbollah has denied any involvement in Hariri’s killing.    Its leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said it was not concerned with the trial and that if any members of the group were convicted, it would stand by their innocence.
(Compiled by Beirut bureau, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

9/16/2021 Macron Says French Forces Killed Islamic State Leader In Sahara
French President Emmanuel Macron is seen before the arrival of Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (not seen)
for a working lunch at the Chateau de Fontainebleau in Fontainebleau near Paris, France, September 15, 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
    PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that French military forces had killed Islamic militant Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, the leader of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.
    “It’s another major success in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel,” Macron said in a tweet, without disclosing the location of the operation.
    Sahrawi was the historic leader of Islamic State in the Sahel region of West Africa and his group targeted U.S. soldiers in a deadly attack in 2017, Macron’s office said. In August 2020, Sahrawi personally ordered the killing of six French charity workers and their Nigerien driver, it added.
    Macron said in July that France would soon begin reshaping its force in the Sahel, where it has been on the front line of the fight against Islamist militants, and would ultimately halve its military presence.
    With no apparent end in sight to France’s operations and political turmoil especially in Mali, Paris had grown frustrated.
(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Cynthia Osterman)

9/16/2021 U.N. Council Urges Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan To Restart Dam Talks
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
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday urged Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to resume African Union-led talks to reach a binding deal “within a reasonable timeframe” over the operation of a giant hydropower dam on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia.
    Egypt and Sudan had both called on the council to help resolve the dispute after Ethiopia began filling the reservoir behind its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in July for a second year.    Ethiopia is opposed to any council involvement.
    In a formal statement, agreed by consensus, the 15-member Security Council called “upon the three countries to take forward the AU-led negotiation process in a constructive and cooperative manner.”
    “The Security Council encourages Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Sudan to resume negotiations at the invitation of the     Chairperson of the African Union (AU) to finalize expeditiously the text of mutually acceptable and binding agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD, within a reasonable time frame,” the statement said.
    The council discussed the dispute in a public meeting in July.    Many council diplomats were wary of involving the body as they are concerned it could set a precedent that could allow other countries to seek council help with water disputes.
    “The Security Council underscores that this statement does not set out any principles or precedent in any other transboundary water disputes,” it said on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

9/16/2021 Egypt Signs Flurry Of Deals With Libya’s Unity Government
FILE PHOTO: A Libyan flag flutters atop the Libyan Consulate in Athens, Greece, December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Costas Baltas/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt and Libya’s unity government signed a series of cooperation agreements and several infrastructure contracts on Thursday as Cairo eyes reconstruction opportunities in its oil-rich neighbour.
    Though Libya’s political prospects remain uncertain, the deals are the latest sign of Egypt’s efforts to re-engage with Tripoli after years of siding with east Libya-based forces engaged in a conflict that split the country.
    Libya was a major market for Egyptian firms https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/egyptian-firms-plot-return-libya-rebuilding-efforts-begin-2021-06-09 and workers before uprisings in both countries in 2011.
    The 14 memorandums of understanding, signed during a visit to Cairo by Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, cover sectors ranging from industry and hydrocarbons to agriculture, communications, and civil aviation, according to a statement from Egypt’s Cabinet.
    Project contracts signed between the Libyan government and prominent Egyptian companies include a ring road around the Libyan capital Tripoli, another road leading south to Jalu from the eastern town of Ajdabiya, and the construction and supply of two gas plants.
    No detail was given on the value of the contracts.
    Earlier, Dbeibah met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who affirmed Egypt’s desire for stability in Libya and offered support to help the country hold national elections planned for the end of the year, according to an Egyptian presidency statement.br>     On Tuesday, Sisi received Khalifa Haftar, the military commander based in eastern Libya who has been backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates but whose campaign to take Tripoli fell apart last year, as well as Agilah Saleh, the head of a parliament based in the east.
    Both are seen as potential spoilers of the United Nations-backed plan to hold elections by the end of the year.    Sisi called on them as well as Dbeibah to stick to the election timetable, two Egyptian intelligence sources said.
    Egypt will face competition over commercial contracts in western Libya from Turkey, a regional rival which intervened militarily to help repel Haftar’s forces but is now trying to mend ties with Cairo.
(Reporting by Momen Saeed Atallah and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

9/16/2021 U.S. State Department Approves Potential $500 Million Saudi Maintenance Deal
FILE PHOTO: Helicopters fly in formation during a military parade in preparation for
the annual Haj pilgrimage in Mecca September 17, 2015. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – – The U.S. State Department has approved a potential agreement covering up to $500 million in military support services for Saudi Arabia, and has sent the agreement to Congress for review, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
    It was the first major defense agreement for Saudi Arabia sent to Congress since President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20.    It comes after criticism of U.S. ties to the kingdom over its human rights record and involvement in the civil war in Yemen.
    The package would provide continued maintenance support services for a wide range of helicopters, including a future fleet of CH-47D Chinook helicopters.    The announcement said the vendor was not yet known.
    “This proposed sale will support U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic growth in the Middle East,” the State Department said in a statement.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Mike Stone; Editing by Karishma Singh)

9/16/2021 West African Bloc Imposes Sanctions On Guinea Junta
Members of the Ecowas Commission pose for a group photograph before the opening session of the West African
leaders' extraordinary summit on the political situation in Guinea following a coup that ousted
President Alpha Conde in Accra, Ghana, September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Kweku Obeng
    ACCRA (Reuters) – The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed sanctions against the junta in Guinea on Thursday and demanded they return the country to constitutional rule within six months, the president of the bloc’s commission said.
    At a briefing after an emergency summit in Accra, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou said ECOWAS would freeze the bank accounts and impose travel bans for junta members and their relatives and called for the immediate release of President Alpha Conde, who was ousted last week.
(Reporting by Christian Akorlie; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Chris Reese)

9/17/2021 Feted With Petals, Hezbollah Brings Iranian Fuel Into Lebanon by Issam Abdallah
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
    AL-AIN, Lebanon (Reuters) -Hezbollah began bringing Iranian fuel into Lebanon via Syria on Thursday, a move the Shi’ite Muslim group says should ease a crippling energy crisis but which opponents say risks provoking U.S. sanctions.
    Dozens of truck carrying Iranian fuel oil entered northeastern Lebanon near the village of al-Ain, where Hezbollah’s yellow flag fluttered from lampposts.
    “Thank you Iran.    Thank you Assad’s Syria,” declared a banner, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
    The trucks sounded their horns as they passed through al-Ain.    Some onlookers waved Hezbollah’s flag, while a woman and boy threw petals at one vehicle.
    The Iran-backed Hezbollah has said the ship carrying the fuel docked in Syria on Sunday https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanons-hezbollah-say-first-iranian-fuel-oil-arrive-thursday-2021-09-13 after being told going to Lebanon could risk sanctions.
    Washington has reiterated that U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil sales remain in place. But it has not said whether it is considering taking any action over the move by Hezbollah https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/what-is-lebanons-hezbollah-2021-09-16, which it designates a terrorist group.
    The Lebanese government has said its permission was not sought https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanons-energy-minister-says-he-hasnt-had-request-import-iranian-fuel-2021-09-01 to import the fuel. A security source said the tanker trucks passed through an unofficial border crossing.
    The move marks an expansion of Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon, where critics have long accused the heavily armed group of acting as a state within the state.
    Founded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in 1982, Hezbollah has long been part of Lebanon’s governing system, with ministers and members of parliament.
    It has fought numerous wars with Israel, and its fighters have helped Assad in the Syrian war.
    Hezbollah has said it will donate fuel oil to institutions in need including government hospitals and orphanages and sell it at “an appropriate price” to others including private hospitals, medical storage facilities and flour mills. BREAKING ‘THE AMERICAN SIEGE’
    The energy crisis is a result of a financial meltdown since 2019, sinking the currency by some 90% and sending more than three quarters of the population into poverty.
    Fuel supplies have dried up because Lebanon does not have enough hard currency to cover even vital imports, forcing essential services including some hospitals to scale back or shut down and sparking numerous security incidents.
    Hezbollah declared it had broken an “American siege
    Lebanon’s financial system unravelled https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanons-financial-meltdown-how-it-happened-2021-06-17 as a result of decades of profligate spending by a state riddled with corruption and waste, and the unsustainable way it was financed.
    The French ambassador rebuked the former prime minister in July for saying Lebanon was under siege, saying the crisis was the result of years of mismanagement and inaction by Lebanon.
    Western governments and donor institutions have said they will unlock aid once Lebanon enacts reforms.
    The United States, a big supplier of humanitarian and military aid to Lebanon, is backing a plan to ease the energy crisis using Egyptian natural gas https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/egypt-says-it-hopes-export-gas-supply-lebanon-with-power-soon-2021-09-08 piped via Jordan and Syria.    The U.S. ambassador has said Lebanon does not need Iranian fuel.
    Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has said a second ship with fuel oil will arrive in the Syrian port of Baniyas in a few days, with a third and fourth, respectively carrying gasoline and fuel oil, also due.
    A new government aims to resume talks with the IMF https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/exclusive-lebanon-draft-policy-statement-says-government-committed-imf-talks-2021-09-15 to tackle the crisis.
(Additional reporting by Tom Perry; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Toby Chopra and Andrew Cawthorne)

9/17/2021 Blinken: U.S. Will Help Foster Further Israeli Ties With Arab States by Matt Spetalnick and Humeyra Pamukbr>
FILE PHOTO: U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference with Australian Minister
of Defense Peter Dutton, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (not pictured)
at the State Department in Washington, U.S., September 16, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged on Friday to encourage more Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel as he hosted a virtual meeting with Israeli and Arab counterparts to mark the first anniversary of a set of landmark diplomatic agreements.
    The event – held with Blinken’s counterparts and senior officials from Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco – was the Biden administration’s highest-profile embrace of the so-called Abraham Accords, which were widely seen as a diplomatic success for Republican former President Donald Trump.
    Democratic President Joe Biden has backed the deals since taking office in January, and senior aides have said they want more Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel after decades of enmity.    But the administration until now had been cool to the idea of commemorating the anniversary of the U.S.-brokered accords.
    On Friday, however, Blinken hailed their diplomatic and economic benefits, saying: “This administration will continue to build on the successful efforts of the last administration to keep normalization marching forward.”
    He said the Biden administration would help foster Israel’s growing ties with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco – as well as Sudan, which also reached a breakthrough with Israel last year – and would work to deepen Israel’s relationships with Egypt and Jordan, which have long-standing peace deals.
    Blinken said Washington would encourage more countries to follow suit.    “We want to widen the circle of peaceful diplomacy,” he said.
    Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid agreed, saying: “This Abraham Accords club is open to new members as well.”    He estimated that the normalization agreements had generated $650 million in direct trade.
    The leaders of Israel, the UAE and Bahrain signed the accords at the White House last September.    The following month, Israel and Sudan announced they would normalize relations, and Morocco established diplomatic ties with Israel in December, after Biden defeated Trump in the election.
    Palestinian officials said they felt betrayed by their Arab brethren for reaching deals with Israel without first demanding progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state.
    Some critics said Trump had promoted Arab rapprochement with Israel while ignoring Palestinian aspirations for statehood.
    But Blinken, who has sought to repair ties with the Palestinians that were badly damaged under Trump, said: “We all must build on these relationships and growing normalization to make tangible improvements in the lives of Palestinians, and to make progress toward the long-standing goal of advancing a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
    Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani, in a recorded message, called for a push for “a just and comprehensive resolution” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    U.S. officials have said the conditions are not right to press for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which collapsed in 2014. But they hope to see the foundations laid for future negotiations.
(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Humeyra Pamuk and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

9/17/2021 Erdogan And Putin To Discuss Syria In Sochi – Turkish Officials by Orhan Coskun
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with his Turkish counterpart
Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia, May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will visit Russia later this month for talks with President Vladimir Putin about the violence in northwestern Syria, where Moscow and Ankara back opposing sides, two Turkish officials said on Friday.
    Turkey supports fighters who sought to topple President Bashar al-Assad, while Russia has helped shore up Assad after a decade of conflict.
    Both sides have complained about violations of a truce they agreed 18 months ago in the northwestern Idlib region, the last rebel bastion left in Syria, where Ankara says two Turkish troops were killed in an attack on Saturday.
    “The main agenda point is Syria, namely Idlib,” a senior Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of the planned talks in Russian resort of Sochi.    “The conditions set out in the Idlib agreement have not been fully implemented.”
    The March 2020 agreement followed weeks of fighting that brought Turkey and Russia close to conflict and displaced nearly a million people.
    “There should not be any new instability in Syria,” another Turkish official told Reuters.
    Erdogan’s planned two-day visit will follow his trip to the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week, the officials said, without specifying exact dates.
AREAS OF COOPERATION
    Despite backing opposing sides in both the Syrian and Libyan conflicts, Turkey and Russia have forged close cooperation in the defence, energy and tourism sectors.
    NATO member Turkey has bought Russian S-400 air defences, leading to U.S. sanctions on Turkish defence industries, and has been in talks with Russia over possibly buying a second batch.
    Both Turkish officials said this would be discussed, as well as energy projects and tourism.
    Ankara and Moscow were rivals in Nagorno-Karabakh during fighting between Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces last year.    While Russia brokered a ceasefire between Turkey-backed Azerbaijan and Armenia, it is working with Ankara to monitor it.
    Turkey also angered Russia earlier this year when it sold Turkish drones to Ukraine amid tensions over the Donbass region, and later to Poland in the first such sale to a NATO member.
    The official said both Nagorno-Karabakh and the drone sales would be discussed in Sochi, while the senior official said that further defence cooperation may be discussed.
(Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans and Timothy Heritage)

9/17/2021 Iran’s Fuel Shipments Violate Lebanon’s Sovereignty - PM
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati arrives at the presidential palace
in Baabda, Lebanon September 13, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Iranian fuel shipments imported by the Hezbollah movement constitute a breach of Lebanon’s sovereignty, according to comments published by his office.
    “The violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty makes me sad,” Mikati told CNN in an interview, his office said in a posting on Twitter.     He added: “But I’m not concerned that sanctions can be imposed” on Lebanon “because the operation was carried out without the involvement of the Lebanese government.”
    The Tehran-aligned group on Thursday began bringing tanker trucks carrying fuel from Iran, a move it says should ease a crippling energy crisis in Lebanon.    A tanker ship carried the fuel to Syria and from there it crossed into Lebanon. Both Syria and Iran are under U.S. sanctions.
    Late on Friday, the Lebanese broadcaster LBCI said that a new group of tankers carrying Iranian fuel entered Lebanon through the Hermel area.
    Hermel is at the northern end of the Bekaa Valley, an area populated mainly by Shi’ite Muslims from whom Hezbollah draws its support.
(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli, Editing by William Maclean and Sonya Hepinstall)

9/17/2021 World Leaders Commemorate Abraham Accords by OAN Newsroom
(L-R) Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Donald Trump, and UAE
Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan participate in the signing of the Abraham Accords where the countries of Bahrain and
the United Arab Emirates recognize Israel, at the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
    World leaders celebrate the historic Abraham Accords, the agreements President Trump brokered last year to normalize relations between Israel and other Middle Eastern countries.    In a conference call on Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with leaders from Israel, Bahrain, the UAE and Morocco.
    Blinken kicked off the call by discussing the plans for the future of the region.
    “We will encourage more countries to follow the lead of the Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco. We want to widen the circle of peaceful diplomacy because it’s in the interests of countries across the region and around the world for Israel to be treated like any other country,” said Blinken.
    The former UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash also commented on the hope the Abraham Accords represent.
    “We are encouraged with the opportunities that are there.    And you know, a lot has happened in the past year, and I would say that a lot of positive things have happened,” said Gargash.    “And this is really a counternarrative for a region that needs a positive counternarrative.”
    Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid discussed what his nation is looking forward to working on now that there is more stability in the region.    Lapid said they’re going to dedicate the next couple of years to strategic projects off of infrastructure.
    However, despite their incalculable role in orchestrating the agreements, those present failed to recognize President Trump and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s accomplishments.    Lapid did however have a message of encouragement for any other nations wishing to join the newfound progress towards peace, stating the Abraham Accords’ club is open for new members and that one of their goals is to “make sure other countries will follow suit in this new era of cooperation and friendship.”

9/18/2021 Mali Says It Can Seek Military Help From Anyone, Despite French Concern
FILE PHOTO: Malian opposition leader Choguel Maiga named transitional prime minister attends the inauguration ceremony
of Colonel Assimi Goita the new interim president in Bamako, Mali, June 7, 2021. REUTERS/Amadou Keita/File Photo
    DAKAR (Reuters) – Mali has the right to seek military support from whoever it wants, the prime minister said, after France and other foreign powers expressed alarm at a report that Bamako was approaching Russian mercenaries for assistance.
    Prime Minister Choguel Maiga did not confirm whether the government was in talks with any other party in his comments that were released by a Malian news site, but diplomatic and security sources have told Reuters Mali’s government was close to a deal with a private Russian military contractor.
    The sources said Russia’s the Wagner Group would supply mercenaries to train Mali’s military and protect senior officials, based on the deal being negotiated.
    France has said such a move would be incompatible with its military presence in Mali, where Malian, French and European forces, alongside U.N. peacekeepers, have been battling insurgents linked to Islamic State and al Qaeda.
    Paris is worried the arrival of any Russian contractors would undermine its counter-terrorism operation in West Africa’s Sahel region as it scales down a 5,000-strong mission and reshapes it with more European allies, diplomatic sources say.
    “If partners have decided to leave certain areas, if they decide to leave tomorrow – what do we do?,” Maiga said in a briefing posted online on Friday by Mali’s Le Jalon news site.    “Should we not have a plan B?
    “There are zones that are abandoned that need to be occupied today so they’re not left empty.    There are not enough troops,” he said, without mentioning specifics about what plans Mali might have or which other parties might be involved.
    “We can’t be stopped from sending trained people to a given country,” the prime minister added.
    Germany and West Africa’s main political bloc The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have also expressed concern about Mali making a deal with a private security group.
    The French army has started to redeploy from bases in Kidal, Tessalit and Timbuktu in northern Mali and talks are underway to hand the bases to Malian or U.N. forces, French army sources said.
    Its plan to restructure operations in the Sahel includes reducing the number of troops to between 2,500 to 3,000, moving more assets to Niger, completing redeployment by January and deploying more European special forces.
(Reporting by Bate Felix; Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Edmund Blair)

9/18/2021 Tunisians Protest Over President’s Seizure Of Powers by Tarek Amara
Opponents of Tunisia's President Kais Saied take part in a protest against what they call
his coup on July 25, in Tunis, Tunisia September 18, 2021. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
    TUNIS (Reuters) – Several hundred demonstrators gathered in Tunis on Saturday to protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied’s seizure of governing powers in July, which triggered a constitutional crisis and prompted accusations of a coup.
    The protesters gathered in the centre of the capital chanting “shut down the coup” and “we want a return to legitimacy,” while a few dozen Saied supporters held a counter demonstration chanting “the people want to dissolve parliament.”
    The protest, accompanied by a heavy police presence, was the first since Saied declared on July 25 he was sacking the prime minister, suspending parliament and assuming executive authority.
    Saturday’s protests may provide an indication of how the security services, many of whose leadership are newly appointed by Saied, will handle public opposition to him.
    Police appeared to be treating both sets of protesters equally, standing between the two camps outside the ornate belle epoque theatre on Habib Bourguiba avenue.
    Saied’s moves were broadly popular in a country chafing from years of economic stagnation and political paralysis, but they have raised fears for the new rights and the democratic system won in the 2011 revolution that sparked the “Arab spring.”
    Though the biggest party in parliament, the moderate Islamist Ennahda, initially decried his move as a coup, it quickly backed down and the period since Saied’s intervention has been calm.
    However eight weeks on, Saied is still to appoint a prime minister or declare his longer-term intentions.
    A Saied adviser told Reuters this month the president was considering suspending the 2014 constitution and putting a new version to a referendum, a possibility that unleashed the broadest and most vocal opposition to him since July 25.
    Meanwhile, with their immunity lifted, some parliamentarians have been arrested, while numerous Tunisians have been stopped from leaving the country.
    Saied has rejected accusations of a coup and his supporters have presented his moves as an opportunity to reset the gains of Tunisia’s revolution and purge a corrupt elite.
    “They are only here to … protect corrupt people and Islamists,” said Mohamed Slim, standing with his son in the counter protest.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by David Holmes)

9/18/2021 Defiant Junta Rejects Pressure To Let Conde Leave Guinea by Saliou Samb
FILE PHOTO: Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, new chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), speaks
to journalists after a consultative meeting in Accra, Ghana September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko/File Photo
    CONAKRY (Reuters) -Guinea’s military junta said on Friday it would not bow to regional pressure and allow President Alpha Conde, detained since his overthrow on Sept. 5, to leave the country.
    On Friday Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara and Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo paid a one-day visit to Conakry to ask coup leader Mamady Doumbouya, a special forces commander and former French Legionnaire, for Conde’s release.
    Outtara had been hoping to leave Guinea with Conde, a senior regional government official told Reuters.
    “The former president is and remains in Guinea. We will not yield to any pressure,” the junta said in a statement read on state TV.
    Ouattara and Akufo-Addo, representing the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), held a separate meeting with Conde at the Mohamed VI Palace in Conakry, but flew out the country on Friday evening empty-handed.
    Ouattara told Radio-Télévision Guinéenne (RTG) at Conakry airport before leaving: “I met my brother Alpha Conde, who is doing well. We will remain in contact.”
    Akufo-Addo told RTG: “We’ve had a very frank and fraternal meeting with Doumbouya and his collaborators.    I think that ECOWAS and Guinea are going to find the best way to move forward together.”
    ECOWAS has demanded a return to constitutional rule since the special forces unit seized control of the presidential palace, detained Conde and declared itself in charge.
    The bloc agreed on Thursday to freeze financial assets of the junta and their relatives and bar them from travelling.    The junta has not responded.
‘COUP-BELT’
    Events in Guinea followed coups in Mali and Chad earlier this year that have raised fears of a democratic backslide in a region only just shedding its “coup-belt” reputation.
    Guinea’s coup leaders have held a week of consultations with public figures and business leaders to map out a framework for a transitional government.
    ECOWAS’s credibility in Guinea has been strained since 2018, when the bloc failed to condemn Conde for running for a third term in office last year, despite a law declaring that presidents must step down after two and widespread protests.
    Ouattara himself used a constitutional change as an excuse to run for a third term last year, a move critics decried as illegal.
    Following Thursday’s summit, during which ECOWAS also pressured Mali’s transitional government to hold elections by February 2022, the regional body said it would be reviewing protocols on democracy and good governance.
    On departing the airport in Conakry, the ECOWAS motorcade passed dozens of pro-junta demonstrators brandishing signs.
    One read: “ECOWAS does not decide for us.”
(Reporting by Saliou Samb and Christian Akorlie; Additional reporting by Ange Aboa; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Edward McAllister, Philippa Fletcher, Andrew Cawthorne, William Maclean and David Gregorio)

9/19/2021 Israel Captures Last Two Escaped Palestinian Militants by Rami Ayyub and Ali Sawafta
FILE PHOTO: Israeli soldiers guard along a fence leading to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as part of
search efforts to capture six Palestinian men who had escaped from Gilboa prison earlier this week,
by the village of Muqeibila in northern Israel September 9, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo
    TEL AVIV/RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) -Israeli forces on Sunday caught the last two of six Palestinian militants who tunnelled out of a maximum security Israeli jail nearly two weeks ago, in an escape that embarrassed Israel’s security establishment but delighted Palestinians.
    The two members of the Islamic Jihad militant group were apprehended before dawn from a house in the Palestinian city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, Israeli Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai said.
    Palestinians see members of armed groups jailed by Israel as heroes in the struggle for statehood in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.    Israel considers them terrorists.
    An Israeli police spokeswoman identified the men as Ayham Nayef Kamamji and Munadel Yacoub Infeiat. Kamamji, 35, was arrested in 2006 and is serving a life sentence, and Infeiat, 26, was arrested in 2019, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club.
    The other four were captured in pairs a week ago near the Arab city of Nazareth in northern Israel.    All six have either been convicted or are suspected of planning or carrying out deadly attacks on Israelis.
    Palestinians in Jenin clashed with Israeli troops as they raided the city early on Sunday, residents said.    Kamamji and Infeiat surrendered after being surrounded by Israeli forces, and two other Palestinians were arrested for assisting them, Israel’s military said.
    All four were transferred for questioning, the military said in a statement.    Palestinians hurled rocks and explosives towards Israeli troops and shot live fire as the troops exited the city, the military added.
    There was no immediate comment from the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank and coordinates with Israel on security in the territory.
    The six Palestinians who broke free https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/six-palestinians-escape-high-security-israeli-prison-israeli-radio-2021-09-06 on Sept. 6 had tunnelled a hole through their prison cell. Israeli officials say they will investigate any lapses that allowed their escape.
    Palestinians have protested in support of the men across the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Members of Israel’s Arab minority, who often identify as Palestinians, have also demonstrated in support of the men, with more protests planned for later Sunday.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub in Tel Aviv, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Ahmed Tolba in Cairo; Editing by Leslie Adler and William Mallard)

9/19/2021 Former Algerian President Bouteflika Given State Funeral by Hamid Ould Ahmed
A convoy transporting the coffin of former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika heads towards
El Alia cemetery in which he will be buried, in Algiers, Algeria September 19, 2021. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
    ALGIERS (Reuters) - Former Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, ousted in 2019 after mass protests, was given a state funeral on Sunday attended by senior officials but received little of the attention given to such occasions in the past.
    Bouteflika died on Friday, aged 84. An armoured vehicle decked with flowers pulled his coffin, covered with the national flag, on a gun carriage from his home in Zeralda, west of the capital, to the el-Alia cemetery in Algiers where five of his predecessors are buried.
    Bouteflika was first elected in 1999, and is widely credited with a national reconciliation policy that restored peace after a war with armed Islamists in the 1990s killed an estimated 200,000 people.
    But many Algerians blame him for the economic stagnation of his latter years in power, when he was rarely seen in public after suffering a stroke, and widespread corruption led to the looting of tens of billions of dollars from a state that depends heavily on its large gas and oil reserves.
    He stepped down in April 2019 after mass demonstrations to reject his plan to seek a fifth term, and demand political and economic reforms.
    As well as Bouteflika’s family, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who laid a wreath of flowers on the tomb, and many ministers of the current government and military officers, including army chief of staff Lieutenant-General Said Chenegriha, were among the mourners.
    Attendees also included foreign diplomats in Algiers.
‘MAJOR FIGURE’
    The French presidency on Sunday described Bouteflika as “a major figure in the contemporary history of Algeria,” adding that he embodied the foreign policy of Algeria.
    “The President of the Republic sends his condolences to the Algerian people and remains committed to developing close relations of esteem and friendship between the French people and Algerian people,” the French presidency said in a statement.
    But state media gave little attention to the funeral, and state television did not broadcast live pictures of the burial ceremony, as it has the funerals of past presidents.    It later showed recorded footage.
    Until 2014, Bouteflika was able to use the export earnings from high energy prices to pay off foreign debt and keep spending on subsidies at high levels to avoid social unrest.
    “The years of Bouteflika’s rule were a good period.    He accomplished major projects, rid the country of foreign debt and brought back peace,” said schoolteacher Mohamed Hachi.
    But his stroke, and a decline in energy prices, ushered in a more difficult time.
    “Bouteflika’s period witnessed a terrible spread of corruption that the public couldn’t see until after he was forced out of power,” said state bank employee Djamel Harchi.
    Several former senior officials, including prime ministers, ministers and army generals, have been jailed for corruption since Bouteflika resigned in April 2019 under pressure from a protest movement known as Hirak.
    Thousands of members of the leaderless movement continued to take to the streets every week until authorities banned rallies because of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.
    Bouteflika was a fighter in the 1954-1962 war that ended French colonial rule.
    He became Algeria’s first foreign minister and one of the forces behind the Non-Aligned Movement, which gave a global voice to many of the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed,additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris; Editing by Kevin Liffey and David Clarke)

9/19/2021 East Libyan Forces Say Two Helicopters Crash In Military Operation
FILE PHOTO: Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar gestures as he speaks during Independence Day
celebrations in Benghazi, Libya December 24, 2020. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori/File Photo
    TRIPOLI (Reuters) – East Libyan forces said they lost two helicopters in a crash during a military operation on Sunday, after days of fighting with a formerly allied rebel group from Chad.
    The Libyan National Army (LNA) of eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar has been engaged since last week in battles with the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) in the south of Libya near the Chadian border.
    LNA special forces said in a statement that the two helicopters had collided and crashed during a military operation south of Benina airbase, but did not say whether they were involved in the fighting.
    FACT had been based in Libya and fought alongside the LNA during Libya’s civil war, receiving heavy arms from Haftar, researchers say.
    In April, FACT advanced into northern Chad, battling the army there. Chadian authorities said president Idriss Deby, who had ruled for 30 years, was killed in the clashes.    His son has taken over as transitional president.
    Major fighting in Libya’s civil war has been paused since the LNA offensive ended last year and both sides have accepted a ceasefire, an interim unity government and the idea of elections, although mercenaries remain dug in on both sides.
(Reporting by Reuters Libya newsroom, writing by Angus McDowall, editing by Alexander Smith)

9/19/2021 Syrian Military Chief Makes Rare Visit To Jordan To Discuss Border Security by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
FILE PHOTO: A Syrian army soldier stands on a damaged building in Deraa al Balaad, Syria, September 9, 2021. REUTERS/Yamam al Shaar
    AMMAN (Reuters) -Syria’s defence minister visited Jordan on Sunday to discuss stability on their mutual border, the first such meeting since the Syrian conflict erupted a decade ago when the two neighbours supported opposing factions, officials said.
    The meeting follows a major army offensive to retake the last rebel bastion in southern Syria, and after reestablising control this month over Deraa, a city south of Damascus, in a Russian brokered deal that averted an all-out military assault led by Iranian-backed units of the army.
    Jordanian army head Lieutenant General Yousef Hunaiti met Syrian Defence Minister and Chief of Staff Ali Ayyoub over the Deraa situation and to discuss issues such as the fight against terrorism and drug smuggling in the area, Jordan’s army said.
    “The talks are within the concern to intensify future coordination over all common issues,” a statement from Jordan’s army said.
    The Syrian army’s pro-Iranian elite Fourth Division had for over two months besieged the area where the first peaceful protests against authoritarian rule broke out in 2011 before security forces cracked down and unrest developed into civil war.
    Jordan’s King Abdullah, a staunch U.S. ally, praised Russian President Vladimir Putin on a visit to Moscow in August where he said Russian troops who helped reverse the tide of Syria’s conflict in Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s favour, had succeeded in stabilizing the country.
    Jordan had for years supported mainstream Western-backed rebels who controlled southern Syria until a campaign by the Syrian army in 2018 aided by Russian air power and Iranian-backed militias retook the province.
    Thousands of rebels, who once received arms and support funnelled through Jordan, handed over their weapons under surrender deals brokered by Moscow.
    Moscow gave guarantees to Israel, Jordan and Washington at the time that it would prevent Iranian-backed militias from expanding their influence in the area that also borders Israel’s Golan Heights.
    The retaking of Deraa by government forces earlier this month has brought with it control of several towns and villages that until recently defied state authority.
    Jordan and Israel are alarmed by an expanding Iranian presence through its penetration of Syrian army units and the proliferation of Tehran-funded militias who now hold sway in southern Syria, senior Western diplomats say.
    Lebanon’s Hezbollah has also consolidated its presence in Quneitra, a province that borders Deraa to the west along Israel’s Golan Heights.
    The military talks between Syria and Jordan, sources said, also addressed a major spike in drug smuggling in recent months which Jordanian officials say Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah is behind.
    Hezbollah denies Western allegations it is behind a multi-billion dollar drug smuggling network that moves from Syria via Jordan to export to the Gulf.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Edmund Blair and Diane Craft)

9/19/2021 Netanyahu Suggests On Facebook That Biden Fell Asleep Meeting New Israeli PM
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony to show appreciation to the health sector for
their contribution to the fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Jerusalem June 6, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
(Removes typographical error in first paragraph)
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested in a Facebook video posted on Sunday that U.S. President Joe Biden had fallen asleep when meeting the new Israeli leader Naftali Bennett last month.
    A Reuters fact check https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-biden-asleep-idUSL1N2Q00H8 previously debunked the idea that Biden dozed off, after social media users shared a video clip of the U.S. president that they said showed him looking down and nodding off as Bennett spoke in the Oval Office.
    The clip that was shared around was misleadingly cropped, according to the Reuters fact check.    Seconds after the clip was cut, longer footage showed Biden responded to Bennett.
    In a video Netanyahu posted on his Facebook page on Sunday, an off-camera voice says: “You know, Bennett met with Biden.”
    “I heard.    I heard that Biden was very attentive at this meeting. He dropped his head in agreement,” Netanyahu replied, letting his own head fall in a swift motion, as if to mimic someone falling asleep.
    Netanyahu, 71, and head of the right-wing Likud party, was largely in lockstep with the Middle East policies of Democrat Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.
    Netanyahu’s reference to the Biden meeting was a brief segment in a nearly 26-minute video that touched on a variety of political issues.    But it drew headlines on Israeli news websites, several of which accused Netanyahu of mocking Biden.
    In June, a new government of left-wing, centrist, right-wing and Arab parties led by Bennett replaced Netanyahu’s administration, ending the conservative politician’s 12-year run as Israel’s longest-serving leader.
    Now in opposition, Netanyahu has promised to govern again.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Edmund Blair)

9/19/2021 French Minister In Mali To Pressure Junta Over Russian Mercenaries
FILE PHOTO: A French soldier leaves with his backpack at the Operational Desert Platform Camp (PfOD) during the
Operation Barkhane in Gao, Mali, August 1, 2019. Picture taken August 1, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo
    BAMAKO (Reuters) -France’s Armed Forces Minister arrived in Mali on Sunday to pressure the military junta to end talks to bring Russian mercenaries into the country and push it to keep a promise to return the country to constitutional order in February.
    Diplomatic and security sources have told Reuters that Mali’s year-old military junta is close to recruiting the Russian Wagner Group, and France has launched a diplomatic drive to thwart it, saying such an arrangement is “incompatible” with a continued French presence.
    West Africa’s main political bloc, ECOWAS, as well as other allies combating militants in the Sahel region, have also expressed concerns over the potential deal.
    But Mali’s junta which seized power in August 2020, has dug in, noting that France has begun scaling down its decade-old operation against insurgents linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State across the region to include more European countries.
    On Sunday, Mali’s foreign ministry called objections from neighbour Niger to the prospect of a deal with Wagner “unacceptable, unfriendly and condescending.”
    The visit by Florence Parly to Mali is the highest-level trip by French officials since the talks with Wagner emerged.
    An official from the French Armed Forces Ministry told reporters ahead of the visit that Parly would stress “the heavy consequences if this decision were to be taken by the Malian authorities.”
    She would also underscore the importance of keeping to the calendar for the transition to democracy leading to elections in February 2022, the official said.
    French officials describe the relationship with the junta as “complicated,” although it still relies on Paris for counter-terrorism operations.
    Paris said on Thursday it had killed the leader of Islamic State in Western Sahara in northern Mali.
    Parly earlier on Sunday was in Niger to lay out plans to reshape its operations in the region.
    The French army started redeploying troops from its bases in Kidal, Tessalit and Timbuktu in northern Mali at the start of the month, French army sources have said.
    France wants to complete the redeployment by January. It is reducing its contingent to 2,500-3,000 from about 5,000, moving more assets to Niger, and encouraging other European special forces to work alongside local forces.
    The European force in the Sahel so far comprises about 600 troops from nine countries.
(Reporting by John Irish in Paris; Editing by Bate Felix, Kevin Liffey and Daniel Wallis)

9/19/2021 U.S. Threatens To Impose More Sanctions On Ethiopian Leaders Over Conflict In Tigray Region by OAN Newsroom
A member of the Amhara militia stands with his gun during a graduation ceremony of Recruits for reserves of Amhara regional
forces, in the city of Dessie, Ethiopia, on August 24, 2021. (Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP via Getty Images)
    The U.S. has paved the way for further sanctions on Ethiopian officials amid the situation in the war-torn Tigray region.    Joe Biden issued an executive order on Friday, allowing for more sanctions on those the administration deems responsible for the conflict in the region.    This includes Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and other leaders involved in the conflict.
    The new order reportedly comes in response to the ongoing violence and ensuing famine impacting thousands in the region.    Additionally, reports have emerged of Ethiopian forces preventing humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in Tigray.
    Meanwhile, Biden administration officials have estimated less than 10 percent of aid has reached the area over the last month. Officials have expressed hope that the executive order will bring change.    Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement the executive order “underscores our resolve to use every appropriate tool at our disposal to bring relief to the long-suffering people of the region.”

9/20/2021 France To Host International Conference On Libya On Nov. 12 – Minister
FILE PHOTO: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attends a joint news conference at the
Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany September 10, 2021. Jens Schlueter/Pool via REUTERS
    PARIS (Reuters) – France will host an international conference on Libya in November as the country prepares for elections at the end of December, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday.
    Co-hosted with Germany and Italy, Le Drian said the conference would take place on Nov. 12 and was aimed at ensuring the electoral calendar would remain in place and to discuss the departure of foreign fighters from the North African oil producer.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by John Irish)

9/20/2021 Tunisian President Declares Transitional Rules, New Electoral Law by Mohamed Argoubi
FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Kais Saied. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souiss
    TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisian President Kais Saied said on Monday he had instituted transitional governing rules and would introduce a new electoral law, in a speech that came eight weeks after he seized executive power in a move his foes called a coup.
    Addressing supporters in Sidi Bouzid, the crucible of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that brought democracy and triggered the “Arab spring,” Saied also spoke against what he called strife and sedition days after the first protest against him.
    Saied dismissed the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed all governing powers on July 25 but he has yet to name a new premier or declare a roadmap for the future, raising concerns over his intentions.
    He did not give any details on the transitional governing rules or the new electoral law, something that could signal preparations for elections to replace the frozen parliament.
    Habib Khedher, an official in the moderate Islamist Ennahda, which is the biggest party in parliament and opposes Saied, said on Facebook that implementing transitional rules was equivalent to suspending the constitution.
    This month a Saied adviser told Reuters he was planning to suspend the constitution and offer a new version to a referendum, comments that prompted immediate pushback from the powerful labour union and numerous political parties.
    In a fiery speech that was often interrupted by the shouts and chants of supporters, he said his actions were in line with the constitution and added that “we are in a corrective revolutionary movement.”
    A series of arrests and travel bans have prompted fears for the rights won in the 2011 uprising, and Saied said freedoms would be respected and he repeated a frequent promise since July 25 to appoint a new prime minister.
    His comments came after the first protest on Saturday against his intervention, when several hundred people demonstrated in central Tunis.    Another protest has been called for this Saturday.
    However, his moves have so far proven popular after years of economic stagnation and political paralysis that had made the governing elite, principally the parliament, deeply unpopular.
(Reporting by Mohamed Argoubi in Tunis and Nayera Abdallah in Cairo, writing by Angus McDowall,; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

9/21/2021 Sudan Says Coup Thwarted, Accuses Bashir Loyalists by Ali Mirghani and Khalid Abdelaziz
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's ousted President Omar al-Bashir is seen inside the defendant's cage during his
and some of his former allies trial over the 1989 military coup that brought the autocrat to power in 1989,
at a courthouse in Khartoum, Sudan September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) -Sudanese authorities said they had foiled an attempted coup on Tuesday, accusing plotters loyal to ousted president Omar al-Bashir of a failed bid to derail the revolution that removed him from power in 2019 and ushered in a transition to democracy.
    Sudan’s military said 21 officers and a number of soldiers had been detained in connection to the coup attempt, and a search continued for others.    All affected locations under army control, it said.
    The coup attempt points to the difficult path facing a government that has reoriented Sudan since 2019, winning Western debt relief and taking steps to normalise ties with Israel, while battling a severe economic crisis.
    A ruling body known as the Sovereign Council has run Sudan under a fragile power-sharing deal between the military and civilians since the overthrow of Bashir, an Islamist shunned by the West who presided over Sudan for nearly three decades.
    Elections are expected in 2024.
    “What happened is an orchestrated coup by factions inside and outside the armed forces and this is an extension of the attempts by remnants since the fall of the former regime to abort the civilian democratic transition,” Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said in a televised statement.
    “This attempt was preceded by extensive preparations represented by lawlessness in the cities and the exploitation of the situation in the east of the country, attempts to close national roads and ports and block oil production.”
    The streets of the capital Khartoum appeared calm, with people moving around normally, a witness said.
    Early on Tuesday morning, a witness said military units loyal to the council had used tanks to close a bridge connecting Khartoum with Omdurman, just across the River Nile.
    A government source, speaking anonymously, said plotters had tried to take control of state radio in Omdurman.
    The suspected instigators of the coup attempt had been arrested and were being interrogated, government spokesman Hamza Balol said on state TV, adding that the last pockets of rebellion at Al Shajara camp in south Khartoum were being dealt with.
    On a visit to the camp shortly afterwards Sudan’s top military leader, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, condemned the coup attempt, saying it could have had “catastrophic consequences on the unity of the army, the military and the country.”
    “We want to take this country and hand it over to the public will, to free and fair elections,” he told troops.
COUPS AND CONFLICTS
    It was not the first challenge to transitional authorities.    They say they have foiled or detected previous coup attempts linked to factions loyal to Bashir, who was deposed by the army after months of protests against his rule.
    Those involved in the latest effort would be held to account, Hamdok said on Tuesday.
    “For the first time, there are people who were arrested during their implementation of the coup,” he said, repeating earlier calls for the reform and restructuring of Sudan’s sprawling security apparatus.
    The United States, Britain and Norway, which have led Western engagement with Sudan, as well as the United Nations, stressed their support for democratic transition.
    “The United Nations condemns any attempt – whether a coup or otherwise – to undermine the democratic political transition process,” the U.N. envoy to Sudan said in a statement.
    Sudan has gradually been welcomed into the international fold since the overthrow of Bashir, who is sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over alleged atrocities in Darfur in the early 2000s.
    The ICC’s chief prosecutor held talks with Sudanese officials last month on accelerating steps to hand over those wanted over Darfur.
    Despite a peace deal signed last year with some Sudanese rebels, there has been increased unrest in the western region of Darfur as well as local clashes in Sudan’s east.
    This week members of the Beja tribe blocked Port Sudan and highways leading to it.
    Sudan’s economy has been in deep crisis since before Bashir’s removal and the transitional government has undergone a reform programme monitored by the International Monetary Fund.
    Underlining Western support for the transitional authorities, the Paris Club of official creditors agreed in July to cancel $14 billion of Sudan’s debt.    But Sudanese are still struggling with rapid inflation and shortages.
(Reporting by Ali Mirghani in Khartoum, Khalid Abdelaziz and Nafisa Eltahir in Cairo and Nadine Awadalla in DubaiWriting by Aidan Lewis and Tom Perry; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Alistair Bell)

9/21/2021 Iran Says Nuclear Talks With World Powers To Resume In Few Weeks
FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters, amid
the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Vienna, Austria May 23, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Tuesday that talks with world powers over reviving its 2015 nuclear deal would resume in a few weeks, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported.
    “Every meeting requires prior coordination and the preparation of an agenda. As previously emphasised, the Vienna talks will resume soon and over the next few weeks,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, according to IRNA.
    The world powers held six rounds of indirect talks betweenthe United States and Iran in Vienna to try and work out howboth can return to compliance with the nuclear pact, which wasabandoned by former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018.
    The Vienna talks were adjourned in June after hardliner Ebrahim Raisi was elected Iran’s president and took office in August.
    Ministers from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia will not meet jointly with Iran at the United Nations this week to discuss a return to the talks, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters on Monday.
    But Khatibzadeh said Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian would meet individually with ministers from those countries on the sidelines of the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders and the nuclear deal and the Vienna talks would be among the main topics under discussion, IRNA reported.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Catherine Evans and Angus MacSwan)

9/21/2021 Libya’s Eastern Parliament Pulls Confidence From Unity Government
FILE PHOTO: Libya's unity government Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah looks on at Libya's
mission to the United Nations in New York, U.S. July 16, 2021. REUTERS/Michelle Nichols
    TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libya’s eastern-based parliament said on Tuesday it had withdrawn confidence from the unity government, though it would continue to operate as a caretaker administration.
    The vote in the House of Representatives exemplifies the wrangling between rival factions and state bodies that has plagued U.N.-backed efforts to resolve Libya’s decade-long crisis by establishing a unity government and holding national elections.
    In 2014, eastern and western factions split Libya in two in a civil war, with an internationally recognised government in Tripoli and a rival administration backed by the House of Representatives in the east.
    Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah’s unity government was selected through a U.N.-sponsored dialogue and his government was installed by the House of Representatives in March.
    Dbeibeh has a mandate to unify state institutions, improve government services and prepare for national presidential and parliamentary elections.
    However, on Tuesday, after parliament summoned Dbeibeh and his ministers to answer questions this month, 89 of the 113 members present voted to withdraw confidence in him, the chamber’s spokesman and several other parliament members said.
    There was no immediate comment from the government.
    The U.N. forum decided that presidential and parliamentary elections should take place on Dec. 24, but disagreements now rage over the legal basis for the votes and the laws that will govern them.
    This month, parliamentary speaker Aguila Saleh said the House of Representatives had passed a law for the presidential election, though it did not hold a final vote on the bill.
    The validity of that law was promptly challenged by the High Council of State based in Tripoli, in the west, which produced its own, alternative election law.
    The House of Representatives, which was elected seven years ago but divided when Libya split, has not yet produced a law for a parliamentary election.
(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfali in Benghazi and Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli, writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

9/21/2021 Paris Climate Agreement To Be Presented To Turkish Parliament - Erdogan
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the 76th Session of the General Assembly
at UN Headquarters in New York on September 21, 2021. Mary Altaffer/Pool via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) -President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that the Paris climate agreement would be presented to the Turkish parliament for approval next month, which would make it the last G20 country to ratify the deal.
    Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, Erdogan said Turkey had not ratified the deal due to injustices regarding responsibilities.
    “Following the distance covered in this framework, I want to announce the decision we have taken to the world from here,” he said.
    “We plan to present the Paris climate agreement to our parliament’s approval next month in line with constructive steps that will be taken,” Erdogan said.
    He added that Turkey aims to complete the approval process before the UN climate conference in November.
    Some of the worst wildfires in Turkey’s history killed eight people and devastated tens of thousands of hectares of forest in the southwest this summer.    The fires were followed closely by floods that killed at least 77 people in the north.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Leslie Adler and Dan Grebler)

9/22/2021 Saudi King Tells U.N. Kingdom Supports Efforts To Prevent Nuclear Iran
FILE PHOTO: Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz gives a speech on the occassion of Eid al-Adha from the
royal palace in Neom, Saudi Arabia, July 20, 2021. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) -Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz told the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday that his kingdom supports efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, as world leaders prepare to resume talks with Tehran to reinstate a 2015 nuclear pact.
    “The kingdom insists on the importance of keeping the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, on this basis we support international efforts aiming at preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons,” he said in a pre-recorded video address to the annual gathering.
    Iran and Saudi Arabia, leading Shi’ite and Sunni Muslim powers in the Middle East, have been rivals for years, backing allies fighting proxy wars in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere.    They cut diplomatic ties in 2016, but have been holding talks this year aimed at reducing tensions.
    “Iran is a neighboring country, and we hope that our initial talks with it will lead to concrete results to build confidence … based on… respect of sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs,” King Salman said.
    His remarks followed a call by Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi to resume nuclear talks with world powers that would lead to the removal of U.S. sanctions.
    On Tuesday, the Saudi foreign minister met with his Iranian counterpart during the General Assembly, according to Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency.
    In his address, King Salman said Yemen’s Houthis were rejecting peaceful initiatives to end the war and that Saudi Arabia would defend itself against ballistic missiles and armed drones.
    The 85-year-old ruler said the kingdom had taken big steps over the past five years since his heir Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched an ambitious plan to diversify the economy away from dependence on oil and other changes.
    He also made reference to Saudi Arabia fighting extremism.
    “The kingdom continues to fight extremist thinking, built on hatred, and keeping in check terrorist organisations and sectarian militias that destroy humanity and nations,” he said.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Michael Georgy in Dubai. Writing by Raya Jalabi; Editing by Jane Merriman and Grant McCool)

9/22/2021 Iranian Minister Meets Saudi, Other Arab Officials In New York – Mehr
FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
headquarters, in Vienna, Austria May 23, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
    (Reuters) – Iran’s foreign minister has met officials from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf and Arab states in New York, and said strengthening ties with neighbours was the new government’s top priority, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported on Wednesday.
    Mehr said Tuesday’s meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly https://www.reuters.com/world/un-biden-will-try-move-past-afghanistan-with-climate-china-focus-2021-09-21 was attended by Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and “foreign ministers and senior representatives” of countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and France, as well as the European Union, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
    Iran’s foreign ministry said on Twitter that Amirabdollahian had on Tuesday had what it called a follow-up meeting to a meeting he held during a conference in Baghdad on Aug. 28.
    It did not say who attended on Tuesday apart from Amirabdollahian, or what was said.    But his visit to Baghdad in August included a meeting with Gulf Arab officials https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/mideast-leaders-plus-france-meet-baghdad-talk-security-diplomacy-2021-08-28.
    Iraq, which has been trying to mediate between Tehran and its Gulf Arab foes, chaired the meeting at its ambassador’s residence in New York, Mehr said.
    “Our gathering underscores the fact that only diplomacy and dialogue can end crises, misunderstandings and differences,” Mehr quoted Amirabdollahian as saying.    “The priority of the new government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is to strengthen and develop relations with its neighbours and the region.”
    Iran and Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic ties in 2016.
    Baghdad hopes its mediation will stop neighbours settling scores on Iraqi territory.
    Amirabdollahian met separately with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, whom he assured of Iran’s “willingness to resume negotiations at an early date,” the EU said on Wednesday.
    The meeting was scheduled on the sidelines of the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders in the absence of a ministerial meeting of the parties to the 2015 deal limiting Iran’s nuclear programme.
    The world powers have held six rounds of indirect talks between the United States and Iran in Vienna to try to work out how both can return to compliance with the nuclear pact.    Talks were suspended two days after hard line cleric Ephraim Raisin was elected Iran’s president in June.
(dubai.newsroom@thomsonreuters.com, editing by Timothy Heritage)

9/22/2021 Zambian President To Meet IMF, World Bank In Washington
FILE PHOTO: Zambia's President Hakainde Hichilema addresses the 76th Session of the United Nations General
Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S. on September 21, 2021. Spencer Platt/Pool via REUTERS
    LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia’s president is due to meet the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, his spokesman said on Wednesday, as the southern African nation tries to secure a lending programme to help it emerge from a debt crisis.
    The statement, issued from New York by President Hakainde Hichilema’s spokesman Anthony Bwalya, did not say when the meetings would take place.
    In November, Zambia became the first African country to default on its sovereign debt during the COVID-19 pandemic after failing to keep up with payments on nearly $13 billion of international debt.    About a quarter of this debt is held by either China or Chinese entities via deals shrouded in secrecy clauses, making negotiations for IMF relief tough.
    Hichilema is in the United States for the United Nations General Assembly. He won a landslide election victory in August, beating incumbent Edgar Lungu, and has pledged to reduce the fiscal deficit, restore economic growth and review mining policies in Africa’s second-largest copper producer.
    His finance minister said last month securing an IMF programme was critical to restoring creditor confidence and giving the government access to cheaper and longer financing.
(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Bernadette Baum)

9/22/2021 Tunisian Democracy Now In The Hands Of Its Solemn President by Tarek Amara and Angus McDowall
FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Kais Saied takes the oath of office in
Tunis, Tunisia, October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi/File Photo//File Photo
    TUNIS (Reuters) – Described by those who know him as set in his opinions and trusting of only a tight circle, a former constitutional law professor now holds the future of Tunisia’s young democracy in his formally suited grasp.
    When President Kais Saied addressed supporters on Monday in the town that began Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, he swore he would not turn back from the July intervention that his critics called a coup.
    Saied denies having dictatorial aspirations and defends his actions as constitutional, but two months after sacking the prime minister, suspending parliament and assuming executive power he has made no clear statement about Tunisia’s future.
    It leaves him, backed only by a tiny, inexperienced team, to develop his pet project of passing a new constitution while attempting to govern Tunisia and avert a rapidly looming collapse of public finances.
    “Today nobody is participating because he is the only one who decides… you cannot do this by yourself,” said a senior Tunisian politician.
    To the large majority who back Saied, his actions were the necessary work of a rare man of integrity to oust a corrupt, sclerotic political elite after years of stagnation and relaunch Tunisia’s revolution.
    His critics, drawn from across Tunisia’s political spectrum and among the most engaged elements of civil society, say he is inexperienced, isolated and uncompromising, and fear that when economic frustrations breed opposition, he will grow autocratic.
    He swept into office in a 2019 landslide as an austere, frugal scourge of corruption with a severe, formal manner that vividly contrasted with that of Tunisia’s groomed political elite.
    Run from a small upstairs apartment in an old downtown Tunis building with no elevator, broken windows and peeling paintwork, the enthusiastic young staffers joked the campaign cost no more than the price of a coffee and a packet of cigarettes.
    Upon his election he had little doubt of the scale of his victory, declaring it “like a new revolution” and showing impatience as time passed with the messy political processes of parliament and a succession of governing coalitions.
    “Whoever knows Saied understands his behaviour…    He is a very stubborn person and does not change his positions easily… His relationships are few… He only trusts his close circle,” said a former university colleague.
LOOMING CRISIS
    Saied has repeatedly promised to name a new government “soon” and one of his advisers has said he is planning to suspend the constitution and offer a new version via public referendum.
    Tunisians have been waiting on both announcements for almost two months as both foreign donors and important Tunisian political players urge him to hurry up.
    Looming rapidly in the background, Tunisia’s public finances are in crisis and time is already running out to avert disaster as Saied’s intervention paused talks with the International Monetary Fund for a loan that would unlock other assistance.
    A big backlog of government work is building up, diplomats and politicians say.    “Whoever enters the office on that first day as prime minister will find a thousand files,” said the senior politician.
    A former adviser to Saied and Tunisian politicians who have worked with the presidency said everything flows through a single official – his 40-year old chief of staff, Nadia Akacha, a favourite student from his lecturing days.
    “The president has clear ideas and convictions and is stubborn … I think he’s the one making all decisions himself,” said the former adviser, adding that Saied had total confidence in Akacha, who alone “holds all the files.”
    The president has denied being isolated, but he has not met any Tunisian political leaders or the head of the very powerful labour union for weeks and has spurned calls for dialogue or an inclusive approach to resolving the crisis.
    His critics fear this will leave him reliant on the security forces, whose ranks he has purged down to mid-ranking levels, a Western diplomat and a security official said.
    So far, despite some arrests and the widespread use of travel bans for people accused of corruption, Saied and the security forces have not tried to suppress dissent.
    But as more people get worried about Tunisia’s direction and protests start to take place, his promise to protect rights will soon start to be tested. (This story refiles to change crosshead to remove editorial note)
(Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Nick Macfie)

9/22/2021 Turkey’s Top Islamic Cleric Moves Centre Stage, Irking Secularists by Daren Butler
Head of Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs Ali Erbas prays as he attends an opening ceremony of the
Turkish House with Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan in New York City, New York, U.S., September 20, 2021.
Picture taken September 20, 2021. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – When President Tayyip Erdogan opened a new court complex this month, Turkey’s senior cleric sealed the ceremony with a Muslim prayer, triggering protests from critics who said his actions contravened the secular constitution.
    “Make this wonderful work beneficial and blessed for our nation, my God,” Ali Erbas said in his address, adding that many judges had “worked to bring the justice which (God) ordered.”
    Erbas’s appearance at the Sept. 1 ceremony in Ankara, and the wave of opposition criticism over his comments, reflect his rising profile at the head of a state-run religious organisation and the growing influence it has attained under Erdogan.
    The president, whose ruling AK Party is rooted in political Islam, has overturned decades-old restrictions imposed on religion by modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, placing Islam centre-stage in political life.
    Last year Erbas delivered the first sermon in Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia after the Byzantine church-turned-museum was reconverted into a mosque. He did so while clutching a sword, saying this was traditional for preachers in mosques taken by conquest.    The church was captured by Ottoman forces in 1453.
    His state-run Diyanet organisation, or Religious Affairs Directorate, has its own television channel which is recruiting 30 new staff.    Its budget, which already matches that of an average ministry, will rise by a quarter next year to 16.1 billion lira ($1.86 billion), government data shows.
    Erdogan further endorsed Erbas last week by extending his term at the Diyanet. He was with Erdogan again on Monday in New York, reciting a prayer at the opening of a skyscraper that will house Turkish diplomats based there.
    Erdogan’s political foes says Erbas’s growing profile is at odds with the Turkish Republic’s secular constitution, and shows the president is using religion to boost his waning ratings ahead of an election scheduled for 2023.
    “It is completely unacceptable for the Religious Affairs Directorate to be used politically by the AKP,” said Bahadir Erdem, deputy chairman of the opposition Iyi Party.
POLARISING
    “The reason for Ali Erbas repeatedly making statements that polarise the nation is very clearly the government using religious sensitivities of those whose votes it thinks it can win,” he said.
    Apart from the Diyanet’s growing prominence, secularists also fret over a sharp increase in religious ‘Imam Hatip’ schools, a 10% rise in mosque numbers in the last decade, the lifting of a ban on Muslim headscarves in state institutions and the taming of Turkey’s powerful military, once a bastion of secularism, all during Erdogan’s rule.
    Responding to the criticism over the Diyanet, the presidency shared a picture of Ataturk standing in prayer beside a Muslim cleric at a ceremony outside Turkey’s new parliament 100 years ago, suggesting that even the founder of the secular republic gave space to religion alongside politics.
    The secularist main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) accuse Erdogan of deliberately using Erbas to distract public attention from Turkey’s mounting economic woes.
    “He has put the Religious Affairs Directorate chairman on the field like a pawn,” CHP spokesman Faik Oztrak said.
    Turkey’s constitution says the Diyanet must act in line with the principles of secularism, without expressing political views.
    Erbas, a former theology professor who took office in 2017, has not addressed the criticism directly but says his role is limited to religious guidance.
    “In line with the duty set out in the constitution to ‘enlighten society regarding religion’, our directorate is working to convey to our people in the most correct way the principles of Islam,” he said in a speech last week.
    That message does not reassure secularist critics.
    Erbas’s frequent presence at Erdogan’s side reveals a “very significant elevation of the role of Sunni Islam in government in Turkey,” said Soner Cagaptay, a director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
    “The secularist firewall of the 20th century, established by Ataturk and guarded by his successors, that has separated religion and government, and religion and education, has completely collapsed,” he said.
    Erbas has courted controversy in the past.    Last year his suggestion that homosexuality causes illness triggered a clash between Erdogan’s AKP and Turkey’s lawyers’ associations over freedom of expression.
    But he has won support from Erdogan’s nationalist ally Devlet Bahceli.
    “Turkey is a Muslim country,” he said.    “The allergy against the Islamic religion of those wicked people who have broken off ties with our national and spiritual values is an incurable clinical case.”
(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans and Gareth Jones)

9/22/2021 Syria Sees Spike In COVID-19 Cases As Fears Grow Of New Wave by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
FILE PHOTO: Internally displaced Syrian girls play together at Teh camp in
northern Idlib, Syria May 5, 2021. Picture taken May 5, 2021. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi
    AMMAN (Reuters) – Syria is facing a new surge in COVID-19 infections in both government-held areas and territory outside state control that could overwhelm the war-ravaged country’s fragile health system, aid workers, officials and medical sources said on Wednesday.
    Government health authorities said the number of cases reported in the last twenty four hours has hit 235, the highest daily tally since the first case was reported in March last year.
    NGO’s, independent medics and aid workers say official data reflect a small fraction of the real toll.
    Syria was hard hit by the pandemic last year during two major spikes in infections in August and December where medical staff privately say there was an official cover up of the extent of the pandemic, a charge denied by authorities.
    The latest spike comes from the Delta variant blamed on a surge of visitors from abroad in the summer, they say.
    Health workers say the country has administered only 440,000 doses of COVID vaccines so far, only a fraction of the country’s over 18 million people.
    Official figures say there have been 31,148 infections and 2,146 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country since the pandemic began last year.
    Many hospitals were already stretched to the limit of their capacity even though many cases were less severe than previous waves, officials say.
    “The occupancy of intensive care units (ICU) for COVID-19 patients have reached close to 100%,” said Issam al-Amin, the head of Mouwasat University Hospital, one of the largest public hospitals in the capital city of Damascus, with over 800 beds.
    The spike in cases and deaths was more alarming in the country’s heavily populated opposition held northwest near the Turkish border where over four million live, among them nearly half a million alone in makeshift tents.
    In that area, infections have doubled within a month to around a total of 63,000 cases, according to Western aid groups working in the area.
    “In this current wave there have been more daily cases confirmed than we have ever seen before,” Tanya Evans, the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) Country Director for Syria, said in a statement to Reuters.
    The total number of active cases is now over 25,000, which almost equals the total number detected in northwest Syria in the entire past year, the IRC said.
    “The situation has become catastrophic with all the hospitals overwhelmed,” said Ammar Shami a medical official in Idlib city who said oxygen supplies were also running dangerously low.
    Local officials in the area announced on Tuesday the closure of schools, institutes, public market places and restaurants.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; editing by Diane Craft)

9/22/2021 Saudi King Tells U.N. Kingdom Supports Efforts To Prevent Nuclear Iran
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz addresses, via a prerecorded statement, the General Debate of the 76th Session of the
United Nations General Assembly in New York City, U.S., September 22, 2021. John Angelillo/Pool via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz told the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday that his kingdom supports efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, as world leaders prepare to resume talks with Tehran to reinstate a 2015 nuclear pact.
    “The kingdom insists on the importance of keeping the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, on this basis we support international efforts aiming at preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons,” he said in a pre-recorded video address to the annual gathering.
    Iran and Saudi Arabia, leading Shi’ite and Sunni Muslim powers in the Middle East, have been rivals for years, backing allies fighting proxy wars in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere.    They cut diplomatic ties in 2016, but have been holding talks this year aimed at reducing tensions.
    “Iran is a neighboring country, and we hope that our initial talks with it will lead to concrete results to build confidence … based on… respect of sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs,” King Salman said.
    His remarks followed a call by Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi to resume nuclear talks with world powers that would lead to the removal of U.S. sanctions.
    On Tuesday, the Saudi foreign minister met with his Iranian counterpart during the General Assembly, according to Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency.
    In his address, King Salman said Yemen’s Houthis were rejecting peaceful initiatives to end the war and that Saudi Arabia would defend itself against ballistic missiles and armed drones.
    The 85-year-old ruler said the kingdom had taken big steps over the past five years since his heir Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched an ambitious plan to diversify the economy away from dependence on oil and other changes.
    He also made reference to Saudi Arabia fighting extremism.
    “The kingdom continues to fight extremist thinking, built on hatred, and keeping in check terrorist organisations and sectarian militias that destroy humanity and nations,” he said.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Michael Georgy in Dubai. Writing by Raya Jalabi; Editing by Jane Merriman and Grant McCool)

9/23/2021 Libya Presidency Council Head Plans To Hold October Conference by Michelle Nichols
Mohamed al-Menfi, Head of the Presidential Council of Libya, talks to the press after a meeting with
the French President at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, March 23, 2021. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The head of Libya’s presidency council said on Thursday he will hold an international conference in October to garner support for the country’s stability, warning that it faces “serious challenges” that could undermine planned December elections.
    Addressing the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders in New York, Mohammed al-Menfi said the conference would aim to ensure “unified, consistent” international support and restore a sense of Libyan leadership and ownership over the country’s future.
    “We are faced with serious challenges and quick-paced developments, which compel us – out of responsibility – to think of more realistic and practical options to avoid an impasse in the political process, which could in turn, undermine the looming elections and bring us back to square one,” he said.
    National elections, planned for Dec. 24, were pushed as a way to end Libya’s decade-long crisis, but have been enmeshed in bitter arguments over legitimacy that may unravel a months-long peace process.
    “Libya is at a critical juncture,” Menfi said.
    French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters in New York on Monday that France, Germany and Italy would co-host an international conference on Libya on Nov. 12 to ensure the electoral calendar would remain in place.
    In 2014, eastern and western factions split Libya in two in a civil war, with an internationally recognised government in Tripoli and a rival administration backed by the House of Representatives in the east.
    The Dec. 24 election was mandated by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, a U.N.-selected assembly that set a roadmap for peace in Libya, a major oil producer, through installing a unity government and holding a nationwide vote.
    Until elections are held, the assembly selected a three-man presidency council headed by Menfi and installed Abdulhamid Dbeibeh as prime minister of the interim government.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Richard Pullin)

9/23/2021 Opposition To Tunisian President’s Power Seizure Deepens by Tarek Amara
FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Kais Saied takes the oath of office in
Tunis, Tunisia, October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi/File Photo/File Photo
    TUNIS (Reuters) - Four Tunisian parties said on Thursday that President Kais Saied had lost his legitimacy and called for an end to what they called a coup after he took control of legislative and executive powers, raising the prospect of a drawn-out confrontation over his intervention.
    Saied said on Wednesday he would rule by decree and ignore parts of the constitution as he prepared to change the political system.
    Attayar, Al Joumhouri, Akef and Ettakatol parties said in a joint statement that his move enshrined an absolute power monopoly.
    Saied has held nearly total power since July 25 when he sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority citing a national emergency.
    His actions have undermined the democratic gains of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that ended autocratic rule and triggered the Arab Spring, despite his pledges to uphold the freedoms won a decade ago.
    Thursday’s opposition statement increased the pressure on him. Although the four parties are not the most powerful, they hold influence in the streets, especially Attayar, which was close to Saied before his intervention.
    “We consider the president has lost his legitimacy by violating the constitution.. and he will be responsible for all the possible repercussions of this dangerous step,” the four parties said in the statement.
    Tunisia’s political elite have been squabbling for years, but Saied’s intervention may finally push them all together to oppose a power grab that has left them all on the outside.
    “The important thing is that there is unity for these political parties after their dispersal for years. Saied’s decisions are pushing them towards unity and coordination,” said Nizar Makni, professor of geopolitics at the University of Tunis.br>     Political activists who have rejected Saied’s moves have called for protests on Sunday along Habib Bourguiba Street, a focal point of the demonstrations that ended the rule of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011.
LABOUR UNION DISCUSSES STRATEGY
    Anour Ben Kadour, a senior official in the powerful UGTT labour union, said: “Tunisia is heading towards absolute, individual rule.”
    UGTT, which has about one million members and is a major force in Tunisian politics, has started a meeting to formulate a position on Saied’s actions and is expected to issue a statement on Friday.
    While many Tunisians have backed Saied and see his actions as necessary to oust a corrupt and unpopular political elite after years of economic stagnation, his critics from across the spectrum say he is inexperienced and uncompromising.
    Teacher Borhen Belhsan said Saied had done the right thing.
    “In my opinion, the decisions taken yesterday by the President of the Republic were awaited and are in place, but they are modest, and they must be hastened.    Why this delay?    Who is making you shy, Mr. President?,” he said.
    The leader of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi, said on Wednesday that Saied’s declarations meant canceling the constitution. The party – the biggest in parliament – would not accept that, he said.
    Ennahda — Saied’s most powerful organised opponent – described the president’s steps as “a clear tendency towards absolute authoritarian rule and a flagrant coup against democratic legitimacy.”
    In a statement, it called for all political, social and civil society forces to unite ranks to defend democracy and to commit to a “tireless peaceful struggle
    Saied has cast himself as the scourge of a corrupt political elite and may welcome outright hostility with an array of parties that he blames for Tunisia’s failures since the revolution.
    However, with no party or independent organisation of his own, he is now at odds with almost every organised political grouping in the country.
(Additional reporting by Jihed Abidellaoui; Writing by Tarek Amara and Michael Georgy;Editing by Alison Williams, Angus MacSwan, William Maclean)

9/23/2021 Erdogan Says Turkey-U.S. Ties Not Healthy – Haberturk TV
FILE PHOTO: Turkey and U.S. flags are seen in this picture illustration
taken August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration//File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that Turkey’s ties with the United States were not healthy and that Washington needed to “sort out” issues over Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 defence systems, according to broadcaster Haberturk.
    Ties between the NATO allies struck a low point earlier this year when Washington sanctioned the Turkey’s defence industry over the S-400s.    It has also expelled Ankara from its F-35 jet programme, where it was a buyer and manufacturer.
    “I cannot say that a healthy process is running in Turkish-American ties… We bought F-35s, we paid $1.4 billion and these F-35s were not given to us.    The United States needs to first sort this out,” Haberturk quoted Erdogan as telling reporters after attending the UN General Assembly in New York.
    Erdogan said Ankara would meet its defence needs from elsewhere if Washington did not help.
    Turkey had hoped to forge cooperation with the United States over Afghanistan after NATO’s withdrawal by operating Kabul airport, but had to revise its original plan after the Taliban’s rapid takeover of the country.
    Erdogan has since been critical of the U.S. withdrawal decision, saying Washington had to “pay the price” for its move.
    The two countries should work together as friends but “the current direction does not bode well,” Erdogan said, adding he and U.S. President Joe Biden had not “started off right.”
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Dominic Evans)

[WELL AS YOU CAN SEE BELOW ABBAS IS GETTING DESPERATE TRYING TO KEEP THE OUTDATED TWO-STATE ISSUE AND TRYING TO DISS THE ONE STATE WHICH THE ABRAHAM ACCORD PUSHED BY TRUMP IS IN FAVOR BY MANY OF THE ARAB NATIONS TO BRING BACK ECONOMINCAL PROGRESS AND PEACE TO THE MIDDLE EAST BUT NOW THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION IS TRYING TO INTERFERE WITH THIS SINCE THEY ARE HELL-BENT TO STOP ANYTHING THAT TRUMP INFLUENCED AND AS YOU KNOW JOE BIDEN’S POLICIES LATELY HAVE BEEN A DOWNER OF EVERYTHING HE DOES AND THEY SPEND MOST OF THEIR TIME TRYING TO HIDE THEIR FAILURES AND IT COULD BE AN ISSUE TO INVOLVE HIM OR HIS MINIONS UNLESS HE ACTUALLY ACHIEVES THAT IT COULD LEAD INTO THE CONCEPT OF THE "HE" MENTIONED IN DANIEL 9:27.].
    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."
9/24/2021 Abbas Tells U.N. Israeli Actions Could Lead To ‘One State’ by Ali Sawafta and Rami Ayyub
Mahmoud Abbas, President, State of Palestine delivers a speech remotely at the UN General Assembly 76th session General Debate in UN General Assembly Hall
at the United Nations Headquarters on Friday, September 24, 2021 in New York City. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI Pool via REUTERS
    RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel on Friday of destroying the two-state solution with actions he said could lead Palestinians to demand equal rights within one binational state comprising Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
    Addressing the U.N. General Assembly via video link from the West Bank, Abbas, 85, urged the international community to act to save the two-state formula that for decades has been the bedrock of diplomacy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    Abbas said Israel was “destroying the prospect of a political settlement based on the two-state solution” through its settlements on West Bank land it captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
    Most countries view the settlements as illegal; a position Israel disputes.
    “If the Israeli occupation authorities continue to entrench the reality of one apartheid state as is happening today, our Palestinian people and the entire world will not tolerate such a situation,” Abbas said.    Israel rejects accusations of apartheid.     “Circumstances on the ground will inevitably impose equal and full political rights for all on the land of historical Palestine, within one state.    In all cases, Israel has to choose,” Abbas said from Ramallah, the seat of his Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in the West Bank.
    There was no immediate Israeli comment on Abbas’ remarks.
    Critics say internal Palestinian divisions have also contributed to the deadlock in U.S.-sponsored peace talks, which collapsed in 2014.
    Under interim peace accords with Israel, Abbas’ PA was meant to exercise control in Gaza as well.    But his Islamist rivals Hamas seized the coastal enclave in 2007 and years of on-and-off talks have failed to break their impasse.
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a far-rightist who sits atop a cross-partisan coalition, opposes Palestinian statehood.    His government has vowed to avoid sensitive choices towards the Palestinians and instead focus on economic issues.
    In his U.N. address, Abbas threatened to rescind the Palestinians’ recognition of Israel if it does not withdraw from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem within a year.
    “If this is not achieved, why maintain recognition of Israel based on the 1967 borders? Why maintain this recognition?” Abbas said.
    While some Palestinians and Israelis support the idea of a single binational state, most have very different ideas of what that entity would look like and how it would be governed.
    Most analysts contend a single state would not be viable, for religious, political and demographic reasons.    Israeli governments have viewed a one-state concept as undermining the essence of an independent Jewish state.
    U.S. President Joe Biden reiterated his support for the two-state solution during his own U.N. address on Tuesday, saying it would ensure “Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state.”
(Reporting by Ali Sawafta and Rami Ayyub, Additional reporting by Zainah El-Haroun; Editing by Rami Ayyub and Nick Macfie)

9/24/2021 U.N. Issues New Syria War Death Toll, Says 350,000 Is An ‘Undercount’ by Stephanie Nebehay
FILE PHOTO: A Syrian Civil Defence member carries a wounded child in the besieged town of
Hamoria, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria January 6, 2018. REUTERS/ Bassam Khabieh/File Photo
    GENEVA (Reuters) – At least 350,209 people have been killed in the decade-old war in Syria, the United Nations human rights office said on Friday in its first report since 2014 on the death toll, adding that the tally was an “undercount
    The figure includes civilians and combatants and is based on strict methodology requiring the full name of the deceased, as well as an established date and location of death.
    “On this basis, we have compiled a list of 350,209 identified individuals killed in the conflict in Syria between March 2011 to March 2021,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet told the Human Rights Council.
    One in every 13 victims was a woman or a child, she said.
    “It indicates a minimum verifiable number, and is certainly an under-count of the actual number of killings,” she added.
    Her office was working on a statistical model to provide a more complete picture, which could also help establish accountability for some killings, she said.
    The largest number of documented killings, 51,731, was recorded in Aleppo governorate, long held by the opposition, which became a flashpoint in the conflict.
    The war, which spiralled out of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, sparked the world’s biggest refugee crisis.    Syria’s neighbours host 5.6 million refugees, while European countries are hosting more than 1 million.
    Assad has recovered most of Syria, but significant areas remain outside his control: Turkish forces are deployed in much of the north and northwest – the last major bastion of anti-Assad rebels – and U.S. forces are stationed in the Kurdish-controlled east and northeast.
    Bachelet said the previous update by her office, in August 2014, reported that at least 191,369 people had been killed in the war.
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that 500,000 people have been killed in the war and that it is examining a further 200,000 cases.
    “It is very difficult to give a statistic that is close to reality,” Rami Abdurrahman, director of the British-based group, told Reuters in Beirut.    “There are a lot of names and there has to be documentation to make sure.”
    Karen Koning AbuZayd, a member of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria investigating war crimes, told the council on Thursday that incidents of unlawful and incommunicado detention by government forces remain “unabated.”
    “This is no time for anyone to think that Syria is a country fit for its refugees to return.    The war on Syrian civilians continues,” she said.
(Additional reporting by Maha El Dahan in Beirut; editing by Timothy Heritage)

9/24/2021 Tunisia Labour Union Rejects Saied Power Grab, Widening Opposition by Tarek Amara and Angus McDowall
A portrait of Tunisian President Kais Saied is displayed inside a photography
shop in Tunis, Tunisia September 23, 2021. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui
    TUNIS (Reuters) -Tunisia’s influential labour union on Friday rejected key elements of President Kais Saied’s seizure of near total power and warned of a threat to democracy as opposition widened against a move his foes call a coup.
    Saied this week brushed aside much of the 2014 constitution https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/tunisia-president-takes-new-powers-says-will-reform-system-2021-09-22, giving himself power to rule by decree two months after he sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority.
    The crisis has endangered the democratic gains that Tunisians won in a 2011 revolution that triggered the “Arab spring” protests and has also slowed efforts to tackle an urgent threat to public finances, worrying investors.
    Saied has said his actions are needed to address a crisis of political paralysis, economic stagnation and a poor response to the coronavirus pandemic.    He has promised to uphold rights and not become a dictator.
    Tunisia remains without a prime minister, though Saied has repeatedly said he will appoint one soon.
    The statement by the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), one of the most powerful players in Tunisian politics, means most of the political class has now come out in opposition to Saied, including the major parties.
    The union, which has a million members, warned against consolidating power in the president’s hands alone and said his declaration that he will appoint a commission to amend the political system was also a threat.
    “The UGTT rejects the president’s monopoly on amendments and considers this a danger to democracy,” it said.
‘WARNING SIGNS BLINKING RED’
    Tunisia’s largest political party, the moderate Islamist Ennahda, has called Saied’s moves “a flagrant coup against democratic legitimacy” and called for people to unite and defend democracy in “a tireless peaceful struggle.”
    Four other political parties issued a joint statement condemning Saied on Wednesday and another large party, Heart of Tunisia, has also done so.
    On Friday the Achaab party, which has been close to Saied, as well as five small parties, said they backed his move and asked to participate in preparing reforms.
    A first protest against Saied since his intervention on July 25 took place last week.    Another has been called for Saturday but no party has yet backed it.
    The president’s declaration on Wednesday set out the framework within which he says he will rule during an undefined period of “exceptional measures” while he prepares a new constitution with help from a handpicked committee.
    Amnesty International’s head Agnes Callamard said on Friday that Saied’s moves could quickly lead to authoritarianism and that “the warning signs are blinking red.”
    There has been no formal comment since Wednesday from Western democracies – major donors to Tunisia.
    However, investors are increasingly worried.    Tunisia’s bonds were among the worst performers in the JPMorgan EMBI index for developing sovereign hard-currency bonds over the past week.
    Many of the issues maturing in 2024 are trading in the mid-80s – their lowest level in almost two months – following a steady decline since mid-August.
    Five-year credit default swaps, reflecting the cost of insuring exposure against default of the bonds issued by the country’s central bank, have rocketed to a record high of 833 basis points on Thursday.
    “The main concern is that Tunisia’s dire public finances will be left unaddressed for longer, which reinforces our view that the government will have to restructure its debts,” said James Swanston, Middle East and North Africa Economist at Capital Economics.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Additional reporting by Karin Strohecker in London and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Timothy Heritage, Andrew Heavens and Grant McCool)

9/24/2021 Palestinian Man Shot And Killed During West Bank Clashes With Israeli Troops: Ministry
Mourners carry the body of Palestinian Mohammed Khabisah, who was killed by Israeli forces during clashes, during
his funeral in Beita in the Israeli-occupied West Bank September 24, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli troops firing rubber bullets shot and killed a Palestinian man and injured others on Friday during clashes at a protest against Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry and medics said.
    The Israeli military said hundreds of Palestinians had gathered in the area, south of the Palestinian city of Nablus, burning tyres and throwing rocks towards troops at the scene.
    “We are aware of reports that a Palestinian was killed.    The incident is under investigation,” the military said in a statement, without saying if its troops opened fire.
    At least eight Palestinians were shot by rubber bullets during Friday’s protest, Palestinian medics said. One of them was struck in the head, and died soon after being rushed to hospital, the Palestinian health ministry said.
    The West Bank is among territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war where Palestinians seek statehood.    Violence has simmered there since U.S.-sponsored talks between the Palestinians and Israel broke down in 2014.
    Palestinians have staged near-daily protests in the village of Beita, south of Nablus, to voice anger at a nearby Israeli settler outpost, often leading to violent clashes with Israeli troops.
    The settlers agreed https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israeli-govt-settlers-reach-deal-over-west-bank-outpost-palestinians-angered-2021-06-30 to leave the outpost in July under an agreement with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, following weeks of demonstrations https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lasers-flaming-torches-light-up-battle-over-new-israeli-settlement-2021-06-24 by Palestinians lighting fires that often engulfed the outpost in smoke.
    But many of the outpost’s buildings have remained, locked and under military guard.    Palestinians, who claim the land the outpost is on, have vowed to continue their demonstrations.
    Most countries deem the settlements illegal.    Israel disputes this, citing biblical and political connections to the land, as well as its security needs.
(Reporting by Ali Sawafta and Rami AyyubEditing by Andrew Heavens and Frances Kerry)

9/24/2021 Lebanon President Tells U.N. Big Challenges Await Government, Help Needed
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun delivers a pre-recorded speech at the UN General Assembly 76th session General Debate in UN General
Assembly Hall at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 24, 2021. John Angelillo/Pool via REUTERS
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun told the United Nations General Assembly on Friday that big challenges awaited his country’s new government and asked the international community for funding to revive its crisis-stricken economy.
    “We are relying on the international community to fund vital projects, whether in the public or private sector, in order to revive the economic cycle and create new job opportunities,” Aoun told the gathering via a recorded video message.
    Lebanon is in the throes of a financial crisis that the World Bank has called one of the deepest depressions of modern history.
    After a year of political deadlock which has compounded the economic meltdown, a new government was formed this month headed by Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
    “With the formation of the new government…Lebanon has entered a new phase that we seek to turn into a promising step on the road to resurgence,” Aoun said.
    Mikati has promised to resume talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and to pursue the reforms seen as a necessary pre-requisite for foreign aid to flow in.
    Lebanon’s talks with the IMF broke down last summer after a financial recovery plan proposed by the previous government was resisted by many of the country’s top politicians and bankers.
    “Lebanon, that is stubbornly trying to pave its way towards recovery, is relying on international support to achieve its goals,” Aoun said.
(Reporting by Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam; Editing by Alison Williams and Hugh Lawson)

9/24/2021 Iran-Backed Rebels Advance Towards Yemeni Oil Fields
Soldiers stand guard during the execution of nine men, convicted of involvement in the killing of a senior Houthi official Saleh al-Samad at Tahrir Square
in Sanaa, Yemen Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Saturday said they executed nine people for their alleged involvement in the killing of a senior Houthi
official in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition more than three years ago. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
    Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen are continuing an offensive against government forces and they are getting close to the nation’s oil fields.    On Thursday, the Houthis approached the city of Marib in northwestern Yemen, some 100 miles away from the capital of Sanaa.    The Marib region is the government’s last northern stronghold and is responsible for Yemen’s biggest gas fields.
    The Saudi-backed government is now making efforts to stop the Houthi offensive.    While, the rebels have also ramped up military activities in the southern part of the country as they seek to overthrow government control of densely populated areas.
    “The vast military operation caused the liberation of vast areas in Marib governorate and roll back the mercenaries from inside these areas,” said a spokesman for the Houthi military, Yahya Sarea.    “Secondly, in the details of the operation, after issuing the operational order, the military units began carrying out their missions.”
    Reports found Iran has significantly increased support for the Houthis since Joe Biden took office in January, leading to an escalation in Yemeni fighting.

9/26/2021 White House Sending U.S. Special Envoy For Horn Of Africa To Sudan After Reported Failed Coup by OAN Newsroom
Jeffrey Feltman speaks during a press conference in the Libyan capital
Tripoli on January 10, 2018. (MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP via Getty Images)
The White House is sending a special U.S. envoy in response to possible political instability in Sudan. According to a recent White House statement, U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, is set to travel to the country. Arrangements were made after Sudanese authorities said they quelled a coup earlier this year.    They claimed the civilian-led effort aimed to derail the construction of a Democratic government.    They added the participants were very loyal to the ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir.
    The U.S. State Department has since condemned the coup.
    A statement on Friday suggested National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan “underscored that any attempt by military actors to undermine the spirit and agreed benchmarks of Sudan’s constitutional declaration would have significant consequences for the U.S.-Sudan bilateral relationship and planned assistance.”
    In the meantime, Feltman is expected to travel to Sudan later this week and aims to discuss regional security with top Sudanese officials.
Traffic moves on a street in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021. Sudanese authorities reported a coup attempt on
Tuesday by a group of soldiers but said the attempt failed and that the military remains in control. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

9/27/2021 At U.N., Israeli PM Bennett Says Iran Has Crossed All Nuclear ‘Red Lines’ by Michelle Nichols, Matt Spetalnick and Stephen Farrell
Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett addresses the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly,
at the U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 27, 2021. John Minchillo/Pool via REUTERS
    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday that Iran had crossed “all red lines” in its nuclear program and vowed that Israel would not allow Tehran to acquire a nuclear weapon.
    In his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Bennett said Iran sought to dominate the Middle East under a “nuclear umbrella” and urged a more concerted international effort to halt Iran’s nuclear activities.
    But he also hinted at the potential for Israel to act on its own against Iran, something it has repeatedly threatened in the past.
    “Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment, and so has our tolerance.    Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning,” Bennett said.    “Israel will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
    Bennett, a far-right politician who ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year run as prime minister in June, wants U.S. President Joe Biden to harden his stance against Iran, Israel’s regional arch-foe.    He opposes the new U.S. administration’s efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Biden’s White House predecessor, Donald Trump, abandoned in 2018.
    Indirect U.S.-Iran talks in Vienna have stalled as Washington awaits the next move by Iran’s new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi.
    Bennett struck a less combative tone before the United Nations than Netanyahu, who often relied on props and visual aids to dramatize his accusations against Iran, an approach that critics derided as political stunts.
    But Bennett has been just as adamant as Netanyahu was in pledging to do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran, which Israel views as an existential threat, from building a nuclear weapon.    Iran consistently denies it is seeking a bomb.
    “Iran’s nuclear weapons program is at a critical point.    All red lines have been crossed, inspections ignored,” Bennett said.    “They’re getting away with it.”
    He called for international action.    “If we put our heads to it, if we’re serious about stopping it, if we use our resourcefulness, we can prevail," Bennett said.
    Bennett also took aim at Raisi, accusing him of serious human rights abuses against his own people over the years. Raisi is under targeted U.S. sanctions.
BENNETT SPEECH IGNORES ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT
    Bennett made not a single direct mention of the Palestinians in his remarks, except to accuse Iran of backing anti-Israel militant groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
    Bennett, who sits atop an ideologically diverse coalition, opposes Palestinian statehood.
    Biden, in his U.N. speech last week, declared renewed U.S. support for a two-state solution, after Trump distanced himself from that longstanding tenet of U.S. policy, but said Israel and the Palestinians were a long way from achieving it.
    Biden’s aides are mindful that U.S. pressure for a resumption of long-dormant peace talks or major Israeli concessions could destabilize the fragile Israeli coalition.
    Addressing the General Assembly via video link on Friday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of destroying the two-state solution with actions he said could lead Palestinians to demand equal rights within one binational state comprising Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
    Bennett focused instead on what he touted as the benefits of Israel’s landmark normalization agreements brokered by the Trump administration last year with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.    “More is to come,” he said.
    Israel has trumpeted its new diplomatic relations, especially with Gulf neighbors, as having helped forge a regional bulwark against their shared foe, Iran.
    Palestinian officials said they felt betrayed by their Arab brethren for reaching deals with Israel without first demanding progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols at the UN, Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Stephen Farrell in London; additional reporting by Zainah El-Haroun and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Editing by Alex Richardson and Grant McCool)

9/27/2021 Beirut Blast Probe Faces Derailment For Second Time
FILE PHOTO: A view shows the grain silo that was damaged during last year's Beirut port blast, during
sunset in Beirut, Lebanon, July 29, 2021. Picture taken July 29, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) -A probe into the catastrophic Beirut port explosion faced being derailed for the second time this year on Monday when a senior politician wanted for questioning filed a complaint doubting the lead investigator’s impartiality.
    The move followed a smear campaign by Lebanon’s political class against judge Tarek Bitar, who was appointed after his predecessor was forced out following similar accusations by officials he wanted to question about suspected negligence.
    More than a year since the blast, attempts to bring any senior official to account for the more than 200 lives lost and thousands injured have made no progress, with powerful parties including the Shi’ite group Hezbollah and others in the ruling elite alleging bias in the investigation.
    The blast, one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, was caused by a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate that was unsafely stored at the port from 2013.
    The probe was frozen on Monday on the basis of the complaint by Nohad Machnouk, a Sunni Muslim lawmaker and former interior minister Bitar wanted to question on suspicion of negligence.
    A judicial source told Reuters the investigation must now remain on hold until the court of cassation decides either to accept or reject the complaint.
    “There is great anger among the families.    There is a type of disgust towards the political class,” said Ibrahim Hoteit, a spokesperson for victims’ families whose brother was killed in the blast, responding to Monday’s move.
    The families, who accuse Lebanon’s entrenched political class of impunity, have demanded an international probe, saying every time the investigation begins it gets blocked.
    “It’s clear they are using all legal means and immunities to stop the investigation,” Nizar Saghieh, head of The Legal Agenda, a research and advocacy organisation.    “The impunity system is defending itself in an ugly way without boundaries.”
    Bitar has faced opposition since July, with politicians refusing to waive the immunity of several former ministers and security officials the judge wanted to investigate.
    Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah last month accused Bitar of “playing politics” and called the probe “politicized.”
    Bitar’s predecessor, judge Fadi Sawan, was removed after a similar complaint from two ex-ministers he had charged.
    Bitar had issued requests in July to question former prime minister Hassan Diab and other top officials charged by his predecessor with negligence over the blast.
    All have denied wrongdoing.
    On Sept. 16, he issued an arrest warrant for former public works minister Youssef Finianos after he failed to show up for questioning, the first against a top official in the case.
    A document seen by Reuters and sent just over two weeks before the blast showed the president and prime minister were warned about the risks posed by the chemicals and that they could destroy the capital.
(Reporting By Laila Bassam and Maha El Dahan; Editing by Jon Boyle/Tom Perry/David Evans/William Maclean)

9/27/2021 Erdogan Says Turkey Plans To Buy More Russian Defense Systems by Humeyra Pamuk
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 76th Session of the
U.N. General Assembly in New York City, U.S., September 21, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/Pool
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey still intended to buy a second batch of S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, a move that could deepen a rift with NATO ally Washington and trigger new U.S. sanctions.
    Washington says the S-400s pose a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and to NATO’s broader defense systems.    Turkey says it was unable to procure air defense systems from any NATO ally on satisfactory terms.
    “In the future, nobody will be able to interfere in terms of what kind of defense systems we acquire, from which country at what level,” Erdogan said in an interview that aired on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
    “Nobody can interfere with that.    We are the only ones to make such decisions.”
    The United States imposed sanctions on Turkey’s Defense Industry Directorate, its chief, Ismail Demir, and three other employees in December following the country’s acquisition of a first batch of S-400s.
    Talks continued between Russia and Turkey about the delivery of a second batch, which Washington has repeatedly said would almost certainly trigger new sanctions.
    “We urge Turkey at every level and opportunity not to retain the S-400 system and to refrain from purchasing any additional Russian military equipment,” said a State Department spokesperson when asked about Erdogan’s comments.
    “We continue to make clear to Turkey that any significant new Russian arms purchases would risk triggering CAATSA 231 sanctions separate from and in addition to those imposed in December 2020,” the spokesperson added, referring to the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.
    The spokesperson also said the United States regards Turkey as an ally and friend and seeks ways to strengthen their partnership “even when we disagree.”
    Erdogan will meet with President Vladimir Putin in Russia on Wednesday to discuss issues including the violence in northwestern Syria.
    Erdogan also said that U.S. President Joe Biden never raised the issue of Turkey’s human rights track record, seen as extremely troublesome by international rights advocacy groups, confirming Reuters reporting from earlier in September.
    Asked whether Biden brought up the issue during their June meeting on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels, Erdogan said: “No he didn’t.    And because we don’t have any problems of that nature in terms of freedoms, Turkey is incomparably free.”
    Turkey is among the top jailers of journalists, according to figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), while Human Rights Watch says Erdogan’s authoritarian rule has been consolidated by the passage of legislation that contravenes international human rights obligations.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Ezgi Erkoyun; Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Pravin Char, Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney)

9/27/2021 Mali Could Delay Post-Coup Elections, Interim PM Says
FILE PHOTO: Mali's Prime Minister Choguel Maiga addresses the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly at
the U.N. Headquarters in New York City, U.S., September 25, 2021. Kena Betancur/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    DAKAR (Reuters) – Mali could push back presidential and legislative elections from late February to avoid their validity being contested, its prime minister handling a post-coup transition said.
    Mali’s progress back to democracy following the August 2020 overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is being closely monitored in a region that has experienced four coups in 13 months, two of them in Mali.
    Under pressure from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional bloc, Mali’s new military leaders agreed to an 18-month transition that would culminate with presidential and legislative elections on Feb. 27, 2022.
    But in an interview with Radio France International and France24 on Sunday, Mali’s interim prime minister, Choguel Maiga, said that date could be postponed by “two weeks, two months, a few months.”
    “[The electoral calendar] was based on the requirements of ECOWAS without asking what practical steps must be taken to get there,” Maiga said.    “The main thing for us is less to stick to Feb. 27 than to hold elections that will not be contested.”
    Maiga said a final date would be determined by late October.
    ECOWAS has not yet responded. Last month the bloc said it would impose sanctions, including asset freezes, on anyone holding up preparations for Mali’s elections.
    Maiga also addressed reports that Mali is close to a deal with a Russian company, the Wagner Group, to hire private military contractors to help fight Islamist insurgents.
    “We are at the stage of rumours and often even disinformation,” he said.
    As soon as Mali agrees a deal with any country or partner, it will be announced, he said.
    “We will have no shame in making it public,” he said.
    Diplomatic and security sources told Reuters Mali was close to a deal to with the Wagner Group.    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday the Malian authorities had turned to a private military company from Russia.
    The possibility of such a deal has triggered opposition from France, which has said the involvement of Russian military contractors was incompatible with a continued French presence in the West African state.
(Writing by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Alessandra Prentice)

9/27/2021 Israel’s Bennett Meets UAE, Bahrain Ministers Ahead Of UN Address by Rami Ayyub
FILE PHOTO: Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at the
Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, September 5, 2021. Sebastian Scheiner/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met senior ministers from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in New York on Sunday, his office said, ahead of an address to the United Nations in which he is expected to urge action against Iran’s nuclear programme.
    Israel has trumpeted its new diplomatic relations with the UAE and Bahrain, brokered by Washington last year, as having helped create a regional bulwark against their shared foe, Iran.
    During his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Monday Bennett is expected to call for action against Tehran’s atomic activities to ensure that it does not produce weapons.
    Tehran denies pursuing atomic weaponry. It has been negotiating with world powers to revive a 2015 deal that curbed its uranium enrichment in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.
    During his meeting with Bahraini Foreign Minster Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani and UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khalifa Shaheen Almarar, Bennett said Israel hoped to strengthen relations with both countries.
    “We are stable and we believe in this relationship, and we want to expand it as much as possible,” Bennett’s said in a statement released by his office.
    To Israel’s delight, in 2018 then-U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions, crippling Iran’s economy and prompting Iran to take steps to violate its nuclear limits.
    U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration started indirect talks with Tehran in Vienna on salvaging the agreement, but those stopped after hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi was elected Iran’s president in June.
    Iran’s foreign minister on Friday estimated talks would start again “very soon,” but gave no specific date.
(Writing by Rami Ayyub, Editing by William Maclean)

9/27/2021 Tunisia’s Political Crisis Threatens To Deepen Economic Troubles by Tarek Amara
FILE PHOTO: People shop at a Tadamun market in the outskirts of Tunis, Tunisia
January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal/File Photo
    TUNIS (Reuters) – Nurse Amira Souissi celebrated when Tunisian President Kais Saied seized near total power in July promising to battle corruption, contain prices and boost state finances.
    But the mother of four is now losing patience with what some Tunisians see as his lack of an economic gameplan, as opposition mounts against what his opponents call a coup.
    Souissi said her salary of 1,000 dinars ($350) a month can no longer keep pace with the high cost of living, with inflation running at 6.2 percent, and it is difficult to secure a bank loan due to scarce liquidity.
    “We expected prices to drop. But look, the price of a kilogram of scallops rose from 15 dinars to 19 dinars,” she said at a market in the Ibn Khaldoun district of the capital.
    Anger at economic stagnation, aggravated by the pandemic, helped drive apparently widespread support for Saied’s July 25 intervention.
    But Saied is now coming under growing pressure to tackle Tunisia’s economic troubles after the political crisis endangered the democratic gains that Tunisians won in the 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab Spring protests.
    Saied’s intervention paused much delayed talks with the International Monetary Fund for a loan programme that was expected to unlock further economic assistance and avert a crisis in public finances.
    “The situation is very critical in the economy and public finance in particular.    We have been on the verge of collapse for months,” said economics analyst Moez Joudi.
    “But the political crisis now and the absence of any program and a clear economic vision is really accelerating the complete collapse.”
    He predicted that Saied’s focus on politics could turn Tunisia into another Lebanon, which is in the throes of a financial crisis that the World Bank has called one of the deepest depressions of modern history.
    Three-quarters of Lebanon’s population have been propelled into poverty and its local currency has lost 90% of its value in the past two years.
    Saied, who sacked the prime minister, froze parliament and empowered himself to rule by decree, has yet to appoint a new government, articulate any comprehensive economic policy or say how he would finance the public deficit and debt repayments. ECONOMIC WOES
    The president’s office was not available for comment on the state of the economy in the North African country.     Neither were economic and financial officials.
    Tunisia repaid more than $1 billion in debt this summer from foreign currency reserves, but must find about $5 billion more to finance a projected budget deficit and more loan repayments.
    Saied still enjoys wide support from a public grown tired of corruption, and says he has clean hands.    But political paralysis is hurting chances of turning around the economy.
    A man who would only give his first name Mohamed sat at a cafe with two friends complaining that he has been unemployed for four years.
    “The economic conditions are a real test for the president.    The situation is bad.    The president has opened a door of hope for us,” he said.
    “I hope he does not close it quickly, and he should avoid populism. We want to see the president attract investments and provide us with work.”
    The State Statistics Institute has said unemployment is at 17.8 percent, and the fiscal deficit deepened to more than 11 percent in 2020.    The economy shrank 8.2 percent last year, while public debt grew to 87 percent of gross domestic product, according to the IMF.
    Both the influential labour union and foreign lenders see little choice but to resume the IMF process.    While Tunisia needs about four billion dinars per month to pay wages and pay off debts, the state treasury has only 544 million dinars, according to central bank data released on Monday.
    Saied has said his actions are needed to address political paralysis, economic stagnation and a poor response to the pandemic.    He promised to uphold rights and not be a dictator.
    The president has not put any time limit on his seizure of power, but said he would appoint a committee to help draft amendments to the 2014 constitution and establish “a true democracy in which the people are truly sovereign.”
    Several thousand demonstrators rallied in Tunis on Sunday to protest at Saied’s power grab, calling on him to step down in the biggest show of public anger since his intervention.
(Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by William Maclean)

9/27/2021 Sudan Military-Civilian Tensions Reach Low Point In Wake Of Coup Attempt
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in Berlin, Germany,
February 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Tensions between Sudan’s military and civilian politicians reached a low point on Sunday in the wake of last week’s attempted coup with senior officials calling on the public to prepare for protests over the withdrawal of official security details.
    The deteriorating relations have put the fragile transition to democratic civilian rule in its most precarious position in the two years since the removal of former President Omar al-Bashir.
    The long uncertain military and civilian partners in Sudan’s transition have traded barbs following the coup attempt on Tuesday by soldiers loyal to Bashir.    Generals have accused politicians of alienating the armed forces and failing to govern properly.    Civilian officials have accused the military of agitating for a takeover of power.
    On Sunday, members of the Committee to Dismantle the June 30, 1989 Regime and Retrieve Public Funds said that they were told in the morning that the military had withdrawn its protection from the committee’s headquarters and 22 of its assets.    The soldiers were replaced by police officers, they said.
    The committee, whose purpose is to dismantle the political and financial apparatus of the ousted government, has been criticised by the military generals participating in the transition, who served under Bashir.
    Mohamed Al-Faki Sulieman, committee leader and member of the joint military-civilian Sovereign Council, Sudan’s highest authority, said his official protection had also been withdrawn.
    Speaking to a large crowd who were chanting pro-revolution and anti-military rule slogans at the committee’s headquarters, Sulieman asked people to be prepared to return to street protests if necessary.
    “We will defend our government, our people, and the democratic transition to the last drop of blood, and if there is any threat to the democratic transition we will fill the streets and be at the forefront as is our responsibility,” he said.
    In a statement, the Sudanese Professionals Association, the body that helped lead the 2018-2019 uprising that led to Bashir’s removal, called for the end of the partnership with the military.
    Earlier in the day, sovereign council head General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said in a speech that the military would not stage a coup against the transition, but remained critical of civilian politicians.
    In a statement late on Sunday civilian prime minister Abdalla Hamdok said the dispute “is not between the military and civilians, but between those who believe in the civilian democratic transition either military or civilian, and those who want to block the path from both sides.”
(Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad and Nafisa Eltahir; editing by Grant McCool)

9/27/2021 U.S. Top Security Adviser, Yemen Envoy Head To Saudi, UAE
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan gives a statement about the situation in Afghanistan during
a news briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 23, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis
    (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan will travel to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates along with the U.S. special envoy to Yemen, the White House National Security Council said on Monday.
    Brett McGurk, the NSC’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator, will also join Sullivan and Tim Lenderking, the council spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement, adding that Sullivan will meet “with senior leaders on a range of regional and global challenges.”
    Sullivan will depart on Monday and hold discussions with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about Yemen, according to the Associated Press, which first reported the trip.    He is also expected to meet deputy defence minister Khalid bin Salman, a brother to the crown prince, it said, cited unnamed sources.
    The United Nations has described the situation in war-torn Yemen as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.    Seven years of fighting have also plunged the nation into an economic crisis, triggering food shortages.
    The United States and Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition fighting Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group in Yemen’s conflict, have pledged millions more dollars in additional aid, as have other countries. https://reut.rs/2WewHkn
    Biden has taken a tougher stance with Saudi Arabia than his predecessor Donald Trump, criticizing the kingdom over its human rights record while releasing a U.S. intelligence report earlier this year implicating the Saudi crown prince in the 2018 killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.    The prince denies any involvement.
    Earlier this month, the FBI released a newly declassified document about its investigation of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and allegations of Saudi government support for the hijackers, following an executive order by Biden.    The Kingdom has long said it had no role in the attacks.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington and Kanishka Singh in BengaluruEditing by Raissa Kasolowsky, William Maclean, William Maclean)
[Just of a reminder: Jake Sullivan, is another top advisor in Clinton’s campaign, who played a role in forming the Trump-Russia collusion narrative so they sent him to try to make the Saudi's admit a crime when he cannot cop to his either and what is scarier is that he may try to screw up the Abraham Accord so Joe can take credit for it.].

9/27/2021 Protests In Yemen’s Third-Largest City Against Crumbling Currency
People demonstrate against the deteriorating economic situation and the devaluation
of the local currency, in Taiz, Yemen September 27, 2021. REUTERS/Anees Mahyoub
    ADEN (Reuters) – Security forces fired shots in the air to disperse hundreds of protesters in Yemen’s third-largest city of Taiz on Monday as unrest over poverty spread in areas held by the Saudi-backed government.
    Dozens of people blocked a street and entrances to several districts in the disputed southwestern city with rocks and burning tires, witnesses said, before the crowd swelled to hundreds protesting sharp drops in the currency that has stoked inflation.
    Earlier this month, three people were killed in violent protests in Aden and other southern cities controlled by the internationally recognised government, which was ousted from the capital Sanaa by the Iran-aligned Houthi group in 2014.
    In Taiz on Monday, security forces and armed men fired shots in the air to stop protesters from ripping apart a poster of Yemen’s Saudi-backed president, three witnesses said.
    Police spokesperson Osama al-Sharaabi said security forces were “committed to safeguarding citizens’ rights to peaceful means of expression” but would not allow “any attacks on public and private interests.”
    The war, in which a Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis for over six years, has devastated the economy and depleted foreign exchange reserves in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula nation, which imports the bulk of its goods.
    Around 80% of the population is reliant on aid and millions face starvation in what the United Nations says is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
    The Saudi-backed government, which is based in the south, has struggled to pay public sector wages and has resorted to printing money to cover the deficit.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

9/27/2021 Israeli Prime Minister: Iran Advancing Nuclear Program, Funds Terror Groups by OAN Newsroom
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addresses the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly,
on September 27, 2021, at UN headquarters in New York. (Photo by JOHN MINCHILLO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned Iranian-backed terror groups were ramping up pressure on the Jewish state.    In a statement before the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, Bennett said the Ayatollah Regime provided funding, weapons and training to Shi’a Militias that were seeking to destroy Israel.
    Bennett added Iran was advancing its nuclear program. He urged the U.S. and European nations not to restore a nuclear deal with Iran.
    “Iran is currently violating the IAEA’s safeguard agreements and it’s getting away with it.    They harass inspectors and sabotage their investigations and they’re getting away with it,” he asserted.    “They’re enriching uranium to the level of 60%, which is only one step short of weapons grade material, and they’re getting away with it.”
    PM Naftali Bennett today at #UNGA:
    Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment; and so has our tolerance.
    Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning.
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) September 27, 2021
    Bennett also criticized anti-Israeli sentiments among left-leaning public in the U.S. and Europe. He went on to say, “hating Israel does not make you woke.”

9/28/2021 Pentagon Chief Tells French Counterpart U.S. Supports Sahel Mission
FILE PHOTO: A French soldier mans a machine gun in the door of a NH 90 Caiman military helicopter
during Operation Barkhane over Ndaki, Mali, July 29, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – France has Washington’s continued support for counterterrorism efforts in Africa’s Sahel region, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told his French counterpart in a phone call on Monday.
    France has about 5,000 troops in the Sahel region of West Africa to fight Islamist militants and receives logistical support from the United States.    French President Emmanuel Macron announced in June that France was reducing its presence in the region.
    Austin’s conversation with French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly comes as the United States is seeking to repair relations with Paris after Washington announced on Sept. 15 a security partnership with Australia and Britain that sunk a major defense contract for a French submarine builder.
    “Secretary Austin applauded French leadership in countering terrorism in the region and assured her of continued U.S. support for this important mission,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
    Washington has committed to stepping up its support for counterterrorism operations conducted by European states in the Sahel, according to a joint statement following a fence-mending call last week between U.S. President Joe Biden and Macron.
    In his call with Parly, Austin also expressed his condolences for the death of French soldier Maxime Blasco, who was killed last week in a clash with militants in Mali.
    More than 50 French soldiers have died in the region since Paris deployed a counterterrorism force in 2013.
(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

9/28/2021 WHO Employees Took Part In Congo Sex Abuse During Ebola Crisis, Report Says by Emma Farge and Hereward Holland
FILE PHOTO: WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a news conference after a ceremony
for the opening of the WHO Academy, in Lyon, France, September 27, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
    GENEVA (Reuters) -More than 80 aid workers including some employed by the World Health Organization (WHO) were involved in sexual abuse and exploitation during an Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an independent commission said on Tuesday.
    The probe was prompted by an investigation last year by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The New Humanitarian in which more than 50 women accused aid workers https://www.reuters.com/article/congo-ebola-sexcrimes-idINL5N2GK4EE from the WHO and other charities of demanding sex in exchange for jobs between 2018-2020.
    In its long-awaited report, the commission found that at least 21 of 83 suspected perpetrators were employed by the     WHO, and that the abuses, which included nine allegations of rape, were committed by both national and international staff.
    “The review team has established that the presumed victims were promised jobs in exchange for sexual relations or in order to keep their jobs,” commission member Malick Coulibaly told a press briefing.
    Many of the male perpetrators refused to use a condom and 29 of the women became pregnant and some were forced to later abort by their abusers, he added.
    WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has pledged zero tolerance on sexual abuse and is said to be seeking a second term at the United Nations health body, said the report made “harrowing reading” and apologised to the victims.
    “What happened to you should never happen to anyone.    It is inexcusable.    It is my top priority to ensure that the perpetrators are not excused but are held to account,” he said, promising further steps including “wholesale reform of our structures and culture.”
    Regional director Matshidiso Moeti said the health body was “humbled, horrified and heartbroken” by the findings.    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson also apologised and thanked victims for their courage in testifying.
PROSECUTIONS UNCLEAR
    The known perpetrators have been banned from future WHO employment while the contracts of four people employed by the body have been terminated, officials said.
    It is not clear if the perpetrators will face prosecution.    Tedros said he planned to refer the rape allegations to Congo and to the countries of the suspected perpetrators.    Some of them have yet to be identified.
    Victims’ representatives in the one-time Ebola hotspot of Beni in eastern Congo welcomed the WHO’s response, but urged it to do more.
    “We encourage the WHO to continue and show the community that its personnel who abused women and their daughters in our community have been genuinely, severely punished,” said Esperence Kazi, coordinator of women’s rights group ‘One Girl One Leader’ in Beni.
    One girl, a 14-year-old named as “Jolianne” in the report, told the commission she was selling phone recharge cards on the side of the road in April 2019 in Mangina when a WHO driver offered her a ride home.    Instead he took her to a hotel where she says he raped her and she later gave birth to his child.
    Some women who were already employed told the review team that they continued to be sexually harassed by men in supervisory positions who forced them to have sex to keep their jobs, get paid or get a better paid position.
    Some said they had been dismissed for refusing sex while others did not get the jobs they wanted even after consenting.
    Alleged victims “were not provided with the necessary support and assistance required for such degrading experiences,” the report said.
    Co-chair of the investigation Aïchatou Mindaoudou said that there was “no overlap” between the victims who testified in last year’s media reports and those it interviewed, acknowledging that this could point to a larger problem.
    Some people at higher levels of the WHO “were aware of what was going on and did not act,” she added.
    In June last year, Congo’s government announced the end of the two-year outbreak of Ebola that killed more than 2,200 people – the second-largest outbreak since the virus was identified in 1976.
    Congo and other aid agencies have also pledged investigations into the sex abuse.    Congo’s minister of human rights was not immediately available for comment.
(Reporting by Emma Farge and Hereward Holland; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York and Erikas Mwisi Kambale in Beni; Editing by William Maclean, Nick Macfie and Grant McCool)

9/28/2021 White House Aide Discusses Yemen With Saudi Crown Prince by Steve Holland
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman smiles during a televised interview in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,
April 27, 2021. Picture taken April 27, 2021. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, had a detailed discussion about the war in Yemen on Tuesday in a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a senior administration official said.
    The war, in which a Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis, has devastated Yemen’s economy and depleted foreign exchange reserves in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula nation, which imports the bulk of its goods.
    Sullivan is on a trip this week to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates along with the U.S. special envoy to Yemen, Tim Lenderking and Biden Middle East envoy Brett McGurk.
    Sullivan met in Saudi Arabia with the crown prince as well as Deputy Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman, Interior Minister Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef, National Guard Minister Abdullah bin Bandar, among others.
    “They had a detailed discussion of Yemen conflict, and both parties endorsed the efforts of the new UN Special Envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg and agreed to intensify diplomatic engagement with all relevant parties.    Special Envoy Lenderking will remain in the region to follow up on the detailed discussions,” the official said.
    The United Nations has described the situation in war-torn Yemen as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.    Seven years of fighting have also plunged the nation into an economic crisis, triggering food shortages.
    The official also said Sullivan thanked the crown prince for “Saudi Arabia’s hospitality in permitting thousands of at-risk Afghans to transit through Saudi territory” during Biden’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last month.
    Sullivan will be in Cairo on Wednesday for meetings with Egyptian officials that will include a discussion on Libya, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement.
    Elections in Libya were mandated as part of a roadmap drawn up last year by a political forum convened by the United Nations to end a decade-long crisis, but disputes over the vote threaten to unravel the peace process.
    Libya has suffered chaos and violence since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, and it was split after 2014 between warring western and eastern factions.
    Horne said Sullivan would also discuss Egypt’s role in promoting “security and prosperity” for Israelis and Palestinians following the visit by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet to Egypt earlier this month.
    Sullivan will host Israel’s national security adviser, Eyal Hulata, in Washington on Oct. 5 for more discussions, she said.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Richard Pullin)

9/29/2021 U.S. Says It Is Working To Screen Passengers Of Plane Carrying Americans From Kabul by Jonathan Landay
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Department of Homeland Security emblem is pictured at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration
Center (NCCIC) located just outside Washington in Arlington, Virginia September 24, 2010. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang/
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is working to verify the accuracy of the list of passengers aboard a charter plane carrying more than 100 U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents evacuated from Afghanistan, the State Department said on Wednesday, after the flight’s organizers said Washington denied it landing rights.
    “Our embassy staff in the UAE has been working around the clock to verify the accuracy of the passenger manifest and is coordinating with DHS/Customs and Border Protection on the ground to ensure the passengers are screened and vetted before they are permitted to fly to the United States,” a State Department spokesperson said.
    “We expect the passengers to continue onward travel tomorrow morning,” the spokesperson added.
    Bryan Stern, a founder of the nonprofit group Project Dynamo, said late on Tuesday that the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency was blocking a charter on an international flight into a U.S. port of entry.
    Stern spoke to Reuters from aboard a plane that his group chartered from Kam Air, a private Afghan airline, that he said had been sitting for 14 hours at the Abu Dhabi airport in the United Arab Emirates after arriving from Afghanistan’s capital Kabul with 117 people, including 59 children, aboard.
    The group is one of several that emerged from ad hoc networks of U.S. military veterans, current and former U.S. officials and others that formed to bolster last month’s U.S. evacuation operation they viewed as chaotic and badly organized.
    “All U.S.-bound flights must follow the established safety, security and health protocols before they are cleared for departure,” a DHS spokesperson said.    “This process requires flight manifests to be verified before departure to the U.S. to ensure all passengers are screened appropriately.”
    President Joe Biden’s administration has said its top priority is repatriating Americans and lawful permanent residents – known as green card holders – who were unable to leave Afghanistan in the U.S. evacuation operation last month.
    Twenty-eight Americans, 83 green card holders and six people with U.S. Special Immigration Visas granted to Afghans who worked for the U.S. government during the 20-year war in Afghanistan were aboard the Kam Air flight, Stern said.
    Stern had planned to transfer the passengers to a chartered Ethiopian Airlines plane for an onward flight to the United States that he said the customs agency cleared to land at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
    The agency then changed the clearance to Dulles International Airport outside Washington before denying the plane landing rights anywhere in the United States, Stern said.
    “I have a big, beautiful, giant, humongous Boeing 787 that I can see parked in front of us,” Stern said.    “I have crew. I have food.”
    Stern said intermediaries in Kabul had obtained permission from the Taliban-run Afghan Civil Aviation Authority for the groups to send a charter flight to retrieve the passengers from Kabul airport.
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham and Stephen Coates)

9/29/2021 Angry Relatives Of Beirut Blast Victims Protest Probe Delays by Issam Abdallah
Demonstrators carry banners and flags during a protest in front of the Justice Palace after a probe
into Beirut blast was frozen, in Beirut, Lebanon September 29, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Hundreds of relatives of victims of last year’s Beirut port explosion, some chanting and some silent, took to the streets on Wednesday angry that an investigation into the disaster had been delayed for the second time this year.
    Some carried miniature figures of people on death row with signs below reading “the end for anyone corrupt”, while others stood in silence, carrying photos of their loved ones.
    Powerful parties including the Shi’ite group Hezbollah and others in the ruling elite have alleged bias in the investigation.    Some in the crowd chanted “Hezbollah are terrorists.”
    The demonstrators gathered in front of Beirut’s Palace of Justice angry that more than a year on, no top officials have been held accountable for an explosion that killed more than 200 people, wounded thousands and destroyed large swathes of the capital.
    “We are trying the impossible to reach a result in this probe,” Joumana Khalifa, whose cousin and friends were killed in the blast, said.
    The blast, one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, was caused by a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate that was unsafely stored at the port from 2013.
    The probe was frozen on Monday on the basis of a legal complaint by Nohad Machnouk, a Sunni Muslim lawmaker and former interior minister, whom the lead investigating judge, Tarek Bitar, wants to question on suspicion of negligence.
    Machnouk’s claim calls Bitar’s impartiality into question.    Should the court of cassation accept the claim, Bitar will be removed.
    Prime Minister Najib Mikati has said he hoped Bitar would continue in his role.    The French foreign ministry also said it regretted the suspension of the investigation.
    The move followed a smear campaign by Lebanon’s political class against Bitar, the second judge to lead the probe after his predecessor was forced out following similar accusations by officials he wanted to question about suspected negligence.
    One protester said politicians were acting with impunity.
    “I lost my father while he was sitting with us at home,” Mohieldin Ladkani said, adding that he and other family members were injured.
    “If they take away the file from Bitar that means they are behaving like they are above the law,” he said.    “And if they are above the law, then why aren’t the families of the victims above the law and take matters into our own hands?
(Reporting By Issam Abdallah; writing By Maha El Dahan; editing by Nick Macfie)

9/29/2021 Tunisian Leader Names New PM With Little Experience At Crisis Moment by Tarek Amara and Angus McDowall
Newly appointed Prime Minister Najla Bouden Romdhane poses for a picture during her meeting with Tunisia's
President Kais Saied, in Tunis, Tunisia September 29, 2021. Tunisian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS
    TUNIS (Reuters) - President Kais Saied named a geologist with little government experience as Tunisia’s first woman prime minister on Wednesday amid a crisis following his seizure of powers and with public finances close to breaking point.
    He asked Najla Bouden Romdhane, a little-known professor of geophysics who implemented World Bank projects at the education ministry, to form a government as quickly as possible.    The move prompted a surge in Tunisian bond prices.
    Elected in 2019, Saied has been under domestic and international pressure to name a government after he dismissed the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority in July in moves his foes call a coup.
    Last week, he suspended most of the constitution, saying he could rule by decree during an “exceptional” period with no set ending, calling into question democratic gains after Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab Spring protests.
    Speaking in an online video, Saied said Bouden’s appointment honoured Tunisian women and asked her to propose a cabinet in the coming hours or days “because we have lost a lot of time.”
    The new government should confront corruption and respond to the demands and dignity of Tunisians in all fields, including health, transport and education, he added.
    Women have only rarely held senior political roles in Arab countries.    In Tunisia, Saied has also appointed a woman, Nadia Akacha, as chief of staff, his closest and most powerful aide.
    Bouden is likely to have less direct power than previous prime ministers under the 2014 constitution, however, after Saied said last week that during the emergency period the government would be responsible to the president.
CRISIS
    Much of the political elite, including most parties in the suspended parliament and the powerful UGTT labour union, have said they oppose Saied’s power grab and Western donors have urged him to restore normal constitutional order.
    Tunisia faces a looming crisis in public finances after years of economic stagnation were aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic and political infighting.
    Government bonds made their best gains in a year on the news after a significant sell-off since Saied’s intervention, along with pressure on the cost of insuring against default.
    “The key is the possibility of IMF support,” said Viktor Szabo, an emerging markets portfolio manager at ABRDN in London.
    The new government urgently needs financial support for the budget and debt repayments after Saied’s changes put talks with the International Monetary Fund on hold.
    “It is a positive sign that a woman will lead the government.    I hope she will immediately start saving the country from the spectre of bankruptcy.    She should quickly look at the problems of Tunisians,” said Amin Ben Salem, a banker in Tunis.
    There was no direct reaction from the labour union or political parties to Bouden’s appointment.
    However, the biggest party in the elected parliament, the moderate Islamist Ennahda, urged its leader the parliament speaker Rached Ghannouchi to resume the assembly’s work in defiance of Saied.
    The statement underscores how parties in parliament may challenge the legality of any government appointed without the consent of the suspended chamber.
    Saied spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel’s office said she had told him it was essential to return to parliamentary democracy in dialogue with other political players.
    A senior Tunisian politician told Reuters last week the new prime minister would face a daunting inbox as most government work had ground to a halt over the past two months and a vast array of files needed urgent attention.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Additional reporting by Marc Jones in London; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Alison Williams, William Maclean and Catherine Evans)

9/29/2021 Zambia’s Konkola Copper Mines Liquidator Arrested, Calls Money-Laundering Charges “Baseless”
FILE PHOTO: An aerial view of the Konkola mine project in Chililabombwe, 500km (300miles)
north of the capital Lusaka, Zambia May 11, 2005. REUTERS/SALIM HENRY/File Photo
    LUSAKA (Reuters) – The state-appointed provisional liquidator of Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), Milingo Lungu, has been arrested and charged with laundering more than $2 million, Zambia’s money-laundering authority said on Wednesday.
    “The money is said to have come into his possession by virtue of being the Provisional Liquidator for Konkola Copper Mines Plc,” the Drug Enforcement Commission, which handles such cases, said.
    Lungu called the allegations levelled by the commission “baseless and untrue” in a statement issued by KCM’s corporate affairs department later on Wednesday.
    “I welcome the opportunity to clear my name in Court,” Lungu said in the statement.    “This will be done following due process and not in the Court of public opinion.”
    The commission alleged that Lungu, acting with others, “did engage in theft” involving 110.4 million Zambian kwachas and $250,000 between May 22, 2019 and Aug. 15, 2021, and “obtained money by false pretences” amounting to $2.2 million.
    “He has also been charged for money laundering for the said amounts,” the commission said.
    Zambia’s previous government handed control of KCM to the provisional liquidator in May 2019, triggering a legal battle with Vedanta Resources, KCM’s parent company.
    The government accused Vedanta at the time of failing to honour licence conditions, including promised investment. Vedanta has previously denied KCM broke the terms of its licence.
    Lungu has been released on police bond and will appear in court soon, the commission said.
    Vedanta declined to comment on the arrest.
(Reporting by Chris Mfula in Lusaka, Writing by Helen Reid in Johannesburg; Editing by Emma Rumney, Timothy Heritage and Louise Heavens)

9/29/2021 Saudi Crown Prince Discusses Yemen Plans With U.S. National Security Adviser – SPA
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman speaks during televised interview in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 27,
2021. Picture taken April 27, 2021. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed the kingdom’s initiative to end the Yemeni crisis during discussions with U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Saudi state news agency SPA said on Wednesday.
    The initiative includes a comprehensive ceasefire under U.N. supervision and the opening of Yemen’s Sanaa international airport for flights to and from selected locations, SPA said.
    SPA said Sullivan affirmed his country’s commitment to support the kingdom defending its territory against threats, including missile and drone attacks backed by Iran.
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

9/29/2021 U.S., Qatar Target Hezbollah Financial Network With Sanctions
Hezbollah flags flutter along an empty street, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
at the entrance of Mays Al-Jabal village, Lebanon March 26, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States and Qatar took coordinated action on Wednesday targeting a Hezbollah financial network in the Arabian Peninsula, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.
    The Treasury said it designated individuals including Ali Reda Hassan al-Banai, Ali Reda al-Qassabi Lari and Abd al-Muayyid al-Banaiare for having provided financial or material support to Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shi’ite Islamist group that     Washington has designated as a foreign terrorist organization.
    Qatar had also designated the network, the Treasury said, but it did not detail those actions.
    “Hezbollah seeks to abuse the international financial system by developing global networks of financiers to fill its coffers and support its terrorist activity,” said Andrea Gacki, director of the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
    “The cross-border nature of this Hezbollah financial network underscores the importance of our continued cooperation with international partners, such as the Government of Qatar, to protect the U.S. and international financial systems from terrorist abuse.”
    The individuals include citizens of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, as well as a Palestinian, the department said on its website.
    Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the move was “one of the most significant joint actions” Washington has taken with a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and urged other governments to follow suit in targeting Hezbollah.
    Bahrain had also concurrently frozen bank accounts related to the network and referred three individuals to its prosecutor’s office, Blinken said in a statement.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Simon Lewis; Editing by Lisa Lambert and Jonathan Oatis)

9/29/2021 Egypt Forges New Plan To Restore Cairo’s Historic Heart by Patrick Werr
A view of the Wikalat Nafisa al-Bayda, a caravanserai targeted for restoration in the old Islamic
Cairo, Egypt September 14, 2021. Picture taken September 14, 2021. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt is pushing ahead with a new project to restore historic Cairo, a sprawling but now rapidly crumbling thousand-year-old world heritage site home to many a tale in the Thousand and One Arabian Nights.
    The plan aims to revitalise and promote Cairo as a tourist attraction while the government prepares to move to a futuristic new capital in the desert.
    It gives fresh impetus to efforts by professional architects and restorers to also save old buildings which they feared were being lost because of bureaucracy, official corruption and legal constraints.
    Low-rise apartments will be built on vacant lots in the historic district, where residents and workshops will relocate as dilapidated structures are reconstructed and restored, said lead coordinator Mohamed Elkhatib.
    “For the first time the budget is not a problem,” said Elkhatib, without giving an estimate.    “They (the government) told me that any budget for Historic Cairo will be approved.”
    Workers will soon start improving facades of older buildings — including those not officially listed as historic — to match the vernacular of previous centuries.
    The plan also involves converting several of the city’s wikalas or caravanserais, into boutique hotels, an idea proven successful elsewhere in the Middle East.
    “We have actually begun working on pieces of land,” said Elkhatib.    “Negotiations with the residents have ended and we have begun.”
    The government intends to renovate about 10% of the area in an initial two-year phase and is studying proposals to create a single entity for historic Cairo’s roughly 30 square kms (11.6 square miles), he said.
LAYERS OF HISTORY
    Much of the initial work will focus on restoring the districts around three grand gates built by Tunisia’s Fatimid dynasty, which ruled for two centuries after its army conquered Cairo in 969 A.D.
    One gate, Bab al-Zuwaila, and Habbaniya Street to its south, were scenes of vignettes in the Thousand and One Arabian Nights.
    Historic Cairo is dense with workshops, souks and dwellings, and crafts practiced on some streets can be traced back centuries.
    “Few cities in the world have so many layers of history dating back so long,” said Jeff Allen of the World Monuments Fund, which is working on a 16th century Sufi religious complex south of Bab al-Zuwaila.
    Some restorers and architects also worry about the complexity and cost of restoration, and the possibility it could lead to Disneyfication.
    Elkhatib says the area’s character will be preserved.
    Alaa al-Habashi, an architect and restorer who specialises in Islamic architecture and was asked to help draw up the restoration plan, said the government was now taking into account residents, crafts, historic fabric and infrastructure, rather than focussing on monuments alone.
    “The change is dramatic.    It has been awaited a long time,” Habashi said.
    But implementation will be key.    “I’m worried about delays,” he said.    “I’m also worried that the principles upon which the whole project has been shaped might also somehow in the implementation be modified.”
    Eventually much of the area will be converted into pedestrian zones.
    “The second phase is to start dealing with the historic, not the (officially) listed, buildings.    We will document all these buildings and restore and reuse them,” said Elkhatib.
(Reporting by Patrick Werr; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

9/29/2021 Israeli Foreign Minister To Visit Bahrain On Thursday
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks during a news conference as he meets with Moroccan
Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in Rabat, Morocco August 11, 2021. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s foreign minister will fly to Bahrain on Thursday, the highest-level official Israeli visit to the Gulf state since the countries established ties last year, the Foreign Ministry said.
    Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will inaugurate Israel’s embassy in Manama and sign bilateral deals during the visit, a ministry statement on Wednesday said.
    Bahrain and Gulf neighbour United Arab Emirates normalised relations with Israel in a U.S.-brokered deal known as the Abraham Accords that built on shared business interests and worries about Iran.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Alison Williams)

9/29/2021 Jordan Fully Reopens Border Crossing With Syria, Seeks Trade Boost by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
A truck drives at Jaber border crossing with Syria, near Mafraq, Jordan, September 29, 2021.REUTERS/Alaa Al Sukhni
    JABER CROSSING, Jordan (Reuters) -Jordan fully reopened its main border crossing with Syria on Wednesday in a move to boost the countries’ struggling economies and reinforce a push by Arab states to reintegrate Syria after shunning it during its civil war.
    Syrian trucks waited to enter Jordan at the Jaber border crossing and taxis carrying passengers lined up to pass through customs and immigration control.
    “The security situation is now stable on the Syrian side and we hope it remains stable,” Colonel Moayad Al Zubi, the head of Jaber crossing, told Reuters.
    The Jaber crossing had reopened in 2018 after the Syrian government drove rebels from the south, but the COVID-19 pandemic led to measures being imposed to curb transmission of the virus.
    Syria, which blames Western sanctions for its economic problems, hopes wider business links with its southern neighbour will help it recover from a decade of war.
    “The aim of these understandings is to boost trade exchange between the two countries to achieve the interests of every party,” Jordanian trade and industry minister Maha Al Ali told state-owned Al Mamlaka television.
    Officials in Jordan, a U.S. ally, and Lebanon have urged Washington to ease sanctions on Syria.
    “We now are feeling there is a U.S. move to give a bigger space for Jordanian businessmen to deal with Syria,” said Jamal Al Refai, vice chairman of the Jordan Chamber of Commerce.
    But the United States, which has suspended its diplomatic presence in Syria in 2012, has not shown any indication of an imminent change in ties.
    In response to questions on whether the United States encourages or supports a rapprochement between Syria and Jordan, a State Department spokesperson said Washington had no plans to ‘normalise or upgrade’ diplomatic relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and was not encouraging others to do.
    “Assad has regained no legitimacy in our eyes, and there is no question of the U.S. normalizing relations with his government at this time,” the spokesperson said.
    “The United States will not normalize or upgrade our diplomatic relations with the Assad regime nor do we encourage others to do so, given the atrocities inflicted by the Assad regime on the Syrian people.”
    The spokesperson said U.S. sanctions under the 2019 Caesar Act, the toughest U.S. sanctions yet that prohibited foreign companies from trading with Damascus, were an important tool to press for accountability. But the spokesperson added that     Washington also wanted ensure that any U.S. sanctions does not impede humanitarian activity.
    Andre Bank, senior research fellow and Syria researcher at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies think tank, said the full reopening of the border crossing was a gain for Syria’s Assad.
    “It is another important step in the regional normalisation of the Assad regime.    Within the regional balance of power between the different Arab states, the pendulum seems to be swinging more towards the pro-Assad friendly side,” Bank said.
    Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt this month reached agreement for Egyptian natural gas to be sent to Lebanon via Syria using a pipeline built some 20 years ago in an Arab cooperation project.
TRADE HOPES
    Arab states cut ties with Syria during the civil war, which the United Nations says killed at least 350,000 people, and U.S.-allied Arab states, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates backed opposition groups fighting Assad.
    The United Arab Emirates and Syria restored diplomatic ties in 2018.
    The Egyptian and Syrian foreign ministers met on Friday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, in what Egyptian media said was the first meeting at that level for about a decade.
    Assad has recovered most of Syria but large areas remain outside his control.    Turkish forces are deployed in much of the north and northwest, the last rebel stronghold, and U.S. forces are stationed in the Kurdish-controlled east and northeast.
    Jordan and Syria hope mutual trade will return to its $1 billion pre-war level.
    Jordanian officials said a visiting trade delegation from Syria, led by economy, trade, agriculture, water and electricity ministers, would discuss lifting tariff barriers.
    Businessmen from Jordan had largely avoided dealing with Syria after the U.S. 2019 Caesar Act imposed tough sanctions that prohibited foreign companies from trading with Damascus.
(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington, Aidan Lewis in Cairo; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Giles Elgood, Angus MacSwan, Nick Macfie, Steve Orlofsky, Timothy Heritage and Aurora Ellis)

9/30/2021 Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Gunman, Woman Assailant – Israeli Police
Local women speak to Israeli Border policemen as they stand guard near the scene of
a suspected stabbing inside Jerusalem's Old City, September 30, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli forces killed a Palestinian gunman in the occupied West Bank on Thursday and a Palestinian woman who tried to stab officers in Jerusalem’s Old City, Israeli police said.
    The violence came amid tensions heightened by the deaths on Sunday of five Palestinians, at least four of them claimed as members by the Hamas militant group, in gun battles with Israeli forces carrying out arrest raids in the West Bank.
    Police said in a statement Israeli soldiers and paramilitary police on an operation near the West Bank city of Jenin shot and killed a Palestinian who fired at them.
    A Palestinian medical source confirmed the death of a 22-year-old man.    The Islamic Jihad militant group issued a statement saying he was one of its members and that he was killed in a shootout with Israeli forces carrying out a raid.
    In Jerusalem’s Old City, Israeli police officers shot dead a Palestinian woman who tried to stab them, police said, identifying her as a resident of the West Bank.
    Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including its Old City, in the 1967 Middle East war.    Palestinians seek to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller and Ali Sawafta; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Robert Birsel)

9/30/2021 Ethiopians In Three Regions Vote In Delayed Election by Ayenat Mersie
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attends his last campaign event ahead of Ethiopia's parliamentary
and regional elections scheduled for June 21, in Jimma, Ethiopia, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Ethiopians in three regions where elections had been delayed head to the polls on Thursday to vote for their representatives and one area will also vote on whether to form its own regional state.
    Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will form the next government regardless of the results from late voting. His party already won 410 of the 436 parliamentary seats that were contested in the June vote.
    Abiy is under increasing international pressure over the war in the northern region of Tigray.    Conflict broke out in November 2020, pitting federal and allied regional forces against forces aligned with the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which clawed back control of Tigray after months of bloody battles in June.    The United Nations says parts of Tigray are experiencing famine.
    Thursday’s vote takes place in the Somali region, where registration irregularities delayed voting; Harar, where registration issues and a legal dispute caused delays; and in the southwestern Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR), where ballot and security issues delayed polls.
    Voters in part of SNNPR are also voting in a referendum on whether to breakaway and form their own regional state, which would make it Ethiopia’s 11th.    Residents hope statehood could gain the region more autonomy and federal funding.
    Ethiopia’s 1995 constitution enshrines the concept of ethnic federalism, which allows ethnic groups to seek autonomy.    Such votes have only been allowed since Abiy came into office in 2018.
    Disputes over regional versus federal powers, ethnic groups, and land frequently trigger violence in Ethiopia, a country of 110 million with more than 80 different ethnic groups.
    Abiy is due to form his new government on Oct. 4.
    Ethiopia has 547 parliamentary seats.    Forty-seven seats are being contested on Thursday.    It is unclear when the delayed elections for the remaining seats, some of which are in Tigray, will take place.
(Reporting by Ayenat Mersie; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Grant McCool)

9/30/2021 U.S. Says It Won’t Normalize Or Upgrade Diplomatic Ties With Syria’s Assad by Humeyra Pamuk
FILE PHOTO: Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks as he meets with the Syrian cabinet in
Damascus, Syria in this handout picture released by Sana on March 30, 2021. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has no plans to “normalize or upgrade” diplomatic relations with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and also does not encourage others to do so, a State Department spokesperson said on Wednesday.
    The comments came in response to Reuters questions on whether Washington was encouraging and supporting a rapprochement between Jordan and Syria after Jordan fully reopened its main border crossing with Syria on Wednesday.
    The move was to boost the countries’ struggling economies and reinforce a push by Arab states to reintegrate Syria after shunning it during its civil war.
    “The United States will not normalize or upgrade our diplomatic relations with the Assad regime nor do we encourage others to do so, given the atrocities inflicted by the Assad regime on the Syrian people,” a State Department spokesperson said in an email.    “Assad has regained no legitimacy in our eyes, and there is no question of the U.S. normalizing relations with his government at this time.”
    It was among the strongest comments to date on Syria from the Biden administration, whose Syria policy has largely focused on ensuring the permanent defeat of Islamic State and providing humanitarian aid to Syrian people.
    The United States has suspended its diplomatic presence in Syria since 2012.
    The Trump administration last June imposed its most sweeping sanctions ever targeting Assad and his inner circle to choke off revenue for his government in a bid to force it back to United Nations-led negotiations and broker and end to the country’s decade-long war.
    Arab states cut ties with Syria during the civil war, which the United Nations says killed at least 350,000 people, and U.S.-allied Arab states, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates backed opposition groups fighting Assad.
    The United Arab Emirates and Syria restored diplomatic ties in 2018.
    The Egyptian and Syrian foreign ministers met on Friday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, in what Egyptian media said was the first meeting at that level for about a decade.
    Officials in Jordan, a U.S. ally, and Lebanon have urged Washington to ease sanctions on Syria.
    “We believe that stability in Syria, and the greater region, can only be achieved through a political process that represents the will of all Syrians and we are committed to working with allies, partners, and the UN to ensure that a durable political solution remains within reach,” the State Department spokesperson said.
    Assad has recovered most of Syria but some areas remain outside his control.    Turkish forces are deployed in much of the north and northwest, the last rebel stronghold, and U.S. forces are stationed in the Kurdish-controlled east and northeast.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Leslie Adler and Lincoln Feast.)

9/30/2021 Ethiopia Expels Seven U.N. Officials, Accusing Them Of “Meddling” by quotes updates with context
A tank damaged during the fighting between Ethiopia's National Defense Force (ENDF) and Tigray Special Forces
stands on the outskirts of Humera town in Ethiopia July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia is expelling seven senior U.N. officials, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday, two days after the U.N. aid chief warned hundreds of thousands of people in the northern region of Tigray were likely experiencing famine due to a government blockade of aid.
    The move comes amid increasing international criticism over conditions in Tigray, and as all parties to fighting in northern Ethiopia face the possibility of sanctions from the United States government.
    Many nations fear the spreading conflict in Ethiopia – Africa’s second most populous nation and a regional diplomatic heavyweight – might further destabilise an already fragile region.
    The seven people being expelled include the country heads of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).    The seven have 72 hours to leave, the ministry said in a statement, accusing them of “meddling” in internal affairs.
    A statement from U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “shocked” by the expulsions and added, “We are now engaging with the Government of Ethiopia in the expectation that the concerned UN staff will be allowed to continue their important work.”
    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    Conflict erupted between federal forces and those aligned with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party that controls the region, in November.
    Tigrayan forces retook most of the region at the end of June, and then pushed into the neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara, forcing hundreds of thousands of people there to flee their homes.
    On Tuesday, United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths – the head of OCHA – said a nearly three-month long “de-facto blockade” of Tigray’s borders has restricted aid deliveries of what is required.
    “This is man-made, this can be remedied by the act of government,” Griffiths said, noting nearly a quarter of children in Tigray are malnourished.
    Five of the seven people being expelled work for OCHA; a sixth works for UNICEF and the seventh works for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is conducting a joint investigation with Ethiopia’s state-appointed human rights commission into reports of mass killings of civilians, gang rapes and other abuses in Tigray.
    Ethiopian authorities have previously accused aid workers of favouring and even arming Tigrayan forces, although they have provided no evidence to support their accusations.
    In August, Ethiopia suspended the operations for the Dutch branch of medical charity of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and the Norwegian Refugee Council, accusing them of arming “rebel groups.”
    So far, 23 aid workers have been killed in Tigray.
(Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw and Ayenat Mersie; Additional reporting by Giulia Paravicini; Editing by Katharine Houreld, Alison Williams, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, William Maclean)

9/30/2021 Nigerian Military Says Air Strike Hit Islamic State, Playing Down Alleged Civilian Deaths
FILE PHOTO: An A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft is seen in Hamat Air Base
in Lebanon's mountains October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Ibrahim
    ABUJA (Reuters) – The Nigerian military said on Thursday a deadly air strike hit an Islamic State camp and that casualties could not be determined, after witnesses said the attack had killed dozens of civilians in the northeast, where the country is waging a 12-year war against jihadist insurgents.
    Two Nigerian Air Force planes bombed and killed dozens of civilians, mostly fishermen, at a fish market in Daban Masara village, a victim and a resident told Reuters on Tuesday.
    “Necessary steps were taken to ensure that the presence of the terrorists was ascertained and the strike was precise and professionally executed,” the Nigerian military said in a statement.
    The military said the site of the air strike was a well-known enclave of Islamic State’s West Africa branch, adding that fishing is banned in the area.
    The military has for years banned fishing because of its alleged ties to funding the insurgency.
    “Although casualty figures could not be ascertained, the strike was verified to be successful in disrupting (Islamic State) logistics movement and foot soldiers,” the statement said.
    The air strike comes two months after the U.S. government transferred six A-29 Super Tucano fighter planes to Nigeria to assist in its war against Islamist militants.    The sale of the aircraft was condemned by critics, citing the Nigerian military’s record of killing civilians.
    The killings could be precarious for U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, because it is preparing to overhaul its arms export policy to increase the emphasis on human rights in a departure from former President Donald Trump’s prioritisation of economic benefits to U.S. defence contractors.
    Sources familiar with the matter said six remaining A-29s should arrive from the United States over the next week or thereabouts.    The sources added that mitigating civilian harm is a serious concern and an issue where the United States will continue to engage with its Nigerian partners.
(Reporting by Camillus Eboh in Abuja and Mike Stone in Washington, D.C.; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

9/30/2021 Top Israeli Diplomat Visits Bahrain, U.S. Navy Base In Signal To Iran<
Flags of Israel and Bahrain are seen on a plane of Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at
Bahrain International Airport in Muharraq, Bahrain, September 30, 2021. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
    DUBAI (Reuters) -Bahrain hosted the Israeli foreign minister on Thursday for the highest-level visit since the countries established ties last year and which included a tour of a U.S. naval headquarters to signal common cause against Iran.
    Landing in Manama on a plane daubed with an olive branch painting, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
    “His Majesty’s leadership and inspiration have led to true cooperation and our meeting outlined the path forward for our relationship,” Lapid said on Twitter.
    Bahrain and Gulf neighbour United Arab Emirates normalised relations with Israel last year in a U.S.-brokered deal known as the Abraham Accords that built on common commercial interests and worries about Iran.    Sudan and Morocco followed suit.
    “Our opportunities are shared.    Our threats are also shared, and they aren’t far from here,” Lapid said in remarks to reporters, apparently alluding to Gulf power Iran.
    Touring the Bahrain headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which has faced off Iranian vessels amid tensions over Tehran’s regional aims, Lapid said: “Our three countries work together because we have similar interests in the region.”
    “When we speak about peace, we need to remember that peace must be protected from those who would harm it,” he added, according to his office.
    The Fleet said on Twitter that Lapid and his hosts discussed regional maritime security cooperation.
    The Sunni-ruled kingdom accuses Iran of stoking unrest in Bahrain, a charge that Tehran denies.
    The island state, which quashed an uprising led mostly by Shi’ite Muslim members of its population in 2011, saw some sporadic acts of protest after the Abraham Accords were signed.
    On Thursday, Bahraini activists circulated on social media images of what appeared to be small protests in Bahrain.    Reuters was unable to independently verify these.
    The accords have been denounced by Palestinians as abandoning a unified position under which Arab states would make peace only if Israel gave up occupied land.
    In Gaza, the Islamist Hamas group criticised Bahrain for hosting Lapid, who returns to Israel on Thursday evening.    Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said this represented “an encouragement” of what he described as Israeli “crimes against our people.”
    Lapid’s office said he and his Bahraini counterpart signed deals on cooperation in medicine, healthcare, sports, and on water and environmental conservation.    Lapid also inaugurated Israel’s embassy in Manama.
    Separately, the first Gulf Air commercial flight touched down in Tel Aviv, launching a twice-weekly direct connection.
(Reporting by Dan Williams, Jeffrey Heller, Nidal Al Mughrabi and Lisa Barrington; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, William Maclean and Toby Chopra)

10/1/2021 Ethiopia Expels Seven U.N. Officials, Accusing Them Of ‘Meddling’ by Dawit Endeshaw
A tank damaged during the fighting between Ethiopia's National Defense Force (ENDF) and Tigray Special
Forces stands on the outskirts of Humera town in Ethiopia July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia is expelling seven senior U.N. officials, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday, two days after the world body’s aid chief warned a government blockade of aid had likely forced hundreds of thousands of people in the northern region of Tigray into famine.
    There has been increasing international criticism of conditions in Tigray and all parties fighting in northern Ethiopia face the possibility of sanctions from the U.S. government.
    White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday that the United States condemns the expulsions and will not hesitate to use sanctions against those who obstruct humanitarian efforts.
    “We’re deeply concerned that this action continues a pattern by the Ethiopian government of obstructing the delivery of food, medicine and other life-saving supplies to those most in need,” she said.
    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the expulsions. Ethiopia has previously denied blocking food aid.
    Many nations fear the spreading conflict in Ethiopia – Africa’s second-most-populous nation and a regional diplomatic heavyweight – might further destabilise an already fragile region.
    The seven people being expelled include the country heads of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).    The seven have 72 hours to leave, the ministry said in a statement, accusing them of “meddling” in internal affairs.
    A statement from U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “shocked” by the expulsions and added: “We are now engaging with the Government of Ethiopia in the expectation that the concerned UN staff will be allowed to continue their important work.”
    Conflict erupted between federal forces and those aligned with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party that controls the region, in November.
    Tigrayan forces retook most of the region at the end of June, and then pushed into the neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara, forcing hundreds of thousands of people there to flee their homes.
    On Tuesday, U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths, the head of OCHA, said a nearly three-month-long “de-facto blockade” of Tigray’s borders has restricted aid deliveries to 10% of what is required.
    “This is man-made, this can be remedied by the act of government,” Griffiths said, noting nearly a quarter of the children in Tigray are malnourished.
    Five of the seven people being expelled work for OCHA, while a sixth works for UNICEF and the seventh works for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is conducting a joint investigation with Ethiopia’s state-appointed human rights commission into reports of mass killings of civilians, gang rapes and other abuses in Tigray.
    Ethiopian authorities previously accused aid workers of favouring and even arming Tigrayan forces, although they have provided no evidence to support their accusations.
    In August, Ethiopia suspended the operations of the Dutch branch of medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and the Norwegian Refugee Council, accusing them of arming “rebel groups.”
    So far, 23 aid workers have been killed in Tigray.
(Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw and Ayenat Mersie; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington and Giulia Paravicini; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, William Maclean and Peter Cooney)

10/1/2021 Expo 2020 Dubai Kicks Off With Lavish Opening Ceremony
Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the Dubai Expo 2020 in Dubai,
United Arab Emirates, September 30, 2021. REUTERS/Rula Rouhana
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The first world fair to be held in the Middle East, Expo 2020 Dubai, opened on Thursday with a lavish ceremony of fireworks, music and messaging about the power of global collaboration for a more sustainable future.
    Stars headlining the opening ceremony, which was projected in public spaces around the UAE, included Italian tenor singer Andrea Bocelli, British singer Ellie Goulding, Chinese pianist Lang Lang and Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu.
    Dubai, the region’s tourism, trade and business hub, is hoping to boost its economy by attracting 25 million business and tourist visits to the world fair which has been built from scratch on 4.3 sq km (1.7 sq mile) of desert.
    Many countries and companies are also looking to the expo – the first major global event open to visitors since the coronavirus pandemic – to boost trade and investment.
    The full expo site will open its doors to exhibitors from almost 200 countries on Friday after being delayed for a year by the pandemic.    Chosen eight years ago to follow the 2015 Expo in Milan, Italy, the event cost around $6.8 billion.
    Dubai says it wants the Expo, an exhibition of culture, technology and architecture under the banner “Connecting Minds and Creating the Future,” to be a demonstration of ingenuity, and a place where global challenges such as climate change, conflict and economic growth can be addressed together.
    The event will probably contend with a global reluctance to travel and many events will be streamed live online.    But Expo still officially expects to attract more visits than Milan received and more than twice the population of the UAE.
    “We are quite confident…that by being responsible in how we manage the situation with COVIV but also in how we put forward an exciting program for visitors, we will hopefully be able to thread the needle by opening up but remaining at the same time conservative and keep public safety first and foremost,” Reem Al Hashimy, Expo 2020 Dubai’s Director General told Reuters.
    The Gulf state has relaxed most coronavirus restrictions but Expo requires face masks to be worn and for visitors over 18 to be vaccinated against, or test negative for, COVID-19.
    Before the pandemic, the consultancy EY forecast that the Expo would over the course of its six months contribute 1.5% of the UAE’s gross domestic product.
(Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

10/1/2021 U.N. Chief Tells Ethiopia’s Abiy He Does Not Accept Staff Expulsions by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: People stand in line to receive food donations, at the Tsehaye primary school, which was turned into a temporary
shelter for people displaced by conflict, in the town of Shire, Tigray region, Ethiopia, March 15, 2021. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
    NEW YORK (Reuters) -The United Nations does not accept Ethiopia’s decision to expel seven senior U.N. officials as famine looms in the war-torn region of Tigray, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday.
    Ethiopia declared the officials personae non grata on Thursday and gave them 72 hours to leave, but U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said that doctrine cannot be applied to staff of the world body.    Haq said the officials remained in the country.
    In a note to Ethiopia’s mission to the United Nations in New York, seen by Reuters, the U.N. Office of Legal Affairs said it had not received any information to back Ethiopia’s accusation that the officials were meddling in internal affairs.
    Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs later on Friday accused the U.N. officials of diverting aid and communication equipment to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), violating security arrangements, failing to demand the return of aid trucks deployed to Tigray, and spreading misinformation.
    War broke out 11 months ago between Ethiopia’s federal troops and forces loyal to the TPLF, which controls Tigray.    Thousands have died and more than 2 million people have been forced to flee their homes.
    Guterres told the U.N. Security Council on Friday – in a letter seen by Reuters – that the United Nations would push Ethiopia “to permit these critical U.N. staff to resume their functions in Ethiopia and grant them the necessary visas.”
    Ethiopia’s mission to the United Nations in New York told Reuters: “We urge the U.N. to expeditiously replace the expelled personnel to allow the continuation of our cooperation in providing humanitarian assistance.”
    The mission said Ethiopia would work with U.N. officials to “facilitate the early deployment of the new personnel.”
SECURITY COUNCIL TALKS
    The United States, Britain, Ireland, Estonia, Norway and France raised the expulsions in a closed-door Security Council meeting on Friday, but diplomats say strong action – such as sanctions – is unlikely as Russia and China have made clear they believe the Tigray conflict is an internal affair for Ethiopia.
    “There is a need to seek more information on this incident.    We support the U.N. and Ethiopia to resolve this issue through dialogue and support the two sides to continue to cooperate,” a spokesperson for China’s U.N. mission in New York told Reuters.
    Some diplomats and officials voiced concerns that the government could be planning further action.
    “As a major new military offensive looms, this seems like Ethiopia’s attempt to test if the international community is prepared to respond with more than words to an unfolding famine,” a senior Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
    Norway’s U.N. Ambassador Mona Juul described Ethiopia’s move to expel U.N. staff as “completely unacceptable,” while Ireland’s U.N. Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason said: “We’re worried it may be a precursor to other activity.”
    The United States has condemned the expulsions and warned that it would not hesitate to use unilateral sanctions against those who obstructed humanitarian efforts.
    U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths warned on Tuesday that a “de facto” aid blockade had likely forced hundreds of thousands of people in Tigray into famine.    Ethiopia has previously denied blocking food aid.
    “At least 400,000 people are living in famine-like conditions.    Levels of reported child malnutrition are now at the same level as at the onset of the 2011 Somalia famine.    To date, the flow of humanitarian supplies to meet these needs remains far below what is required,” Guterres wrote to the Security Council on Friday.
    Some 5.2 million people need help in Tigray, the United Nations says, and Guterres said the conflict’s spillover to neighboring Amhara and Afar regions was also fuelling a rise displacement and people in need.
(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Ayenat Mersie in Nairobi; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Giles Elgood, Alex Richardson and Daniel Wallis)

10/1/2021 Mali Receives Four Helicopters And Weapons From Russia
FILE PHOTO: A Malian soldier of the 614th Artillery Battery is pictured during a training session on
a D-30 howitzer with the European Union Training Mission (EUTM), to fight jihadists, in the camp of
Sevare, Mopti region, in Mali March 23, 2021. Picture taken March 23, 2021. REUTERS/ Paul Lorgerie/File Photo
    BAMAKO (Reuters) – A cargo plane delivered four helicopters, weapons and ammunition from Russia to Mali late on Thursday, Malian interim defence minister Sadio Camara said.
    He said Mali had bought the helicopters in a contract agreed in December 2020 to support its armed forces in their battle alongside French, European and U.N. troops with insurgents linked to Islamic State and al Qaeda.
    “Mali bought these helicopters from the Russia Federation, a friendly country with which Mali has always maintained a very fruitful partnership,” he told local media on the tarmac after the plane landed in the capital Bamako, adding that the weapons and ammunition were given by Russia.
    The delivery comes at a moment of tense relations between Mali and its key military partner France over reports Bamako could recruit Russian mercenaries as Paris reshapes its 5,000-strong counter-terrorism mission in the region.
    Diplomatic and security sources have told Reuters that Mali’s year-old military junta is close to recruiting the Russian Wagner Group, and France has launched a diplomatic drive to thwart it, saying such an arrangement is incompatible with a continued French presence.
    Meanwhile Mali’s prime minister on Saturday accused Paris of abandoning Bamako in a speech at the United Nations.
    Responding to this charge for the first time, President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday questioned the legitimacy of the Malian authorities overseeing a transition to elections after two coups in just over a year.
    “What the Malian prime minister said is unacceptable.    It’s a shame.    And that dishonours what isn’t even a government,” he told Radio France International.
    Reuters has been unable to reach the Wagner Group for comment.
(Reporting by Paul Lorgerie; Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Giles Elgood)

10/2/2021 Polls Open In Qatar’s First Legislative Elections by Lisa Barrington and Andrew Mills
FILE PHOTO: Qatar's ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, gives a speech
to the Shura Council in Doha, Qatar, November 3, 2020. Qatar News Agency/Handout via REUTERS
    DOHA (Reuters) – Qataris began voting on Saturday in the Gulf Arab state’s first legislative elections for two-thirds of the advisory Shura Council in a vote that has stirred domestic debate about electoral inclusion and citizenship.
    Voters began trickling into polling stations, where men and women entered separate sections to elect 30 members of the 45-seat body.    The ruling emir will continue to appoint the remaining 15 members of the Council.
    “With the chance to vote I feel this is a new chapter,” Munira, who writes children’s books and who asked to be identified by only one name, told Reuters.    “I’m really happy of the number of women standing as candidates.”
    The Council https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/qatars-emir-approves-electoral-law-first-legislative-polls-2021-07-29 will enjoy legislative authority and approve general state policies and the budget, but has no control over executive bodies setting defence, security, economic and investment policy for the small but wealthy gas producer, which bans political parties.
    Eighteen women are among around 183 candidates hoping to be elected at stations across 30 districts in the country, which has for several years held municipal polls.
    Campaigning has taken place on social media, community meetings and roadside billboards.
    “This is a first-time experience for me … to be here and meet people talking about these things that we need,” said Khalid Almutawah, a candidate in the Markhiya district.    “In the end we want to promote our society and we try our best to help our people and our government.”
    The election indicates Qatar’s ruling al-Thani family is “taking seriously the idea of symbolically sharing power, but also effectively sharing power institutionally with other Qatari tribal groups,” said Allen Fromherz, director of Georgia State University’s Middle East Studies Center.
    The election, approved in a 2003 constitutional referendum, comes ahead of Doha hosting the World Cup soccer tournament next year.    Critics have said voting eligibility is too narrow.
A VOTING ‘EXPERIMENT’
    Qatar’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, last month described the vote as a new “experiment” and said the Council cannot be expected from the first year to have the “full role of any parliament.”
    Kuwait has been the only Gulf monarchy to give substantial powers to an elected parliament though ultimate decision-making rests with the ruler, as in neighbouring states.
    The huge number of foreign workers in Qatar, the world’s top liquefied natural gas producer, means nationals make up only 10% of the population of 2.8 million. Even then not all Qataris are eligible to vote.
    The polls have stirred tribal sensitivities after some members of a main tribe found themselves ineligible to vote under a law restricting voting to Qataris whose family was present in the country before 1930.
    The foreign minister has said there is a “clear process” for the electoral law to be reviewed by the next Shura Council.
    “The Qatari leadership has proceeded cautiously, restricting participation in significant ways and maintaining important controls over the political debate and outcomes,” said Kristin Smith Diwan of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
    But popular politics is unpredictable, she said.    “Over time Qataris may grow to see their role and rights differently as this public forum develops.”
    Human Rights Watch has said thousands of Qataris are excluded.    Small demonstrations against the law broke out in August led by Al Murra tribe members.
    The organisation said Qatar arrested around 15 demonstrators and critics of the law.    A Qatari source with knowledge of the matter said on Friday two remain in custody “for inciting violence and hate speech.”
(Writing by Lisa Barrington and Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Frances Kerry)

10/2/2021 Afghan Pavilion At Dubai World Fair Stays Shut After Taliban Takeover by Alexander Cornwell
A view shows the Afghanistan pavilion at the Dubai 2020 Expo world fair,
in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, October 1, 2021. REUTERS/Alexander Cornwell
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Hours after the world expo fair opened in Dubai on Friday, Afghanistan’s exhibition remained closed to visitors in a sign of the challenges facing the country’s new Taliban rulers.
    Afghanistan is one of nearly 200 nations participating in the six-month fair that was awarded to Dubai eight years ago and faced a year-long delay to the start due to the pandemic.
    But the country’s pavilion, which was organised by the previous Afghan government before it was driven from power by the Taliban last month, remained unfinished and closed to visitors on Friday.
    A security guard at the building where the pavilion is located said they had not seen any one work there in weeks.
    It was not immediately clear whether the pavilion, listed on signage around the 4.3 sq km (1.7 sq mile) purpose-built site, would open at a later date during the expo fair.
    An Expo representative told Reuters that Afghanistan was “one of a small number of pavilions that are not quite ready to open,” without saying when the exhibition would open.
    The representative referred further comment to the Afghan pavilion “team” but did not say who that was.    The former Afghan government was responsible for the exhibition when it was in office.
    The Dubai government and the United Arab Emirates foreign ministry did not respond to Reuters queries.
    Expo officials have previously stressed that the event is apolitical.
    The Taliban government has so far failed to gain international recognition and its all-male government has faced Western criticism since the Islamist militia seized control of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of foreign forces.
    During the Expo opening ceremony on Thursday, the tri-colour flag of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was displayed among flags of other participating nations.
    The Taliban refer to their country as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and use a different flag.
    The UAE, a close ally of the United States, is hosting Afghanistan’s former president, Ashraf Ghani.    The Gulf state was also one of only three countries to recognise the Taliban government when they last ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
    Despite the pavilion’s closure, crowds still gathered outside it on Friday – but in order to enter an outlet of the popular Saudi fast food chain Al Baik housed in the same building.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Gareth Jones and William Mallard)

10/2/2021 U.S. Envoy Presses Sudan To Move Toward Civilian Rule by Jason Lange
FILE PHOTO: Sudanese take part in a march against the Rapid Support Forces, who they blame for a raid on protesters who had
camped outside the defense ministry during the 2019 revolution, in Khartoum, Sudan, June 3, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States warned Sudan this week that failure to make progress on a transition to civilian rule could put at risk political and economic support from Washington, a State Department spokesperson said on Saturday.
    U.S. envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman visited Sudan from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1, one week after an attempted coup raised tensions between the civilian and military groups that share power in the country.
    Sudanese authorities have said that the coup plotters loyal to ousted President Omar al-Bashir were trying to derail the revolution that removed Bashir from power in 2019 and ushered in a transition to democracy.
    The thwarted coup, which the United States condemned, points to the difficult path facing Sudan under a fragile power-sharing deal between the military and civilians since the overthrow of Bashir, who presided over Sudan for nearly three decades and was shunned by the West.
    Sudan’s current ruling body, known as the Sovereign Council, has won Western debt relief and taken steps to normalize ties with Israel, while battling a severe economic crisis.    Elections are expected in 2024.
    But the 11-member Sovereign Council does not yet have a date for handing leadership of the body from the military to civilians.
    Feltman met Sovereign Council head General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan as well as civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, among other political leaders, said State Department spokesperson Ned Price.
    The U.S. envoy pressed Sudanese politicians to make “swift progress” toward civilian rule, including a “reaching consensus on the date” when a civilian would take charge of the Sovereign Council, according to Price.
    “Deviation from this path and failure to meet key benchmarks will place at risk Sudan’s bilateral relationship with the United States, including significant U.S. assistance,” Price said.
(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

10/2/2021 Tunisia’s Saied Tells France’s Macron A National Dialogue Will Take Place Soon
FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Kais Saied takes the oath of office in
Tunis, Tunisia, October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
    PARIS (Reuters) – Tunisian President Kais Saied told French President Emmanuel Macron that a national dialogue would take place soon, Macron’s office said on Saturday after they spoke by phone.
    Saied’s mention of a dialogue would be his first indication since seizing executive power in July that he is ready to consult more widely on finding a way out of the crisis.
    He has suspended the elected parliament, brushed aside much of the 2014 constitution, given himself powers to legislate by decree, appointed a new prime minister and said he will form a committee to amend the constitution.
    “Saied indicated that the government would be formed in the coming days and that a national dialogue would be launched in its wake,” Macron’s Elysee department said.
    A statement by Saied’s office after the call did not mention any plans for a dialogue – an idea that has been pushed by other major players in Tunisian politics to resolve the crisis.
    Saied’s intervention has called into question Tunisia’s democratic gains since its 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab spring.
    The powerful labour union UGTT and major parties in the suspended parliament have all urged Saied to bring them into a dialogue about Tunisia’s constitution and political system.
    Although Saied’s intervention appeared popular after years of economic stagnation and political paralysis, opposition to it has grown in the two months since with no clear roadmap to end the crisis.
    Saied on Wednesday appointed Najla Bouden Romdhane as prime minister and asked her to form a cabinet quickly, but she is expected to have fewer powers than previous heads of government.
    Tunisia faces a looming crisis in public finances and talks with the International Monetary Fund for a rescue package stopped when Saied dismissed the previous government in July.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta in Paris and Tarek Amara in Tunis; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Catherine Evans and Daniel Wallis)

10/3/2021 “I Am Not Weak”: Qatari Women Unsuccessful In First Legislative Elections by Lisa Barrington and Andrew Mills
FILE PHOTO: Voters line up at a polling station in the Gulf Arab state's first legislative elections for
two-thirds of the advisory Shura Council, in Doha, Qatar October 2, 2021. REUTERS/Ibraheem Al Omari
    DOHA (Reuters) – Voters chose none of the 26 women who stood for election in Qatar’s first legislative elections on Saturday, disappointing candidates who had wanted to lend a voice for women and other Qataris in the Gulf monarchy’s political process.
    The vote was for 30 members of the 45-seat advisory Shura Council while the emir will continue to appoint the remaining 15 members of the body that can approve a limited scope of policies for the small but wealthy country, which bans political parties.
    “To have all men is not the vision of Qatar,” said Aisha Hamam al-Jasim, 59, a nursing manager who ran in Doha’s Markhiya district.    She urged Qatari women to start “voicing what they believe in” and vote for strong women candidates in future.
    “For the first time in Qatar, this is the opportunity to take part in the political,” she said as people trickled into the polls earlier on Saturday.
    Jasim, like fellow female candidates, said she had encountered some men who thought women should not run.
    Highlighting her administrative skills, she focused on policy priorities like health, youth employment and retirement.
    “I just say: I’m strong, I’m capable.    I see myself as fit as a man … If you want to see me as weak, that’s up to you, but I am not weak,” she said in the polling station where men and women had separate entrances.
    While Qatar has introduced reforms to women’s rights in recent years, including allowing women to independently get a driving license, it has been criticised by rights groups for issues like the guardianship system, where a woman needs male permission to marry, travel and access reproductive healthcare.
    Human Rights Watch in March said that when in 2019 women tweeted from an anonymous account about Qatar’s guardianship system, the account shut down within 24 hours after cyber security officials summoned one woman.
    Naima Abdulwahab al-Mutaawa’a, a candidate and foreign ministry worker whose elderly mother came to vote for her, had wanted to press for a body advocating for women and children.
    Several female candidates had been seeking to improve the integration into Qatari society of children of female citizens married to foreigners who, like in other Gulf states, cannot pass their Qatari nationality to their children.
    Qatar has one female minister: Public Health Minister Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari.
    While Jasim stopped short of advocating for granting passports, fellow candidate Leena al-Dafa called for full citizenship for children in such cases.
    Dafa, a writer, does not see those who oppose women in the Shura Council as an obstacle because the ruling emir – and the law – support female participation.
    “The law gives me this right … I don’t care what aggressive people say about that,” she said, adding that women were best suited to discuss their issues.
    Al-Maha al-Majid, a 34-year-old industrial engineer stood for election, alongside her policies, to change mindsets.
    “To convince the males (to vote for women), yes, we may have to put in work or extra effort … I’m willing to take this extra effort in order to be in and to convince this society that the women can do so,” she said.
    For some, attitudes are hard to shake.
    Male candidate Sabaan Al Jassim, 65, supports women standing in elections but said their primary role remains in the family.
    “They are here, they have their fingerprint and they have their vote and a voice … But most important is in the house, to take care of the kids with the families,” he said at a polling station where Jasim and Mutaawa’a sat across the room from him.
(Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Sandra Maler)

10/3/2021 Jordan’s Abdullah Receives First Call From Syria’s Assad Since Start Of Conflict by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
FILE PHOTO: Jordan's King Abdullah II speaks after being welcomed by U.S. House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., July 22, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz
    AMMAN (Reuters) -Jordan’s King Abdullah received a phone call from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the royal palace said on Sunday in what officials said was the first such communication since the start of the conflict in Syria a decade ago.
    The conversation was the latest step in thawing relations between leaders who had long been on opposing sides in Syria’s civil war, with Jordan supporting Syrian Western-backed mainstream rebels seeking to drive Assad from power.
    “They discussed relations between the two brotherly countries and ways of enhancing cooperation,” the Jordanian palace statement said.
    King Abdullah told Assad his country supported the territorial integrity of its northern neighbour and efforts to preserve its “stability and sovereignty”, the palace statement said.
    The king had called for Assad to step down after the Syrian leader’s bloody crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy protests against his authoritarian rule at the start of the conflict in 2011 and Jordan became a conduit for Western and Arab weapon supplies to forces trying to oust Assad.
    The staunch U.S. ally has, however, in the last few months accelerated steps to normalise ties with Syria and nearly two weeks ago received the Syrian defence minister in a rare visit to coordinate cross-border security.
    King Abdullah said in an interview with CNN in July that Assad was there to stay and that the status quo that kept Damascus ostracised by the international community was untenable.
    Abdullah has been pressing Washington for months to engage Syria and back Russia’s intervention in the war-torn country, saying this is needed to wean the country away from Iran’s growing foothold, officials say.
    Abdullah, who met Russian President Vladimir Putin in August and has backed Moscow’s role Syria, supported efforts to rehabilitate Damascus into the Arab fold and regain its seat in the Arab League, officials said.
    The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday that Washington has no plans to “normalise or upgrade” diplomatic relations with Assad’s government and also does not encourage others to do so.
    Amman has sought Russia’s support to rein in the growing foothold of pro-Iranian militias who hold sway in southern Syria along the Syrian border with Jordan which has also alarmed Israel and Washington, officials add.
    Jordan is prodding Washington to lift parts of the 2019 Caesar Act – the toughest U.S. sanctions yet that prohibited foreign companies trading with Damascus that has hampered wider dealings with Syria, a senior official said.
    Amman was waiting for a U.S. waiver that will allow its state airliner Royal Jordanian (RJ) to resume direct flights to Damascus for the first time since the outset of the conflict, the official who requested anonymity said.
    Jordan last week fully reopened a border crossing with Syria to boost investment and trade that had suffered during the decade-old conflict.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-KhalidiEditing by Philippa Fletcher, Frances Kerry and Lisa Shumaker)

10/3/2021 Israel Requires COVID-19 Booster Shots For Stricter “Green Pass”
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Izhak Mesfin, 44 years old, receives a third shot of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine as
country launches booster shots for over 30-year-olds, in Rishon Lezion, Israel August 24, 2021. REUTERS/ Nir Elias
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel on Sunday piled pressure on its vaccinated citizens to get a booster shot by making only those who received their third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine eligible for a “green pass” allowing entry to restaurants, gyms and many other venues.
    Israel was an early adopter of Pfizer/BioNtech booster shots — administering them to members of risk groups in July and by the end of August to anyone above the age of 12. Its campaign is being watched closely by other countries.
    The new green pass is being issued to those who received three shots or recently recovered from COVID-19, replacing a previous system that required just two shots.    It raises the bar for what the government considers full immunization.
    Starting on Tuesday, store owners or event organizers will have to scan a customer’s digital barcode before allowing entry.    There will be some exemptions, such as museums and libraries.
    About 37% of Israel’s 9.4 million population has received a booster shot.    The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalised in serious condition has been dropping in recent days, as has the number of confirmed daily cases, which fell to below 4,000 after topping 10,000 last month.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Peter Graff)

10/3/2021 Thousands Rally For Tunisian President Urging Change To Political System by Tarek Amara
Supporters of Tunisian President Kais Saied rally in support of his seizure of power
and suspension of parliament, in Tunis, Tunisia, October 3, 2021. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
    TUNIS (Reuters) -Thousands of supporters of Tunisian President Kais Saied rallied in the capital and other cities on Sunday to back his suspension of parliament and promises to change the political system, acts his critics call a coup.
    The demonstration of at least 8,000 people in central Tunis was by far the biggest since Saied seized executive power in July – a show of support by his supporters that dwarfed two protests over the previous two weekends against his actions.
    Thousands of other Saied supporters rallied in Sfax, witnesses and local media said, while others rallied in Sidi Bouzid, Gafsa and Monastir.
    Opposition to his moves has also grown in recent weeks as most of the political establishment, the powerful labour union and foreign donors have come out against his suspension of parts of the constitution.
    Saied has frequently cited public backing for his moves against the political elite and a system of power-sharing between president and parliament that he says has thwarted the popular will.
    Demonstrators waved Tunisian flags and carried placards railing against Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party that is the biggest in parliament and has acted as Saied’s main antagonist.
    One chant called Ennahda leader and parliament speaker Rached Ghannouchi, who has urged the suspended chamber to restart its work, an “assassin.”
    “We demand that Saied dissolve Ennahda and the political parties involved in corruption,” Noura Bensalah, one of the demonstrators, said.
    The president plunged Tunisia into a constitutional crisis in July by suspending the elected parliament, dismissing the prime minister and assuming executive authority.
    Last month he brushed aside much of the constitution to say he could pass legislation by decree, casting into doubt Tunisia’s democratic gains since its 2011 revolution that triggered the “Arab spring” revolts across the Muslim world.
‘REAL DEMOCRACY’
    Saied’s intervention followed years of economic stagnation and political paralysis, aggravated by an impoverishing lockdown last year, a slow-starting vaccination campaign and street protests.
    Many Tunisians blame those ills on a corrupt, self-interested political elite, and they see Saied, an independent elected in 2019, as a champion for ordinary people.
    Among his supporters, Saied’s intervention is widely regarded as a long-overdue reset of a democratic experiment that established interests pulled off course.
    “Saied is a clean president who has come to restore real democracy,” said Mongi Abdullah, a teacher from Mahdia who had come to join the rally.
    While opinion polls show Saied’s moves have widespread support, his long delay in declaring a timeline out of the crisis has started to cement opposition to him.
    Most of the political elite and the powerful labour union UGTT say he must start consulting more widely if he plans to amend the constitution, as he has indicated he will.
    Though Sunday’s rally was arranged by activists on social media, three smaller parties in parliament including Achaab supported it, saying paralysis in the political system had forced Saied to intervene.
    “Saied should appoint a government and start dialogue to reform the system and the electoral law, then go to a referendum,” said Mohamed Ammar, an independent parliament member attending the demonstration.
    Last week Saied appointed a prime minister and urged her to quickly form a government, but after his assumption of wider powers she is expected to have less influence than her predecessors in the job.
    Tunisian police on Sunday arrested a member of parliament and a television presenter who have been prominent critics of Saied since his moves in July, their lawyer said.    The police were not immediately available for comment.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

10/3/2021 Saudi Confirms First Round Of Talks With New Iranian Government
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud speaks during a joint news conference with
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 3, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri
    RIYHADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia confirmed on Sunday it had held its first round of direct talks with Iran’s new government last month, part of a process begun earlier this year to reduce tension between the Gulf’s rival Sunni and Shi’ite Muslim powers.
    The longtime foes who severed ties in 2016 began talks in April, at a time when Washington and Tehran were discussing reviving a nuclear pact that Riyadh and its allies had opposed.
    Three rounds of Saudi-Iranian talks were held in Iraq in the months before Iran’s new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, took office in August.
    Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud said the latest round had taken place on Sept. 21.    He did not give the location of the meeting.    The date coincides with a speech by Raisi at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
    “These discussions are still in the exploratory phase. We hope they will provide a basis to address unresolved issues between the two sides and we will strive and work to realise that,” he told a joint news conference.
    Saudi Arabia and Iran have backed opposing sides in regional conflicts and political disputes in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq for years, and Saudi Arabia has led an Arab coalition waging war against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen since 2015.
    Riyadh and Tehran have both said they hope the talks can ease tensions, while playing down expectations of a major diplomatic breakthrough.    Iran did not immediately comment on the Sept. 21 round of talks. Riyadh has said it would judge the government of Raisi by the reality on the ground.
    Former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the agreement under which Iran had accepted curbs to its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions.    Tehran responded by violating some of its terms.
    Indirect talks involving the United States and Iran on reviving that pact were put on hold in June and have yet to resume under Raisi. Western powers have urged Iran to return to the negotiations.
    Prince Faisal was speaking during a visit to Riyadh by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who said he had briefed his partners on the prospects for restarting the nuclear talks.
(Reporting by Raya Jalabi in Riyadh and Aziz El Yaakoubi in Dubai; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous)

10/3/2021 Turkey To Open 1,000 Markets To Counter High Inflation, Erdogan Says by Azra Ceylan and Jonathan Spicer
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament as he attends the reopening of the Turkish
parliament after the summer recess in Ankara, Turkey, October 1, 2021. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) -President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday Turkey had ordered agricultural cooperatives to open about 1,000 new markets across the country to provide “suitable” prices for consumer goods in the face of nearly 20% annual inflation.
    Construction would quickly begin on the shops to provide Turks “cheap and high quality goods” and to “balance out markets,” he said, after consumer price rises to levels well above a 5% official target.
    Frustrated by stubbornly double-digit inflation and sliding opinion polls, Erdogan’s ruling AK Party government has again begun pointing the finger at supermarkets and opened probes into potential exploitative pricing.
    “We gave the order for about 1,000 of these businesses to open around Turkey, starting at 500 square-meters each,” Erdogan told reporters after visiting an agricultural credit cooperative outlet in Istanbul.
    “These are places where prices are suitable to our citizens’ budgets,” he said of the commercial outlets.
    Annual food inflation of nearly 30%, a global jump in commodity prices and the sharp depreciation of the lira currency have driven inflation higher throughout the year.
    Inflation has remained in double digits for most of the past five years, eating into household earnings and setting Turkey well apart from emerging market peers.
    Analysts say the central bank’s depleted credibility is primarily to blame for Turkey’s inflation problem.    Erdogan fired the last three bank governors over policy disagreements.
    Under pressure from the president for stimulus, the bank unexpectedly cut its key rate by 100 basis points to 18% last month, sending the lira to record lows.
    Yet in recent weeks the government began high-profile inspections of Turkey’s largest supermarkets for “unreasonable pricing” and “consumer victimisation.”    It also probed some restaurant breakfast prices in the eastern province of Van.
    Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Saturday that increasing food production in villages is vital to head off exploitative pricing.
    In early 2019 – on the heels of a currency crisis that sent inflation soaring – the government opened its own markets to sell cheap vegetables and fruits directly, cutting out retailers it accused at the time of jacking up prices.
(Editing by David Clarke and Frances Kerry)

10/3/2021 Libya’s Foreign Minister Confirms Departure Of Some Foreign Fighters
FILE PHOTO: Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush attends a news conference following a meeting with
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia August 19, 2021. Maxim Shipenkov/Pool via REUTERS
    KUWAIT (Reuters) – Libya’s foreign minister said on Sunday that some foreign fighters have left the country as the unity government seeks to marshal international help to withdraw the many who remain.
    “The reports are correct.    There is a very modest start,” Najla Mangoush said at a news conference in Kuwait when asked whether some foreign fighters had been removed.
    “We are still seeking a larger and comprehensive organisation for the exit of mercenaries,” she said.
    Libya’s warring sides, backed by regional powers, remain entrenched with allied foreign mercenaries along front lines in defiance of a ceasefire agreement.
    Any more significant withdrawal of foreign mercenaries has appeared far off amid arguments over the role of regional forces allied to each side and stumbles in efforts to agree ground-rules for a national election.
    There has been little peace or security in Libya since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.    The country split between warring eastern and western factions in 2014.
    Eastern forces were backed by the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt.    The previous government in Tripoli, in the west, which was recognised by the United Nations, was supported by Turkey.
    The warring sides brought in mercenaries, including via Russia’s Wagner group, from Syria, Sudan and Chad among other countries, the United Nations has said.
    Last year, after commander Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) was pushed back from its 14-month assault on Tripoli, the two sides agreed on a truce and accepted the installation of a new unity government in Tripoli.
    The ceasefire agreement called for all foreign mercenaries to be withdrawn within three months of its being signed a year ago.
    The head of Libya’s presidency council said last month it would take part in a conference to ensure “unified, consistent” international support and restore a sense of Libyan leadership and ownership over the country’s future.
    But Mohammed al-Menfi also warned of “serious challenges” that could undermine national elections planned for Dec. 24.
(Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy; Writing by Nayera Abdallah and Angus McDowall; Editing by David Clarke and Andrew Heavens)

10/3/2021 Lebanon Patriarch Calls For End To Meddling In Judiciary After Blast Probe Stalls
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai arrives to lead a mass in memory of the victims, as Lebanon
marks one-year anniversary of the explosion at the port in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    AMMAN (Reuters) – Lebanon’s top Christian cleric said on Sunday the government should put an end to any meddling in the judiciary after the probe into last year’s vast Beirut port blast was halted by the latest of a series of complaints against the lead investigator.
    The investigation was frozen on Monday when a former minister wanted for questioning as a suspect filed a case questioning the judge’s impartiality.
    The move followed a smear campaign by Lebanon’s political class against Judge Tarek Bitar and a warning by a senior official of the powerful heavily armed Iran-backed Hezbollah group to Bitar that he would be removed.
    Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, who has been sharply critical of Hezbollah, said in a Sunday sermon that political pressure on Bitar weakened the authority of the judiciary and could put international aid for Lebanon at risk.
    “We cannot insist on the investigation in the port crime and not support the investigating judge and the judiciary,” al Rai said.
    “It’s true that the government should not interfere in the judiciary but it is it’s duty to intervene to stop any meddling in the affairs of the judiciary,” he added.
    The Aug. 4 2020 Beirut port blast, caused by a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely for years, killed over 200 people but more than a year on no one has been held accountable.
    Bitar is the second judge whose investigation has been stymied by powerful factions in Lebanon, where a lack of high-level accountability are blamed for systemic corruption, governing gridlock and economic meltdown.
    Judge Fadi Sawan, the first to lead the probe, was removed in February on the back of a legal complaint that questioned his neutrality, similar to the one that has now frozen the investigation.
    Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah last month accused Bitar of bias and “playing politics” but said he was not calling for his immediate removal.    A senior official from the group was later reported to have threatened to get Bitar fired.
    A judicial source said the judiciary were following up on the threat.    Hezbollah officials and the justice minister could not be reached for comment.
    Prime Minister Najib Mikati said he hoped Bitar would stay in his job and announced that security precautions had been taken as a result of threats but said the decision to freeze the probe was a judicial matter.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

10/3/2021 UAE Official Says Time To Manage Rivalry With Iran And Turkey
FILE PHOTO: Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates, Anwar Gargash,
speaks at an event at Chatham House in London, Britain July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates is trying to manage long-running rivalries with Iran and Turkey through dialogue to avoid any new confrontations in the region as the Gulf state hones in on its economy post COVID-19, a senior official said.
    Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president, told a conference on Saturday there was uncertainty about the United States commitment to the region and concern about a “looming cold war” between Washington and Beijing.
    Gulf states, which have strong economic ties with China, are also heavily reliant on the U.S. military umbrella and are closely watching talks between global powers and Iran to revive a 2015 nuclear pact as well as the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal.
    “We will see in the coming period really what is going on with regards to America’s footprint in the region.    I don’t think we know yet, but Afghanistan is definitely a test and to be honest it is a very worrying test,” Gargash said.
    “Part of what we need to do is manage our region better.    There is a vacuum and whenever there is a vacuum there is trouble,” he told the World Policy Conference.
    The UAE has moved to de-escalate tensions by engaging with non-Arab Iran and Turkey, whose influence it had moved to counter in conflicts in Yemen, Libya and elsewhere in the region.
    The UAE and Saudi Arabia believe the 2015 nuclear pact was flawed for not addressing Iran’s missiles programme and network of regional proxies.    The UAE has also moved to combat Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood which Gulf states see as a threat to their dynastic system of rule.
    “Turkey’s recent re-examination of its policies towards Egypt, the Brotherhood and towards Saudi Arabia and others is very welcome.    And I think for us to come mid-way and reach out is very important,” Gargash said.
    “The Turks have been very positive about what we are saying to them,” he said.    “Am I very positive about the reach out to Iran?    Yes I am.    Am I very positive that Iran will change its regional course?    I have to say I am more realistic here, but I am betting Iran is also concerned about vacuum and escalation.”
    Gargash said the pandemic placed non-political priorities at the forefront and that a main concern now was being caught in between the United States and China.
    “We are all worried very much by a looming cold war.    That is bad news for all of us, because the idea of choosing is problematic in the international system, and I think this is not going to be an easy ride,” he said.
(Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

10/4/2021 Two Children Killed In Missile Strikes On Yemen’s Marib – State News Agency
A boy holds shrapnel of a missile at the site of Houthi missile attack in
Marib, Yemen, October 3, 2021. REUTERS/Ali Owidha
    ADEN (Reuters) - Two children were killed and 33 other civilians injured in Houthi missile strikes on Yemen’s central Marib city on Sunday, the internationally recognised government’s state news agency said.
    Two missiles targeted military areas in the city, residents said, while a third landed near a residential district that houses military headquarters of a Saudi Arabia-led coalition.
    The state news agency said a four-year-old girl and her two-year-old brother were killed when a missile hit their house, seriously injuring their mother.    It said three other women and five children, ages ranging from seven months to 16 years, were among those wounded.
    There was no confirmation from the Houthi movement, which is pressing an offensive to seize gas-rich Marib, the Saudi-backed government’s last northern stronghold.    United Nations-led efforts for a nationwide ceasefire have stalled.
    The military coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Iran-aligned Houthi group ousted the government from the capital Sanaa.
    The conflict has dragged on, killing tens of thousands, including in coalition air strikes, and causing what the United Nations describes as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Hugh Lawson and David Clarke)

10/4/2021 Israel Accuses Iran Of Cyprus Attack Plot After Suspect Arrested by Dan Williams and Michele Kambas
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends a cabinet meeting at the Ministry
of foreign affairs offices in Jerusalem, September 12, 2021. Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM/NICOSIA (Reuters) – Israel accused Iran on Monday of orchestrating an attempted attack against Israelis in Cyprus after police on the Mediterranean island said an armed individual had been arrested. Iran swiftly denied the accusation.
    “This was a terrorist incident directed by Iran against Israeli businesspeople living in Cyprus,” Matan Sidi, spokesman for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, said in a statement.
    Asked to comment, the embassy of Iran in the Cypriot capital Nicosia said in an emailed statement: “This regime is always making such a baseless allegation against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” referring to Israel.
    Earlier on Monday, Cypriot police chief Stelios Papatheodorou told reporters: “A person has been arrested, in whose possession a pistol and cartridges were found.”
    “It is a sensitive case, which is why a remand request was held behind closed doors,” Papatheodorou added.
    Cypriot media, citing a police source, have reported that the suspect, who has not been charged, was arrested on Sept. 27 in the capital Nicosia, just after crossing by car from a checkpoint linking the Turkish-controlled north and the southern parts of the ethnically divided island.
    A silencer was also found in his vehicle, the reports said.    He was widely reported as an Azeri holding a Russian passport, aged either 38 or 39.
    The suspect was taken before a magistrates court which approved an eight day remand request from police last week. By law, police need to petition court for any extension of his remand.
    Israel appeared to hint that its intelligence services had contributed to Cyprus’ foiling of the suspected attack plot.
    “There are security threats.    As you can see, the Shin Bet, the Mossad, all of the security forces know how to handle them,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told reporters when asked about the incident.    “The fact is that we’re there.    We’re minding matters.”
    Cypriot media have also reported that the suspect was on the island for about 20 days prior to his arrest and rented two cars in succession.    They said he used an electric scooter to travel frequently to the north side of the island via a pedestrian crossing.
    In his statement, Sidi denied local media reports on Sunday that described the arrest as having thwarted a criminally motivated assassination attempt against Teddy Sagi, an Israeli magnate.
(Writing by Dan Williams and Michele Kambas, Editing by Jeffrey Heller, Mark Heinrich, Timothy Heritage, William Maclean)

10/4/2021 Jordanian King Says He Has Nothing To Hide As Leaked Papers Cite His Wealth by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
FILE PHOTO: Jordan's King Abdullah II listens during a meeting in Amman, Jordan,
May 26, 2021. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    AMMAN (Reuters) - King Abdullah of Jordan said on Monday he had nothing to hide following leaks of financial documents that showed he used offshore accounts to buy expensive properties abroad.
    Earlier, a palace statement reacting to the leak of what major news outlets called a secret trove of documents about offshore finance, said the properties were not a secret but were not disclosed for reasons of privacy and security.
    In the data dump collectively called the “Pandora Papers,” published on Sunday, Abdullah, a close U.S. ally, is alleged to have used offshore accounts to spend more than $100 million on luxury homes in the United States and Britain. Reuters has not been able to independently verify the files or the allegations made in them.
    “It is no secret that His Majesty owns a number of apartments and residences in the United States and the United Kingdom.    This is not unusual nor improper,” Jordan’s royal palace said in a statement.
    It said the king had personally purchased the properties and no funds from the state budget or treasury had been used.    The king uses the properties during official visits and sometimes while on private visits, the palace added.
    “These properties are not publicised out of security and privacy concerns, and not out of secrecy or an attempt to hide them, as these reports have claimed."
    In a previously scheduled visit to an outlying provincial area where he met tribal leaders, Abdullah attacked those whom he accused of seeking to “sow discord and ferment doubt among us.”
    Without explicitly mentioning the leak, Abdullah said: “There is nothing I have to hide from anyone but we are stronger than this and this is not the first time people target Jordan.”
    The dump of millions of records, tying various world leaders to secret stores of wealth, comes five years after the leak known as the “Panama Papers” exposed how money was hidden by the wealthy in ways that law enforcement agencies could not detect.
    The leaked documents coincide with increasing disenchantment among Jordanians.    The country has witnessed street protests against economic hardship, high youth unemployment and a lack of progress on political reforms.
    Opposition politicians say Abdullah has not done enough to tackle corruption in state agencies, where nepotism and poor governance has shaken popular confidence in the ruling elite.
    “Any allegations that link these private properties to public funds are baseless and deliberate attempts to distort facts,” the palace statement said.
(Reeporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Gareth Jones and Grant McCool)

10/4/2021 Sworn In For New Term, Ethiopia Leader Promises To Fend Off Foreign Pressure by Dawit Endeshaw
Members of a traditional dance group perform during a rally to celebrate Ethiopia’s Prime Minister
Abiy Ahmed's incumbency at the Meskel Square in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia October 4, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was sworn in for a new five-year term on Monday, telling a crowd of thousands he would protect the country from foreign interference, amid global criticism over the war in the northern region of Tigray.
    His party scored a landslide victory in June’s election, cementing his power domestically despite international concern over his government’s handling of the conflict.
    After parliament confirmed his appointment, between 30,000 and 40,000 people attended a public ceremony – unusual in Ethiopia – in the capital Addis Ababa.
    Abiy spoke from a dais covered in yellow carpet in the newly refurbished Meskel Square, where brand new lights and stadium-style benches sit next to a crumbling museum dedicated to the murder and torture victims of a previous regime.
    In his speech, Abiy denounced the leadership in the northern region of Tigray, where rebellious forces are battling the central government and where the United Nations says hundreds of thousands of people are experiencing famine due to a government blockade of aid.    The government denies it is preventing aid deliveries.
    Abiy’s speech offered little hint as to whether he would pursue an offensive to claw back territory taken by Tigrayan forces.    “In order to narrow our differences we will have a national dialogue,” he said, while also promising “a capable security and intelligence force will be built.”
    Abiy also repeated warnings that Ethiopia would not accept foreign interference in its internal affairs.
    Conflict broke out in Tigray 11 months ago between federal troops and forces loyal to the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party that controls Tigray. Thousands have died and more than 2 million people have been forced to flee their homes.
    On Thursday, Ethiopia announced it was expelling seven senior U.N. officials and gave them 72 hours to leave, a move the United Nations has said is illegal.
    Ethiopia accused the U.N. officials of diverting aid and communication equipment to the TPLF, failing to demand the return of aid trucks deployed to Tigray, violating security arrangements and spreading misinformation.    The United Nations says those accusations are false.
    The United States also condemned the expulsions and warned that it would not hesitate to use unilateral sanctions against those who obstructed humanitarian efforts.
    Abiy was appointed prime minister by the then-governing coalition in 2018 and promised political and economic reforms.
    Within months of taking office, he lifted a ban on opposition parties, released tens of thousands of political prisoners and took steps to open up one of Africa’s last untapped markets.    But rights groups say those freedoms are now being rolled back.
(Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; Writing by Giulia Paravicini; Editing by Katharine Houreld, Alex Richardson and Mark Heinrich)

10/4/2021 Libya Parliament Agrees To Parliamentary Election Law, Spokesperson Says
FILE PHOTO: Libyan Parliament meet to discuss approving new government,
in Sirte, Libya March 8, 2021. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori
    BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – Libya’s eastern-based parliament said on Monday it had agreed a law for a parliamentary election to take place a month after a planned Dec. 24 presidential election.
    A statement by parliament spokesperson Abdullah Belhaiq said the chamber had agreed each article in the law, which will keep parliament at the same number of members.
    Wrangling over how voting would take place, including over a controversial law the parliament speaker issued for the presidential election, has thrown into question whether elections will happen at all.
    An election was envisaged as a cornerstone of a U.N.-backed political roadmap to end Libya’s decade-long crisis since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.
    Libya split after 2014 between warring eastern and western factions, as the legitimacy of all its political institutions was called into question.
    The U.N.-backed roadmap called for parliamentary and presidential elections on Dec. 24 but did not specify a constitutional or legal basis for the vote.    The parliament spokesman did not give a reason for the parliament election having been scheduled in January.
    Last month parliament issued a law for the presidential election that its critics said was tailored to allow powerful figures to run without risking their existing positions and was voted for without the necessary quorum.
    The High State Council, a body that emerged from a previous parliament and was given advisory powers in a 2015 political agreement, has rejected the presidential law and some parliament members have said it was not properly voted upon.
    Last month Mohamed al-Menfi, head of the interim Presidency Council, which functions as head of state, said there should be consensus on the basis for the election.
    Belhaiq said the law agreed on Monday was voted on by 70 to 75 members who were present, out of the total of about 200 who were elected in 2014.
    He said the law was based on the existing parliamentary election rules but would switch to voting for individual candidates rather than lists.
(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfali in Benghazi, writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

10/5/2021 Biden Aides To Tell Israelis U.S. Will Pursue ‘Other Avenues’ If Iran Diplomacy Fails by by Matt Spetalnick and Steve Holland
A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage after a group picture with foreign ministers and representatives
of United States, Iran, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, France and the European Union during the Iran nuclear talks at the
Vienna International Center in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2015. Picture taken July 14, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo
SEARCH "POY DECADE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2019 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top U.S. officials will tell their Israeli counterparts on Tuesday that the Biden administration remains committed to diplomacy with Iran, but if necessary would be prepared to pursue “other avenues” to ensure Tehran does not acquire a nuclear weapon, a senior U.S. official said.
    A visit to Washington by Israel’s national security adviser, Eyal Hulata, will allow the two allies to share intelligence and develop a “baseline assessment” of how far Tehran’s nuclear program has advanced, the official said.
    Under a 2015 deal, Iran curbed its uranium enrichment program, a possible pathway to nuclear arms, in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.    Then-U.S. President Donald Trump quit the deal in 2018 and the Israeli government opposes U.S. efforts to revive it.
    In broad terms, U.S. experts believe the time it would take Iran to achieve nuclear “breakout” – enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb – has “gone from about 12 months down to a period of about a few months” since Trump pulled out of the pact, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
    “Obviously that is quite alarming,” the official told reporters ahead of Hulata’s talks with U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
    Iran has consistently denied it is developing nuclear weapons.
    Echoing President Joe Biden’s comments https://www.reuters.com/world/biden-due-talk-iran-with-israels-bennett-after-afghan-bombing-delay-2021-08-27 in a White House meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in August, the official said: “We of course remain committed to a diplomatic path.”
    “But obviously if that doesn’t work there are other avenues to pursue, and we are fully committed to ensuring that Iran never develops a nuclear weapon.”
    Asked what actions were under consideration and whether that included military options, the official said “we’ll be prepared to take measures that are necessary” but did not elaborate.
    The official said that Iran was “sending indications to a number of parties that they are preparing to come back to Vienna,” where the United States and Iran held indirect talks earlier this year that stalled.
    But signaling that obstacles remain, Iran’s foreign minister said https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/iran-asked-us-unfreeze-10-bln-show-good-will-iran-official-says-2021-10-02 on Saturday that the United States must first release $10 billion of Tehran’s frozen funds as a sign of good will, something the Biden administration has shown no willingness to do.
    Bennett, a far-right politician who ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year run as prime minister in June, has made clear he wants Biden to harden his stance against Iran, Israel’s regional arch-foe.
    There is also disagreement over Biden’s opposition to further expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied land that the Palestinians want for a future state.
    Asked whether the issue would be part of Tuesday’s talks, the U.S. official said Israel was well aware of the administration’s view of the need to refrain from actions that could be seen as “provocative” and undermine efforts to achieve a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick and Steve Holland, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

10/5/2021 Top U.S. Envoy Brought Up Khashoggi In Talks With Saudis - US Official
FILE PHOTO: U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan takes part in a news briefing about the situation
in Afghanistan at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 17, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. delegation led by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan brought up the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in talks with leading Saudi Arabian officials last week, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.
    Sullivan, Middle East envoy Brett McGurk and other U.S. officials met in Riyadh on Sept. 28 with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other top Saudi officials.
    The main point of the talks was to discuss the conflict in Yemen and ways to arrange a ceasefire.
    But a senior Biden administration official who briefed reporters about the visit to Washington this week of Israel’s national security adviser, Eyal Hulata, said the U.S. delegation also brought up the case of Khashoggi specifically and human rights in general.
    Khashoggi, a Saudi-born U.S. resident who wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post critical of bin Salman, was killed and dismembered by a team of operatives linked to the prince in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
    The Saudi government has denied any involvement by the crown prince, but a U.S. intelligence report concluded in February that bin Salman had approved of an operation to capture or kill Khashoggi.
    U.S. President Joe Biden has worked to recalibrate U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia after the friendly ties his predecessor, Donald Trump, had with bin Salman and other Saudi officials.
    Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Saturday, the third anniversary of Khashoggi’s death, “We have taken steps to prevent such a reprehensible crime from happening again,” including launching a coordinated effort to prevent and respond to any government targeting journalists, activists and dissidents beyond its borders.
(Reporting by Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

10/5/2021 Biden Aide Tells Israeli Official Diplomacy Best Way To Keep Iran From Getting Nuclear Bomb
FILE PHOTO: Iranian flag flies in front of the UN office building, housing IAEA headquarters, amid the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Vienna, Austria, May 24, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told his Israeli counterpart Eyal Hulata on Tuesday that President Joe Biden’s administration believes diplomacy is the best way to make sure Iran never gets a nuclear weapon, the White House said.
    Sullivan also noted at the White House meeting that Biden “has made clear that if diplomacy fails, the United States is prepared to turn to other options,” the White House said.
(Reporting by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Leslie Adler)
[DO YOU JAKE SULLIVAN AND JOE BIDEN REALLY THINK THAT DIPLOMACY WITH IRAN WILL SATISFY THEIR DESIRE TO DESTROY ISRAEL: Since Iran has become more of an issue during 2019 and stated in Jeremiah 49:35-39 (NKJV) PROPHESY OF ELAM to let you know what the Bible says about them and their possible future, "will be, in the end of days, that I will return their captivity," a prophecy self-dated to the first year of Zedekiah (597 BC).].

10/5/2021 South African Union Starts Indefinite Strike, Auto Industry Fears Impact by Wendell Roelf
Members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) hold placards as they gather ahead of an indefinite strike, threatening
to choke supplies of parts to make new cars and accessories, in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 5, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
    CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Africa’s biggest metalworkers union on Tuesday launched an indefinite strike to press for wage rises in the engineering sector, action that threatens to spill over and block supplies of parts to make new cars, industry and union officials said.
    With around 155,000 members organised in the sector, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has called for a total shutdown of the engineering industry after wage talks with employer bodies deadlocked.
    “We are left with no choice but to strike and to withhold our labour indefinitely until the bosses give into our just demands,” NUMSA said.
    The union organised marches and rallies across the country on Tuesday, with thousands attending a march in downtown Johannesburg.
    NUMSA had sought an 8% across-the-board wage rise in the first year of a pay deal, and an increase equal to the rate of inflation plus 2% for the following two years.    Annual inflation is currently around 5%.
    Industry body Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa had offered 4.4% for 2021, inflation plus 0.5% in 2022 and inflation plus 1% in the third year.
    Lucio Trentini, chief executive at the federation which represents more than 1,000 firms, from small family-owned businesses with less than 20 employees to large listed companies, said a poll among members on Tuesday showed a worker absenteeism rate of around 26%.
    “And I fear … that this number will grow as the strike continues through the week,” he told Reuters.
UNION DEMANDS
    Trentini said they were in contact with NUMSA to try and reach a “mutually acceptable” compromise and prevent a repeat of a damaging four-week strike in 2014 that cost the economy an estimated 6 billion rand ($398 million) in lost output.
    Smaller union, UASA, said it was balloting members to determine if they also supported strike action, with a final decision expected on Friday.
    South Africa’s economy, including its export-focused auto sector, was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, making employers reluctant to give in to union demands for above-inflation salary hikes.
    Domestic car sales and vehicle production fell by roughly 30% last year, hitting major brands such as Ford, BMW and Nissan which all have local plants.
    “We urge parties to speedily resolve the impasse and prevent long-term damage and possible line stoppages to vehicles being assembled in SA and abroad,” Renai Moothilal, executive director at the National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers, told Reuters.
    A Ford spokeswoman said they would not comment for now, while a Nissan spokeswoman said they were monitoring the situation “and do not foresee any impact on our side.”
($1 = 15.0522 rand)
(additional reporting by Alexander Winning and Siphiwe Sibeko in Johannesburg; editing by Kenneth Maxwell, Jason Neely and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

10/5/2021 Egypt Close To Finalising Arrangements For Gas Supplies To Lebanon
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's newly appointed Energy Minister Walid Fayad looks on during
a handover ceremony in Beirut, Lebanon September 13, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt is finalising arrangements to start supplying gas to Lebanon soon under a plan to help ease Lebanon’s power crisis, the two countries’ energy ministers said after meeting on Tuesday.
    Under an agreement announced last month, Egypt will supply natural gas to Lebanon via a pipeline that passes through Jordan and Syria to help to boost Lebanon’s electricity output.    The deal, agreed by all four countries, is part of a U.S.-backed plan to address Lebanon’s power shortages.
    Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayad said on Tuesday that Egypt could provide more gas than originally anticipated if necessary but gave no details.
    “Egypt offered … helping in the energy sector through the possibility of offering extra quantities of gas,” Fayad said at a joint press briefing with Egyptian Petroleum Minister Tarek El Molla in Cairo after their meeting.
    “We will have another discussion on this,” Fayad said, without elaborating.
    Molla said that the two countries agreed on a roadmap for the gas supplies.
    “God willing, we can finish the measures related to the deal within the few coming weeks,” Molla said, but did not say when supplies would begin.
    Life in Lebanon has been paralysed by the crisis, which has deepened as supplies of imported fuel have dried up.    It is part of a wider financial crisis that has sunk the Lebanese currency by 90% since 2019.
    The energy plan, however, is complicated by U.S. sanctions on the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.
    Lebanese officials have called on Washington to grant an exemption.
    Damascus has said it is ready to cooperate.
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah and Alaa Swilam; Writing by Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by David Goodman and Susan Fenton)

10/5/2021 Mali Summons French Ambassador Over Macron Comments
FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron reacts during a joint press conference with Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum following a video summit
with leaders of G5 Sahel countries, at the Elysee presidential Palace, in Paris July 9, 2021. Stephane De Sakutin/ Pool via REUTERS
    BAMAKO (Reuters) – Mali’s foreign ministry summoned France’s ambassador to Bamako on Tuesday over comments by President Emmanuel Macron that it said were unfriendly and disagreeable.
    This is the latest salvo in a tense dispute between Mali and its key military partner France over reports Bamako could recruit Russian mercenaries as Paris reshapes its 5,000-strong counter-terrorism mission in the region.
    Mali’s prime minister has accused France of abandoning it in the joint fight against Islamist insurgents. Macron last week rejected the charge and questioned the legitimacy of the Malian authorities overseeing a transition to elections after two coups in just over a year.
    In response, the Malian foreign ministry said it had summoned the French ambassador to inform him of the authorities’ indignation and disapproval.
    At the meeting, Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop “strongly protested (Macron’s) regrettable remarks, which are likely to harm the development of friendly relations,” the ministry said in a statement.
    It said Diop also called for the two sides to take a constructive approach and prioritise countering the insurgency in the region.
    Violence in the Sahel, a band of arid land that borders the south edge of the Sahara Desert, has intensified in recent years despite the presence of thousands of United Nations, regional and Western troops.
    Diplomatic and security sources have told Reuters that Mali’s year-old military junta is close to recruiting the Russian Wagner Group, and France has launched a diplomatic drive to thwart it, saying such an arrangement is incompatible with a continued French presence.
(Reporting by Paul Lorgerie and Tiemoko Diallo; writing by Alessandra Prentice; editing by Richard Pullin)

10/6/2021 Turkey Ratifies Paris Climate Agreement; Last G20 Country To Do So by Ali Kucukgocmen
FILE PHOTO: People are pictured outside the parliament building in Ankara, Turkey
July 16, 2016, after an attempted Turkish military coup. REUTERS/Tumay Berkin
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) -Turkey’s parliament ratified the Paris climate agreement on Wednesday, making it the last G20 country to do so, after holding off for years due to what it saw as injustices in its responsibilities as part of the agreement.
    Turkey has been a signatory to the Paris agreement since April 2016.    But Ankara had not ratified the deal, arguing that it should not be considered a developed country as part of the agreement, which gives it more responsibility, as Turkey is historically responsible for a very small share of carbon emissions.
    Announcing that Turkey would ratify the deal at the United Nations General Assembly last month, President Tayyip Erdogan said countries that have a “historical responsibility” for climate change should make the most effort.
    “Whoever made the most damage to nature, our air, our water, our soil, the earth; whoever savagely exploited natural resources needs to make the largest contribution to the fight against climate change,” he said.
    On Wednesday, 353 members of Turkey’s parliament ratified the agreement unanimously.
    The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) currently lists Turkey in the Annex I group, described as industrialised countries.
    A statement approved by parliament said Turkey was ratifying the deal as a developing country and would implement it as long as it did not “harm its right to economic and social development.”
    Turkey has also sent a proposal to UNFCCC Secretariat in Bonn, Germany, to have its name removed from the Annex I list.
    The proposal is on the provisional agenda for the COP26 Climate Change Conference to be held in Glasgow from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12.
    If Turkey is removed from the Annex I list of countries, it would be able to benefit from investment, insurance and technology transfer that can be provided as part of the agreement.
FIRES AND FLOODS
    Speaking in parliament, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) parliamentarian Jale Nur Sullu said it was unclear what the result of ratifying the deal as a developing country would be without the status change being approved at the climate conference.
    The Paris agreement aims to limit the global average temperature rise to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and “make efforts” to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
    The 1.1-degree Celsius warming already recorded has been enough to unleash disastrous weather, including the recent fires in Turkey, Greece and the United States.
    Some of the worst wildfires in Turkey’s history killed eight people and devastated tens of thousands of hectares of forest in the southwest this summer.    The fires were followed closely by floods that killed at least 77 people in the north.
    Sera Kadigil Sutlu, member of the Workers’ Party of Turkey, questioned whether the government would abandon industrial projects criticised as harmful to the environment after the agreement is ratified.
    “Will you ban metallic mining in the Black Sea (region), for example?    Will you turn back on ridiculous projects like Kanal Istanbul?… I know you won’t,” she said.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Leslie Adler, Hugh Lawson and Aurora Ellis)

10/6/2021 Israeli Rightist Seeks To Outlaw Opening Of U.S. Palestinian Mission In Jerusalem by Dan Williams
Former Jerusalem Mayor and Knesset member Nir Barkat smiles during an interview
with Reuters at his home in Jerusalem, October 6, 2021. REUTERS/Nir Elias
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli right-wing opposition legislator is seeking to outlaw the planned reopening of a U.S. mission in Jerusalem that has traditionally been a base for diplomatic outreach to the Palestinians.
    Israel’s new cross-partisan government led by nationalist Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also opposes the reinauguration of the consulate, potentially buoying Likud lawmaker Nir Barkat’s effort to scupper the move, though it would strain relations with Washington.
    The consulate was subsumed into the U.S. Embassy that was moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in 2018 by then-U.S. President Donald Trump, steps hailed by Israel and condemned by Palestinians.
    With an eye towards repairing U.S. relations with the Palestinians, and rebuilding mutual trust, President Joe Biden’s administration says it will reopen the consulate while leaving the embassy in place
.
    Barkat’s legislation, filed in parliament last month and with voting as yet unscheduled, would outlaw opening a foreign mission in Jerusalem without Israel’s consent.
    “I think that the current Israeli government is weak.    It depends on the left, it depends on radicals on our side,” he told Reuters.    “We must do everything we can to maintain the unity of the city of Jerusalem.”
    Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital.    Palestinians want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in a 1967 war along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as capital of the state they seek.
    Ahmed Al-Deek, adviser to the Palestinian foreign ministry, said Barkat “represents the position of far-right parties in Israel which seek to block any chance of reaching a two-state solution.”
    Barkat said polling showed some 70% public support for the bill – enough to garner votes from within the coalition.    Asked for Bennett’s position, his spokesman cast the bill as a PR stunt, saying: “We don’t comment on trolling.”
    U.S. officials have been largely reticent on the issue, saying only that the reopening process remains in effect.
    Asked whether precedent existed in U.S. diplomacy for opening a mission over objections of a host country, the State Department’s Office of the Historian declined comment.
    Barkat’s bill recognises that there are handful of countries with Jerusalem missions, like the former consulate, that predate Israel’s founding in 1948.
    In what may signal a bid to persuade Israel to reconsider the former mission as a candidate to rejoin that group, Thomas Nides, Biden’s pick for ambassador, noted in his Sept. 22 confirmation hearing: “That consulate has existed, in one form or another, for almost 130 years.”
    Barkat was unmoved, saying: “We respect what happened before 1948 (but) never did we give anybody consent to open up a diplomatic mission for Palestinians in the city of Jerusalem.”
(Additional by Ali Sawafta; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Heinrich)

10/6/2021 Lebanese PM Says He Signs Bill Lifting Immunity In Beirut Blast Case - Sky News Arabia
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati arrives at the presidential palace
in Baabda, Lebanon September 13, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    Cairo (Reuters) -Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said in a Sky News Arabia interview on Wednesday he had signed a bill that lifts immunity on “everyone” who might have borne responsibility for the Beirut port blast, saying they must be held accountable.
    The disastrous Aug. 4, 2020 explosion left more than 200 people dead and devastated swathes of the Lebanese capital.
    Mikati added in the interview that Lebanon’s constitution stipulated that senior government officials must be tried in front of a special tribunal.
    The investigation into the explosion, one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts in history, has made little headway amid a smear campaign against investigation Judge Tarek Bitar and pushback from powerful Lebanese factions.
    He said the government will extend help to the families of the blast’s victims, adding that a plan has been formulated to reconstruct the port, a vital lifeline to the country’s economy.
    Many in Lebanon, particularly families of the victims of the blast, are furious that no senior official has been held accountable more than a year later.
    Bitar’s efforts to question former and serving state officials – including the prime minister at the time of the blast, ex-ministers and senior security officials on suspicion of negligence – have been repeatedly denied.
(Reporting by Lilian WagdyEditing by Mark Heinrich)

10/7/2021 WHO Backs Malaria Vaccine Rollout For Africa’s Children In Major Breakthrough by Maggie Fick and Aaron Ross
FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured at the World Health Organization (WHO) building
in Geneva, Switzerland, February 2, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
    NAIROBI (Reuters) - The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday the only approved vaccine against malaria should be widely given to African children, potentially marking a major advance against a disease that kills hundreds of thousands of people annually.
    The WHO recommendation is for RTS,S – or Mosquirix – a vaccine developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline.
    Since 2019, 2.3 million doses of Mosquirix have been administered to infants in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi in a large-scale pilot programme coordinated by the WHO. The majority of those whom the disease kills are under age five.
    That programme followed a decade of clinical trials in seven African countries.
    “This is a vaccine developed in Africa by African scientists and we’re very proud,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
    “Using this vaccine in addition to existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year,” he added, referring to anti-malaria measures like bed nets and spraying to kill mosquitoes that transmit the disease.
    One of the ingredients in the Mosquirix vaccine is sourced from a rare evergreen native to Chile called a Quillay tree.
    Reuters reported on Wednesday https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/chilean-tree-holds-hope-new-vaccines-if-supplies-last-2021-10-06 that the long-term supply of these trees is in question.
    Malaria is far more deadly than COVID-19 in Africa.    It killed 386,000 Africans in 2019, according to a WHO estimate, compared with 212,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the past 18 months.
    The WHO says 94% of malaria cases and deaths occur in Africa, a continent of 1.3 billion people.    The preventable disease is caused by parasites transmitted to people by the bites of infected mosquitoes. Symptoms include fever, vomiting and fatigue.
    The vaccine’s effectiveness at preventing severe cases of malaria in children is only around 30%, but it is the only approved vaccine.    The European Union’s drugs regulator approved it in 2015, saying its benefits outweighed the risks.
    “This is how we fight malaria, layering imperfect tools on top of each other,” said Ashley Birkett, who leads global malaria vaccine work at Path, a non-profit global health organization that has funded development of the vaccine with GSK and the three-country pilot.
    Another vaccine against malaria called R21/Matrix-M that was developed by scientists at Britain’s University of Oxford showed up to 77% efficacy in a year-long study involving 450 children in Burkina Faso, researchers said in April.    It is still in the trial stages.
    GSK welcomed the WHO recommendation.
    “This long-awaited landmark decision can reinvigorate the fight against malaria in the region at a time when progress on malaria control has stalled,” Thomas Breuer, GSK’s chief global health officer, said in a statement.
    GSK shares held steady in New York following the announcement, which came after the close of trading in its London-listed shares.
FUNDING CHALLENGE
    The recommendation was jointly announced in Geneva by the WHO’s top advisory bodies for malaria and immunization, the Malaria Policy Advisory Group and the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization.
    Experts said the challenge now would be mobilising financing for production and distribution of the vaccine to some of the world’s poorest countries.
    GSK has to date committed to produce 15 million doses of Mosquirix annually up to 2028 at a cost of production plus no more than 5% margin.
    A global market study led by the WHO this year projected demand for a malaria vaccine would be 50 to 110 million doses per year by 2030 if it is deployed in areas with moderate to high transmission of the disease.
    The GAVI vaccine alliance, a global public-private partnership, will consider in December whether and how to finance the vaccination programme.
    “As we’ve seen from the COVID vaccine, where there is political will, there is funding available to ensure that vaccines are scaled to the level they are needed,” said Kate O’Brien, director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals.
    A source familiar with planning for the vaccine’s development said the price per dose was not yet set, but would be confirmed after GAVI’s funding decision and once there is a clear sense of demand.
    The WHO’s decision had personal meaning for Dr. Rose Jalong’o, a vaccinology specialist at the Kenyan health ministry.
    “I suffered from malaria as a child, and during my internship, and during my clinical years I attended to children in hospital because of severe malaria who needed blood transfusion and unfortunately some of them died,” she said.
    “It’s a disease I have grown up with and, seeing all this in my lifetime, it’s an exciting time.”
(Reporting by Maggie Fick in Nairobi and Aaron Ross in Dakar; Editing by Katharine Houreld, Mark Potter and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

10/7/2021 U.N. Ends Yemen War Crimes Probe In Defeat For Western States by Stephanie Nebehay
FILE PHOTO: A pro-government tribal fighter stands at a position where he fights
against the Houthis in Marib, Yemen October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Ali Owidha
    GENEVA (Reuters) - Bahrain, Russia and other members of the U.N. Human Rights Council pushed through a vote on Thursday to shut down the body’s war crimes investigations in Yemen, in a stinging defeat for Western states who wanted to keep the mission going.
    Members narrowly voted to reject a resolution led by the Netherlands to give the independent investigators another two years to monitor atrocities in Yemen’s conflict.
    The independent investigators have said in the past that potential war crimes have been committed by all sides in the conflict that has pitted a Saudi-led coalition against Iran-allied Houthi rebels.
    Dutch ambassador Peter Bekker said the vote was a major set back.    “I cannot help but feel that this Council has failed the people of Yemen,” he told delegates.
    “With this vote, the Council has effectively ended its reporting mandate, it has cut this lifeline of the Yemeni people to the international community.”
    Rights activists said this week that Saudi Arabia lobbied heavily against the Western resolution.
    The kingdom is not a voting member of the U.N. Human Rights Council and its delegation did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
    During the debate, Bahraini ambassador Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri said that the international group of investigators had “contributed to misinformation on the ground” in Yemen.
    In the vote called by Saudi ally Bahrain, 21 countries voted against the Dutch resolution including China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, Venezuela and Uzbekistan. Eighteen including Britain, France and Germany voted to support it.
    There were seven abstentions and Ukraine’s delegation was absent.    The United States only has observer status.
    Radhya Almutawakel, chairperson of the independent Yemeni activist group Mwatana for Human Rights, said she was deeply disappointed by the vote.
    “In voting against the renewal of the GEE’s mandate, they have voted to abandon the Yemeni people,” she said, referring to the independent investigators known as the Group of Eminent Experts.
    “By voting against the renewal of the GEE today, UN member states have given a green light to warring parties to continue their campaign of death and destruction in Yemen,” she added.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alex Richardson and Andrew Heavens)

10/8/2021 Turkey Asks U.S. To Buy 40 F-16 Jets To Upgrade Air Force - Sources by Humeyra Pamuk and Mike Stone
FILE PHOTO: Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar gets off from an Air Force F16 jet after landing
at a new airport under construction in Istanbul, Turkey September 22, 2018. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Turkey has made a request to the U.S. to buy 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes, as the NATO ally looks to modernize its Air Force after the purchase of F-35 jets fell through, sources familiar with the matter said.
    The deal, worth billions, is still working its way through the Foreign Military Sales process which is subject to approval by the U.S. State Department as well as the U.S. Congress which can block deals.
    The people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the deal.
    “As a matter of policy, the Department does not confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they have been formally notified to Congress,” a spokesperson for the State Department said. The Turkish Embassy in Washington declined to comment.
    Ankara had ordered more than 100 F-35 jets, also made by Lockheed Martin Corp, but was removed from the program in 2019 after it acquired Russian S-400 missile defense systems.
    The decades-old partnership between the NATO allies has gone through unprecedented tumult in the past five years over disagreements on Syria policy, Ankara’s closer ties with Moscow, its naval ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean, U.S. charges against a state-owned Turkish bank and erosion of rights and freedoms in Turkey.
    The request for the jets will likely have a difficult time getting approval from the U.S. Congress, where sentiment towards Turkey has soured deeply over recent years, primarily due to Ankara’s purchase of the S-400s and its problematic human rights track record.
    Ankara’s purchase of the S-400s has also triggered U.S. sanctions.    In December 2020, Washington blacklisted Turkey’s Defense Industry Directorate, its chief, Ismail Demir, and three other employees.
    Since then the U.S. has repeatedly warned Turkey against buying further Russian weaponry.    But last week, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan indicated Ankara still intended to buy a second batch of S-400s from Russia, a move that could deepen a rift with Washington.
    There is bipartisan support in U.S. Congress to push the Biden administration to put further pressure on Ankara, primarily over its purchase of Russian weapons and its human rights track record.
    Ankara has said it hopes for better ties under U.S. President Joe Biden.
    Reports of the Turkish request were first reported by Greek defense outlet Defense Review.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Mike Stone in Washington, D.C.; editing by Richard Pullin and Chris Reese)

10/8/2021 Airstrikes Against Tigrayan Forces Intensify In Ethiopia’s Amhara Region - TPLF Spokesman by Katharine Houreld
FILE PHOTO: Members of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) prepare to head to mission
in Sanja, Amhara region, near a border with Tigray, Ethiopia November 9, 2020. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Airstrikes against Tigrayan forces in Ethiopia’s northern region of Amhara have intensified, a spokesman for the Tigrayan forces said on Friday, which he said could presage a ground push against the Tigrayan forces by the Ethiopian military and its allies.
    The Ethiopian military and its allies have been fighting forces from the northern region of Tigray for 11 months.
    Tigrayan forces pushed into Amhara region, whose forces have been fighting alongside the government, in July.
    “There is a massive build up of forces on all fronts … we are not sure which front they are seriously launching an offensive,” Getachew Reda, a spokesman for the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), told Reuters by phone.    “There are artillery and drones are being used.”
    He said multiple airstrikes had begun on Thursday and intensified on Friday, clustered around three areas: near the towns of Wurgessa, and of Wegel Tena and in the east, on the road linking the region of Afar to Amhara.
    A diplomatic source confirmed to Reuters that there had been airstrikes near Wurgessa.    Reuters was unable to independently verify airstrikes in other areas.
    Spokespeople for the Ethiopian military, Amhara regional government and prime minister’s office did not return calls seeking comment.
    The fighting since last November has displaced millions of people and pushed hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans into famine – a situation the United Nations has blamed on a government blockade. The government denies it is blocking aid.
    Diplomats fear the spreading fighting could destabilise Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation and an important regional power.
    After the Tigrayan forces pushed into the regions neighbouring Tigray – Amhara and Afar – hundreds of thousands of residents there were forced to flee their homes and around 1.7 million people became dependent on food aid.
    On Thursday, Amhara spokesperson Gizachew Muluneh tweeted, “In order to liberate our people who are suffering due to the terrorist TPLF, there might be irreversible operations in all fronts, at any time or hour.”
(Reporting by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Frances Kerry)

10/8/2021 Libya’s Eastern Forces Say Plan Agreed To Withdraw Mercenaries
FILE PHOTO: Fighters loyal to Libya's internationally recognised government are seen after
regaining control over the city, in Tripoli, Libya, June 4, 2020. REUTERS/Ayman Al-Sahili
    BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – The eastern side in Libya’s conflict said on Friday it had agreed with its opponents on a plan for a phased withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries, but gave no details or timeline for a move seen as crucial to cementing a year-old ceasefire.
    Mercenaries brought by the foreign powers involved in Libya, including Russia and Turkey, remain entrenched on both sides despite the ceasefire and a parallel political process aimed at resolving the decade-long crisis through elections.
    Both those U.N.-backed efforts are seen as highly fragile, however, with a constant risk that the process could unravel.
    An eastern military official said the joint committee meeting in Geneva had agreed on a “an action plan for the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign forces in a gradual, balanced and simultaneous way.”
    The official added that international monitors and a monitoring mechanism were needed before any withdrawal could begin.    Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush said on Sunday that a very modest number of mercenaries had already left.
    Forces from western Libya involved in the talks were not immediately available to comment.
    The committee was formed through a U.N.-backed ceasefire agreed last year that followed the collapse of eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar’s 14-month offensive against Tripoli.
    His assault was the latest bout of fighting in a series of conflicts between rival factions since the 2011 uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, drawing in foreign powers.
    In 2014, Libya split between western and eastern factions with rival administrations, but the latest U.N.-backed peace push led to the installation of a unity government in March.
    Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt backed Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) in the conflict. Turkey supported the previous Tripoli-based government, which was recognised by the United Nations.
    Foreign mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group as well as from Syria, Chad and Sudan have been deployed on front lines.    This week, U.N. human rights investigators linked mercenaries to possible war crimes.
(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfali in Benghazi, writing by Angus McDowall, Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/8/2021 Turkish Court Opens Re-Trial In Merged Gezi Protest Cases by Ali Kucukgocmen
FILE PHOTO: Lawyers and supporters of the Gezi solidarity group gather in front of the Justice Palace,
the Caglayan Courthouse, as a Turkish court began the re-trial of philanthropist Osman Kavala and 15 others over
their role in nationwide protests in 2013, in Istanbul, Turkey, May 21, 2021. REUTERS/Dilara Senkaya
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A Turkish court on Friday opened the re-trial of philanthropist Osman Kavala and 50 other defendants over nationwide protests in 2013, in a case which has been a source of growing concern among Turkey’s Western allies.
    Human rights groups have described the Gezi trial as symbolic of a crackdown on dissent under President Tayyip Erdogan over the last decade. The latest trial combines two cases related to the Gezi protests after their acquittals were overturned earlier this year.
    Hundreds of thousands marched in Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkey in 2013 as demonstrations against plans to build a replica Ottoman barracks in the city’s Gezi Park grew into nationwide protests against Erdogan’s government.
    The acquittals in the case targeting Kavala were overturned in January, and later combined with the trial against the Carsi football fan group over the same protests.
    The defendants in the Carsi case were acquitted in 2015 and that ruling was overturned this year.    Some of the defendants in the Gezi trial are being tried over the same charges for a third time, having also been acquitted of them in 2015.
    Kavala has been jailed for four years without conviction despite the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) calling for his release.    The Council of Europe said last month it would begin infringement proceedings against Turkey if he is not released in line with the ECHR ruling.
    A separate case against Kavala and a second defendant over their alleged involvement in a 2016 coup attempt was also combined with the two other cases.
‘MISSED OPPORTUNITY’
    Around 35 defendants were present in the courtroom packed with Western diplomats, opposition parliamentarians and observers on Friday.
    The European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur Nacho Sanchez Amor said he attended the session to show solidarity.
    “Sadly it was another missed opportunity for (Turkish) authorities to respect their intl’ commitments,” he said on Twitter.
    Speaking via videolink from prison, Kavala said the merging of the cases indicated a “politically tainted judiciary undertaking to prolong my imprisonment,” adding that the allegations were based on conspiracy theories.
    The judge ruled that Kavala should remain in detention until the next session on Nov. 26.
    Critics say Turkey’s judiciary has been exploited to punish Erdogan’s perceived opponents.    The president and his AK Party say the courts make independent decisions.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Daren Butler and Gareth Jones)

10/8/2021 New Ebola Case Confirmed In Eastern Congo by Fiston Mahamba
FILE PHOTO: A health worker wearing Ebola protection gear, leaves the dressing room before entering the
Biosecure Emergency Care Unit (CUBE) at the ALIMA (The Alliance for International Medical Action) Ebola
treatment centre in Beni, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, March 30, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
(Corrects total number of outbreaks to 12 from 11 in paragraph 6)
    GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – A case of Ebola has been confirmed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the health minister said on Friday, five months after the end of the most recent outbreak there.
    It was not immediately known if the case was related to the 2018-2020 outbreak that killed more than 2,200 people in eastern Congo, the second deadliest on record, or the flare-up that killed six this year.
    A 3-year-old boy tested positive near the eastern city of Beni, one of the epicentres of the 2018-2020 outbreak, and died from the disease on Wednesday, Health Minister Jean Jacques Mbungani said in a statement.
    About 100 people who may have been exposed to the virus have been identified and will be monitored to see if they develop any symptoms, he added.
    An internal report from Congo’s biomedical laboratory said that three of the toddler’s neighbours in Beni’s densely-populated Butsili neighbourhood also presented symptoms consistent with Ebola last month and died, but none were tested.
    Congo has recorded 12 outbreaks since the disease, which causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea, and is spread through contact with body fluids, was discovered in the equatorial forest near the Ebola River in 1976.
    “Thanks to the experience acquired in managing the Ebola virus disease during previous epidemics, we are confident that the response teams … will manage to control this outbreak as soon as possible,” Mbungani said.
    It is not unusual for sporadic cases to occur following a major outbreak, health experts say.    Particles of the virus can remain present in semen for months after recovery from an infection.
    The disease typically kills about half of those it infects although treatments developed since the record 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa have significantly reduced death rates when cases are detected early.
    Two highly effective vaccines manufactured by Merck and Johnson & Johnson have also been used to contain outbreaks since then.
    The 2018-2020 outbreak, however, became as deadly as it did because the response was hampered by mistrust of medical workers by the local population as well as violence by some of the armed militia groups active in eastern Congo.
(Reporting by Fiston Mahamba; Additional reporting by Aaron Ross and Stanis Bujakera; Editing by Leslie Adler, John Stonestreet and Sandra Maler)

10/9/2021 U.S. Delegation To Meet With Taliban Officials In Doha, Qatar by OAN Newsroom
Joe Biden speaks about the September jobs report from the South Court Auditorium at the White House
in Washington, D.C., on October 8, 2021. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
    Joe Biden sent a delegation of diplomats to meet with Taliban leaders in Qatar.    The group engaged in their first face-to-face meeting with the terrorist group since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan on Saturday.
    A Taliban spokesperson told reporters they held detailed discussions with the American delegation, including about humanitarian assistance.    Talks are expected to continue throughout Saturday and Sunday.
    “This meeting is a continuation of the pragmatic engagements with the Taliban on issues of U.S. vital national interest,” said a U.S. official.
    Each side is set to discuss safe passage for U.S. residents held in the country as the government has continued its efforts to help American citizens still in the region.
    The official also said in the Doha meeting, the U.S. would make sure to hold “the Taliban to its commitment not to allow terrorists to use Afghan soil to threaten the security of the United States or its allies.”

10/9/2021 Verification Of Sanctions Relief A Top Issue In Nuclear Talks - Iran
FILE PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian attends a press conference after his meeting
with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, in Beirut, Lebanon October 7, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    DUBAI (Reuters) – A main concern of Iran in any talks to rescue the 2015 nuclear deal would be around ways to verify the lifting of U.S. sanctions, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Saturday.
    The talks, which aim to bring Washington and Tehran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear pact aimed at curbing the Iranian enrichment programme, were adjourned in June after hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi was elected Iran’s president.
    Speaking during a visit to Syria, Amirabdollahian reiterated that Iran would “soon” return to the nuclear talks with world powers, which include indirect negotiations with the United States, Iranian state media reported.
    “Of course, we will soon return to the Vienna talks and we are keeping our eyes on the issue of verification and receiving the necessary guarantees for the implementation of commitments by the Western parties,” state media quoted Amirabdollahian as saying.
    Amirabdollahian did not give details of the verification and monitoring mechanism Tehran was seeking.    But Iran has often voiced concern about the need to verify that U.S. sanctions that were lifted under the accord are not kept in place by Washington.
    Former president Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear pact in 2018 and reimposed sanctions that crippled Iran’s economy, prompting Tehran to breach some of the accord’s nuclear restrictions.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom, Editing by William Maclean)

10/10/2021 Germany’s Merkel Kicks Off Final Official Visit To Israel
FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures as she delivers remarks following her meeting
with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Germany’s outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel will tour Israel’s national Holocaust memorial on Sunday and hold talks with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in her final official visit to the country after 16 years in power.
    Merkel, making her eighth visit to Israel since taking office in 2005, is expected to lay a wreath at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem memorial in homage to the six million Jews killed by the Nazis.
    German governments have made strong relations with Israel a top priority ever since World War Two, and Merkel has sought to boost bilateral security and economic ties.    Germany is one of Israel’s top trading partners.
    Bennett is expected to pay tribute to Merkel as he hosts her during a meeting of his cabinet on Sunday morning at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel.    Merkel, a 67-year-old trained physicist, will also receive an honorary doctorate later on Sunday from Haifa’s Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, in northern Israel.
    Merkel had planned to conduct the visit in late August, but cancelled it citing the tense situation in Afghanistan as the United States, Germany and others evacuated personnel ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops.
    Following an inconclusive Sep. 26 election, Germany’s Social Democrats are currently courting https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/german-greens-say-want-pursue-coalition-talks-with-spd-fdp-2021-10-06 smaller parties to form a coalition that would replace a conservative grouping led by Merkel’s Christian Democrats.
    Merkel plans to step down once a new government is formed.
(Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/10/2021 Analysis-Arabs Ease Assad’s Isolation As U.S. Looks Elsewhere by Maha El Dahan
FILE PHOTO: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaks at a meeting of his cabinet in Damascus, Syria,
in this handout picture released by SANA on March 30, 2021. SANA/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – While Bashar al-Assad is still shunned by the West who blame him for a decade of brutal war in Syria, a shift is under way in the Middle East where Arab allies of the United States are bringing him in from the cold by reviving economic and diplomatic ties.
    The extension of Assad’s two-decade-old presidency in an election in May did little to break his pariah status among Western states, but fellow Arab leaders are coming to terms with the fact that he retains a solid grip on power.
    The chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has firmed up a belief among Arab leaders that they need to chart their own course.    Anticipating a more hands-off approach from Washington, now preoccupied by the challenge of China, Arab leaders are driven by their own priorities, notably how to rehabilitate economies hammered by years of conflict and COVID-19.
    Political considerations also loom large in Arab capitals such as Cairo, Amman and Abu Dhabi.    These include their ties with Assad’s most powerful backer, Russia, which has been pressing for Syria’s reintegration, and how to counter the influence carved out in Syria by Iran and Turkey.
    Turkey and its support for Sunni Islamists across the region – including a swathe of northern Syria that remains outside Assad’s grasp – is of particular concern to Arab rulers who can make common cause with Damascus against Islamist groups.
    But while the signs of Arab rapprochement with Damascus are growing – King Abdullah of Jordan spoke to Assad for the first time in a decade this month – U.S. policy will remain a complicating factor.
    Washington says there has been no change in its policy towards Syria, which demands a political transition as set out in a Security Council resolution. U.S. sanctions targeting Damascus, tightened under President Donald Trump, still pose a serious obstacle to commerce.
    But in Washington, analysts say Syria has hardly been a foreign policy priority for President Joe Biden’s administration.    They note his focus on countering China and that his administration has yet to apply sanctions under the so-called Caesar Act, which came into force last year with the intent of adding to the pressure on Assad.
    After being warned against dealing with Damascus by the Trump administration, Arab states are pressing the issue again.
    “U.S. allies in the Arab world have been encouraging Washington to lift the siege on Damascus and allow for its reintegration into the Arab fold,” said David Lesch, a Syria expert at Trinity University in Texas.    “It appears the Biden administration, to some degree, is listening.”
    It marks a shift from the early years of the conflict when Syria was expelled from the Arab League and states including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates backed some of the rebels that fought Assad.
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS
    The decade-long conflict, which spiralled out of a popular uprising against Assad during the “Arab Spring,” has killed hundreds of thousands of people, uprooted half the population and forced millions into adjacent states and Europe as refugees.
    Anti-Assad rebels still have a foothold in the north, with support from Turkey, while the east and northeast is controlled by Kurdish-led forces backed by the United States.
    But while the conflict is unresolved, Assad is back in control of most of Syria thanks largely to Russia and Iran, which were always more committed to his survival than Washington was to his removal, even when chemical weapons were fired on rebel areas.
    Jordan, Syria’s neighbour to the south, has been leading the pack on the Arab policy shift with an ailing economy and a rocky patch in relations with its wealthy Gulf neighbour Saudi Arabia.
    The border between Syria and Jordan was fully reopened for trade last month, and Amman has been a driving force behind a deal to pipe Egyptian natural gas to Lebanon via Syria, with an apparent U.S. nod of approval.
    “When Jordan breaks these barriers and establishes ties and it’s at this pace, there will be countries that will follow suit,” Samih al-Maaytah, a former Jordanian minister and political analyst, told Al Mamlaka, a state-owned broadcaster.
    The crossing was once plied by hundreds of trucks a day moving goods between Europe, Turkey and the Gulf. Reviving trade will be a shot in the arm for Jordan and Syria, whose economy is in deep crisis.    It should also help Lebanon, now suffering one of the sharpest economic depressions in modern history.
    “I’m absolutely sure the Jordanians feel that the U.S. will not sanction them,” Jim Jeffrey, former U.S. Special Envoy for Syria under Trump, told Reuters.
    “There’s a tremendous buzz among media, among friends in the region, that the U.S. is no longer aggressively sanctioning Assad under the Caesar Act or other things.”
    The mood was reflected at last month’s U.N. General Assembly, where Egyptian and Syrian foreign ministers met for the first time in a decade, and at the Expo 2020 Dubai exhibition, where the Syrian and Emirati economy ministers discussed the revival of a bilateral business council.
SAUDIS HESITANT BUT COULD BE NEXT
    The UAE had invited Syria to Expo 2020 despite attempts to “demonise the regime,” said Syria’s ambassador to the UAE, Ghassan Abbas, speaking to Reuters at the Syria pavilion where the theme was “We Will Rise Together.”
    “Is there a new approach in dealing with Syria? Yes.”
    Aaron Stein, Director of Research at Foreign Policy Research Institute, said the Biden administration “isn’t interested in expending diplomatic capital to prevent regional governments from doing what they think is best vis-a-vis the regime.”
    U.S. policy in Syria is now focused on fighting Islamic State militants and humanitarian aid, he said.
    A U.S. State Department spokesperson said: “What we have not done and will not do is express any support for efforts to normalise or rehabilitate the brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad, lift a single sanction on Syria, or change our position to oppose the reconstruction of Syria until there is irreversible progress towards a political solution.”
    While many U.S. allies in the region pursue fresh ties with Damascus, regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia still appears hesitant.
    “The big effort is to get Saudi Arabia and Syria into some kind of reconciliation, and I think Saudi is coming around, they are just waiting for the U.S.,” said Joshua Landis, Syria specialist at the University of Oklahoma.
(Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman, Aidan Lewis in Cairo, Ghaida Ghantous in Dubai, Humeyra Pamuk in Washington, Tom Perry and Laila Bassam in Beirut, Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by Tom Perry and Mark Heinrich)

10/10/2021 Iraqis Vote In General Election, A Test For Democratic System by John Davison and Ahmed Rasheed
A member of the Iraqi security forces stands guard outside a polling station during the parliamentary
election in the Sadr city district of Baghdad, Iraq, October 10, 2021. REUTERS/Wissam Al-Okaili
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) -Iraqis were voting on Sunday in a general election many said they would boycott, having lost faith in the democratic system brought in by the U.S. invasion of 2003.
    The election is being held several months early under a new law designed to help independent candidates – a response to mass anti-government protests two years ago.    But the established, armed and Shi’ite Islamist-dominated ruling elite is expected to sweep the vote.
    The result will not dramatically alter the balance of power in the country or the wider Middle East, say Iraqi officials, foreign diplomats and analysts.
    The United States, Gulf Arab countries and Israel on one side and Iran on the other compete for influence in Iraq, which has provided a gateway for Tehran to support militia proxies in Syria and Lebanon.
    At least 167 parties and more than 3,200 candidates are competing for Iraq’s 329 seats in parliament, according to the country’s election commission.
    Iraqi elections are often followed by months of protracted negotiations over a president, a prime minister and a cabinet.
    Washington is removing all U.S. combat troops from Iraq as part of an agreement with the Iraqi government, although the move keeps most of its 2,500 troops in the country in non-combat roles, according to U.S. officials.
    The decision to draw down troop levels came under pressure from Iraq’s dominant Shi’ite parties, many of them backed by Iran, which called for the removal of U.S. forces after the U.S. killing of Iran’s top military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad in 2020.
    The populist Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who opposes all foreign influence and is a rival of the Iran-aligned Shi’ite groups, is expected to come first in the election.    He has also called for foreign troops to withdraw.
    Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, widely viewed as Western-friendly, cast his ballot as soon as polls opened.    “I call on Iraq people: there’s still time.    Go out and vote for Iraq and vote for your future,” he said to news cameras.
    Kadhimi’s government called the vote several months early in response to the demands of anti-establishment protests in 2019 that toppled the previous administration.
    Protesters demanded jobs, basic services and the removal of a ruling elite most Iraqis view as corrupt and keeping the country in disrepair, despite several years of relative security following the 2017 defeat of Islamic State.
    The demonstrations were brutally suppressed by security forces and militia groups, killing some 600 people over several months.
EARLY VOTE, NEW LAW
    Officials say a new voting law, also a response to protester demands, will help independent, pro-reform candidates, but that will depend on turnout.
    Many Iraqis say they will boycott the vote.    They view the democratic system ushered in after the U.S. invasion as flawed and serving only the political parties that have dominated the state since then.
    The invasion toppled Sunni Muslim dictator Saddam Hussein and catapulted to power the country’s majority Shi’ites and the Kurds, who were oppressed under Saddam.    It unleashed years of brutal sectarian violence from which Iraq is still recovering, including the takeover of a third of the country by the Sunni extremist Islamic State between 2014 and 2017.
    The biggest Shi’ite blocs in Sunday’s election – Iraq’s fifth parliamentary vote since 2003 – are those of Sadr and a separate coalition of Iran-aligned parties with armed wings.
    Kurds have two main parties that rule the autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq, and Sunnis this time have two main blocs.
    Once results are ratified, President Barham Salih has 15 days to task parliament with convening to choose a speaker.    Parliament must then also choose a president within 30 days.
    The largest bloc in parliament then names a prime minister to form a government.    The whole process can take months to complete while rival coalitions jockey over power and posts.
(Reporting by John Davison and Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by William Mallard)

10/10/2021 Six Killed In Aden Car Bombing Targeting Officials, Minister Says by Reyam Mokhashef
Policemen and firefighters work at the scene of a blast in Aden, Yemen, October 10, 2021. REUTERS/Fawaz Salman
    ADEN (Reuters) – A car bomb targeting the governor’s convoy shook Yemen’s southern port city of Aden on Sunday killing at least six people and wounding seven, the information minister said on Twitter.
    Governor Ahmed Lamlas and agriculture minister Salem al-Suqatri, both members of a southern separatist group, survived a “terrorist assassination attempt,” the state news agency said.
    Killed in the attack were the governor’s press secretary and his photographer, the head of his security detail and a fourth companion as well as a civilian bystander, a local government source said.
    A body covered with a blanket lay on the street next to a charred vehicle in al-Tawahi district, which houses the headquarters of the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC).    Firefighters and police were deployed to the area.
    Lamlas is secretary general of the STC, which has vied with the Saudi-backed government for control of Aden and Yemen’s wider south. STC has also seen infighting among its ranks.
    There was no immediate claim of responsibility. STC spokesman Ali Al-Kathiri blamed Islamist militant groups.
    Information Minister Moammar Al-Eryani said the attack sought to destabilise government-held areas and stressed the need to fully implement a Saudi-brokered pact aimed at ending a power struggle in the south.
    The government and the STC are nominal allies under a coalition led by Saudi Arabia which has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.
    Tensions have simmered following a deal which saw a new cabinet formed including STC members.    A planned redeployment of troops from both sides outside Aden has yet to materialise.
    Instability in the south complicates United Nations-led peace efforts to end the war in Yemen which has killed tens of thousands of people and left 80% of the population needing help.
    The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the government from the capital Sanaa, forcing it to rebase in the south.    The Houthis hold most of the north.
(Reporting by Reyam Mokhashef and Yemen team; writing by Ghaida Ghantous; editing by David Goodman and Jason Neely)

10/10/2021 Migrants In Libya Fearful And Angry After Crackdown And Killings by Ahmed Elumami
Migrants wait outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
negotiation office in Tripoli, Libya, October 10, 2021REUTERS/Nada Harib
    TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Hundreds of migrants and refugees waited outside a United Nations centre in Tripoli on Sunday to seek help in escaping Libya after what aid groups called a violent crackdown in which thousands were arrested and several shot.
    The migrants say they have faced violent abuse and extortion in a country that has had little peace for a decade, but has become a major transit point for people seeking to reach Europe in search of a better life.
    “We are guilty of nothing except emigrating from our country… but we are treated as criminals and not as refugees,” said Mohamed Abdullah, a 25-year old from Sudan.
    He said he had been beaten and tortured during his detention in five different centres in Libya, and that he had nowhere to go for shelter or food.
    Armed forces in Tripoli began a series of mass arrests a week ago, detaining more than 5,000 people in overcrowded detention centres as aid and rights groups voiced alarm.
    On Friday, guards in a centre killed at least six migrants there as the overcrowding led to chaos, the U.N. migration agency IOM said, and scores managed to flee the area before being detained again.
    Many of the people waiting outside the U.N. centre in Tripoli, some sleeping on the pavement, were wounded, with bandages on their heads, legs or hands.    Some walked only with crutches or the help of friends.
    They spoke of hunger, desperation and abuse.    “I was beaten and humiliated a lot in prison.    Many were beaten and tortured,” said Matar Ahmed Ismail, 27, from Sudan.
    Libya’s Government of National Unity said it was “dealing with a complex issue in the illegal migration file, as it represents a human tragedy in addition to the social, political and legal consequences locally and internationally.”
    The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said it was trying to help people waiting at the centre and urged crowds there to disperse so it could assist the most vulnerable.    It added it was ready to assist with humanitarian flights out of Libya.
    Nadia Abdel Rahman came to Libya three years ago from Eritrea via Sudan with her husband, her son and her sister, brother-in-law and nephew, hoping to reach Europe by sea.
    She said her husband had been seized by criminals who demanded a ransom but killed him even though she paid.    Her brother-in-law died at sea when attempting to cross the Mediterranean.
    She was arrested last week in the crackdown, she said.    “We only want one thing, and that is to not live in Libya,” she said.
    Mousa Koni, a member of Libya’s three-man Presidency Council, which acts as interim head of state, on Saturday said he had intervened with the Interior Ministry “to end this suffering.”
(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Jan Harvey)

10/10/2021 Thousands Protest Against Tunisia Leader With Government Awaited by Tarek Amara
Demonstrators clash with police during a protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied's
seizure of governing powers, in Tunis, Tunisia, October 10, 2021. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
    TUNIS (Reuters) - Thousands of Tunisians protested against President Kais Saied’s seizure of almost total power protested in the capital on Sunday as the growing numbers taking to the street in recent weeks has raised the risk of the political crisis unleashing unrest.
    A week after thousands demonstrated in support of Saied, the growing numbers raise the possibility of Tunisia’s political divisions spiralling into street confrontations between rival camps.
    “We will not accept the coup. Enough is enough,” said Yassin ben Amor, a protester.
    A very heavy police presence stopped any march down Habib Bourguiba Avenue in central Tunis, but despite some protesters throwing plastic bottles there were no clashes.
    Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Hayouni said the police would deal with protesters from both sides in the same way.    “The Tunisian police is a republican police and it does not intervene in any political side,” he said.
    Saied dismissed the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority in July in moves his foes call a coup.    Last month he brushed aside much of the constitution, which he said he would appoint a committee to amend, adding that he could rule by decree.
    His intervention appeared popular after years of economic stagnation and political paralysis, but it has cast into doubt the democratic gains made by Tunisians during a 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab Spring uprisings.
    “We are against the coup… We reject the speech of division,” said Jaouhar Ben Mbarek, a prominent activist and main organiser of protests against Saied, saying they must be loyal to those killed in the 2011 revolution.
    Saied has appointed Najla Bouden Romdhane as prime minister, but she has not yet named a government, an important precursor to any efforts to resolve Tunisia’s looming crisis in public finances, though Saied said on Saturday she would do so soon.
    Saied said he would initiate a dialogue with Tunisians over the future during a meeting on Saturday with interim interior minister Ridha Gharsalaoui.
    Any dialogue that does not include major political parties or other established elements of civil society, such as the powerful labour union, would likely prompt more open opposition to his moves.
    Western donors, needed to avert a collapse in Tunisia’s public finances, have called for an inclusive process to end the crisis period, along with a clear timeline.
    With the political manoeuvering over Tunisia’s future moving very slowly, Saied has pointed to the street mobilisation to support his position.
    Last week more than 8,000 demonstrators rallied in Tunis in support of Saied, Reuters journalists and the state news agency said.    The next day, Saied said 1.8 million people had come out to back him.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara, writing by Angus McDowall, Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/10/2021 Coming Weeks Are Decisive For Iran Nuclear Deal, Merkel Says
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Benett give a joint
news conference in Jerusalem, October 10, 2021. Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The coming weeks are decisive for the future of the nuclear deal with Iran, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday, adding that every day that passes without Tehran responding to U.S. overtures will result in Iran enriching more uranium.
    Speaking during a visit to Israel, the outgoing chancellor said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping also had a responsibilty to help to push Iran back to the negotiating table, she said at a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
    “I also see a responsibility for Russia and China here, since if the JCPOA (nuclear deal) is no longer doing what it’s meant to do then that’s very difficult, so we are now in very decisive weeks for this deal.”
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub and Dan Williams; Writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by David Goodman)

10/11/2021 U.S. Says Taliban Talks In Doha Were ‘Candid And Professional’ by David Brunnstrom
FILE PHOTO: Taliban delegates meet with Qatar delegates in Doha, Qatar, in this handout photo uploaded to
social media on October 9, 2021. Picture uploaded on on October 9, 2021. Social media handout/via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Sunday the first face-to-face meeting between senior U.S. and Taliban officials since the hardline group retook power in Afghanistan was “candid and professional” and that the U.S. side reiterated that the Taliban would be judged on their actions, not just their words.
    State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. delegation at the weekend talks in Doha, Qatar, focused on security and terrorism concerns and safe passage for U.S. citizens, other foreign nationals and Afghans, as well as on human rights, including the meaningful participation of women and girls in all aspects of Afghan society.
    He said the two sides also discussed “the United States’ provision of robust humanitarian assistance, directly to the Afghan people.”
    “The discussions were candid and professional with the U.S. delegation reiterating that the Taliban will be judged on its actions, not only its words,” Price said in a statement.
    It did not say if any agreements were reached.
    The foreign ministry in Kabul said the two-day meeting went well. It welcomed the U.S. offer of humanitarian assistance and said local authorities would facilitate delivery and cooperate with aid groups but said such assistance “should not be linked to political issues.”
    “Detailed discussions were held during the meeting about all relevant issues.    And efforts should be exerted to restore diplomatic relations to a better state,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that similar meetings would be held in future if required.
    On Saturday, Qatar-based Al Jazeera television quoted Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister as saying that Taliban representatives asked the U.S. side to lift a ban on Afghan central bank reserves.
    It said the minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, also said Washington would offer Afghans coronavirus vaccines and that the two sides discussed “opening a new page” between the two countries.
    Biden administration officials told Reuters on Friday the U.S. delegation would press the Taliban to release kidnapped American Mark Frerichs.    Another top priority would be to hold the Taliban to their commitment not to allow Afghanistan to again become a hotbed for al Qaeda or other extremists.
    The Taliban took back power in Afghanistan in August, almost 20 years after they were ousted in a U.S.-led invasion for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
    The U.S. officials said the weekend meeting was a continuation of “pragmatic engagements” with the Taliban and “not about granting recognition or conferring legitimacy” to the group.
    U.S. officials say they are in contact with dozens of Americans and legal permanent residents who wish to leave Afghanistan and there are thousands of U.S.-allied Afghans at risk of Taliban persecution still in the country.
    Washington and other Western countries are grappling with difficult choices as a severe humanitarian crisis looms large in Afghanistan.    They are trying to work out how to engage with the Taliban without granting the group the legitimacy it seeks, while ensuring humanitarian aid flows into the country.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Additional reporting by Moataz Abdelrahiem in Cairo, James Mackenzie in Islamabad; Editing by Ross Colvin, Peter Cooney and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

10/11/2021 Turnout In Iraq’s Election Reached 41% – Electoral Commission by John Davison and Ahmed Rasheed
An official works at a polling station during the parliamentary election,
in Baghdad, Iraq, October 10, 2021. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) -Initial turnout in Iraq’s parliamentary election on Sunday was 41%, the electoral commission said, in a sign of dwindling trust in political leaders although participation was not nearly as low as election officials had earlier feared.
    The established, Shi’ite Islamist-dominated ruling elite, whose most powerful parties have armed wings, is expected to sweep the vote, with the movement led by populist Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who opposes all foreign interference and whose main rivals are Iran-allied Shi’ite groups, seen emerging as parliament’s biggest faction.
    Such a result would not dramatically alter the balance of power in Iraq or the wider Middle East, say Iraqi officials, foreign diplomats and analysts, but for Iraqis it could mean that a former insurgency leader and conservative Islamist could increase his sway over the government.
    Total turnout was 44.5% in the last election in 2018.    The electoral commission said early on Monday the lowest turnout was in Baghdad, with between 31% and 34%.
    Two electoral commission officials told Reuters on Sunday that nationwide turnout of eligible voters was 19% by midday and participation was low at polling stations in several parts of the country visited by Reuters.
    Commission official Muhammad Mustafa said turnout picked up in the final hours of voting.
    Initial results are expected on Monday.
    Iraqi elections are often followed by protracted talks over a president, a prime minister and a cabinet under the democratic system brought in by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
    In Baghdad’s Sadr City, a polling station set up in a girls’ school saw a slow but steady trickle of voters.
Election volunteer Hamid Majid, 24, said he had voted for his old school teacher, a candidate for the Sadrists.
    “She educated many of us in the area so all the young people are voting for her.    It’s the time for the Sadrist Movement.    The people are with them,” Majid said.
    The election was held several months early under a new law designed to help independent candidates – a response to widespread anti-government protests two years ago.
    “Jockeying and government formation will look the same – the same parties will come to either to share power and not provide the population with basic services and jobs and on top of that will continue to silence dissent.    It’s very concerning,” said Renad Mansour of the Iraq Initiative at Chatham House.
FOREIGN INFLUENCE
    The United States, Gulf Arabs and Israel on one side and Iran on the other compete to influence Iraq, which provides Tehran with a gateway to back armed allies in Syria and Lebanon.
    The 2003 invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim, and catapulted to power majority Shi’ites and the Kurds, who were oppressed under the autocrat.    It unleashed years of sectarian violence, including the takeover of a third of the country by Islamic State between 2014 and 2017.
    High school teacher Abdul Ameer Hassan al-Saadi said he boycotted the election, the first parliamentary polls since the 2019 protests and subsequent crackdown.    The demonstrations were brutally suppressed and some 600 people were killed over several months.
    “I lost my 17-year-old son Hussain after he got killed by a tear gas canister fired by police during Baghdad protests,” said al-Saadi, whose house is close to a polling station in the mainly Shi’ite Baghdad district of Karrada.
    “I will not vote for killers and corrupt politicians because the wound inside me and his mother we suffered after losing our boy is still bleeding.”
    The chief Iraq election observer of the European Union, Viola von Cramon, said the relatively low turnout was significant.
    “This is a clear, of course a political signal and one can only hope that it will be heard by the politicians and by the political elite of Iraq,” she told reporters.
    Nonetheless, some Iraqis were keen to vote in Iraq’s fifth parliamentary vote since 2003 – and are hopeful of change.    In the northern city of Kirkuk, Abu Abdullah said he arrived to vote an hour before polling stations opened.
    “We expect the situation to improve significantly.” he said.
    Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi is not running for election but the negotiations after the vote could yet see him get a second term. Kadhimi, who is viewed as Western-friendly, has no party to back him.
    The Kurds have two main parties that rule the autonomous Kurdistan region, and Sunnis this time have two main blocs.
    Iraq is safer than it has been for years and violent sectarianism is less common since Iraq vanquished the Sunni ultra-hardline Islamic State in 2017 with the help of an international military coalition and Iran.    But corruption and mismanagement have meant many of Iraq’s 40 million people lack jobs, healthcare, education and electricity.
    Baghdad-based political analyst Ahmed Younis said many Iraqis see the post-Saddam Hussein system of government – based on sectarian power-sharing – as a failure.    And entrenched corruption and the growing power of unchecked militias deepened disillusionment.
    “Boycotting eventually would be inevitable and that’s what happened in today’s election,” said Younis.
    At least 167 parties and more than 3,200 candidates are competing for parliament’s 329 seats, according to the election commission.
(Reporting by John Davison and Ahmed Rasheed; Additional reporting by Mustafa Mahmoud in Kirkuk, Aref Mohammed and Mohammed Aty in Basra, Maher Nazeh in BaghdadWriting by John Davison and Michael Georgy; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, William Maclean and Frances Kerry)

10/11/2021 Cleric Sadr Wins Iraq Vote, Former PM Maliki Close Behind – Officials by Ahmed Rasheed and John Davison
FILE PHOTO: Posters are seen of Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, his father, the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr,
and Iraq's late Shi'ite cleric Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr, in the Sadr City district of Baghdad, Iraq June 21, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s party was the biggest winner in an Iraqi election on Monday, increasing the number of seats he holds in parliament, according to initial results, officials and a spokesperson for the Sadrist Movement.
    Former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki looked set to have the next largest win among Shi’ite parties, the initial results showed.     Iraq’s Shi’ite groups have dominated governments and government formation since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein and catapulted the Shi’ite majority and the Kurds to power.
    Sunday’s election was held several months early, in response to mass protests in 2019 that toppled a government and showed widespread anger against political leaders whom many Iraqis say have enriched themselves at the expense of the country.
    But a record low turnout suggested that an election billed as an opportunity to wrest control from the ruling elite would do little to dislodge sectarian religious parties in power since 2003.
    A count based on initial results from several Iraqi provinces plus the capital Baghdad, verified by local government officials, suggested Sadr had won more than 70 seats, which if confirmed could give him considerable influence in forming a government.
    A spokesperson for Sadr’s office said the number was 73 seats.    Local news outlets published the same figure.
    An official at Iraq’s electoral commission said Sadr had come first but did not immediately confirm how many seats his party had won.
    The initial results also showed that pro-reform candidates who emerged from the 2019 protests had gained several seats in the 329-member parliament.
    Iran-backed parties with links to militia groups accused of killing some of the nearly 600 people who died in the protests took a blow, winning less seats than in the last election in 2018, according to the initial results and local officials.
    Sadr has increased his power https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-cleric-special-report-idUSKCN2E5117 over the Iraqi state since coming first in the 2018 election where his coalition won 54 seats.
    The unpredictable populist cleric has been a dominant figure and often kingmaker in Iraqi politics since the U.S. invasion.
    He opposes all foreign interference in Iraq, whether by the United States, against which he fought an insurgency after 2003, or by neighbouring Iran, which he has criticized for its close involvement in Iraqi politics.
    Sadr, however, is regularly in Iran, according to officials close to him, and has called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, where Washington maintains a force of around 2,500 in a continuing fight against Islamic State.
NEW LAW, SAME BIG PARTIES
    Elections in Iraq since 2003 have been followed by protracted negotiations that can last months and serve to distribute government posts among the dominant parties.
    The result on Monday is not expected to dramatically alter the balance of power in Iraq or in the wider region.
    Sunday’s vote was held under a new law billed by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi as a way to loosen the grip of established political parties and pave the way for independent, pro-reform candidates.    Voting districts were made smaller, and the practice of awarding seats to lists of candidates sponsored by parties was abandoned.
    But many Iraqis did not believe the system could be changed and chose not to vote.
    The official turnout figure of just 41% suggested the vote had failed to capture the imagination of the public, especially younger Iraqis who demonstrated in huge crowds two years ago.
    “I did not vote.    It’s not worth it,” Hussein Sabah, 20, told Reuters in Iraq’s southern port Basra.    “There is nothing that would benefit me or others.    I see youth that have degrees with no jobs.    Before the elections, (politicians) all came to them.    After the elections, who knows?
    Kadhimi’s predecessor Adel Abdul Mahdi resigned after security forces and gunmen killed hundreds of protesters in 2019 in a crackdown on demonstrations.    The new prime minister called the vote months early to show that the government was responding to demands for more accountability.
    In practice, powerful parties proved best able to mobilise supporters and candidates effectively, even under the new rules.
    Iraq has held five parliamentary elections since the fall of Saddam.    Rampant sectarian violence unleashed during the U.S. occupation has abated, and Islamic State fighters who seized a third of the country in 2014 were defeated in 2017.
    But many Iraqis say their lives have yet to improve. Infrastructure lies in disrepair and healthcare, education and electricity are inadequate.
(Reporting by John Davison and Ahmed Rasheed, additional reporting by Ahmed Tolba, Yasmin Hussein in Cairo; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Peter Graff, William Maclean)

10/11/2021 Jordan’s PM Reshuffles Cabinet In Shake-Up To Spur Investments by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
FILE PHOTO: Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh speaks during a joint news conference with Lebanese
Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the government palace in Beirut, Lebanon September 30, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    AMMAN (Reuters) -Jordan’s prime minister reshuffled his cabinet on Monday for the fourth time since taking office a year ago, creating a new investment ministry as part of moves officials said will give him more scope to tackle social and economic problems.
    Premier Bisher al Khasawneh appointed ex-banker Khairy Amr to lead the new investment ministry, which will seek to spur foreign investment and create much-needed jobs in Jordan, where the unemployment rate is a record 25%.
    The reshuffle, which affects eight posts as well as the new ministry, was approved by royal decree, the officials said.
    Khasawneh retained Harvard-educated economist Mohammad Al Ississ as finance minister.    He won International Monetary Fund praise for his handling of the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic and secured a four-year IMF programme worth $1.3 billion.
    Khasawneh said his priority was reviving growth after the aid-dependent economy suffered its deepest contraction in decades last year.    The government and IMF both predict a rebound of around 2% this year.
    The British-educated former diplomat and palace aide was appointed last October by King Abdullah to restore public trust over the handling of COVID-19 and defuse anger at successive governments’ failure to deliver on pledges of prosperity and curbing corruption.
    Bankers say Jordan’s commitment to IMF reforms and investor confidence in the improved economic outlook have helped it maintain its credit ratings while similar emerging markets were being downgraded amid the coronavirus crisis.
    The country hopes its reputation for stability will help it become a regional hub for services and trade, but businessmen say red tape and changing laws have discouraged investors.
    The government says its major economic challenge is reversing declining investment flows and creating jobs.
    Deteriorating living conditions and growing hardships for many Jordanians following IMF-guided austerity programmes and tax hikes have fuelled bouts of civil unrest in recent years.
    “Jordan is going through difficult economic conditions after the pandemic with growing unemployment that is most worrying,” deputy speaker of parliament Ahmad al Safadi told state-owned Al Mamlaka public broadcaster on Monday.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi;Editing by Alison Williams and Catherine Evans)

10/11/2021 Ethiopian Army Starts Ground Attack On Rebellious Tigray Forces – Regional Party Spokesman by Katharine Houreld
FILE PHOTO: A tank damaged during the fighting between Ethiopia's National Defense Force (ENDF) and
Tigray Special Forces stands on the outskirts of Humera town in Ethiopia July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer
    NAIROBI (Reuters) - Ethiopia’s national army launched a ground offensive against forces from the northern region of Tigray on Monday, the region’s ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) said.
    TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda told Reuters by phone that the army, alongside allied forces from the northern Amhara region, had launched the offensive to push Tigrayan forces out of Amhara on Monday morning.
    Reuters could not independently verify Getachew’s statement.
    Asked if a ground offensive had been launched, Billene Seyoum, spokeswoman for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, said the Ethiopian government had a responsibility to protect its citizens in all parts of the country from any acts of terrorism.
    “The government of Ethiopia will continue to counter the TPLF’s destruction, violence and killings in the Amhara region and elsewhere,” she added, without elaborating.
    Amhara and Tigray have a decades-long dispute over territory after Tigray enlarged its borders a quarter of a century ago, to include fertile farmlands also claimed by the Amhara region.    Amhara sent forces into that territory – officially known as Western Tigray – when fighting erupted in November between the national army and rebellious TPLF forces, and has retained control ever since.
    In June, Tigrayan forces took back control of most of Tigray, forcing the national military to withdraw.    Tigray then invaded the neighbouring region of Amhara in July, saying it was a tactic to try to force Amhara forces out of the heavily militarised region of Western Tigray.
    The Amhara regional spokesman signalled on Twitter last week that an offensive against Tigrayan forces could be imminent, and since Friday there has been heavy airstrikes reported in several Tigrayan-held areas of Amhara, diplomatic sources said. Getachew said ground fighting had begun on Monday.
    “On the morning of Oct. 11, the Ethiopian military with the support of Amhara special forces launched coordinated offensives on all fronts,” the office Getachew heads said in a statement.
    Getachew said there was fighting in Amhara region’s Wegeltena, Wurgessa and Haro towns, and that the forces were using heavy artillery, fighter jets, drones, tanks and rockets to attack.
    Asked for comment, the Amhara regional government referred Reuters to the federal government.
    The fighting since November 2020 has displaced millions of people and forced hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans into famine – a situation the United Nations has blamed on a government blockade.    The government denies it is blocking aid.
    The fighting has made around 5.2 million people in Tigray – more than 90% of the population – and another 1.7 million people in Afar and Amhara dependent on food aid.
(Writing by George ObulutsaEditing by Gareth Jones, William Maclean)

10/11/2021 Israel Says It Will Keep Golan As Assad’s Fortunes, U.S. Views Shift by Dan Williams
FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the town of Majdal Shams near the ceasefire line between
Israel and Syria in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel will keep the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in a 1967 war, even if international views on Damascus change, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday.
    In 2019, then U.S. President Donald Trump broke with other world powers by recognising Israel as sovereign on the Golan Heights, which it annexed in 1981 in a move not recognised internationally.
    Bennett’s remarks came as the current U.S. administration hedges on the Golan’s legal status and some U.S.-allied Arab states ease their shunning https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/arabs-ease-assads-isolation-us-looks-elsewhere-2021-10-10 of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over his handling of a decade-old civil war.
    Addressing a conference about the Golan’s future, Bennett said the internal Syrian strife had “persuaded many in the world that perhaps it is preferable that this beautiful and strategic territory be in the State of Israel’s hands."
    “But even in a situation in which – as could happen – the world changes tack on Syria, or in relation to Assad, this has no bearing on the Golan Heights,” he told the forum hosted by the conservative Makor Rishon newspaper.     “The Golan Heights is Israeli, full stop.”

    In his speech, Bennett pledged to double the size of the Israeli population on the Golan, which at around 20,000 is currently about equal to that of a Druze Arab community that often professes loyalty to Syria.
    An official source in Syria’s foreign ministry condemned Bennett’s settlement comments.
    “Such aggressive statements and policies will not change the eternal truth that the Golan was and will remain Arab and Syrian, and that it is returning to the motherland sooner or later,” the source said.
ASSAD GRIP ON POWER
    The extension of Assad’s two-decade-old presidency in a May election did little to break his pariah status in the West, but fellow Arab leaders are coming to terms with the fact he retains a solid grip on power.
    Geopolitical considerations contributing to their recalculation include calls by Assad backer Russia for Syria’s reintegration, Washington’s more hands-off regional approach and Arab hopes of countering Iranian and Turkish clout in Damascus.
    While not changing the policy, President Joe Biden’s administration has been circumspect on the Golan issue.
    Asked in a February interview if Washington would continue to deem the area part of Israel, Secretary of State Antony Blinken signalled openness to an eventual policy review https://www.reuters.com/article/israel-usa-golan-idINKBN2A9217 on a territory most countries consider to be under occupation.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Alex Richardson, William Maclean)

10/12/2021 Beirut Blast Probe Suspended Again As Judge Issues Arrest Warrant by Laila Bassam and Maha El Dahan
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil attends a cabinet meeting at the
government palace in Beirut, Lebanon, May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) - A probe into the catastrophic Beirut port explosion was frozen on Tuesday for the second time in less than three weeks after two politicians wanted for questioning filed a new complaint against the lead investigator, Judge Tarek Bitar.
    The investigation has been facing obstacles since Bitar sought to question some of the most powerful people in Lebanon on suspicion that they knew about the stored chemicals that exploded but did nothing to avert the disaster.
    Bitar is under enormous pressure from groups that have accused his probe of political bias and mounted a smear campaign against him.    The leader of the powerful, heavily armed Shi’ite political movement Hezbollah said on Monday it wanted Bitar removed from the case.
    The Aug. 4, 2020 blast, one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions on record, killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of Beirut.
    Senior officials from across the political spectrum have refused to show up for questioning and arrest warrants are now unlikely to be executed.
    Bitar had wanted to interrogate them on criminal negligence charges as they had served in posts where they would have been in a position to know about the ammonium nitrate stored unsafely at the port for years.
    A meeting of the country’s supreme defence council, chaired by President Michel Aoun, on Tuesday refused the permission sought by the judge to pursue Tony Saliba, the director general of state security, an official source said.
    The probe was suspended in late September on the basis of a complaint questioning Bitar’s impartiality.    A court rejected the complaint on procedural grounds, allowing him to continue.
    Bitar is the second judge to lead the probe.    Fadi Sawan was removed from the case in February after a similar complaint filed by the politicians who are now challenging Bitar.
    “For the first time, the judicial system wants to function, but it is suffering under the political pressure and interventions,” said Paul Morcos, lawyer and professor of international law.
ARREST WARRANT
    Shortly before being informed of the latest complaint, Bitar had issued an arrest warrant for one of the politicians who filed it, former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, a senior politician close to Hezbollah.
    Khalil, a senior member of the Shi’ite Amal movement, was not immediately reachable for comment.
    The second politician was ex-public works minister Ghazi Zeiter, also a Hezbollah ally, who is due for questioning on Wednesday.
    Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah voiced his harshest criticism yet of Bitar on Monday when he called for his replacement in a televised address, saying he was biased and politicised.
    The remarks came weeks after Wafik Safa, a senior Hezbollah official, was said to have warned Bitar the group would remove him from the inquiry, according to a journalist and a judicial source.
    Khalil’s arrest warrant is the second for an ex-minister arising from the investigation.
    The first was issued for ex-public works minister Youssef Finianos, another Hezbollah ally, in September when he repeatedly failed to show for questioning.
(Writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Tom Perry, Ed Osmond and Giles Elgood)

10/12/2021 U.S. Considering Options For Responding To Crisis In Northern Ethiopia - State Dept
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is considering the full range of tools at its disposal, including the use of economic sanctions, to respond to the worsening crisis in northern Ethiopia, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Tuesday.
    Ethiopia’s national army launched a ground offensive against forces from the northern region of Tigray on Monday, the region’s ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) said.
    Secretary of State Antony Blinken held high-level meetings on Ethiopia on Tuesday, including with officials from the African Union, Sudan, the UK, France, Germany and the European Union.
    Washington, the EU, France, Germany and the UK called on the parties to immediately enter into negotiations toward a ceasefire and end abuses.
    “They also called on the parties to the conflict to adhere to international law and allow unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance to all who are suffering in Ethiopia,” Price said in a statement.
    Washington has repeatedly called for a negotiated end to the conflict in the northern region of Tigray between federal forces and those aligned with the TPLF.
    Since the conflict erupted in November, thousands have been killed and more than 2 million have fled their homes.    Fighting spread in July from Tigray into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar, displacing hundreds of thousands of people.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Kanishka Singh and Simon Lewis; Writing by Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)

10/12/2021 Exclusive-Turkish Intelligence Helped Iraq Capture Islamic State Leader, Sources Say by Ahmed Rasheed
FILE PHOTO: A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)
waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa, Syria June 29, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Turkish intelligence helped Iraq capture a senior Islamic State leader who had been hiding out in northwestern Syria, three security sources said on Tuesday, in an operation that points to closer cooperation against remnants of the jihadist group.
    Iraq announced on Monday that its security forces had captured Sami Jasim, an Iraqi national, in what it described as “a special operation outside the borders.”    It did not give details on when or where he was seized.
    Jasim is one of the most senior Islamic State leaders to be taken alive.    He was a deputy to Islamic State’s founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, killed during a U.S. raid in 2019 in Syria’s northwest, and a close aide to its current leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi, the Iraqi government said.
    A senior regional security source and two Iraqi security sources told Reuters that Jasim had been in northwestern Syria and that Turkish intelligence had been key to his capture.    The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing covert operations.
    Officials in the Iraqi and Turkish governments declined to comment on the sources’ accounts of Jasim’s capture.
    Closer cooperation between Iraq, from where many Islamic State leaders came, and Turkey, which has influence in northern Syria, could help tighten the noose on remnants of the jihadist group, even after the U.S. military has reduced its presence in the region.
    Northwestern Syria is the last major bastion of insurgents who have been fighting Damascus.    Turkey holds big sway in the area having sent in troops in a series of incursions beginning in 2016, and also backs some of the rebels there who are fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
    The senior regional security source said Jasim was in northwestern Syria when he was caught with help from local security forces – an apparent reference to Syrian rebels.    The two Iraqi sources said he was detained in Turkey shortly after being lured over the border.
    One of the Iraqi sources said Iraqi intelligence agents had been tracking Jasim for months.    Information from an Islamic State prisoner detained last year had contributed to his capture, the second Iraqi security source said.
    The sources declined to give further details including when Jasim was captured, saying this would risk future operations.
    His capture could yield significant intelligence about the remnants of the Islamic State group which was driven from its cross-border “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq years ago but still carries out attacks in both countries.
    Jasim had been flown to Iraq from Turkey in a military plane, the two Iraqi security sources and an Iraqi military source close to the Iraqi military aviation service said.
    One of the Iraqi sources shared a photo they said showed Jasim being brought to Iraq on the plane.    It showed a person in a yellow jumpsuit, their face covered, being escorted from the plane by Iraqi security personnel in balaclavas.    Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the image.
    Asked by Reuters on Monday about Jasim’s capture, the U.S.-led coalition said it would not comment on specific operations but applauded Iraqi forces that “regularly lead and conduct destructive blows to the remnants” of Islamic State.
    According to the website of the U.S. Department of State’s counter-terrorism rewards programme, Rewards for Justice, Jasim has been “instrumental in managing finances for ISIS’s terrorist operations,” The United States had offered $5 million for information on Jasim.
    “The Iraqis will be trying to ascertain as much as they can about the networks and links he had in Iraq and across borders.    They will be very interested in fundraising in particular,” said Raffaello Pantucci, a senior associate fellow at the RUSI security think tank.
    Islamic State’s cross-border “caliphate” once spanned a third of Syria and Iraq, inspiring affiliates including one in Afghanistan.    But the group was steadily beaten back in Syria and Iraq by local forces helped by the U.S.-led coalition.
(Additional reporting by Tom Perry; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Nick Tattersall)

10/12/2021 Israel Prime Minister Calls On U.N. To Hold Iran Accountable Over Advancement Of Nuclear Program by OAN Newsroom
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at the Jerusalem Post’s annual coference on October 12, 2021
in Jerusalem, Israel. The conference featured officials, diplomats and business leaders discussing the
health, economic and security challenges facing Israel. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)
    Israel’s prime minister has called on the United Nations to take action against Iran for advancing its nuclear program.    Speaking in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Iran was every nation’s problem and he expected global powers to hold them accountable before the U.N. Security Council.
    Neftali also said this would be the “peaceful route” in comparison to more aggressive actions he chose not to mention.    His comments come as Israel notably opposed the Biden administration’s efforts to revive Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
    “Iran is violating, blatantly violating, the IAEA commitments, not even talking about the JCPOA, I’m just talking about the very fundamental commitments and we’re not going to wait,” he stated.    “I expect the global powers to hold them accountable, bring them to the U.N. Security Council, hold Iran accountable for it.”
    Meanwhile, Israel’s foreign minister’s first visit to Washington D.C. has been set for this week.

10/12/2021 Beirut Blast Investigation Stand-Off Roils Lebanese Cabinet by Laila Bassam and Maha El Dahan
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil attends a cabinet meeting
at the government palace in Beirut, Lebanon, May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) - A standoff between the judge investigating the disastrous Beirut port blast and top politicians he seeks to question roiled Lebanon’s cabinet on Tuesday after the inquiry was suspended on Tuesday for the second time in less than three weeks.
    The investigation has faced obstacles since judge Tarek Bitar sought to query some of Lebanon’s most powerful people on suspicion they were aware of the stored chemicals involved in the Aug. 4, 2020 explosion but did nothing to avert it.
    Bitar has been under enormous pressure from groups that accuse his investigation of political bias and have mounted a smear campaign against him.    The leader of the Iranian-backed, heavily armed Shi’ite Muslim political movement Hezbollah said on Monday it wanted Bitar removed from the case.
    On Tuesday the inquiry was again shelved on the basis of another complaint accusing Bitar of bias.
    The impasse spilled into a cabinet meeting on Tuesday where ministers, mostly from Hezbollah and the Shi’ite Amal movement, pushed for Bitar’s ouster in a heated discussion that ended inconclusively, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
    The cabinet is due to meet again on Wednesday to discuss the inquiry, a former finance minister against whom Bitar issued an arrest warrant said in an interview with Lebanon’s pro-Iranian Al Mayadeen TV.
    The warrant for Ali Hassan Khalil, a senior member of Amal and a Hezbollah ally, was the second to be issued for an ex-minister and was the main cause of Tuesday’s escalating tension.
    Khalil said he deemed the warrant to be illegal and he would not heed it.    He said Bitar was being influenced by politics and added: “The legal path that is being followed in this investigation is pushing the country towards civil strife.”
    Asked by Al Mayadeen whether some ministers would resign if Bitar was not removed, Khalil said: “All options for political escalation are open.”
    The port explosion, one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts on record, killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of the capital Beirut.
    Senior officials from across the political spectrum have refused to show up for questioning and arrest warrants appeared unlikely to be enforced.
    U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price accused Hezbollah of threatening and intimidating Lebanon’s judiciary, and of “terrorist and illicit activities (that) threaten Lebanon’s security, stability, and sovereignty.”
    Price said the United States believed Hezbollah was “more concerned with its own interests and those of its patron Iran than in the best interests of the Lebanese people.”
    He added that U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland would visit Beirut on Wednesday for further “important” bilateral talks with Lebanese authorities.
POLITICAL OBSTACLES
    Bitar had wanted to interrogate senior politicians on suspicion of criminal negligence as they had served in posts where they would have been in a position to know about the ammonium nitrate stored unsafely at the port for years.
    A session of Lebanon’s supreme defence council, chaired by President Michel Aoun, on Tuesday refused the permission sought by the judge to pursue Tony Saliba, director general of state security, an official source said.
    The investigation was first suspended in late September on the basis of a complaint questioning Bitar’s impartiality.    A court rejected the complaint on procedural grounds, allowing Bitar to resume the inquiry.
    He is the second judge to lead the investigation.    Fadi Sawan was removed from the case in February after a similar complaint filed by the politicians who are now challenging Bitar.
    “For the first time, the judicial system wants to function, but it is suffering under political pressure and interventions,” said Paul Morcos, lawyer and professor of international law.
    Khalil was one of the two politicians who brought legal complaints against Bitar, challenging his impartiality.
    The other politician was former public works minister Ghazi Zeiter, also a Hezbollah ally, who was due for questioning on Wednesday.
    Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah voiced his harshest criticism yet of Bitar on Monday when he called in a televised address for his replacement, saying he was biased and politicised.
    Nasrallah spoke a few weeks after Wafik Safa, a senior Hezbollah official, was said to have warned Bitar the group would remove him from the inquiry, according to a journalist and a judicial source.
(Writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Tom Perry, Giles Elgood, Bernadette Baum and Mark Heinrich)

10/13/2021 U.S. Will Move Forward With Reopening Its Palestinian Mission In Jerusalem - Blinken by Humeyra Pamuk, Matt Spetalnick and Daphne Psaledakis
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, accompanied by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (not pictured)
and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyanin (not pictured), speaks at a joint news
conference at the State Department in Washington, U.S., October 13, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday the Biden administration intends to press ahead with its plan to reopen the Jerusalem consulate that traditionally engaged with Palestinians, despite Israeli opposition to such a move.
    Blinken reiterated a pledge he originally made months ago on re-establishing the consulate, which had long been a base for diplomatic outreach to the Palestinians before it was closed by President Joe Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, in 2018.
    But Blinken, speaking at a Washington news conference with visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and United Arab Emirates Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, stopped short of setting a date for reopening the consulate, which would strain relations with Israel’s new ideologically diverse government.
    “We’ll be moving forward with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening of those ties with the Palestinians,” Blinken said at the State Department.
    The Biden administration has sought to repair relations with the Palestinians that were badly damaged under Trump.
    The consulate was subsumed into the U.S. Embassy that was moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in 2018 by Trump – a reversal of longtime U.S. policy hailed by Israel and condemned by Palestinians.
    The Biden administration says it will reopen the consulate while leaving the embassy in place.
    Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital.    Palestinians want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in a 1967 war along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as capital of the state they seek.
    Blinken spoke in response to a reporter’s question after a trilateral meeting that marked the latest sign of the Biden administration’s embrace of the so-called Abraham Accords, which were widely seen as a diplomatic success for Trump.
    The UAE was the first of four Arab states that moved late last year to normalize relations with Israel after decades of enmity.    Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco soon followed suit.
    Palestinian officials said they felt betrayed by their Arab brethren for reaching deals with Israel without first demanding progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state.
    Some critics said Trump had promoted Arab rapprochement with Israel while ignoring Palestinian aspirations for statehood.
ABRAHAM ACCORDS
    Biden administration officials have said the Abraham Accords are no substitute for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, a principle of U.S. policy that the Democratic president has returned to after Trump moved away from it.
    But U.S. officials have said the conditions are not right to press for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which collapsed in 2014.    Washington has been reluctant to take any action that could weaken an Israeli government it considers more cooperative than the one led by Benjamin Netanyahu, which was unseated in June.
    Reopening the consulate, however, would ignite tensions between Washington and its close Middle East ally.
    Israel has said it would oppose the move, asserting its sovereignty over Jerusalem and arguing that far-right Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government would be destabilized by the reintroduction of a diplomatic foothold for the Palestinians in the city.
    Blinken expressed hope that normalization between Israel and Arab states would be a “force for progress” between Israelis and Palestinians, reaffirmed support for a two-state solution and said both sides “equally deserve to live safely and securely.”
    Bin Zayed echoed Lapid in praising the ties their countries have forged and said he would visit Israel soon.    But he also insisted that there could only be peace in the region if the Israelis and Palestinians are on “talking terms.”
    In a nod to the Palestinians, Lapid said they, like all people, were “entitled to a decent way of life” and Israel’s goal was to work with the Palestinian Authority on that issue.    But he offered no specifics.
    Lapid, a centrist, reached a power-sharing deal with Bennett that ended Netanyahu’s 12-year run as prime minister.    Under the coalition deal, Lapid will replace Bennett as prime minister in 2023.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Maayan Lubell, Daphne Psaledakis, Matt Spetalnick, Simon Lewis, Dan Williams, Lilian Wagdy; writing by Matt Spetalnick; editing by Mark Heinrich and Jonathan Oatis)
[THIS MOVE BY BIDEN OR HIS CONTROLLERS THE DEEP STATE WHO ARE CONSIDERING WHAT IS PUTTING THEM IN THE CATEGORY OF WHAT IS MENTIONED AS THE “HE” IN DANIEL 9:27 OR IT COULD BE ENDING UP TO THE EU TO DO IT OR THE GLOBALIST SOCIALIST ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT OR THE UNITED NATIONS [A CONGREGATION OF COUNTRIES AND CITIES] MORE LIKELY SINCE THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB, WOULD STATE THE SAME ENTITIES WHO LIKE NIMROD A MIGHTY HUNTER BROUGHT THEIR KINGDOM OF BABYLON, URUK, AKKAD AND KALNEH, AND IN SHINAR STARTED CITIES AND BUILT A TOWER TO REACH TO THE HEAVEN FOR PEOPLE TO GO UP IN IF THE WORLD FLOODS AGAIN BUT GOD GAVE PEOPLE VARIOUS LANGUAGES TO CONFUSE THEIR URGE TO BUILD CITIES INSTEAD OF LAND FARMS AND HOMES NOT CITIES BUT WHEN WILL THE ENTITY THAT WILL STEP FORWARD AND SIT IN THE THRONE OF GOD IN THE TEMPLE OF GOD AND CLAIM HE IS GOD OF ALL AND WILL BE THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION.].

10/13/2021 Ethiopian Attack In Two Northern Regions Intensifies, Tigrayan Forces Say by Maggie Fick
FILE PHOTO: A tank damaged during the fighting between Ethiopia's National Defense Force (ENDF) and
Tigray Special Forces stands on the outskirts of Humera town in Ethiopia July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer
    NAIROBI (Reuters) -An air and ground offensive by Ethiopian troops and their allies against rebellious forces from the northern Tigray region is intensifying, a spokesperson for the Tigrayan forces said on Wednesday, claiming “staggering” casualties.
    Getachew Reda of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) told Reuters by phone that the Ethiopian military and allies from the Amhara region were fighting the Tigrayan forces on several fronts, in both the Amhara and Afar regions which neighbour Tigray.
    A spokesperson for the Ethiopian military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.    The military and government have not acknowledged a fresh offensive, which the TPLF says began with air strikes last week, days after Prime     Minister Abiy Ahmed was sworn in for a new five-year term.
    “It’s an ongoing fight and the number of casualties is staggering,” Getachew said, adding that he could not give details of the number of dead or wounded.    He said there was fighting near the town of Weldiya in Amhara and that fighting had resumed in Afar, in the Haro and Chifra areas near the Amhara border.
    Reuters was not able to independently verify the situation on the ground or to confirm casualty numbers because the area is closed to journalists and many phone connections are down.
    The fighting has raised fears that it could further destabilise the Horn of Africa nation of 109 million people and plunge Tigray deeper into famine.    The conflict has already drawn in Ethiopia’s neighbour, the secretive and repressive nation of Eritrea, which sent troops across the border to support the Ethiopian military when the conflict erupted in November 2020.
    Aid workers citing witnesses told Reuters that Eritrean fighters were still inside Ethiopia and taking part in the conflict.
    Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    Another humanitarian worker citing witnesses said Eritrean forces were fighting Tigrayans in Berhale, a town in the Afar region.
    The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it was considering the use of economic sanctions to penalise parties responsible for the violence.
    Thousands of civilians have been killed and millions displaced by fighting since war erupted in Tigray.
    Tigrayan forces were initially beaten back, but recaptured most of the region in July and pushed into the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions, displacing hundreds of thousands more people.
    Amhara claims the Western Tigray, a swathe of fertile farmland with a strategically important border with Sudan, which has been under Amhara control since the fighting began.    Tigray’s borders are now surrounded by hostile forces and the United Nations says the government is blockading food aid to hundreds of thousands of starving people – a charge it denies.
    World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday that in Tigray more than 90% of the population needed food aid and about 400,000 people were living in famine-like conditions, based on the latest U.N. analysis.
    “We are seeing acute malnutrition rates, at levels comparable to those we saw at the onset of the 2011 Somalia famine,” he said.
    In that famine in Somalia, 260,000 people died.
    Tedros said no medical supplies had gone into Tigray since July.
    “Just a fraction of health facilities in Tigray remain operational due to a lack of fuel and supplies.    People with chronic illnesses are dying due to lack of both food and medicine,” he told a news conference in Geneva.
    The prime minister’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, and Lia Tadesse, the health minister, did not immediately respond to Reuters messages requesting comment on Tedros’ statement.
(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Maggie Fick; editing by George Obulutsa, Katharine Houreld and)

10/13/2021 One Syrian Soldier Killed, Three Wounded In Israeli Air Attack
FILE PHOTO: A road sign that shows the direction to the Syrian city of Palmyra is pictured on the edge of
the city, in this handout picture provided by SANA on March 2, 2017, Syria. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
    CAIRO (Reuters) - One Syrian soldier was killed and three others wounded in an Israeli air attack on Syria’s Palmyra area in the province of Homs on Wednesday evening, the Syrian defense ministry said.
    The attack took place at 23:34 local time (2034 GMT) and targeted a communications tower and caused some material losses, it added in a short statement on its Facebook page.
    The incident came days after Syrian state media reported that Syrian air defenses intercepted an Israeli missile attack above the Homs countryside, wounding six Syrian soldiers and causing some material damage.
    Israel has for several years been mounting attacks on what it has described as Iranian-linked targets in Syria, where Tehran-backed forces including Lebanon’s Hezbollah have put down a presence since deploying to help President     Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian conflict that erupted in 2011.
(Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad and Enas Alashray, editing by Chris Reese and Cynthia Osterman)

10/13/2021 UAE Foreign Minister Says He Will Visit Israel Soon
FILE PHOTO: UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan speaks during
a news conference in Berlin, Germany, October 6, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/Pool
    (Reuters) – The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah Bin Zayed, said on Wednesday that he would visit Israel soon, adding that his country was impressed with the growing bilateral relationship.
    Bin Zayed also said during a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Washington D.C. that there could be no talk of peace in the Middle East if Israel and the Palestinians were not “on talking terms.”
    He stressed that a more successful UAE-Israeli relationship would encourage both Israelis and Palestinians to see “that this path works, that this path is worth not only investing in but also taking the risk
    Last year, Israel and the UAE agreed to normalize relations in a major shift in Middle East politics from the Palestinian issue to the fight against Iran.
    On the conflict in Yemen, the UAE wants a resolution “but what’s dragging us in the situation is the lack of will and commitment on the Houthis’ side,” Bin Zayed said, referring to the Iran-aligned movement that ousted the internationally recognized government from the capital Sanaa in 2014 and now holds most of northern Yemen and main urban centers.
    “We are all working very hard among friends to ensure Yemenis have a better life.    But at the same time, we have to keep in mind that we don’t end up with a situation where we have another Hezbollah threatening the border of Saudi     Arabia,” he said, referring to the powerful Shi’ite group aligned to Iran in Lebanon.
(Reporting by Lilian Wagdy; Editing by Gareth Jones and Giles Elgood)
[GIVE IT UP BLINKEN YOU ARE TRYING TO STOP THE ABRAHAM ACCORD AND THESE NATIONS WILL ATTACK THE HOUTHIS IN YEMEN WHO ARE BACKED BY IRAN NOW THAT YOU ARE GIVING IRAN MONEY SO THEY CAN BUY WEAPONS AND MISSLES SO HAMAS MISSLES ATTACK INTO ISRAEL AND JOE SEEMS TO THINK HE CAN STOP TRUMPS DEAL OF THE CENTURY BUT HE IS GOING AGAINST SOMEONE WHO HAS MORE AUTHORITY THAN YOU WILL HAVE AND YOUR ONLY WAY AROUND THAT IS FOR YOU TO ATTACK ISRAEL YOURSELF AND I THINK THAT YOU ARE THAT STUPID TO DO THAT JUST LIKE YOUR FORMER OBAMA ATTACKED LIBYA AND KILLED GADDAFI WHO WAS ONE OF THE RELATIVES TO THE 12 TRIBES OF ISHAMAEL AND HIS ACTION CAUSED THE ARAB SPRING THE BEGINNING OF ISIS WHO KILLED THE PEOPLE IN THE CONSULATE AND TRUMP HAD TO CLEAN UP HIS MESS BY STOPPING ISIS WHICH YOU JUST RELEASE INTENTUAL AGAIN IN YOUR FAILURE IN AFGHANISTAN WHICH WAS NOT AN ACCIDENT IT WAS INTENDED.].

10/13/2021 Sudan Security Service Slaps Travel Ban On Top Civilian Politicians - Source
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in Berlin, Germany,
February 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) -Sudan’s security service has slapped a travel ban on members of a task force overseeing the country’s transition to democracy, government sources said, as tensions between civilian and military leaders threaten to boil over weeks after a failed coup.
    The political crisis https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/sudan-coup-drama-lays-bare-distrust-between-civilian-military-leaders-2021-10-08 erupted on Sept. 21, when Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said rogue troops still loyal to Omar al-Bashir had sought to derail by force the revolution that removed the ousted president from power in 2019.
    Two senior civilian government sources said on Wednesday that the General Intelligence Service’s (GIS) travel ban affected 11 civilian officials, most members of the Committee tasked with dismantling Bashir’s financial and political legacy.
    In a statement later on Wednesday the GIS denied reports that it banned officials from travel and said that was not within its powers.
    “The Service affirms that it is operating according to its duties as stated in the transitional constitution,” it said in the statement.
    The sources said the list included Mohamed al-Faki, who at a news conference last month accused the military of using the failed coup as an excuse to try to seize power.
    Al-Faki is also part of the ruling Sovereign Council, on which both civilian and military officials sit and which has run Sudan since Bashir’s overthrow.
    Since the coup attempt, military leaders have withdrawn protection for the task force and demanded changes to the civilian coalition with which they share power.
    “Who said we want to leave this country for them to ban us!” wrote committee member Wagdi Salih, who sources said was also on the list, on Twitter.
    A senior military source said the military had no involvement in the travel ban, and that such measures were not among its responsibilities.
    The sources said the ban was illegal as it originated from the GIS rather than the public prosecutor’s office, and that the cabinet – which sits below the Sovereign Council – was pressing for an investigation.
    The ban came to light after another person on it, businessman Salah Manaa, managed to board a flight to Cairo, the sources said.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, writing by Nafisa Eltahir; editing by John Stonestreet)

10/13/2021 Cyprus Says U.S. Agents Check Light Aircraft Cited In Libya War Report
FILE PHOTO: Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar gestures as he speaks during Independence Day
celebrations in Benghazi, Libya December 24, 2020. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori
    NICOSIA (Reuters) – U.S. federal agents are in Cyprus inspecting a light aircraft, Cypriot police said on Wednesday, suggesting continuing international interest in a plane believed by U.N. experts to have been obtained two years ago to play a role in Libya’s war.
    The aircraft, which the United Nations believes was modified to carry weapons, has been in a hangar at an airport in Cyprus since 2019.
    In an emailed response to Reuters questions about the plane, Cyprus’s transport ministry provided identification codes that match one of three aircraft cited in a March 2021 U.N. report by independent sanctions monitors about the conflict in Libya.
    That report detailed allegations of a proposed private military operation by Blackwater founder Erik Prince in support of Libya’s then eastern-backed commander Khalifa Haftar in 2019.
    Prince has denied any claims he was at any point involved in any operations in Libya.
    U.N. weapons inspectors said the proposal, codenamed Project Opus, had to be aborted in June 2019 after Haftar was unimpressed with helicopters procured for the operation.
    Libya was racked with violence between rival factions since the 2011 uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, drawing in foreign powers.    A U.N.-backed ceasefire was agreed last year following the collapse of Haftar’s 14-month offensive against Tripoli.
    In Cyprus, a police spokesman said U.S. federal agents, acting in cooperation with the United Nations, inspected the aircraft on Tuesday.
    Cyprus had initially told the world body it had no record of the aircraft landing there in July 2019, according to the U.N. March 2021 report.    Two transport ministry officials said it was due to wrong identification codes passed on by the United Nations.
    Its presence in Cyprus was subsequently clarified in later communication with the United Nations, one of them said.
    “It is being kept securely in storage at Paphos airport,” a transport ministry official said.    It has not left the island since it arrived in 2019, the official added.
(Reporting By Michele Kambas, Editing by William Maclean)
[AS I WROTE ABOUT ABOVE WHEN OBAMA KILLED GADDAFI IN LIBYA THE COUNTRY HAS BEEN RACKED WITH VIOLENCE SINCE 2011 FROM THAT UPRISING..].

10/13/2021 Blinken Says U.S. Does Not Support Normalisation Efforts With Syria’s Assad by Humeyra Pamuk
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
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States does not intend to support any efforts to normalise ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or rehabilitate him until there is irreversible progress towards a political solution in Syria, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday.
    Blinken’s comments at a news conference come at a time when a shift is underway in the Middle East among the Arab allies of the United States, who are bringing Assad in from the cold by reviving economic and diplomatic ties.
    Jordan, a staunch U.S. ally, fully reopened its main border crossing with Syria in late September, to boost the countries’ struggling economies and reinforce a push by Arab states to reintegrate Syria after shunning it over its civil war.
    Jordan’s King Abdullah also spoke to Assad for the first time in a decade this month while the Egyptian and Syrian foreign ministers met last month on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, in what Egyptian media said was the first meeting at that level for about a decade.
    “What we have not done and what we do not intend to do is to express any support for efforts to normalise relations or rehabilitate Mr Assad or lifted a single sanction on Syria or changed our position to oppose the reconstruction of Syria, until there is irreversible progress toward a political solution, which we believe is necessary and vital,” Blinken said.
    The United States has suspended its diplomatic presence in Syria since 2012.
    Blinken said in the nine months since President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20, Washington has focused on expanding humanitarian access to Syria, sustaining the campaign against Islamic State and making clear the U.S. commitment to demand accountability from Assad’s government.
    But Syria has not been a foreign policy priority for the Biden administration, analysts note, as Washington largely concentrated on countering China.    The administration has yet to apply sanctions under the so-called Caesar Act, which came into force last year with the aim of increasing pressure on Assad.
    “As we’re moving forward in the time ahead, keeping violence down, increasing humanitarian assistance, and focusing our military efforts on any terrorist groups that pose a threat to us or to our partners…These are going to be critical areas of focus for us,” Blinken said.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Simon Lewis and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington, additional reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

10/13/2021 Tunisia’s New Government Faces Hard Road To Rescue Package by Angus McDowall and Marc Jones
FILE PHOTO: Supporters of Tunisian President Kais Saied rally in support of his seizure of power
and suspension of parliament, in Tunis, Tunisia, October 3, 2021. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
    TUNIS/LONDON (Reuters) – Tunisia’s new government said this week that balancing public finances will be a priority, but it and President Kais Saied face a hard road to convince markets and foreign donors they are ready to hash out a rescue package.
    Even before the pandemic Tunisia was struggling to bring its public debt and fiscal deficits onto a sustainable trajectory, and has since been hit hard by a lockdown and the collapse in tourism. By the summer it needed urgent help.
    Then, talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a loan that could unlock bilateral aid from major donors were derailed when Saied suspended parliament, sacked the prime minister and took power in what his opponents called a coup.
    It has taken Saied 11 weeks to appoint a new government under Prime Minister Najla Bouden – one essential step towards restarting IMF talks.    But he has not yet laid out a plan to restore normal constitutional order as donors demand.
    Donors also want Tunisia to set out a series of credible economic reforms, potentially involving subsidies, the public sector wage bill and loss-making state companies, that would curb the deficit and debt.
    “The risk of a sovereign debt restructuring has increased, in our view,” said Petar Atansov of Gramercy, a well-known distressed debt fund, saying Tunisia’s political problems made it less likely to deliver on reforms needed for an IMF loan.
    Market concerns are visible in Tunisia’s bond yields – a reflection of how much the government would have to pay to borrow in international capital markets – which have climbed to nearly 16%.
    That is more than double what Pakistan has to pay, though it also has a B-credit rating and relies heavily on IMF help, and is much higher than the 9% paid by Ecuador, which has recently defaulted.
    “They clearly need to get an IMF programme, rebuild their resources and then tap the market in three years or so,” said Viktor Szabo at ABRDN in London, which holds Tunisian debt.
REFORMS
    Last week Central Bank Governor Marouane Abassi warned that financing the budget internally carried economic risks including boosting inflation, reducing the bank’s reserves and weakening the currency.
    “When would there be a failure? Nobody has a clear picture of Tunisian finances,” said a diplomat in Tunis.
    Abassi is emerging as a central figure in efforts to save the economy and is preparing proposals to discuss with the IMF, said the diplomat.
    Last week the governor said Tunisia’s friends stood ready to help it.    But they may have little support to offer without an IMF deal in place.
    That would likely require two politically contentious manoeuvres that Tunisia has not yet laid out – an inclusive constitutional roadmap and a set of credible economic reforms.
    Saied has brushed aside much of the 2014 constitution and said he can appoint a committee to amend the document and put it to a referendum, adding he would hold a dialogue on it with Tunisians.
    So far he has shown little inclination to work with Tunisia’s other major political or civil society forces – something that could scupper his chances of getting donors on board.
    Recognising his government to the extent of agreeing loan deals without the inclusive process they have called for “would be a complex question,” said the diplomat.
    Going it alone would also leave Saied without the broad-based support he may need from unions or political parties whose overtures he has so far spurned for the sort of unpopular reforms that could be required for a deal.
    His public pronouncements have focused not on readying Tunisians for a looming financial crisis and steps that may be needed to avert it, but on extra money he hopes to raise by tackling corruption.
    Successive Tunisian governments have stumbled on the difficulty of agreeing unpopular reforms after a decade of perceived economic decline.    To do so now, Saied may have to push aside his apparently unilateral instincts and start working with others.
(Reporting by Angus McDowall and Mark Jones, additional reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Alex Richardson)

10/14/2021 Explosions, Shooting Rock Beirut As Tensions Over Blast Probe Erupt
FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the site of the 2020 Beirut port explosion, Lebanon
October 13, 2021. The Arabic reads: 'The right to justice'. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) -Gunfire killed at least one person in Beirut on Thursday as supporters and allies of the powerful Shi’ite group Hezbollah gathered to protest against the judge investigating the Beirut port explosion.
    A military source told Reuters five more people wounded in the shooting.    The gunfire began from the Christian neighborhood of Ain el-Remmaneh as people heading to the protest were passing through a nearby traffic circle, prompting an exchange of fire, the military source said.
    At least two explosions were heard as the Lebanese army deployed heavily in the area.
    Political tensions over the probe into the catastrophic August 2020 port explosion have been building, with the heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah leading calls for the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar, accusing him of bias.
    The explosion killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of Beirut.
    Thursday’s shooting took place on the border between Christian and Shi’ite Muslim neighbourhoods of Beirut, and was a frontline in the Lebanese civil war, which began in Ain el-Remmaneh in 1975.
    Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV said the gunfire had targeted protesters as they headed to the nearby Justice Palace.
    People ran for cover as shots and ambulance sirens could be heard in a live broadcast by Lebanon’s al-Jadeed TV.
    Bitar has sought to question a number of senior politicians and security officials, including Hezbollah allies, suspected of negligence that led to the port explosion, caused by a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate.
    A court earlier on Thursday dismissed a legal complaint against the Bitar, documents showed – allowing him to resume his investigation into the explosion.
(Reporting By Maha El Dahan, Alaa Kanaan and Laila Bassam, Writing By Tom Perry; Editing by Toby Chopra and John Stonestreet)

10/14/2021 ‘Our Whole Life Depends On Water’: Climate Change, Pollution And Dams Threaten Iraq’s Marsh Arabs by Charlotte Bruneau and Thaier Al-Sudani
Sabah Thamer al-Baher sits at his home in the Chebayesh marsh, Dhi Qar province, Iraq, August 15, 2021. Iraq's 2020-2021 rainfall
season was the second driest in 40 years, according to the United Nations, causing the salinity of the wetlands to rise
to dangerous levels. Animals fell sick and died, and Baher was forced to buy fresh drinking water for his own herd of around
20 buffaloes, his only source of income. Another drought is predicted for 2023 as climate change, pollution and upstream
damming keep Iraq trapped in a cycle of recurring water crises. "The marshes are our life. If droughts persist, we will stop
to exist, because our whole life depends on water and raising water buffaloes," said Baher. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani
    CHEBAYESH MARSHES, Iraq (Reuters) – On an island surrounded by the narrow waterways of the Chebayesh Marshes in southern Iraq, Sabah Thamer al-Baher rises with the sun to milk his herd of water buffalo.
    This summer has been tough for Baher, a father of two.    Iraq’s 2020-2021 rainfall season was the second driest in 40 years, according to the United Nations, causing the salinity of the wetlands to rise to dangerous levels.
    Animals fell sick and died, and Baher was forced to buy fresh drinking water for his own herd of around 20 buffaloes, his only source of income.
    Another drought is predicted for 2023 as climate change, pollution and upstream damming keep Iraq trapped in a cycle of recurring water crises.
    “The marshes are our life.    If droughts persist, we will stop to exist, because our whole life depends on water and raising water buffaloes,” said 37-year-old Baher.
    Baher and his family are Marsh Arabs, the wetlands’ indigenous population that was displaced in the 1990s when Saddam Hussein dammed and drained the marshes to flush out rebels hiding in the reeds.
    After his overthrow in 2003, the marshes were partly reflooded and many Marsh Arabs returned, including Baher’s family.
    However, conditions have pushed the wetlands’ fragile ecosystem off balance, endangering biodiversity and livelihoods, said Jassim al-Asadi, an environmentalist born in the marshes.
    “The less water, the saltier it is,” Christophe Chauveau, a French veterinarian who surveyed the marshes for Agronomists and Veterinarians Without Borders said, adding that buffalos drink less and produce less milk when the water quality drops.
    According to the Max Planck Institute, the temperature rise in the Middle East during summer has been more than 0.5 degrees Celsius per decade – about twice as high as the global average.
    Iraq’s neighbours are also suffering from droughts and rising temperatures, which has led to regional water disputes.    The water ministry said http://www.reuters.com/business/environment/its-rivers-shrink-iraq-thirsts-regional-cooperation-2021-09-06/) earlier this year that water flows from Iran and Turkey were reduced by 50 percent throughout the summer.
PRIORITIES
    Then there is the matter of pollution coming from upstream.    In 2019, the government said that 5 million cubic metres a day of raw sewage water were being pumped directly into the Tigris, one of the rivers that feed Iraq’s marshes.
    Environmentalist Azzam Alwash said there was an urgent need for Iraq to commit to a long-term water management strategy as its fast-growing population of nearly 40 million is estimated to double by 2050.
    Aoun Dhiab, spokesperson for the water ministry, said the government’s strategy was to preserve the deeper, permanent water bodies of the marshes across a minimum of 2,800 square kilometres (1080 square miles).
    “This is what we are planning, to preserve the permanent water bodies to protect the ecological resources and fish stock,” he said.
    Dhiab said water levels in the marshes had partially improved since the summer, with less evaporation due to falling temperatures and that the wetlands shrink and expand naturally depending on the season.
    He also said the government could not allocate more water to the marshes when there were shortages of drinking water in summer.
    “Of course people in the marshes want more water, but we need to prioritise.    The priority goes to drinking water, to the municipalities and to preserving the Shatt al-Arab river,” he said.
    Drought and pollution of the Shatt al-Arab river caused a crisis in southern Iraq in 2018, when thousands were hospitalised http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-protests-water-idUSKCN1M624L) with water-borne diseases.
    The consequences are nonetheless punishing for the Marsh Arabs.    With his youngest daughter nestled in his arms and drinking buffalo milk out of her feeder, Baher watches his nephews tend to a sick buffalo.
    In summer, some of Baher’s relatives moved their herds altogether to deeper parts of the marshes, where salinity levels were lower, but fighting over the best spots as families were forced to share shrinking spaces.
    Estimates on the marshes’ current population vary widely http://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-heritage-iraq-idUSKCN0ZX0SN.    Once 400,000 in the 1950s, around 250,000 people returned when the marshes were reflooded.
    While diminishing water supplies pushed farmers this year to move to the cities, where a lack of jobs and services have led to protests in the past, Baher, like many other young herders, hopes that he will be able to remain here.
    “I felt like a stranger in the city,” he said, remembering when the marshes were drained.    “When the water came back to the marshes, we regained our freedom.”
(Reporting by Charlotte Bruneau and Thaier Al-Sudani; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/14/2021 Israeli Troops Kill Palestinian Throwing Fire-Bomb, Military Says
FILE PHOTO: Israeli soldiers stand guard as demonstrators take part in a protest in support of Palestinian farmers and
against Israeli settlements, in Beita, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank October 10, 2021. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man who was throwing fire-bombs at cars near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, the military said.
    The Palestinian liaison office confirmed the man was killed and that another Palestinian was arrested by the troops. It provided no further details.
    The military wrote on Twitter that the two suspects hurled a fire-bomb at a road leading to an Israeli settlement bloc near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, endangering drivers.
    Soldiers nearby acted “in order to thwart the threat,” the military said, and opened fire at the two men.    One of the two was wounded and received medical treatment at the scene but succumbed to his wounds, the military said.    The other man was arrested.
    Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East War, along with the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.    Palestinians want those territories for an independent state. U.S.-brokered peace talks between the sides collapsed in 2014.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem and Nidal al-Mugrabi in Gaza; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

10/14/2021 U.S. Will Oppose U.N. Human Rights Council’s ‘Disproportionate’ Attention On Israel - State Dept
FILE PHOTO: A general view during a special session of the Human Rights Council on the situation in Afghanistan, at
the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, August 24, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has concerns with the United Nations Human Rights Council and will oppose its “disproportionate” attention on Israel, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Thursday after the U.S. was elected back to the council.
    “We have concerns with the council.    We will vigorously oppose the council’s disproportionate attention on Israel, which includes the council’s only standing agenda item targeting a single country,” Price said, adding the United States will also press against the election of countries with “egregious human rights records.”
(Reporting by Simon Lewis, Chris Gallagher and Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Chris Reese)

10/14/2021 Thousands Rally In Georgia Demanding Release Of Saakashvili
People attend a rally demanding the release of jailed Georgian former President
Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi, Georgia October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze
    TBILISI (Reuters) -Thousands of flag-waving supporters of former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, jailed after returning from exile this month, protested in Tbilisi on Thursday to demand his release as his lawyer called on them to help save the country.
    The rally attracted the most protesters since pro-Western Saakashvili’s arrest on Oct. 1 for abuse of power and concealing evidence when he was president, charges he says are politically motivated.
    Saakashvili’s lawyer read a statement by him from the stage as the crowd massed in the city centre.
    “It’s time to save Georgia now, that’s why we have to be together … This Carthage of evil, betrayal and oppression will certainly fall,” the ex-president wrote, referring to the ancient city destroyed by war.
    Many Georgian national flags were seen above the crowd, with some holding flags of the European Union and Ukraine, where Saakashvili lived before returning to his home country.
    Saakashvili, president until 2013, led the Rose Revolution in 2003 that ended the presidency of Eduard Shevardnadze.    He is a figurehead for some in the opposition, but derided as a clown by detractors in the ruling Georgian Dream party.
    Protester Misha Mshvildadze said: “This is not justice what’s going on with him, this is a political vendetta.”
    The day after Saakashvili’s arrest, the United National Movement opposition party founded by the ex-president received 30.7% support at municipal elections, losing to the Georgian Dream party, which won 46.7%.
    Nika Melia, chairman of UNM, is set to take part in the second round of Tbilisi’s mayoral election on Oct. 30.
(Reporting by David Chkhikvishvili and Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alison Williams)

10/14/2021 Deadly Shooting Rocks Beirut As Tensions Over Blast Probe Erupt by Maha El Dahan, Tom Perry and Laila Bassam
A tank is seen after gunfire erupted, in Beirut, Lebanon October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) - Tensions over a probe into last year’s massive blast in Beirut burst into the worst street violence in more than a decade on Thursday, with six Shi’ites shot dead and gun battles reviving memories of the country’s 1975-90 civil war.
    Bullets bounced off buildings and people ran for cover during bursts of gunfire which lasted several hours on what was once a frontline in the war.    At one school, teachers instructed infant children to lie face down on the ground with their hands on their heads, a Reuters witness said.
    The Iran-backed Hezbollah and its ally, the Shi’ite Amal Movement, accused the Lebanese Forces (LF), a Christian party that has close ties to Saudi Arabia, of attacking its supporters, who were gathering to demand the removal of the judge investigating last year’s port blast.
    Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said snipers had opened fire and aimed at people’s heads.
    The LF denied any involvement and condemned the violence, which it blamed on Hezbollah “incitement” against Judge Tarek Bitar, the lead investigator into the port blast, which killed 200 people, wounded thousands and devastated swathes of Beirut.
    The army initially said gunfire had targeted protesters as they passed through the Teyouneh traffic circle dividing Christian and Shi’ite Muslim neighbourhoods.    It later said there had been an “altercation and exchange of fire” as protesters were on their way to the demonstration.
    Coming after repeated warnings from Hezbollah and its allies that continuing Bitar’s probe would split the country, the violence may create a pretext to shut down or shelve further investigation into the explosion.
    President Michel Aoun vowed that those responsible for Thursday’s gunfire would be held accountable, saying in a televised speech it was “unacceptable that weapons are once more the means of communication among Lebanese rivals.”
    LF leader Samir Geagea, whose group had a powerful militia in the war, said earlier that the shooting was the result of uncontrolled weapons in society, saying civil peace must be preserved.
    During the attack, local television stations broadcast footage of bullets hitting buildings and residents running for cover. One of the dead was a woman who was struck by a bullet while in her home, a military source said.
    The shooting began from the Christian neighborhood of Ain el-Remmaneh, the site of a massacre that helped ignite the civil war, before spiralling into an exchange of fire, a military source said.
    Interior Minister Mawlawi said all the dead were from one side, meaning Shi’ites.
    Hezbollah and the Amal Movement said groups had fired at protesters from rooftops, aiming at their heads in an attack they said aimed to drag Lebanon into conflict.
    The army deployed heavily in the area around Teyouneh and said it would open fire against any armed person on the road.    It later said it arrested nine people, including a Syrian.
    Bursts of gunfire were heard for hours.
    Prime Minister Najib Mikati told Reuters the events were a setback to the government but would be overcome.
    “Lebanon is going through a difficult phase not an easy one.    We are like a patient in front of the emergency room,” he said.    “We have a lot of stages after that to complete recovery.”
U.S., FRANCE URGE IMPARTIAL PROBE
    The United States and France said Lebanon’s judiciary must be allowed to investigate the port blast in an independent and impartial manner. Gulf state Kuwait urged its citizens to leave.
    “The Lebanese people deserve no less and the victims and families of those lost in the port blast deserve no less,” U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said during a visit to Beirut.
    “Today’s unacceptable violence makes clear what the stakes are,” said Nuland, in comments echoed by the French Foreign Affairs Ministry
.
    Judge Bitar has sought to question a number of senior politicians and security officials, including Hezbollah allies, suspected of negligence that led to the port explosion, caused by a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate and one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts on record.
    All have denied wrongdoing.
    Hezbollah has led calls for Bitar’s removal, accusing him of bias.
    On Wednesday, Geagea rejected what he described as any submission to “intimidation” by Hezbollah over Bitar, calling on Lebanese to be ready for peaceful strike action if the “other side” tried to impose its will by force.
    The standoff over Bitar’s investigation is diverting the newly formed government’s attention from addressing a deepening economic crisis https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanons-mikati-faces-tricky-path-safe-economic-ground-2021-09-13, which has plunged more than three quarters of Lebanese https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/why-is-lebanon-such-mess-2021-10-14 into poverty.
    Mikati told Reuters that any minister who threatened to resign over the investigation into the port blast “should bear the responsibility of his decision,” adding it was not the role of politicians to interfere in the judiciary.
    Though none of its members have been targeted by the probe, Hezbollah has accused Bitar of conducting a politicised investigation only focused on certain people.
    These include some of its closest allies, among them senior figures in the Shi’ite Amal Movement who occupied ministerial posts, including former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil who told al-Mayadeen TV this week the path of the probe threatened to push Lebanon “towards civil strife.”br>     A court earlier dismissed a legal complaint against Bitar, documents showed, allowing him to resume his investigation.
    The violence is the worst since 2008, when followers of the Sunni-led government fought battles in Beirut with gunmen loyal to Hezbollah.    Hezbollah took the streets until the government rescinded decisions affecting the group, including steps against a telecommunications network it operated.
(Reporting By Maha El Dahan, Alaa Kanaan, Laila Bassam, Mohamed Azakir, Tom Perry; Writing By Tom Perry; Editing by John Stonestreet, Samia Nakhoul and Daniel Wallis)

10/15/2021 Analysis-With Boosters, Masks And Green Pass, Israel Sees A COVID-19 Wave In Retreat by Maayan Lubell
FILE PHOTO: An Israeli woman receives her third dose of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
vaccine, in Beit Shemesh, Israel October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Four months into one of its worst COVID-19 outbreaks, Israel is seeing a sharp drop in new infections and severe illness, aided by its use of vaccine boosters, vaccine passports and mask mandates, scientists and health officials said.
    Israel was struck by its fourth coronavirus wave in June, fuelled by the fast-spreading Delta variant.
    Rather than imposing new lockdown measures, the government bet on a third booster dose of the Pfizer Inc/BioNTech vaccine for people age 12 and up, mandated face coverings and enforced use of a “Green Pass” – proof of vaccination, recovery from the illness or a negative test for the virus – at restaurants and other venues, even for children.
    Since peaking in early September, daily infections in Israel have fallen more than 80%, with severe cases nearly halved.
    “Day by day we are breaking the Delta wave,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday, crediting government policy for “close, smart and flexible management allowing life alongside coronavirus.”
    Israel’s “Living with COVID” strategy, which has not come without cost or controversy, has kept schools and the economy open.
    The Israeli Health Ministry on Thursday presented the latest safety and effectiveness data https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/us-fda-advisers-weigh-case-covid-19-vaccine-booster-shots-2021-10-14 from its booster campaign to a panel of advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considering authorization of additional booster shots.
    The data show that among people over 60 – the first group to receive boosters – infections began declining rapidly about two weeks after third doses were administered, while still climbing among other age groups.
    A data analysis by Doron Gazit and Yinon Ashkenazy of the Hebrew University’s COVID-19 monitoring team showed the virus’ reproduction rate – its ability to spread – began a sharp fall among each age group following the third shot.
    Two months into the Delta wave, vaccinated people over the age of 60 made up more than half of severe COVID-19 cases.     The majority were over 70 with health conditions that put them at higher risk.
    Since administration of boosters, mostly unvaccinated, often younger, people are bearing the brunt of serious illness.    They make up about 75% of hospitalized patients in severe condition, while those vaccinated with two or three shots account for a quarter of such cases.
    A third dose has so far been effective in curbing severe breakthrough cases among vaccinated people age 40 and up, according to the health ministry.
    There is less available data for teens and young adults.    However, the ministry said its findings so far show that a third dose has not increased the risk of myocarditis, a rare heart inflammation, in younger people. (Graphic: Confirmed Daily Infections, https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/ISRAEL-BOOSTERS/znvnezznnpl/chart.png)
‘THE JURY IS STILL OUT’
    Ran Balicer, who heads the government’s coronavirus expert advisory panel, said a combination of measures curbed the Delta surge.
    “These include the masks mandate, the ‘Green Passes’, the massive testing both with PCR testing and rapid antigen tests.    But undoubtedly, the most important impactful factor in bringing down the Delta summer surge was the mass vaccination campaign with booster doses,” Balicer said.
    In England, where boosters have been administered to roughly 5% of the population, masks have largely been abandoned and vaccine passports are not mandatory, COVID-19 cases are on the rise.
    Some scientists said Israel’s decision in late August to approve a third vaccine dose for young adults and teens was premature, lacking clear evidence of a benefit. They argue the focus should still be on convincing unvaccinated people to accept the shots.
    The United States and several European countries have so far authorized boosters only for older adults, people with weakened immune systems or workers at high risk of coronavirus exposure.
    The World Health Organization has pleaded with wealthier nations to hold off on boosters while many countries struggle to access vaccines.
    “Israel rushed, even gambled, when it came to approving a third dose for the whole population and not to specific age groups as other countries did,” said Hagai Levine, professor of epidemiology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
    “In the midst of a pandemic you sometimes have to make a decision based on partial evidence,” Levine said.
    Nevertheless, “the jury is still out on third doses for the entire population.” (Graphic: Coronavirus Fourth Wave, Reproduction Rate, https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/ISRAEL-BOOSTERS/xmpjollelvr/chart.png)
    Bennett has been criticized by some scientists for rejecting tougher measures that would have kept Delta infections lower from the start.    They included government health officials who feared the “Living with COVID” policy exacted too heavy a toll.
    “We have 1,400 people who died in this wave. So there are benefits to keeping the economy open and there is some cost to that,” Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health at Israel’s Health Ministry, told The Jerusalem Post conference on Tuesday.
    By September, hospitals strained to care for COVID-19 cases that could have perhaps been avoided, doctors and health officials said.
    “It’s a good policy, but it has its price,” said Yael Haviv-Yadid, head of the critical care ward at Sheba Medical Centre, whose unit saw an influx of young, unvaccinated patients.    “The teams are very tired, burned out.”
    So far, 3.7 million people have taken a third shot, more than a third of Israel’s population.
    “Israel was the first country to deal with the combined challenge posed by the Delta variant and mass waning immunity, but it is definitely not the last” Balicer cautioned.
    “Other countries that will be faced with this complex challenge will have to figure out their own balance,” he added, “and the costs can be high.”
(Additional reporting by Dedi Hayun in Tel Aviv and Ryan McNeill and Alistair Smout in London; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Bill Berkrot)

10/15/2021 Saudi Foreign Ministry Says Discussed Iran Nuclear Program With U.S. Blinken
FILE PHOTO: A view of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility 250 km (155 miles) south
of the Iranian capital Tehran, March 30, 2005. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) -Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud met U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington and exchanged views on Iran’s nuclear program and international talks on the matter, Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.
    “Had a productive meeting today with my friend Secretary Blinken, during which we discussed a range of issues of common interest & concern to both our nations & ways to strengthen our strategic partnership & cooperation on multiple fronts,” Al Saud said in a twitter post on Friday.
    Al Saud also met the U.S. Special Envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, and discussed intensifying joint efforts against “Iranian violations of international treaties related to the nuclear agreement,” the Saudi foreign ministry said.
(Reporting by Alaa Swilam; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

10/15/2021 Explainer-How Hezbollah Widens Iran’s Middle East Reach
FILE PHOTO: A Hezbollah flag and a poster depicting Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah
are pictured along a street, near Sidon, Lebanon July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho
    (Reuters) – The Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah has worked hand in glove with Iran across the Middle East since it was established in 1982.    Here’s what you need to know about one of the most important relationships in the Middle East today:
WHAT IS HEZBOLLAH?
    Iran’s Revolutionary Guards founded the group in 1982 to export its Islamic Revolution and to fight Israeli forces that invaded Lebanon that same year.
    Hezbollah shares Tehran’s Shi’ite Islamist ideology and sees Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as its political and spiritual guide.
    Classified by the United States and other Western countries as a terrorist organisation, Hezbollah has a powerful military wing that it has acknowledged is armed and financed by Iran.
    The group also has a formidable intelligence apparatus and polices its own areas of south Beirut and southern Lebanon, as well as border areas with Syria.
    One of Lebanon’s two dominant Shi’ite parties, Hezbollah has MPs in parliament and ministers in government.    Its political clout grew in 2018 when, together with allies, it won a parliamentary majority.
    Its commercial activities include a retail empire and a construction company.    It also runs schools and clinics.
    The group, which has grown to be more powerful than the Lebanese state over the last four decades, has largely been defined by conflict with Israel.
    Hezbollah guerrillas forced Israel out of Lebanon in 2000 and fired 4,000 rockets into Israel in a 34-day war in 2006.    Hezbollah has since rearmed into an even more powerful force.
    The group has been accused of bomb attacks far from Lebanon.
    Argentina blames Hezbollah and Iran for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in which 85 people were killed and for an attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 that killed 29 people.    Both deny responsibility.
    Bulgaria accused Hezbollah of carrying out a bomb attack that killed five Israeli tourists in the Black Sea city of Burgas in 2012.    Hezbollah denied involvement.
HOW DOES HEZBOLLAH HELP IRAN IN THE REGION?
    Hezbollah helps Iran to project power across the region.    Its secretary general, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, is a leading figure in the Iran-led “Axis of Resistance,” which aims to counter Israel, the United States and its Arab allies.
    A charismatic speaker, Nasrallah helps to rally and organise Tehran’s Arab alliances.
    Hezbollah’s close links to Iran were vividly illustrated when in 2013 it joined the war in Syria alongside Tehran in defence of their common ally President Bashar al-Assad.
    In Iraq, Hezbollah has openly acknowledged it has supported paramilitary Shi’ite groups that are backed by Iran.
    In Yemen, Hezbollah has also supported the Iran-aligned Houthis in their war with a Saudi-led coalition, according to a Saudi-led coalition fighting in the country.    Hezbollah in 2017 denied it had sent any weapons to Yemen.
    Hezbollah has also acknowledged providing support to the Palestinian group Hamas.
WHERE DOES LEBANON FIT IN?
    Hezbollah has established Iran as a major player in Lebanon, a country where the United States, Russia, Syria and Saudi Arabia and many others have competed for influence for years.
    Shadowy groups, which Lebanese security officials and Western intelligence say were linked to Hezbollah, carried out attacks that forced U.S. troops to withdraw from Lebanon in the early 1980s, including suicide attacks on Western embassies. Hezbollah has never confirmed or denied responsibility.
    Hezbollah entered Lebanese politics more visibly after the killing of former Sunni Muslim Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in 2005.
    A U.N.-backed court last year convicted a Hezbollah member of conspiring to kill Hariri, who was seen as a threat to Iranian and Syrian influence in Lebanon, although it found no evidence of direct involvement by the leadership of Hezbollah.
    Hezbollah has denied any role in Hariri’s killing and has accused the tribunal of being a tool of its enemies in the United States and Israel.
    As Hezbollah’s home base, Lebanon is vital to both the group and Iran.    Hezbollah has used its political and – at times – its military clout to counter threats it sees from Lebanese rivals who say its vast arsenal has undermined the state.
    In 2008, Hezbollah fighters took over Beirut during a power struggle with the then Saudi- and Western-backed government.
    Most recently, it has led calls for the removal of the lead investigator in the Beirut port explosion, Judge Tarek Bitar, as he has pursued some of Hezbollah’s closest allies on suspicion of negligence, saying his probe was politicised and biased.
(Writing by Samia Nakhoul; Editing by Tom Perry, William Maclean)

10/15/2021 Saudi Foreign Minister Warns Of ‘Dangerous’ Iran Nuclear Acceleration by Jonathan Landay
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud attends a joint news conference
with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Berlin, Germany August 19, 2020. John Macdougall/Pool
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said on Friday that Iran’s acceleration of its nuclear activities is putting the world in “a very dangerous place” amid efforts to bring Tehran back into a 2015 nuclear deal.
    Speaking at a news conference in Washington a day after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, bin Farhan called for a “quick suspension” of Iranian activities in violation of the agreement under which Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for economic sanctions relief.
    Bin Farhan also urged a “quick resumption” of indirect talks between the United States and Iran.    Regional powers Iran and Saudi Arabia are arch rivals.
    “I think we are in a very dangerous place.    The fact that we continue to see acceleration of those activities … leads to the devaluation of the JCPOA,” he said, using the initials of the agreement formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
    Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who took office in August, has so far refused to resume the indirect talks in Vienna.
    U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration wants to negotiate a return to compliance with the deal after his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, after which Iran resumed building its stockpile of enriched uranium.
    “We have started a dialogue with Iran,” bin Farhan said, referring to four rounds of talks that the two countries began holding in 2020 that focused primarily on the conflict in Yemen.    “These interactions, while cordial, have been exploratory in nature and have not reached a state where we can say that we’ve made substantial progress.”
    Bin Farhan declined to answer when asked at the news conference to verify reports that Saudi Arabia is considering allowing Iran to reopen a consulate in the city of Jeddah.    Saudi Arabia broke relations with Iran in 2016 in a dispute over the Saudi execution of a Shiite Muslim cleric.
    On his trip to Washington, bin Farhan also met with Robert Malley, the U.S. special envoy for Iran affairs.
LEBANON CRISIS
    At the news conference, bin Farhan also discussed the political crisis in Lebanon, where he said the events of the past two days show the need for “real serious change” from the country’s leaders.    Tensions over a probe into last year’s massive blast in Beirut burst into the worst street violence in more than a decade on Thursday.
    In Afghanistan, bin Farhan said, the Taliban rulers should take the “path of national reconciliation” and bring together all elements of Afghan society, echoing calls by Western leaders for an inclusive government in the country where a U.S.-backed government collapsed in August as American and other foreign forces were withdrawing.
    Asked about whether the United States is pressing for an acceleration in oil production by OPEC, Russia and others known as OPEC+, bin Farhan sidestepped the question by saying Saudi Arabia is “committed to a balanced energy market, a balanced oil market.”
    Saudi Arabia is managing the challenges to the global energy market posed by the COVID-19 pandemic “in a way that provides stability and serves the interests of producers and consumers,” bin Farhan added.
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Writing by Simon Lewis; Editing by Will Dunham)

10/15/2021 Saudi Arabia Appoints Al-Rabiah As New Hajj Minister – State Media
FILE PHOTO: An aerial view of Kaaba at the Grand mosque in the holy city
of Mecca, Saudi Arabia August 12, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    (Reuters) -Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz has relieved Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah from his post and appointed him as new Hajj minister, state media reported on Friday, citing a royal decree.
    The king also ordered the establishment of a new body that will oversee the development of Yanbu, Umluj, Al-Wajh and Duba regions.
    The new body will be chaired by the Kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, state media said.
(Reporting by Ahmed Tolba, Writing by Moaz Abd-Alaziz)

10/15/2021 Sudan’s PM Hamdok Presents Road Map Out Of Crisis
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in Berlin, Germany, February 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
    (Reuters) -Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok on Friday unveiled a road map to end what he described as the country’s “worst and most dangerous” political crisis in its two-year transition.
    Since a coup attempt in late September, Sudan’s military and civilian power-sharing partners have been locked in a war of words, with military leaders demanding the reform of the cabinet and ruling coalition.    Civilian politicians accused the military of aiming for a power grab.
    “The coup attempt opened the door for discord, and for all the hidden disputes and accusations from all sides, and in this way we are throwing the future of our country and people and revolution to the wind,” Hamdok said in a speech.
    Sudan’s military and a coalition of civilian political parties have ruled under a power-sharing agreement since the removal of former President Omar al-Bashir in 2019. Bashir loyalists are accused of executing the failed coup attempt.
    Hamdok described the current conflict as not between the military and civilians but between those who believe in a transition towards democracy and civilian leadership and those who do not.
    “I am not neutral or a mediator in this conflict.    My clear and firm position is complete alignment to the civilian democratic transition,” he said.
    Nevertheless he said he had spoken to both sides, and presented them with a road map that called for the end of escalation and one-sided decision-making and a return to a functioning government.
    He emphasized the importance of the formation of a transitional legislature, reform of the military, and the expansion of the base for political participation.
    Referring to an ongoing blockade of the country’s main port in the East of the country by protesting tribesmen, Hamdok described their grievances as legitimate while asking that they re-open the flow of trade.    He also said an international donors’ conference to benefit the region was being organized.
    Civilian politicians have accused the military of being behind the blockade, which it denies.
    Political groups aligned with the military have called for protests in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Saturday.    Groups advocating for civilian rule have called for protests on October 21.
(Reporting By Khalid Abdelaziz and Ahmed Tolba, Writing by Nafisa Eltahir and Moaz Abd-Alaziz, Editing by Chris Reese and Giles Elgood)

10/16/2021 Two Deaths Shine Spotlight On Violence Against Women In Kenya by Ayenat Mersie
Jedidah Nderitu, a social worker, comforts students at the Kibera Girls School Soccer Academy (KGSA) as they
attend a memorial service for Cynthia Makokha, a teenage student who was raped and killed as she
travelled home for school holidays, in Kibera district of Nairobi, Kenya October 15, 2021. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Cynthia Makokha was a 17-year-old student and volleyball player.    Agnes Tirop was a 25-year-old rising athletics star, who finished fourth in the 5,000m race at the Tokyo Olympics and had won two World Championship bronze medals.
    Both women were found dead in Kenya this week, and while their murders are not linked they have shone a spotlight on violence against women, which the government says has grown worse since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Tirop was found in her bed at her home in the town of Iten, with multiple stab wounds to the neck.    Police on Thursday arrested a man they described as her husband, whom they called “the main suspect.”
    Makokha, who was a student at the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy in Nairobi, was raped, killed and then dumped in a river.    She had been on her way to visit family in Western Kenya on Oct. 4 when she disappeared. Her body was found days later.
    One suspect is in custody, Mumias East sub-county police commander Stephen Mwoni told Reuters.
    Nearly half of women in Kenya experience gender-based violence over the course of their lifetimes, and a third of Kenyan girls experience some form of sexual violence before turning 18, according to the Gender Violence Recovery Centre at the Nairobi Women’s Hospital.
    “I’m scared,” said 17-year-old Latifah Shaban, who shared a bunk bed with Makokha.    She said Makokha often woke up at 3am, cracked the hallway door open, and used that light to study.    “I’ve heard a lot of rape cases.    I’m just always scared about men… it’s worse,” she said.
    The school’s dorms are only a few months old, created to help protect the girls, many of whom come from vulnerable living situations, administrators said.
    “As much as we are trying to ensure that the girls are safe, outside they…. are not safe,” said Claris Akinyi, the school’s principal.
STAR WHO LOVED FAMILY
    Tirop’s family told Kenya Television Network that she had separated from the man suspected of killing her because she suspected he had cheated on her when she was competing in Japan.
    Police say that after Tirop’s murder, they found a new athletics trophy, still carefully wrapped, in her living room.
    On social media, fellow athletes and politicians shared messages of condolence, as did sportswear manufacturer Adidas and the World Athletics governing body.
    “Agnes was an incredible person, a record breaking athlete and a beloved member of our family,” Adidas posted https://twitter.com/adidasrunning/status/1448344158087827457?s=20 on Twitter.
    At Makokha’s school, rows of seated girls passed around tissues to wipe their tears as they remembered their fellow student.    One girl untied her sweatshirt from around the waist to cry into it; another clutched a poster saying:
STOP KILLING.”
(Reporting by Ayenat Mersie; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/16/2021 Lebanon Christian Leader Bassil: Probe Into Port Blast Should Not Be Stopped
FILE PHOTO: Debris are seen in the port area after a blast in Beirut, Lebanon, August 10, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
    BEIRUT (Reuters) - The leader of Lebanon’s largest Christian bloc, the Free Patriotic movement (FPM), said on Saturday the investigation into last year’s deadly blast at Beirut’s port should not be stopped.
    Gebran Bassil’s stance is in contrast to that of the Iran-backed Shi’ite Hezbollah group, an FPM ally that opposes the investigation and has called for its lead investigator to be removed.
    Bassil was speaking two days after a spasm of violence that erupted over the inquiry.    Seven Shi’ite Muslims were killed as crowds were on their way to a protest against Judge Tarek Bitar in a demonstration called for by Hezbollah and its Shi’ite ally Amal.
    “The Free Patriotic movement is with (for) continuing the probe, revealing the truth and putting those responsible on trial,” Gebran Bassil said in a speech.
    Bassil, who is President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law, was hit with U.S. sanctions last year for alleged corruption and his ties to Hezbollah.    Bassil has denied the allegations.
    Hezbollah’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has said the investigation is biased and politicised.
    On Saturday Bassil said that there was some evidence pointing to some bias in the course of the investigation but that there was no evidence yet that the judge was politicised.
    Thursday’s street violence was the worst in over a decade and stirred memories of the country’s ruinous 1975-90 civil war.
    Defence minister Maurice Selim said a stampede and a clash in Teyouneh led to gunfire by both sides, adding that the exchange of fire had preceded the sniper fire.
    On Thursday, the army initially said rounds were fired on at protesters as they passed through the Teyouneh traffic circle dividing Christian and Shi’ite Muslim neighbourhoods.    It then later said there had been an “altercation and exchange of fire” as protesters were on their way to the demonstration.
SUPPORT FOR JUDGE
    The investigation into the Aug. 4, 2020 explosion, which killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of Beirut, has made little headway following a smear campaign against Bitar and pushback from powerful political factions.
    Lebanese Justice Minister Henry Khoury said earlier on Saturday he stood by Bitar and that the judge had the right to summon whoever he wants in the case, Al Jadeed television reported.
    Khoury also said he had not been asked to suggest appointing a new judge to handle the investigation.
    “I stand by the…investigator,” Khoury was quoted as saying.    The minister added said he did not have the authority to replace Bitar and that he faced no pressure to do so.
    Lebanon’s higher judicial council is meeting Bitar on Tuesday to hear his views on how the investigation is proceeding, judicial sources said.
    Thursday’s violence has added to concerns for the stability https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-crisis-blast-crisis-explainer/explainer-why-is-lebanon-such-a-mess-idUSKBN2H42HJ of a country that is awash with weapons and grappling with an economic meltdown.
    Hezbollah blamed the Christian Lebanese Forces party for the deaths, an accusation the head of that party, Samir Geagea, denied.
(Reporting by Maha El Dahan and Omar FahmyWriting by Moataz AbdelrahiemEditing by Timothy Heritage and Frances Kerry)

10/16/2021 Sudan Protest Calls For Military Coup As Political Crisis Deepens by Khalid Abdelaziz
Military-aligned demonstrators gathered in numbers, chant "Down with the government of hunger"
in front of the Presidential palace in Khartoum, Sudan, October 16, 2021. REUTERS/El Tayeb Siddig
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the presidential palace in Khartoum on Saturday calling for the military to seize power as Sudan grapples with the biggest political crisis in its two-year-old transition.
    The military and civilian groups have been sharing power in the east African country in an uneasy alliance since the toppling of long-standing President Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
    But following a failed coup attempt in September attributed to forces loyal to Bashir, military leaders have been demanding reforms to the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition and the replacement of the cabinet.
    Civilian leaders, however, have accused them of aiming for a power grab.
    A military-aligned faction of the FFC, including armed groups that rebelled against Bashir, called for Saturday’s protests and held a short event in a nearby convention hall.
    The protesters chanted “down with the hunger government” and called for General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the armed forces and Sudan’s joint military-civilian Sovereign Council, to initiate a coup and overthrow the government.
    Unlike previous demonstrations, protesters were able to reach the gates of the presidential palace which is typically barricaded.    There was little police presence at the protest.
    The demonstrators, who were seen arriving in central Khartoum on dozens of buses, clashed with pro-civilian protesters.
    Earlier, members of an unidentified armed group removed security barriers around government buildings and prevented the police and security forces from preparing for the march, Khartoum State governor Ayman Khalid said in a statement.
    In a speech on Friday https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/sudans-pm-hamdok-unveils-roadmap-with-political-players-end-crisis-2021-10-15, civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok presented a roadmap out of the crisis and warned that failure to find a resolution would throw the country’s future “>to the wind.”
    At the root of the crisis are disputes on issues of justice, military restructuring, and the dismantling of the financial apparatus of Bashir’s regime, analysts say https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/sudan-coup-drama-lays-bare-distrust-between-civilian-military-leaders-2021-10-08.
    Pro-civilian groups have called for protests on Thursday.
(Writing by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Mark Potter and Mike Harrison)

10/16/2021 Saudi Arabia’s PIF Launches Offshore Platform Tourism Project
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during a meeting to Launch Public Investment
Fund Strategy 2021-2025, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 24, 2021. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, announced on Saturday the launch of “THE RIG,” which it said would be the world’s first tourism destination on offshore platforms.
    The fund, the engine of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic transformation plans for Saudi Arabia, manages a portfolio worth $400 billion.
    It added in a statement that the project was located in the gulf and spanned an area of more than 150,000 square metres.
    It said the project would feature a number of attractions, including three hotels, restaurants, helipads, and a range of adventurous activities including extreme sports.
    The funds did not disclose the value of the project.
(Reported by Saeed Azhar; Writing by Moataz Abdelrahiem; Editing by Alex Richardson)

10/16/2021 Congo To Audit Forest Concessions, Suspend ‘Questionable Contracts’ by Hereward Holland
FILE PHOTO: Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo attends a news conference at the
G20 Compact with Africa (CwA) meeting in Berlin, Germany, August 27, 2021. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi/File Photo
    KINSHASA (Reuters) – President Felix Tshisekedi has called for an audit of Democratic Republic of Congo’s vast forest concessions and the suspension of all “questionable contracts” until the audit is concluded.
    Home to 60% of the world’s second largest rainforest, Congo plays a critical role in regulating Earth’s climate but conservation groups say corruption and poor governance make its forests vulnerable to expanding agriculture and illegal logging.
    Tshisekedi said he wanted to examine the legality of several contracts, including one granted in September 2020 covering about 1.4 million hectares.
    On Sept. 12 last year, former Environment Minister Claude Nyamugabo awarded six concessions to Tradelink SARL, a Congolese company, covering a total of 1.38 million hectares.
    Tradelink’s concessions exceed the 500,000 ha limit permitted per company, Tshisekedi told ministers late on Friday, according to minutes of the meeting published on Saturday.
    Tradelink and Nyamugabo could not immediately be reached for comment.
    Tshisekedi asked environment minister Eve Bazaiba “to take stock of the exact locations and finances of all forest concessions in the DRC, and suspend all questionable contracts pending the outcome of the audit,” the minutes said.
    Irene Wabiwa, a representative of environmental group Greenpeace, said the request for an audit was a “very good thing” and hoped it would be carried out by an independent commission.
    “Even if it’s a bit late, it’s better late than never,” she told Reuters.
    In July, Bazaiba announced plans to lift a 19-year moratorium on new industrial logging concessions, create a regulator for the country’s carbon market and reconcile data between agencies involved in the environmental sector.
    Environmental campaigners worried that lifting the moratorium would open up millions of hectares of forests to industrial logging. Bazaiba said the move would help Congo improve governance of the environment.
(Reporting by Hereward Holland, Editing by Bate Felix and Timothy Heritage)

10/16/2021 Lebanon’s Judicial Council Will Meet With Beirut Blast Probe Judge On Tuesday – LBCI TV On Twitter
FILE PHOTO: A view shows the grain silo that was damaged during last year's Beirut port blast,
in Beirut, Lebanon July 13, 2021. Picture taken July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Lebanon’s higher judicial council will meet with Beirut blast probe judge Tarek Bitar on Tuesday to listen to his opinion on the course of the investigation, LBCI TV said in a tweet on Saturday.
    The investigation into the Aug. 4, 2020 explosion, one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts in history, has made little headway amid a smear campaign against Bitar and pushback from powerful Lebanese factions, with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah saying Bitar was biased and politicized.
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah Writing by Enas Alashray; Editing by Mark Potter)

10/16/2021 Lebanon’s PM Says Government Is Keen Not To Interfere In Any File Related To The Judiciary – Statement
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati attends an interview with Reuters
at the government palace in Beirut, Lebanon October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    (Reuters) – Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said the government is keen not to interfere in any file related to the judiciary, according to a statement from his office on Saturday.
    The statement came following a meeting with the justice minister and the head of the higher judicial council after seven people were killed in violence in Beirut on Thursday.
    “The judicial authority must take whatever measures it deems appropriate,” Mikati added.
(Reporting by Maha El Dahan, Writing by Nayera Abdallah, Editing by Alex Richardson)

10/16/2021 Lebanese Christian Group Denies Hezbollah Claim It Planned Beirut Bloodshed
FILE PHOTO: Supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah attend a funeral of people who were killed in violence in Beirut
on Thursday, in Beirut's southern suburbs, Lebanon October 15, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
(Corrects name of local radio in paragraph 3 to Voice of Beirut, not Voice of Lebanon, after LF corrected name in statement)
    BEIRUT (Reuters) - The head of the Christian Lebanese Forces party (LF) denied late on Friday his group had planned street violence in Beirut that killed seven people, and said a meeting held the day before was purely political.
    Thursday’s violence, which began as people were gathering for a protest called by Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah against the judge investigating last year’s Beirut port blast, was the worst in over a decade and stirred memories of the country’s ruinous sectarian civil war from 1975-90.
    Samir Geagea told Voice of Beirut International radio that a meeting held on Wednesday by a political grouping the LF belongs to had discussed action options should Iran-backed Hezbollah succeed in efforts to remove the judge.
    Geagea said the option agreed upon in that event was to call for a public strike, and nothing else.
    The powerful Hezbollah group stepped up accusations against the LF on Friday, saying it killed the seven Shi’ites to try to drag the country into a civil war.
    The violence, which erupted at a boundary between Christian and Shi’ite neighbourhoods, has added to concerns over the stability of a country that is awash with weapons and grappling with one of the world’s worst ever economic meltdowns.
    Asked whether the presence of LF members in the areas of Ain al-Remmaneh and Teyouneh, where the shooting erupted, meant the incident was planned, Geagea said they were always present in these areas.
    The security coordinator in the party contacted the authorities when they heard a protest was planned and asked for a heavy military presence in the area “as our priority was for the demonstration to pass by simply as a demonstration and not affect civil peace,” Geagea said.
    Geagea said his party was assured that would be the case.
    “The army has arrested snipers so they need to tell us who they are and where they came from.”
    Nineteen people have been detained so far in relation to the incident.
    Geagea, whose party has close ties to Saudi Arabia, also criticised President Michel Aoun over a phone call between the two during the incident.
    Aoun’s party, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Lebanon’s largest Christian bloc, is an ally of Hezbollah.
    “I didn’t like this call at all,” Geagea said, saying Aoun implicitly made the same accusations of involvement that Hezbollah has by asking him to calm down the situation.
    “This is totally unacceptable.”
(Reporting by Maha El DahanEditing by Shri Navaratnam and Mark Potter)

10/16/2021 Turnout In Iraq’s Election Reached 43% -Electoral Commission
FILE PHOTO: An Iraqi woman shows her ink-stained finger after casting her vote at a polling station during
the parliamentary election in Sadr city, Baghdad, Iraq October 10, 2021. REUTERS/Wissam Al-Okaili
    (Reuters) – Turnout in Iraq’s parliamentary election earlier this month reached 43%, the electoral commission said late on Saturday, a small increase from preliminary results but lower than that in the last election in 2018.
    More than 9.6 million people cast their ballots in the Oct. 10 vote, the commission said.
    Populist Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said his movement secured the biggest number of seats in the parliament adding that he would not challenge the results.
    “We will seek to form (a) non-sectarian and non-ethnic national coalition under the umbrella of reform,” al-Sadr, who opposes all foreign interference and whose main rivals are Iran-allied Shi’ite groups, said in a statement on Saturday.
    The electoral commission had previously said on Oct. 10 that turnout was 41% in preliminary results.    In the last election in 2018, total turnout was 44.5%.
    Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi is not running for re-election, but negotiations after the vote could yet see him get a second term. Kadhimi, who is viewed as friendly to the West, has no party to back him.
    At least 167 parties and more than 3,200 candidates are competing for parliament’s 329 seats, according to the election commission.
(Reporting by Ahmed Tolba and Moaz Abd-Alaziz; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

10/17/2021 Turkey’s Erdogan Says U.S. Proposed F-16 Sales In Return For Its F-35 Investment
FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Air Force F-16 jet fighter takes off from an airbase during CRUZEX, a multinational
air exercise hosted by the Brazilian Air Force, in Natal, Brazil November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that the United States had proposed the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey in return for its investment in the F-35 programme, from which Ankara was removed after purchasing missile defence systems from Russia.
    Reuters reported earlier this month that Turkey made a request to the United States to buy 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes.
    Speaking to reporters before departing for a trip to West Africa, Erdogan said Turkey wants a return for its investment in the F-35 programme and that talks on the issue are ongoing.     “There is the payment of $1.4 billion we have made for the F-35s and the U.S. had such a proposal in return for these payments,” Erdogan said.
    “And regarding this, we said let’s take whatever steps are needed to be taken to meet the defence needs of our country,” he said, adding that the new F-16 jets would help develop its fleet.
    Ankara had ordered more than 100 F-35 jets, made by Lockheed Martin Corp, but the U.S. removed Turkey from the programme in 2019 after it acquired Russian S-400 missile defence systems.
    The decades-old partnership between the NATO allies has gone through unprecedented tumult in the past five years over disagreements on Syria policy, Ankara’s closer ties with Moscow, its naval ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean, U.S. charges against a state-owned Turkish bank and erosion of rights and freedoms in Turkey.
    Ankara’s purchase of the S-400s has also triggered U.S. sanctions.    In December 2020, Washington blacklisted Turkey’s Defence Industry Directorate, its chief, Ismail Demir, and three other employees.
    Since then the U.S. has repeatedly warned Turkey against buying further Russian weaponry.    But Erdogan has indicated Ankara still intends to buy a second batch of S-400s from Russia, a move that could deepen the rift with Washington.
    The request for the jets will likely have a difficult time getting approval from the U.S. Congress, where sentiment towards Turkey has soured deeply over recent years.
    There is bipartisan support in U.S. Congress to push the Biden administration to put further pressure on Ankara, primarily over its purchase of Russian weapons and its human rights track record.
    Ankara has said it hopes for better ties under U.S. President Joe Biden.
(Reporting by Ali KucukgocmenEditing by Raissa Kasolowsky;)

10/17/2021 Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Says Judges Must Be Left To Work
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai speaks after meeting with 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, Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, said on Sunday that the judiciary should be free of political interference and sectarian “activism” amid tensions over a probe into last year’s blast at Beirut port.
    The Maronite patriarch also said it was unacceptable for anyone to resort to threats or violence.    In Lebanon’s worst street violence in over a decade, seven people were shot dead last week as protesters headed to a rally opposing the inquiry.
    “We must free the judiciary from political interference, sectarian and partisan political activism and respect its independence according to the principle of separation of powers,” he said in his sermon.
    Rai has an influential role as leader of the biggest Christian community in Lebanon, where political power is divided between the main Christian, Muslim and Druze sects.
    The inquiry into the Aug. 4, 2020 explosion, which killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of Beirut, has made little headway https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/beirut-blast-judge-issues-arrest-warrant-ex-finance-minsiter-khalil-2021-10-12 amid pushback from political factions.    Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has called Judge Tarek Bitar — the lead investigator — biased and politicised.
    “The rise in doubts over the (integrity of the) judiciary that has been going for a while has not only undermined the judiciary but also the reputation of Lebanon,” said Rai.
    Seven Shi’ite Muslims were shot dead on Thursday as crowds headed for a protest against Bitar called by the Iranian-backed Shi’ite Hezbollah group and its Shi’ite ally Amal.
    The violence added to fears for the stability of a country that is awash with weapons and suffering an economic meltdown.
    “What happened last week reminds the Lebanese of the start of the cursed civil war and they are not ready to relive it again,” Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Audi said in a Sunday sermon, local media reported.
    Hezbollah blamed the Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) party for the deaths, an accusation that LF head Samir Geagea denied.    The LF condemned Thursday’s events and blamed the violence on Hezbollah’s “incitement” against Bitar.
    Hezbollah member of parliament Hassan Fadallah called the killings a “massacre.”
    “Those who incited, planned … and opened fire should be held to account all the way up to the top,” he was quoted on Sunday as saying by the pro-Iranian al-Mayadeen TV channel.
    For many Lebanese, the port blast highlighted what they say is the political class’s neglect of the population.
    Broadcasters on Sunday showed a few hundred people gathering in Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square to mark the second anniversary of anti-government protests in 2019.
    Some carried placards denouncing the ruling elite.    One read: “We are for the independence of the judiciary
(Reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Alex Richardson and Frances Kerry)

10/17/2021 Yemen’s Houthis Advance In Shabwa And Marib
FILE PHOTO: A Yemeni government fighter fires a vehicle-mounted weapon at a frontline position during fighting
against Houthi fighters in Marib, Yemen March 9, 2021. Picture taken March 9, 2021. REUTERS/Ali Owidha/File Photo
    ADEN (Reuters) – Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement said on Sunday it has seized new territory in the energy-rich provinces of Shabwa and Marib, gains confirmed by sources, as it presses an offensive likely to further complicate international peace efforts.
    Military spokesman Yahia Sarea said Houthi forces, who are battling a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, had taken three districts in Shabwa in southern Yemen and two more in Marib, the Saudi-backed government’s last northern stronghold.
    The U.S. State Department on Saturday condemned the Houthi escalation in Marib, which hosts hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people, as a “flagrant disregard for the safety of civilians.”
    Marib has Yemen’s biggest gas fields, while Shabwa has several oil fields and the country’s sole liquefied natural gas terminal.
    Local authorities and residents confirmed the Houthis were now in control of the Assilan, Bayhan and Ain districts in Shabwa as well as the al-Abdiyah and Harib districts in Marib, where fighting is still raging in al-Jubah and Jabal Murad.
    This leaves the internationally recognised government – based in the south after the Houthis ousted it from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014 – in control of Marib City and one other district.
    Sarea said in a televised statement that Houthi forces would continue to “liberate and cleanse” Marib and called on “mercenaries and agents in Marib City” to quit the coalition.
    The Saudi-led alliance intervened in Yemen in March 2015 but the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and caused a dire humanitarian crisis, has been in military stalemate for years.
    The United Nations says nearly 10,000 people were displaced in Marib last month alone.    The U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, David Gressly, and U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price have both called for safe passage of civilians and aid.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari, Reyam Mokhashef and Yemen team; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Jan Harvey)

10/17/2021 UN Envoy Says Has Agreement On Drafting New Syrian Constitution
FILE PHOTO: U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen gestures while speaking during a meeting with Russian
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia July 22, 2021. Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool via REUTERS
    GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria said on Sunday the government and opposition co-chairs of the Syrian Constitutional Committee had agreed to draft a new constitution.
    The drafting committee, comprising 45 representatives of Syria’s government, opposition and civil society, has a mandate to draw up a new basic law leading to U.N.-supervised elections.
    Special Envoy Geir Pedersen said its Syrian co-chairs, who he met together for the first time ahead of week-long talks, had agreed to “prepare and start drafting constitutional reform.”
    The talks, the sixth round in two years and the first since January for the drafting committee, will discuss “clear principles”, he told reporters in Geneva, without elaborating.
    Hadi Al-Bahra, the co-chair of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, said its opposition delegation was seeking reforms including equal rights for all Syrian citizens.
    “Because we don’t have separation of power in the current constitution, it created an imbalance which was utilised in the wrong ways,” he told a separate news briefing on Sunday night.
    Each side would put forward proposed texts on issues including sovereignty and rule of law, he said.
    Syrian government delegates to the talks did not speak to the media.
    Syria’s decade-old war spiralled out of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.
    After support from ally Russia, Assad has recovered most of Syria, but significant areas remain outside his control: Turkish forces are deployed in much of the north and northwest and U.S. forces are stationed in the Kurdish-controlled east and northeast.
    In January Pedersen, a veteran Norwegian diplomat, said Assad’s representatives had rejected proposals by the Syrian opposition as well as the envoy’s own ideas for moving the constitutional process forward.
    “Since then… I have been …trying to be able to establish a consensus on how we are going to move forward.    And I am very pleased to say that we have reached such a consensus,” he said on Sunday.
    Western diplomats say Russia prodded Damascus in recent weeks to show flexibility in the talks, and Pedersen has made two trips to Moscow in recent months.
    “The Syrian Constitutional Committee is an important contribution to the political process but the committee in itself will not be able to solve the political crisis,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman; editing by John Stonestreet)

10/17/2021 Jordan Says No Current Plans To Operate Flights With Syria-State News Agency
FILE PHOTO: Planes that belong to the Royal Jordanian Airlines and other companies are parked at the
Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan February 23, 2020. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Jordan’s Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission said that there are no current plans to operate flights between Jordan and Syria, state news agency PETRA reported on Sunday.
    Jordan’s state carrier, Royal Jordanian, said in September it would resume direct flights to Damascus for the first time in nearly a decade, in what would have been the latest step to restore extensive business ties with Syria.
(Reporting by Moataz Abdelraheim and Nayera Abdallah; Writing by Yasmin Hussein, Editing by Alex Richardson)

10/17/2021 Cape Verde Votes For A New President To Salvage Tourist Economy by Julio Rodrigues
FILE PHOTO: Cape Verde's Prime Minister Jose Maria Neves speaks during a news conference with his Portuguese counterpart
Pedro Passos Coelho (not pictured) at the Necessidades palace in Lisbon December 17, 2014. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante/File Photo
    PRAIA (Reuters) -The West African archipelago nation of Cape Verde, one of the continent’s most stable democracies, voted on Sunday for a new president who faces the task of stabilising its tourism-driven economy after the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Seven candidates are vying to replace Jorge Carlo Fonseca, who has reached the end of his two-term limit, but only two are widely considered to command enough popular support to be real contenders: Carlos Veiga and Jose Maria Neves.
    Both are former prime ministers.    Veiga, from Fonseca’s centre-right Movement for Democracy (MpD), served from 1991 to 2000.    Neves, of the leftist African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV), held the position from 2001 to 2016.
    The economy is the dominant issue.    It contracted 14% in 2020 as border closures caused by the pandemic cut off Cape Verde’s beaches and mountains from tourists.    It is expected to bounce back this year with growth of nearly 6%.
    “In the last two years we have had complicated moments with the pandemic,” said Daniel Ferreira, a psychiatrist in the capital Praia, after casting his ballot for 71-year-old Veiga.
    “We want to choose a president who can be the arbiter of the system and can contribute to the development of Cape Verde.    I voted for candidate Carlos Veiga because he guarantees to respect the rule of law and human rights.”
    Another voter in Praia, Helene Gomes, said she had chosen the 61-year-old Neves: “I believe in him.    His ideas match my expectations.”
    The MpD and PAICV have accounted for all of Cape Verde’s presidents – two apiece – since independence from Portugal in 1975.    Democratic presidential elections have been held since 1991.
    The MpD maintained its parliamentary majority in an April election despite criticism from the PAICV over its handling of the pandemic.
    The presidential election will head to a run-off if no candidate receives more than 50% of first-round votes.
(Reporting by Julio Rodrigues; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Jan Harvey and Pravin Char)

10/17/2021 Hezbollah MP Says Thursday’s Violence A ‘Massacre’, Calls For Accountability
FILE PHOTO: A man prepares to fire a rocket-propelled grenade during a
gunfire in Beirut, Lebanon October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The deadly clashes that broke out in Beirut on Thursday amounted to a “massacre” and its perpetrators should be held to account, the pro-Iranian al-Mayadeen TV cited a Hezbollah representative in the Lebanese parliament as saying on Sunday.
    “What the criminals … did is a massacre and it will have important ramifications,” MP Hassan Fadallah said, according to the Beirut-based channel.    “Those who incited, planned … and opened fire should be held to account all the way up to the top.”
(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Alex Richardson)

10/18/2021 U.S. Secretary Of State Blinken Discusses Afghanistan With Qatar
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department
in Washington, U.S. October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
    (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani about Afghanistan on Sunday, the U.S. State Department said.
    The readout of the call released by the State Department did not given any details, except that Blinken acknowledged Qatar’s assistance to transit U.S. citizens and Afghans at risk.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)

10/18/2021 Tigray Forces Say Air Strikes Hit Ethiopia’s Mekelle, Government Denies
FILE PHOTO: A tank damaged during the fighting between Ethiopia's National Defense Force (ENDF) and Tigray
Special Forces stands on the outskirts of Humera town in Ethiopia, July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Rebellious Tigrayan forces accused the Ethiopian government of launching air strikes on the capital of Tigray region on Monday, though the government denied the reports.
    The reported attack follows intensified fighting in two other Ethiopian regions, where the central government’s military is trying to recover territory taken by the northern province’s Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
    Tigrai TV, controlled by the TPLF, said the attack on the city of Mekelle killed three civilians.
    A resident of the city told Reuters one strike hit close to a market, behind a hotel.    An aid worker and a doctor in the region also said there had been an attack and a diplomat shared pictures of what they said was the aftermath, including pools of blood and smashed windows.
    All asked not to be named.    Reuters could not confirm the authenticity of the images.
    Ethiopia’s government spokesman, Legesse Tulu, denied launching any attack.    “Why would the Ethiopian government attack its own city?    Mekelle is an Ethiopian city,” he said.
    “Terrorists are the ones who attack cities with innocent civilians in them, not government,” Legesse added.    He accused the TPLF of killing civilians in fighting in neighbouring regions.
    Reuters was not able to verify anyof the accounts in an area that is off-limits to journalists.
I WAS A FEW METRES AWAY
    War erupted in Tigray almost a year ago between the Ethiopian military and the TPLF, the political party that controls the region, killing thousands of people and forcing more than two million to flee.
    Tigrayan forces were initially beaten back, but recaptured most of the region in July and pushed into the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions, displacing hundreds of thousands more.
    A week ago, the Tigrayan forces said the military had launched a ground offensive to push them out of Amhara.    The military acknowledged on Thursday there was heavy fighting there, but accused the Tigrayan forces of starting it.
    Reporting details of Monday’s air attack, Tigray TV said the first strike hit the city’s outskirts, near a cement factory, while the second struck in the city centre.
    A doctor in the region said they heard the first attack on Monday morning.    “First I heard the sounds of jet and also an explosion from afar,” the doctor told Reuters?
    “Then in the afternoon there was another sound, which seemed closer.    This one seemed like it happened inside the city,” the doctor said.
    A Mekelle resident told Reuters that around noon, (0900 GMT), a strike hit close to a market behind the city’s Planet Hotel, in the city centre.
    “I was a few metres away, I thought they had hit our compound,” the resident said.
    TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda tweeted: “#AbiyAhmed’s ‘Air Force’ sent its bomber jet to attack civilian targets in& outside #Mekelle,” referring to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
    Diplomats are worried that renewed fighting will further destabilise Ethiopia, a nation of 109 million people, and deepen hunger in Tigray and the surrounding regions.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom; Additional reporting and writing by Nairobi newsroom; Editing by Alison Williams, Andrew Heavens, William Maclean)

10/18/2021 Sit-In Calling For Sudanese Government Dissolution Grows Into Thousands
FILE PHOTO: Military-aligned demonstrators gathered in numbers, chant "Down with the government of hunger"
in front of the Presidential palace in Khartoum, Sudan, October 16, 2021. REUTERS/El Tayeb Siddig
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) -A sit-in calling on the military to dissolve Sudan’s government grew into the thousands on Monday as the country grappled with what its civilian leadership has called the biggest crisis of a two-year-old transition from autocracy.
    Protesters, including many who arrived by bus from outside Khartoum, were assembled by a coalition of rebel groups and political parties that have aligned themselves with Sudan’s military, which has accused the civilian political parties of mismanagement and monopolising power.
    The military has shared power with civilians in Sudan’s transitional authority since the removal of President Omar al-Bashir in 2019 after three decades in power.
    Civilian leaders have accused the military of seeking to execute a coup, in a war of words that began after a coup attempt in late September by Bashir loyalists.
    “We want the politicians to solve this problem and we want (Prime Minister Abdalla) Hamdok to dissolve the government,” said Mohamed Abdallah, a 58-year-old man who said he had travelled from South Darfur.
    A “crisis unit” was being formed to bring together all sides to find a solution, the cabinet said in a statement following an emergency meeting.
    “History will judge us on our success to deliver our country and people to stability and democracy,” Hamdok said in the statement.
    The sit-in, outside the usually off-limits gates of the Presidential Palace, began on Saturday following a demonstration against the civilian government.    By Sunday, the crowd had thinned to hundreds, but by Monday afternoon the numbers had returned to around 2,000-3,000.
    They set up tents at the intersection of two of the capital’s main arteries, with a stage for speakers who called for the overthrow of the transitional government.
    Soldiers guarded the gates of the Presidential Palace.    There was little police presence, except when protesters were blocked from marching on the nearby Cabinet Ministry.
    Pro-civilian political parties are planning their own demonstration on Thursday, the anniversary of a 1964 revolution.     Meanwhile, a blockade of the country’s main port in the east of the country has entered its second month.    Tribesmen blocking the port have similarly demanded the overhaul of the civilian government.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Peter Graff)

10/18/2021 Lebanon Tensions Test Hezbollah-Aoun Alliance by Maha El Dahan and Tom Perry
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's President Michel Aoun addresses the nation from the presidential
palace in Baabda, Lebanon October 14, 2021. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Worsening sectarian tensions in Lebanon are testing an alliance between Shi’ite Hezbollah and its Christian ally President Michel Aoun, who may lose ground to their rivals as they step up opposition to the Iran-backed group’s influence.
    Analysts believe divisions that have deepened since an outbreak of violence in Beirut last week may play to the political advantage of Aoun’s long-time Christian adversary, Samir Geagea, a Hezbollah opponent with close Saudi ties.
    The alliance between the heavily armed Hezbollah and Aoun has been a defining feature of Lebanese politics since 2006: Hezbollah helped Aoun become president in 2016, while Aoun has provided important Christian backing for the armed status of the group, which is more powerful than the Lebanese army.
    But strains have been growing, specifically over Hezbollah’s opposition to the investigation into who was to blame for last year’s catastrophic explosion at the Beirut port, which, while killing many Muslims, did most of its damage in Christian parts of the city.
    The dilemma facing Aoun sharpened last week when tensions over the investigation ignited Beirut’s deadliest street violence in years, reviving memories of the 1975-90 civil war.
    All of the seven dead were Shi’ites, killed in what Hezbollah has called an ambush by the Lebanese Forces, a Christian party led by Geagea.
    The LF denies this and blames the other side for provoking trouble by sending supporters into the Christian neighbourhood of Ain al-Remmaneh where it says four residents were wounded before a shot was fired.
    The violence began as supporters of Hezbollah and its Shi’ite ally, Amal, began gathering for a protest to demand the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar, who is investigating the blast that killed more than 200 people.
    “Today, you have Christians rejecting these scenes of getting back to civil war memories, and at the same time not happy with the way Shia are expressing their opposition to the Judge Bitar process,” said a source familiar with thinking in the Free Patriotic Movement, the party founded by Aoun.
    The FPM and Hezbollah had not decided to part ways, but the course of events was separating them, the source said. Officials from Hezbollah and the FPM did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
BIGGEST LOSER
    Hezbollah has accused Bitar of bias as he has sought to question some of its allies on suspicion of negligence that led one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever.
    Geagea, who stands by Bitar, has said Thursday’s trouble began when Hezbollah and Amal supporters vandalised cars, clashed with residents and tried to enter homes in Ain al-Remmaneh.
    “It wasn’t the Lebanese Forces that defended the area … all the people of Ain al-Remmaneh did that,” Geagea said in an interview late on Friday.
    The view that Ain al-Remmaneh was attacked was widely shared among Christians, said Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center.
    “There is some kind of agreement among Christians on supporting the port blast investigation and the right to self defence – and that Hezbollah and Amal attacked the area before they were attacked themselves,” he said.
    “Geagea so far seems to have gained some popularity among Christians.”
    Nabil Boumonsef, deputy editor-in-chief of Annahar newspaper, said the FPM had made a mistake by accusing Geagea of the violence and he enjoyed wide sympathy among Christians.
    “I see the FPM as the biggest loser,” he told Reuters.
    The army is investigating Thursday’s violence.
    It initially said gunfire had targeted protesters but later stated there had been an altercation and exchange of fire while protesters were on their way to the demonstration.
    A soldier suspected of firing towards protesters is under investigation.
    The FPM is the biggest Christian party. In Lebanon’s last parliamentary election in 2018, the FPM, Hezbollah and other parties that support the group’s possession of weapons secured a majority.
    Hezbollah’s opponents hope this can be overturned in 2022, with Christian seats seen as the main battleground.
    In addition to the port blast, Aoun’s presidency has been overshadowed by a massive financial meltdown that has plunged more than three quarters of the population into poverty.
    Gebran Bassil, FPM head and Aoun’s son-in-law, revisited the arguments for the alliance with Hezbollah in a speech on Saturday, including its fight against jihadists at the Syrian border.
    He appeared to side with Hezbollah in implying that the Lebanese Forces were to blame for the violence, and echoed some of Hezbollah’s criticism of the probe when he said it had been conducted in a “selective” way.
    But Bassil said it was still not clear that Bitar himself was politicised and the probe should continue.    “We will confront those who try to obstruct the file,” he said.
(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Giles Elgood)

10/18/2021 Ethiopian Families Fleeing Fighting Describe Hunger, Rape In Amhara by Giulia Paravicini, Dawit Endeshaw and Maggie Fick
Civilians displaced from Kobo town are seen at a school makeshift camp for internally displaced people due
to the fighting between the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and the Tigray People's Liberation Front
(TPLF) forces, in Dessie town, Amhara Region, Ethiopia, October 9, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    DESSIE, Ethiopia (Reuters) – The pictures on her phone are all that Ethiopian mother Habtam Akele has left of her three-year-old daughter Saba.    The girl died of malnutrition last month before the family was able to flee south, deeper into Ethiopia’s Amhara region.
    “They (doctors) told me she has been severely affected by malnutrition and they cannot help.    Then they gave me some syrup and tablets.    She passed away exactly a week later,” Habtam told Reuters earlier this month, clutching her surviving nine-month-old baby.
    Habtam is among an influx of thousands of Amhara families fleeing to the town of Dessie from fighting further north.    Officials warn the already overcrowded makeshift camps, where displaced people sleep in rows in school classrooms, will fill further after renewed clashes.
    Conflict erupted between the ruling party of the rebellious northern region of Tigray – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – and the Ethiopian central government last November.
    In July, the TPLF pushed into the neighbouring region of Amhara, whose forces had fought alongside the military against the Tigrayans, as well as into the region of Afar.
    The Tigrayan advance forced around 250,000 people to flee their homes in Amhara, the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in September.
    On Monday, the TPLF said the Ethiopian military had launched an offensive https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/ethiopian-army-starts-ground-offensive-against-rebellious-tigray-forces-regional-2021-10-11 to try to dislodge the Tigrayan fighters from Amhara, following a barrage of air strikes https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/airstrikes-against-tigrayan-forces-intensify-ethiopias-amhara-region-tplf-2021-10-08 reported last week.
    The military and government have not answered calls seeking information on the offensive, but a post on the military’s official Facebook page said “they (the TPLF) have opened war on all fronts” and said the military was inflicting heavy casualties.
    Diplomats are worried that renewed fighting will further destabilise Ethiopia, a nation of 109 million people, and deepen hunger in Tigray and the surrounding regions.
    Habtam said there was little food in the areas under Tigrayan control and that Tigrayan forces took scarce medicines from local pharmacies.
    Getachew Reda, the spokesman for the TPLF, told Reuters that Tigrayan forces had not looted pharmacies that supplied local populations and had set up a generator to alleviate water shortages in Habtam’s area.
    Reuters had no way of independently verifying Habtam’s account since her home, to the north in Kobo, is off-limits to journalists due to fighting and phone connections to the area are down.
ARMED MAN
    The United Nations has said that the Ethiopian government is only letting a trickle of food trucks and no medicines or fuel into Tigray despite estimates that hundreds of thousands of people are in famine conditions there – a charge the government denies.    Hospitals there have run out of crucial medicines.
    Both sides accuse each other of committing atrocities.    Reuters has previously documented gang-rapes https://www.reuters.com/world/special-report-health-official-alleges-sexual-slavery-tigray-women-blame-2021-04-15 and mass killings of civilians in Tigray, and some Amhara residents told Reuters that Tigrayans were also committing abuses in territory they control.    Both sides have denied the allegations.
    Another woman at the camps told Reuters that she had been raped by an armed man speaking Tigrinya, the language of Tigray, in an area of Amhara under Tigrayan control. Saada, 28, told Reuters she had been attacked in her house in Mersa, 80 km north of Dessie, by the armed man in plain clothes.    She did not recall the exact date but said it was around the end of August.
    “He said to me ‘We left our houses both to kill and to die.    I am from the jungle so, I have all the right to do whatever I want.    I can even kill you’ and he raised his gun to me and threatened to kill me,” she said.    “Then he raped me.”
    She provided a card showing she had visited Dessie Comprehensive Specialised Hospital for treatment.    She asked Reuters not to use her full name to protect her from reprisals.
    Leul Mesfin, the medical director of Dessie hospital declined to answer questions about civilian injuries or rapes, or individual cases, because he said he did not trust foreign journalists.
    When asked about the rape, Getachew of the TPLF said any reported incident would be investigated and that the actions of one man should not implicate Tigrayan forces in general.
    “I can’t vouch for each and every off-breed idiot who masquerades as a fighter,” he said.    “There are millions of (men with) guns there.”
(Maggie Fick reported from Nairobi; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Alison Williams)

10/18/2021 Lebanon’s Amal Movement Says Violence Aimed To Reignite Internal Strife by Maha El Dahan
FILE PHOTO: Supporters of the Shi'ite Amal Movement carry the coffin of a man who was killed in yesterday's violence
in Beirut, during his funeral in Nmairiyeh village, southern Lebanon October 15, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    BEIRUT (Reuters) -Lebanon’s Shi’ite Amal movement said on Monday that last week’s street violence in Beirut in which seven Shi’ite Muslims were shot dead aimed to reignite internal strife and threaten peace.
    The seven were killed on Thursday as crowds headed for a demonstration called by Amal and its Iranian-backed ally Hezbollah group in bloodshed that stirred memories of the 1975-1990 civil war.
    “What happened showed the Lebanese people the truth behind what these groups are doing in terms of trying to ignite internal strife and national division and threaten civic peace and pushing the Lebanese back to the era of civil wars,” Amal said in a statement.
    The incident marked the worst street violence in over a decade and added to fears for the stability of a country that is awash with weapons and suffering an economic meltdown.
    Amal, which is led by Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri, one of the most powerful political figures in the country, urged the authorities to arrest all those responsible.
    Hezbollah blamed the Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) party for the deaths, an accusation that LF head Samir Geagea denied.    The LF condemned Thursday’s events and blamed the violence on Hezbollah’s “incitement” against Tarek Bitar, the lead investigator in a probe into last year’s blast at Beirut port.
    The LF blames the other side for provoking trouble by sending supporters into the Christian neighbourhood of Ain al-Remmaneh where it says four residents were wounded before a shot was fired.
    Amal and Hezbollah had called the demonstration to protest against Bitar.
    The inquiry into the Aug. 4, 2020 explosion, which killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of Beirut, has made little headway amid pushback from political factions.
    Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who is expected to deliver his first speech since the violence on Monday night, has said Bitar is not objective.
    Prime Minister Najib Mikati told the al Modon newspaper in an interview on Monday that the government would not meet unless an agreement or settlement is reached concerning the blast probe.
    “The security situation is stable and there is no concern but politically I will not call for a cabinet meeting before finding a solution to the problem,” Mikati said.
    Mikati also said a resignation was not on the table at the moment.    “The country can’t be left in circumstances like this.”
    Tensions over the probe had spilt over into cabinet with ministers aligned to the politicians the judge was seeking to question demanding his removal in a stormy session and another session postponed last week until the issue is resolved. nL1N2R90OU
(Additional reporting by Lilian Wagdy in Cairo; writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Philippa Fletcher and Angus MacSwan)

10/18/2021 Algeria Lifts COVID-19 Curfew In 23 Provinces – Statement
FILE PHOTO: A general view shows an empty street after a curfew was imposed from 7pm-7am to prevent the
spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Algiers, Algeria March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
    (Reuters) – Algeria on Monday lifted an overnight curfew that was imposed in parts of the country last month to help contain the spread of COVID-19 contagion, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
    The curfew, running from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., was in effect in 23 out of 58 provinces in the North African country.
    Gatherings, weddings, and social events are still under a ban, the statement said.
(Reporting by Ahmad Elhamy and Omar Fahmy, writing by Nayera Abdallah; editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/18/2021 Cape Town Fights Alien Trees Threatening Its Water Supply, Biodiversity by Wendell Roelf
An invasive pine sapling sits amongst indigenous vegetation above Caledon near Cape Town,
South Africa, October 12, 2021. Picture taken October 12, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
    CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – In South Africa’s Franschhoek mountains a helicopter drops off abseilers to cut down invasive pine trees that are choking off water supplies to millions of Cape Town residents already facing climate change-induced shortages.
    The crews are there to help to remove 54,000 hectares of alien trees by 2025, in the process reclaiming an estimated 55 billion litres of water lost each year – two months water supply for Cape Town.
    Using hand saws to cut saplings while dangling over craggy cliffs, the team is targeting infestations of alien tree species, mainly pine but also Australian acacia and eucalyptus, that carpet swathes of mountainside in dark green foliage.
    “We can’t eradicate the pines, but we’ve got to manage and control them because the scale is too big.    It’s a massive problem,” said Louise Stafford, South Africa’s programme director at The Nature Conservancy, an NGO leading the process.
    The control of the pines was fast-tracked in 2018, when Cape Town narrowly avoided having its taps run dry during a drought dubbed “Day Zero.”
    Pine trees, first introduced from Europe during the 17th century, are now the backbone of South Africa’s commercial forestry industry.    But their small seeds are easily dispersed by the wind and, with no natural enemies, they can spread rapidly from plantations to protected nature reserves, scientists said.
PLANTS, ANIMALS UNDER THREAT
    The alien trees also threaten native animals and plants in the Cape Floral Kingdom, where 70% of the plants, like the famous fynbos range of plants that are found nowhere else on the planet.    A single pine tree consumes at least 20% more water than the fynbos.
    The animals under threat include the Rough Moss frog, which was discovered in 2008, about 100km east of Cape Town on the slopes of Caledon’s Klein Swartberg mountains, which are drained by three vital rivers.
    “Out of the five sites we are monitoring, three no longer have any (Rough Moss) frogs.    If we do not remove this carpet of pine trees there is no doubt the frogs will become extinct,” John Measey, a zoologist at Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Invasion Biology, said.
    Removing dense pine thickets is a huge task, but necessary.
    “We are eating this elephant piece by piece,” Lambert Fick, chairman of the Klein Swartberg Nature Conservancy, said, as workers prepared ahead of a controlled fire to clear the area — a practice that some conservationists regard as risky.
    Introducing moths, weevils or mites is also being considered to combat the trees, Andrew Turner, a restoration ecologist at government agency CapeNature, said.
    He added, “It is not a silver bullet … (they) cannot get rid of existing infestations, but rather stop it spreading further.”
(Editing by Tim Cocks and Jane Merriman)

10/18/2021 Turkey Summons 10 Ambassadors After Call For Philanthropist’s Release
FILE PHOTO: Lawyers and supporters of the Gezi solidarity group gather in front of the Justice Palace, the
Caglayan Courthouse, as a Turkish court began the re-trial of philanthropist Osman Kavala and 15 others over their
role in nationwide protests in 2013, in Istanbul, Turkey, May 21, 2021. REUTERS/Dilara Senkaya/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s foreign ministry summoned the ambassadors of 10 countries, including the United States, Germany and France, over a statement calling for the urgent release of philanthropist Osman Kavala, state-owned Anadolu agency said on Tuesday.
    The statement, shared by some of the embassies on Monday, called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, four years after he was jailed, saying the case “cast a shadow over respect for democracy.”
    Kavala, a businessman, has been in jail in Turkey for four years without being convicted, despite the European Court of Human Rights calling for his release.
    He was acquitted last year of charges related to nationwide protests in 2013, but the ruling was overturned this year and combined with charges in another case related to a coup attempt in 2016.
    Rights groups have described the trials against Kavala as symbolic of a crackdown on dissent under President Tayyip Erdogan.
    “The continuing delays in his trial, including by merging different cases and creating new ones after a previous acquittal, cast a shadow over respect for democracy, the rule of law and transparency in the Turkish judiciary system,” the embassies said in the statement.
    “Noting the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights on the matter, we call for Turkey to secure his urgent release,” the statement said.
    The other countries named in the statement were Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland and New Zealand.
    In response, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Turkey is a democratic state of law.    “Ambassadors making a recommendation and suggestion to the judiciary in an ongoing case is unacceptable,” he said on Twitter.
    “Your recommendation and suggestion cast a shadow on your understanding of law and democracy,” Soylu said.
    Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said diplomats need to respect laws and ambassadors cannot make suggestions to courts.
    The Council of Europe has said it will begin infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released.
    The next hearing in the case against Kavala, who has denied all charges, and others will be held on Nov. 26.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Giles Elgood and Karishma Singh)

10/18/2021 Lebanon’s Hezbollah Chief Nasrallah Says Thursday Violence Dangerous And Critical
Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah gives a televised speech, in this screengrab
taken from Al-Manar TV footage, Lebanon October 18, 2021. AL-MANAR TV/Handout via REUTERS
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – The leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah said on Monday that Thursday’s Beirut violence was a dangerous and important event and marked a new phase in dealing with internal politics.
    In his first remarks since the bloodshed that marked the worst street violence in over a decade, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah lashed out at the Christian Lebanese Forces party and its head Samir Geagea, repeating accusations that they were responsible for the killing of the seven Shi’ites who died that day.
    The Lebanese Forces party, which has close ties to Saudi Arabia, has denied the accusation.
    Nasrallah said Hezbollah was not the enemy of Lebanese Christians.
    “The biggest threat for the Christian presence in Lebanon is the Lebanese Forces party and its head,” Nasrallah said.
(Reporting By Laila Bassam and Maha El Dahan; Editing by Chris Reese)

10/18/2021 U.S. Welcomes Opening Of Syria Talks In Geneva - State Dept Spokesperson
FILE PHOTO: United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, meets with Syria's Foreign
Minister Faisal Mekdad in Damascus, Syria September 11, 2021. REUTERS/Firas Makdesi
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the United States welcomed the opening of the sixth round of talks between the Syrian government and opposition in Geneva on Monday.
    “It is essential that the Syrian regime and leaders of the opposition engage constructively in Geneva,” consistent with a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria, Price said.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Chris Gallagher and Simon Lewis; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

10/19/2021 EU Says Turkey Still ‘Backsliding’ On Reforms, Gloomy On Membership Chances by Robin Emmott
FILE PHOTO: European Union (R) and Turkish flags fly at the business and financial
district of Levent in Istanbul, Turkey September 4, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Union’s executive said on Tuesday that Turkey’s bid to join the bloc had “come to a standstill” amid serious democratic shortfalls, in its most critical annual report since Ankara began membership talks 16 years ago.
    The European Commission said President Tayyip Erdogan’s government had overseen a continued erosion of democracy and the rule of law and had ignored the EU’s recommendations last year.
    The report also suggested for the first time that Ankara was no longer serious about delivering on EU-backed reforms, even though Erdogan recommited in April to the goal of full EU membership as both sides tried to improve relations.
    “The EU’s serious concerns on the continued deterioration of democracy, the rule of law, fundamental rights and the independence of the judiciary have not been addressed.    There was further backsliding in many areas,” the Commission said.
    “Under the current circumstances, Turkey’s accession negotiations have effectively come to a standstill,” it said.
    Turkey’s foreign ministry said the report showed a “double-standard approach” by the EU and rejected the “unfair criticisms and baseless claims.”    It accused the bloc of failing to keep its promises to Turkey and of not fulfilling its responsibilities.
    “Turkey maintains in the strongest terms its strategic choice of full EU membership,” the ministry said in a statement.
    “It would be in everyone’s interest if the EU, taking into account our common general interests, sees Turkey as a candidate country that is negotiating, not as a partner with whom to have daily give-take relations.”
    A NATO ally, Turkey has been negotiating its EU membership since 2005 after economic and political reforms that made it an important emerging market economy and trade partner.
    But since Erdogan’s hardline response to an attempted coup in July 2016, the paths of EU and Turkey have diverged sharply, despite better diplomatic relations since the start of 2021.
    A purge of opponents launched in mid-2016 continues, the report said, noting “broad-scale restrictions imposed on the activities of journalists, writers, lawyers, academics, human rights defenders and critical voices.”
    Ankara says its security measures are necessary, given the severity of the threats facing Turkey, which shares land borders with Iraq and Syria.
    Erdogan’s increase of presidential powers from 2017, which the EU says lack sufficient democratic checks, and his more forceful foreign policy, have also badly strained relations.
    In its 2021 report, the Commission questioned Turkey’s “ability to assume the obligations of membership” and said Ankara pursued reforms in areas from the economy to rule of law “on a rather ad hoc basis
    It is for the EU’s 27 member states, not the Commission, to decide whether Turkey’s EU membership bid should be formally annulled.    Many believe they should nudge Turkey into a different, looser relationship based around deeper trade ties.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Editing by Gareth Jones and Giles Elgood)

10/19/2021 Turkey Orders Arrest Of 158 In Military Probe Over Gulen Links
U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg,
Pennsylvania, U.S. July 10, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish prosecutors ordered the arrest of 158 suspects including 33 serving soldiers in an operation targeting people allegedly linked to a Muslim preacher who Turkey says was behind a 2016 failed coup, state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Tuesday.
    The investigation, stretching across 41 provinces, was part of a five-year-old crackdown against the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.    He denies any involvement in the putsch of July 2016, in which more than 250 people were killed.
    So far 97 people have been detained in the latest operation, Anadolu said.    The suspects included 110 military students who were expelled in the wake of the coup attempt, as well as 48 serving and former military personnel.
    Following the failed military takeover, about 80,000 people were held pending trial and some 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others were sacked or suspended.    More than 20,000 people have been expelled from the Turkish military.
(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

10/19/2021 EU Urges Tunisia’s President To Reopen Parliament
FILE PHOTO: Tunisia's President Kais Saied gives a speech at the government's swearing-in ceremony at the
Carthage Palace outside the capital Tunis, Tunisia February 27, 2020. Fethi Belaid/Pool via REUTERS
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union on Tuesday called on Tunisia’s President Kais Saied to restore the democratic order in his country after he suspended parliament and seized near total control in July.
    “The parliament cannot stay closed indefinitely,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told lawmakers in a debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
    Saied is under international pressure to announce a clear road map for a return to constitutional politics.    Last week, he announced a new government but gave no indication that he was ready to relinquish control.
    His intervention followed years of economic stagnation and political paralysis but it has cast into doubt the democratic gains made by Tunisians during the revolution that triggered the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011.
    Borrell urged Saied to set a clear timetable for the reopening of the parliament.
    “It’s crucial for the country’s future and its domestic and international credibility that the President and the Tunisian authorities at all levels fully restore the constitutional and the institutional order, including the parliamentarian activity,” he said.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

10/19/2021 Israel Approves West Bank Residency For 4,000 Undocumented Palestinians
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz wears a face mask as he looks out from the window
of a helicopter during a tour of the Gaza border area, southern Israel, March 2, 2021. REUTERS/Dan Williams
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel announced on Tuesday that it approved registration as West Bank residents for some 4,000 Palestinians who have been living for years in the Israeli-occupied territory without official status.
    The decision affects 2,800 former inhabitants of the Gaza Strip who left the enclave after Hamas Islamist militants seized it in internal Palestinian fighting in 2007, Israel’s COGAT liaison office to the Palestinians said.
    Some 1,200 other Palestinians, among them undocumented spouses and children of West Bank residents, will also receive official standing.
    Inclusion in the Palestinian Population Registry, which Israel controls, will enable the group to receive identification cards.    The documentation will enable passage through Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank, an area captured in a 1967 war.
    Israel describes the roadblocks, condemned by Palestinians and rights groups as restricting freedom of movement, as a security necessity.
    On Twitter, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said he approved the 4,000 residency registrations as a humanitarian gesture and “as part of my policy to strengthen the economy and improve the lives of Palestinians” in the West Bank.
    Hussein Al Sheikh, a senior official of the Palestinian Authority (PA) that exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, said on Twitter that the 4,000 “obtained their right to citizenship” and would receive identification cards.
    Under interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals that established the PA, Israel committed to approve the residency in the West Bank and Gaza of some 4,000 new spouses of local residents each year under a family reunification programme.
    Israel suspended the approvals when the Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000.    It granted some 32,000 reunification permits in 2008 and 2009, but largely froze the process, save for a smattering of humanitarian cases, since then.
    Gantz gave the new approvals some seven weeks after holding talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.    It was the highest-level meeting between Abbas and an Israeli minister to be made public since Israel’s new government was formed in June.
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a far-right politician, opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, a divisive issue his cross-partisan government is unlikely to pursue.    Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller, Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Giles Elgood)

10/19/2021 UK Foreign Minister To Visit Saudi Arabia, Qatar
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arrives for a regional cabinet meeting
at Rolls Royce in Bristol, Britain October 15, 2021. Steve Parsons/Pool via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) – British foreign minister Liz Truss will travel to Saudi Arabia and Qatar this week, seeking to further the case for a trade deal with Gulf countries and deepen diplomatic ties.
    Truss, formerly Britain’s trade minister, will meet her Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani during the visit, the foreign office said.
    Earlier this month Britain took the first steps towards starting trade negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council which includes both Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
    Since moving to the foreign office in a reshuffle last month, Truss has tried to more closely align Britain’s economic and trading ambitions with its diplomatic, defence and security agenda – seeking to maximise the country’s global influence following its exit from the European Union.
    “I want a closer trading and investment relationship with the Gulf and for us to collaborate more closely on issues like intelligence sharing, development, security and defence,” Truss said.
    She will also discuss cooperation on Afghanistan with Qatar, which has been hosting talking between the Taliban and Western officials since Taliban forces took control of Kabul.
(Reporting by William James; editing by Costas Pitas)

10/202/2021 Damascus Bomb Kills 14, Then Army Shells Fall On Rebel Area Killing 12
Civil defense members put out a bus fire at the site of a roadside bomb attack in central
Damascus, Syria, in this handout released by SANA October 20, 2021. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
    DAMASCUS/AMMAN (Reuters) – A blast on an army bus in Damascus on Wednesday killed 14 people, state media reported, the deadliest bombing in the Syrian capital in years, quickly followed by army shelling in rebel-held Idlib which rescue workers said killed 12 people.
    The bus carrying troops was blown up near a bridge in the centre of Damascus.    A military source quoted by state media said two bombs had been attached to the vehicle in advance. Army engineers defused a third.
    Syrian state TV posted images of the charred bus, and rescue workers could be seen removing body parts.    A number of people were wounded, state media said.
    About an hour after the bus blast, shells rained down on Ariha in Idlib in the northwest of the country, one of the last areas still held by rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad.
    Four children and a teacher on their way to school were among those confirmed killed, the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said.    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, called it the deadliest attack on Idlib since March 2020.    Rescue workers said at least 30 people were wounded.
    “The numbers of children injured and killed continue to increase,” UNICEF said in a statement.
    In an apparent third incident, Iran’s state-run Al-Alam TV reported a blast during maintenance at a Syrian army ammunition depot that killed five people and injured four on the road between the cities of Homs and Hama.    It did not identify those killed.    Iranian forces have backed the Syrian government.
    A decade of conflict in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people, although major fighting has mostly died down in recent years with the government of Assad now in control of nearly all major cities and towns.
    There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Damascus bombing, and the Syrian army and state media were silent about the subsequent shelling of Idlib.
    Attacks in Damascus have been rare since the army crushed rebel enclaves around the city with backing from Russia and Iran-backed forces in 2018.
    Dozens of people were killed in Damascus in 2017 in several suicide attacks claimed by jihadists, including two against police stations which Islamic State said it carried out.
    Islamic State militants still operate in the deserts of central and eastern Syria, where they have mounted several attacks this year on army vehicles.
    U.N.-backed efforts to reach a political settlement to the war, which have so far made little progress, took a step forward on Sunday when the U.N. envoy said the government and opposition had agreed to draft a new constitution.
(Reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman and Jonathan Spicer in Turkey; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli/Tom Perry; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

10/20/2021 Roadside Bomb Attack Kills 13 Syrian Military Personnel In Damascus – State TV
Security forces inspect the site of an explosion in central
Damascus, Syria October 20, 2021. REUTERS/Firas Makdesi
    DAMASCUS (Reuters) - At least 13 Syrian military personnel were killed in a roadside bomb attack, as their bus crossed a bridge in central Damascus during early morning rush hour on Wednesday, state television reported.
    Syrian state TV posted on its Telegram account images of the charred cabin of the bus, and rescue workers could be seen removing body parts.    The channel reported at least 13 people were killed and three wounded.
    Two explosive devices went off as the bus was on the Hafez al-Assad bridge, it said, adding a third device was defused by an army engineering unit in what officials said was a “terrorist” blast.
    There have been several attacks this year on army vehicles in eastern Syria by suspected Islamic State militants who still operate in the sprawling desert area.
    The United Nations says at least 350,000 people have been killed during a civil war that started a decade ago.
    Blasts in Damascus have been rare since forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad took control of rebel enclaves around the city.    Helped by Russia’s military presence and Iran’s Shi’ite militias, Assad now controls most of the country.
(Reporting by Kinda Makieh; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Jacqueline Wong & Simon Cameron-Moore)

10/20/2021 Ethiopia Conducts Two Air Strikes On Tigray Within Hours, War Escalates
FILE PHOTO: Captive Ethiopian army soldiers get their water ration in a prison in the outskirts of
Mekelle, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia, July 7, 2021. REUTERS/Giulia Paravicini/File Photo
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – The Ethiopian government carried out a second air strike within hours on the Tigray region on Wednesday, significantly escalating a campaign to weaken rebellious Tigrayan forces in an almost one-year-old war.
    The second strike was in Agbe in the Temben region some 80 km (50 miles) west of the regional capital Mekelle, targeting a military training centre and heavy artillery depot, government spokesperson Legesse Tulu said.
    That came after a morning air strike in Mekelle, the third this week. Tigrai Television said the attack targeted the centre of the city while the Addis Ababa government said it targeted buildings where Tigrayan forces were repairing armaments.
    The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has “been adept at hiding munitions and heavy artillery in places of worship and using ordinary Tigrayans as a human shield,” Legesse said.
    Two witnesses and a humanitarian source in Mekelle told Reuters that the morning strike appeared to have targeted Mesfin Industrial Engineering PLC, a factory complex which the government believes supports the TPLF.
    TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael, referring to government forces, said: “They are desperate on the war front.    My interpretation is they are bombing us because they are losing on the ground and it’s their reprisal.    The fact that they are bombing shows they don’t care about Tigrayan civilians.”
    Speaking to Reuters by satellite phone from an undisclosed location, Gebremichael said the strike did not hit the engineering complex, rather another private company compound, but he had no further details.
    Nine civilians, including a five-year-old child, were being treated at Ayder Referral Hospital for injuries sustained in the strike, according to TPLF-run Tigrai Television.
    The blast shattered the windows of Mekelle General Hospital, about one kilometre away from Mesfin Industrial, and damaged nearby homes, said a doctor at the hospital.    It had received five wounded people, he said.
    “Four of them were factory employees and the fifth one is a lady whose lives near the factory.    Her house was destroyed by the air strike,” the doctor said.
    Tigrai Television posted photographs of what appeared to be plumes of billowing smoke.    Reuters geolocated the images to Mekelle.
    The two sides have been fighting for almost a year in a conflict that has killed thousands of people and displaced more than two million amid a power struggle between the TPLF, which controls the northern region, and the central government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa.
    The TPLF dominated the Horn of Africa country’s ruling party for decades before Abiy, who is not a Tigrayan, took office in 2018.
CONTROL OF THE SKIES
    Mesfin Industrial Engineering is an equipment manufacturer and car and truck assembly plant that was part of EFFORT, a TPLF-owned conglomerate.
    After war broke out last November, the government froze the company’s bank accounts, saying there was evidence that it was supporting the TPLF.    The company could not be reached for comment.    Most communications in Mekelle are down.
    Mekelle was also hit by two air strikes on Monday https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/mekelle-capital-ethiopias-tigray-hit-by-air-strikes-regional-tv-2021-10-18. The TPLF accused the government of launching the attacks.    A government official initially denied the accusation but state media later reported the air force had conducted a strike.
    The attacks follow intensified fighting in two other northern regions where the military is trying to recover territory taken by the TPLF, which recaptured Mekelle and most of the rest of Tigray several months ago.
    In July, the TPLF pushed into the two other regions, Amhara and Afar, and several hundred thousand more people fled their homes, according to the United Nations.
    Last week, after the TPLF said the military had started an offensive in Amhara, the military said that the TPLF had “opened war on all fronts,” and that government forces were inflicting heavy casualties.
    “The federal air strikes on Mekelle appear to be part of efforts to weaken Tigray’s armed resistance, which has recently made further gains in eastern Amhara region, with fighting ongoing in some areas,” said Will Davison, a senior analyst on Ethiopia at the International Crisis Group think-tank.
    “Along with superior manpower, control of the skies is one of the few remaining areas of military advantage for the federal government,” Davison said.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom with additional reporting by George Sargent in London and Nairobi newsroom; writing by Maggie Fick; editing by Nick Macfie, Angus MacSwan and Mark Heinrich)

10/20/2021 Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Discusses Syria With Assad – WAM
FILE PHOTO: Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan arrives
at Downing Street, London, Britain, September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
    (Reuters) – Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the United Arab Emirates’ de facto ruler, discussed developments in Syria and the Middle East with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.
    Washington’s main regional allies have stepped up economic and diplomatic ties with Assad, shunned after a bloody crackdown over a decade ago on peaceful protests against his rule that spiralled into a multi-sided war that killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions.
    The UAE re-opened its mission to Damascus in late 2018 in a bid to counter the influence of non-Arab actors such as Iran, which along with Russia backs Assad, and Turkey, which backs rebel forces.    WAM gave no further details of the talks.
    Jordan, a staunch U.S. ally, fully reopened its main border crossing with Syria in late September, to boost the countries’ struggling economies and reinforce the push by Arab states to reintegrate Syria.
    Jordan’s King Abdullah also spoke to Assad for the first time in a decade this month while the Egyptian and Syrian foreign ministers met last month on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, in what Egyptian media said was the first meeting at that level for about a decade.
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah and Suleiman al Khalidi in Amman; Editing by Chris Reese and Alison Williams)

10/21/2021 Ethiopia Hits Tigray Region In Third Day Of Air Strikes – Government
FILE PHOTO: Smoke billows from the scene of an air strike, in Mekelle,
the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia October 20, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia carried out an air strike on the city of Mekelle for the third day this week, a government spokesperson said, in a campaign to weaken rebellious Tigrayan forces they have been fighting for nearly a year.
    Spokesperson Legesse Tulu told Reuters the strike hit a military training centre being used by the Tigrayan forces.    He said the centre was a former base, known as the Northern Command, for the Ethiopian military in the area.
    War broke out in November 2020 between federal troops and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which ruled Ethiopia for three decades but now controls just the northern region.    Thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million have been forced to flee.
    The air strikes come amid intensified fighting in the neighbouring northern region of Amhara, where the government launched a ground offensive last week and is trying to recover territory it lost to the TPLF several months ago.
    TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda told Reuters that a fighter jet had been over the city of Mekelle on Thursday afternoon and had made several sorties, but to his knowledge the plane had not hit any targets.
    Reuters was unable to independently confirm either the government statement or that from the TPLF.
EXPLOSION
    A resident of Mekelle told Reuters he had heard what he believed to be the sound of a fighter jet flying overhead at 3:24 p.m., and heard the sound of an explosion which he took to be from an anti-aircraft gun.
    The raids come as the Tigrayan forces claim they are advancing quickly despite the military’s attempts to beat them back.
    Tigrayan forces are close to the large towns of Dessie and Kombulcha, but are securing the countryside to the north by pushing out federal troops and allied militias, Getachew said.
    Asked about that claim, the government spokesperson referred Reuters to a statement earlier in which it said that people, especially youth, from parts of Amhara and neighbouring Afar regions are mobilizing to defend their land from the Tigrayan fighters.    It called on people from other parts of Ethiopia to support the effort, saying that an “organised mobilisation” was needed to defeat the Tigrayan forces.
    Kombulcha has an airport and a number of factories, while Dessie is now home to many tens of thousands who fled fighting further to the north.    Kombulcha is located on one of two major highways that link the capital of landlocked     Ethiopia to the seaport in neighbouring Djibouti.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom;Additional reporting and writing by Maggie Fick;Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Giles Elgood)

10/21/2021 Lebanon Military Court To Ask LF’s Geagea For Statement On Violence, Sources Say
FILE PHOTO: Army soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint a day after gunfire erupted in an attack on protesters
who were heading for a demonstration called by Hezbollah to demand the removal of the judge investigating
last year's port explosion, in Beirut, Lebanon October 15, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) -A Lebanese military court will ask Lebanese Forces (LF) party leader Samir Geagea to give a statement about last week’s deadly street violence in Beirut, sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Thursday.
    Geagea, who was due to appear shortly on a local television show, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    An LF spokesperson said Geagea had so far not been informed of any court request to give a statement.
    The sources did not say when the court would ask him to give the statement.
    The bloodshed, in which seven Shi’ites were killed, was the worst street violence Beirut in over a decade.
    The gunfire started as supporters of the Iran-backed Hezbollah and its Shi’ite ally Amal were gathering for a demonstration called for by the parties against the lead investigator of the deadly Beirut port blast probe.
    The army is still investigating what happened.
    Hezbollah, which is heavily armed, has accused the Christian Lebanese Forces Party of being responsible, saying it staged an ambush.
    The LF, which is staunchly opposed to Hezbollah, denies this.
    Geagea has said the trouble began when supporters of the Shi’ite parties entered a Christian neighbourhood where they vandalised cars and four residents were wounded before a shot was fired. In an interview last Friday, he said he did not know who had opened fire.
    The army said on Saturday a soldier suspected of opening fire towards the protesters was under investigation.
    The day of the incident, the army initially said gunfire had targeted protesters as they passed through the Teyouneh traffic circle dividing Christian and Shi’ite Muslim neighbourhoods.    It later said there had been an “altercation and exchange of fire” as protesters were on their way to the demonstration.
    The violence including the use of rocket-propelled grenades lasted several hours and stirred memories of the 1975-1990 civil war.    It has added to fears for the stability of a country that is awash with weapons and suffering an economic meltdown.
    Hezbollah’s chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah made a scathing verbal attack on Geagea and his party in a televised speech on Monday and accused the group of trying to drag the country into civil war.
    Geagea’s upcoming comments in Thursday’s interview to the local MTV channel show will be the first since Nasrallah’s speech.
(Reporting By Laila Bassam, writing by Maha El Dahan, editing by Mark Heinrich and Angus MacSwan)

10/21/2021 Qatar Mandates Private Health Insurance For Expatriates
FILE PHOTO: Passengers wearing protective face masks amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak sit at the food court
area as they wait for their flight, at the Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar, August 10, 2021. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
    DOHA (Reuters) – Employers in Qatar will be required to provide health insurance coverage for expatriates and their families under a new law issued by the emir this week, a senior Qatari official said on Thursday.
    The huge number of foreign workers in the small but wealthy Gulf natural gas producer means Qatari nationals account for only 10% of the population.
    Currently, foreign residents and visitors can access basic public health care for free by paying a nominal fee for a government health card and employers are not obliged to provide additional private health insurance.
    The law, which was carried on state news agency QNA on Wednesday, takes effect six months after it is published in the official gazette.    No reason was given for the move.
    It also requires all visitors to Qatar to purchase a health insurance plan that covers them while in the country, which is hosting the 2022 soccer World Cup.
(Reporting by Andrew Mills; Editing by Alison Williams)

10/21/2021 Tunisia President Says He Will Launch Dialogue Over Political System And Electoral Law
FILE PHOTO: Tunisia's President Kais Saied gives a speech at the government's swearing-in ceremony
at the Carthage Palace outside the capital Tunis, Tunisia February 27, 2020. Fethi Belaid/Pool via REUTERS
    TUNIS – (Reuters) – The Tunisian president said on Thursday, that a national dialogue will be launched that includes amending the political system and electoral law, in the clearest sign to end the political crisis since he took control of all authorities in July, a move his opponents described as a coup.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara)

10/21/2021 Libyan PM, Foreign Powers Backs Dec. 24 National Election by Ahmed Elumami
FILE PHOTO: Libya's unity government Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah looks on at
Libya's mission to the United Nations in New York, U.S. July 16, 2021. REUTERS/Michelle Nichols
    TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya’s prime minister and several foreign powers on Thursday endorsed the holding of a national election on Dec. 24 as envisaged in a U.N.-backed peace plan aimed at resolving years of turmoil and division.
    Speaking at the Libya Stabilization Conference in Tripoli, Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah said it was possible to end the crisis that has engulfed the country since the NATO-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
    “We support the efforts of the higher election committee to hold (the vote) on the planned date.    I call for a wide and effective participation of Libyans in the elections,” Dbeibah said.
    Elections have been viewed as a key step in efforts to end a decade of violence by creating a new political leadership whose legitimacy is widely accepted.
    The final communique at the conference, which included foreign ministers from France, Italy and Arab states and U.S. and United Nations officials, stressed the importance of taking confidence-building measures in order to hold a vote in a fair, transparent and inclusive manner on Dec. 24.
    Wrangling over the constitutional basis for an election, the rules governing the vote and questions over its credibility have threatened to unravel the peace process.
    The United Nations process has called for presidential and parliamentary elections for Dec. 24.
    However, although parliament has issued a law for the presidential election on that date, it has issued a separate law saying the parliamentary election will happen at a later date.    Other political institutions in Libya have rejected the parliament’s proposals.
NON-INTERFERENCE
    France’s foreign minister said that a conference on Libya in Paris next month aimed to give a final international push so that elections would be held by year-end and to endorse the departure of foreign forces.
    “It will provide the last international impetus needed in support of the elections at the end of the year…(and) endorse the Libyan plan for the departure of foreign forces and mercenaries and support its implementation, to put an end to foreign interference,” Jean-Yves le Drian said in a speech.
    Any move to hold an election without widespread acceptance by rival political institutions could lead factions to reject the vote, potentially triggering another violent schism.
    Unifying the country’s fragmented armed forces, divided between a host of groups split between two broad coalitions in east and west, as well as resolving the role of foreign powers and mercenaries in Libya, is also crucial.
    “There is no other option but to respect fully the principle of non-interference.    Deterrent actions should be taken against all those who interfere in others’ sovereignty,” said Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush, referring to foreign forces deployed in the North African country.
    At a joint news conference with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Sabah, Mangoush said the communique cited a commitment to the sovereignty and independence of Libya and rejection of foreign interference in its internal affairs.
    The role of foreign powers is seen as critical to keeping in check any major players that may seek to sabotage the process if they believe their interests are threatened.
    However, the international community has been split over the Libya conflict, with regional powers backing different sides before the latest peace push.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Moshashal in Dubai and John Irish in Paris; Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by Gareth Jones and Angus MacSwan)

10/21/2021 Soaring Lebanese Fuel Prices Deepen Misery by Issam Abdallah
Taxi cars block a road during a protest against spiralling petrol prices
in Beirut, Lebanon, October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Taxi drivers blocked roads in Beirut on Thursday in protest at spiralling petrol prices that are compounding misery for Lebanese already suffering the effects of a devastating economic collapse.
    Gasoline today is about 10 times more expensive at the pump than it was just a few months ago, shooting higher as the central bank has stopped providing dollars at heavily subsidised exchange rates for fuel imports.
    Several dozen taxi drivers parked their cars in Martyrs Square in the middle of Beirut and blocked a nearby main road in protest at the latest hike – a 25% increase announced on Wednesday.
    “How are we supposed to live?    We drive around and can’t find passengers on the road,” said Hanna Ibrahim, a taxi driver.    When passengers can be found, arguments often breakout over the fare, she said.    “They make us cry and we make them cry.”
    The Lebanese pound has lost around 90% of its value in the last two years, and three quarters of Lebanese are now in poverty.
    The price of a ride in a shared taxi, a vital means of transport for many in a country without railways or other public transport, used to be 1,500 pounds, or $1, before the crash. Today, it can go as high as 30,000 pounds.
    “We can’t take it anymore, before when we used to earn 20,000 Lebanese pounds, we used to bring home bread and cheese but not anymore, we are losing now,” Marwan Awawd, another taxi driver, said.
    In a meeting on Thursday, taxi drivers told energy minister Walid Fayad that fuel subsidies should have been kept in place until the roll-out of a cash assistance programme planned by the government, and urged him not to change fuel prices before a solution had been found to help the people.
    In the encounter broadcast by Al Jadeed TV, Fayad responded: “I feel your pain and I want to find a solution, but let me tell you something, so I am not giving you empty promises.”
    “If, God forbid, the dollar exchange rate goes up … and I don’t change the petrol price, there is one problem that will happen: the petrol importers won’t bring petrol,” he said.
(Writing by Tom Perry, Editing by William Maclean)

10/22/2021 Mali Has Not Asked Any Group To Negotiate With Islamist Militants
FILE PHOTO: Mali's Prime Minister Choguel Maiga addresses the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly
at the U.N. Headquarters in New York City, U.S., September 25, 2021. Kena Betancur/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    BAMAKO (Reuters) – The Malian government on Thursday said it had not officially asked any organisation to negotiate with Islamist insurgents on its behalf.
    This week, a spokesperson for the ministry of religious affairs said it had asked the High Islamic Council (HCI) to open peace talks with leaders of al Qaeda’s local affiliate in an effort to end a decade of conflict.
    “The Government informs the national and international public that to date, no national or international organisation has been officially mandated to carry out such an activity,” the government said in a statement.
    Malian authorities have endorsed the idea of talks and have quietly backed local peace initiatives with the militants as security deteriorates and Islamist groups expand beyond their traditional strongholds.
    But the strategy is opposed by Mali’s chief military ally, France. French President Emmanuel Macron said in June that his troops would not conduct joint operations with countries that negotiate with Islamist militants.
(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Alessandra Prentice. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

10/22/2021 U.N. Plane Aborts Landing As Air Strike Hits Ethiopia’s Tigray
FILE PHOTO: Members of Amhara special forces stand guard on the Ethiopia-Eritrean
border near the town of Humera, Ethiopia July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -An Ethiopian government air strike on the capital of the northern Tigray region on Friday forced a U.N. aid flight to abort a landing there, the United Nations said.
    In neighboring Amhara region, people were fleeing intensified fighting.
    Humanitarian sources and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the area, said a university in the regional capital Mekelle was hit by the air strike.
    Government spokesman Legesse Tulu said a former military base occupied by TPLF fighters was targeted, and he denied the university was hit.
    Reuters was not able to independently confirm either account.    TPLF-controlled Tigrai TV reported that 11 civilians were wounded in the air strike.    It was at least the fourth day this week that Mekelle had been attacked.
    The United Nations suspended all flights to Mekelle after a U.N. plane with 11 passengers had to abort landing on Friday.
    The flight from Addis Ababa had been cleared by federal authorities but was told by the Mekelle airport control tower to abort the landing, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
    “This is the first time that we had a flight turn around, at least to my knowledge, in the recent past in Ethiopia because of air strikes on the ground,” senior U.N. aid official Gemma Connell, who heads U.N. humanitarian operations in southern and eastern Africa, told reporters in New York on Friday.
    The passengers were aid workers traveling to a region where some 7 million people, including 5 million in Tigray, need humanitarian help, she said.
    The flight safely returned to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Dujarric said.
‘THE WHOLE CITY IS PANICKING’
    The two sides have been fighting for almost a year in a conflict that has killed thousands of people and displaced more than two million amid a power struggle between the TPLF and the central government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa.
    The TPLF dominated the Horn of Africa country’s ruling party for decades before Abiy, who is not a Tigrayan, took office in 2018.
    The government has stepped up air strikes on the Tigray capital as fighting has escalated in Amhara, a neighbouring region where the TPLF has seized territory that the government and allied armed Amhara armed groups are trying to recover.
    Residents in Dessie, a city in Amhara, told Reuters people were fleeing, a day after a TPLF spokesperson said its forces were within artillery range of the town.
    “The whole city is panicking,” a resident said, adding that people who could were leaving.    He said he could hear the sound of heavy gunfire on Thursday night and into the morning, and that the bus fare to Addis Ababa, about 385 km (240 miles) to the south, had increased more than six-fold.
    There are now more than 500,000 displaced people in the Amhara region, the National Disaster Risk Management Commission told Reuters.
    Seid Assefa, a local official working at a coordination centre for displaced people in Dessie, said 250 people had fled there this week from fighting in the Girana area to the north.
    “We now have a total of 900 (displaced people) here and we finished our food stocks three days ago.”
    Leul Mesfin, medical director of Dessie Hospital, told Reuters two girls and an adult had died this week at his facility of wounds from artillery fire in the town of Wuchale, which both the government and the TPLF have described as the scene of heavy fighting over the past week.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroomAdditional reporting and writing by Maggie Fick and Ayenat Mersie in Nairobi, additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York; Editing by John Stonestreet, Peter Graff, Alex Richardson, William Maclean)

10/22/2021 Israel Designates Palestinian Civil Society Groups As Terrorists, U.N. ‘Alarmed’ by Rami Ayyub
FILE PHOTO: A girl wearing a protective face mask and the headband of the Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) looks on during a rally to show solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian
prisoner Maher Al-Akhras, who is held by Israel, in Gaza City October 12, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Israel on Friday designated six Palestinian civil society groups as terrorist organisations and accused them of funnelling donor aid to militants, a move that drew criticism from the United Nations and human rights watchdogs.
    Israel’s defence ministry said the groups had ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), a left-wing faction with an armed wing that has carried out deadly attacks against Israelis.
    The groups include Palestinian human rights organisations Addameer and Al-Haq, which document alleged rights violations by both Israel and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank.
    “(The) declared organizations received large sums of money from European countries and international organizations, using a variety of forgery and deceit,” the defence ministry said, alleging that the money had supported PFLP’s activities.
    The designations authorise Israeli authorities to close the groups’ offices, seize their assets and arrest their staff in the West Bank, watchdogs Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said in a joint statement.
    Addameer and another of the groups, Defense for Children International – Palestine, rejected the accusations as an “attempt to eliminate Palestinian civil society.”
    The United Nations Human Rights Office in the Palestinian territories said it was “alarmed” by the announcement.
    “Counter-terrorism legislation must not be used to constrain legitimate human rights and humanitarian work,” it said, adding that some of the reasons given appeared vague or irrelevant.
    “These designations are the latest development in a long stigmatizing campaign against these and other organizations, damaging their ability to deliver on their crucial work,” it said.
    Israel’s ally the United States was not given advance warning of the move and would engage Israel for more information about the basis for the designations, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.
    “We believe respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and a strong civil society are critically important to responsible and responsive governance,” he said.
    But Israel’s defence ministry said: “Those organizations present themselves as acting for humanitarian purposes; however, they serve as a cover for the ‘Popular Front’ promotion and financing.”
    An official with the PFLP, which is on United States and European Union terrorism blacklists, did not outright reject ties to the six groups but said they maintain relations with civil society organisations across the West Bank and Gaza.
    “It is part of the rough battle Israel is launching against the Palestinian people and against civil society groups, in order to exhaust them,” PFLP official Kayed Al-Ghoul said
.
    Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said the “decision is an alarming escalation that threatens to shut down the work of Palestine’s most prominent civil society organizations.”
    Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.    Palestinians seek the territories for a future state.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub in Tel Aviv; Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Stephen Farrell in Jerusalem; Editing by William Maclean and Mark Porter)

10/22/2021 Lebanon’s Hezbollah Warns Israel Against Drilling In Disputed Maritime Border Area
FILE PHOTO: A woman sits near a poster of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, during an event marking Resistance
and Liberation Day, in Khiam, near the border with Israel, southern Lebanon, May 25, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Taher/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) - The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Friday warned Israel against drilling for oil and gas in the disputed maritime border area between the two countries until the issue is resolved, and said the Iran-backed group would take action if it did so.
    “If the enemy thinks they can act as they please before reaching a solution to this issue they are wrong,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
    Lebanon’s cabinet had raised the question to the United Nations permanent representative and others in the international community after Israel granted U.S. oilfield services group Halliburton an offshore drilling contract in the Mediterranean, asking to clarify whether the drilling would take place in disputed areas.
    Lebanon and Israel are in dispute over the delineation of their territorial waters and negotiations between the old foes could lead to Lebanon being able to unlock valuable gas reserves amid its worst-ever financial crisis.
    Israel already pumps gas from huge offshore fields.
    The two countries have been holding on-off U.S. mediated talks since October to try to resolve the issue.
    “I will not state any positions on this as I don’t want to complicate the negotiations but for sure the resistance in Lebanon at the right time through following this issue when it finds that Lebanese oil and gas is in danger in the disputed area it will act accordingly,” Nasrallah said.
    The U.S. mediator for the indirect talks, Amos Hochstein, visited Beirut this week and said a period of shuttle diplomacy would proceed any return to indirect talks between the two countries similar those held in October 2020 at the United Nations’ peackepeers base in Lebanon’s Naqoura.
(Reporting By Laila Bassam and Maha El DahanEditing by Chris Reese and Angus MacSwan)

10/23/2021 Turkey To Expel US Envoy And Nine Others, Erdogan Says by Daren Butler
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, October 20, 2021. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that he had told his foreign ministry to expel the ambassadors of the United States and nine other Western countries for demanding the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.
    Seven of the ambassadors represent Turkey’s NATO allies and the expulsions, if carried out, would open the deepest rift with the West in Erdogan’s 19 years in power.
    Kavala, a contributor to numerous civil society groups, has been in prison for four years, charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and with involvement in a failed coup in 2016.    He has remained in detention while his latest trial continues, and denies the charges.
    In a joint statement on Oct. 18, the ambassadors of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the United States called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release.”    They were summoned by the foreign ministry, which called the statement irresponsible.
    “I gave the necessary order to our foreign minister and said what must be done: These 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata (undesirable) at once.    You will sort it out immediately,” Erdogan said in a speech in the northwestern city of Eskisehir.
    “They will know and understand Turkey.    The day they do not know and understand Turkey, they will leave,” he said to cheers from the crowd.
    The U.S., and French embassies and the White House and U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    Erdogan has said previously that he plans to meet U.S. President Joe Biden at summit of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies in Rome next weekend.
    Norway said its embassy had not received any notification from Turkish authorities.
    “Our ambassador has not done anything that warrants an expulsion,” said the ministry’s chief spokesperson, Trude Maaseide, adding that     Turkey was well aware of Norway’s views.
    “We will continue to call on Turkey to comply with democratic standards and the rule of law to which the country committed itself under the European Human Rights Convention,” Maaseide said.
‘AUTHORITARIAN DRIFT’
    Kavala was acquitted last year of charges related to the 2013 protests, but the ruling was overturned this year and combined with charges related to the coup attempt.
    Rights groups say his case is emblematic of a crackdown on dissent under Erdogan.
    Six of the countries involved are EU members, including Germany and France.    European Parliament President David Sassoli tweeted: “The expulsion of ten ambassadors is a sign of the authoritarian drift of the Turkish government.    We will not be intimidated.    Freedom for Osman Kavala.”
    Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said his ministry had not received any official notification, but was in contact with its friends and allies.
    “We will continue to guard our common values and principles, as also expressed in the joint declaration,” he said in a statement.
    A source at the German Foreign Ministry also said the 10 countries were consulting with one another.
    Kavala said on Friday https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/philanthropist-kavala-says-no-possibility-fair-trial-turkey-2021-10-22 he would no longer attend his trial as a fair hearing was impossible after recent comments by Erdogan.
    Erdogan was quoted on Thursday as saying the ambassadors in question would not release “bandits, murderers and terrorists” in their own countries.
    The European Court of Human Rights called for Kavala’s immediate release two years ago, saying there was no reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offence, and finding that his detention had been intended to silence him.
    It issued a similar ruling this year in the case of Selahattin Demirtas, former head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who has been held in jail for nearly five years.
    The Council of Europe, which oversees the implementation of ECHR decisions, has said it will begin infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released.
    The next hearing in Kavala’s trial is on Nov. 26.
(Additional reporting by Nora Buli in Oslo, Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen and Foo Yun Chee in Brussels Writing by Daren ButlerEditing by Peter Graff, Kevin Liffey and Frances Kerry)

10/23/2021 US Meets Sudanese Leaders To Reaffirm Support For Democracy
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators protest against prospect of military rule in
Khartoum, Sudan October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
    CAIRO (Reuters) - A U.S. envoy underlined Washington’s support for a democratic transition to civilian rule in Sudan on Saturday during talks with the head of its ruling council and the prime minister, the U.S. embassy in Khartoum said.
    It tweeted that Jeffrey Feltman, special envoy for the Horn of Africa, had also urged all sides to recommit to working together to implement Sudan’s constitutional declaration, signed after a 2018-2019 uprising that resulted in the removal of president Omar al-Bashir.
    Feltman met with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the Sovereign Council, and his deputy General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
    Tensions between the civilian and military leaders who now share power have soared in the wake of an attempted military coup in September, which the army said it had foiled.
    As an economic crisis deepens, a coalition of rebel groups and political parties have aligned themselves with the military, which has accused the civilian governing parties of mismanagement and monopolising power, and are seeking to dissolve the cabinet.
    In response, hundreds of thousands demonstrated in several parts of the Khartoum and other cities on Thursday against the prospect of military rule. Several cabinet ministers took part.
    In a statement after the meeting with Feltman, Burhan praised American support for Sudan’s transition to democracy and said the military was keen to protect that transition.
(Reporting by Omar Fahmy, writing by Mahmoud Mourad; editing by Timothy Heritage)

10/23/2021 U.N. Plane Aborts Landing As Air Strike Hits Ethiopia’s Tigray
FILE PHOTO: Members of Amhara special forces stand guard on the Ethiopia-Eritrean
border near the town of Humera, Ethiopia July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - An Ethiopian government air strike on the capital of the northern Tigray region on Friday forced a U.N. flight carrying aid workers to abort a landing there, the United Nations said.
    Humanitarian sources and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the area, said a university in Mekelle was hit by the strike.
    Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu said a former military base occupied by TPLF fighters was targeted, and he denied the university was hit.
    Reuters was not able to independently confirm either account.    Tigrai TV, controlled by the TPLF-led regional administration that is not recognised by Addis Ababa, reported that 11 civilians were wounded in the air strike.    It was the fourth day this week that Mekelle had been attacked.
    The U.N. suspended all flights to Mekelle after Friday’s incident. U.N. global aid chief Martin Griffiths said the U.N. had not received any prior warning of the attacks on Mekelle and had received the necessary clearances for the flight.
    The incident raises serious concerns for the safety of aid workers trying to help civilians in need, Griffiths said in a statement, adding that all parties to the conflict should respect international humanitarian law including protecting humanitarian staff and assets from harm.
    The 11 passengers on board Friday’s flight were aid workers travelling to a region where some 7 million people, including 5 million in Tigray, need humanitarian help, another U.N. official told reporters in New York.
    TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda accused the government of putting the U.N. plane in harm’s way.    “Our air defence units knew the UN plane was scheduled to land (and) it was due in large measure to their restraint it was not caught in a crossfire,” he said in a tweet.
    Legesse, the government spokesperson, rejected the TPLF accusation.    “I can assure you that there is no deliberate or intended act that put the efforts of UN humanitarian staff and their plan of delivering aid to the disadvantage (sic) group,” Legesse said in a text message to Reuters.
    Ethiopian army spokesperson Colonel Getnet Adene did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
PEOPLE FLEEING IN AMHARA
    The two sides have been fighting for almost a year in a conflict that has killed thousands of people and displaced more than two million amid a power struggle between the TPLF and the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s central government.
    The TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s ruling party for decades before Abiy, who is not a Tigrayan, took office in 2018.
    The government has stepped up air strikes on the Tigray capital as fighting has escalated in Amhara, a neighbouring region where the TPLF has seized territory that the government and allied armed Amhara armed groups are trying to recover.
    Residents in Dessie, a city in Amhara, told Reuters people were fleeing, a day after a TPLF spokesperson said its forces were within artillery range of the town.
    “The whole city is panicking,” a resident said, adding that people who could were leaving.    He said he could hear the sound of heavy gunfire on Thursday night and into the morning, and that the bus fare to the capital Addis Ababa, about 385 km (240 miles) to the south, had increased more than six-fold.
    There are now more than 500,000 displaced people in the Amhara region and that number is growing rapidly due to the latest fighting, the National Disaster Risk Management Commission told Reuters.
    Seid Assefa, a local official working at a coordination centre for displaced people in Dessie, said 250 people had fled there this week from fighting in the Girana area to the north.
    “We now have a total of 900 (displaced people) here and we finished our food stocks three days ago.”
    Leul Mesfin, medical director of Dessie Hospital, told Reuters that two girls and an adult had died this week at his facility of wounds from artillery fire in the town of Wuchale, which both the government and the TPLF have described as the scene of heavy fighting over the past week.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroomAdditional reporting and writing by Maggie Fick and Ayenat Mersie in NairobiAdditional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New YorkEditing by Alex Richardson, William Maclean and Frances Kerry)

10/23/2021 Turkish Defence Minister Warns Against Alliances That Harm NATO
FILE PHOTO: Turkey's Defence Minister Hulusi Akar attends a NATO defence ministers meeting
at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 13, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – NATO-member Turkey’s defence minister said the forming of alliances outside of NATO would harm the organisation, according to comments released on Saturday, after Greece and France agreed a defence pact last month.
    NATO allies Greece and France clinched a strategic military and defence cooperation pact in September, which includes an order for three French frigates worth about 3 billion euros.
    Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said this month that the agreement will allow the two countries to come to each other’s aid in the event of an external threat.
    “Given that we are inside NATO, everyone should know that the search for various alliances outside of it will both cause harm to NATO and our bilateral relations, and shake confidence,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters after a NATO defence ministers in Brussels this week.
    The comments were released by the Turkish defence ministry.
    Greece and Turkey are at odds over their continental shelves and their maritime boundaries.    They re-launched exploratory contacts on their disputes earlier this year and Akar said he had a constructive meeting with his Greek counterpart.
    “We had positive, constructive talks with the Greek defence minister.    We expect to see positive results from these talks in the period ahead,” Akar said.
    Separately, Akar said that “technical work has been launched” on obtaining Viper F16 jets from the United States as well as modernising warplanes that Turkey already has.
    The United States this week did not confirm President Tayyip Erdogan’s comment that Washington had made an offer to Ankara for the sale of F-16 fighter jets but added that it has not made Turkey a financing offer for the warplanes.
    Erdogan said on Sunday that the United States had proposed the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey in return for its investment in the F-35 programme, from which Ankara was removed after buying missile defence systems from Russia.
(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Frances Kerry)

10/24/2021 Turkey To Expel U.S. Envoy And Nine Others, Erdogan Says by Daren Butler
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, October 20, 2021. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) -Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that he had told his foreign ministry to expel the ambassadors of the United States and nine other Western countries for demanding the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.
    Seven of the ambassadors represent Turkey’s NATO allies and the expulsions, if carried out, would open the deepest rift with the West in Erdogan’s 19 years in power.
    Kavala, a contributor to numerous civil society groups, has been in prison for four years, charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and with involvement in a failed coup in 2016. He has remained in detention while his latest trial continues, and denies the charges.
    In a joint statement on Oct. 18, the ambassadors of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the United States called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release.”    They were summoned by the foreign ministry, which called the statement irresponsible.
    “I gave the necessary order to our foreign minister and said what must be done: These 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata (undesirable) at once.    You will sort it out immediately,” Erdogan said in a speech in the northwestern city of Eskisehir.
    “They will know and understand Turkey.    The day they do not know and understand Turkey, they will leave,” he said to cheers from the crowd.
    The U.S. and French embassies and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.    A U.S. State Department spokesperson said it was aware of the reports and was seeking clarity from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
    Erdogan has said previously that he plans to meet U.S. President Joe Biden at a summit of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies in Rome next weekend.
    One diplomatic source said de-escalation was possible given Turkey has now made its stance very clear, and given the potential diplomatic fallout from such a move ahead of the G20 summit and the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow starting at the end of the month.
    “No instructions have been given to embassies,” the source said, adding that it was possible a decision may be taken at Turkey’s cabinet meeting on Monday.
    Norway said its embassy had not received any notification from Turkish authorities.
    “Our ambassador has not done anything that warrants an expulsion,” said the ministry’s chief spokesperson, Trude Maaseide, adding that Turkey was well aware of Norway’s views.
    “We will continue to call on Turkey to comply with democratic standards and the rule of law to which the country committed itself under the European Human Rights Convention,” Maaseide said.
    New Zealand’s foreign ministry said on Sunday it would not comment until it hears “anything formally through official channels,” and added in an e-mailed statement that “New Zealand values its relationship with Turkey.”
‘AUTHORITARIAN DRIFT’
    Kavala was acquitted last year of charges related to the 2013 protests, but the ruling was overturned this year and combined with charges related to the coup attempt.     Rights groups say his case is emblematic of a crackdown on dissent under Erdogan.
    Six of the countries involved are EU members, including Germany and France. European Parliament President David Sassoli tweeted: “The expulsion of ten ambassadors is a sign of the authoritarian drift of the Turkish government. We will not be intimidated. Freedom for Osman Kavala.”
    Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said his ministry had not received any official notification, but was in contact with its friends and allies.
    “We will continue to guard our common values and principles, as also expressed in the joint declaration,” he said in a statement.
    A source at the German Foreign Ministry also said the 10 countries were consulting with one another.
    Kavala said on Friday https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/philanthropist-kavala-says-no-possibility-fair-trial-turkey-2021-10-22 he would no longer attend his trial as a fair hearing was impossible after recent comments by Erdogan.
    Erdogan was quoted on Thursday as saying the ambassadors in question would not release “bandits, murderers and terrorists” in their own countries.
    The European Court of Human Rights called for Kavala’s immediate release two years ago, saying there was no reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offence, and finding that his detention had been intended to silence him.
    It issued a similar ruling this year in the case of Selahattin Demirtas, former head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who has been held in jail for nearly five years.
    The Council of Europe, which oversees the implementation of ECHR decisions, has said it will begin infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released.
    The next hearing in Kavala’s trial is on Nov. 26.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Spicer, Nora Buli in Oslo, Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen, Foo Yun Chee in Brussels and Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Peter Graff, Kevin Liffey, Frances Kerry, Daniel Wallis and Kim Coghill)

10/24/2021 Erdogan’s Critics Say Demand For Expulsions Is Distraction From Economy Woes by Daren Butler and Jonathan Spicer
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters in Eskisehir, Turkey,
October 23, 2021. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan’s political opponents said his call to expel the ambassadors of 10 Western allies was an attempt to distract attention from Turkey’s economic difficulties, while diplomats hoped the expulsions might yet be averted.
    On Saturday Erdogan said he ordered the envoys be declared ‘persona non grata’ for seeking philanthropist Osman Kavala’s release from prison.    The foreign ministry has not yet carried out the president’s instruction, which would open the deepest rift with the West in Erdogan’s 19 years in power.
    The diplomatic crisis coincides with investor worries about the Turkish lira’s fall to a record low after the central bank, under pressure from Erdogan to stimulate the economy, unexpectedly slashed interest rates by 200 points last week.
    Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition CHP, said Erdogan was “rapidly dragging the country to a precipice.”
    “The reason for these moves is not to protect national interests but to create artificial reasons for the ruining of the economy,” he said on Twitter.
    Kavala, a contributor to numerous civil society groups, has been in prison for four years, charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and with involvement in a failed coup in 2016.    He denies the charges and has remained in detention while his trial continues.
    “We’ve seen this film before.    Return at once to our real agenda and the fundamental problem of this country, the economic crisis,” said opposition IYI Party deputy leader Yavuz Agiralioglu.
    Erdogan said the envoys were impudent and had no right to demand Kavala’s release, stressing that the Turkish judiciary was independent.
    Sinan Ulgen, chairman of Istanbul-based think tank Edam and a former Turkish diplomat, said Erdogan’s timing was incongruous as Turkey was seeking to recalibrate its foreign policy away from episodes of tension in recent years.
    “I still hope that Ankara will not go through with this,” he wrote on Twitter, describing it as an unprecedented measure among NATO allies.    “The foreign policy establishment is working hard to find a more acceptable formula. But time running out.”
    Erdogan has not always followed through with threats.
    In 2018 Erdogan said Turkey would boycott U.S. electronic goods in a dispute with Washington.    Sales of the goods were unaffected.    Last year, he called on Turks to boycott French goods over what he said was President Emmanuel Macron’s “anti-Islam” agenda, but did not follow through.
CABINET MEETING
    One diplomatic source said a decision on the envoys could be taken at Monday’s cabinet meeting and that de-escalation was possible given concerns about the potential diplomatic fallout.    Erdogan has said he will meet U.S. President Joe Biden at next weekend’s G20 summit in Rome.
    According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a state may notify a country’s diplomatic mission that a staff member is unwelcome.    The country may recall that person or terminate their role.
    Erdogan has dominated Turkish politics for two decades but support for his ruling alliance has eroded significantly ahead of elections scheduled for 2023, partly because of sharp rises in the cost of living.
    While the International Monetary Fund projects economic growth of 9% this year, inflation is more than double that and the lira has fallen 50% against the dollar since Erdogan’s last election victory in 2018.
    Emre Peker, from the London-based consultancy Eurasia Group, said the threatened expulsions at a time when the economy faces “massive challenges, is at best ill-considered, and at worst a foolish gambit to bolster Erdogan’s plummeting popularity.”
    “Erdogan has to project power for domestic political reasons,” he said, adding that typically countries whose envoys have been kicked out retaliate with tit-for-tat expulsions.    “This stands to make for increasingly difficult relations with Washington and the EU.”
    In a joint statement on Oct. 18, the ambassadors of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the United States called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release.”    They were summoned by the foreign ministry, which called the statement irresponsible.
    The European Court of Human Rights called for Kavala’s immediate release two years ago, saying there was no reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offence.
    Soner Cagaptay from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the countries involved made up half of Turkey’s top 10 trading partners, underlining the potential setback to Erdogan’s efforts to boost the economy ahead of elections.
    “Erdogan believes he can win the next Turkish elections by blaming the West for attacking Turkey — notwithstanding the sorry state of the country’s economy,” he wrote on Twitter.
(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans and Giles Elgood)

10/24/2021 Vaccinated And Want To Visit Israel? Read The Fine Print First by Rami Ayyub
FILE PHOTO: People hang out at the Mediterranean beach near Jaffa as coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) restrictions ease in Tel Aviv, Israel October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo
    TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Tourists hoping to visit Jerusalem or Tel Aviv after Israel’s announcement last week that it would open to some vaccinated foreign travellers should read the fine print before booking, local hoteliers say.
    The new rules https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-readmit-covid-vaccinated-foreign-tourists-next-month-2021-10-21, due to go into effect on Nov. 1 ahead of the Christmas season, permit individual tourists who have received COVID-19 vaccine boosters to enter but not if more than six months have lapsed since their last dose, with some exceptions.
    That has tempered excitement among hoteliers hoping for some improvement around 20 months after Israel banned most foreigners to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
    “How many tourists out in the world have actually gotten boosters or are sitting in that six-month period following their second dose?” Israel Hotel Association CEO Yael Danieli said.
    “Even if both parents in a family are vaccinated, their children under 12 are not, so they mostly can’t come to Israel.”
    Israel has offered third doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab to all residents over 12. Other countries, including the United States https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/americans-wonder-which-covid-19-booster-is-best-2021-10-22, have begun administering vaccine boosters https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/index.html but in many cases only to the elderly or people with underlying medical conditions.
    That means many would-be travellers whose last dose was before May 1 cannot enter Israel.
    Hotel owners in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Nazareth and in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank say they have yet to see a large increase in bookings.
    The entry rules also apply to visitors wanting to visit the West Bank as Israel controls all the border crossings.    Tourists who enter Israel are also generally able to travel to Bethlehem and other Palestinian towns.
    “It is a great step to start but I am not expecting big numbers until next year,” said Joey Canavati, manager of Bethlehem’s Alexander Hotel.    “At the moment we just want to stop the bleeding, stop digging into our savings.”
    Tourism dropped over 80% in 2020 after hitting a record high of 4.55 million visitors in 2019 that contributed $7.2 billion to Israel’s economy and boosted tourism-dependent Bethlehem.
    The new rules, which await ratification, include some exemptions.
    Entry will be granted to travellers, including children, who recovered from COVID-19 in the six months prior.
    Anyone who recovered earlier will also be admitted if they received least one vaccine dose approved by the World Health Organization.
    In recent months, Israel has allowed in small groups of vaccinated tourists.    The new rules exempt such groups from the six-month requirement, so long as members take PCR or antigen tests every 72 hours for the first two weeks of their stay.
    Danieli is urging the government to apply similar rules to individual tourists.
    “We just want to make it easier for tourists, so they come back.    We can’t say how many will be able to come with these rules.”
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub; Additional reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Alison Williams)

10/24/2021 Libyan Elections Commission To Start Registering Candidates In Nov – Commission Head by Ahmed Elumami
FILE PHOTO: Emad Al-Sayah, Chairman of Libya's High National Election Commission (HNEC),
speaks during a news conference in Tripoli, Libya December 6, 2018. REUTERS/Hani Amara
    TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Registration for candidates in Libya’s presidential and parliamentary elections should open in November, the head of the electoral commission said on Sunday.
    Elections are a key step in a U.N.-backed process to end a decade of violence by creating a new political leadership whose legitimacy is widely accepted.
    But wrangling over the constitutional basis for elections, the rules governing them and questions over their credibility have threatened to unravel the peace process in recent months.
    The first round of the presidential election is due to be held on Dec. 24.    A second round, along with a parliamentary election, will then be held at a later date, said the commission head, Emad al-Sayah.
    He said the registration process should open by mid-November, after technical and logistical preparations were complete.
    But the complexities of the political patchwork resulting from divisions between eastern and western Libya mean there are still hurdles to overcome.
    Although parliament has issued a law enabling the presidential election to be held on Dec. 24, it has also issued another law saying the parliamentary election will happen separately, at a later date.    Other political institutions have rejected parliament’s proposals.
    Eastern commander Khalifa Haftar paved the way to stand as president by saying in September he would step down from his military role for three months.
    Haftar heads the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) and waged war on western factions after the country split in 2014.    His 14-month offensive to take Tripoli, in the west, devastated areas of the capital but was repelled last year.
    Aides to parliament head Aguila Saleh said he had also stepped down from his position in order to run in the election.
    People close to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the late ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi and once the second most powerful man in Libya, have signalled that he also wants to compete.
(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; Writing by Daniel Moshashai and Michael Georgy; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Kevin Liffey)

10/24/2021 Israel, UAE Sign ‘Green Corridor’ Agreement For Vaccinated Passengers – Israeli Consulate In Dubai
FILE PHOTO: A security man takes temperature of a woman amid the outbreak of the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) at Dubai International Airport, UAE April 27, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Israel and the United Arab Emirates have signed a “green corridor” agreement allowing passengers vaccinated against the novel coronavirus to travel freely between the two countries, the Israeli consulate in Dubai said on Twitter on Sunday.
(Reporting by Ahmed Tolba, writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

10/24/2021 Deadly Blast In Ugandan Capital ‘Seems To Be A Terrorist Act’ – President
Ugandan explosives experts secure the scene of an explosion in Komamboga, a suburb on the
northern outskirts of Kampala, Uganda October 24, 2021. REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa
    (Reuters) - A deadly blast in Kampala late on Saturday appeared to be an act of terrorism, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said on Sunday.
    He said the explosion in the capital killed one person, although the Uganda Police chief political commissar Asan Kasingye said late on Saturday that two people were killed.
    At least seven people were injured, TV station NTV reported.
    “It seems to be a terrorist act,” Museveni Tweeted on Sunday.
    “The information I have is that 3 people came and left a package in kaveera [plastic bag] which later on exploded,” Museveni said.
    There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
    Officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    The blast occurred at Digida Pork Joint, a restaurant, local media reported.    Videos shared on social media showed panicked and confused revellers illuminated by blue police lights.
    Bomb blasts in the East African country are rare.    Kampala suffered a major attack by Somalia’s al Shabaab in 2010 that killed dozens.    The group said it had attacked Uganda as a punishment for its deployment of troops in Somalia.
(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Writing by Ayenat Mersie; Editing by David Gregorio and Giles Elgood)

10/24/2021 Egypt’s Hotels Back To Full Capacity, Tourism Official Says
FILE PHOTO: Tourists ride camels in front of the Great Pyramids of Giza, on the
outskirt of Cairo, Egypt, October 23, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt has allowed hotels to run at full capacity while observing strict coronavirus precautionary measures, an official at the Ministry of Tourism said on Sunday.
    Assistant Minister Abdel Fattah al-Asi told Reuters the decision had already come into effect.
    Egyptian hotels had been running at 70% of capacity since July due to COVID-19 regulations.    Tourism accounts for up to 15% of Egypt’s national output, and is a key source of foreign currency.
(Reporting by Momen Saeed Atallah; Writing by Ahmad Elhamy; Editing by Alison Williams)

10/24/2021 Israeli Official Says Reopening Of U.S. Palestinian Mission In Jerusalem May Not Happen
FILE PHOTO: An American flag flutters at the premises of the former United States
Consulate General in Jerusalem March 4, 2019. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s deputy foreign minister said on Sunday that the Biden administration may shelve its plan to reopen a U.S diplomatic mission for Palestinians in Jerusalem after Israel voiced opposition to such a move.
    The Jerusalem consulate was subsumed into the U.S. Embassy that was moved to the contested city from Tel Aviv in 2018 by the administration of former President Donald Trump – a reversal of U.S. policy hailed by Israel and condemned by Palestinians.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken this month reiterated Washington’s plan to reopen the consulate as part of efforts to repair Palestinian ties.    He did not give timelines.
    “I believe that I have good reason to think this will not happen,” Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll told Israel’s Ynet TV.
    “The Americans understand the political complexity,” Roll said.    “We have very good relations … We don’t believe in surprising them.    I don’t think they will try to surprise us.”
    U.S. Embassy spokespeople could not immediately be reached for comment Israel deems all Jerusalem its undivided capital and says it would not consent to reopening the consulate.    The Palestinians want the city’s east for their own future, hoped-for state.
    Reopening the consulate could weaken nationalist Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and undermine his fragile cross-partisan government, Israeli officials have argued.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Giles Elgood)

10/25/2021 Ministers, Party Leaders Detained In Apparent Coup In Sudan – Sources by Khalid 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
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Soldiers arrested most of the members of Sudan’s cabinet and a large number of pro-government party leaders on Monday in an apparent military coup, three political sources said.
    The information ministry said “joint military forces” had arrested civilian members of the Sovereign Council and members of the government and had taken them to an undisclosed location.
    There was no immediate comment from the military.    Sudanese state TV broadcast as normal.
    A Reuters witness saw joint forces from the military and from the powerful, paramilitary Rapid Support Forces stationed in the streets in Khartoum.
    Sudan has been on edge since a failed coup plot last month unleashed bitter recriminations between military and civilian groups meant to be sharing power following the 2019 ouster of former leader Omar al-Bashir.
    Bashir was toppled and jailed after months of street protests. A political transition agreed after his ouster has seen Sudan emerge from its isolation under three decades of rule by Bashir and was meant to lead to elections by the end of 2023.
    The Reuters witness said military and paramilitary forces deployed across the capital, Khartoum, restricting civilians’ movements, as protesters carrying the national flag burnt tires in different parts of the city.
    The information ministry said on its Facebook page that a number of ministers and civilian members of the ruling Sovereign Council were arrested.
    Khartoum airport was shut and international flights were suspended, according to Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV channel.
    Citing unidentified sources, Saudi-owned, Dubai-based Al Hadath said Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok had been placed under house arrest, and that unidentified military forces arrested four cabinet ministers, one civilian member of the Sovereign Council, and several state governors and party leaders.
    Family sources told Reuters that military forces had stormed the house of Hamdok’s media adviser and arrested him.
    Reuters witnesses said internet services appeared to be down in Khartoum.
    The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a main activist coalition in the uprising against Bashir, called on supporters to mobilise after what it called the arrest of cabinet members.
    “We urge the masses to go out on the streets and occupy them, close all roads with barricades, stage a general labour strike, and not to cooperate with the putschists and use civil disobedience to confront them,” the group said in a statement on Facebook.
    As tensions built this month, a coalition of rebel groups and political parties aligned themselves with the military and called on it to dissolve the civilian government, staging a sit-in outside the presidential palace.
    Last week, several cabinet ministers took part in big protests in several parts of Khartoum and other cities against the prospect of military rule.
    The military head of the Sovereign Council has previously asserted his commitment to the transition.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Mahmoud Mourad and Alaa Swilam; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Robert Birsel)

10/25/021 IS Claims Responsibility For Bomb Attack In Uganda
FILE PHOTO: Ugandan police members secure the scene of an explosion in Komamboga, a suburb on
the northern outskirts of Kampala, Uganda October 24, 2021. REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Islamic state claimed responsibility for a bomb attack that killed at least one person in Uganda’s capital Kampala on Saturday night, the militant group said in a statement posted in an affiliated Telegram channel late on Sunday.
    The group said that some of its members detonated an explosive device in a bar where “members and spies of the Crusader Ugandan government were gathering” in Kampala.
    The bomb, packed with nails and shrapnel, targeted a pork restaurant on the outskirts of the capital, police said on Sunday.
    Information gathered indicated that three men, disguised as customers, visited the restaurant, placed a polythene bag under a table and left moments before the explosion, police said.
    The explosion killed a 20-year-old waitress and injured three people, two of whom were in critical condition, police said, adding all indications suggest an act of domestic terror.
    President Yoweri Museveni said the attack “seems to be a terrorist act.”
    In 2010, the Somali Islamist militant group al Shabaab killed dozens of people in Kampala in a bomb attack, saying it was punishing Uganda for deploying troops in Somalia.
(Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Michael Perry)

10/25/2021 Gunfire, Protests As Sudan’s Military Seizes Power In Coup by Khalid Abdelaziz
A protester waves a flag during what the information ministry calls a military
coup in Khartoum, Sudan, October 25, 2021. REUTERS/El Tayeb Siddig
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) -Sudan’s military seized power in a coup on Monday, while youths opposed to the takeover barricaded streets and gunfire was heard as demonstrators clashed with the security forces.
    The military dissolved a transitional government that had been set up to guide the country to democracy following the overthrow of long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising two years ago.
    General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the Sovereign Council under which the military had shared power with civilians, announced a state of emergency, saying the armed forces needed to protect safety and security.
    “We guarantee the armed forces’ commitment to completing the democratic transition until we hand over to a civilian elected government,” he said, setting elections for July 2023.
    “What the country is going through now is a real threat and danger to the dreams of the youth and the hopes of the nation.”
    Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was detained and taken to an undisclosed location after refusing to issue a statement in support of the takeover, said the information ministry, which was still apparently under the control of Hamdok’s supporters.
    The ministry called Burhan’s announcement a military coup and urged resistance.    It said tens of thousands of people opposed to the takeover had taken to the streets and had faced gunfire near the military headquarters in Khartoum.
    At least 12 people were injured in clashes, a doctors’ committee said, without providing further details.
    In Khartoum’s twin city Omdurman, protesters barricaded streets and chanted in support of civilian rule.
    “We will defend democracy until the end,” said one protester, 21-year-old Iman Ahmed.
    “Burhan cannot deceive us.    This is a military coup,” said another young man who gave his name as Saleh.
‘RAISE OUR VOICES’
    The information ministry said troops had arrested civilian members of the Sovereign Council and government figures.    It called on Sudanese to oppose the military attempt “to block the democratic transition.”
    “We raise our voices loudly to reject this coup attempt,” it said in a statement.
    Sudan has been ruled for most of its post-colonial history by military leaders who seized power in coups.    It had become a pariah to the West and was on the U.S. terrorism blacklist under Bashir, who hosted Osama bin Laden in the 1990s and is wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes.
    The country had been on edge since last month when a failed coup plot, blamed on Bashir supporters, unleashed recriminations between the military and civilians in the transitional cabinet.
    In recent weeks a coalition of rebel groups and political parties aligned themselves with the military and called on it to dissolve the civilian government, while cabinet ministers took part in protests against the prospect of military rule.
    Sudan has also been suffering a grave economic crisis. Helped by foreign aid, civilian officials have claimed credit for some tentative signs of stabilisation after a sharp devaluation of the currency and the lifting of fuel subsidies.
    Washington had tried to avert the collapse of the power-sharing agreement by sending a special envoy, Jeffrey Feltman.    The director of Hamdok’s office, Adam Hereika, told Reuters the military had mounted the takeover despite “positive movements” towards an agreement after meetings with Feltman in recent days.
    White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said: “We reject the actions by the military and call for the immediate release of the prime minister and others who have been placed under house arrest.”
    Democratic Senator Chris Coons, chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, said on Twitter U.S. support for Sudan would “end if the authority of PM Hamdok & the full transitional government is not restored.”    A U.S. law bars funding governments brought to power by a military coup.
    The military had been meant to pass on leadership of the Sovereign Council to a civilian figure in the coming months.    But transitional authorities had struggled to move forward on issues including whether to hand Bashir over to the Hague.
    Burhan said it was incumbent on the armed forces to act to halt “incitement to chaos and violence.”
    The United Nations, Arab League and African Union all expressed concern. Sudan’s political leaders should be released and human rights respected, AU Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat said in a statement.
    Britain called the coup an unacceptable betrayal of the Sudanese people.    France called for the immediate release of Hamdok and other civilian leaders.    Egypt called on all parties to exercise self-restraint.    Saudi Arabia said it was following developments with extreme concern.
    The Sudanese Professionals Association, an activist coalition in the uprising against Bashir, called for a strike.
    Burhan’s “reckless decisions will increase the ferocity of the street’s resistance and unity after all illusions of partnership are removed,” it said on its Facebook page.
    The main opposition Forces of Freedom and Change alliance called for civil disobedience and protests across the country.
    Military forces stormed Sudanese Radio and Television headquarters in Omdurman and arrested employees, the information ministry said on its Facebook page.    Two major political parties, the Umma and the Sudanese Congress, condemned what they called a coup and campaign of arrests.
    Hamdok, an economist and former senior U.N. official, was appointed as a technocratic prime minister in 2019 but struggled to sustain the transition amid splits between the military and civilians and the pressures of the economic crisis.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Nafisa Eltahir, Moataz Abdelazim, Enas Alashray, Nadine Awadalla, Daniel Moshashai, Patricia Zengerle Nandita Bose and Trevor Hunnicutt; Writing by Aidan Lewis, Michael Georgy; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Robert Birsel, Peter Graff and Angus MacSwan)

10/25/2021 Turkey’s Erdogan Said To Welcome Embassies’ Statements Amid Expulsions Row by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Jonathan Spicer
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a joint news conference with Nigerian
President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, Nigeria October 20, 2021. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde
    ANKARA (Reuters) -Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan welcomed statements on Monday by several Western embassies including the United States that they abide by a diplomatic convention not to interfere in a host country’s internal affairs, state-run media said.
    The statements were made almost simultaneously on Twitter as Erdogan entered a Cabinet meeting to discuss expelling ambassadors from 10 embassies, a move that would open Turkey’s deepest diplomatic rift with the West in his 19 years in power.
    The statements were seen to cool tensions after Erdogan said at the weekend he had ordered the envoys to be declared “persona non grata” for calling for the release of Osman Kavala, a philanthropist detained for four years on charges of financing protests and involvement in an attempted coup. He denies the charges.
    “The United States notes that it maintains compliance with Article 41 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” the U.S. Embassy said on Twitter.
    The other nine embassies – Germany, France, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland – published similar messages or re-tweeted the U.S. message.
    State-run Anadolu news agency, citing sources in the presidency, reported that Erdogan had “welcomed” the statements.    Anadolu and state broadcaster TRT described the statements as “a step back” by the embassies.
    “Diplomatic missions continuing their work by abiding by this principle will always be welcomed in terms of improving ties between their countries and ours,” Omer Celik, spokesman for Erdogan’s AK Party, said of the Vienna Convention article cited by the embassies.
    Erdogan’s weekend order had not yet been implemented by the Foreign Ministry but could yet be formally approved at Monday’s Cabinet meeting.
    In response to Monday’s developments, the Turkish lira rallied after earlier hitting an all-time low of 9.85 to the U.S. dollar, and was at 9.585 at 1457 GMT.    It has lost almost a quarter of its value this year.
CRISIS OVER?
    The crisis over the expulsion of the ambassadors “has been resolved,” Huseyin Bagci, an international relations professor at the Middle East Technical University (METU), told broadcaster Haberturk.
    A diplomatic source said the embassies were “cautiously hopeful” but added it was unclear what Erdogan would ultimately decide to do.
    The 10 ambassadors represent NATO allies, trade partners and members of the European Union, which Turkey aspires to join despite widening differences with the bloc.
    Unal Cevikoz, an opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker and former Turkish ambassador, said on Twitter: “It is understood that efforts to prevent the 10 ambassadors being declared ‘persona non grata’ have yielded results.    The success of diplomacy was seen once again.”
CONCERNED INVESTORS
    Kavala, a businessman and contributor to civil society groups, is charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and involvement in a failed coup in 2016. He has been held in detention while his trial continues.
    Rights groups say his case is emblematic of a crackdown on dissent under Erdogan. Kavala said on Friday he would no longer attend his trial, as a fair hearing was impossible after recent comments by the president.
    The diplomatic tension has added to investor concerns about Turkey’s economy after the central bank, under pressure from Erdogan to support growth, unexpectedly slashed interest rates by 200 points last week despite inflation rising to nearly 20%.
    The 10 envoys were summoned by the foreign ministry last week after calling for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release.”
    Parliament speaker Mustafa Sentop said earlier on Monday that Turkey’s constitution banned discussion of active court cases, including by Turkish politicians in parliament, and that the envoys’ statement marked a “clear and disrespectful” interference.
    The European Court of Human Rights called for Kavala’s release two years ago, saying there was no reasonable suspicion he had committed an offence and finding his detention had been intended to silence him.
(Additional reporting by Ece Toksabay and Sabine Siebold; Writing by Dominic Evans, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Grant McCool)

10/25/2021 International Reaction To Sudan’s Military Coup
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators protest against prospect of military rule in Khartoum,
Sudan October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
    (Reuters) – Following are international reactions to the military coup in Sudan, where soldiers on Monday arrested members of a transitional government meant to guide the country to democracy.
UNITED STATES
    The U.S. government is “deeply alarmed” by reports of a military takeover, which is contrary to the will of Sudan’s people, the White House said.
    “We reject the actions by the military and call for the immediate release of the prime minister and others who have been placed under house arrest,” said White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre.
U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTONIO GUTERRES
    “I condemn the ongoing military coup in Sudan.    Prime Minister Hamdok & all other officials must be released immediately.    There must be full respect for the constitutional charter to protect the hard-won political transition.    The UN will continue to stand with the people of Sudan,” Guterres wrote on Twitter.
ARAB LEAGUE
    “Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit expressed deep concern about the developments in Sudan, calling on all Sudanese parties to fully abide by the constitutional document signed in August 2019 with the involvement of the international community and the Arab League, as well as the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement,” it said in a statement.
AFRICAN UNION
    African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said Sudan’s political leaders should be released and human rights respected.
    “The Chairperson calls for the immediate resumption of consultations between civilians and military.    … The Chairperson reaffirms that dialogue and consensus is the only relevant path to save the country and its democratic transition,” Mahamat said in a statement.
EUROPEAN UNION
    “We call on the security forces to immediately release those they have unlawfully detained,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.
    “The actions of the military represent a betrayal of the revolution, the transition, and the legitimate requests of the Sudanese people for peace, justice and economic development.”
EGYPT
    “Egypt calls on all parties in the brotherly nation of Sudan to exercise self-restraint and responsibility to prioritize the welfare of the country and national agreement,” the Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement.
ETHIOPIA
    “The Government of Ethiopia … calls on all parties for calm and de-escalation in the Sudan and to exert every effort towards a peaceful end to this crisis,” it said in a statement.
    “Ethiopia reiterates the need for the respect of the sovereign aspirations of the people of the Sudan and the non-interference of external actors in the internal affairs of the Sudan.”
SAUDI ARABIA
    “The kingdom is following with extreme concern the current events in Sudan,” Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
    “It calls for restraint, calm, de-escalation, and to preserve all the political and economic gains that have been achieved and all that aims to protect the unity of the ranks among all political components in brotherly Sudan.”
(Compiled by Reuters bureaux; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Jonathan Oatis)

10/25/2021 Lebanon Top Christian Politician Summoned For Hearing Over Deadly Clashes
Samir Geagea, leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces, listens during an interview with Reuters in the village of
Maarab in the mountains overlooking the seaside town of Jounieh, October 31, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/Files
    BEIRUT (Reuters) -Lebanese Christian politician Samir Geagea was on Monday summoned for a hearing by Army Intelligence over the fatal clashes in Beirut this month, a source close to the party said.
    The Oct. 14 clashes left seven people – followers of the Lebanon’s Shiite Iran-backed Hezbollah group and its ally, the Amal Movement – dead in the worst street violence in Beirut in over a decade.
    Geagea has denied allegations by both parties that gunmen loyal to his Lebanese Forces party Responding to reports he would be summoned for interrogation, Geagea, in the same interview, had said he would go “on the condition that Nasrallah is heard before me,” in reference to Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah targeted demonstrators with sniper fire, saying residents of the Christian-majority area where the violence took place acted in self defence.
    The demonstrators had gathered to demand the removal of the judge investigating last year’s port blast that killed more than 200 people, Tarek Bitar.
    Hezbollah, Amal and the Christian Marada Movement have accused Bitar of politicising the probe after he sought to question former ministers affiliated with the latter two parties.
    Geagea’s hearing has been set for 9 a.m. on Wednesday at the Defence Ministry in Yarze, south of Beirut, where the former militia leader was imprisoned for more than 11 years after the end of Lebanon’s 1975-90 Civil War, the source told Reuters.
    It was not immediately clear whether Geagea would attend or whether other politicians had been asked to appear.    A security source confirmed the time of the hearing when asked by Reuters.
    “All political forces (involved) should be summoned like Geagea, but it’s clear that there is a big targeting of the Lebanese Forces and its chief,” for their support of the investigation into the blast, the source said.
    Responding to reports he would be summoned for a hearing, Geagea, said in an interview aired on local television last week he would go “on the condition that Nasrallah is heard before me,” in reference to Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah.
    MP Sethrida Geagea, Samir Geagea’s wife, said in a statement that pressure was being exerted on the judiciary to target the Lebanese Forces.    “It is illogical to summon the aggressed while the aggressor is spared even being heard,” she said.
    A Lebanese judge on Monday separately charged 68 people including 18 detainees with murder and incitement to sectarian strife over the clashes.
    Their political affiliations, if any, remain unclear.
    Footage released after the event appeared to show at least one person being shot by a soldier.    A Lebanese Army spokesperson has said the incident was being investigated by a military court as part of the wider investigation into the clashes.
    Separately, Lebanon’s Supreme Judicial Council, one of the highest judicial powers in the country, met Bitar on Monday to discuss the course of the blast investigation and urged its speedy conclusion. (Reporting by Maha El Dahan and Timour Azhari; Writing By Timour Azhari; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Alison Williams)

10/25/2021 Hosting Emirati General, Israel Sees Airpower Cooperation by Dan Williams
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/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The chief of the United Arab Emirates Air Force visited Israel on Monday on what the host country described as a harbinger of cooperation in air power.
    The U.S. allies normalised relations last year, brought together by shared worries about Iran and a desire for business ventures.    Their public embrace has so far been in the diplomatic and commercial, rather than military, spheres.
    Major-General Ibrahim Nasser Mohammed Al Alawi, commander of the UAE air force, made the previously unannounced appearance during a multinational drill, Blue Flag, hosted by Israel this week.
    “This is a truly historic day with tremendous significance for the future of cooperation between our air forces,” his Israeli counterpart, Major-General Amikam Norkin, tweeted.    The statement did not elaborate on how such cooperation might look.
    Israeli media have suggested the UAE – along with Gulf neighbour Bahrain, which also formalized ties with Israel last year – may be interested in joint defences against Iranian-made drones.
    Addressing the United Nations General Assembly last month, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said “Iran plans to arm its proxies in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon with hundreds, and then thousands of these deadly drones.”
    Iran denies arming any paramilitary forces across the region.    Israel has mounted regular strikes against what it has described as Iranian-linked targets in Syria, including one such attack on Monday, according to Syrian state media.
    Briefing foreign reporters last week, a senior Israeli security official said security cooperation with Arab countries in new partnerships with Israel had “improved and intensified in recent months.”
    He did not name the countries nor detail the cooperation, other than to say it had been enhanced by Israel’s inclusion this year in Centcom, a U.S. military coordination umbrella organization for the Middle East.
(Reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Howard Goller)

10/26/2021 Seven Killed, 140 Hurt In Protests Against Sudan Military Coup by Khalid Abdelaziz
A protester waves a flag during what the information ministry calls a military
coup in Khartoum, Sudan, October 25, 2021. REUTERS/El Tayeb Siddig
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) -Sudan’s military seized power from a transitional government on Monday and a health ministry official said seven people were killed by gunfire and 140 injured in clashes between soldiers and street protesters.
    The leader of the takeover, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, dissolved the military-civilian Sovereign Council that had been established to guide the country to democracy following the overthrow of long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising two years ago.
    Burhan announced a state of emergency, saying the armed forces needed to protect safety and security.    He promised to hold elections in July 2023 and hand over to an elected civilian government then.
    “What the country is going through now is a real threat and danger to the dreams of the youth and the hopes of the nation,” he said.
    The Sudan information ministry, which is still loyal to ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, said on its Facebook page that the transitional constitution gives only the prime minister the right to declare a state of emergency and that the military’s actions are a crime. Hamdok is still the legitimate transitional authority, it said.
    The U.N. Security Council was likely to discuss Sudan behind closed doors on Tuesday, diplomats said.
    White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said: “We reject the actions by the military and call for the immediate release of the prime minister and others who have been placed under house arrest.”
    Youths opposed to the coup barricaded streets and clashed with troops.    The main opposition coalition, Forces of Freedom and Change, which pushed for Bashir’s removal and negotiated the military-civilian council, said on     Twitter it was calling for peaceful actions in the streets to overthrow the military takeover, including demonstrations, the blocking of streets and civil disobedience.
    Hamdok, an economist and former senior U.N. official, was detained and taken to an undisclosed location after refusing to issue a statement in support of the takeover, the information ministry said.
    The ministry urged resistance and said tens of thousands of people opposed to the takeover had taken to the streets and had faced gunfire near the military headquarters in Khartoum.    Central bank employees announced a strike to reject the coup, the ministry said.
    Troops had arrested civilian members of the Sovereign Council and government figures, the ministry said.    Also detained was the news director of state TV, his family said.
    The U.S. State Department said Washington had nothing to share on Hamdok’s whereabouts and condition.    A department spokesman said it was pausing $700 million in economic support for Sudan.
    In Khartoum’s twin city Omdurman, protesters barricaded streets and chanted in support of civilian rule.
    “Burhan cannot deceive us.    This is a military coup,” said a young man who gave his name as Saleh.
‘RAISE OUR VOICES’
    Sudan has been ruled for most of its post-colonial history by military leaders who seized power in coups.    It had become a pariah to the West and was on a U.S. terrorism list under Bashir, who hosted Osama bin Laden in the 1990s and is wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes.
    The country had been on edge since last month when a failed coup plot, blamed on Bashir supporters, unleashed recriminations between the military and civilians.
    In recent weeks a coalition of rebel groups and political parties aligned themselves with the military and called on it to dissolve the civilian government, while Cabinet ministers took part in protests against the prospect of military rule.
    Sudan is also in an economic crisis. Helped by foreign aid, civilian officials have claimed credit for some tentative signs of stabilisation after a sharp devaluation of the currency and the lifting of fuel subsidies.
    Washington had tried to avert the collapse of the power-sharing agreement by sending a special envoy, Jeffrey Feltman.    The director of Hamdok’s office, Adam Hereika, told Reuters the military had mounted the takeover despite “positive movements” towards an agreement after meetings with Feltman in recent days.
    The military had been meant to pass on leadership of the Sovereign Council to a civilian figure in the coming months.    But transitional authorities had struggled to move forward on issues including whether to hand Bashir over to the Hague.
    Burhan said it was incumbent on the armed forces to act to halt “incitement to chaos and violence.”
    The United Nations, Arab League and African Union all expressed concern.    Political leaders should be released and human rights respected, AU Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat said in a statement.
    Britain called the coup an unacceptable betrayal of the Sudanese people.    France called for the immediate release of Hamdok and other civilian leaders.    Egypt called on all parties to exercise self-restraint.
    The Sudanese Professionals Association, an activist coalition in the uprising against Bashir, called for a strike.
    Two main political parties, the Umma and the Sudanese Congress, condemned what they called a coup and campaign of arrests.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Nafisa Eltahir, Moataz Abdelazim, Enas Alashray, Nadine Awadalla, Daniel Moshashai, Patricia Zengerle, Nandita Bose, Trevor Hunnicutt and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Aidan Lewis, Michael Georgy; Editing by Peter Graff, Angus MacSwan and Grant McCool)

10/26/2021 Exclusive: African Union To Buy Up To 110 Million Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines – Officials by Jeff Mason
FILE PHOTO: Medical staff prepare Moderna coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine to be administered at
newly-opened mass vaccination centre in Tokyo, Japan, May 24, 2021. Carl Court/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The African Union (AU) intends to buy up to 110 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna Inc in an arrangement brokered in part by the White House, which will defer delivery of some doses intended for the United States to facilitate the deal, officials told Reuters.
    The AU’s doses will be delivered over the coming months, with 15 million arriving before the end of 2021, 35 million in the first quarter of next year and up to 60 million in the second quarter.
    “This is important as it allows us to increase the number of vaccines available immediately,” AU coronavirus envoy Strive Masiyiwa said in an email.    “We urge other vaccine producing countries to follow the lead of the (U.S. government) and give us similar access to buy this and other vaccines.”
    Masiyiwa said the Moderna purchase represented the first time the 55-member AU had secured vaccines that were not fully produced in Africa.
    The new shipments of vaccine are well below what Africa needs to vaccinate its 1.3 billion people, who have had far less access to the life-saving vaccines than more prosperous parts of the world. Getting access to Moderna vaccines adds diversity to the AU’s vaccine supply with different storage requirements.
    The Biden administration is deferring delivery of 33 million doses it had bought from Moderna to give the AU its “spot in line” to make a purchase, according to Natalie Quillian, the White House’s deputy coordinator for COVID-19 response.
    “We are grateful to have helped negotiate this encouraging step forward between Moderna and the African Union that will significantly expand access to vaccines on the continent in the near-term,” Quillian said.
    The United States, which has seen more than 700,000 people die from COVID-19, is flush with vaccines.    The delayed Moderna deliveries will not have an impact on efforts to provide booster shots to already inoculated Americans, Quillian said.
    Moderna said it was working to make it possible to fill doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in Africa by 2023 and has plans to build a manufacturing plant on the continent.
    “This is the first step in our long-term partnership with the African Union,” Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel said in a statement, referring to a Memorandum of Understanding to make up to 110 million doses for the AU.
    Last month, the AU accused https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-who/update-1-african-union-slams-vaccine-manufacturers-for-restricting-access-idINL8N2QG4CK COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers of denying African countries a fair chance to buy vaccines and urged manufacturing countries, in particular India, to lift export restrictions on vaccines and their components.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Robert Birsel)

10/26/2021 Telecommunications Interrupted In Sudan After Coup by Khalid Abdelaziz
Protesters block a road during what the information ministry calls a military
coup in Khartoum, Sudan, October 25, 2021. REUTERS/El Tayeb Siddig
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Telecommunications were interrupted in Sudan, a Reuters witness said on Tuesday, a day after the country’s military seized power in a coup and a health ministry official said seven people were killed in clashes between soldiers and street protesters.
    There was no official confirmation of the communications interruption.    A Reuters witness said internet and phone services were severely limited.
    Life is at a standstill in the capital Khartoum, where shops and services are closed and some roads are still blocked by the military after a mostly quiet night.
    The leader of the takeover, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, dissolved the military-civilian Sovereign Council that had been established to guide the country to democracy following the overthrow of long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising two years ago.
    Burhan announced a state of emergency, saying the armed forces needed to protect safety and security.    He promised to hold elections in July 2023 and hand over to an elected civilian government then.
    Events in Sudan mirror those in several other Arab countries, where the military has consolidated its grip following popular uprisings.
    The Sudanese Professionals Association, an activist coalition in the uprising against Bashir, has called for a strike.    The call for a general strike could be heard from the loudspeakers of mosques in Khartoum.
    The Sudan information ministry, which is still loyal to ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, said on its Facebook page the transitional constitution gives only the prime minister the right to declare a state of emergency and that the military’s actions are a crime.    Hamdok is still the legitimate transitional authority, it said.
    Hamdok, an economist and former senior U.N. official, was detained and taken to an undisclosed location after refusing to issue a statement in support of the takeover, the information ministry said.
    The governments of the United States, UK and Norway condemned the coup in Sudan, saying they were deeply concerned about the situation in the country.
    They called on security forces to release those who were detained unlawfully, according to a joint statement released by the U.S. State Department.
(Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

10/26/2021 Egypt’s President Sisi Ends State Of Emergency For The First Time In Years
FILE PHOTO: Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks during a joint statement with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades after a trilateral summit between Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, in Athens, Greece, October 19, 2021 REUTERS/Costas Baltas
(Refile to correct spelling of Egyptian activist’s last name in final paragraph)
    CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt’s state of emergency will be lifted for the first time in years, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Monday.
    Egypt imposed a state of emergency in April 2017 after deadly bombings of churches and has since routinely extended it at three-month intervals, despite an improved security situation.
    “Egypt has become … an oasis of security and stability in the region,” Sisi wrote in a Facebook post.    “Hence it was decided, for the first time in years, to cancel the extension of the state of emergency in all areas of the country.”
    The state of emergency granted authorities sweeping powers to make arrests and crack down on what they call enemies of the state.
    It was applied during the extension of a clamp-down on political dissent under Sisi that has swept up liberal as well as Islamist critics over the past few years.
    Egypt’s security forces have also been battling an insurgency by militants linked to Islamic State in northern Sinai, although they have recently consolidated their position in the area.
    Prominent Egyptian activist Hossam Bahgat welcomed the decision, saying it would stop the use of emergency state security courts, although it would not apply to some high-profile cases already referred to such courts.
(Reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Nayera Abdallah; Editing by Peter Cooney)

10/26/2021 Sudan’s Burhan Says Army Ousted Government To Avoid Civil War by Khalid Abdelaziz
Protesters block a road during what the information ministry calls a military
coup in Khartoum, Sudan, October 25, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan’s armed forces chief defended the military’s seizure of power, saying he had ousted the government to avoid civil war, while protesters took to the streets on Tuesday to demonstrate against the takeover after a day of deadly clashes.
    The military takeover on Monday brought a halt to Sudan’s transition to democracy, two years after a popular uprising toppled long-ruling Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
    Speaking at his first news conference since announcing the takeover, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said the army had no choice but to sideline politicians who were inciting against the armed forces.
    “The dangers we witnessed last week could have led the country into civil war,” he said, an apparent reference to demonstrations against the prospect of a coup.
    Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was arrested on Monday along with other members of his Cabinet, had not been harmed and had been brought to Burhan’s own home, the general said.    “The prime minister was in his house.    However, we were afraid that he’d be in danger so he has been placed with me in my home.”
    Later on Tuesday, a source close to Hamdok said he and his wife were at their home and under tight security.    Family sources said they were unable to reach Hamdok or his wife by phone.
    Burhan had appeared on TV on Monday to announce the dissolution of the Sovereign Council, a body set up after Bashir’s overthrow to share power between the military and civilians and lead Sudan to free elections.
    The Facebook page for the office of the prime minister, apparently still under the control of Hamdok loyalists, called for his release and that of other civilian leaders, more of whom were arrested on Tuesday.
    Siddig Alsadig Almahdi of the Umma Party, which had a representative on the Sovereign Council, was arrested at his home, and activist Ismail Al-Tag, a lawyer who was active in the 2019 anti-Bashir protests, was also arrested, Foreign Minister Mariam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi told Al Jazeera TV.
    Hamdok remains “the executive authority recognised by the Sudanese people and the world” the Facebook post said, adding that there was no alternative other than protests, strikes and civil disobedience.
    Sudanese ambassadors to 12 countries, including the United States, United Arab Emirates, China, and France, have rejected the military takeover, a diplomatic source said on Tuesday.
    Ambassadors to Belgium and the European Union, Geneva and U.N. agencies, China, South Africa, Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey, Sweden and Canada also signed on to the statement, which said the envoys backed popular resistance to the coup.
    U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is looking at a full range of economic tools to respond to the military takeover and has been in close contact with Gulf countries, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.
    Western countries have denounced the coup, called for the detained cabinet ministers to be freed and said they will cut off vital aid if the military does not restore power-sharing with civilians.    The German mission to the United Nations said on     Twitter that it was suspending aid until further notice.
    The U.N. Security Council was weighing a possible statement on Sudan, diplomats said. U.N. chief Antonio Guterres on Tuesday decried “an epidemic of coup d’états” as Sudan is the latest in a series of military takeovers in Myanmar, Mali and Guinea and attempted coups in several other countries.
SHOPS SHUT, PROTESTS FLARE IN CAPITAL
    A health ministry official said seven people had been killed in clashes between protesters and the security forces on Monday.
    Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman across the Nile River were partly locked down on Tuesday with shops shut and plumes of smoke rising from where protesters burned tyres.    Calls for a general strike were played over mosque loudspeakers.    Streets and bridges were blocked by soldiers or protester barricades.
    The only people in the streets apart from protesters were security forces heavily deployed around the presidential palace and ministry of defence.
    Some roads were still blocked by barricades erected by protesters made from stones, tree branches and burning tyres.    There were small groups of protesters but no leadership to coordinate them.    Phone networks were patchy.
    Banks and cash machines were also closed.    Mobile phone apps widely used for money transfers could not be used.
    “We are paying the price for this crisis,” a man in his 50s looking for medicine at one of the pharmacies where stocks have been running low said angrily.    “We can’t work, we can’t find bread, there are no services, no money.”
    A group of neighbourhood resistance committees in Khartoum announced a schedule of further barricades and protests leading to what it said would be a “march of millions” on Saturday.
    Images on social media showed renewed street protests on Tuesday in the cities of Atbara, Dongola, Elobeid and Port Sudan.    People chanted: “Don’t give your back to the army, the army won’t protect you.”
    The military appeared to have underestimated civilian opposition on the street, according to Jonas Horner of the International Crisis Group.
    “They haven’t learned their lesson,” he said.    “As we saw post the revolution and post-Bashir, the streets were determined and civilians were willing to die for this.”
    Burhan said the military’s action did not amount to a coup.
    “We only wanted to correct the course to a transition,” he said.    “We had promised the people of Sudan and the entire world.    We will protect this transition.”    He said a new government would be formed that would contain no typical politicians.
(Reporting by Nadine Awadalla, Nafisa Eltahir and Nayera Abdallah; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Grant McCool)

10/26/2021 Palestinians Fear For Loved Ones’ Remains As Israel Plans Jerusalem Park by Sinan Abu Mayzer and Zainah El-Haroun
Palestinians pray following a protest against Israel’s building of a Jerusalem park which they say encroaches on a centuries-old Muslim graveyard
near Old City wall, in Jerusalem October 25, 2021. The municipality says graves will not be disturbed. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Sobbing and trying to cling to her son’s gravestone, Palestinian Jerusalemite Ola Nababteh was dragged away from Al-Yusufiyah cemetery by Israeli police as a digger truck levelled land for a new park behind her.
    Palestinians say the project encroaches on a centuries-old Muslim graveyard beneath the eastern wall of Jerusalem’s Old City.    Israel captured East Jerusalem including the Old City in a 1967 war and later annexed it in a move not recognised internationally.
    The Israeli municipality says authorised burial sites in the cemetery will not be harmed.    But the unearthing of human bones when construction for the park began this month stirred panic among families like Nababteh’s with loved ones interred at Al-Yusufiyah.
    “Over my dead body – my son will not be removed from here,” Nababteh told Reuters on Tuesday, a day after Israeli police removed her from the graveyard.
    Arieh King, a Jerusalem deputy mayor, said there was never any intent to move the grave and that police had evacuated Nababteh because she was too close to construction.
    The remains found this month were not in an authorised gravesite and “had been buried illicitly in the ground many years ago,” he told Reuters, adding that the park would provide Palestinians with easier access to the Old City.
    Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, said the park, due to open in mid-2022, is an assault on the cemetery.
    “The graves of human beings cannot be violated no matter the gender, nationality or religion,” he said.
    Palestinians want East Jerusalem for the capital of a state they seek in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which abuts the city, and the Gaza Strip. Israel regards Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital.
(Reporting by Sinan Abu Mayzer and Zainah El-Haroun, editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/26/2021 Lebanon Top Politicians Agree Solution To Political Tensions, Cleric Says by Timour Azhari
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati speaks during an interview with Reuters
at the government palace in Beirut, Lebanon October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/Files
    BEIRUT (Reuters) -Lebanon’s top Christian cleric on Tuesday said the country’s three leading politicians agreed to a “solution” to political tensions and government paralysis tied to high-profile judicial investigations.
    “There is a constitutional and legal solution to the current crisis,” Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai said during a news conference after a day spent shuttling between the prime minister, the parliament speaker and president.
    An official source said the solution involved prosecuting former ministers charged over the August 2020 Beirut port explosion at a special court made up of MPs and judges while allowing blast investigator Tarek Bitar to continue with the cases of lower-level officials.
    The special court, formed by a parliamentary vote, has never held any official to account.
    Bitar has sought to question top officials including former ministers affiliated with the Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s Amal movement and the Marada Movement, both allies of Iran-backed Hezbollah, which has responded with a smear campaign accusing Bitar of politicising the probe.
    Rai had earlier said after a meeting with Berri that issues had to be resolved “because Lebanon is dying, the people are dying and the state is disintegrating.”
    Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has not convened a Cabinet meeting since Oct. 12, pending a solution to the standoff that has paralysed government for over two weeks.
    The dispute spilt over into the Cabinet when ministers allied to those parties called for Bitar’s removal in a heated discussion during the last session.
    Rai also said he was “slightly upset” about the summoning of Lebanese Forces party leader Samir Geagea by army intelligence for a hearing over fatal clashes in Beirut’s Ain al-Remmaneh neighborhood this month.
    On Oct. 14, seven people, all followers of Hezbollah and Amal, were shot dead during a Beirut protest the parties organised against Bitar, the worst street violence in more than a decade.
    The parties said the seven were killed by supporters of the Christian Lebanese Forces party headed by Samir Geagea, who has backed the blast investigation.    Geagea has repeatedly denied the allegations.
    Geagea was summoned for a hearing on Wednesday by army intelligence. No other top politician has received such a summons.
    On Tuesday, Geagea’s lawyers filed a motion claiming the summons was unlawful, while attorneys representing a number of detainees submitted a motion requesting that Judge Fadi Akiki recuse himself from the case.
    A group of Ain al-Remmaneh residents this week filed a lawsuit against Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, claiming fighters under his command involved in the clashes had undermined “national unity” and committed terrorist acts.
    President Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally who has said Bitar’s probe should continue, on Tuesday urged the government to resume Cabinet meetings in order to reach a funding agreement with the International Monetary Fund, widely seen as the only way for     Lebanon to access desperately needed international aid.
    Rima Zahed, the sister of port blast victim Amin Zahed and a member of a committee representing the families of victims, warned against “any kind of settlement or deal” that infringed upon the reach of the investigation.
    “No-one can threaten us with sectarian tensions or the difficult situation the Lebanese people are in.
    Politicians need to know this
,” she said.    “There will be no deals made over the blood of our martyrs.”
(Reporting by Timour Azhari and Maha El Dahan; Additional reporting by Laila Bassam; Writing by Timour Azhari; editing by John Stonestreet, Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)

10/27/2021 Sudan’s Burhan Says Army Ousted Government To Avoid Civil War by Khalid Abdelaziz
Protesters block a road during what the information ministry calls a
military coup in Khartoum, Sudan, October 25, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) -Sudan’s armed forces chief defended the military’s seizure of power, saying he had ousted the government to avoid civil war, while protesters took to the streets on Tuesday to demonstrate against the takeover after a day of deadly clashes.
    The military takeover on Monday brought a halt to Sudan’s transition to democracy, two years after a popular uprising toppled long-ruling Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
    On Tuesday evening, the Sudanese Professionals Association group of trade unions said it had “reports of retaliatory attacks by coup forces on protesters’ gathering sites” in the capital Khartoum and other cities, “using bullets, and attempts to break through barricades.”
    The Facebook page for the office of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, apparently still under the control of Hamdok loyalists, said a number of ministers and civilian politicians were still detained in unknown locations.    Witnesses said unidentified people arrested Faiz al-Salik, a former media adviser to Hamdok.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Hamdok on Tuesday, welcoming his “release from custody” and reiterating a call for the Sudanese military to release all civilian leaders in detention, the State Department said.
    Speaking at his first news conference since announcing the takeover, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said the army had no choice but to sideline politicians who were inciting against the armed forces. He said the military’s action did not amount to a coup.
    “The dangers we witnessed last week could have led the country into civil war,” he said, an apparent reference to demonstrations against the prospect of a coup.
    Hamdok, who was arrested on Monday along with other members of his Cabinet, had not been harmed and had been brought to Burhan’s own home, the general said.    “The prime minister was in his house.    However, we were afraid that he’d be in danger so he has been placed with me in my home.”
    Later on Tuesday, a source close to Hamdok said he and his wife were at their home and under tight security.    Family sources said they were unable to reach Hamdok or his wife by phone.
    Burhan had appeared on TV on Monday to announce the dissolution of the Sovereign Council, a body set up after Bashir’s overthrow to share power between the military and civilians and lead Sudan to free elections.
    Siddig Alsadig Almahdi of the Umma Party, which had a representative on the Sovereign Council, was arrested at his home, and activist Ismail Al-Tag, a lawyer who was active in the 2019 anti-Bashir protests, was also arrested, Foreign Minister Mariam     Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi told Al Jazeera TV.
    Hamdok remains “the executive authority recognised by the Sudanese people and the world,” the Facebook post said, adding that there was no alternative other than protests, strikes and civil disobedience.
    Sudanese ambassadors to 12 countries, including the United States, United Arab Emirates, China, and France, have rejected the military takeover, a diplomatic source said on Tuesday.
    Ambassadors to Belgium and the European Union, Geneva and U.N. agencies, China, South Africa, Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey, Sweden and Canada also signed on to the statement, which said the envoys backed popular resistance to the coup.
    U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is looking at a full range of economic tools to respond to the military takeover and has been in close contact with Gulf countries, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.
    Western countries have denounced the coup, called for the detained Cabinet ministers to be freed and said they will cut off vital aid if the military does not restore power-sharing with civilians.    The German mission to the United Nations said on Twitter that it was suspending aid until further notice.
    The U.N. Security Council met on Sudan but there was no immediate statement, diplomats said. U.N. chief Antonio Guterres on Tuesday decried “an epidemic of coup d’états” as Sudan is the latest in a series of military takeovers in Myanmar, Mali and Guinea and attempted coups in several other countries.
SHOPS SHUT, PROTESTS FLARE IN CAPITAL
    A health ministry official said seven people had been killed in clashes between protesters and the security forces on Monday.
    Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman across the Nile River were partly locked down on Tuesday with shops shut and plumes of smoke rising from where protesters burned tyres.    Calls for a general strike were played over mosque loudspeakers. Streets and bridges were blocked by soldiers or protester barricades.
    The only people in the streets apart from protesters were security forces heavily deployed around the presidential palace and ministry of defence.
    Banks and cash machines were also closed.    Mobile phone apps widely used for money transfers could not be used.
    “We are paying the price for this crisis,” a man in his 50s looking for medicine at one of the pharmacies where stocks have been running low said angrily.    “We can’t work, we can’t find bread, there are no services, no money.”
    A group of neighbourhood resistance committees in Khartoum announced a schedule of further barricades and protests leading to what it said would be a “march of millions” on Saturday.
Images on social media showed renewed street protests on Tuesday in the cities of Atbara, Dongola, Elobeid and Port Sudan.
    The military appeared to have underestimated civilian opposition on the street, according to Jonas Horner of the International Crisis Group.
    “They haven’t learned their lesson,” he said.    “As we saw post the revolution and post-Bashir, the streets were determined and civilians were willing to die for this.”
(Reporting by Nadine Awadalla, Nafisa Eltahir and Nayera Abdallah; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Grant McCool and Howard Goller)

10/27/2021 World Bank Halts Sudan Operations In Blow To Coup Leaders, Strike Calls Gain Support by Khalid Abdelaziz
Sudanese demonstrators march and chant during a protest against the military takeover,
in Atbara, Sudan October 27, 2021 in this social media image. Ebaid Ahmed via REUTERS
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) -The World Bank halted disbursements for operations in Sudan on Wednesday in response to the military’s seizure of power from a transitional government, while state oil company workers, doctors and pilots joined civilian groups opposing the takeover.
    Thousands of people have taken to the streets since Monday’s coup led by armed forces chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and several have been killed in clashes with security forces.
    Burhan has dismissed the joint civilian-military council set up to steer the country to democratic elections following the overthrow of autocrat Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising in April 2019.
    He said he acted to stop the country slipping into civil war, but the World Bank decision to pause payments and stop processing new operations is a setback to his plans for one of Africa’s poorest countries.
    After isolation from the international financing system across three decades of Bashir’s rule, Sudan achieved full re-engagement with the bank in March and gained access to $2 billion in financing.
    “I am greatly concerned by recent events in Sudan, and I fear the dramatic impact this can have on the country’s social and economic recovery and development,” World Bank President David Malpass said in a statement from Washington.
    Abdalla Hamdok, prime minister in the deposed transitional government, had touted World Bank re-engagement as a major accomplishment and was depending on the funding for several large development projects.
    The government had instituted harsh economic reforms that succeeded in achieving rapid arrears clearance and debt relief and renewed financing from the World Bank and IMF.
    An IMF spokeswoman said the fund was monitoring developments but it was “premature” to comment.
MARCH OF MILLIONS
    Scattered protests took place in Khartoum on Wednesday and intensified at night across the capital, although no new bloodshed was reported.
    In one Khartoum neighbourhood, a Reuters journalist saw soldiers and armed people in civilian clothes removing barricades erected by protesters.    A few hundred metres away, youths built barricades again minutes later.
    “We want civilian rule.    We won’t get tired,” one said.
    In Bahri across the river, witnesses told Reuters protesters were met with tear gas and heard gunshots on Wednesday evening as protesters came out across the capital’s three cities.
    In the northeastern city of Atbara, protesters marched and chanted, “Down with the military regime.”
    Neighbourhood committees announced plans for protests leading to what they said would be a “march of millions” on Saturday.
    Workers at state oil company Sudapet said they were joining the civil disobedience campaign to back the stalled democratic transition.
    Pilots from national carrier Sudan Airways have gone on strike, their union said, as have pilots from local carriers Badr and Tarco Airlines.    Central Bank employees have also stopped work in a further setback for the functioning of the economy.
    Doctors belonging to the Unified Doctors’ Office group of unions also said they were striking.    The doctors were one of the driving forces behind the uprising that brought down Bashir.
    Power-sharing between the military and civilians had been increasingly strained over several issues, including whether to send Bashir and others to the International Criminal Court, where they are wanted for alleged atrocities in Darfur.
    Military commanders now leading Sudan also served in Darfur.
    Speaking on Tuesday at his first news conference since announcing the takeover, Burhan said the army had no choice but to sideline politicians who he said were inciting people against the armed forces.
    U.N. Special Representative Volker Perthes met Burhan on Wednesday and told him the United Nations wants to see a return to the transition process and the immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.
    Perthes also met Hamdok at his residence, where he remains under guard, Dujarric said.    Hamdok was detained on Monday.
    The European Union’s Foreign Relations Commissioner Josep Borrell wrote on Twitter that he had spoken with Hamdok and expressed support for a civilian-led transition.
SERIOUS RISK
    Events in Sudan – Africa’s third largest country – mirror those in several other Arab states where the military has tightened its grip following uprisings.
    Willow Berridge, a Sudan expert at Newcastle University, said it would be difficult for Burhan and the army to suppress street mobilisations against the takeover because of the presence of resistance committees in many neighbourhoods.
    “My greatest fear is that he will fall back even further on the only legitimacy he can depend on – violence.    It is a very serious risk,” Berridge said.
    Burhan has close ties to states that worked to roll back Islamist influence and contain the impact of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
    While Western countries have denounced the takeover in Sudan – which has a history of military coups – those Arab countries have mainly called for all parties to show restraint.
    Burhan met with Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Khartoum Ali Bin Hasan Jaafar on Wednesday to discuss efforts to resolve the situation through dialog “among all relevant parties,” Sudan’s armed forces Facebook page said.
    Burhan has also been at the forefront of Sudan’s steps to normalise relations with Israel.
    Sharon Bar-Li, deputy director-general for Africa at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said on Tuesday it was still too early to know if developments in Sudan will have consequences for the normalisation.
    The African Union said it has suspended Sudan’s participation in all activities until the restoration of the civilian-led authority.
    “Right now, because the military now has power, they have halted the path and taken us back to square one, but that doesn’t work for us,” said Sudanese citizen Mohamed Ali.
(Reporting by Alaa Swilam; additional reporting by El Tayeb Siddiq in Khartoum, Ebaid Ahmed in Atbara, Nafisa Eltahir in Cairo, Dawit Endeshaw in Addis Ababa, Tom Perry in Beirut, Michelle Nichols in New York; writing by Nadine Awadalla, Michael Georgy and Nafisa Eltahir; editing by Angus MacSwan and Sonya Hepinstall)

10/27/2021 Israel Moves Ahead With Thousands Of Settler Homes Despite U.S. Opposition by Jeffrey Heller
A view shows the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, October 27, 2021 REUTERS/Ammar Awad
(Refiles to correct byline, no other changes)
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel moved forward on Wednesday with plans to build some 3,000 homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, defying the Biden administration’s strongest criticism to date of such projects.
    A senior Palestinian official said the decision showed that Israel’s new government, led by far-right politician Naftali Bennett, was “no less extreme” than the administration of the veteran leader he replaced, Benjamin Netanyahu.
    An Israeli defence official said a planning forum of Israel’s liaison office with the Palestinians gave preliminary approval for plans to build 1,344 housing units and its final go-ahead for projects to construct 1,800 homes.
    It will be up to Defence Minister Benny Gantz, a centrist in Israel’s politically diverse government, to give the nod for construction permits to be issued, with further friction with Washington looming.
    “This government is trying to balance between its good relations with the Biden administration and the various political constraints,” a senior Israeli official told Reuters.
    The United States on Tuesday said it was “deeply concerned” about Israel’s plans to advance thousands of settlement units.    It called such steps damaging to prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said it strongly opposes settlement expansion.
    Washington desisted from such criticism when President Joe Biden’s Republican predecessor Donald Trump was in office.
    A senior U.S. State department official said Secretary of State Antony Blinken had discussed the issue with Gantz on Tuesday.    Their phone call was first reported by the Axios news website, which cited Israeli officials as saying the chief U.S. diplomat voiced U.S. opposition to the settlement plan.
    The latest projects, as well as tenders published on Sunday https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-advances-plans-new-west-bank-settlement-homes-2021-10-24 for more than 1,300 settler homes, amounted to the first major test case over settlement policy with the Biden administration that took office in January.
    “The behaviour of the Israeli government under Bennett is no less extreme than what it had been under Netanyahu,” Bassam Al-Salhe, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told Reuters.
    “The U.S. administration has words, and no deeds, to change the policy that had been put in place by Trump,” Salhe said.
    There was no immediate comment from Washington on Wednesday.
TIGHTROPE
    Walking a political and diplomatic tightrope, Bennett has been facing calls from settler leaders to step up construction.    Such projects are likely to be welcomed by his ultranationalist constituents, who share his opposition to Palestinian statehood.
    But along with the prospect of straining relations with Washington, Bennett could also alienate left-wing and Arab parties in a coalition governing with a razor-thin parliamentary majority, if they view settlement plans as too ambitious.
    Most countries regard the settlements Israel has built in territory it captured in a 1967 Middle East war as illegal.
    Israel disputes this and has settled some 440,000 Israelis in the West Bank, citing biblical, historical and political ties to the area, where 3 million Palestinians live.
    Palestinians seek to create a state in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital.    Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.
(Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Humeyra Pamuk, Simon Lewis and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Howard Goller)

10/27/2021 Exclusive: Under Pressure Over Yemen Blockade, Riyadh Seeks U.S. Help With Defences by Aziz El Yaakoubi, Jonathan Landay and Raya Jalabi
FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a cargo ship unloading wheat at the Red Sea
port of Hodeida, Yemen October 1, 2017. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia is seeking Washington’s help in bolstering its defences as it comes under intense U.S. pressure to end a blockade of Yemeni ports that its Houthi enemies say is an obstacle to ceasefire talks, two sources with knowledge of efforts to end the Yemen war and a U.S. official said.
    A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 after Houthi forces ousted the internationally recognised government from the capital, Sanaa.
    Efforts to end a war that has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine have stalled, with the Houthis saying the coalition must stop blocking ports and Sanaa airport before ceasefire talks can start.
    The United States, Saudi Arabia’s main security ally, has been pressing the coalition to fully open access to the Houthi-held ports and the airport, and also pushed the Houthis to end offensives and engage in diplomacy.
    A breakthrough would be a success for U.S. President Joe Biden, who has made ending the war a foreign policy priority, and ease tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran — the conflict is widely seen a proxy war between the two regional powers.
    But Riyadh first wants U.S. weapons to help the kingdom strengthen its defence systems following Houthi attacks on its territory with military drones and ballistic missiles, the sources familiar with discussions told Reuters.
    “Publicly and privately, we’ve been putting a lot of attention on the port and the airport issue…    It’s the right thing for Saudi Arabia to do,” a senior U.S. government official said on condition of anonymity.
    The official said the defence of Saudi Arabia is a vital U.S. commitment and “something that the Saudis are specifically looking for.”
    “I think what that boils down to is that there is a conversation between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia about how best to deliver on the president’s commitment to defend the kingdom, but not to provide offensive weapons for the Yemen conflict,” the official said.
MISSILE BARRAGE
    Washington and Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, are traditional allies, but ties have been strained since Biden became president.
    Washington has intensified scrutiny of Riyadh’s human rights record, withdrawn support for coalition offensive operations in Yemen and released a U.S. intelligence report implicating Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.    Prince Mohammed denies the charges.
    Saudi authorities did not respond to requests for comment for this story.    Saudi officials have said the kingdom can protect itself, despite attacks on its oil heartland in 2019 which Riyadh blamed on Iran, a charge Tehran denied.
    The United States sent military reinforcements to Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan Air Base after that attack but began withdrawing them last year as part of a wider Middle East drawdown.
    Worried about its security, Riyadh wants any lifting of the blockades in Yemen to be simultaneous with a ceasefire starting.    The Houthis, who say they are fighting a corrupt system in Yemen, say the blockades must be lifted first.
    The coalition sea blockades are enforced by warships that filter commercial ships already cleared by a U.N. mechanism to head to Houthi-held ports, including Hodeidah on the Red Sea, and Saudi Arabia controls Yemen’s airspace.
    The blockades impede humanitarian relief efforts but the Saudi-led alliance says they are needed to prevent Houthi arms smuggling and accuses the group of using port revenues to finance its war effort, charges the Houthis deny.
‘VERY DIFFICULT’ TALKS
    Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam told Reuters the group is ready to work with the Djibouti-based U.N. inspection mechanism UNVIM if the blockade is lifted.
    Several U.S. officials including top security advisers Jake Sullivan and Brett McGurk, and special Yemen envoy Timothy Lenderking, have been beating a path to Riyadh.
    A meeting this month between Sullivan and Prince Mohammed was described by one of the sources and an additional source in Riyadh as being “very difficult.”
    The two sources with knowledge of the talks said U.N. officials had presented a new proposal, backed by Washington, that would — if agreed by the warring sides — resolve the question of Yemeni port revenues.
    Under the proposal, management of the ports would be handed to the United Nations which would ensure revenues are used to pay public-sector wages in Yemen, they said.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi in Dubai, Raya Jalabi in Riyadh, Jonathan Landay and Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Ghaida Ghantous and Timothy Heritage)

10/27/2021 Sudan’s Army Chief Burhan Meets With Saudi Ambassador In Khartoum
Sudanese demonstrators march and chant during a protest against the military takeover,
in Atbara, Sudan October 27, 2021 in this social media image. Ebaid Ahmed via REUTERS
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Sudan’s armed forces chief General Abdel Fatah al-Burhan met with Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Khartoum Ali Bin Hasan Jaafar on Wednesday to discuss the crisis in Sudan and efforts to resolve the situation through dialog “among all relevant parties,” the country’s armed forces Facebook page said.
(Reporting by Lilian Wagdy; Editing by Chris Reese)

10/27/2021 Former Lebanon PM Diab Sues State Over Beirut Blast Probe
FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the site of the 2020 Beirut port explosion,
Lebanon September 29, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) -Former Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who resigned in the wake of the Beirut port explosion, filed a suit against the state on Wednesday over his prosecution by investigating judge Tarek Bitar for his role in the disaster, local Al Jadeed TV reported.
    The suit, filed one day before a scheduled interrogation by the judge, means that Bitar must pause his prosecution of Diab once he is officially notified of the case, lawyer Nizar Saghieh of watchdog group Legal Agenda told Reuters.
    Diab, who has been charged with negligence over the Aug. 4. 2020 port blast that killed more than 215 people, has missed at least two interrogation sessions scheduled by Bitar. Nearly all the senior officials he has sought to question have also spurned him.
    A lawyer representing Diab did not respond to a request for comment.
    Bitar has in the past issued arrest warrants for ministers who failed to show up for interrogation, and Diab’s lawsuit was likely an 11th-hour attempt to prevent a similar scenario after his interrogation scheduled for Thursday, Saghieh said.
    Diab has argued that the judge does not have the authority to prosecute him, as have a number of former ministers charged by Bitar who have filed a slew of lawsuits and motions seeking to have the judge removed.
    Diab, a Sunni Muslim, on Tuesday met with Lebanon’s top Sunni authority, Mufti Abdel-Latif Derian, who later issued a statement saying that Diab could only be prosecuted at a special court formed by a parliamentary vote.
    That court has never held any official accountable and attempts to refer officials to it are widely viewed by the families of victims as a ploy to limit the probe.
(Reporting by Timour Azhari; Editing by Jon Boyle)

10/27/2021 IS Militants Kills 11 In Attack On Iraqi Village – Statement
Military vehicles of Iraqi security forces are seen after an attack by
Islamic State militants, near Muqdadiya, Iraq, October 27, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer
    BAQUBA, Iraq (Reuters) - Islamic State militants killed 11 people including a woman on Tuesday in an attack on a village in Diyala province, east of Iraq, the country’s Joint Operations Command said in a statement.
    The attack that targeted “defenseless civilians” in the village of Al-Hawasha, near the town of Muqdadiya, injured others, it added.
    Security and medical sources told Reuters earlier on Tuesday that unknown gunmen killed 11 people and wounded 15 others in the attack.
    Police said the gunmen used several vehicles and semi automatic guns in their attack.
(Reporting by Adam Hadi in Baquba; additional reporting by Mahmoud Mourad in Cairo; writing by Ahmad Elhamy and Mahmoud Mourad; editing by Richard Pullin)

10/28/2021 Biden Lashes Sudan’s Junta, Deaths Climb In Anti-Coup Protests by Khalid Abdelaziz and Doina Chiacu
FILE PHOTO: Sudanese demonstrators march and chant during a protest against the military
takeover, in Atbara, Sudan October 27, 2021 in this social media image. Ebaid Ahmed via REUTERS
Corrects to 11 instead of nine, paragraph 1)
    KHARTOUM/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and United Nations dialled up the pressure on Sudan’s new military junta on Thursday as confrontations between soldiers and anti-coup protesters took the death toll to at least 11.
    After the 15-member U.N. Security Council called for the restoration of Sudan’s civilian-led government – toppled on Monday – U.S. President Joe Biden said his nation like others stood with the demonstrators.
    “Together, our message to Sudan’s military authorities is overwhelming and clear: the Sudanese people must be allowed to protest peacefully and the civilian-led transitional government must be restored,” he said in a statement.
    “The events of recent days are a grave setback, but the United States will continue to stand with the people of Sudan and their non-violent struggle,” said Biden, whose government has frozen aid.
    With thousands taking to the streets to oppose the takeover led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/general-who-led-sudanese-coup-2021-10-26, witnesses said live and rubber bullets were used on protesters in Bahri, across the river from the capital Khartoum as nightly protests picked up.
    A doctors committee, which tracks the violence, said a “martyr” died in those clashes while two others were wounded and in critical condition. Earlier, a 22-year-old man died of gunshot wounds, a medical source said.
    That took the total of fatalities in four days to at least 11, medical sources said.
DEFIANCE
    The U.N. Security Council, along with other foreign powers, called for restraint, dialogue and freedom of detainees.
    The latest of several recent coups in Africa ended a shaky transitional set-up in Sudan intended to lead to elections in 2023.    Power was shared between civilians and the military following the fall of Omar al-Bashir, whom the army deposed after a popular uprising two years ago.
    Officials at some ministries and agencies of government have defied the new junta, refusing to step down or hand over duties.
    They have declared a general strike, along with unions in sectors from healthcare to aviation, although officials say they will continue to supply flour, gas and emergency medical care.
    Khartoum’s main market, banks and filling stations were still closed on Thursday.    Hospitals gave only emergency services.    Smaller shops were open, with long queues for bread.
    U.N. special representative to Sudan Volker Perthes has offered to facilitate dialogue between Burhan and ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
    The former premier, initially held at Burhan’s residence, was allowed to return home under guard on Tuesday.    A source close to him said he remains committed to a civilian democratic transition and the goals of the revolt that toppled Bashir.
    A group of ministers from the toppled government attempted to visit Hamdok on Thursday but were turned away, said irrigation minister Yasir Abbas.
    With authorities restricting internet and phone signals, protesters have been handing out fliers calling for a “march of millions” on Saturday under the same slogan – “Leave!” – from the protests that brought down Bashir.
POVERTY
    Sudan is in the midst of a deep economic crisis with record inflation and shortages of basics.
    Improvement relies on aid that Western donors say will end unless the coup is reversed.
    More than half the population is in poverty and child malnutrition stands at 38%, according to the United Nations.
    Burhan’s move reasserted the army’s dominant role in Sudan since independence in 1956, after weeks of friction between the military and civilians over issues including whether to hand Bashir and others to The Hague to face charges of war crimes.
    Burhan has said he acted to prevent civil war and has promised elections in July 2023.
    Western envoys had warned Burhan that assistance, including a now frozen $700 million in U.S. aid and $2 billion from the World Bank, would cease if he took power.    Sources said he ignored those warnings under pressure from inside the military and with a “green light” from Russia.
    State broadcaster Sudan TV said on Thursday that the civilian-appointed heads of the state news agency SUNA and the state TV and radio corporation had been replaced.    The offices of Al-Democrati, a paper that had been critical of the military of late, had been raided, the paper’s deputy chairperson said.
    Biden said he admired the courage of Sudanese.
    “We believe strongly in Sudan’s economic potential and the promise of its future — if the military and those who oppose change do not hold it back,” he said.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum, Doina Chiacu in Washington, Michelle Nichols in New York and Nafisa Eltahir in CairoWriting by Tom Perry and Andrew CawthorneEditing by Nick Macfie and Grant McCool)

10/28/2021 Sudanese General Ignored U.S. Warning As Army Rolled Out Coup Plan by Khalid Abdelaziz, Nafisa Eltahir and Aidan Lewis
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's Sovereign Council Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan addresses delegates after
signing a declaration of principles between Sudanese Transitional government and the Sudan People's
Liberation Movement - North, in Juba, South Sudan March 28, 2021. REUTERS/Jok Solomun/File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Hours before Sudan’s army seized power and dissolved its government, a senior U.S. envoy warned the country’s top general not to take any steps against the civilian administration that was overseeing a democratic transition, diplomats said.
    Jeffrey Feltman, President Joe Biden’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, flew into Khartoum two days before Monday’s coup, as concerns mounted that the transition was running into trouble due to mounting tension between the generals and civilians.
    But instead of heeding the warning, the army did just the opposite, acting on a plan to seize power that two diplomats and three Sudanese official sources said had been developed over the preceding weeks.
    The coup brought an abrupt halt to a political transition that began after a popular uprising led to the overthrow of former President Omar al-Bashir in 2019, and was meant to end with elections in late 2023.
    After Feltman flew out, uniformed soldiers rounded up the civilian cabinet in pre-dawn raids, before Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan announced the dissolution of the government.br>     Until the last moment, the military was hoping to persuade Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to dismiss his cabinet so they could tighten their grip on the transition without using force while keeping him in office, according to the diplomats and two of Hamdok’s aides.    Hamdok refused to cooperate.
    The decision to ignore warnings from the United States — which had thrown diplomatic and financial weight behind the transition — and move forward with what one of the diplomats and Sudanese sources with knowledge of the matter described as a “plan B” without Hamdok, reflected the stakes for the army, which analysts say saw growing risks from continued civilian rule.
    In his last meeting with Burhan, Feltman “put Burhan under big pressure not to do anything against the cabinet, to de-escalate/i>,” said one diplomat briefed on the meeting, declining to be identified.
    But Burhan was also under pressure from factions in the army and his deputy in the Sovereign Council that had been steering the transition, the powerful head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), to take a hard line with the civilians, the diplomat said.
    “During the meeting they decided to go with Plan B.    This was the last chance to get Hamdok to take part,” he said.
    Sudan’s military did not respond to calls seeking comment.
    The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters about Feltman’s meetings in Khartoum.
    Feltman received no heads-up about the military intervention, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Monday.
    “It is not something that we were apprised of beforehand by anyone, and we would have made very clear of the profound implications that any such move would have,” he said.
    Feltman had urged authorities to agree a date for transferring leadership of the Sovereign Council from Burhan to a civilian and to initiate security sector reform, the State Department said before the coup.
DERAILING DEMOCRACY
    The military has been at the heart of power in Sudan since independence in 1956, staging repeated coups that snuffed out occasional experiments with civilian control.
    Bashir, a general, seized power in one such coup in 1989, and ruled for three decades during which Sudan became an international pariah.    He hosted Osama bin Laden in the 1990s and fought wars against restive regions, for which he was indicted in the Hague on genocide charges he denies.
    After decades of conflict, he allowed the country’s mainly non-Arab south to gain independence in 2011.    But peace did not bring prosperity. Oil revenue dwindled, economic output per capita cratered, and by 2019, hundreds of thousands of mainly young demonstrators had taken to the streets to demand his removal.    It was the army that finally deposed him.
    Under the power sharing deal that followed, the military was due to hand over leadership of the transition to civilian groups in the coming months.    But the partnership became increasingly strained by demands for the military to be brought under civilian control, for justice over protester deaths during the uprising, and by the government’s agreement to hand Bashir and others to the International Criminal Court.
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