From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved
"KING OF THE SOUTH 2021 NOVEMBER-DECEMBER"

    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.

KING OF THE SOUTH 2021 NOVEMBER-DECEMBER


    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 NOVEMBER-DECEMBER


11/1/2021 Analysis-Lebanon Is Dragged Back Into Eye Of Iranian-Saudi Storm by Tom Perry and Ghaida Ghantous
FILE PHOTO: A man walks near a newspaper with a headline that reads "Saudi Arabia announces
a boycott with Lebanon" in Beirut, Lebanon, October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Taher/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Already mired in economic collapse, Lebanon is facing a blast of Gulf Arab anger after a prominent broadcaster-turned-minister levelled blunt criticism at Saudi Arabia, in a row that has further strained Beirut’s ties with once generous benefactors.
    Many ordinary Lebanese fear it is they who will pay the price for the diplomatic deep freeze provoked by the latest spat, which has roots in a long-running rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran that underpins conflicts across the Middle East.
    Saudi Arabia and its fellow Gulf Arab monarchies once spent billions of dollars in aid in Lebanon, and still provide jobs and a haven for much of Lebanon’s huge diaspora.    But the friendship has been strained for years by the growing influence of Lebanon’s powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.
    Gulf Arab ties with Lebanon hit a new nadir last week when George Kordahi, a former gameshow host recently appointed information minister, appeared in an interview speaking in support of Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis and criticising the Saudi-led forces they are fighting.
    For Riyadh, whose sway in Lebanon has waned as Tehran’s has grown, Kordahi’s comments were just a symptom of Hezbollah’s continued dominance of the political scene, though they were recorded before he took office.
    Coming as the Houthis advance in Yemen, the fallout of his comments underlines the depth of Iranian-Saudi rivalries.    Gulf concerns about Tehran have been stoked by a lack of progress in U.S.-led efforts to revive a deal curbing Iran’s nuclear work.
    Saudi Arabia and other U.S.-allied Gulf states have long struggled to counter the influence Tehran has carved out across the region by arming, training and financing Shi’ite Muslim groups modelled after Hezbollah, which it founded in 1982.
    Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister told Reuters at the weekend the issue went beyond the comments by Kordahi, who was named to Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government by Suleiman Frangieh, a Maronite Christian and a close ally of Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah.
    “It’s important that the government in Lebanon … forges a path forward that frees Lebanon from the current political construct, which reinforces the dominance of Hezbollah,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said.
    Saudi Arabia and Gulf allies have expelled Lebanese ambassadors and recalled their envoys from Beirut.    Riyadh has also halted imports from Lebanon, which were already suffering because of an earlier Saudi ban on     Lebanese fruits and vegetables by Riyadh due to drugs being smuggled in shipments.
    “From Riyadh’s vantage point, this recent crisis is seen as an opportunity to pressure the Lebanese system to take a stand against Iran and Hezbollah,” said Sanam Vakil, deputy director of Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Program.
GULF DISCONTENT
    Viewed from Tehran, Riyadh’s move shows the Saudis are losing to Iran on the diplomatic front and in need of some leverage, a senior Iranian hardline official close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office said.
    But while Riyadh may be able to isolate Lebanon, it would not be able to isolate Hezbollah, the official said.
    For Lebanon’s decimated economy, the big concern would be any measures affecting the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese who work in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the dollars they send home to a nation drowning in poverty.
    The fear is gripping Lebanese expats in the Gulf, despite official assurances they will not be sent home.
    UAE political analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdulla said Saudi Arabia was being careful not to punish the Lebanese, as were other Gulf states.    But other steps “to convey the deep Gulf discontent with Hezbollah” might happen, including ending flights, he said.
    It isn’t the first time in recent years that hostility to Hezbollah has led Riyadh to act against Lebanon.
    In 2017, then Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri unexpectedly resigned while on a visit to Riyadh, plunging Lebanon into crisis. Sources including the French president have said Saudi Arabia held him captive at the time. Riyadh denies this.
ELECTIONS
    Another crisis was the last thing Mikati needed as he struggles to address the financial meltdown which has plunged more than three quarters of Lebanese into poverty.
    Mikati, a billionaire tycoon, has said Kordahi’s remarks were made before he became a minister and had nothing to do with the government. Kordahi has said he will not quit.
    Mikati’s cabinet was already in trouble because of a standoff over a probe into last year’s Beirut port explosion.    The cabinet has not convened since Oct. 12.
    Western states want to see progress towards an IMF deal and elections held on time on March 27.
    Hezbollah’s opponents see the election as a chance to overturn the majority won in 2018 by the group and by parties that support its possession of arms.
    Christian seats are seen as an area where Hezbollah allies could lose.    One party looking to gain is the anti-Hezbollah, Christian Lebanese Forces, widely seen as Riyadh’s last major Lebanese ally.
    Lebanon is “being cut off from the Arab world by the behaviour of Hezbollah and its allies in government,” said the LF’s Ghassan Hasbani, a former deputy prime minister.
(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi, Ghaida Ghantous and Raya Jalabi, Aziz El Yaakoubi in the Gulf; Maha El Dahan, Laila Bassam and Tom Perry in Beirut; Additional reporting by Timour Azhari, Writing by Tom Perry, Editing by William Maclean)

11/1/2021 Analysis-Sudan’s Military Leaders Could Face Isolation After Coup by Aidan Lewis
FILE PHOTO: General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan attends a news conference during the International Conference in support
of Sudan at the Temporary Grand Palais in Paris, France, May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/Pool//File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Sudan’s military leadership could face isolation at home and abroad if it tries to tighten its grip after seizing power in the face of opposition from a sophisticated protest movement and from Western states that had invested in a democratic transition, analysts and diplomats say.
    Lacking a political base inside Sudan and with uncertain prospects of support from Gulf states and Egypt, the military has begun to draw on loyalists from the regime of former leader Omar al-Bashir, toppled in 2019 after a popular uprising.
    The coup on Oct. 25 drew swift condemnation from Western countries including the United States, which had been working closely with the dissolved transitional government to stabilise Sudan after decades of isolation under Bashir.
    The general who led the takeover, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, promised to name a government but has yet to do so as mediation efforts involving Sudanese political figures and the United Nations continue against a backdrop of strikes and protests.
    Mediation has focused on finding a way for ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to form a new cabinet of technocrats.    Hamdok, an economist, is respected by pro-democracy protesters and was permitted to return home under guard a day after the coup.
    But Hamdok resisted pressure to dissolve his government before the coup, and since the takeover has indicated he will not negotiate on a future government unless the army commits to fully restoring the military-civilian power sharing system put in place after Bashir fell.
    “Burhan doesn’t have a clean path to form a government in the way that he wanted,” said one diplomatic source.
    Meanwhile, the military has been appointing figures associated with the Bashir era to positions in the state media and foreign ministry, and moving to take control of key institutions including the judiciary, said activists, analysts and diplomats.
‘ALTERNATIVE FACTS’
    If the military rejects compromise, it could run the country on cash flows from gold sales and try create “alternative facts” through its control of state media and through social media campaigns, said Suliman Baldo of     The Sentry, an investigative and policy group based in Washington DC.
    But it will have to contend with a savvy and resilient pro-democracy street movement that has mobilized repeatedly since start of the uprising against Bashir nearly three years ago.
    The protest movement has the stamina to wear down the military through scheduled rounds of disobedience and more mass marches, said Mohamed Alasbat, a spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the main activist coalition.
    Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets on Oct. 21, four days before the coup, to protest against the prospect of a military takeover, and similar numbers returned on Saturday.
    A campaign of civil disobedience by a wide range of civilian groups as well as protests and security measures to counter them have brought Khartoum to a near standstill over the past week.
    Neighbourhood committees organised Saturday’s demonstrations in greater Khartoum despite an almost total blackout on mobile phone and internet coverage and the closure of strategic sites, bridges and roads by security forces.    Activists handed out printed fliers and went door to door to drum up support.
    The protest movement “will end up by eroding whatever system he (Burhan) is trying to put in place.     This is the real risk for him and that’s why I think he will try to target it very aggressively,” said Baldo.
    Foreign states may balk at the unrest this could trigger, and Washington will want to prevent any cross-border spillover, including to conflict-torn Ethiopia, he added.    The military takeover has created uncertainty around a partial peace deal that transitional authorities had signed with Sudanese rebel groups last year, with two major armed groups in Darfur and the south rejecting the coup.
AID WITHHELD
    The United States has tried to exert pressure by saying it will withhold $700 million in economic assistance and that Sudan will be unable to secure tens of billions of dollars in debt relief as long as the military pursues unilateral control.    The World Bank, a key source of development financing whose president visited Khartoum one month ago, has also suspended disbursements.
    Internal splits within Sudan’s sprawling military apparatus, which developed its commercial interests under Bashir and includes the powerful, paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, are another risk for the army leadership.
    In an indication of possible confusion over its strategy, the former head of Bashir’s ruling party was freed from jail on Sunday only to be rearrested on Monday.
    Burhan and his backers “don’t have the capacity or the cohesion among themselves to be able to mount the sort of intensive crackdown that could make it work,” said Alex de Waal, a Sudan expert and head of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University.
    Regional powers such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were no friends of Bashir’s Islamist government.    They would appear to have little to gain by backing military rule in Sudan, de Waal said.
    Saudi Arabia and the UAE “don’t have deep enough pockets to bail Sudan out of the hole that it’s in, so the real leverage lies with the U.S. and the World bank and others. And the U.S. and Western governments having taken a strong stand, Burhan doesn’t have much to play with.”
(Additional reporting by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Peter Graff)

11/1/2021 Erdogan Skips Glasgow Climate Summit In Security Dispute
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting
at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, October 27, 2021. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS
    ANKARA (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan cancelled plans to attend the global climate conference in Glasgow on Monday because Britain failed to meet Turkey’s demands on security arrangements, Turkish media quoted him as saying.
    Heads of state and government from around the world are attending the COP26 summit Good omens hard to find as global climate conference begins, regarded as critical to averting the most disastrous effects of climate change.
    Erdogan had been expected to join them in Scotland after attending the G20 summit in Rome at the weekend, but instead landed back in Turkey shortly after midnight on Monday.
    Turkish media quoted him as telling reporters on his plane home that Ankara had made demands regarding security protocol standards for the summit in Britain which were not satisfied.
    “When our demands were not met we decided not to go to Glasgow,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.    He said that the protocol standards Ankara sought were those always implemented on his international trips.
    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially said the problem had been resolved, Erdogan said.
    “But at the last moment he got back to us and said that the Scottish side was causing difficulties,” Turkish media quoted him as saying.
    Erdogan said he subsequently learnt that the measures Turkey had sought were granted as an exception to another country, which he did not name.    He said this was unacceptable.    “We are obliged to protect the dignity of our nation,” he said.
    A spokesman for Johnson said he would not get into the security arrangements for individuals.
    When asked what it meant for the prime minister’s hopes to get agreement on coal, the spokesman added: “We would’ve been pleased to see Erdogan attend in person. The prime minister will continue to seek to convince the Turkish government to do more and will do that at official level as well.”
VEHICLES, DEMANDS
    A spokesperson for the British government’s COP26 office declined to comment on security matters. Scotland police said they do not comment on VIP security.
    A senior Turkish official earlier told Reuters that British authorities had not met Turkey’s requests over security.
    “The president took such a decision because our demands regarding the number of vehicles for security and some other security-related demands were not fully met,” the official said.
    Erdogan had previously said he would meet U.S. President Joe Biden https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/biden-meets-erdogan-amid-tension-over-defence-human-rights-2021-10-31 in Glasgow, but they met in Rome on Sunday.
    Last month, Turkey’s parliament ratified https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/turkey-ratifies-paris-climate-agreement-last-g20-country-do-so-2021-10-06 the 2015 Paris climate agreement, becoming the last G20 country to do so.
    Ankara had held off ratification for years, saying Turkey should not be classed as a developed country with reduced access to funding to support emissions cuts under the accord.    It also said Turkey is historically responsible for a very small share of carbon emissions.
    Erdogan said last week Turkey had signed a memorandum of understanding https://www.reuters.com/article/climate-change-turkey-idAFL8N2RN3Z1 under which it will get loans worth $3.2 billion to help it meet clean energy goals set out in the Paris accord.
    Other absentees from the Glasgow meeting include Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose country is by far the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia, one of the world’s top three oil producers.
(Reporting by Orhan Coskun in Ankara with additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper in Glasgow Writing by Daren ButlerEditing by Dominic Evans, Barbara Lewis, Mark Heinrich and Andrew Heavens)

11/1/2021 Several Workers Trapped Under Collapsed Highrise In Nigeria - Witnesses by Nneka Chile
People gather at the site of a collapsed 21-story building in Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria, November 1, 2021. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja
    LAGOS (Reuters) – A luxury residential highrise under construction in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos collapsed on Monday, trapping several workers under a pile of concrete rubble, witnesses said.
    Two workers at the site in the affluent neighbourhood of Ikoyi, where many blocks of flats are under construction, told Reuters that possibly 100 people were at work when the building came crashing down.
    Building collapses are frequent in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, where regulations are poorly enforced and construction materials often substandard.
    There were heaps of rubble and twisted metal where the 20-story building once stood, as several workers looked on. One man wailed, saying his relative was among those trapped.
    It was not immediately clear what caused the collapse.
    The building was part of three towers being built by private developer Fourscore Homes.    In a brochure for potential clients, the company promises to offer “a stress-free lifestyle, complete with a hotel flair.”    The cheapest unit was selling for $1.2 million.
    Calls to the numbers listed for Fourscore Homes and the main building contractor did not ring through.
    The Lagos State Emergency Management Agency said it had activated its emergency response plan.    All first responders are at the scene while heavy duty equipment and life detection equipment have been dispatched,” the agency said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by Tife Owolabi in Yenagoa, writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe, editing by Nick Macfie and Mark Heinrich)

11/1/2021 Ethiopia Government Says Tigray Forces Killed 100 Youths In Key Town
FILE PHOTO: A tank damaged during the fighting between Ethiopia?s National Defense Force (ENDF) and Tigray Special Force
stands on the outskirts of Humera town in Ethiopia July 1, 2021 Picture taken July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer
(Refiles to fix link for corrected Related Content)
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – The Ethiopian government accused rebellious Tigrayan forces on Monday of killing 100 youths in the town of Kombolcha, as the United States expressed concern about Tigrayan advances a year into the fighting.
    The Tigrayan forces led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) denied the allegation.
    Spokesperson Getachew Reda told Reuters by satellite phone from an undisclosed location: “We don’t have to kill the youth.    There was no resistance in Kombolcha.”
    Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not respond when asked by phone and message for a comment on Getachew’s statement, but he had earlier in the day referred Reuters to the government statement on the alleged killing in Kombolcha.
    The Tigrayan forces have been fighting the government for the past year in a widening war that has destabilised Africa’s second most populous nation.
    Reuters was not able verify accounts of the fighting around the town on a major highway about 380 km (235 miles) from the capital, Addis Ababa.    Communications to the area are down and journalists are barred.
    On Sunday, Getachew, the TPLF spokesperson, said its fighters had pushed south to take Kombolcha and its airport.    If confirmed, it would be the closest the TPLF has got to the capital since pushing into Tigray’s neighbouring region of Amhara in July.
    Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed later that day called on all citizens to mobilise – threatening to exacerbate a conflict that has threatened to tear apart a country once seen as a stable Western ally in a volatile region. [nL1N2RR0FU]
    The Government Communication Service said on Twitter, “The terrorist group TPLF has summarily executed more than 100 youth residents of Kombolcha in areas it has infiltrated.”
    The statement gave no further details and Legesse, the government spokesperson, did not answer phone calls seeking comment about whether those killed were combatants or civilians.
HUMANITARIAN CRISIS
    While he has in general decried ethnic cleansing and other abuses in the war, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier on Monday criticised Tigrayan forces, saying he was alarmed by reports that they had taken Kombolcha and Dessie, a nearby town that the Tigrayan forces said they had seized on Saturday.
    “Continued fighting prolongs the dire humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia.    All parties must stop military operations and begin ceasefire negotiations without preconditions,” Blinken said.
    Tens of thousands of ethnic Amharas have sought refuge from an escalation in fighting in Dessie.    The government denied Dessie, which is north of Kombolcha, was under Tigrayan control.
    The capture of Kombolcha would be a strategic gain for the fighters against Ethiopia’s military and their allies, who are trying to dislodge the Tigrayans from the Amhara region.
    War broke out a year ago between federal troops and the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly 30 years before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was appointed in 2018.
    The conflict has killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 2.5 million people to flee their homes.
(Reporting by Nairobi Newsroom; Additional reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom; Editing by Kim Coghill, Andrew Heavens and Giles Elgood)

11/1/2021 Saudi Weapons Trainer Breaks Mould In Male-Dominated Field
Saudi female firearm trainer, Mona Al Khurais, takes aim with her long-range rifle during her target
practice at the Top-Gun shooting range in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri
    RIYADH (Reuters) – Mona Al-Khurais has loved guns ever since as a young girl her father took her on hunting trips in Saudi Arabia and taught her how to shoot.
    Five years ago, she turned that passion into her profession, receiving coaching in Saudi and abroad to become a licensed firearms trainer.
    The 36-year-old now teaches shooting at Top Gun firing range in Riyadh, with more and more women joining her classes.
    “I am so happy to practise my passion and my hobby as a coach and a range safety officer,” Khurais said.
    “Hopefully, I can share my experience with Saudi girls, to encourage them to enter this difficult field that was previously reserved for men.”
    Khurais was one of the exhibitors at the Saudi Falconry and Hunting show, an annual exhibition in Riyadh showcasing manufacturers specialising in hunting weapons.
    Exhibitors displayed pistols, sniper rifles, hunting rifles and semi-automatic weapons as well as hunting paraphernalia.    Visitors with gun licences can buy the weapons on show.
    Attitudes towards women have been changing in the conservative kingdom, with women making steady gains in the work force by taking up jobs in a range of professions.
    Khurais, however, initially faced problems working in a male-dominated environment.
    “The difficulties that I faced were the criticisms from women, which was surprising to me as I was expecting it from men,” she said.
    As more girls and women learn to handle guns, Khurais hopes their attitudes will change and that she can inspire them.
    “My goal is one day to participate in the Olympics,” she said.
(Reporting by Mohammed Benmansour; writing by Dubai newsroom, editing by Ed Osmond)

11/1/2021 First Few Tourists Visit Libya But Security Threats Remain
FILE PHOTO: An empty passageway is pictured outside a mud-brick house, within the enclosed Libyan desert oasis
town of Ghadames, a designated UNESCO World Heritage site, April 20, 2013. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny/File Photo
    TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Italian student Edoardo Arione felt “a little afraid” when he joined a rare tourist group trip to Libya this month but he said he soon enjoyed the visit to desert cities and Roman ruins in a country unsettled by years of chaos.
    Libya has had little peace and few tourists since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi that unleashed a decade of violent unrest as armed groups seized control of territory and battles raged in its cities.
    “My impression is the country is amazing.    The landscape is just beautiful and so different from place to another,” said Farina Del Francia, 64, another of the tourists.
    Libya has a rich heritage, including desert architecture in the south some of the Mediterranean region’s finest ancient remains along its coastline.
    The tour group visited the southern city of Ghadames and the Acacus mountains, site of ancient rock art.    Half the group also visited the Roman city of Sebratha.    A trip to Leptis Magna, the best-known of Libya’s Roman sites, may feature on a future visit, the organisers said.
    Despite a U.N.-backed peace plan, and a ceasefire since last year between the main eastern and western factions, however, any more widescale return of tourism seems unlikely.
    Before Libya fell apart in 2011, difficult visa regimens meant only up to 25,000 tourists visited a year. Since the revolution, hardly any have risked a trip.
    Fighting between the myriad armed forces sporadically erupts in various cities and the wider prospects of a political agreement to underpin stability remain highly fragile.
    An election planned for December is still the subject of wrangling, and any major delay to the vote or dispute over its validity could plunge Libya back into full-blown civil war.
    For Arione and the other tourists in his group, however, the visit was a success.
    “Tourists can come to Libya and stay comfortable and not be afraid,” said Arione, 25, who was one of 70 mostly French and Italian visitors on the arranged trip.
    Libya is home to five UNESCO World Heritage sites, but in 2016 it said they were endangered due to instability and conflict.
    Tourism and Handicrafts Minister, Abdulsalam Al-Lahi thinks the decision was wrong, saying “archaeological sites or tourists are not in this degree of threat.”
    The travel agency that brought the tourists, Murcia, said it had been working to arrange the trip since 2018.    In a sign of how difficult such visits remain in Libya, it had to postpone it because of war in 2019.
(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami, editing by Angus McDowall and Angus MacSwan)

11/1/2021 Hope For Path Out Of Sudan’s Crisis In Days, U.N. Envoy Says by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's new Prime Minister in the transitional government Abdalla Hamdok, speaks during
a Reuters interview in Khartoum, Sudan August 24, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – National and international mediation efforts working to solve Sudan’s political crisis are expected to bear fruit in coming days, the U.N. special envoy said on Monday.
    General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan toppled Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s cabinet a week ago and arrested key politicians.    Hamdok remains under house arrest in his residence, Volker Perthes told reporters in New York via video from Sudan.
    “There are multiple mediation efforts under way in Khartoum by a host of actors,” Perthes said.    “We are supporting a couple of these efforts, proposing initiatives and ideas and coordinating with some of these mediators.”
    “It is bigger packages that are being put up for negotiation and they hope that within the next couple of days … the contours of a package would become visible,” he said.    “There’s a general sense that a way out should be found.”
    Perthes said he could not speak about the demands, conditions or positions of Hamdok and Burhan, with the mediators shuttling between the pair.    However, he said negotiations could only be held between “people who are at liberty,” in reference to the detained officials.
    A statement posted by the Ministry of Information representing civilian authorities, said that Hamdok maintained that the solution to the crisis was the release of all detainees and the return of his cabinet to work, and that he would not recognize the decisions of the coup leaders.
    Politicians involved in mediation efforts say the main compromise under discussion is a proposal for Hamdok to be given full executive powers and appoint a cabinet of technocrats.
    The proposal, which the sources say has been presented to all sides, would do away with the 14-member power-sharing Sovereign Council in favour of a three-person honorary council.
    Political parties, rebel groups, and the military – partners in the pre-coup government – would be represented in parliament, and the military would continue to lead a Security and Defense Council, they said.
    The coup took place 2-1/2 years after a popular uprising ousted the authoritarian Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled Sudan, Africa’s third largest country, for three decades.
    Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets on Saturday to demand an end to military rule and the restoration of a civilian-led government.    Security forces shot dead three people, a doctors union said, bringing the death toll since the coup to 15.
    The doctors union and an eyewitness said that security forces fired tear gas and live bullets at citizens in a neighborhood of Omdurman on Monday.    One person was shot in the shoulder and three others were injured, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors in a statement.
    Burhan has said he removed the cabinet to avert civil war after civilian politicians allegedly stoked hostility to the armed forces.    He says he is still committed to a democratic transition, including elections in July 2023.
    Several professionals groups reaffirmed their commitment to general strikes on Monday in protest of the coup, and resistance committees began laying out schedules for new protests and civil disobedience.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Additional reporting by Nafisa Eltahir, Khalid Abdelaziz, and Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Alison Williams and Aurora Ellis)

11/1/2021 Language ‘Speed Dating’ Attracts Jewish And Palestinian Students In Jerusalem by Rinat Harash
A Palestinian woman chats with an Israeli woman during a language exchange program modelled on speed
dating, in Jerusalem, October 27, 2021. Picture taken October 27, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A small group of Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem, a city of political, religious and cultural divisions, is trying to bridge a Hebrew-Arabic language gap through learning modelled on speed dating.
    About 20 students meet weekly at a 19th-century villa, and sitting together, Jew facing Arab, they practise each other’s language, guided by cards spelling out simple scenarios that prompt dialogue.
    When a whistle sounds every 20 minutes, participants rotate with new partners across tables arranged under colourful murals.
    The encounters – quick and cordial, if sometimes awkward – help the Palestinians to improve the Hebrew required for dealing with Israeli authorities, and the Jews to deepen their grasp of Arabic.
    Most Palestinians in Jerusalem live in its eastern sector, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.    Only basic Hebrew is studied in East Jerusalem schools, making it difficult for Palestinians to achieve advanced proficiency.
    “And it’s the same for Israelis – if they do study Arabic, it’s an Arabic you can’t use,” said Maya Giz, a Hebrew teacher, referring to the classical, and not commonly spoken, version of the language.
    Giz, who initiated the project in 2019 with Sahar Mukhemar, a Palestinian sports instructor and a former student of hers, says the language exercises are a “crossing of a mental border” between the two peoples.
    She said Palestinians and Israelis taking part in the programme share “the same embarrassment of talking and … (can) break this barrier of fear together.”
    Jamila Khouri, a Palestinian, said learning Hebrew could help her and others “merge well in the community and find a job opportunity in a good field.”
    Jewish participant Eli Benita said the language learning spoke volumes about coexistence, in a city where tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict sometimes spill over into violence.
    “I see that this is the only way to reach some kind of a peaceful routine of life here in this region we live in,” he said.
(Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Ed Osmond)

11/2/2021 Six Die, Scores Feared Missing In Nigeria After Collapse Of High-Rise by Chijioke Ohuocha
People gather at the site of a collapsed 21-story building in Ikoyi,
Lagos, Nigeria, November 1, 2021. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja
(Adds details, quote)
    ABUJA (Reuters) – At least six people have died in Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos after the collapse of a high-rise building that was under construction, the state emergency services chief said on Tuesday.
    Building collapses are frequent in Africa’s most populous country, where regulations are poorly enforced and construction materials often substandard.
    State official Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu said a search and rescue effort had been launched for survivors of Monday’s incident.
    “Currently all responders are on the ground as search and rescue is ongoing,” Oke-Osanyintolu said, adding that the death toll now stood at six.
    Four people were rescued alive and three more treated for minor injuries at the scene, he said.
    Witnesses say up to 100 people are missing after the luxury residential structure crumbled, trapping workers under a pile of rubble.
    Rescue workers used excavators to sift rubble in the glare of floodlights powered by generators as heaps of shattered concrete and twisted metal engulfed the site where the building once stood, as more workers watched.
    President Muhammadu Buhari has called for rescue efforts to be stepped up as emergency services, including hospitals, swing into action.
    The collapsed building was part of three towers being built by private developer Fourscore Homes, which promised in a client brochure to provide “a stress-free lifestyle, complete with a hotel flair.”    The cheapest unit was selling for $1.2 million.
    Telephone calls to numbers listed for Fourscore Homes and the main building contractor did not ring through.
(Reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

11/2/2021 Ethiopia Declares State Of Emergency As Tigrayan Forces Gain Ground
FILE PHOTO: Police officers walk amongst civilians at the Meskel Square
in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia declared a six-month state of emergency on Tuesday after forces from the northern region of Tigray said they were gaining territory and considering marching on the capital Addis Ababa.
    The announcement came two days after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed urged citizens to take up arms to defend themselves against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
    Earlier on Tuesday, authorities in Addis Ababa told residents to register their arms and prepare to defend their neighbourhoods.
    The state of emergency was imposed with immediate effect after the TPLF claimed to have captured several towns in recent days and said it might march on Addis Ababa, about 380 km (235 miles) to the south of their forward positions.
    “Our country is facing a grave danger to its existence, sovereignty and unity.    And we can’t dispel this danger through the usual law enforcement systems and procedures,” Justice Minister Gedion Timothewos told a state media briefing.
    He said anyone violating the emergency would face three to 10 years in prison, for offences such as providing financial, material or moral support to “terrorist groups.”
    Ethiopia last imposed such a measure in February 2018 for six months ahead of the transition of power to Abiy.    Curfews were enforced and people’s movements restricted, while thousands of people were detained.
    The Addis Ababa city administration said people should register their weapons and gather in their neighbourhoods.    House-to-house searches were being conducted and troublemakers arrested, a statement said.
    “Residents can gather in their locality and safeguard their surroundings.    Those who have weapons but can’t take part in safeguarding their surroundings are advised to hand over their weapons to the government or their close relatives or friends.”
    Before the announcement, people moved around the capital as normal.
    “I will try to buy food commodities in advance.    But so far I haven’t yet purchased anything,” said one woman who asked not to be named.
    The governments of four of Ethiopia’s 10 regions also called upon Ethiopians to mobilize to fight against the Tigrayan forces, state-affiliated Fana TV said.
    The conflict in what was once considered a stable Western ally in a volatile region has plunged around 400,000 people in Tigray into famine, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 2.5 million people in the north to flee their homes.
    It erupted in the night of Nov. 3, 2020 when forces loyal to the TPLF – including some soldiers – seized military bases in Tigray, a northern region.    In response, Abiy sent more troops there.
    The TPLF had dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades but lost much influence when Abiy took office in 2018 following years of anti-government protests.
    Relations with the TPLF soured after they accused him of centralising power at the expense of Ethiopia’s regional states – an accusation Abiy denies.
TOWNS CAPTURED
    TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda said that if Tigrayan forces and their allies succeeded in removing the government, they would establish an interim government.    “If the government falls, we will definitely have an interim arrangement.”
    There would also need to be a national dialogue, he said, but Abiy and his ministers would not be asked to take part.
    “They will have their day in court,” he said.
    The TPLF has claimed the capture of Dessie, Kombolcha and Burka, all in the Amhara region, in recent days.
    A government spokesperson disputed the capture of Dessie and Kombolcha but later released a statement saying TPLF “infiltrators” had killed 100 youths in Kombolcha.
    Spokespeople for the government, military and the Amhara region did not return calls seeking further comment on Tuesday.
    On Monday night, Tigrayan forces said they had linked up https://www.reuters.com/article/ethiopia-conflict-link-idAFL8N2RS5NL with fighters from an Oromo force also fighting the central government.    The Oromo are Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group.    Many of their political leaders are currently in prison.
U.S. ALARM
    The U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa said on Tuesday Washington was alarmed by the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the north, including signs of famine, and urged all sides to find ways to de-escalate and let aid in.
    Jeffrey Feltman said it was mostly government restrictions that were preventing humanitarian help from getting to people.
    Abiy’s government had denied blocking food aid.
    Also on Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration accused Ethiopia of “gross violations of internationally recognised human rights” and said it planned to remove https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-conflict-trade/biden-says-ethiopia-mali-and-guinea-to-lose-duty-free-trade-access-idINKBN2HN1QQ the country from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade agreement which gives it duty-free access to the United States.
    Ethiopia’s trade ministry said it was “extremely disappointed” by the U.S. move and called for a reversal by January.
    “The Ethiopian government takes all human rights allegations seriously: we are looking at them and conducting investigations and we are committed to ensuring accountability,” it said.
    In view of the deteriorating security situation, U.S. citizens currently in Ethiopia should make preparations to leave and those planning to travel there should reconsider, Washington’s embassy to Addis Ababa said on its website.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom, Maggie Fick and Katharine Houreld in Nairobi, Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis in Washington; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Mark Heinrich and Gareth Jones)

11/2/2021 ANC On Course For First Sub-50% Election Result As Count Goes On by Alexander Winning and Promit Mukherjee
Election officials count ballots after the closing of the local government elections, at a farm
in Alewynspoort, outside Johannesburg, South Africa November 1, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
    PRETORIA (Reuters) - Voter support for South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) was on course on Tuesday to drop below 50% for the first time since it ended white minority rule in 1994, according to partial returns from local polls held nationwide.
    Monday’s municipal elections had been widely viewed as a referendum on the ANC, tainted by corruption and facing a backlash over poor stewardship of an ailing economy beset by chronically high unemployment, and on its uninterrupted 27 years in charge of Africa’s most industrialised nation.
    Results from more than half of the 23,000 polling stations showed the party on 46%.
    That raises the possibility of the legacy party of Nelson Mandela being forced to govern the country in a coalition, should those figures be replicated in the next national election in 2024.
    But the opposition remains fragmented, with its main rival, the Democratic Alliance (DA), second on 23% in Tuesday’s count and the Marxist EFF, led by Julius Malema, third with 10%.
    Analysts had predicted the ANC’s share of the vote could fall below half on Monday.    At the last municipal polls in 2016 it got around 54%, then its worst result, on a turnout of 58%.
    Turnout this time fell to just 47%, initial figures from the electoral commission showed.    It said results from 55% of the country’s 23,000 polling stations had been completed, and it expected 90% of results to be finalised by Tuesday evening.
RAMAPHOSA UNDER PRESSURE?
    Ralph Mathekga, analyst and author of books on ANC politics, said, the election could be “a predictor for what is looming at the next general election."
    “If the ANC drops below 50% … South Africa will no longer be led by a hegemonic party,” he said, adding that the result could threaten President Cyril Ramaphosa’s position as president when the ANC elects its leader next year.
    But no other single party yet seems remotely ready to rival the ANC.
    The DA has struggled to shed its image as a party of white privilege in a country that is nine tenths non-white, while the EFF’s radical rhetoric scares many voters off.
    As well as avoiding the loss of its overall majority, the ANC hopes to win back metropolitan areas it lost to opposition-led coalitions in the 2016 poll, including commercial hub Johannesburg and capital Pretoria.
    At 1815 GMT, results for Johannesburg from 29% of polling stations gave the ANC 37%, against 22% for the DA.    The DA was meanwhile leading in Tshwane, which includes Pretoria, with 39% of the vote against the ANC’s 29%, on results from 19% of stations.
    ActionSA, the most popular newcomer party, whose leader, Herman Mashaba, has been criticised for vociferous anti-immigrant remarks, was on 1.6% nationwide, but polling 17% in Johannesburg, putting it third there.
(Additional reporting by Nqobile Dludla in Pretoria,Writing by Tim Cocks; editing by John Stonestreet)

11/2/2021 Bahrain Urges Citizens In Lebanon To Leave, Yemeni Gov’t Recalls Envoy
FILE PHOTO: A man walks near a newspaper with a headline that reads " Saudi Arabia announces
a boycott with Lebanon" in Beirut, Lebanon, October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Taher/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Bahrain’s foreign ministry on Tuesday urged citizens in Lebanon to leave immediately, the state news agency reported, amid a deepening row over comments by a Lebanese minister that were critical of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.
    Saudi Arabia expelled Lebanon’s envoy and banned all Lebanese imports on Friday. Bahrain and Kuwait followed suit.
    Yemen’s Saudi-backed government also recalled its ambassador to Beirut on Tuesday for consultations, the state news agency SABA reported, over the comments made by George Kordahi before he became Lebanese information minister.
    In an interview he said was recorded on Aug. 5, before the formation of a new Lebanese government, Kordahi called the Yemeni war futile, said Yemen was subjected to an aggression and that its Iran-aligned Houthis were defending themselves.
    A coalition of forces led by Riyadh intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Iran-aligned Houthis ousted the internationally-recognised government from the capital Sanaa.
    The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.
(Reporting by Moataz Abdelrahiem; Writing by Nayera Abdallah; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Gareth Jones)

11/2/2021 Lebanon Says It Wants Dialogue With Riyadh, Not Demands About Hezbollah by Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam
Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib gestures as he speaks during an interview with Reuters at
his office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beirut, Lebanon November 2, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s foreign minister said Saudi Arabia was dictating impossible terms by asking the government to reduce the role of Iran-backed Hezbollah https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/how-hezbollah-widens-irans-middle-east-reach-2021-10-15, adding Beirut’s row with Riyadh https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanon-ministers-hold-crisis-meeting-over-saudi-dispute-2021-10-30could be resolved if the kingdom agreed to a dialogue with the new Lebanese cabinet.
    “If they just want Hezbollah’s head on a plate, we can’t give them that,” the minister, Abdallah Bou Habib, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.
    “Hezbollah is a component of politics in Lebanon.    It has a regional armed dimension, yes, but this is beyond what we can resolve,” he said.
    Lebanon is facing its worst rift yet with Gulf Arab states, spurred by a minister’s critical comments about the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen that described the war there as futile.
    Saudi Arabia and some Gulf Arab allies have reacted angrily to the remarks https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanon-is-dragged-back-into-eye-iranian-saudi-storm-2021-11-01 made by the information minister in an interview last week, which he’d filmed before taking up his position in cabinet.    Riyadh expelled Lebanon’s ambassador, banned all imports from Lebanon and recalled its envoy for consultations.
    Kuwait and Bahrain followed suit by expelling the top envoys in their own capitals, while the United Arab Emirates withdrew all its diplomats from Beirut.
    Saudi Arabia has said its actions were driven not just by George Kordahi’s comments but rather were rooted in its objection to the increasing dominance https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/crisis-with-lebanon-rooted-hezbollah-dominance-saudi-minister-2021-10-30 of the Hezbollah armed group over Lebanese politics.
    The row is part of a longstanding feud between Saudi Arabia and Iran that has played out in proxy conflicts across the region, from Yemen to Syria to Iraq.
    Gulf states are traditional aid donors to Lebanon but for several years have been increasingly dismayed by Hezbollah’s expanding power, and have so far been loathe to help rescue Lebanon from a devastating economic crisis.
MUTUAL DIALOGUE
    On Tuesday, Bou Habib told Reuters he believed mutual dialogue between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia was the only way forward to solving the dispute.    But he added that there had been no meetings on any level between both parties since Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s cabinet was formed on Sept 10.
    “There has been no dialogue (with Saudi Arabia) even before the problem with minister Kordahi … the Saudi ambassador here never communicated with us,” Bou Habib said.
    “He (the Saudi ambassador) was here and was communicating with a lot of Lebanese politicians, but he wasn’t communicating with us,” he said.
    “We need to know what they want… we prefer dialogue to dictates.”
    Kordahi has refused to resign over the incident, but Bou Habib said it was unclear whether his resignation would solve the rift with Saudi at this point, although it could be enough for others in the Gulf.
    The only offer on the table towards a resolution so far has come from Qatar, whose Emir met Mikati in Glasgow on the sidelines of the COP26 meeting on Monday, Bou Habib said.
    “There is the possibility of a Qatari mediation,” Bou Habib said, but added that it was in the initial stages and that the Qataris had not spoken with the Saudis yet over the matter.
    “There is no other initiative.”
    Qatar has denounced the Kordahi comments but has not announced any diplomatic initiative over the incident.
    Bou Habib said any Qatari effort to mediate could be helped by the resolution earlier this year of a separate row pitting Qatar against Saudi Arabia and three other Arab states that had resulted in an improved rapport between Doha and Riyadh.
    Mikati’s government, formed after over a year of political deadlock that has added to Lebanon’s financial decline, is trying to revive talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to unlock much needed foreign funds.
    But aside from political paralysis over an internal row to do with the Beirut port blast investigation, this latest diplomatic crisis has hampered the cabinet, Bou Habib said.
    “Of course we have been affected, we have been affected a great deal, not a little,” he said.
(Reporting By Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam; Editing by William Maclean)

11/2/2021 Yemen’s Marib City Battens Down As Houthis Advance Through Energy-Rich Province by Mohammed Ghobari and Ghaida Ghantous
A man sits on belongings after arriving in a camp for internally displaced
people (IDPs) in Marib, Yemen November 2, 2021. REUTERS/Muhammad Fuhaid
    ADEN (Reuters) – Expecting a possible siege, pro-government forces in central Yemen are preparing to defend Marib city, their last northern stronghold, against advancing Houthi fighters bent on taking full control of one of Yemen’s key energy-producing regions.
    Should Marib governorate fall to the Houthis it would deal a blow to the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia that has been battling the Iran-aligned group for over six years and to United Nations-led peace efforts.
    The looming battle for Marib City would also put at risk its population of three million people, including nearly 1 million who fled other parts of Yemen since it became ensnared in a regional power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
    Houthi military spokesman Yahia Sarea announced on Tuesday they had seized Marib’s al-Jubah and Jabal Murad districts, after last month taking al-Abdiyah and Harib, saying “our mujahideen continue the march towards Marib City.”
    They have advanced on most districts in Marib, Yemen’s only gas-producing region and home to one of the country’s largest oilfields in Marib Al Wadi, which along with Marib City remain fully under government control.
    It is not clear if the Houthis will launch a direct assault on the capital of Marib governorate or move to take the nearby oil and gas facilities and besiege the city.
    Their territorial gains in Marib as well as in oil-rich Shabwa in the south, come despite coalition airstrikes and fierce battles that have exacted a heavy toll on both sides, but also killed civilians.
    “Houthi control of all of Marib looks only a matter of time though it could take several months, unless government forces receive better quality weapons from the coalition and overcome differences amongst them,” said Maysaa Shuja Al-Deen, a fellow at the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies.
    Government forces say they will not cede.    Trenches, sand bags and land mines are in place around the city, two military sources and a local official said.
    “If the Houthis move through the desert towards oil and gas fields east of Marib City they will be easy prey for coalition warplanes, so they will try to encircle the city from three fronts, but we can withstand and break them,” a military commander, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
    Marib lies east of the capital Sanaa, which the Houthis seized along with most of north Yemen in 2014 when they ousted the Saudi-backed government, prompting the coalition to intervene only to become mired in a military stalemate.
    The United Nations and United States have struggled to engineer a truce needed to revive political talks to end a war that has killed tens of thousands and left millions hungry.
    “Our immediate concern is about the safety and protection of civilians in Marib.    In just the first six months of this year, more civilians there were killed or wounded than in the previous two years combined,” said     Erin Hutchinson, Norwegian Refugee Council’s country director in Yemen.
    Talks between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran aimed at easing tensions have made little progress and the     Houthi advance in Marib is likely to further embolden Tehran. The two foes have for years vied for control across the region.
    “From an Iranian perspective, their ally in Yemen the Houthis appear very close in effect to winning the war in the north, if not the entire country.    It is extremely difficult to understand why they or the Houthis would feel this is the right moment to stop,” said Peter Salisbury, a senior analyst at International Crisis Group.
    Riyadh, which wants to exit a costly war but needs security guarantees including over Houthi missiles that have targeted Saudi cities, has seen power shift to the Houthis since 2019, when ally the United Arab Emirates largely wound down its presence.
    “The Saudis…will not leave (Yemen) at any cost, they need to present their intervention as somewhat successful,” Salisbury said.
    Even if Riyadh reaches a deal with the Houthis, ending the war requires agreement among Yemen’s myriad factions.
    “Is it possible to work towards an internally coherent settlement?    It’s just a lot of moving parts,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Lisa Barrington in Dubai; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

11/3/2021 U.N., Ethiopia Rights Panel To Issue Report On Abuses In Tigray by Maggie Fick
Habtam Akele, 27, carries her nine-months-old daughter, Kalkidan Alemu as they sit 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
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – A report on abuses committed during war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region will be published on Wednesday, but a spokesman for the party controlling Tigray said investigators did not visit many sites where violence occurred.
    The report will be released hours after Ethiopia declared a state of emergency following Tigrayan forces saying they might march on the capital.
    The joint investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Office and the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission set out to document alleged violations of human rights, humanitarian and refugee law committed by all parties to the conflict in Tigray.
    There have been widespread accusations against Ethiopian and allied Eritrean soldiers of gang-rapes, mass killings of civilians, and accusations of blocking humanitarian aid.    There have also been accusations of gang-rapes and killings by Tigrayan forces, particularly by Eritrean refugees living in Tigray.
    The government has denied blocking aid and said individual soldiers have been tried for any abuses, without giving details.    Eritrea has denied committing abuses.    The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls most of Tigray, has said some “vigilante” Tigrayan groups may have committed abuses but its own formal forces are not responsible.
    The war began a year ago after regional forces and Tigrayan soldiers in the national army seized control of military bases across Tigray, claiming the central government was about to move against Tigray after the region held its own elections despite a government directive delaying them.
    The conflict has plunged around 400,000 people in Tigray into famine, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 2.5 million people in northern Ethiopia to flee their homes.
    U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet agreed in March to an Ethiopian request for a joint investigation in Tigray.     She said then it was possible war crimes had been committed.
    An investigator from the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was among seven U.N. officials deported by Ethiopia last month.
    TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda said the investigators had not visited many sites in Tigray where mass killings allegedly occurred.
    He said the report would be faulty because of that and because the investigators did not involve all parties to the war.
    “They have kept us in the dark,” he said.
    It was not immediately clear whether findings from the report could form the basis for legal action.    Ethiopia is not a member of the International Criminal Court, so the court has no jurisdiction.
(Reporting by Maggie Fick; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

11/3/2021 Nigeria Building Collapse Kills At Least 16; Rescuers Search On by Nneka Chile and Seun Sanni
People gather at the site of a collapsed 21-story building in
Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria, November 1, 2021. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja
    LAGOS (Reuters) - Rescuers combed through the rubble of a high-rise building in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos in search of survivors on Tuesday, a day after it collapsed while under construction, as the death toll rose to 16 with scores reported missing.
    The Lagos state government said it had put its chief architect on indefinite suspension and launched an independent investigation of the causes of the collapse of what was to have become a high-end apartment block.
    Emergency services braced for a second night of work as earth-moving equipment lifted chunks of masonry at the site in the affluent neighborhood of Ikoyi.    Large trailers were brought in to help move debris, blocking one of Ikoyi’s main roads.
    Building collapses are frequent in Africa’s most populous country, where regulations are poorly enforced and construction materials often substandard.
    Lagos state government had sealed off the building site in June for failing to meet structural requirements and demanded the anomaly be corrected before construction could proceed, state deputy governor Obafemi Hamzat said in a statement.    He did not say whether that problem had been rectified.
    Sixteen bodies, including the assistant of the building’s owner, have been recovered so far while nine people have been pulled out alive, emergency services said, as excavators sifted rubble from the heaps of shattered concrete and twisted metal where the building once stood.
    Hamzat said the number of people trapped was unknown but that interviews with workers indicated up to 40 were on site when the building collapsed, much lower than an initial figure of 100 given by witnesses on Monday.
    Agitated families whose loved ones were missing gathered nearby. Some wailed and others prayed in small groups for the safe return of their relatives.
    As tempers flared, a few got into a scuffle with government officials, demanding to be allowed to help with the search effort.
    High-end apartments have been springing up in Ikoyi, and the collapsed building was part of three towers being built by private developer Fourscore Homes, where the cheapest unit was selling for $1.2 million.
    The project developer and owner of Fourscore Homes, Olufemi Osibona, told a local news channel in August that he had developed buildings in the London districts of Peckham and Hackney and that the Ikoyi apartments were the start of bigger projects he planned in Nigeria.
    Osibona could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.    Local media reports said he may have been among those trapped.
(Additional reporting by Libby George in Lagos, Chijioke Ohuocha in Abuja and Lanre Ola in Maiduguri; writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by William Maclean, Ed Osmond and John Stonestreet)

11/3/2021 Ethiopian Leader, Marking Year Of War, Says He Will Bury Foes ‘With Our Blood’
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and leader of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF)
party Debretsion Gebremichael are pictured on the Maleda Local News papers, showing the
conflict marking one year, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 3, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed pledged on Wednesday to bury his government’s enemies “with our blood” as he marked the start of the war in the Tigray region one year ago.
    Abiy, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, was speaking a day after a state of emergency was declared https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/addis-ababa-government-urges-residents-register-arms-media-2021-11-02 in the country and with Tigrayan forces threatening to advance on the capital Addis Ababa.
    “The pit which is dug will be very deep, it will be where the enemy is buried, not where Ethiopia disintegrates,” he said in a speech at an event at the military’s headquarters in Addis Ababa.
    “We will bury this enemy with our blood and bones and make the glory of Ethiopia high again,” said Abiy, who won the Nobel prize for settling Ethiopia’s longtime conflict with Eritrea.
    An earlier call to “bury” the enemy contained in a statement posted on Abiy’s official Facebook page over the weekend was removed by the platform for violating its policies against inciting and supporting violence, the company said.
    “As the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia intensifies, we are committed to helping keep people safe and preventing online and offline harm through our platforms,” a company spokesperson told Reuters. Facebook changed its name to Meta last month.
    During Wednesday’s commemoration of the first anniversary of the conflict, a moment of silence was observed at the candle-lit ceremony to commemorate those killed on Nov, 3, 2020 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-conflict-timeline-idUSKBN2HM1RF, when forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – including some soldiers – seized military bases in Tigray.    In response, Abiy sent more troops to the northern region.
    The TPLF led Ethiopia’s ruling coalition for nearly 30 years but lost control when Abiy took office in 2018 following years of anti-government protests.
    Relations with the TPLF soured after they accused him of centralising power at the expense of Ethiopia’s regional states – an accusation Abiy denies.
CONFLICT
    The conflict in Africa’s second most populous country has killed thousands of people, forced more than two million from their homes, and left 400,000 people in Tigray facing famine.
    A joint investigation https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/un-ethiopia-rights-commission-release-report-abuses-tigray-2021-11-03 by the United Nations and Ethiopia’s state-appointed human rights commission published on Wednesday found that all sides fighting in the war had committed violations that may amount to war crimes.
    The African Union said on Wednesday that its chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat, was following the escalation in Ethiopia with deep concern.    He urged the parties to engage in dialogue.
    Ethiopia’s neighbour Kenya increased security along the border.
    Will Davison, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group think-tank, said the Tigrayan forces’ gains had increased pressure on Abiy’s government.
    “Right now, it looks difficult for the federal coalition to hold off the Tigray forces’ advance, and some of their leaders have recently said that at this late stage they are not looking to negotiate with Abiy,” he said.
    The Tigrayan forces are now in the town of Kemise in Amhara state, 325 km (200 miles) from the capital, TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda told Reuters on Wednesday, pledging to minimise casualties in their drive to take Addis Ababa.
    “We don’t intend to shoot at civilians and we don’t want bloodshed. If possible we would like the process to be peaceful,” he said.
    A regional analyst in touch with the parties to the war and who spoke on condition of anonymity said the TPLF was likely to hold off on any advance on Addis Ababa until they secured the highway running from neighbouring Djibouti to the capital.
    That requires seizing the town of Mille. Getachew said on Tuesday that Tigrayan forces were closing in on Mille.
ARRESTS
    Abiy’s government imposed a six-month state of emergency on Monday with immediate effect, which allows it to order citizens of military age to undergo training and accept military duties.
    It also allows authorities to arbitrarily arrest anyone suspected of collaborating with “terrorist groups” with a court order and detain them while the state of emergency lasts.
    The government designated the TPLF a terrorist group in May.
    After the emergency was announced, there were scattered reports of arrests of ethnic Tigrayans in the capital.
    A woman at a private health clinic in the city told Reuters she had witnessed four doctors and one nurse, all ethnic Tigrayans, taken away by the police on Tuesday evening.
    Another woman said her husband, an engineer, was arrested by police while walking in the street speaking on his phone in his native Tigrinya language.
    The Addis Ababa police and a government spokesperson did not respond to phone calls requesting comment.
    Two Addis Ababa residents said they would heed Abiy’s call to join the military’s fight against the Tigrayan forces.
    “We all want to have a country, so we all should respond to the call,” said Merkeb Shiferaw, 28, an engineer.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroomWriting by Maggie FickAdditional reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York, Ayenat Mersie and Duncan Miriri in Nairobi Editing by Angus MacSwan, Mark Heinrich and Gareth Jones)

11/3/2021 South Africa’s ANC Heads For Worst Poll Result Since Apartheid by Promit Mukherjee and Nqobile Dludla
FILE PHOTO: A marshal keeps watch during the launch of the African National Congress (ANC) election manifesto at Church Square in Pretoria,
South Africa, September 27, 2021. Picture taken September 27, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo
    PRETORIA (Reuters) - South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) on Wednesday was heading for its worst election result since taking power in 1994, taking less than half of votes in local polls a top party official described as a “message to shape up.”
    With results in from over 80% of more than 23,000 polling stations, the ANC had 46% of the national vote, down from 54% in 2016, itself the worst result yet.    Party officials acknowledged public anger over poor services and corruption.
    Turnout was at a new low of 47% – though still higher than in many Western countries’ municipal elections – from 58% in 2016, initial electoral commission figures showed.
    It was unclear to what extent the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in keeping people away, but ANC officials saw clear evidence of voters being fed up.
    “These results, and the turnout, is a message to our movement to shape up,” ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte told a news conference at the results centre.
    Twenty-seven years after triumphing over the racist apartheid system, the ANC has failed to significantly reduce South Africa’s stark inequalities between rich and poor, or to consistently provide services like electricity, water and sewerage.
    “It is an unambiguous signal to the ANC from the electorate: … people are disappointed in the ANC,” Duarte said, adding that party officials would discuss their plans for building coalitions in places where they did not win outright.
    Fikile Mbalula, the transport minister who oversaw the ANC’s election campaign, told reporters the outcome could have been worse.
    “We’re not politically obliterated… That could have happened,” he said.
    Despite the disappointing showing for the former liberation movement of Nelson Mandela, results as of Wednesday afternoon showed its two nearest rivals far behind.
    The Democratic Alliance (DA) stood second on 22% and the Marxist Economic Freedom Fighters third with 10%.
    The ANC had been hoping to wrest back control of key metropolitan areas which it lost to opposition-led coalitions in 2016 like Johannesburg and Pretoria, but both cities were neck-and-neck by 1600 GMT on Wednesday.
    In Johannesburg, the ANC was on 31% and the DA 30%, based on results from 55% of polling stations, and in the municipality that includes Pretoria it was on 33% versus 34% for the DA with results in from 36% of polling stations.
    In the municipality that includes the port city of Durban, which in July was rocked by some of the worst civil unrest since the end of apartheid, the ANC was on 43%; the DA, 27%.    In 2016, the ANC won 56% of the vote there.
(Writing and additional reporting by Alexander Winning in PretoriaEditing by Tim Cocks and Nick Macfie)

11/3/2021 U.N. Launches Fund To Foster Cheaper Loans, Green Development For Africa
FILE PHOTO: The logo of the United Nations is seen on the outside of its
headquarters in New York, September 15, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The United Nations on Wednesday launched a new finance mechanism aimed at saving African governments $11 billion in borrowing costs in the next five years, while fostering greener investments and sustainable development.
    The U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) launched the Liquidity and Sustainability Facility (LSF) at COP26, the global climate conference underway in Glasgow, Scotland.
    International investors with portfolios containing African government bonds will be able to approach the LSF for short-term loans, known as repos, using the bonds as collateral, enhancing investors’ ability to turn those bonds into cash at short notice, known as liquidity.
    This would make the bonds less risky and therefore more attractive to a wider range of investors.    African governments would then benefit from more demand and enhanced liquidity for their bonds, as well as cheaper financing costs.
    The LSF said it could potentially save African governments up to $11 billion in borrowing costs over the next five years.
    “Developed countries have long enjoyed the existence of large repo markets for their government bonds, facilitating the creation of stable and additional funding sources,” said Egypt Finance Minister Mohamed Maait.
    “With the LSF, our aim is to be able to provide the same sort of liquidity-supportive environment to African governments and private investors alike.”
    The LSF will raise money from institutions to fund the loans.    For instance, its first transaction is expected to be announced in the first quarter of next year, worth $200 million and funded by the African Export-Import Bank.
    After that, it expects to raise the equivalent of $3 billion in the International Monetary Fund’s unit of exchange, Special Drawing Rights, from developed countries, and could hit $30 billion overall eventually, the LSF said.
    It will look to incentivise green- or development-linked investments such as green bonds or bonds linked to sustainable development by offering better terms for its loans when they are backed by these kinds of instruments, David Escoffier, LSF board director, said.
    This will incentivise investors to buy them and, in turn, African governments to issue them, he added. (Reporting by Emma Rumney; Editing by David Gregorio)

11/3/2021 Fighting Kills 11 In Congo’s Eastern City Of Bukavu by Crispin Kyalangalilwa
Suspected Congolese unidentified gunmen, are paraded during a news conference in Bukavu,
eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, November 3, 2021. REUTERS/Crispin Kyalangalilwa
    BUKAVU, Congo (Reuters) - Armed men burst into Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern city of Bukavu overnight on Wednesday, triggering clashes that killed 11 people and left the 1 million residents in lockdown.
    Gunfire was heard around the city from about 1:45 a.m. (0245 GMT) but the fighting appeared to have stopped by the afternoon, local residents and a Reuters journalist said.
    The city, which sits on the border with Rwanda and was at the centre of violence during two regional wars around the turn of the century, was last convulsed by fighting in November 2017 when the army clashed with troops loyal to a renegade general.
    More than 120 rebel groups operate across large swathes of eastern Congo since the official end of the wars in 2003.
    South Kivu province’s governor Theo Kasi said security forces killed eight gunmen and captured 36 others, while one police officer and two soldiers were also slain.
    “Thugs and uncivilized people disturbed the peace of our fellow citizens in some areas of the city of Bukavu,” Kasi said, though he could not identify the assailants.
LIBERATION SONGS
    A local army commander blamed a new militia called the Coalition of Congolese Patriots for the Application of Article 64 (CPCA-A64) – a reference to a part of the constitution saying Congolese should oppose anyone exercising illegitimate power.
    The commander, Bob Kilubi, said around 40 fighters entered the city from the north singing liberation songs.
    “Some of them wanted to attack the military camp to loot the ammunition.    The army prevented them,” he told local Radio Maendeleo.
    CPCA-A64 issued a manifesto in Bukavu on Oct. 7 demanding that President Felix Tshisekedi resign, saying he won the 2018 election fraudulently. Tshisekedi denies this.
    The group, which Reuters could not reach for comment, did not appear to have claimed responsibility.
(Additional reporting by Justin Makangara, Fiston Mahamba and Hereward Holland; writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Toby Chopra and Alex Richardson)

11/3/2021 Algeria Says Moroccan Bombardment Killed Three Algerians On Western Sahara Border
FILE PHOTO: The Polisario Front soldiers drive a pick-up truck mounted with an anti-aircraft weapon
during sunset in Bir Lahlou, Western Sahara, September 9, 2016. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo
    ALGIERS (Reuters) – Algeria said on Wednesday that Moroccan bombardment had killed three of its citizens in the border area between Mauritania and the disputed territory of Western Sahara and warned it would “not go unpunished.”
    Monday’s incident underscores the risks of escalation between the powerful North African rivals after months of deteriorating relations tied to the conflict in Western Sahara.
    “Several elements point to the involvement of the Moroccan occupation forces in Western Sahara in the cowardly assassination,” the presidency said.    It added that the three were in a truck driving to Mauritania for trade.
    Morocco made no immediate comment.    After images of a burnt-out vehicle circulated on social media on Tuesday, Mauritania said there had been no bombardment on its soil.
    Algeria is the host and main supporter of the Polisario Front, which seeks the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco, which holds most of the territory and regards it as its own.
    Last year, after an incident near the border crossing between Western Sahara and Mauritania, the Polisario declared a resumption of its armed struggle against Morocco after a three-decade truce.
    However, although the Polisario and Algerian media have reported attacks on Moroccan targets, Rabat says it continues to uphold the 1990 ceasefire and only engages in military action in response to attacks.
    This year Algeria cut off ties with Morocco, accusing it of failing to live up to its obligations over Western Sahara and of backing a regional independence group inside Algeria.    It has also ended gas supplies and cut off its airspace to Moroccan aircraft.
    Morocco called those accusations fallacious and absurd, says Algeria was unjustified in cutting ties, and says Algeria is the main party in the Western Sahara conflict.
(Reporting by Yasmin Husseing in Cairo, Hamid Ould Ahmed and Lamine Chikhi in Algiers; additional reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi in Rabat; Writing by Ahmad Elhamy; Editing by Peter Graff, William Maclean)

11/3/2021 Egypt Government To Begin Move To New Administrative Capital In December
FILE PHOTO: Construction machines are seen at the site of the New Administrative Capital (NAC) east of
Cairo, Egypt March 8, 2021. Picture taken March 8, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) – The Egyptian government will start the process in December of moving offices to a new administrative capital located east of Cairo, a spokesman for the presidency said on Wednesday in a statement.
    President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi “directed the government to start the actual transfer to the government district in the New Administrative Capital starting in December for a trial period of 6 months,” he said.
    The new capital is designed as a high-tech “smart city” to accommodate 6.5 million residents and ease congestion in Cairo.    The city will include a government district, a business district, vast parks and a diplomatic district.
(Reporting by Mohamed Hendawy; Writing by Yomna Ehab; Editing by Peter Graff)

11/3/2021 U.S. ‘Gravely Concerned’ By Escalating Violence In Ethiopia Ahead Of Envoy’s Visit
People clean a street in Megenagna neighbourhood in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia November 3, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is “gravely concerned” about escalating violence in Ethiopia and the expansion of hostilities and has repeated on Wednesday its call to all parties in the conflict to stop military operations and begin ceasefire talks.
    Ethiopia declared a state of emergency on Tuesday with forces from the northern region of Tigray threatening to advance on the capital Addis Ababa.
    Speaking at a press briefing, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman, who is heading to Ethiopia on Thursday, will have a chance to discuss the situation with Ethiopian government.
    Feltman was heading to Ethiopia amid an escalation in the conflict in Africa’s second most populous country that has killed thousands of people, forced more than two million from their homes, and left 400,000 people in Tigray facing famine.
    “We are gravely concerned by the escalating violence, by the expansion of fighting that we’ve seen in northern Ethiopia and in regions throughout the country,” Price said.
    “Continued fighting only prolongs the humanitarian crisis that is afflicting far too many people in Ethiopia today,” Price said, adding that the Washington was talking to other nations, the United Nations and the African Union to address the crisis.
    “All parties must stop military operations and begin ceasefire negotiations without precondition,” he said.
    Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in a speech on Wednesday pledged to bury his government’s enemies “with our blood” as he marked the start of the war in the Tigray region one year ago.
    U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday said he would strip Ethiopia of duty-free access to the United States over alleged human rights abuses in Tigray, which the Ethiopian government has said it will investigate.
(Reporting by Simon Lewis and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

11/4/2021 U.S. Embassy In Ethiopia Permits Voluntary Departure Of Some Staff, Family
A general view of the skyline of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia November 3, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    NAIROBI (Reuters) -The U.S. embassy in Ethiopia has authorised the voluntary departure of non-emergency government staff and family members because of armed conflict, it said on its website, as rebel forces in the north make advances.
    The decision came after the United States said on Wednesday it was “gravely concerned” about the escalating violence and expansion of hostilities, repeating a call for a halt to military operations in favour of ceasefire talks.
    “The (State) Department authorized the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members of emergency and non-emergency employees from Ethiopia due to armed conflict, civil unrest, and possible supply shortages,” the embassy said in a statement.
    Travel to Ethiopia is unsafe and further escalation is likely, it added.
    “The government of Ethiopia has previously restricted or shut down internet, cellular data, and phone services during and after civil unrest,” it said.
    Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to a telephone call seeking comment on the U.S. embassy statement.
    On Tuesday, Ethiopia declared a state of emergency, with forces from the northern region of Tigray threatening to advance on the capital, Addis Ababa.
    Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, is expected to arrive in Addis Ababa to press for a halt to military operations in the north and to seek the start of ceasefire talks.
    On Wednesday, Britain urged its citizens to review their need to stay in Ethiopia and consider leaving while commercial options were available.
    Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed pledged to bury his government’s enemies “with our blood” as rebellious Tigrayan forces and their Oromo allies threaten to advance on Addis Ababa.
    Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for settling Ethiopia’s longtime conflict with Eritrea.
    An earlier call to “bury” the enemy in a statement posted on Abiy’s official Facebook page over the weekend was removed by the platform for violating its policies against inciting and supporting violence, the company said.
    Tigrayan forces are in the town of Kemise in Amhara state, 325 km (200 miles) from the capital, a spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Getachew Reda, told Reuters late on Wednesday, pledging to minimise casualties in their drive to take Addis Ababa.
    “We don’t intend to shoot at civilians and we don’t want bloodshed.    If possible we would like the process to be peaceful.”
    A regional analyst in touch with the parties to the war and who spoke on condition of anonymity said the TPLF was likely to hold off on any advance on Addis Ababa until they secured the highway running from neighbouring Djibouti to the capital.
    That requires seizing the town of Mille. Getachew said on Tuesday that Tigrayan forces were closing in on Mille.
(Reporting by George Obulutsa; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel)

11/4/2021 Israeli Parliament Approves 2021 National Budget
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stands between Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Justice
Minister Gideon Saar at a news conference on economy in Jerusalem, July 6, 2021. Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s parliament approved the 2021 national budget on Thursday, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government meeting a deadline for its passage and averting the threat of a new election.
    Parliament continued its overnight session and will hold a separate vote for a 2022 budget. It is widely expected to approve that package early on Friday.
    The legislature voted 61-59 vote in favour of the 2021 budget in a test for Bennett’s diverse coalition of right-wing, centrist, left-wing and Arab parties.
    Failure to win parliamentary ratification for the 2021 package by Nov. 14 would have triggered a new election by law, but many political commentators had predicted it would be approved.
    A prolonged political stalemate in Israel had meant that no budget had been approved in the legislature in more than 3-1/2 years.    The country has been running with a pro-rated version of the 2019 budget, something economists say is hindering growth.
    Passage of the 2021 budget came nearly five months after Bennett’s government took office, replacing the administration of long-time leader Benjamin Netanyahu following four inconclusive elections in two years.
    “It’s a day for celebration for the State of Israel,” Bennett, who heads a far-right party, said on Twitter after the vote.
    “After years of chaos, we established a government, overcame the (COVID-19) Delta variant and now, thank God, we passed a budget for Israel.”
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Robert Birsel)

11/4/2021 Calls For Ceasefire In Ethiopia Grow Amid Deepening Conflict
A general view of the skyline of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia November 3, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -African and Western nations called for an immediate ceasefire in Ethiopia on Thursday after Tigrayan forces from the country’s North said they made advances towards the capital this week.
    The U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, arrived in Addis Ababa to press for a halt to military operations and a start to ceasefire talks.
    African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat said he met Feltman to discuss efforts towards dialogue and political solutions to the conflict, which pits the central government against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and its allies.
    The United Nations Security Council will meet publicly on Ethiopia on Friday at the request of Ireland, Kenya, Niger, Tunisia and St Vincent and the Grenadines, diplomats said.
    The European Union and the East African bloc the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) joined the chorus of bodies calling for a ceasefire.    Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni announced an IGAD meeting on Nov. 16 to discuss the war.
    Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta urged the rival parties to lay down their arms and find a path to peace.
    “The fighting must stop!” he said in a statement.
    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he had spoken to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday and offered to help create the conditions for a dialogue.
    The government brushed off the calls for talks, said new recruits were heeding the call to fight on the government side and accused the Tigrayan forces of exaggerating their territorial gains.
    “We are fighting an existential war,” it said in a statement issued by its communication service.
    Abiy’s government declared a state of emergency https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/addis-ababa-government-urges-residents-register-arms-media-2021-11-02 on Tuesday as the Tigrayan forces threatened to push forward to Addis Ababa.
ADDIS ARRESTS
    TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said on Wednesday TPLF troops were in the town of Kemise in Amhara state, 325 km (200 miles) from the capital.    Government and military spokespeople did not return calls seeking comment on his account.
    The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa authorised the voluntary departure of some staff and family members because of the intensifying hostilities.    Washington said on Wednesday https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/us-gravely-concerned-by-escalating-violence-ethiopia-ahead-envoys-visit-2021-11-03 it was “gravely concerned” about the situation and called for ceasefire talks and a halt to military operations.
    The year-long conflict has killed thousands of people, forced more than 2 million more from their homes and left 400,000 people in Tigray facing famine.
    The United States, the European Union and the United Nations said a de facto government blockade in Tigray must end to avert a large-scale famine.    The government had denied blocking aid.
    No humanitarian convoys have entered Tigray since Oct. 18 and no fuel to aid the humanitarian response has entered since early August, according to the United Nations.
    Streets and shops in Addis Ababa, a city of around 5 million people, were busy as usual on Thursday morning, though some residents said there was a feeling of uneasy calm.
    “There are rumours about the approach of the rebels.    People debate about the conflict; most of the people accuse the government for what happened,” said one man, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
    Police had arrested “many people” in Addis Ababa since the government declared the state of emergency, police spokesperson Fasika Fanta said on Thursday.
    Residents told Reuters on Wednesday many Tigrayans had been arrested.    Fasika said arrests were not based on ethnicity.
YEAR-OLD CONFLICT
    “We are only arresting those who are directly or indirectly supporting the illegal terrorist group,” Fasika said.    “This includes moral, financial and propaganda support.”
    He also said many people were registering weapons at police stations around the city in line with a government directive issued on Tuesday for people to prepare to defend their neighbourhoods.
    “Some are even coming with bombs and heavy weapons.    We are registering those too,” he said.
    Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not respond to requests for comment.
    The conflict started a year ago when forces loyal to the TPLF, including some soldiers, seized military bases in Tigray.    In response, Abiy sent more troops to the northern region.
    The TPLF had dominated national politics for nearly three decades but lost much influence when Abiy took office in 2018.
    The TPLF accused him of centralising power at the expense of regional states – which Abiy denies.
    TPLF spokesman Getachew on Wednesday pledged to minimise casualties in any drive to take Addis Ababa.
    “We don’t intend to shoot at civilians and we don’t want bloodshed.    If possible we would like the process to be peaceful,” he said.
    A regional analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the TPLF was likely to hold off on any advance on Addis Ababa until they secured the highway running from neighbouring Djibouti to the capital.     Abiy’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, accused the international media of being “overly alarmist” in its coverage of Ethiopia.
    “Perpetuating terrorist propaganda as truth from offices far off and detached from the ground is highly unethical,” she said in a tweet.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom;Additional reporting by George Obulutsa and Ayenat Mersie in Nairobi; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel, Angus MacSwan, Andrew Heavens and Cynthia Osterman)

11/4/2021 Exclusive-U.N. Official Says Sudan Deal Under Discussion, Needed In ‘Days Not Weeks’ by Nafisa Eltahir
FILE PHOTO: Protesters hold flags and chant slogans as they march against the Sudanese
military's recent seizure of power and ousting of the civilian government, in the streets of the
capital Khartoum, Sudan October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) - The U.N. special envoy for Sudan said talks had yielded the outline of a potential deal on a return to power-sharing, including restoration of the ousted premier, but it had to be agreed in “days not weeks” before both sides’ positions harden.
    The United Nations has been coordinating efforts to find a way out of the country’s crisis following a coup by the military https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/what-is-happening-sudan-2021-10-25 on Oct. 25 in which top civilian politicians were detained and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was placed under house arrest.
    Disclosing the “contours” of a potential deal publicly for the first time, the envoy, Volker Perthes, said these included: the return of Hamdok to office, the release of detainees, the lifting of a state of emergency, as well as adjustments to some transitional institutions and a new technocratic cabinet.
    In the latest sign of increasing international pressure for a reversal of the coup, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke with Sudan’s General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/general-who-led-sudanese-coup-2021-10-26 on Thursday, urging the restoration of constitutional order and the transitional process.
    Perthes, special representative of Guterres and head of the United Nations’ Integrated Transition Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), indicated that time was of the essence.
    “The longer you wait the more difficult it is to implement such an agreement and get the necessary buy in from the street and from the political forces,” he said in an interview.
    “It will also become more difficult for the military, as pressures to appoint some government, whatever its credibility, will increase.    And the positions of both sides would harden. We are speaking of days not of weeks,” he added.
    “Now the question is, are both sides willing to commit to that. Here we still have at least a few hiccups,” Perthes told Reuters.
    Sudanese state television said on Thursday evening that Burhan had ordered the release of four of the cabinet ministers detained in the coup.
    Burhan has said he acted last week to avert civil war after civilian politicians stoked hostility towards the armed forces.    He says he is committed to the civilian democratic transition and elections in July 2023.
    Neighbourhood resistance committees, which have led protests https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/sudanese-set-nationwide-protests-against-military-coup-2021-10-29 since the coup and held demonstrations on Thursday, reject negotiations and have demanded that the military exit politics.
    The talks effectively represented “the last chance,” for the military to come to a negotiated deal, Perthes said, adding that there appeared to be discussions inside the military on whether or not to take advantage of it.
    Releasing detainees and resuming internet access would be steps the military could take to de-escalate the situation and garner more support for a deal, Perthes said.
    “In any such situations, there are forces inside and outside who encourage the parties to take a harder course, refuse concessions, and simply sit it out,” he said.
    On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates joined the United States and Britain in calling for the restoration https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/sudans-ousted-pm-hamdok-agrees-return-lead-government-al-arabiya-tv-2021-11-03 of the civilian-led government.
(Reporting by Nafisa EltahirEditing by Aidan Lewis, William Maclean)

11/4/2021 Saudi Gets First Major Arms Deal Under Biden With Air-To-Air Missiles by Mike Stone and Patricia Zengerlebr>
FILE PHOTO: A Saudi security man walks between the display of the debris of ballistic missiles
and weapons, which were launched towards Riyadh, according to Saudi Officials, ahead
of the news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department approved its first major arms sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under U.S. President Joe Biden with the sale of 280 air-to-air missiles valued at up to $650 million, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
    While Saudi Arabia is an important partner in the Middle East, U.S. lawmakers have criticized Riyadh for its involvement in the war in Yemen, a conflict considered one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.    They have refused to approve many military sales for the kingdom without assurances U.S. equipment would not be used to kill civilians.
    The Pentagon notified Congress of the sale on Thursday.    If approved, the deal would be the first sale to Saudi Arabia since the Biden administration adopted a policy of selling only defensive weapons to the Gulf ally.
    The State Department had approved the sale on Oct. 26, a spokesperson said, adding that the air-to-air missile sale comes after “an increase in cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia over the past year.”
    Raytheon Technologies makes the missiles.
    The sale “is fully consistent with the administration’s pledge to lead with diplomacy to end the conflict in Yemen,” the State Department spokesperson said in a statement.    The air-to-air missiles ensure “Saudi Arabia has the means to defend itself from Iranian-backed Houthi air attacks,” he said.
    After the Trump administration’s friendly relationship with Riyadh, the Biden administration recalculated its approach to Saudi Arabia, a country with which it has severe human rights concerns but which is also one of Washington’s closest U.S. allies in countering the threat posed by Iran.
    The package would include 280 AIM-120C-7/C-8 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), 596 LAU-128 Missile Rail Launchers (MRL) along with containers and support equipment, spare parts, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and technical support.
    Despite approval by the State Department, the notification did not indicate that a contract has been signed or that negotiations have concluded.
(Reporting by Mike Stone and Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Dan Grebler)
[THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION IS DESPERATE FOR THEM TO SEND OIL TO THE U.S. SINCE HE IS CLOSING THE PIPELINE, ETC BUT WHAT BIDEN DOES NOT KNOW IS KUSHNER WENT TO SAUDI'S TO SOLVE THEIR PROBLEM WHICH WAS THEY HAD SEVERE EARTHQUAKES IN THE MIDEAST FROM PUMPING OIL. SO KUSHNER FROM TRUMPS ADMINISTRATION OFFERED THEM TO HAVE NUCLEAR POWER AND SENT THE PEOPLE TO HELP THEM DEVELOP IT AND DUE TO THAT HELP COUNTRIES WERE GETTING ON THE ABRAHAM ACCORDS DUE TO THAT ISSUE SO STUPID JOE WILL ONLY GET OIL THEY HAVE STORED FOR THEMSELVES BUT THEY WILL NOT SUPPLY IT FOR THE WORLD ANYMORE SO THEY WILL TAKE YOUR MISSLES TO DEFEND THEMSELVES.].

11/4/2021 Malian Villagers Battle Advancing Sands After Lake Dries
An inhabitant walks towards barriers fixed in the dunes to slow down the desert progression in
northern Mali, May 26, 2021. Picture taken May 26, 2021. Birom Seck-ICRC/Handout via REUTERS
    DAKAR (Reuters) – Since Lake Faguibine in northern Mali dried up, communities on its parched shores have had to defend their homes from encroaching sand dunes while finding new ways to scratch a living from the degraded soil.
    The lake – once one of the largest in West Africa – used to be fed by annual flooding from the Niger River.    But it started to disappear after catastrophic droughts in the 1970s, forcing more than 200,000 people to abandon their traditional livelihoods.
    “All this area was covered by water,” said farmer-turned-herder Abdul Karim Ag Al Hassane, pointing to the desert horizon in a video shared by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
    Now he and other inhabitants of the formerly lakeside villages west of Timbuktu have to walk long distances to find water for their livestock and build barriers out of sticks in an effort to keep the dunes at bay.
    The shrinking population of Lake Faguibine is set to come under further pressure from climate change.    Average temperatures are expected to rise over 3°C in West Africa by 2100 and up to 4.7°C in northern Mali, according to the U.N. climate body.
    Efforts to boost resilience by restoring Faguibine’s wetlands and the area’s role as the breadbasket of the Timbuktu region have been derailed by waves of conflict, most recently a years-long Islamist insurgency, according to a 2016 study in the African Journal of Aquatic Science.
    In the village of Bintagoungou, the advancing dunes have buried a schoolyard and cracked the empty buildings’ foundations.
    “This is a school for almost 400 students,” said mayor Hama Abacrene.    “That’s an entire generation.     A lost generation, a generation condemned to flee or be recruited.”
(Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Giles Elgood)

11/5/2021 Tunisia’s Lagoon Farmers Cling On As Sea Level Rises by Jihed Abidellaoui
A general view shows Ghar El Melh's 'Al-Qataya', where farmers say a unique and traditional
agricultural system is at risk of extinction due to climate change, in Ghar El Melh, Tunisia
November 3, 2021. Picture taken November 3, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui
    GHAR EL MELH, Tunisia (Reuters) – Dotted among wetlands on Tunisia’s coast, a patchwork of tiny man-made islands stretches out towards the Mediterranean.
    Ploughed in neat furrows and shored up by sandbanks inside a lagoon, they are home to a centuries-old system of agriculture that climate change threatens to wipe out.
    Ali Garsi has farmed a 0.8-hectare (two-acre) plot in the Ghar El Melh wetlands, which lie some 60 km (35 miles) north of Tunis, for 20 years.    Relying on a layer of freshwater that feeds his plants above a saltwater base, he grows mainly potatoes, onions and tomatoes.
    But with sea levels and temperatures in the area rising and rainfall below average, his yields are dropping.
    “There is a shortage in the quantities of rain, and this definitely negatively affected the quantity of our product in general,” the 61-year-old retired teacher told Reuters as he looked across the lagoon plots, collectively known as al-Qataya.
    “Production is weaker, compared to years when the quantities of rain were respectable.”
    Invented in the 17th century by North Africa’s Andalusian diaspora, the Ramli – meaning “sandy” in Arabic – agricultural system used by Garsi irrigates crops entrenched in a mix of sand and manure via their roots.
    Its water-shortage resistant methods gained global renown last year when the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization added Ghar El Melh to its list of agricultural heritage systems of global importance.
    But the system’s reliance on a fragile balance of rain and sea tides means it faces unprecedented challenges.
    “Al-Qataya has a traditional agricultural system that is now threatened with extinction due to several climate factors,” said environmental engineer Hamdi Hached.
    In August, a heat spike across northern Tunisia brought temperatures of 49 degrees Celsius, the highest since 1982, and the northern provinces, including Bizerte where Ghar El Melh is situated, witnessed their hottest summer ever.
    Meanwhile, rainfall fell to below two thirds of its long-term average, a shortfall that climate modelling suggests could become permanent, Hached said.
    Globally rising sea levels as temperatures increase pose a further threat to Ghar El Melh.
    “The sea water level in the Mediterranean Sea will rise and… seep towards the areas surrounding Al-Qataya, which can … salinise the soil,” he said.    “This could end this unique system.”
(Reporting by Jihed Abidellaoui, Writing by Nadeen Ebrahim; editing by John Stonestreet)

11/5/2021 Anti-Government Alliance Says It Aims To Bring Down Ethiopian Government by Humeyra Pamuk and Maggie Fick
A general view of the skyline of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia November 3, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    WASHINGTON/NAIROBI (Reuters) -A newly-formed alliance of Ethiopian factions said on Friday it aimed to bring down Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed by force or by negotiation and to form a transitional government.
    The Ethiopian government dismissed the alliance as a publicity stunt and said some groups in it had a history of ethnic violence.
    The alliance was announced by faction leaders in Washington despite calls from African and Western leaders for a ceasefire in the war, which pits the central government against the northern-based Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and its allies.
    With the rebel forces threatening to move on the capital Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian army on Friday called on former personnel to rejoin the military to fight them, state media said.
    In a further sign of growing international concern, the U.S. Embassy advised all U.S. citizens to leave Ethiopia as soon as possible.
    “The security environment in Ethiopia is very fluid,” the embassy said in a statement.
    The year-long war has killed thousands of people and forced more than two million more from their homes.    It has intensified in recent weeks.
    Announcing the formation of the United Front of Ethiopian Federalist and Confederalist Forces at an event in Washington, the alliance said it was setting up a command to coordinate its military and political efforts.
    “The next step will be to organize ourselves and totally dismantle the existing government, either by force or by negotiation … then insert a transitional government,” said Mahamud Ugas Muhumed, Somali State Resistance.
    The pact expands an existing agreement between the TPLF and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), organisers said, and includes nine groups who all have armed units.
    “We’re trying to bring an end to this terrible situation in Ethiopia, which is created single-handedly by the Abiy government,” said Berhane Gebrekristos, a TPLF leader and former Ethiopian ambassador to the United States.    “Time is running out for him.”
    Abiy’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, asked for reaction, referred Reuters to a comment she posted on Twitter in which she defended Abiy’s rule since he took office in 2018.
    She said in the post: “The opening up of the political space (after Abiy’s appointment) three years ago provided ample opportunity for contenders to settle their differences at the ballot box in June 2021.”
    Abiy’s party was re-elected by a landslide in June.    She did not refer directly to the new alliance.
    Attorney General Gedion Temothewos called the alliance “a publicity stunt” and said some of the groups had a track record of “ethnic cleansing.”
    The conflict started a year ago when forces loyal to the TPLF, including some soldiers, seized military bases in Tigray.    In response, Abiy sent more troops to the northern region.
    The TPLF had dominated national politics for nearly three decades but lost much influence when Abiy took office in 2018.
    The TPLF accused him of centralising power at the expense of regional states.    Abiy denies this.
STOP THE WAR?
    The TPLF and the OLA told Reuters they are now in the town of Kemise in Amhara state, 325 km (200 miles) from the capital.
    It was not possible to independently confirm claims made by either side as communications in the area are down.
    On Thursday the government accused the Tigrayan forces of exaggerating their territorial gains.
    The TPLF had said on Tuesday its forces were closing in on the town of Mille, which would enable them to cut off the highway linking neighbouring Djibouti to Addis Ababa.
    On Friday, government spokesperson Legesse Tulu rejected the claim, saying fighting was 80 km (50 miles) from Mille.    He had not responded to earlier requests for comment.
    He also said there was fighting at least 100 km (60 miles) north of Shewa Robit, a town in the Amhara region that is on the A2 highway, which links the capital to Ethiopia’s north.    That would put fighting about 57 km (36 miles) south of Kombulcha, one of two towns that the TPLF said it captured last weekend.
    The government said on Friday that a TPLF commander, Colonel Guesh Gebrehiwot, was captured on Thursday during fighting near Dessie, in Amhara.    The TPLF was unreachable for comment.
    At a market on Addis Ababa’s outskirts, traders went about their business as usual but fewer people were coming to shop.
    Vegetable seller Abdisa Wili, 32, said prices were rising.
    “If the war is going to continue, it will have impact on the economy,” he said.    “Both sides should stop the war, no one will profit from war except death and economic downfall.    They should solve the problem through discussion.”
    State-affiliated Fana TV reported that thousands of people took to the streets on Friday for pro-government rallies in at least seven towns and cities in Oromiya region, which surrounds Addis Ababa.    The region is divided – Abiy is part Oromo and support from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group helped propel him to power.    He lost some of that backing when security forces detained thousands of Oromos Amnesty International said there has been an alarming rise in social media posts advocating violence.    The rights group also said a state of emergency declared on Tuesday is overly broad and “a blueprint for escalating human rights violations.”
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday called for a ceasefire, saying: “The conflict in Ethiopia must come to an end.”
    The spokespeople for the Ethiopian government and the TPLF did not respond to requests for comment on Blinken’s call but the government’s communication department said in a statement: “This is not a Country that Crumbles under Foreign Propaganda!    We are fighting an existential war!
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington and Maggie Fick in NairobiAdditional reporting by George Obulutsa in Nairobi; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

11/5/2021 Sudan’s Military Dissolves Boards Of State Companies – State TV
FILE PHOTO: Protesters hold flags and chant slogans as they march against the Sudanese
military's recent seizure of power and ousting of the civilian government, in the streets of the
capital Khartoum, Sudan October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin/File Photo
    Cairo (Reuters) -Sudan’s military has dissolved the boards of all state companies and national agricultural projects, state TV said on Friday, in what appeared to be the junta’s latest move to tighten control after seizing power in a coup on Oct. 25.
    Under growing international and domestic pressure, the military rulers were challenged by a leading civilian group to release three political figures it said had been arrested after meeting an envoy for the United Nations.
    Last week’s takeover halted a power-sharing deal between the military and civilians agreed after the overthrow of long-time autocratic leader Omar al-Bashir 2-1/2 years ago, an arrangement that was meant to lead to elections by the end of 2023.
    State TV gave no further details on the dissolution of state company boards.
    Mediation efforts involving the United Nations have sought the release of prominent civilian figures including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who is under house arrest, and a return to power-sharing, against a backdrop of mass rallies and local protests against the military.
    The Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition said three more civilians – two Sudanese Congress Party members and a senior member of a task force dismantling the Bashir government’s assets – had been arrested on Thursday.
    The FFC said any reports of contact between it and the military or of an imminent agreement between the military and Hamdok were untrue and “nothing but desperate efforts to sow frustration in the intrepid Sudanese street (movement).”
    A source close to Hamdok said late on Thursday that talks were making progress.    But many in the protest movement, which is mobilising for further demonstrations, oppose compromise with the military and are calling for full civilian rule.
    The U.N. mission in Sudan condemned the reported arrests of Taha Osman Isahaq, Sharif Mohamed Osman and Hamza Farouk near its offices in the capital Khartoum and called for the immediate release of all those detained.
    “These detentions hinder efforts to restore stability and a return to the path of democratic transition in Sudan and nullifies the impact of the release of four of the detained ministers yesterday,” the mission said in a statement.
    In Geneva, U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet called on Sudan’s military leaders “to step back in order to allow the country to return to the path of progress.”    The U.N. human rights council agreed to appoint an expert to monitor the situation in Sudan.
    Sudan’s military chief, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has said the army intervened because of political turmoil and the risk of civil war, and that elections will be held in 2023.
    His critics accuse the army of fomenting unrest ahead of the military takeover, which they say made the risk of civil conflict more likely and derailed a transition that offered an exit from decades of isolation and internal wars.
(Reporting by Lilian Wagdy and Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Aidan Lewis;Editing by Toby Chopra, Andrew Cawthorne, William Maclean)

11/5/2021 ‘Sense Of Duty’ Puts Veteran U.S. Envoy In Middle Of Ethiopia Conflict by Michelle Nichols and Humeyra Pamuk
FILE PHOTO: U.N. Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman speaks during
a news conference in Colombo March 3, 2015. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/File Photo
    NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As U.N. political affairs chief, Jeffrey Feltman met Iran’s supreme leader and top North Korean officials.    Now back with the U.S. foreign service, his focus is compelling a Nobel Peace laureate and rivals to stop a war and avert famine in Ethiopia.
    After leaving the United Nations in 2018, Feltman was happy in what he dubbed “quasi-retirement” and “government service fell into the ‘been there done that’ category.”    Then, as rumors swirled that the Biden administration would ask him to be the U.S. envoy on Syria, he was instead asked to take on the Horn of Africa.
    “My sense of duty kicked in,” Feltman, 62, who spent more than 25 years as a U.S. diplomat, told the U.S. Institute of Peace on Tuesday.
    Feltman took up his U.S. role in April – five months into a conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region between forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the army of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for settling Ethiopia’s longtime conflict with Eritrea.
    Aside from trying to bring an end to the fighting in Ethiopia, Feltman is also contending now with a military coup in Sudan, where he traveled two weeks ago. Now he is in Ethiopia.
    During his six years at the United Nations – forming U.N. policy and overseeing mediation efforts – Feltman regularly dealt with world leaders.    In 2012 he visited Iran with then U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to meet supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
    Then in 2017, Feltman visited North Korea – the highest-level U.N. official to visit since 2011 – describing his four-day trip at the time as “the most important mission I have ever undertaken.”    It came amid former U.S. President Donald Trump’s blunt rhetoric and sanctions campaign against Pyongyang.
    Six months after Feltman’s visit, Trump first met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in a failed bid to get Kim to give up his nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
‘UNUSUALLY CREATIVE’
    Former U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock, who worked alongside Feltman for a year, praised him as deeply knowledgeable and “unusually creative in solving problems.”
    “He was always good at spotting when leaders realized the direction they were heading in was going to land them in deep doo-doo and helping them change course without unhelpfully rubbing their faces in it,” Lowcock, who is now a fellow at the Center for Global Development, told Reuters.
    But some Ethiopians are wary of Feltman, questioning his 2012 visit to the country as a top U.N. official.    He represented the United Nations at the funeral of Ethiopian strongman Meles Zenawi, who led the country for more than 20 years, promoting economic growth while clamping down on dissent.
    “I had no idea … that a ceremonial, representational appearance would – nearly a decade later – be fodder for misinformation on social media: that the newly appointed U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa was somehow hopelessly partisan, in favor of a man I never actually met,” Feltman said.
    He is again in Ethiopia amid a growing conflict in Africa’s second most populous country that has killed thousands of people, forced more than two million from their homes, and left 400,000 people in Tigray facing famine.
    Abiy declared a state of emergency on Tuesday as the Tigrayan forces threatened to push forward to Addis Ababa.    Then in a speech on Wednesday he pledged to bury his government’s enemies “with our blood” as he marked the start of the war in the Tigray region one year ago.
    “We do not believe that either side will be able to assert themselves militarily … they will not be able to win militarily.    So we’ve been saying that one needs to look at other means,” Feltman said on Tuesday.    “We’re not getting much response, the military logic is still prevailing.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool)

11/5/2021 Ethiopian Anti-Government Alliance Says Plans To Dismantle Government By Force Or Negotiations
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed address the media after inspecting ongoing developments at the new 32-berth
Lamu Port in Lamu County, Kenya December 9, 2020. Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – A new alliance of nine anti-Ethiopian government factions said on Friday it plans to dismantle the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed by force or by negotiations, and then form a transitional government.
    They made the announcement at a press conference in Washington.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Toby Chopra)

11/5/2021 U.S. State Department Advises All U.S. Citizens To Leave Ethiopia As Soon As Possible
People clean a street in Megenagna neighbourhood in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia November 3, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    (Reuters) – The U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa advised all U.S. citizens to leave Ethiopia as soon as possible, a statement on their website said on Friday, after an alliance of anti-government forces threatened to march on the capital city.
    “The security environment in Ethiopia is very fluid.    We advise U.S. citizens who are in Ethiopia to leave the country as soon as possible,” the statement said.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom; Editing by Toby Chopra)

11/5/2021 U.N. Security Council Calls For End To Ethiopia Conflict by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: A general view of the skyline of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia November 3, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The U.N. Security Council on Friday called for an end to the fighting in Ethiopia and for talks on a lasting ceasefire as the 15-member body expressed deep concern in a rare statement about the expansion and intensification of military clashes.
    The council also “called for refraining from inflammatory hate speech and incitement to violence and divisiveness.”
    It had been negotiating a statement for several days and eventually reached a compromise with Russia on the text, diplomats said.    Such statements have to be agreed by consensus.
    Russia and China have long made clear they believe the year-long conflict, which started in the northern region of Tigray, is an internal affair for Ethiopia.    Both countries are council veto-powers – along with the United States, Britain and France – so any strong council action, like sanctions, is unlikely.
    The war, which has killed thousands of people and forced more than two million from their homes, has intensified in recent weeks.    With rebels threatening to move on the capital Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian army on Friday called on former troops to rejoin to fight them, state media said.
    A planned Security Council meeting on Ethiopia on Friday was postponed until Monday, said Mexico’s U.N. Ambassador Juan Ramón de la Fuente Ramírez, council president for November.
    The statement on Ethiopia – drafted by Ireland, Kenya, Niger, Tunisia and St Vincent and the Grenadines – was only the second by the Security Council in the past year.
    “Today the Security Council breaks six months of silence and speaks again with one united voice on the deeply concerning situation in Ethiopia,” Ireland’s U.N. Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason said in a statement.
    “For the first time, the council clearly calls for a cessation of hostilities.    We believe this should happen immediately, and that all civilians must be protected,” she said.
    The United Nations has said that up to 7 million people in the Ethiopian regions of Tigray, Amhara and Afar need help, including 5 million in Tigray where some 400,000 people are estimated to be living in famine-like conditions.
    The Security Council “called for the respect of international humanitarian law, for safe and unhindered humanitarian access, the re-establishment of public services, and further urged the scaling up of humanitarian assistance.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool)

11/6/2021 Ninety-Nine Killed In Fuel Tanker Blast In Sierra Leone Capital by Umaru Fofana
People look at fire blaze following a fuel tanker explosion in Freetown, Sierra Leone November 5, 2021
in this still image obtained from a social media video on November 6, 2021. Facebook @FODAY.KONDEH.5/via
REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
    FREETOWN (Reuters) - At least 99 people were killed and more than 100 injured in the capital of Sierra Leone late on Friday when a fuel tanker exploded following a collision, local authorities said.
    Emergency crews worked to clear the scene on Saturday in Freetown’s eastern suburb of Wellington where a burnt body and the blackened shells of cars and motorbikes blocked the road following the crash, a Reuters reporter said.
    The wounded were treated in hospitals and clinics across the capital, deputy health minister Amara Jambai told Reuters.
    Victims included people who had flocked to collect fuel leaking from the ruptured vehicle, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, mayor of the port city, said in a post on Facebook, although that post was later edited to remove the reference.
    “We’ve got so many casualties, burnt corpses,” said Brima Bureh Sesay, head of the National Disaster Management Agency, in a video from the scene shared online.    “It’s a terrible, terrible accident.”
    Videos shared online shortly after the explosion showed people running through clouds of thick smoke as large fires lit up the night sky.    Reuters was not able immediately to verify the images, but witnesses described the horror.
    “We are all in shock. A lady I had just bought bread from died. A lovely woman.    I can’t get over this grief,” said Abdul Kabia, crying at the crash site surrounded by mangled vehicles.
HOSPITAL OVERWHELMED
    The crash provided a major challenge for Freetown’s health service already creaking from years of underfunding.    The 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic gutted the country’s ranks of medical staff, 250 of whom died, and the system has not recovered.
    Connaught Hospital was overwhelmed with the influx of patients, so some of the injured were moved to other locations, including a military hospital, said Swaray Lengor, a programme manager at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
    “The situation at the hospital, especially Connaught hospital … is overwhelming.    Inadequate medical consumables and bed capacity,” Lengor told Reuters by text message.    “NGO partners were requested to support with equipment, medical commodities and food.”
    The death toll would likely rise, he said.
    The World Health Organization said it would send supplies and deploy specialists in burn injuries.
    “We will provide more support as needed at this terrible time for the people of Sierra Leone,” it said on Twitter.
    Accidents with tanker trucks in Sub-Saharan Africa have previously killed scores of people who gathered at the site to collect spilled fuel and were hit by secondary blasts.
    In 2019, a tanker explosion in Tanzania killed 85 people, while around 50 people were killed in a similar disaster in Democratic Republic of Congo in 2018.
    “My profound sympathies with families who have lost loved ones and those who have been maimed as a result,” President Julius Maada Bio tweeted.    “My government will do everything to support affected families.”
(Reporting by Umaru Fofana in Freetown; Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru; and Edward McAllister in DakarWriting by Bhargav Acharya and Alessandra PrenticeEditing by Frances Kerry, Giles Elgood and Edmund Blair)

11/6/2021 U.S. Orders Non-Emergency Government Employees In Ethiopia To Leave
Traffic police are seen on duty at the Lafto neighbourhood in
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 5, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    NAIROBI (Reuters) - The United States has ordered non-emergency U.S. government employees in Ethiopia to leave because of armed conflict and civil unrest, its embassy in Addis Ababa said on Saturday.
    Denmark and Italy also asked their citizens in Ethiopia to leave while commercial flights were still available, as rebellious Tigrayan forces and their allies have advanced towards the capital Addis Ababa.
    Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government, which has been embroiled in a year-long war against Tigrayan forces, has promised to keep fighting despite calls for a ceasefire from African nations, Western states and the U.N. Security Council.
    “Incidents of civil unrest and ethnic violence are occurring without warning.    The situation may escalate further and may cause supply chain shortages, communications blackouts, and travel disruptions,” the U.S. Embassy said on its website.
    Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and Abiy’s spokesperson Billene Seyoum did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment.
    Municipal authorities in the capital ordered residents who own firearms to register their weapons this week, to bolster defences in case the city is attacked.    Addis Ababa has registered more than 10,000 weapons, Yonas Zewde, a spokesperson for the city administration, told state broadcaster EBC on Saturday.
    Abiy’s government declared a national state of emergency on Tuesday, saying it was locked in an “existential war” with forces from the northern Tigray region and their allies.
    Getu Argaw, police commissioner for the capital, told EBC it was “only a dream” for the TPLF to think it could capture the city.    He said police had confiscated weapons and uniforms from people in the capital.
    Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) spokesperson Getachew Reda accused Abiy of using the state of emergency to arrest “thousands of Tigrayans and Oromos
    The government spokesperson and the federal police spokesperson Jeylan Abdi did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment on Getachew’s remarks but police have denied that arrests in the capital are ethnically motivated.
    “We are only arresting those who are directly or indirectly supporting the illegal terrorist group,” police spokesperson Fasika Fante said on Thursday, a reference to the TPLF.    “This includes moral, financial and propaganda support.”
    The TPLF unveiled an alliance with other factions on Friday aiming to remove Abiy from power, saying this would be done by force if needed.
    The government condemned the move, saying Abiy had a mandate to rule based on a landslide election win in June.    It urged international partners to help protect Ethiopia’s democracy.
    The conflict in the north of Ethiopia started a year ago when forces loyal to the TPLF seized military bases in the Tigray region. In response, Abiy sent troops, who initially drove the TPLF out of the regional capital but have faced a sharp reversal since June this year.
    Reuters has not been able to confirm independently the extent of the TPLF advance.    The TPLF and their allies told Reuters this week they were now in the town of Kemise in Amhara state, 325 km (200 miles) from the capital.    The government accuses the group of exaggerating its territorial gains.
    The conflict has killed thousands of people, forced more than 2 million more from their homes and left 400,000 people in Tigray facing famine.
    Social media companies Facebook and Twitter have taken action to limit what they call violations of their policies by Ethiopian accounts, including removing a post by Abiy’s official Facebook account.
    Twitter said on Saturday it had temporarily disabled the Trends section of its service in Ethiopia, which showcases the most tweeted subjects, because of threats of physical harm.
    “Inciting violence or dehumanizing people is against our rules … Given the imminent threat of physical harm, we’ve also temporarily disabled Trends in Ethiopia,” the company said.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa NewsroomWriting by Duncan MiririEditing by Peter Graff and Edmund Blair)

11/6/2021 Israel Suggests U.S Open Consulate For Palestinians In West Bank, Not Jerusalem by Dan Williams
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reacts during a news conference with Foreign Minister
Yair Lapid and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman (unseen) at the Government Press Office,
(GPO) in Jerusalem November 6, 2021. Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel stepped up its public opposition on Saturday to a plan by President Joe Biden’s administration to reopen a U.S. consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem, suggesting such a mission should be in the occupied West Bank.
    Under former President Donald Trump, Washington delighted Israelis and outraged Palestinians by closing the Jerusalem consulate and placing its staff within the U.S. Embassy to Israel that was moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in 2018.
    Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and saw the U.S. initiative to move its embassy as undermining that aspiration. Israel, which captured East Jerusalem in 1967, calls Jerusalem its indivisible capital.
    Seeking to repair ties with Palestinians, the Biden administration has said it would reopen the consulate, although it has not given a date.
    “My position, and it was presented to the Americans … is that there is no place for a U.S. consulate which serves the Palestinians in Jerusalem.    We are voicing our opinion consistently, quietly, without drama,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters.
    Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, speaking next to Bennett, proposed reopening the consulate in the de-facto seat of Palestinian government in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank.
    “If they (the United States) want to open a consulate in Ramallah, we have no problem with that,” he said.
    In Ramallah, the spokesman of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected Lapid’s comments.     “We will only accept a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, the capital of the Palestinian state.    That was what the U.S. administration had announced and had committed itself to doing,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh told Reuters. Spokespeople for the U.S. Embassy did not immediately comment.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month Washington would “be moving forward with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening of those ties with the Palestinians,” although one of his senior staff also said Israel’s rejection of the plan was an obstacle.
    “My understanding (is) that we need the consent of the host government to open any diplomatic facility,” Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian McKeon said during a U.S. Senate hearing when queried on the consulate standoff.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Edmund Blair)

11/6/2021 Israeli Foreign Minister Distances Government From Blacklisted NSO Group
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks during a meeting with his Russian counterpart
Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia September 9, 2021. Alexander Nemenov/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Saturday distanced the government from the NSO Group, a firm blacklisted this week by the United States over alleged misuse of its phone hacking spyware.
    An investigation by 17 media organisations published in July said NSO’s Pegasus software had targeted smartphones of journalists, rights activists and government officials in several countries.
    The company sends its products abroad under licences from Israel’s Defence Ministry, which has launched its own probe of the company’s practices after the alleged software misuse emerged.
    No results have been announced and Israel has given no indication so far that it was considering limiting the scope of NSO’s exports.
    “NSO is a private company, it is not a governmental project and therefore even if it is designated, it has nothing to do with the policies of the Israeli government,” Lapid told a news conference in Jerusalem.    “I don’t think there is another country in the world which has such strict rules according to cyber warfare and that is imposing those rules more than Israel and we will continue to do so.”
    His comments are the first made publicly by a senior Israeli minister since the U.S. Commerce Department announced the blacklisting on Wednesday.
    In the past, NSO Group has been accused of selling hacking tools to authoritarian regimes.    NSO says it only sells its products to law enforcement and intelligence agencies and takes steps to curb abuse.
    Its inclusion on the U.S. list, for engaging in activities contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests, means that exports to them from U.S counterparts are restricted.
    NSO has said it was “dismayed” by the U.S. decision and that it has ended contracts with government agencies that misused products it promotes as legitimate tools to help crime-fighting authorities battle terrorism.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Mike Harrison)

11/6/2021 Six To Stand For President In Gambia’s First Election After Jammeh by Pap Saine
FILE PHOTO: Gambia's President Adama Barrow addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General
Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 25, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
    BANJUL (Reuters) – Gambian President Adama Barrow will face five challengers in an election on Dec. 4, the first vote in 27 years not to include exiled former leader Yahya Jammeh, who fled the country after refusing to accept his defeat five years ago.
    Barrow will be judged on his progress dragging the country out of a Jammeh era characterised by harsh political crackdowns, fear and financial plunder.    The election is being held under conditions of economic hardship after the COVID-19 pandemic kept European tourists away from Gambia’s beaches.
    Candidates include Barrow’s former political mentor Ousainou Darboe, 73, as well as Essa Mbye Faal, who served as chief counsel of Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission that chronicled the abuses of Jammeh’s rule. Also running is Mama Kandeh, who came third in the 2016 polls.
    Fifteen other candidates were rejected for not meeting election commission standards.
    Barrow, a former security guard in London, has been stymied by COVID-19.    The economy shrank 0.2% in 2020, although it is expected to grow 4.9% this year.
    Critics point to a rise in crime and poor electricity and internet networks.    Some are mistrustful: Barrow initially said he would only serve as a transitional leader for three years but can now run for as long as he likes after a bill to limit presidents to two terms failed to pass last year.
    Still, a recent programme to build 50 roads has been well received and many in the country of 2.4 million people appreciate his calm demeanour and leniency after Jammeh.
(Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Peter Graff)

11/6/2021 Moroccan King Ignores Algeria Accusation In Speech
FILE PHOTO: Morocco's King Mohammed VI arrives for a lunch at the Elysee Palace as part
of the One Planet Summit in Paris, France, December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
    RABAT (Reuters) – Morocco’s King Mohammed gave a speech about Western Sahara on Saturday but made no mention of an Algerian accusation that Morocco targeted Algerian civilians in an incident last week that the United Nations said took place in the disputed territory.
    Algeria’s accusation has raised fears of further escalation between the North African rivals after Algeria cut off diplomatic relations, stopped supplying gas to Morocco and blocked Algerian airspace to Moroccan flights.
    Ties between the countries have been fractious for years, but have deteriorated since last year after the Algeria-backed Polisario Front said it was resuming its armed struggle for the independence of Western Sahara, a territory Morocco sees as its own.
    King Mohammed’s silence on the dispute with Algeria in his annual speech on Western Sahara is in line with Morocco’s practice since soon after Algeria broke off ties in August in ignoring all statements coming from Algiers.
    However, Algeria’s accusation on Wednesday that Morocco had killed three civilians driving in the Sahara on Monday has sharply raised the stakes.
    Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune vowed in a statement that the death of the three men “would not go unpunished.”
    Morocco has not formally responded to the accusation.
    The U.N. peacekeeping force in Western Sahara, MINURSO, visited the site of the incident in territory outside Moroccan control and found two badly damaged Algerian-plated trucks, a U.N. spokesperson said on Friday.    The spokesperson said MINURSO was looking into the incident.
    Last year the United States recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara as part of a deal that also included Rabat bolstering ties with Israel.
    Morocco has been more assertive since then in pushing European countries to follow suit.    However, they have not done so and in September a European Union court said some European trade deals with Morocco were invalid because they included products originating in Western Sahara territory.
    King Mohammed said on Saturday that Morocco would not agree “any economic or commercial step that excludes the Moroccan Sahara.”
(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi, writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Alistair Bell)

11/6/2021 Libya’s Presidency Council Suspends Foreign Minister, Spokesperson Says
FILE PHOTO: Libyan Foreign Minister Najla el-Mangoush attends a joint press conference at the conclusion
of the Libya Stabilization Conference, in Tripoli, Libya, October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed
    TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libya’s Presidency Council has suspended Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush for “administrative violations” and barred her from traveling, its spokesperson said on Saturday.
    The spokesperson, Najwa Wahiba, confirmed the authenticity of a document circulating on social media ordering Mangoush’s suspension for carrying out foreign policy without coordination with the council.
(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli, additional reporting by Moaz Abd-Alaziz; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Peter Graff)

11/6/2021 Sudan Talks Over Coup Hit “Semi-Deadlock”, Sources From Ousted Government Say
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) address
the media at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) -Talks to resolve Sudan’s political crisis after last month’s coup have hit “semi-deadlock” because the military has refused to return to a path of democratic transition, two sources from the ousted government said on Saturday.
    The sources told Reuters the military had tightened restrictions on ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was placed under house arrest during the Oct. 25 takeover when his government was dissolved.
    The new restrictions further limited his ability to hold meetings or make political contacts, they added.
    Sudan’s military chief, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has said the army intervened because of political turmoil and the risk of civil war.    He says the military remains committed to the transition and to elections to be held in 2023.
    After arresting top civilians including several cabinet ministers, the military has taken steps that appear aimed at consolidating its control.    Late on Saturday, Sudanese state TV said the directors of five state banks had been replaced, a day after it was announced that the boards of state companies had been dissolved.
    Mediation efforts involving the United Nations have been seeking to find a way for Hamdok to be brought back as prime minister of a purely technocratic government.
    Hamdok has demanded preconditions that include the release of top civilians detained during the coup and a return to a transition towards democracy that began after the overthrow of long-term autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
    Pro-democracy groups are trying to reverse the coup with a series of mass rallies and neighbourhood demonstrations.    Some small protests took place on Saturday evening, and a new round of civil disobedience and strikes are planned across Sudan for Sunday and Monday.    Many in the protest movement reject any role for the military and call for full civilian rule.
    The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which led protests in the uprising that toppled Bashir, announced a new platform on Saturday including a demand for the formation of a purely civilian transitional authority over a four year period.
    It also called for the restructuring of the military and the dissolution of the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), whose leader was Burhan’s deputy in the military-civilian ruling council before the coup.
    Critics of Burhan accuse the army of fomenting unrest before the military takeover, which they say made the risk of civil conflict more likely and derailed a transition that had offered Sudan a chance to escape decades of isolation and internal wars.
    Western powers have condemned the takeover, paused economic assistance, and said that a deal for relief on tens of billions in foreign debt is at risk.
    A delegation from the Arab League, which has called for Sudanese parties to stick to the democratic transition, was sending a high-level delegation to Sudan on Saturday.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz and Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Gareth Jones, Edmund Blair, Peter Graff)

11/6/2021 Turkey’s Pro-Kurdish HDP Says Banning Case Should Be Thrown Out by Ali Kucukgocmen
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators attend a protest in solidarity with pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party
(HDP), during a protest in Istanbul, Turkey June 18, 2021. REUTERS/Dilara Senkaya/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – An indictment which aims to ban Turkey’s Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP) was prepared for political reasons and should be thrown out, an HDP official said on Saturday, a day after it submitted an initial defence to Turkey’s top court.
    Turkey’s Constitutional Court accepted the indictment against the pro-Kurdish HDP in June.    The measure calls for the party to be shut down over alleged ties to militants.    But the HDP denies any such ties and describes the case as a “political operation.”
    The case, brought by prosecutors at the Court of Cassation, follows a years-long crackdown on the HDP, in which thousands of its members have been tried on mainly terrorism-related charges.
    The party submitted its initial defence to the Constitutional Court on Friday.
    Umit Dede, a deputy chair of the HDP, told reporters on Saturday the initial defence did not address each allegation individually but sought to highlight procedural issues.
    “This case was prepared as a result of the pressure put on the chief prosecutors of the Court of Cassation by the ruling party and its partners.    Therefore, in our defence we presented this matter to the attention of the Constitutional Court with evidence,” Dede said.
    The party will address allegations individually after the prosecutor submits his analysis to the court, but the case should be thrown out before that, Dede said.
    Turkey has a long history of shutting down political parties, including pro-Kurdish ones.    Critics say its judiciary is subject to political influence, a claim denied by the ruling AK Party and its nationalist MHP allies.
    Court of Cassation chief prosecutor Bekir Sahin said in the indictment that the HDP acts together with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, and aims to break the unity of the state.
    The HDP is Turkey’s third-largest party, with 55 seats in the 600-member parliament.
    The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.    It has fought an insurgency since 1984 in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by David Holmes)

11/6/2021 Baghdad Deaths, Injuries To Be Investigated Amid Election Dispute - Iraqi News Agency
Supporters of Iraqi Shiite armed groups run from security forces after clashes during a protest
against the election results in Baghdad, Iraq, November 5, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) -An investigation has begun into the deaths and injuries of demonstrators and security forces after clashes in Baghdad on Friday, the Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported, citing Iraq’s Joint Operations Command.
    Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered the formation of a committee to investigate following clashes between Iraqi security forces and supporters of parties that are disputing the results of a general election in October.
    A Joint Operations Command statement did not mention the number of deaths and injuries.
    The statement added that “the negligent will be brought to legal accountability for their negligence and violation of the explicit orders of the commander in chief, which stressed that live bullets should not be fired under any circumstances,” INA reported.
    Al-Kadhimi also ordered compensation for victims of the clashes and decided to personally supervise the progress of the investigation, INA said.
    It was the first significant violent clash between government forces and supporters of the political parties, most of which have armed wings and are aligned with Iran, since those groups lost dozens of parliament seats after the Oct. 10 vote.
    Police fired tear gas and live ammunition into the air as scores of the protesters threw stones and tried to advance towards Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign embassies, the security sources said.
    Hospital sources said that more than 21 protesters were hurt mostly from smoke inhalation and nine policeman injured from being pelted by stones.
    The parties that made the biggest gains in Iraq’s October election include that of populist Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who publicly opposes Iranian interference in Iraqi politics and has called for all remaining Western troops to withdraw from the country.
    The Iran-backed groups disputing the election result are also Shi’ite but follow an Iranian model of theocratic governance which the nationalist Sadr and many ordinary Iraqi Shi’ites reject.
    As per al-Kadhimi’s orders, the investigation committee will include the security of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), a state-sanctioned umbrella organisation of mostly Shi’ite militias backed by Iran, INA said.
    Iraq’s majority Shi’ites have dominated government since the U.S.-led overthrow of Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.    Sunnis and Iraqi Kurds, the next biggest religious and ethnic groups in Iraq, lead significant alliances in parliament.
    The election result was seen as a rejection by voters of foreign influence, especially that of Iran.
    The parties disputing the result say there were irregularities in the voting process and vote counting, but have not provided compelling evidence for their claims.
(Reporting by John Davison, Baghdad newsroom, Additional reporting by Nayera Abdallah in Cairo, Editing by William Maclean and Grant McCool)

11/7/2021 Iraqi PM Decries ‘Cowardly’ Attack On His Home By Drones Carrying Explosives by John Davison and Ahmed Rasheed
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi meets with Iraq's President Barham Salih after a drone attack on PM's
residence in Baghdad, Iraq, November 7, 2021. REUTERS/Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Handout via REUTERS
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) -Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi escaped unharmed from an armed drone assassination attempt in Baghdad, officials said on Sunday, in an incident that raised tension in Iraq weeks after a general election disputed by Iran-backed militia groups.
    Kadhimi appeared in a video footage published by his office on Sunday chairing a meeting with top security commanders to discuss the drone attack.
    “The cowardly terrorist attack that targeted the home of the prime minister last night with the aim of assassinating him, is a serious targeting of the Iraqi state by criminal armed groups,” his office said in a statement after the meeting.
    Six of Kadhimi’s guards outside his residence in the fortified Green Zone were wounded, security sources told Reuters.
    Three drones were used in the attack, including two that were downed by security forces while a third drone hit the residence, state news agency INA quoted an interior ministry spokesperson as saying.
    A spokesperson for the armed forces commander in chief said that after the attack the security situation was stable in the Green Zone, which houses the residence, government buildings and foreign embassies.
    No group immediately claimed responsibility.
    The attack came two days after clashes in Baghdad between government forces and supporters of Iran-backed political parties that lost dozens of parliamentary seats after an Oct. 10 general election.    Most of the parties have armed wings.
    Kadhimi ordered a probe https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/baghdad-clashes-hurt-30-iran-aligned-parties-dispute-iraq-vote-results-2021-11-05 into the deaths and injuries of demonstrators and security forces in those clashes.
    President Barham Salih condemned the attack as a heinous crime against Iraq.    “We cannot accept that Iraq will be dragged into chaos and a coup against its constitutional system,” he said in a tweet.
    Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose party was the biggest winner in last month’s election, called the attack a terrorist act against Iraq’s stability that aimed to “return Iraq to a state of chaos to be controlled by non-state forces.”
    The United States, United Nations, Saudi Arabia and Iran condemned the attack.
DAMAGE TO RESIDENCE
    Video released by the prime minister’s office showed damage to parts of the residence, unexploded ordnance on the roof, and a damaged SUV vehicle parked in the garage.
    Security forces retrieved the remains of a small explosive-laden drone, a security official with knowledge of the attack told Reuters.
    “It’s premature now to say who carried out the attack,” the official said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to comment on security details.
    The Iraqi military said in a statement the attack targeted Kadhimi’s residence and that he was in “good health,” giving no further detail.
    Two government officials said Kadhimi’s residence was hit by at least one explosion.
    Western diplomats based nearby in the Green Zone said they heard explosions and gunfire.
U.S. CONDEMNATION
    The United States offered assistance with the investigation.
    “The perpetrators of this terrorist attack on the Iraqi state must be held accountable.    I condemn in the strongest terms those using violence to undermine Iraq’s democratic process,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement, praising Kadhimi’s call for “calm, restraint and dialogue.”
    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Iraqis “to exercise utmost restraint and reject all violence and any attempts to destabilize Iraq,” his spokesperson said, adding that Gutteres urged all sides to resolve differences through dialogue.
    Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said the attack was a “cowardly terrorist act,” Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV reported.    Iran’s top security official, Ali Shamkhani, condemned the attack, calling it “a new sedition” in a tweet.
    The groups leading protests about the Oct. 10 vote are heavily armed Iran-backed militias that lost much of their parliamentary power in the election.    They have alleged voting and vote-counting irregularities, allegations rejected by Iraqi election officials.
    Demonstrations by their supporters turned violent on Friday when protesters pelted police with stones near the Green Zone, injuring several officers.
    The police responded with tear gas and live gunfire, killing at least one demonstrator, according to security and hospital sources in Baghdad.
    Analysts say the election results reflected anger towards the Iran-backed armed groups, which are widely accused of involvement in the killing of nearly 600 protesters who took the street in separate, anti-government demonstrations in 2019.
    Heads of various political parties, most of which have armed wings and are aligned with Iran, denounced the drone attack and called on the government to investigate and hold the perpetrators to account.
    A security official from the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah group in Iraq dismissed suggestions on Sunday that Iraqi groups were behind the attack on Kadhimi.
(Reporting by John Davison, Ahmed Rasheed, Baghdad newsroomAdditional reporting by Lucia Mutikani in Washington; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, William Mallard, Frances Kerry and Lisa Shumaker)

11/7/2021 Ethiopians Denounce U.S. At Rally To Back Military Campaign
Civilians attend a pro-government rally to denounce what the organisers say is the Tigray People’s
Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Western countries' interference in internal affairs of the country,
at Meskel Square in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 7, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -Tens of thousands of Ethiopians rallied in Addis Ababa on Sunday to support Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government as federal troops fight rebellious forces threatening to march on the capital.
    Some demonstrators denounced the United States, one of the foreign powers that has called for a ceasefire to a year-long war, which has intensified amid advances by rebellious forces in the past week.
    The U.N. Security Council, the African Union, and Kenya and Uganda have also called for a ceasefire in the conflict that has killed thousands of people.
    Abiy’s government, which has pledged to keep fighting, said on Friday it had a responsibility to secure the country and urged foreign powers to stand with Ethiopia’s democracy.
    The state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said on Sunday the authorities appeared to be using a state of emergency declared on Tuesday to arrest people based on ethnic identity.
    “In some police stations, the families are denied access to the detainees, and they can’t deliver food and clothing.    On top of that, elders and mothers with children are among the detainees,” the commission said in a statement.
    The government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and federal police spokesperson Jeylan Abdi did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.
    Police spokesperson Fasika Fante denied on Thursday that arrests were ethnically motivated, saying those detained “directly or indirectly” backed the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), an outlawed party that was once part of Ethiopia’s government and is now battling federal forces.
    Some of those gathered for the rally in Meskel Square in Addis Ababa draped themselves in the national flag.
    “Shame on you USA,” read one placard, while another said the United States should stop “sucking Ethiopia’s blood.”
‘THEY WILL NEVER SUCCEED’
    U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday accused Ethiopia of “gross violations” of human rights and said it planned to remove the country from a U.S. trade pact.
    The conflict in the north of the country started a year ago when forces loyal to the TPLF seized military bases in the Tigray region.    In response, Abiy sent troops, who initially drove the TPLF out of the regional capital, Mekelle, but have faced a sharp reversal since June this year.
    Some demonstrators voiced anger over a U.S. call for the government and TPLF to negotiate.
    “They want to destroy our country like they did to Afghanistan.    They will never succeed, we are Ethiopians,” said 37-year-old Tigist Lemma
.
    Addis Ababa Mayor Adanech Abiebe addressed protesters and cited Ethiopia’s history of resisting colonial power to justify the war.
    The conflict has killed thousands of people, forced more than 2 million from their homes and left 400,000 people in Tigray facing famine.
    U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths travelled to Mekelle on Sunday and met women affected by the fighting and humanitarian partners, the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.
    OCHA said he “engaged with de facto authorities on the need for humanitarian access and protection of civilians through all areas under their control, and respect for humanitarian principles.”
‘ASK FOR RECONCILIATION’
    A humanitarian source in Ethiopia and one person familiar with the matter told Reuters that the AU’s special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, was also on the trip.
    The AU and government spokesperson Legesse did not respond to a request for comment.    TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda told Reuters that Griffiths and Obasanjo visited Mekelle.
    At the Addis Ababa rally, popular musician Tariku Gankisi, whose songs call for Ethiopian unity, urged restraint.
    “Let no youth go to the front lines to fight, let the elders go holding the fresh grass and ask for reconciliation,” Tariku told the crowd, before his microphone was switched off, it was unclear by whom. Fresh grass is a symbol of peace in Ethiopia.
    Under a state of emergency declared on Tuesday, the government can order citizens of military age to undergo training and accept military duties.
    Reuters has not been able to confirm independently the extent of the TPLF advance.    The TPLF and their allies told Reuters last week they were 325 km (200 miles) from the capital.    The government accuses the group of exaggerating its gains.
    The government has also complained about foreign media coverage of the conflict and some people at the rally held signs denouncing “fake news” in Ethiopia.
    Billene Seyoum, Abiy’s spokesperson, said on Twitter on Saturday: “Orchestrated media propaganda against Ethiopia is escalating … Despite it all Ethiopia will overcome!
(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom and Nairobi newsroom; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Maggie Fick, Frances Kerry and Edmund Blair)

11/7/2021 Sudan Internet Cuts Complicate Civil Disobedience Campaign Against Coup
FILE PHOTO: Protesters carry a banner and national flags as they march against the Sudanese military's
recent seizure of power and ousting of the civilian government, in the streets
of the capital Khartoum, Sudan October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin/File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese pro-democracy groups launched two days of civil disobedience and strikes on Sunday in protest against last month’s military coup, though participation appeared to be limited by interruptions to internet and phone connections.
    In a sign of the potential for the coup to unravel efforts to end decades of internal conflict, armed rebel factions that signed a peace deal last year rejected the coup and called for the ending of a state of emergency.
    Local resistance committees and the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which led demonstrations in an uprising that toppled long-serving autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019, are organising a campaign of protests and barricades to try to reverse the military takeover.
    People were out on Sunday on the streets in the centre of the capital, Khartoum, though there was less traffic than usual, residents said.
    A teachers’ union said security forces used tear gas at the education ministry building for Khartoum State to break up a sit-in staged to oppose any handover to military appointees. Some 87 people were arrested, it said.
    In several areas in Eastern Khartoum, across the river in the Ombada area of Omdurman, police also used tear gas to break up protests, eyewitnesses said. On one major Khartoum street, security forces in civilian clothing were seen alongside police, they said.
    There were protests too in the cities of Medani, Nyala, and Atbara, where hundreds protested the re-appointment of Bashir loyalists in local government, eyewitnesses said.
INTERNET DISRUPTION
    Some hospitals and medical staff in Khartoum were working normally while others were on strike.
    “A number of people did not know about the call for civil disobedience because of the internet cut,” said one resident in central Khartoum who asked not to be identified.
    Internet services have been almost completely disrupted since the Oct. 25 coup, and phone coverage remains patchy.    Though daily life came to a near standstill after the takeover, shops, roads, and some banks have since reopened.
    The coup halted a power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilians that had been agreed after Bashir’s overthrow and was meant to lead to democratic elections by late 2023.
    Top civilians including several ministers were detained, and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was placed under house arrest.
    Since then, mediation efforts involving the United Nations have sought the release of detainees and a return to power sharing, but sources from the ousted government say those efforts have stalled.
    Since Bashir was toppled, Sudan had been emerging from decades of isolation and internal wars.    A peace agreement signed last year with rebel groups was intended to bring several of those long-running conflicts to an end.
    The Sudanese Revolutionary Front, which said it rejected the coup, includes rebel groups led by three men who had sat on a military-civilian ruling council dissolved during the takeover: Elhadi Idris and Altahir Hajar from Darfur and Malik Agar of the southern SPLM-N.
    Two other major rebel groups which did not sign the peace agreement have also rejected the coup.     Some signatories of the peace deal, including Darfur rebel group leaders Jibril Ibrahim and Minni Minawi, had aligned with the military in the weeks leading up to the coup.
    On Sunday an Arab league delegation met Hamdok and the commander in chief of the military, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
    The delegation stressed the importance of dialogue in order to return to a civilian-military partnership, it said in a statement.
    Activists demanding that the military exit politics have announced a schedule of protests leading up to mass rallies on Nov. 13, under the slogan “No negotiation, no partnership, no compromise.”
    Hundreds of thousands took to the streets against military rule in two huge demonstrations before and after the Oct. 25 coup.
    Western powers have paused economic assistance to Sudan and say that relief on tens of billions of dollars of foreign debt is at risk unless there is a return to democratic transition.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Nafisa EltahirWriting by Aidan LewisEditing by Gareth Jones and Peter Graff)

11/7/2021 Abu Dhabi To Allow Non-Muslim Civil Marriage Under Family Law Shakeup
FILE PHOTO: UAE flag flies over a boat at Dubai Marina, Dubai,
United Arab Emirates May 22, 2015. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) - Non-Muslims will be allowed to marry, divorce and get joint child custody under civil law in Abu Dhabi according to a new decree issued on Sunday by its ruler, state news agency WAM said.
    It is the latest step in the United Arab Emirates — where personal status laws on marriage and divorce had been based on Islamic sharia principles, as in other Gulf states — to maintain its competitive edge as a regional commercial hub.
    The decree from Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, who is also president of the UAE federation of seven emirates, said the law covers civil marriage, divorce, alimony, joint child custody and proof of paternity, and inheritance.
    It aims to “enhance the position and global competitiveness of the emirate as one of the most attractive destinations for talent and skills,” WAM said.
    The report described the civil law regulating non-Muslim family matters as being the first of its kind in the world “in line with international best practices.”
    A new court to handle non-Muslim family matters will be set up in Abu Dhabi and will operate in both English and Arabic.
    The UAE last year introduced a number of legal changes at the federal level, including decriminalising premarital sexual relations and alcohol consumption, and cancelling provisions for leniency when dealing with so-called “honour killings.”
    These reforms, alongside measures such as introducing longer-term visas, have been seen as a way for the Gulf state to make itself more attractive for foreign investment, tourism and long-term residency.
(Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Catherine Evans and Gareth Jones)

11/8/2021 Kuwaiti Govt Resigns, Possibly Helping To End Political Standoff
FILE PHOTO: Kuwait's Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah waits before speaking during the UN
Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain, November 2, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/Pool
    KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait’s government on Monday submitted its resignation to the ruling emir, state news agency KUNA reported, a move that could help end a standoff with opposition lawmakers that has hindered fiscal reform.
    It was the second time a government headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah has resigned this year in a feud with the elected parliament.
    KUNA said the emir received Sheikh Sabah who handed him the written resignation of his cabinet.
    It was not immediately clear if Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Sabah, who has final say in state matters, would accept the resignation of the government, which was formed in March after the previous cabinet stepped down.
    Several opposition MPs have insisted on questioning the premier on various issues, including the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and corruption.
    The feud has paralysed legislative work, hindered efforts to boost the OPEC producer’s state finances – hit hard last year by low oil prices and the pandemic – and enact measures including a debt law needed to tap global markets.
    Deadlocks between the cabinet and assembly have for decades led to government reshuffles and dissolutions of parliament, hampering investment and reform.
    Lawmakers want to question Sheikh Sabah, who has been premier since late 2019, and have queried the constitutionality of a motion passed in March delaying any such questioning until the end of next year.
    The government recently launched a dialogue with MPs to break the impasse, with the opposition demanding to be able to question Sheikh Sabah and an amnesty pardoning political dissidents.
    Kuwait’s cabinet on Sunday approved draft decrees for the planned amnesty ahead of it being issued by an emiri decree.
    Kuwait does not permit political parties, but it has given its legislature more influence than similar bodies in other Gulf monarchies, including the power to pass and block laws, question ministers and submit no-confidence votes against senior government officials.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi in Dubai; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous;Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Nick Macfie)

11/8/2021 Amnesty Says NSO’s Pegasus Used To Hack Phones Of Palestinian Rights Workers
FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows the logo of Israeli cyber firm NSO Group at one of its branches in the
Arava Desert, southern Israel July 22, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The mobile phones of six Palestinian rights workers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank were hacked using Israeli technology firm NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, Amnesty International and internet security watchdog Citizen Lab said on Monday.
    The new findings followed NSO’s blacklisting last week by the U.S. Commerce Department amid allegations its spyware targeted journalists, rights activists and government officials in several countries.
    NSO, which voiced dismay at the U.S. move, exports its products under licences from Israel’s Defence Ministry and says it only sells to law enforcement and intelligence agencies and that it takes steps to curb abuse.
    London-based Amnesty and Toronto’s Citizen Lab said they had independently confirmed that Pegasus had been used to hack the Palestinian activists’ phones, after Front Line Defenders, an international rights group, began collecting data in October about the suspected hacking.
    The Israeli Defence Ministry did not immediately comment on the new findings.
    Asked about the allegations, NSO said: “As we stated in the past, NSO Group does not operate the products itself … and we are not privy to the details of individuals monitored.”
    Three of the six people work for Palestinian rights groups that Israel designated as terrorist organisations last month, saying they had funnelled donor aid to militants. The groups named by Israel have denied the allegations.
    Stopping short of blaming Israel for the alleged hacking, some of the groups whose workers were said to have been targeted demanded an international investigation.
    “We don’t have evidence.    We can’t accuse a certain party since we don’t have yet enough information about who carried out that action,” Sahar Francis, director of Addameer Organization, said at a news conference in Ramallah.
    “The United Nations is responsible for human rights and for protecting human rights and they have a responsibility to launch such an investigation to make sure that countries don’t exploit these software to repress human rights advocates,” Francis said.
    Israel has for years used mobile phone surveillance to track suspected Palestinian militants.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell, Steven Scheer and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Ali Sawafta in Rammallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Editing by Jeffrey Heller, Bernadette Baum and Angus MacSwan)

11/8/2021 Iran-Backed Militia Staged Attack On Iraq PM – Officials, Sources
FILE PHOTO: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi attends a summit meeting in Baghdad,
Iraq, August 28, 2021. Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A drone attack that targeted the Iraqi prime minister on Sunday was carried out by at least one Iran-backed militia group using Iranian-made equipment, Iraqi security officials and militia sources said.
    But the neighbouring Islamic Republic is unlikely to have sanctioned the attack as Tehran is keen to avoid a spiral of violence on its western border, the sources and independent analysts said.
    Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi escaped unhurt when three drones carrying explosives were launched at his residence in Baghdad. Several of his bodyguards were injured.
    The incident whipped up tensions in Iraq, where powerful Iran-backed paramilitaries are disputing the result of a general election last month that dealt them a crushing defeat at the polls and greatly reduced their strength in parliament.
    Iraqi officials and analysts said the attack was meant as a message from militias that they are willing to resort to violence if excluded from the formation of a government, or if their grip on large areas of the state apparatus is challenged.
    “It was a clear message of, ‘We can create chaos in Iraq – we have the guns, we have the means’,” said Hamdi Malik, a specialist on Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim militias at the Washington Institute.
    No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.    Iran-backed militia groups did not immediately comment and the Iranian government did not respond to requests for comment.
    Two regional officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said Tehran had knowledge about the attack before it was carried out, but that Iranian authorities had not ordered it.
    “Iran did not plan it but Tehran also did not stop the group from carrying it out,” one of the officials said, declining to name which group he was referring to.
    Militia sources said the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards overseas Quds Force travelled to Iraq on Sunday after the attack to meet paramilitary leaders and urge them to avoid any further escalation of violence.
    Two Iraqi security officials and three sources close to the militia groups, who spoke to Reuters on Monday on condition of anonymity, said the attack was committed by at least one of the Iran-aligned militias.
    The two security officials said the Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq groups carried out the attack in tandem.
    A militia source said that Kataib Hezbollah was involved and that he could not confirm the role of Asaib.
    Neither group commented for the record.
INTRA-SHI’ITE TENSIONS
    The main winner from the election, Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, is a rival of the Iran-backed groups who, unlike them, preaches Iraqi nationalism and opposes all foreign interference, including American and Iranian.
    Malik said the drone strike indicated that the Iran-backed militias are positioning themselves in opposition to Sadr, who also boasts a militia – a scenario that would hurt Iran’s influence and therefore would likely be opposed by Tehran.
    “I don’t think Iran wants a Shi’ite-Shi’ite civil war.    It would weaken its position in Iraq and allow other groups to grow stronger,” he said.
    Many Iran-aligned militias have watched Sadr’s political rise with concern, fearing he may strike a deal with Kadhimi and moderate Shi’ites allies, and even minority Sunni Muslims and Kurds, that would freeze them out of power.
    The Iran-backed groups, which like patron Iran are Shi’ite, regard Kadhimi as both Sadr’s man and friendly towards Tehran’s arch-foe the United States.
MADE IN IRAN
    One of the Iraqi security officials said the drones used were of the “quadcopter” type and that each was carrying one projectile containing high explosives capable of damaging buildings and armoured vehicles.
    The official added that these were the same type of Iranian-made drones and explosives used in attacks this year on U.S. forces in Iraq, which Washington blames on Iran-aligned militias including Kataib Hezbollah.
    The United States last month targeted Iran’s drone programme with new sanctions, saying Tehran’s elite Revolutionary Guards had deployed drones against U.S. forces, Washington’s regional allies and international shipping.
    Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq are among the groups leading cries of fraud in the Oct. 10 election, but have provided no evidence for their assertions.
    The Iran-aligned groups lost dozens of parliamentary seats they had controlled for years in an election result that was seen as a rebuke to Iran-backed militias, which are accused of gunning down anti-government protesters in 2019 – a charge they deny.
    Supporters of Iran-backed militias have since the election staged weeks of protests near Iraqi government buildings.
(Reporting by Baghdad newsroom; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/8/2021 Social Media Access Disrupted In Ethiopia, Netblocks Says
FILE PHOTO: A man walks on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 5, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Access in Ethiopia to social media platforms Facebook, WhatsApp and Telegram has been restricted after the content of high school exams was leaked online, internet watchdog NetBlocks said on Monday.
    Network data as of Monday afternoon showed that Facebook and Messenger servers and some WhatsApp and Telegram messaging servers were restricted on state-run telecommunications monopoly Ethio Telecom, the watchdog said in a statement.
    Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and Ethio Telecom Chief Executive Frehiwot Tamiru did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    Authorities have previously shut down the internet during national exams, but the disruption comes as a year-long conflict in the country’s north between the government and rebellious Tigrayan forces has escalated in recent weeks.
    The Tigrayan forces and their allies are threatening to march on the capital. The government declared a six-month state of emergency last week.
    Addis Ababa police spokesperson Fasika Fanta said police had registered more than 10,000 weapons since the city’s administration urged people to register their arms.    Tens of thousands of bullets were also registered, and the government had extended the registration period until Nov. 12, the police spokesperson added.
    The war started in November 2020 when forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), including some soldiers, seized military bases in Tigray. In response, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent more troops to the northern region.
    The TPLF had dominated national politics for nearly three decades but lost influence when Abiy took office in 2018.
    The TPLF accused him of centralising power at the expense of regional states. Abiy denies this. Foreign powers are calling for a ceasefire.
    Earlier on Monday, the African Union held a closed-door meeting to discuss the crisis a day after its envoy for the region, Olusegun Obasanjo, visited the Tigray regional capital with United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom; Additional reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Richard Chang)

11/8/2021 Pelicans On Migration Superhighway Stir Trouble At Israeli Fisheries
Migrating Great White pelicans gather at a water reservoir in
Mishmar Hasharon, central Israel November 8, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    MISHMAR HASHARON, Israel (Reuters) – Thousands of pelicans on their exhausting journey south this autumn are on the hunt for food, and authorities in Israel have set up pelican-friendly reservoirs to protect commercial fisheries.
    Preferring an overland route to riskier skies above the sea, hundreds of millions of birds pass through Israel each migration season – in spring on their way north to Europe and Asia and later in the year back to Africa.
    An estimated 45,000 of those are hungry pelicans, among the largest of migrating birds, who have a taste for fish raised by Israeli farmers.    This is costly for the farmers and can be dangerous for the pelicans.
    One solution is to offer them alternative cuisine in a key location, and about 2.5 tonnes of second-rate fish have been put into a designated pond in Mishmar Hasharon, a communal kibbutz near Israel’s Mediterranean coast where the pelicans are welcome to feast.
    “The program is aimed at minimising the friction between man and pelican,” said Ofir Bruckenstein of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
    From this safe haven they can continue their often perilous migration.
    The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel estimates that around half of the up to half a billion birds die during the seasonal journey that covers thousands of kilometers.
    Culprits include natural predators as well as human activity, like the destruction of habitats and electrocution by power cables, the group said.
(Reporting by Rami Amichay, editing by Ed Osmond)

11/8/2021 Returning To Ruined City, Libyan Family Struggles To Rebuild by Islam Alatrash
A damaged water tank is pictured in Sirte, Libya November 4, 2021.
Picture taken November 4, 2021. REUTERS/Islam Alatrash
    SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) – Displaced for years by war, the Mokhtar family is set on reoccupying their home in Libya’s ruined city of Sirte but bitter that they are repairing the shell-cratered apartment with almost no help.
    The central coastal city, once home to 80,000, was smashed repeatedly as it passed from one side to another in the decade of violence since the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi. More than 3,000 families fled.
    The Mokhtars are one of a dozen families now labouring to rebuild and repair in an area shattered by a battle with Islamic State.    Four years after being cleared of IS gunmen, many buildings remain flattened, as if by a giant fist.
    “I am in utter despair,” Mognaiah Mokhtar said at the bullet-pocked building where she was working with her husband Abdallah.    “They (the government) need to see the state we are in, they need to consider our circumstances.”
    “I am in great distress from the state that my home was in … I am psychologically tired, to be honest.”
    Their plight underscores the importance for civilians of efforts to resolve Libya’s conflict that include an international meeting in Paris later this week and U.N.-backed elections called for the end of the year.
    Armed with brooms, new mattresses, and bedsheets, they work day and night to make their home habitable.
    With their 12-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, the couple returned to Sirte in 2017, renting an apartment in one of the city’s less damaged districts with Abdallah’s mother as well as his brothers and their families.
RESOURCES ARE SLIM
    Four years on and now with a newborn baby, the pair are working to return to their two-bedroom apartment on a second floor of a now destroyed building in the Ghiza Bahriya district.
    “We and our neighbours decided to return to our homes, to fix them in any way, and to try to live in them,” Abdallah Mokhtar, a 42-year-old telecoms employee said.
    Apart from 2,000 Libyan dinars ($440) given to each displaced family in 2019, there has been no significant state support to aid their return, he said.
    “I feel great disappointment in those responsible for the city,” he added.
    Sirte’s mayor, Mukhtar Khalifa al Maadani, says the current government provided his municipality with 7 million Libyan dinars ($1.5 million) to rebuild, an amount he believes is too small to fund the many construction projects needed.
    “Seven million (Libyan dinars) for a destroyed city,” Maadani said.    “Do we use that to build a road or install sewage or a water tank? What can this amount pay for, unfortunately?
    “Resources are slim so far,” Maadani said.
    Asked for comment, Taha Jaafari, media adviser to the Government of National Unity’s local government minister, said the GNU had allocated more than one billion dinars ($219 million) for the Sirte Reconstruction Fund to tackle sectors including transport, housing and construction.
    Maadani said Sirte was still waiting for the one billion dinar allocation, which he said he not yet been released.
    Despite the uncertain path ahead, the Mokhtar family have found brief comfort in being home again, in spite of the state it is in.
    “When you return to your house and home, you can psychologically say: I am in my home, in the well of my memories, in my hometown,” Abdallah Mokhtar said.    “Every corner of this house reminds me of my childhood.”
($1 = 4.5456 Libyan dinars)
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Elumami in Tripol; writing by Nadeen Ebrahim, editing by William Maclean and Philippa Fletcher)

11/8/2021 Arab League Holds Talks In Lebanon Over Gulf Row
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun meets with Assistant Secretary General of the Arab League, Hossam Zaki
at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon November 8, 2021. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – A senior Arab League official held talks in Lebanon on Monday in a bid to ease a rift with Saudi Arabia over criticism of its role in the Yemen war, saying the crisis could have been defused if the minister who made the comments had resigned.
    Arab League Assistant Secretary General Hossam Zaki met Lebanon’s president, prime minister and parliament speaker during his visit.    President Michel Aoun said he welcomed any Arab League initiative to restore ties with Saudi Arabia.
    Saudi Arabia has expelled the Lebanese ambassador, recalled its envoy to Beirut and banned imports from Lebanon in response to the comments by George Kordahi, who sided with the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen during an interview broadcast two weeks ago and said Yemen was being subjected to foreign aggression.
    Bahrain and Kuwait took similar steps, while the United Arab Emirates withdrew all its diplomatic staff.
    Kordahi, who says the interview was recorded before he became information minister, has so far refused to quit.
    Zaki said the matter of Kordahi’s resignation had been discussed in his meetings.
    Saudi ties with Lebanon have been strained for years because of the influential role played in Beirut by the heavily armed, Iran-backed group Hezbollah.    Kordahi was named a minister by one of its close allies, the Christian politician Suleiman Frangieh.
    Zaki said he had a “candid and positive” meeting with Aoun and that he had found an entry point to resolving the crisis but the problem between the countries was “not simple
    A source told Reuters that Zaki had proposed Kordahi resign as a first step.
(Reporting by Yasmin Hussein, Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam in Beirut; Writing by Maha El Dahan and Tom Perry; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Alex Richardson)

11/9/2021 African Union, U.S. See Small Window Of Opportunity To End Ethiopia Fighting
FILE PHOTO: A man walks on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 5, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    UNITED NATIONS/ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – The African Union and the United States see a small window of opportunity to end fighting in Ethiopia, they said on Monday, as the United Nations warned that the risk of Ethiopia spiralling into a widening civil war is “only too real.”
    The AU envoy for the Horn of Africa, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and U.N. political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo both briefed the U.N. Security Council.
    Speaking from Ethiopia, Obasanjo said that by the end of the week “we hope to have a program in hand that will indicate” how they can achieve humanitarian access and a withdrawal of troops that satisfies all the parties.    The United Nations estimates 400,000 people in the northern region of Tigray are living in famine-like conditions following a year of war.
    “All these leaders, here in Addis Ababa and in the north, agree individually that the differences between them are political and require a political solution through dialogue,” Obasanjo told the 15-member council, but stressed: “The window of opportunity we have is very little and that time is short.”
    The U.S. State Department also said on Monday that Washington believes there is a small window to work with the AU to make progress on ending the conflict as U.S. envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, returned to Addis Ababa.
    The African Union earlier on Monday held a closed-door meeting to discuss the crisis.
    The conflict started in November 2020 when forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), seized military bases in Tigray.    In response, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent more troops to the northern region.    Thousands have been killed and more than 2 million have fled their homes.
    Ethiopia’s U.N. Ambassador Taye Atske Selassie Amde told the U.N. Security Council: “Our route to a dialogue and political solution will not be straightforward or easy.”
    “For now we’re focused on halting TPLF and rescuing and reaching our public that suffered immensely,” he said.
‘TIME TO PUT YOUR WEAPONS DOWN’
    The war has intensified in recent weeks. Tigrayan forces and their allies are threatening to march on Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, while the government has declared a six-month state of emergency.
    “It is time to put your weapons down,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said at the Security Council.    “This war between angry, belligerent men – victimizing women and children – has to stop.”
    The TPLF had dominated national politics for nearly three decades but lost influence when Abiy took office in 2018.    The TPLF accused him of centralising power at the expense of regional states. Abiy denies this.
    Obasanjo told the council he had met with Abiy, the leader of Ethiopia’s Oromiya region and travelled to Mekelle on Sunday to meet TPLF leaders.    He plans to travel to the regions of Amhara and Afar on Tuesday, where the conflict has spread from neighbouring Tigray.
    DiCarlo said the conflict had reached “disastrous proportions” and that incidents of hate speech and targeting of ethnic groups have “increased at an alarming rate.    She told the U.N. Security Council: “What is certain is that the risk of Ethiopia descending into widening civil war is only too real.”
    The Security Council on Friday called for an end to the fighting in Ethiopia and for talks on a lasting ceasefire as the body expressed deep concern in a rare statement about the expansion and intensification of military clashes.
(This story was refiled to correct typographical error in 13th paragraph)
(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Additional reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Writing by Maggie Fick and Michelle Nichols; Editing by Richard Chang and Grant McCool)

11/9/2021 India Could Ship Vaccines To COVAX In A Few Weeks, Say Sources by Krishna N. Das
FILE PHOTO: A health official draws a dose of the AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute
of India, at Infectious Diseases Hospital in Colombo, Sri Lanka January 29, 2021. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte//File Photo
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India could resume deliveries of COVID-19 shots to global vaccine-sharing platform COVAX in a few weeks for the first time since April, two health industry sources said, ending a suspension of supplies that has hurt poor countries.
    The World Health Organization (WHO), which co-leads COVAX, has been urging India to restart supplies for the programme, especially after it sent about 4 million doses to its neighbours and partners in October.
    Based on an informal approval from India, COVAX officials have started planning allocations of the Covishield shot for various countries, said one of the sources, both of whom declining to be identified pending a final agreement.
    Covishield is a licensed version of the AstraZeneca shot made by the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine maker.
    SII has nearly quadrupled its output of Covishield to up to 240 million doses a month since April, when India stopped all exports in order to inoculate its own people during a surge of cases.
    “There will need to be purchase orders confirmed to SII, labelling and packing, export authorisation granted for each of these shipments,” said the source.    “So the first deliveries, assuming the Indian government grants export authorisation, won’t happen until a few weeks from now.”
    SII, the health ministry and the WHO did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    The ministry said in a statement earlier in the day that Indian states had more than 159 million unutilised doses of various vaccines, as inoculations have slowed after 79% of the country’s 944 million adults got one dose and 37% got two doses.
    SII CEO Adar Poonawalla told Reuters last month that the company could send 20 million to 30 million doses a month to COVAX in November and December, which would increase to “large volumes” from January once India’s own needs were met.
    WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday that COVAX had the money and the contracts to buy vaccines for low-income countries but “manufacturers have not played their part.”
    COVAX in September cut its 2021 delivery target by nearly 30% to 1.425 billion doses.
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Robert Birsel)

11/9/2021 Sierra Leone Tanker Blast Death Toll Rises To 115
Coffins containing the remains of victims of the fuel tanker explosion are pictured during a burial
ceremony at a cemetery in Freetown, Sierra Leone November 8, 2021. REUTERS/Ibrahim S Miles Kamara
    FREETOWN (Reuters) -The death toll from a fuel tanker explosion in Sierra Leone’s capital has risen to 115, a health ministry spokesperson said on Monday.
    The ministry had previously said 99 people were killed when the tanker exploded following a collision in a suburb of Freetown on Friday.    Victims included people who had flocked to collect fuel leaking from the ruptured vehicle.
    Hundreds more were injured in the blast, stretching the capacity of Freetown’s health service, which has suffered from years of underfunding and a fall in medical staff during the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic.
    Blackened shells of cars still lay at the scene of the accident, and members of a family whose business and house burnt down said they had been sleeping outside.
    “Since the incident we have not received any personal help yet, (a) place to sleep, food to eat, nothing like that yet,” said Mohamed Lamin Mansaray, the owner of Wellington bar and beverage shop.
    Mansaray said he had told people to run away from his bar just before the tanker exploded, but one staff member was killed.
    Similar accidents with tanker trucks have killed scores of people in sub-Saharan Africa in recent years, including in Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo when people gathered to collect spilled fuel and were hit by secondary blasts.
    A funeral for victims of the explosion was due to be held on Friday afternoon in Freetown.
(Reporting by Umaru Fofana and Ibrahim Miles Kamara, Writing by Alessandra Prentice and Nellie Peyton, Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Timothy Heritage)

11/9/2021 Iraqi Govt. Blames Shi’ite Groups For Botched Attack On Prime Minister by OAN Newsroom
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi poses in his office during an interview with The
Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, July 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)
    The Iraqi government is blaming an Iranian-backed paramilitary group for the recent assassination attempt on the prime minister of Iraq.
    Reports on Tuesday found Shi’ite militias “Kataib Hezbollah” and “Asaib Ahl al-Haq” were involved with the drone attack on Sunday, which targeted the prime minister.    Both groups are aligned with Iran’s Ayatollah regime, but Iraqi officials aren’t yet certain if the attack was ordered directly by Tehran.
    Although the prime minister escaped unscathed, the incident has strained Iraqi-Iranian ties and may add to domestic instability in Iraq. However, no parties have claimed responsibility for the attack.
This photo provided by the Iraqi Prime Minister’s Media Office shows the aftermath of an assassination
attempt at the home of Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in the heavily fortified
Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. (Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office, via AP)
    “We will continue to search for the perpetrators of this heinous crime, which they committed yesterday by targeting the residence of the prime minister.    We will search for the perpetrators, and we know them very well,” said Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.    “We will find them, surely.”
    Meanwhile, supporters of Shi’ite militias that reside in Iraq have accused the prime minister of foul play, alleging the attack could be an “inside job” to justify crackdown on pro-Iranian groups.

11/9/2021 UAE Foreign Minister Meets Assad, Most Senior Emirati Visit To Syria Since War Began
FILE PHOTO: UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan speaks during a news conference with his
Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (not pictured) following their
meeting at Villa Borsig in Berlin, Germany, October 6, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/Pool/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates foreign minister met President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Tuesday, a sign of improving ties between Assad and a U.S.-allied Arab state that once supported rebels trying to overthrow him.
    Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed is the most senior Emirati dignitary to visit Syria in the decade since the eruption of a civil war in which several Arab states backed mainly Sunni Muslim insurgents against Assad.
    Washington, which opposes efforts to normalise ties with Assad or rehabilitate him until progress is made towards a political solution to the conflict, said it was concerned about the move by its ally the UAE.
    The foreign minister led a delegation of senior Emirati officials that discussed bilateral relations and cooperation in a meeting with Syrian counterparts, a statement by the Syrian presidency said.
    The participants discussed exploring “new horizons for this cooperation, especially in vital sectors in order to strengthen investment partnerships in these sectors,” the statement said.
    Sheikh Abdullah underlined in his meeting with Assad “UAE’s keenness on the security, stability and unity of Syria,” UAE’s state news agency WAM said.
    He also stressed the “UAE’s support for all efforts made to end the Syrian crisis, consolidate stability in the country, and meet the aspirations of the brotherly Syrian people,” WAM reported.
    UAE senior official Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the Emirates president, wrote on Twitter that “the UAE continues to build bridges, boost relationships, and connect what was cut off… and will be keen to spare the region further congestion and continuous conflicts.”
    A correspondent for Lebanon’s al-Manar TV, which is run by Lebanon’s Hezbollah, an Assad ally, said heavy security had been observed on the road from Damascus airport to the city.
    The UAE has been at the forefront of efforts by some Arab states to normalise ties with Damascus https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/arabs-ease-assads-isolation-us-looks-elsewhere-2021-10-10, and earlier this year called for Syria to be readmitted to the Arab League.    It reopened its embassy in Damascus three years ago.
    Jordan and Egypt, both U.S. allies, have also taken steps toward normalising relations since Assad, with Russian and Iranian help, defeated rebels across much of Syria, apart from some northern and eastern areas that remain outside his grasp.
    U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Washington was concerned by the meeting “and the signal it sends,” and had told the UAE that it will not “support efforts to normalize or to rehabilitate Bashar al-Assad, who is a brutal dictator.”
    “We urge states in the region to carefully consider the atrocities that this regime, that Bashar al-Assad himself has perpetrated on the Syrian people over the last decade, as well as the regime’s ongoing efforts to deny much of the country access to humanitarian aid and security,” Price said.
    Washington has also said it will not lift sanctions, including measures that can freeze the assets of anyone dealing with Syria, regardless of nationality.
    The UAE may have asked Damascus not to trumpet the visit due to sensitivities in its ties to the United States, said Joshua Landis, a Syria specialist at the University of Oklahoma.    “No one wants to get their head too far over the parapet,” he said.
    Last month, King Abdullah of Jordan spoke to Assad for the first time in a decade, and the border between the countries was reopened for trade.    The Egyptian foreign minister also met his Syrian counterpart in September, the highest level contact between the countries since the civil war began.
    “Both the UAE and Egypt have long believed that the Damascus government serves as a break on the spread of Islamist groups in the region,” Landis said. Investment is expected once Syria is readmitted to the Arab League, he added, though private firms would wait to see how the United States would respond first.
(Reporting by Yasmin Hussein, Kinda Makieh and Aziz El Yaakoubi; Additional reporting by Nayera Abdallah in Cairo and Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis in WashingtonWriting by Maha El Dahan/Tom PerryEditing by Peter Graff, Mark Heinrich and Jonathan Oatis)

11/9/2021 U.N. Says At Least 16 Staff, Dependents Detained In Ethiopia by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: A soldier with the Tigrayan forces reads a book as he guards the headquarters of the Tigrai Mass Media
Agency in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia, July 7, 2021. REUTERS/Giulia Paravicini/File Photo
    NEW YORK (Reuters) - At least 16 United Nations staff and dependents have been detained in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, a U.N. spokesperson said on Tuesday, amid reports of widespread arrests of ethnic Tigrayans.
    “We are, of course, actively working with the government of Ethiopia to secure their immediate release,” U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.
    He declined to answer a question on the ethnicity of those detained, saying: “These are United Nations staff members, they’re Ethiopians…, and we would like to see them released, whatever ethnicity is listed on their identity cards.”
    The state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said on Sunday it had received many reports of arrests of Tigrayans in the capital, including elders and mothers with children.
    Daniel Bekele, head of the commission, told Reuters on Tuesday that it was monitoring “the arrests of hundreds of Tigrayans in Addis Ababa.”
    Police have denied making ethnically motivated arrests, saying they are only targeting supporters of the rebellious Tigrayan forces fighting the central government.
    Fasika Fanta, spokesperson for the Addis Ababa police, and government spokesman Legesse Tulu told Reuters they had no information on the arrests of U.N. staff.
    “Those that have been detained are Ethiopians who violate the law,” said Legesse.
    The U.S. State Department said Washington finds the reports of arrests of U.N. staff members “concerning”, adding that harassment and detention on the basis of ethnicity is completely unacceptable.
    “The reports do tend to suggest an arrest based on ethnicity and that is something that if confirmed, we would strongly condemn.    So whatever we can do to secure the release of these individuals, we will be prepared to do,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
    The year-long conflict in northern Ethiopia between the government and Tigrayan forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has intensified in recent weeks after he TPLF pushed southward.    Tigrayan forces and their allies have threatened to march on the capital.
    Ethiopia declared a state of emergency https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/addis-ababa-government-urges-residents-register-arms-media-2021-11-02 on Nov 2. That permits the government to arbitrarily arrest, without a court order, anyone suspected of collaborating with a terrorist group.    Parliament designated the TPLF as a terrorist group earlier this year.
    Britain tightened its travel advice on Tuesday, advising citizens to leave Ethiopia while commercial flights are available, after the United States on Nov. 5 advised all citizens to leave Ethiopia as soon as possible.
    Zambia evacuated non-essential staff from Ethiopia on Tuesday, its foreign ministry said.
DIPLOMATIC PUSH
    Diplomatic efforts continue to try to lay the ground for talks and avert an attack on the Ethiopian capital, home to 5 million people.
    “Our position remains that there can be no military solution to this conflict and only dialogue can produce a lasting peace,” Britain’s minister for Africa, Vicky Ford, told journalists.
    Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo is in Ethiopia on behalf of the African Union to try to facilitate talks.    The TPLF’s spokesperson, Getachew Reda, told Reuters they had held discussions with him.
    “He wanted to know if we believe there is the possibility of a political solution to this problem. We said yes,” he told Reuters.    But, Getachew added, “we are not willing to retreat because of the siege, because of the blockade.”
    The United Nations has accused the government of operating a de facto blockade preventing humanitarian aid from entering Tigray.    The government has denied blocking aid.
    Getachew also said that a government air strike had killed dozens in the town of Chefa Robit and there had been drone and air strikes on Wollo University in Dessie and the town of Chifra in Afar.
    Reuters was unable to independently confirm his account as communications to those areas are down.    Government and military spokespeople did not return calls seeking comment.
    The State Department said Washington believes there is a small window of an opening to work with the African Union to make progress on peacefully resolving the conflict.
    The U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, returned to Addis Ababa on Monday and remains in Ethiopia, Price said on Tuesday.
    Government spokesperson Legesse and foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Dina Mufti did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the talks.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Additional reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom and Humeyra Pamuk and Daphne Psaledakis in WashingtonWriting by Maggie Fick and Katharine Houreld Editing by Franklin Paul, Giles Elgood and Mark Heinrich)

11/10/2021 Ethiopian Authorities Detain More Than 70 U.N. Drivers – U.N. Email
Pedestrians walk along a street in Lafto neighbourhood of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 5, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Ethiopian authorities have detained more than 70 drivers working with the United Nations, an internal U.N. email seen by Reuters on Wednesday said.
    The ethnicity of the drivers was not clear. The state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said on Sunday it had received many reports of arrests of Tigrayans in the capital.
    Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Dina Mufti did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Nairobi Newsroom; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

11/10/2021 U.N. Says At Least 16 Staff, Dependents Detained In Ethiopia by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: A soldier with the Tigrayan forces reads a book as he guards the headquarters of the Tigrai Mass Media
Agency in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia, July 7, 2021. REUTERS/Giulia Paravicini/File Photo
    NEW YORK (Reuters) - At least 16 United Nations staff and dependents have been detained in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, a U.N. spokesperson said on Tuesday, amid reports of widespread arrests of ethnic Tigrayans.
    “We are, of course, actively working with the government of Ethiopia to secure their immediate release,” U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.
    He declined to answer a question on the ethnicity of those detained, saying: “These are United Nations staff members, they’re Ethiopians…, and we would like to see them released, whatever ethnicity is listed on their identity cards.”
    The state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said on Sunday it had received many reports of arrests of Tigrayans in the capital, including elders and mothers with children.
    Daniel Bekele, head of the commission, told Reuters on Tuesday that it was monitoring “the arrests of hundreds of Tigrayans in Addis Ababa.”
    Police have denied making ethnically motivated arrests, saying they are only targeting supporters of the rebellious Tigrayan forces fighting the central government.
    Fasika Fanta, spokesperson for the Addis Ababa police, and government spokesman Legesse Tulu told Reuters they had no information on the arrests of U.N. staff.
    “Those that have been detained are Ethiopians who violate the law,” said Legesse.br>     The U.S. State Department said Washington finds the reports of arrests of U.N. staff members “concerning”, adding that harassment and detention on the basis of ethnicity is completely unacceptable.
    “The reports do tend to suggest an arrest based on ethnicity and that is something that if confirmed, we would strongly condemn.    So whatever we can do to secure the release of these individuals, we will be prepared to do,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
    The year-long conflict in northern Ethiopia between the government and Tigrayan forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has intensified in recent weeks after he TPLF pushed southward.    Tigrayan forces and their allies have threatened to march on the capital.
    Ethiopia declared a state of emergency https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/addis-ababa-government-urges-residents-register-arms-media-2021-11-02 on Nov 2.    That permits the government to arbitrarily arrest, without a court order, anyone suspected of collaborating with a terrorist group. Parliament designated the TPLF as a terrorist group earlier this year.
    Britain tightened its travel advice on Tuesday, advising citizens to leave Ethiopia while commercial flights are available, after the United States on Nov. 5 advised all citizens to leave Ethiopia as soon as possible.
    Zambia evacuated non-essential staff from Ethiopia on Tuesday, its foreign ministry said.
DIPLOMATIC PUSH
    Diplomatic efforts continue to try to lay the ground for talks and avert an attack on the Ethiopian capital, home to 5 million people.
    “Our position remains that there can be no military solution to this conflict and only dialogue can produce a lasting peace,” Britain’s minister for Africa, Vicky Ford, told journalists.
    Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo is in Ethiopia on behalf of the African Union to try to facilitate talks.    The TPLF’s spokesperson, Getachew Reda, told Reuters they had held discussions with him.
    “He wanted to know if we believe there is the possibility of a political solution to this problem.    We said yes,” he told Reuters.    But, Getachew added, “we are not willing to retreat because of the siege, because of the blockade.”
    The United Nations has accused the government of operating a de facto blockade preventing humanitarian aid from entering Tigray.    The government has denied blocking aid.
    Getachew also said that a government air strike had killed dozens in the town of Chefa Robit and there had been drone and air strikes on Wollo University in Dessie and the town of Chifra in Afar.
    Reuters was unable to independently confirm his account as communications to those areas are down. Government and military spokespeople did not return calls seeking comment.
    The State Department said Washington believes there is a small window of an opening to work with the African Union to make progress on peacefully resolving the conflict.
    The U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, returned to Addis Ababa on Monday and remains in Ethiopia, Price said on Tuesday.
    Government spokesperson Legesse and foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Dina Mufti did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the talks.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Additional reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom and Humeyra Pamuk and Daphne Psaledakis in WashingtonWriting by Maggie Fick and Katharine Houreld Editing by Franklin Paul, Giles Elgood and Mark Heinrich)

11/10/2021 Saudi-Led Coalition Says Troops Redeploying In Yemen, Not Withdrawing by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Reyam Mukhshaf
FILE PHOTO: Saudi-led coalition spokesman, Colonel Turki al-Malki, speaks during a news
conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 22, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen said on Wednesday its troops were redeploying in line with its strategy to support Yemeni forces, but were not withdrawing.
    Yemeni security sources told Reuters the Saudi military had withdrawn from a major military base in Brega district in the southern port city of Aden, removing troops, hardware and heavy artillery.
    Some of the troops and equipment were loaded in warships in Aden port, while others flew out from the city’s airport, the sources said. Long convoys of the kingdom’s military were seen on Tuesday heading from Brega military base to Aden port, witnesses said.
    The spokesman of the Saudi-led coalition, General Turki al-Malki, told Reuters reports circulating about a Saudi military withdrawal from south Yemen were “baseless and unfounded.”
    “Movement and redeployment of troops based on operational and tactical assessment” was a standard operation “in all military forces across the world,” General Malki said.
    The new drawdown of Saudi forces followed intense diplomacy from the United States and the United Nations to end a seven-year-old conflict that has killed tens of thousands and put millions at risk of starvation.
    U.S. Envoy to Yemen Timothy Lenderking visited Riyadh this week as Washington pressed Saudi Arabia to lift a blockade on Houthi-held ports, a condition from the Iran-aligned group to start ceasefire talks.
    However Riyadh first wants U.S. weapons to help the kingdom strengthen its defence systems following Houthi attacks on its territory with drones and ballistic missiles.
    The U.S. State Department approved its first major arms sale to Saudi Arabia under U.S. President Joe Biden with the sale of 280 air-to-air missiles valued at up to $650 million, the Pentagon said last week.
    The coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) intervened in Yemen in 2015 after Houthi forces ousted the internationally recognised government from the capital, Sanaa.
    The UAE has scaled down its military presence in the country since 2019.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Gareth Jones and Alex Richardson)

11/10/2021 Ethiopia Rounds Up High-Profile Tigrayans, U.N. Staff
Pedestrians walk along a street in Lafto neighbourhood of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 5, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Ethiopian authorities have rounded up high-profile Tigrayans – from a bank CEO to priests – as well as United Nations staff in a mass crackdown on suspected supporters of rebellious northern forces, according to people linked to the detainees.
    Police denied targeting the Tigrayan ethnic group, saying those arrested were believed to have links to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has fought central government https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/addis-ababa-government-urges-residents-register-arms-media-2021-11-02 for a year.
    The war has killed thousands, forced more than two million people from their homes, sucked in troops from neighbouring Eritrea and left hundreds of thousands in famine.    Fighting has spread into neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions, threatening the stability of Ethiopia and the wider Horn of Africa.
    Ethiopia declared a state of emergency https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/addis-ababa-government-urges-residents-register-arms-media-2021-11-02 last week as Tigrayan forces pushed south towards the capital Addis Ababa.    That allows for indefinite detentions, requires citizens to carry ID cards that can indicate ethnic origin, and permits searches of private homes without a warrant.
    The United Nations said on Tuesday at least 16 Ethiopian staff and dependents were detained https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/un-says-least-nine-staff-dependents-detained-ethiopia-2021-11-09 but has not specified their ethnicity.    On Wednesday, it said nine were still in custody.
    The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said the arrests of Tigrayans – the latest in repeated waves https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-conflict-tigrayans-idUSKBN2CO0VF documented by Reuters – were at least in the hundreds, including elderly people and mothers with children.
    The detentions were “out of control,” one senior Ethiopian official told Reuters.    He asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.
BANKERS AND PRIESTS
    Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.    Federal police spokesperson Jeylan Abdi said he was not authorized to comment on detentions, while Addis Ababa police spokesman Fasika Fante said last week those detained “directly or indirectly” backed the TPLF.
    The attorney general Gedion Timotheos did not respond to requests for comment but previously told Reuters that the judicial system contained checks and balances to ensure the innocent were freed.
    On Tuesday, police detained Daniel Tekeste, the Tigrayan CEO of Lion Bank along with five other staff, a bank employee told Reuters, adding they were released later that night.    It was not immediately possible to reach the CEO and the bank’s communications department declined to comment.
    A branch manager at another private bank told Reuters a policeman visited his office in the capital on Tuesday and asked if any Tigrayans worked there.    The manager said he told the officer he did not have that information, and he left.
    Three high-level members of the former federally-appointed Tigray administration were detained last week but later released, one said, adding that many lower- and middle-ranking regional Tigrayan government officials were still detained.
    Abraha Desta https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-conflict-idAFKBN2GS0FQ, a former cabinet-level member of the Tigrayan administration who had been a prominent critic of the TPLF, was arrested in October after publicly denouncing arrests of Tigrayans.
    A Tigrayan member of the ruling Prosperity Party was called to a meeting on Monday in the Kirkos district of the capital and then arrested, his friend told Reuters.
    A list compiled by an imprisoned priest and passed to a family member said 37 priests and religious workers had been arrested from four churches in the capital.    The Ethiopian Orthodox Church did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
CAFE ROUND-UP
    Tadele Gebremedhin, a Tigrayan lawyer handling the cases of detained journalists and senior TPLF officials, was arrested at his home on Nov. 4, said a colleague.    He remains in prison.
    However, most of the arrests reported to Reuters were not high-profile citizens.    A resident of Addis Ababa said three Tigrayan friends – a bartender and two real estate brokers – were arrested last week.
    Uniformed police and men in plainclothes arrested the bartender at Aarabon Cafe, the man said, while police arrested the brokers at night at their homes.
    A U.N. spokesperson said that as well as the 16 staff and dependents, 72 drivers contracted by the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) were also arrested in Semera, the capital city of Afar region.
    “Those that have been detained are Ethiopians who violate the law,” government spokesperson Legesse said of the UN. staff on Tuesday.    He did not return calls for comment on the drivers.
    The government has previously accused aid groups of arming Tigrayan forces but never produced proof.
    This month, the Tigrayans joined up with another armed group, the Oromo Liberation Army.    The two have threatened to either attack the capital or seize a transport corridor linking landlocked Ethiopia to the region’s main seaport.
    The war is rooted in a power struggle between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the TPLF, which dominated politics for three decades until he took office in 2018 and curbed its power.
(Reporting by Nairobi Newsroom and Michelle Nichols in New York; Writing by Katharine Houreld and Maggie Fick; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Andrew Cawthorne)

11/10/2021 Turkish Defence Firm To Test Sea-Based Drones As Orders Swell by Can Sezer
An engineer from Turkish drone-maker Baykar stands next to a TB2 drone during the first day of SAHA
EXPO Defence & Aerospace Exhibition in Istanbul, Turkey, November 10, 2021. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The Turkish defence company whose armed drones were decisive in conflicts in Azerbaijan and Libya will soon test-fly two new unmanned aircraft that will extend Turkey’s drone capabilities from land-based to naval operations, its CEO said on Wednesday.
    Haluk Bayraktar, one of two engineer brothers running the defence firm Baykar, said the new aircraft would be tested in the next two years and would be able to take off from a Turkish navy ship currently under production.
    Turkey’s deployment of the company’s Bayraktar TB2 drone has been a major factor in conflict in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Azerbaijan, pushing Baykar into the spotlight and transforming it into a major manufacturer and exporter.
    The firm has now signed export deals with 13 countries including a joint production deal with Ukraine, as its products help reshape the way modern wars are fought, Bayraktar said.
    The scale of Turkey’s drone programme puts it in the world’s top four producers alongside the United States, Israel and China, analysts say.
    “Smart, unmanned aircraft systems are the two leading technologies that changed the landscape for power projection,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of defence show in Istanbul.
    “As everyone is talking about how drone technology is changing battle doctrines … one of our next objectives is the TB3 drone, capable of taking off from and landing on TCG Anadolu,” Bayraktar said, referring to a planned Turkish light aircraft carrier.
    Although the ship will be able to carry combat helicopters on its landing deck, Turkey does not operate a plane that can take off from the vessel.    The TB3, with a folding-wing design, could deploy from the short naval runways.
    With some sections under production, it is expected to see first test flight next year, Bayraktar said.
    It will be followed by an unmanned combat aircraft, called MUIS, with first prototype flight expected in 2023, he said.    Currently in design phase, MUIS will be jet-powered, with a payload of up to 1.5 tons.
    The autonomously manoeuvring craft will be capable of operating in tandem with piloted aircraft, and may carry air-to-air missiles, the company said.
THEY WANT DRONES
    Baykar, founded in the 1980s by Bayraktar’s father, began to focus on unmanned aircraft production in 2005 as Turkey sought to strengthen its local defence industry.
    Now it is spearheading Turkey’s global defence export push.    President Tayyip Erdogan, whose daughter is married to Baykar’s chief technology officer Selcuk Bayraktar, says international demand for TB2 and the newer Akinci drone is huge.
    “Everywhere, even in my Africa trip, they want drones, armed drones and Akinci,” he told Baykar workers last month after returning from a trip to Angola, Togo and Nigeria.    “The whole world … want to see and to know what you are doing.”
    The first Akinci drone, which has longer flight time and can carry a larger payload than the TB2, was delivered to the Turkish military in August.
    Despite the growing demand, the use of Turkish-made drones eastern Ukraine against Russian-backed militia has been criticised by the Kremlin.    Planned sales to Ethiopia, mired in civil war and at odds with Egypt, has caused friction with Cairo.
    Bayraktar said Turkey had made a “huge leap” in its effort to create its own defence industry over the last 20 years, expanding from 17 companies to nearly 17,000.
    “The drone technology is just one success story born from the national and indigenous development drive,” he said.    “We started to reap the benefits of work that began two decades ago only recently.”
(Editing by Dominic Evans and Alison Williams)

11/10/2021 State Dept. Condemns UAE Meeting With Syria by OAN Newsroom
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian President Bashar Assad, right,
speaks with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, in Damascus, Syria,
Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. Al Nahyan’s visit to Syria is the first time since the Syrian conflict began a decade
ago and comes as some Arab countries are improving relations with Syria. The UAE has been slowly mending ties
with Damascus, as the tide of the war has turned in favor of President Bashar Assad. (SANA via AP)
    The State Department condemned a recent meeting with diplomats from the UAE and the Assad-regime in Syria.    On Tuesday, spokesperson Ned Price denounced the move and called Syrian President Bashar al Assad a “brutal dictator.”
    The meet-up between the UAE and Syrian foreign minister marked the first meeting from the UAE since Syria spiraled into a civil war in 2011.    Additionally, this marked the latest meeting by a Middle Eastern country to bolster ties with Syria.
    Price stressed the Biden administration does not support normalizing ties with Syria.
    “We will not normalize or upgrade our diplomatic relations with the Assad regime, nor do we support other countries normalizing or upgrading their relations given the atrocities that this regime has inflicted on its own people, on the Syrian people,” stated the State Department spokesman.    “We believe, and this I am confident, that we share with many of our partners partners that stability in Syria and the greater region can only be achieved through a political process that represents the will of all Syrians.”
    Price went on to say the U.S. will coordinate with allies, including the United Nations, to reign in the Assad regime and assist the residents of Syria.
[WHEN DID U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT HAVE THE RIGHT TO CONDEMN TWO NATIONS TO MEET AND GREET EACH OTHER BUT IF THAT IS TRUE THEN WE NEED TO CONDEMN BIDEN AS A "IDIOT DICTATOR AND CONDEMN HIM FROM PROMOTING HIS ATROCITIOUS POLICIES ON THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.].

11/11/2021 Sudan’s Military Rulers Draw On Bashir-Era Veterans To Tighten Grip by Khalid Abdelaziz and Nafisa Eltahir
FILE PHOTO: A protester gestures as people demonstrate against the Sudanese military's recent seizure of power and
ousting of the civilian government, in the capital Khartoum, Sudan October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Sudan’s military rulers have been drawing on veteran ex-officials of toppled leader Omar al-Bashir for key posts in the state bureaucracy, in what critics see as a sign that they are seeking to cement control after seizing power in a coup.
    Lacking a political base of his own, military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, a career army officer, is resorting to an alliance of convenience with figures he helped force from power when Bashir was overthrown in 2019, analysts say.
    The moves suggest Burhan is seeking to consolidate the military’s takeover, ignoring calls by much of the international community to return to the civilian-military power-sharing arrangement that was meant to lead to elections in 2023.
    Burhan’s media adviser could not be reached for comment.    A senior source still working in the government denied that those appointed recently were “remnants” of Bashir’s rule, saying their nominations were made according to regular bureaucratic procedures.
    Nevertheless, publicly announced appointments of former senior Bashir-era officials since the coup include justice ministry undersecretary Huweda Al Kareem, foreign ministry undersecretary Ali Sadeq, and education ministry undersecretary Mahmoud Al Houri.
    Sadeq told Reuters that he moved into his position due to seniority.
    “I am not affiliated with any former regime.    I am just doing my job as a civil servant,” he told Reuters.
    Kareem and Houri could not be reached for comment.
    Officials have also been replaced in senior positions in state banks, media, and the regional government in Khartoum State and other states.
    By giving jobs to former appointees of Bashir, an autocrat and military man associated by many Sudanese with years of isolation and U.S. sanctions, Burhan may only stiffen popular opposition to the takeover and narrow the space for compromise, critics say.
    At the same time, public servants appointed under the civilian Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition that was sharing power with the military before the coup are being dismissed or reassigned, government employees and political groups say.    Many Sudanese saw the appointment of non-political technocrats as one of the few tangible gains of the transition.
ARRESTS
    In a sign of brewing discord over the appointments, dozens of people were arrested at a sit-in to oppose handovers to military appointees at Khartoum State’s education ministry building on Sunday, according to a teachers’ union.
    In a statement on Wednesday, Khartoum State health officials rejected their dismissals and the appointment of those they said had “submitted to the military, betrayed their oath, and disavowed the revolution.”
    Another target of the coup was a taskforce set up to dismantle Bashir’s rule by seizing assets and removing supporters from public jobs. Several of the taskforce’s senior members have been arrested, and late on Tuesday Burhan announced a committee to review its work.
    TV channels controlled by Gulf Arab states have meanwhile seen an influx of “strategic analysts” defending the coup, some known supporters of Bashir’s dissolved National Congress Party.
    Civilian factions bent on reversing the coup are alarmed.
    In a statement urging peaceful resistance to the takeover, the political bureau of Sudan’s Umma Party said it rejected “all decisions issued by the coup leader regarding the dismissal of civil service leaders not loyal to the coup and their replacement by cadres of the defeated National Congress.”
    The Sudanese Journalists Network accused the military of using NCP figures to purge public servants appointed by the transitional government after Bashir’s ouster, and to crack down on trade union committees and leaders of a civil disobedience campaign against the coup.
    The NCP, which was still issuing statements before the coup despite being dissolved, has made no public comment on the takeover.
PROTEST MOVEMENT
    The coup halted a military-civilian power-sharing deal agreed in 2019 after the army toppled Bashir following months of street protests.    Burhan led a joint ruling council but was meant to hand leadership to a civilian ahead of elections in 2023.
    After detaining top civilians and placing Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok under house arrest on Oct. 25, Burhan said he would name a government of technocrats, but has yet to do so.    Efforts involving the United Nations to secure the release of politicians and a return to power sharing have stalled.
    Burhan has used the time to place people loyal to the military and the state in jobs controlling vital infrastructure, banks, and trade, said Sudanese analyst Magdi El Gizouli.
    “He’s doing what every government ruler does, sort out the bureaucracy and find people who are loyal,” he said.    “He’s creating a de facto situation ahead of the cabinet.”
    Burhan has said he dissolved transitional bodies to prevent squabbling political factions critical of the military from destabilising the country.    He says he is committed to democratic transition and that elections will still be held in 2023.
    The protest movement that drove demonstrations against Bashir and mobilised again in the build up to the Oct. 25 coup is calling for the military to exit politics altogether.
    Though a blackout on internet services hampered a civil disobedience campaign on Sunday and Monday, hundreds of thousands have turned out for mass rallies against the military, with another “march of millions” planned for Nov. 13.
    Burhan also faces an economic crisis that triggered the revolt against Bashir and continued after his overthrow.    Aid that had begun to flow from the West to help Sudan’s transition has been paused, and a resolution calling for sanctions against coup leaders has been tabled in the U.S. Congress.
    Any lasting alliance between Burhan and former regime factions may be complicated by their resentment over Burhan’s role as a senior army leader in toppling Bashir in 2019.
    Burhan is close to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia as well as to neighbour Egypt.    But such regional powers, which have worked hard to roll back the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, would object to a coalition between Burhan and Bashir’s Islamist allies, a diplomatic source said.
(Additional reporting and writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Peter Graff)

11/11/2021 Egypt’s Sisi To Attend Libya Conference In Paris
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks during the UN Climate Change Conference
(COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain, November 1, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will travel to Paris to attend a conference on Libya on Friday and to hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, the Egyptian presidency said in a statement.
    The conference is being organised with the United Nations, Germany and Italy, and comes head of elections planned in Libya for Dec. 24.
    Egypt, which is eyeing economic opportunities in Libya and has reestablished a presence in the capital Tripoli, has called for the elections to go ahead despite disputes over the planned poll among Libyan factions.
    Egypt supported eastern Libya-based forces under military commander Khalifa Haftar after a previous vote in 2014 escalated a conflict and effectively split the country between rival eastern and western camps.
(Reporting by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Toby Chopra)

11/11/2021 Israeli Leaders Hole Up In Bunker During COVID-19 Drill
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives to receive a third shot of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine as
Israel launches booster shots for over 40 year-olds in Kfar Saba, Israel August 20, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and senior aides holed up in a war bunker on Thursday during an exercise simulating an outbreak of a lethal new COVID-19 variant.
    He described the day-long “Omega Drill,” named after a fictitious virus strain, as a precaution to ensure Israel was prepared for “any scenario.”
    The nuclear blast-proof complex in the Jerusalem hills, known as the “National Management Centre,” was also used to coordinate initial responses to the new coronavirus in March 2020.
    Israel imposed lockdowns to try to tame three waves of COVID-19 but has kept the economy and schools open since a fourth wave hit in June, relying on measures including vaccinations, booster shots and protective masks.
    The drill involves civilian and military leaders being subjected to mass testing, hospital admissions and curfews, Bennett’s office said in a statement. Findings from the exercise will be shared with foreign partners.
    “Israel is safe and protected. In order to maintain this, and to safeguard the continuity of normal life, we must continue to closely monitor the situation and prepare for any scenario,” the statement quoted him as saying.
    The statement said nothing to indicate the government believed a lethal new coronavirus strain was imminent.
    It also did not mention any potential flare-up in fighting with enemies among the scenarios for the drill.
    The bunker was built more than a decade ago because of concern about Iran’s nuclear programme and missile exchanges with Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
(Writing by Dan Williams, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

11/11/2021 Sudan’s Army Chief Appoints New Ruling Council, Led By Himself by Khalid Abdelaziz
FILE PHOTO: General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan attends a news conference during the International Conference in support
of Sudan at the Temporary Grand Palais in Paris, France, May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/Pool/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Sudan’s army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan was sworn in on Thursday as head of a new transitional council he appointed to lead the country following the military takeover late last month, shrugging off domestic and international pressure to reverse the coup.
    The new 14-member Sovereign Council, for which one member is yet to be confirmed, includes civilians representing Sudan’s regions but none from the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) political coalition that had been sharing power with the military in a democratic transition since 2019.
    Burhan’s deputy will remain Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), with both men keeping roles they held before the coup.
    The move is likely to harden opposition among civilian groups who have pledged to resist the takeover through a campaign of civil disobedience, strikes and mass rallies, the next of which is planned for Saturday.
    Late on Thursday, protesters closed roads and burned tires in Burri, a neighbourhood in the east of the capital Khartoum, witnesses said.    Unverified pictures posted on social media appeared to show similar protests in other parts of the capital.
    Sudan’s ousted Information Minister Hamza Balloul said the announcement was an extension of the coup and that he was confident the Sudanese people could defeat it.
    The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a leading protest movement, said: “Burhan and his council’s decisions apply only to themselves, they have no legitimacy and will be met only with contempt and resistance.”
    The new council also includes representatives of rebel groups that reached a peace deal with the government last year but had rejected the takeover in a statement this week.
    The Oct. 25 takeover ended a power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilians set up after the overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir in 2019 that was meant to lead to elections in late 2023.
    Some senior civilians have been detained and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been under house arrest.
    The previous council had served as Sudan’s collective head of state, alongside Hamdok’s government which ran Sudan’s day-to-day affairs.    Burhan and Dagalo had been due to hand over its leadership to a civilian in the coming months.
    Mediation aimed at securing the release of detainees and a return to power sharing has stalled since the coup as the military moved to consolidate control https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/sudans-military-rulers-draw-bashir-era-veterans-tighten-grip-2021-11-11.    Political sources told Reuters on Thursday that there had been no progress in indirect contacts between Hamdok and the army.
    Aboulgasim Mohamed Burtum, a newly appointed council member and former member of parliament, told Sky News he hoped the new government would be well-received.    “We are civilians, the civilians are not only Hamdok,” he said.
    Prior to Thursday’s announcement, Burhan told Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni that he was committed to dialogue with all political forces and the quick formation of a technocratic government, Burhan’s office said.
    Burhan has denied carrying out a coup and promised elections in 2023.
MEDIC ARRESTED
    Sudanese medic Mohamed Nagi Al-Assam, who was prominent in the uprising against Bashir and was a vocal critic of the coup, was arrested earlier on Thursday and taken to an unknown location, a doctors union said.
    In a statement on Assam’s arrest, the union said resistance would continue “until the coup is brought down and its leaders are put on trial.”
    Much of the international community has called on Burhan to reverse the takeover, with Western powers and the World Bank suspending economic assistance and saying a deal to forgive tens of billions of dollars of foreign debt is at risk.
    The United Nations called Thursday’s developments “very concerning.”    In a closed-door briefing to the U.N. Security Council, U.N. Sudan envoy Volker Perthes had been “very frank in his assessment that the window now is closing for dialogue and for peaceful resolution,” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward told reporters.
    The civil disobedience movement has been hampered by a blackout of mobile internet access across Sudan since Oct. 25.
    A judge on Thursday issued a second instruction to telecoms firms Zain and MTN and local providers Sudatel and Canar to restore connections, pending the announcement of any damages to be paid to subscribers.
    In a statement to Reuters, Zain said the original order only applied to some accounts which the company reconnected immediately.    It said it was working on Thursday’s order to restore all lines.    Other companies could not be reached or did not respond to requests for comment.
    Alongside Burhan and Dagalo, three other military members of the previous ruling council were retained in the new council, as well as one civilian representative jointly selected by the military and the FFC.
    Four new members representing Sudan’s regions were appointed, though the representative for eastern Sudan was yet to be confirmed, state media reported.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Nafisa Eltahir, Ahmed Hagagy, Mahmoud Mourad and Michelle Nichols; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Peter Graff, Bill Berkrot and Cynthia Osterman)

11/12/2021 World Powers Meet To Push For Elections In Politically Fragile Libya by John Irish
FILE PHOTO: Libyans are seen through a Kingdom of Libya flag during a celebration rally in front of the
residence of Muammar Gaddafi at the Bab al-Aziziyah complex in Tripoli September 13, 2011. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
    PARIS (Reuters) – World powers meet in France on Friday to push for elections in Libya by year-end and endorse efforts to remove foreign forces from the oil-producing nation despite growing political wrangling that threatens to unravel a year-long peace process.
    Libya’s election targeted for Dec. 24 was set through a U.N.-backed roadmap adopted last year that also established an interim unity government to take over from rival administrations in east and west that had been warring for years.
    The process is seen as a chance to end the decade of instability and warfare following the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi and has since drawn in regional powers in a threat to wider Mediterranean stability.
    With disputes on the legal basis for the election, major factions on both sides may reject the vote, potentially causing another violent schism.
    A French presidential official told reporters at a briefing ahead of the meeting that while the elections were close at hand, the situation remained fragile.    There were some actors ready to seize on any ambiguities to advance their own interests, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
    “They are obviously waiting to ambush and try to derail the electoral process,” the official said.
    A final communique may warn potential spoilers that they could face sanctions, diplomats said.
    Almost 30 countries and organisations will be in Paris, including Libya’s neighbours, and countries that have been split over the conflict.
    Despite Paris initially aiming to have the Turkish and Russian heads of state attending, both Ankara and Moscow have sent lower level representatives, perhaps demonstrating the complications with removing foreign forces.
    Mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group are entrenched alongside the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), which was supported in the war by Moscow, along with the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
    The former Tripoli government had support from Turkish regular forces in Libya as advisers, and from allied Syrian fighters, the Turkish government has said.
    Diplomats have said Turkey was unlikely to act before there were departures from the east.
    Libya’s eastern-based forces said on Thursday it had agreed to repatriate 300 foreign mercenaries from their area of control after a request from France.
(Reporting by John Irish; editing by Grant McCool)

11/12/2021 Israeli Appeals Court Upholds Ruling To Return Kidnapped Boy To Italy
Aya Biran, the maternal aunt of Eitan Biran, a 6-year-old boy, the sole survivor of an Italian cable car disaster and the focus of
a cross-border custody battle, arrives to the District court in Tel Aviv, Israel November 11, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli court on Thursday upheld a ruling to return to Italy a six-year-old boy, the sole survivor of an Italian cable car disaster who was kidnapped to Israel by his grandfather, Israel’s Justice Ministry said.
    Eitan Biran’s maternal grandfather had appealed against a Tel Aviv family court’s decision last month to send the boy back to his paternal aunt in Italy, in a cross-border custody battle.
    The child had been living with the aunt since his parents, younger brother and 11 other people died when a gondola plunged to the ground in northern Italy in May.
    In September, while visiting Eitan, his maternal grandfather, without the aunt’s consent, drove him to Switzerland and chartered a private jet onward to Israel.
    The aunt petitioned the family court for his return to Italy.    The court found that the grandfather’s actions amounted to kidnapping under the Hague Convention on the return of abducted children.
    The grandfather appealed against the ruling to a Tel Aviv district court, which the Justice Ministry said upheld the family court’s decision.
    “We order the minor be returned to Italy within 15 days,” the district court said in a ruling released by the ministry.    The court stayed implementation of the order for a week to enable the grandfather to appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court.
    “Although the appellant took the minor away illegally, his misdeeds should not come at his grandson’s expense, and the minor should be allowed to meet with his grandfather, even in Italy,” the court said.
    Lawyers for the grandfather said they will consider an appeal to the Supreme Court, after studying the ruling.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

11/12/2021 Turkey Curbs Flights To Belarus To Ease Migrant Crisis by Robin Emmott and Tuvan Gumrukcu
Polish police guard Poland/Belarus border near Kuznica, Poland, in this photograph
released by the Police, November 12, 2021. Policja Podlaska/Handout via REUTERS
    BRUSSELS/ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey banned Syrian, Yemeni and Iraqi citizens from flights to Minsk on Friday, potentially closing off one of the main routes that the EU says Belarus has used to fly in migrants by the thousand to engineer a humanitarian crisis on its frontier.
    Thousands of migrants from the Middle East are sheltering in freezing conditions in the woods on the border between Belarus and EU states Poland and Lithuania, which are refusing to let them cross.    Some have already died and there are fears for the safety of the rest as bitter winter conditions settle in.
    The European Union accuses Minsk of creating the crisis as part of a “hybrid attack” https://www.reuters.com/world/russia-flies-nuclear-capable-bombers-over-belarus-migrant-crisis-escalates-2021-11-10 on the bloc – distributing Belarusian visas in the Middle East, flying in the migrants and pushing them to cross the border illegally.    Brussels may impose new sanctions as early as Monday on Belarus and airlines it blames for ferrying the migrants.
    EU officials welcomed Friday’s announcement by Turkey’s Civil Aviation General Directorate that Syrians, Yemenis and Iraqis would not be permitted to buy tickets to Belarus or board flights there from Turkish territory.
    Turkey has denied playing a direct role by allowing its territory to be used to ferry in migrants.    But Minsk airport’s website listed six commercial flights arriving from Istanbul on Friday, the most from any city outside the former Soviet Union.
    EU officials have repeatedly said their best hope of resolving the crisis is to stop would-be migrants in the Middle East from boarding flights for Belarus at the source, and that diplomats were negotiating in the region to achieve this.
    “These contacts are already showing fruit,” a European Commission spokesperson said.
    The spokesperson said Iraqi Airways had also agreed to halt flights to Belarus.
SANCTIONS
    Belarus denies fomenting the crisis, but has also said it cannot help resolve it unless Europe lifts existing sanctions.    The EU imposed several rounds of measures in response to President Alexander Lukashenko’s violent crackdown on mass street protests against his rule in 2020.
    Lukashenko, a close ally of Russia, threatened this week to cut off Russian gas supplies delivered to Europe through Belarusian territory.    On Friday, the Kremlin appeared to distance itself from that threat, saying it was not consulted in advance of Lukashenko’s remarks and it would fulfil its gas delivery contracts.
    But Moscow shows no sign of leaning on Lukashenko to resolve the border crisis, and has made a number of demonstrations of its military support for him in recent days.    Russian and Belarusian paratroopers held joint drills near the border on Friday, and the Russian air force has sent planes this week to patrol the frontier.
    “From our point of view, the Russian president has the possibility to influence the situation and we expect him to take appropriate steps,” a German government spokesperson said.
    At the border, Polish authorities said they had foiled 223 attempts to cross the border illegally from Belarus overnight, including two large groups.    They estimate the number of migrants trapped along the border at 3,000-4,000.
    Neighbouring Lithuania reported 110 crossing attempts overnight and said it would be finishing a 100-km razor wire barrier along the border by Dec. 10.
    Expressing support for Warsaw, Ukraine said on Friday it was sending border guards and national guard officers to its frontier with Poland to share intelligence and operational know-how on dealing with the Belarus migrant crisis.
FREEZING CONDITIONS
    The EU has backed Poland and Lithuania in taking a hard line on banning illegal crossings from Belarus for fear that allowing in even a small number would encourage huge numbers to follow.
    But charities and advocates say the freezing conditions have created a humanitarian emergency, and that EU states have a duty to allow access to food and shelter.    The media has also been kept away, which critics say conceals the scale of the crisis.
    “Access for independent observers and the media is essential,” said Iwo Los, from Grupa Granica (Border Group), a Polish organisation.    “These people… have to receive humanitarian aid, medical aid and this aid must be provided to them on both sides of the border.”
    The Baltic nations bordering Belarus fear the crisis could escalate into a military confrontation.    The presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will meet on Monday in Vilnius to discuss the crisis and be joined by video link by Polish President Andrzej Duda.
    Interior ministers of the four countries are due to call on international organizations to help avert a humanitarian crisis by engaging directly with Minsk.
    “We call upon you to engage with Belarusian authorities and other relevant stakeholders in order to organize humanitarian and medical assistance for the people whose arrival to their territory they have organised themselves,” they will say according to a copy of the letter seen by Reuters.
(Reporting Robin Emmott and Marine Strauss in Brussels, Pawel Florkiewicz and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw, Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara, Andrius Sytas in Kapciamietsis, Lithuania, Dmitry Antonov and Andrew Osborn in Moscow, Ahmed Rasheed in BaghdadWriting by Jan Lopatka and Tomasz JanowskiEditing by Peter Graff)

11/12/2021 Blinken Says Qatar To Act As U.S. Diplomatic Representative In Afghanistan by Humeyra Pamuk and Jonathan Landay
FILE PHOTO: A military helicopter is pictured flying over Kabul,
Afghanistan November 4, 2021.REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States and Qatar signed an accord on Friday for Qatar to represent U.S. diplomatic interests in Afghanistan, an important signal of possible future direct engagement between Washington and the Taliban after two decades of war.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Qatari counterpart, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, signed the agreement making Qatar the U.S. “protecting power” in Afghanistan at a State Department ceremony after holding talks.
    “Qatar will establish a U.S. interest section within its embassy in Afghanistan to provide certain consular services and monitor the condition and security of U.S. diplomatic facilities in Afghanistan,” Blinken said.
    The move will further strengthen relations between Washington and the small, wealthy Gulf monarchy, which forged close ties with the Taliban by hosting the militants’ only official office outside Afghanistan and by playing a key role in the talks that led to the 2020 deal for the U.S. troop pullout this year.
    The agreement comes as the United States and other Western countries grapple with how to engage with the hardline Islamists after they took over Afghanistan in a lightning advance in August as U.S.-led forces were completing their pullout.
    The United States and other Western countries shut their embassies and withdrew their diplomats as the Taliban seized Kabul, following which the militants declared an interim government whose top members are under U.S. and U.N. sanctions.
    The United States, European countries and others are reluctant to formally recognize the Pashtun-dominated Taliban, accusing them of backtracking on pledges of political and ethnic inclusivity and to uphold the rights of women and minorities.
    But with winter approaching, many governments realize they need to engage more to prevent the deeply impoverished country from plunging into a humanitarian catastrophe.
    According to the new agreement, which comes into effect on Dec. 31, Qatar will dedicate certain staff from its embassy in Afghanistan to a U.S. Interests Section and will coordinate closely with U.S. State Department and with U.S. mission in Doha.
    A senior State Department official said the United States would also continue its engagement with the Taliban’s political office in the Qatari capital, Doha.
    Consular assistance may include accepting passport applications, offering notarial services for documentation, providing information, and helping in emergencies, the U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.
    “The protecting power arrangement envisions that Qatar would facilitate any formal communication between the United States and Afghanistan,” the senior U.S. official said.
SECOND AGREEMENT
    Millions of Afghans face growing hunger amid soaring food prices, a drought and an economy in freefall, fueled by a hard cash shortage, sanctions on Taliban leaders and the suspension of financial aid.
    The Taliban victory saw the billions of dollars in foreign aid that had kept the economy afloat abruptly switched off, with more than $9 billion in central bank reserves frozen outside the country.
    In a second agreement with Washington, Qatar will continue to temporarily host up to 8,000 at-risk Afghans who have applied for special immigrant visas (SIV) and their eligible family members, the U.S. official said.
    “SIV applicants will be housed at Camp As Sayliyah and al-Udeid Air Base,” the official said.
    At a press conference after signing the accords, Blinken praised Qatar for aiding ongoing evacuations of American citizens, green cards holders and SIV applicants.
    Qatar, he said, allowed to transit through Doha roughly half of the 124,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan since August in the hastily arranged and chaotic U.S. evacuation operation.
    Since then, Qatar has funded at least 15 evacuation flights by Qatar Airways of hundreds of U.S. citizens and others and will continue providing charter flights for SIV holders and other Afghans, he said.
    Tens of thousands of Afghans potentially at risk of Taliban retribution for aiding the United States and its allies or working for foreign organizations remain in Afghanistan.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Jonathan Landay. Additional reporting by Simon Lewis. Editing by Robert Birsel and Raissa Kasolowsky)

11/12/2021 Tigrayan Forces Say They Will ‘Hunt Down’ Foreign Mercenaries
FILE PHOTO: A man walks on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 5, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo
    NAIROBI (Reuters) -Rebellious Tigrayan forces threatened on Friday to “hunt down” foreigners they said were supporting the Ethiopian government as mercenaries and technical experts in a year-long war.
    Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) spokesperson Getachew Reda said the foreigners could be from Turkey, China, Israel or the United Arab Emirates.
    Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to a request for comment.    There have been no independently verified reports of the warring sides using mercenaries to date.
    Getachew told Reuters via satellite phone: “We don’t care (what their nationality is).    We will hunt them down.    They will be treated like the mercenaries they are.”
    The war, which has killed thousands and forced more than two million people from their homes.
    The conflict escalated this month after rebellious forces from the northern region of Tigray and their allies made territorial gains and threatened to march on the capital. The government says the gains have been exaggerated.
    The government declared a state of emergency https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/addis-ababa-government-urges-residents-register-arms-media-2021-11-02 on Nov. 2.
    That allows suspects to be detained for as long as the state of emergency lasts; allows house-to-house searches without a warrant; and requires citizens to carry identity cards, some of which – like those issued by some regions – can be an indication of ethnic origin.
    The warring parties – the Ethiopian government and the rebellious Tigrayan forces – have so far rejected calls from the United States, the United Nations and the African Union for a ceasefire.    Both sides have set conditions that the other rejects.
    More than 400,000 people are facing famine in Tigray, the United Nations warns.
    No U.N.-organised humanitarian supplies have entered Tigray for more than three weeks, the U.N. said on Thursday, adding some 364 trucks are waiting in a neighbouring region, pending authorization from authorities to proceed.
    An estimated 100 trucks per day must enter Tigray to meet critical humanitarian needs, the U.N. says.    Around 80% of essential medicine is no longer available in Tigray and most health facilities are not functioning, it says.
    The TPLF dominated national politics for three decades until Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018 and curbed its power.
(Reporting by Maggie Fick;Editing by Alison Williams and Andrew Heavens)

11/12/2021 World Powers Press For Libya Elections But Disputes Remain by John Irish
FILE PHOTO: Libyans are seen through a Kingdom of Libya flag during a celebration rally in front of the residence
of Muammar Gaddafi at the Bab al-Aziziyah complex in Tripoli September 13, 2011. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
    PARIS (Reuters) -World powers will push for sanctions against anyone who disrupts Libya’s electoral process and political transition, they said in Paris on Friday, though big disputes remain over how to stage a vote intended to help end a decade of conflict.
    The meeting, which included the leaders of France, Libya, Germany, Italy and Egypt, as well as the U.S. vice president, was to cement backing for the planned Dec. 24 election and efforts to remove foreign forces.
    The elections are envisaged as a key moment in a U.N.-backed peace process to end a decade of violent chaos that has drawn in regional powers and undermined Mediterranean stability since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.
    The votes for a new president and parliament are still in doubt with six weeks to go amid disputes between rival Libyan factions and political bodies over the rules underpinning the electoral schedule and who can run.
    The world powers said they backed an electoral process “starting” on Dec. 24, a change in emphasis from a previous demand for both votes to happen simultaneously on that day.
    Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said it was essential a new election law was drawn up “with the agreement of everyone… not in the coming weeks, but in the coming days.”
    Libya’s interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah said he had emphasised urgent changes during the meeting to the electoral rules that rival Libyan political bodies are tussling over.
    There is no agreement yet on the constitutional basis for the election or whether Dbeibah himself, a likely front-runner for president, might be allowed to register to stand so soon before the vote and after having promised to take no part.
    Wrangling over the election threatens to unravel the wider peace process, which also includes efforts to unify long-divided state institutions and to pull out foreign mercenaries who remain entrenched along frontlines despite a ceasefire.
    Powers in Paris decided “that individuals or entities, inside or outside of Libya, who might attempt to obstruct, undermine, manipulate or falsify the electoral process and the political transition” could face sanctions.
    They backed an “inclusive” process, a word often used in the context of Libya’s election, to mean allowing all candidates to run including divisive factional leaders.
INCLUSIVE VOTE.
    French President Emmanuel Macron said a commitment by eastern forces to remove 300 foreign mercenaries through a process agreed between the warring eastern and western sides must be followed by Russia and Turkey pulling out fighters.
    Paris initially wanted the leaders of Russia and Turkey to attend. Turkey, which fears France wants to accelerate the departure of Turkish forces from Libya, has joined Moscow in sending lower level representatives.
    Ankara voiced reservations over language in the final statement regarding the departure of foreign forces.    It stresses a difference between the presence of its troops in Libya that were invited by a U.N.-recognised government and those imported by other factions.
    Mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group are entrenched alongside the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), which was supported in the war by Moscow, along with the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
(Reporting by John Irish; additional reporting by Crispian Balmer in Rome and Moaz Abdel Aziz in Cairo; Writing by Angus McDowall; editing by Andrew Heavens, Jon Boyle and Jonathan Oatis)

11/12/2021 West Says New Sudan Army-Led Council Breaches Democracy Transition
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan attends a news conference
in Paris, France, May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/Pool/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) – The United States and other Western powers expressed grave concern on Friday over the appointment of a new Sudanese ruling council by the general who led last month’s coup, saying it complicated efforts to restore a transition to democracy.
    The United States, Britain, Norway, the European Union and Switzerland also urged the security services to respect the right to free speech “without fear of violence or detention” ahead of protests set for Saturday by critics of the army’s move.
    Sudan’s Khartoum state said it would close all but three bridges across the river Nile at midnight ahead of the demonstrations on Saturday, Sudan TV reported, announcing what is a routine move to tighten security before rallies.
    General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan was sworn in on Thursday as head of the new Sovereign Council, which replaces the power-sharing body he dissolved last month in a takeover that derailed Sudan’s transition to civilian rule.
    The head of the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in Sudan, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, was sworn in as his deputy.
    The army’s move undermined its commitment to uphold transitional arrangements requiring civilians on the council to be nominated by the Forces for Freedom and Change, a coalition that had been sharing power with the army since 2019, a joint statement by the United States and the other countries said.
    It “complicates efforts to put Sudan’s democratic transition back on track,” they said, adding the move was “in violation” of an accord setting out the transition.
    “We strongly urge against further escalatory steps.”
    In Geneva, the top U.N. human rights official Michelle Bachelet designated Adama Dieng, a former U.N. adviser on the prevention of genocide, to monitor “the developing human rights situation” in Sudan.    His term will end when civilian-led government is restored, a U.N. statement said.
    Abdalla Hamdok, the prime minister ousted in the Oct. 25 coup, remains under house arrest.    Hamdok has demanded the release of top civilians and a return to the transition that began after the ousting of autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
    Earlier, Volker Perthes, the U.N. special representative for Sudan, said the army’s unilateral move on Thursday “makes it increasingly difficult to return to the constitutional order.”
    Referring to Saturday’s planned demonstrations, Perthes also called on the security forces to exercise utmost restraint and respect the right to peaceful assembly and free expression.
    Security forces shot dead three people during the last big protest against the takeover on Oct. 31.    In total, 15 protesters have been killed since the coup.
(Reporting by Nafisa Eltahir and Lilian Wagdy in Cairo, Stephanie Nebehay and Emma Farge in Geneva and Christian Lowe in Paris; Writing by Tom Perry and William Maclean; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

11/12/2021 Lebanese Government In ‘Fantasy Land’ Amid Crisis, U.N. Envoy Says by Timour Azhari
A woman wearing a face mask walks near closed shops in
Chiyah, Lebanon January 26, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/Files
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese government officials have no sense of urgency and are not taking responsibility for an economic crisis that has “brutally impoverished” the population, an independent United Nations envoy told Reuters in an interview.
    “I’m very struck by the fact that this is a state that, if it is not failed yet, is failing and that the needs of the population are still not addressed,” Olivier De Schutter, U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said at the end of a two-week mission studying poverty in Lebanon.
    “They are in a fantasy land,” De Schutter said.    “It doesn’t bode well for the future of the country.”
    De Schutter met with top officials including nine ministers, the prime minister and parliament speaker during his visit.
    An official source at Prime Minister’s Najib Mikati’s office did not comment on his view but pointed to the fact that Mikati had a productive meeting this week with another U.N. official, World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley.
    The United Nations says nearly three-quarters of the formerly middle-income nation’s population now suffer from poverty, which has increased during an economic crisis rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement.
    Banks imposed informal controls on withdrawals and the currency lost more than 90% of its value since 2019 in what the World Bank has labelled a “deliberate depression” and one of one of the worst financial crashes in the world since 1850.
    “This is a huge country-wide loss of wealth that is almost unprecedented,” De Schutter said, noting losses in Lebanon’s banking sector, estimated in a 2020 government plan at around $83 billion, should be borne by bank shareholders and large depositors, not average people.
    Western nations have offered aid in return for reforms, but Lebanon was without a permanent government for 13 months in the wake of the deadly August 2020 Beirut blast, and a new cabinet formed in September has not met in a month amid a political row.
    De Schutter said he would recommend the immediate implementation of social protection programmes held up for months, an increase to the minimum wage and a wealth tax to combat world-leading inequality rates.
    His final report will be published in early 2022.
    De Schutter said that, while Pope John Paul II once referred to Lebanon as a “message” of sectarian coexistence, it had since become “a warning for the world” on the outcomes of “a very unhealthy alliance between very wealthy businessmen and political elites.”
(Reporting by Timour Azhari; Editing by Peter Graff)

11/12/2021 WHO Chief Says His Home Region In Ethiopia Under ‘Systematic’ Blockade
FILE PHOTO: World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a ceremony to launch a multiyear
partnership with Qatar on making FIFA Football World Cup 2022 and mega sporting events healthy and safe at
the WHO headquarters, in Geneva, Switzerland, October 18, 2021. Fabrice Coffrini/ Pool via REUTERS
    GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization’s chief said on Friday his home Tigray region in northern Ethiopia was being subjected to a “systematic” blockade and people were dying because of a lack of supplies.
    Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus did not say who he thought was stopping aid getting through to Tigray, where rebellious forces have been fighting a year-long war with Ethiopia’s government.
    Ethiopia’s government has denied blocking aid to Tigray and has said it is rebuilding infrastructure.    The United Nations has repeatedly called on the government to get aid into the north, and has said that shortages there are “man-made.”
    Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on Tedros’s statement on Friday.
    “People are dying because of lack of supplies,” Tedros, who is an ethnic Tigrayan, told a press briefing in Geneva.
    “We cannot send supplies and medicines to Tigray because it is under blockade, and the blockade is systematic,” he said.    In unusually frank public remarks, he described the situation in Ethiopia as “really distressing.”
    War broke out in November 2020 between Ethiopian federal troops and forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party of Tigray.    Thousands have been killed in the conflict, which has since spread into two neighbouring regions in northern Ethiopia.
    Soon after the conflict started, the Ethiopian army’s chief of staff accused Tedros of backing the Tigray rebels.    He denied that.
    The WHO Director-General, who was Ethiopia’s health minister during the era when the TPLF dominated national politics, has repeatedly said he is not taking sides in the war.
    No U.N.-organised humanitarian supplies have entered Tigray for more than three weeks, the U.N. said on Thursday, adding some 364 trucks are waiting in a neighbouring region, pending authorization from authorities to proceed.
    Around 80% of essential medicine is no longer available in Tigray and most health facilities are not functioning, the U.N. said in a report on Thursday.
    The warring parties have so far rejected calls from the United States, the United Nations and the African Union for a ceasefire.    Both the government and the Tigrayan forces have set conditions that the other rejects.
(Reporting by Emma Farge and Sri Kalyani Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Maggie Fick in Nairobi; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

11/12/2021 U.S. Blacklists Eritrea Military, Warns Of More Action On Ethiopia by Daphne Psaledakis and Maggie Fick
A damaged Eritrean military tank is seen near the town of Wikro, Ethiopia, March 14, 2021. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
    WASHINGTON/NAIROBI (Reuters) – The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on the Eritrean military and other Eritrea-based individuals and entities, as Washington warned it was prepared to take action against other parties to the conflict in Ethiopia as it steps up pressure to try to bring an end to fighting.
    The U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted Eritrea’s military, its ruling political party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ); the party’s economic adviser; and the head of the Eritrean national security office, accusing them of contributing to the conflict in neighboring Ethiopia.
    War broke out in November 2020 between Ethiopian federal troops and forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party of Tigray.    Thousands have been killed in the conflict, which has since spread into two neighboring regions in northern Ethiopia.
    “We condemn the continued role played by Eritrean actors who are contributing to the violence in northern Ethiopia, which has undermined the stability and integrity of the state and resulted in a humanitarian disaster,” Andrea Gacki, director of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Groups, said in a statement.
    Eritrean information minister Yemane Ghebremeskel, Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s spokesperson Billene Seyoum did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that sanctions were not being imposed at this time on the Ethiopian government or the TPLF.    But he added that “if the parties fail to make meaningful progress, the United States stands ready to pursue additional sanctions, including against the Government of Ethiopia and the TPLF.”
    A senior State Department official told Reuters that Washington was prepared to impose fresh sanctions in a matter of days and weeks, not months.
    “We can use them quite quickly,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.    “We’ll see in the coming days how things unfold.”
    The official said they were confident the leadership of the TPLF and the Ethiopian government would take the message of the kinds of individuals and entities Washington is prepared to sanction following Friday’s announcement, but declined to specify what fresh sanctions would target.
    The warring parties have so far rejected calls from the United States, the United Nations and the African Union for a ceasefire.    Both the government and the Tigrayan sides have set conditions that the other rejects.
    U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman visited the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa this week to push for a ceasefire.    He returned to Washington on Thursday to consult with Blinken, the State Department said.
    As international pressure for a ceasefire and political settlement mounts, that message is being heard in Addis Ababa despite some of the public rhetoric, the official said.
    The sanctions imposed on Friday targeted Eritrea over its role in the war.    Washington has long condemned what it says are myriad human rights abuses by Eritrea, which rejects foreign governments’ criticism.
AIDING AN ALLY
    Early in the war, the Eritrean military sent in tanks and troops to aid its Ethiopian ally, Prime Minister Abiy.    Eritrea has also used the conflict to settle old scores in Tigray, Reuters reported this month https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/ethiopia-conflict-eritrea.
    Abiy’s government initially denied Eritrea had deployed forces, but later acknowledged they were there and in March said Eritrea was withdrawing its troops from Tigray.    The Eritrean army continues to operate in northern Ethiopia, according to witnesses.
    For the first five months of the conflict, Eritrea denied its forces were in Tigray.    Eritrean soldiers have been repeatedly accused of mass killings of civilians, kidnapping refugees and gang-rapes on military bases, according to Reuters reporting and international rights groups such as Human Rights Watch. Eritrea has rejected these accusations.
    Shortly after Eritrea gained independence in 1993 from Ethiopia after a decades-long struggle, the government led by President Isaias Afwerki began tightening its grip.    Watchdogs call the country one of the world’s most repressive nations.
    Also blacklisted on Friday was Hidri Trust, which the Treasury said is the holding company of all the Eritrean ruling party’s business enterprises, and the Red Sea Trading Corporation, which manages its property and financial interests.
    In a response in 2011 to a report by the U.N. sanctions monitoring group, Eritrea asserted that the Hidri Trust was a holding company of all of the party’s business enterprises and that its primary purpose was to provide social safety nets to families of those killed during its independence war.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington and Maggie Fick in Nairobi; Additional reporting by Ismail Shakil, Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis; Editing by Mary Milliken, Frances Kerry and Jonathan Oatis)

11/13/2021 Jailed Turkish Politician’s Wife Sentenced Over Faulty Medical Report: Media
FILE PHOTO: Basak Demirtas, wife of Selahattin Demirtas, jailed former co-leader and presidential candidate of Turkey's main
pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), arrives at a polling station during the presidential and parliamentary elections
in the Kurdish-dominated city of Diyarbakir, Turkey June 24, 2018. REUTERS/ Sertac Kayar/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The wife of prominent jailed Turkish opposition figure Selahattin Demirtas has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail over a fraudulent medical report, the Cumhuriyet newspaper said.
    Lawyers for Basak Demirtas, 44, said in a statement she was sentenced by a court due to a faulty date on a medical report issued by a doctor in southeastern province of Diyarbakir in 2015, Cumhuriyet reported on Friday.
    Selahattin Demirtas, the former pro-Kurdish party leader and one of Turkey’s best-known politicians, has been in jail for nearly five years on terrorism-related charges that he denies.
    Basak Demirtas’s lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.
    The European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, Nacho Sanchez Amor, said her sentencing seemed “political” for a clerical error.
    Amor wrote https://twitter.com/NachoSAmor/status/1459093305212514304?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet on Twitter that “2.5 years of prison for a mere clerical error concerning a medical record is appalling and seems beyond common sense.    It just looks so political.    It gives the measure of the worrying state of Turkish judiciary.”
    Basak Demirtas is free pending appeal of her conviction.    Her lawyers said there was an error on the records that could be corrected by examining the appointment book of the local health care centre, the newspaper said.
(Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by William Mallard)

11/13/2021 Villagers Search For Bodies After Shipwreck On Congo’s Lake Kivu by Djaffar Al Katanty
The remains of a passenger boat that capsized is seen floating in Lake Kivu near Nyatshibingu
in the Democratic Republic of Congo, November 12, 2021. REUTERS/Djaffar Al Katanty
    NYATSHIBINGU, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Villagers searched for bodies in Democratic Republic of Congo’s Lake Kivu on Friday after a passenger boat capsized https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/two-drowned-dozens-feared-missing-after-boat-sinks-eastern-congo-2021-11-11 the day before, leaving dozens feared dead.
    Fifteen bodies had been found and 34 people were still missing by Friday afternoon, according to a local chief, a civil society leader and survivors of the wreck.    The provincial governor provided a lower toll of eight dead and 20 missing.
    Villages along the lake in Congo’s South Kivu province are isolated by lack of roads, and boats are homemade and often overloaded.    The boat that sank was an old wooden pirogue that went village to village taking people to market.
    It was only supposed to hold 50 people, but sank with 157 on board, according to the driver.
    “We are on the lake looking for the bodies of our loved ones who drowned in Lake Kivu.    They are our relatives, our fathers, our mothers, young men and women and even children,” said Heri Nyarukanyi, who lost three family members in the wreck.
    “It was while arriving at Nyatshibingu, after adding more passengers and sailing some 25 metres, that the canoe split in two and many died,” he said.
    The remains of the boat, filled with water, floated near the village of Nyatshibingu’s grassy shore.
    “I feel sad, I have a lot of pain because I haven’t found my daughter’s body yet.    I will keep searching until tomorrow,” said Safari Kagunjo, a 63-year-old pastor.
    Deadly boat accidents are common in Congo, which has few tarred roads across its vast, forested territory and where safety regulations are poorly enforced.
    Dozens are feared to have drowned in similar accidents on Lake Kivu in January and last June.
(Additional reporting by Crispin Kyala; Writing by Nellie Peyton; editing by Grant McCool)

11/13/2021 Turkey Curbs Flights To Belarus To Ease Migrant Crisis by Robin Emmott and Tuvan Gumrukcu
Polish police guard Poland/Belarus border near Kuznica, Poland, in this photograph
released by the Police, November 12, 2021. Policja Podlaska/Handout via REUTERS
    BRUSSELS/ANKARA (Reuters) -Turkey banned Syrian, Yemeni and Iraqi citizens from flights to Minsk on Friday, potentially closing off one of the main routes that the EU says Belarus has used to fly in migrants by the thousand to engineer a humanitarian crisis on its frontier.
    Thousands of migrants from the Middle East are sheltering in freezing conditions in the woods on the border between Belarus and EU states Poland and Lithuania, which are refusing to let them cross.    Some have already died and there are fears for the safety of the rest as bitter winter conditions settle in.
    The European Union accuses Minsk of creating the crisis as part of a “hybrid attack” https://www.reuters.com/world/russia-flies-nuclear-capable-bombers-over-belarus-migrant-crisis-escalates-2021-11-10 on the bloc – distributing Belarusian visas in the Middle East, flying in the migrants and pushing them to cross the border illegally.    Brussels may impose new sanctions as early as Monday on Belarus and airlines it blames for ferrying the migrants.
    EU officials welcomed Friday’s announcement by Turkey’s Civil Aviation General Directorate that Syrians, Yemenis and Iraqis would not be permitted to buy tickets to Belarus or board flights there from Turkish territory.
    Turkey has denied playing a direct role by allowing its territory to be used to ferry in migrants.    But Minsk airport’s website listed six commercial flights arriving from Istanbul on Friday, the most from any city outside the former Soviet Union.
    EU officials have repeatedly said their best hope of resolving the crisis is to stop would-be migrants in the Middle East from boarding flights for Belarus at the source, and that diplomats were negotiating in the region to achieve this.
    “These contacts are already showing fruit,” a European Commission spokesperson said.
    The spokesperson said Iraqi Airways had also agreed to halt flights to Belarus.
    However, the head of the EU’s border agency Frontex said he saw no swift end to the migrant crisis on Poland’s border.
    “We have to be ready to have to face this situation for a long time,” Fabrice Leggeri told Reuters, adding that Frontex would help Poland return migrants to their home countries.
SANCTIONS
    Belarus denies fomenting the crisis, but has also said it cannot help resolve it unless Europe lifts existing sanctions.    The EU imposed several rounds of measures in response to President Alexander Lukashenko’s violent crackdown on mass street protests against his rule in 2020.
    Lukashenko, a close ally of Russia, threatened this week to cut off Russian gas supplies delivered to Europe through Belarusian territory.    On Friday, the Kremlin appeared to distance itself from that threat, saying it was not consulted in advance of Lukashenko’s remarks and it would fulfil its gas delivery contracts.
    But Moscow shows no sign of leaning on Lukashenko to resolve the border crisis, and has made a number of demonstrations of its military support for him in recent days.    Russian and Belarusian paratroopers held joint drills near the border on Friday, and the Russian air force has sent planes this week to patrol the frontier.
    “From our point of view, the Russian president has the possibility to influence the situation and we expect him to take appropriate steps,” a German government spokesperson said.
    Separately, Russia’s defence ministry said two of its servicemen had died on Friday due to parachute problems while taking part in the joint drills near the Polish border.
    Polish authorities said they had foiled 223 attempts to cross the border illegally from Belarus overnight, including two large groups.    They estimate the number of migrants trapped along the border at 3,000-4,000.
    Neighbouring Lithuania reported 110 crossing attempts overnight and said it would be finishing a 100-km razor wire barrier along the border by Dec. 10.
    Expressing support for Warsaw, Ukraine said on Friday it was sending border guards and national guard officers to its frontier with Poland to share intelligence and operational know-how on dealing with the Belarus migrant crisis.
FREEZING CONDITIONS
    The EU has backed Poland and Lithuania in taking a hard line on banning illegal crossings from Belarus for fear that allowing in even a small number would encourage huge numbers to follow.
    But charities and advocates say the freezing conditions have created a humanitarian emergency, and that EU states have a duty to allow access to food and shelter.    The media has also been kept away, which critics say conceals the scale of the crisis.
    “Access for independent observers and the media is essential,” said Iwo Los, from Grupa Granica (Border Group), a Polish organisation.    “These people… have to receive humanitarian aid, medical aid and this aid must be provided to them on both sides of the border.”
    The Baltic nations bordering Belarus fear the crisis could escalate into a military confrontation.    The presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will meet on Monday in Vilnius to discuss the crisis and be joined by video link by Polish President Andrzej Duda.
(Reporting Robin Emmott and Marine Strauss in Brussels, Pawel Florkiewicz and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw, Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara, Andrius Sytas in Kapciamietsis, Lithuania, Dmitry Antonov and Andrew Osborn in Moscow, Ahmed Rasheed in BaghdadWriting by Jan Lopatka and Tomasz JanowskiEditing by Peter Graff)

11/13/2021 Deaths From Sierra Leone Tanker Blast Rise To 144
FILE PHOTO: Coffins containing the remains of victims of the fuel tanker explosion are pictured during a burial
ceremony at a cemetery in Freetown, Sierra Leone November 8, 2021. REUTERS/Ibrahim S Miles Kamara/File Photo
    FREETOWN (Reuters) – The death toll from a fuel tanker explosion in Sierra Leone’s capital on Nov. 5 has risen to 144 from a previous estimate of 115, health ministry data showed on Saturday.
    The tanker exploded following a collision in a suburb of Freetown.    Victims included people who had flocked to collect fuel leaking from the ruptured vehicle.
    Fifty-seven people are still being treated in hospital of whom 11 remain in a critical condition, the ministry said.
(Reporting by Umaru Fofana; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

11/13/2021 Protesters Face Tear Gas And Bullets To Oppose Sudan Coup
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan attends a news conference
in Paris, France, May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/Pool/File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Five protesters were killed on Saturday as huge crowds defied gunfire and tear gas in Sudan’s capital Khartoum and other cities to demonstrate against a military takeover, witnesses and medics said.
    The protests came two days after army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan announced a new ruling council that excludes the civilian coalition the military had been sharing power with since 2019, hardening opposition among pro-democracy groups to the Oct. 25 coup.
    In a sign authorities may be stepping up efforts to quash a campaign of planned protests and civil disobedience, security forces moved to disperse protesters as soon as they began to gather in the early afternoon.    They fired tear gas and chased demonstrators down side streets to prevent them reaching central meeting points, witnesses said.
    Previously, security forces had waited until later in the day before moving in.
    “People were surprised that they fired the tear gas so early,” said one protester in Omdurman across the Nile from central Khartoum, adding that demonstrators retreated, barricaded streets, and then reassembled.
    Most protesters dispersed of their own accord around sunset, though tear gas and gunfire continued until around 8 p.m. in Khartoum North as security forces arrested protesters and removed their barricades, witnesses said.
    Witnesses estimated the numbers around Khartoum to be in the tens of thousands, with large crowds in other cities bringing the total nationwide to hundreds of thousands.
    “The revolutionaries have nothing but peacefulness and are calling for democracy and bringing back civilian rule which was taken away by Burhan,” said Mohamed Hamed, a protester in Khartoum who held up the cases of two of the bullets he said were being used against protesters.
    In Wad Madani, south-east of Khartoum, protesters chanted “Down, down with military rule,” a witness told Reuters.    Protesters in other cities, including Al Gadarif and Kosti, were also met with tear gas, witnesses said.
‘HOSPITAL STORMED’
    The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, which is aligned with the protest movement, said demonstrations in Khartoum were “facing excessive repression using all forms of force including live bullets.”
    In Khartoum and its twin cities of Omdurman and Khartoum North four people were killed by live fire and one after suffocating from tear gas, the committee said.    It said access to hospitals was difficult and that security forces had stormed Al Arbaeen hospital in Omdurman, beating medical staff and arresting injured protesters.
    A medic at Khartoum’s Royal Care hospital told Reuters it had received one fatality and 29 wounded, including some with serious injuries.
    “People should not stop, I was beaten but I have to go back to protest tomorrow,” said one of the wounded demonstrators, declining to be named.    “It’s good that I’m alive but I wanted to be a martyr. I said goodbye before I left home.”
    Sudanese police said they did not use firearms during the protests, which they said began peacefully but went off track.    They said 39 policemen were injured and stations were attacked, triggering arrests.
    A military spokesman suggested the protests had failed.    Burhan has previously said peaceful protests are allowed and the military does not kill protesters.
    The military takeover upended a transition towards democracy that began after the uprising that toppled autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.    Security forces detained senior officials appointed under a power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilian groups.    Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was placed under house arrest.
    On Saturday, protesters carried pictures of Hamdok, now a symbol of resistance to military rule, while chanting against Burhan and his deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
INTERNET CUT
    Mobile internet services have remained cut in Sudan since the coup, despite a court order to restore them, complicating efforts by the protest movement.
    Local resistance committees had used flyers and organised smaller neighbourhood protests in recent days.
    Despite widespread opposition from Sudan’s political parties and pressure from Western powers that backed the transition, Burhan has pushed to consolidate the military’s position https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/sudans-military-rulers-draw-bashir-era-veterans-tighten-grip-2021-11-11.    He has denied staging a coup, saying the army moved to correct the transition and accusing civilian groups of inciting unrest.
    Malik Agar, one of three former rebel leaders named in the Sovereign Council, whose position on the military takeover had been unclear, told Sky News Arabia on Saturday that he considered it a coup which faced “many challenges.”
    Western states and the World Bank have suspended economic assistance designed to help pull Sudan out of decades of isolation and a deep economic crisis.
    The United States and other Western powers expressed grave concern at Burhan’s appointment of the Sovereign Council.
    The U.S. mission in Khartoum said: “The U.S. Embassy deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries of dozens of Sudanese citizens demonstrating today for freedom and democracy, and condemns the excessive use of force.”
(Reporting by Khartoum bureau, Khalid Abdelaziz and Nafisa EltahirWriting by Aidan Lewis Editing by Christina Fincher and Mark Potter)

11/13/2021 Kuwait’s Emir Grants Pardons And Reduced Sentences To Dissidents by Ahmed Hagagy
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Kuwait's new Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah gestures as he takes the oath of office
at the parliament, in Kuwait City, Kuwait September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee/File Photo
    KUWAIT (Reuters) – Kuwait’s emir issued two decrees on Saturday granting pardons and reduced sentences to 35 dissidents, meeting a key demand of opposition lawmakers locked in a months-long standoff with the government.
    Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah paved the way in October for an amnesty for politicians and former MPs, which the opposition has made a condition to end a political impasse holding up planned fiscal reforms in the wealthy Gulf state.
    Published in the Official Bulletin, the decree scrapped jail terms given to 11 politicians including Musallam al-Barrak, Jamaan al-Harbesh and Faisal al-Muslim, who were sentenced for storming the parliament building during the 2011 Arab Spring protests.
    The dissidents, who joined protesters in accusing the government of corruption and mismanagement, have lived in self-imposed exile in Turkey since fleeing Kuwait.
    The emir also pardoned members of the so-called “Abdali Cell,” which was dismantled in 2015, who were sentenced for spying for Iran and Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah.
    Kuwait’s government on Monday submitted its resignation to the emir, as authorities work to ease differences with the parliament which have blocked economic reforms and strained the state’s coffers amid low oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic.
    The emir has yet to accept or reject the cabinet’s resignation.
    Kuwait does not permit political parties, but it has given its legislature more influence than similar bodies in other Gulf monarchies, including the power to pass and block laws, question ministers and submit no-confidence votes against senior government officials.
(Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Alexander Smith and Helen Popper)

11/14/2021 Qatar’s Al Jazeera TV Says Its Sudan Bureau Chief Has Been Arrested
FILE PHOTO: The Al Jazeera Media Network logo is seen inside its
headquarters in Doha, Qatar June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Qatar’s Al Jazeera TV network said on Twitter on Sunday Sudanese security forces had raided the home of its Khartoum bureau chief, El Musalmi El Kabbashi, and arrested him.
    The network did not provide further details.
    Five protesters were killed on Saturday as huge crowds defied gunfire and tear gas in Sudan’s capital Khartoum and other cities to demonstrate against a military takeover, witnesses and medics said.
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah; writing by Mahmoud Mourad; editing by Lincoln Feast.)

11/14/2021 U.S. Military Hid Airstrikes That Killed Dozens Of Civilians In Syria - NYT
FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer and crew, being deployed to launch strike as part of
the multinational response to Syria's use of chemical weapons, is seen in this image released
from Al Udeid Air Base, Doha, Qatar on April 14, 2018. U.S. Air Force/Handout via REUTERS.
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military covered up 2019 airstrikes in Syria that killed up to 64 women and children, a possible war crime, during the battle against Islamic State, the New York Times reported on Saturday.
    The two back-to-back airstrikes near the town of Baghuz were ordered by a classified American special operations unit tasked with ground operations in Syria, according to the report https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/13/us/us-airstrikes-civilian-deaths.html.
    The newspaper said that U.S. Central Command, which oversaw U.S. air operations in Syria, acknowledged the strikes for the first time this week and said they were justified.
    In a statement on Saturday, Central Command reiterated the account it gave the newspaper that 80 people were killed in the strikes including 16 Islamic State fighters and four civilians.    The military said it was unclear if the other 60 people were civilians, partly because women and children could have been combatants.
    In Saturday’s statement, the military said the strikes were “legitimate self-defense,” proportional and that “appropriate steps were taken to rule out the presence of civilians.”
    “We abhor the loss of innocent life and take all possible measures to prevent them. In this case, we self-reported and investigated the strike according to our own evidence and take full responsibility for the unintended loss of life,” Central Command said.
    The number of civilians among the 60 fatalities could not be determined because “multiple armed women and at least one armed child were observed” in video of the events, it said, adding that the majority of the 60 were likely combatants.
    Central Command said the strikes took place while Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were under heavy fire and in danger of being overrun and the SDF had reported the area clear of civilians.
    The Defense Department’s inspector general launched an inquiry into the March 18, 2019, incident, but its report was ultimately “stripped” of any mention of the bombing and a thorough, independent probe never took place, according to the Times.    The newspaper said its report was based on confidential documents and descriptions of classified reports, as well as interviews with personnel directly involved.
    An Air Force lawyer present in the operations center at the time believed the strikes were possible war crimes and later alerted the Defense Department’s inspector general and the Senate Armed Services Committee when no action was taken, the Times said.
(This story has been refiled to update credits)
(Reporting by Chris Prentice; Additional reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

11/14/2021 Al Jazeera’s Sudan Bureau Chief Arrested After Protests
FILE PHOTO: The Al Jazeera Media Network logo is seen inside its
headquarters in Doha, Qatar June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon
    CAIRO (Reuters) - Sudanese security forces raided the home of Al Jazeera’s Khartoum bureau chief, El Musalmi El Kabbashi, and arrested him on Sunday, the Qatar-based news channel said, a day after street protests across Sudan against a military takeover.
    Security forces used tear gas and gunfire to try to disperse the protests https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/sudanese-gather-mass-protests-against-coup-amid-tight-security-2021-11-13 in the capital Khartoum and other cities. The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, which is aligned with the protest movement, said the death toll for demonstrators killed on Saturday had risen to six.
    Pro-democracy groups led by neighbourhood resistance committees are organising a campaign of civil disobedience and protests against the Oct. 25 coup, with another day of demonstrations planned for Nov. 17.
    The coup ended a military-civilian power-sharing arrangement set up after the overthrow of autocratic ruler Omar al-Bashir in 2019.    Western powers that had backed Sudan’s political transition towards elections after Bashir’s ouster have condemned the military takeover and suspended economic assistance.
    The European Union on Sunday condemned “in the strongest terms the violence perpetrated against peaceful civilian protesters” on Saturday, and said it was “very worried” by the detention of journalists.
    “The interventions by the military since 25 October last are undoing much of the progress achieved under the civilian-led government,” the bloc said in a statement.    “This will have serious consequences for the support of the European Union.”
    Separately, a group that represents refugees and displaced people in the western Darfur region, where security has deteriorated in recent months, said that four civilians had been killed in several incidents over the past week and a refugee camp had been attacked.
    Efforts to mobilise opposition to the coup have been complicated by a mobile internet blackout across the country.    On Sunday a judge issued a third order for providers to restore connections.
    Since the takeover, military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has moved to consolidate his position, replacing key state officials https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/sudans-military-rulers-draw-bashir-era-veterans-tighten-grip-2021-11-11 and naming a new ruling council, which held its first meeting on Sunday.
    The council is expected to name a new prime minister after efforts involving the United Nations to mediate between the military and ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok stalled.
    Hamdok, who is under house arrest, had demanded the release of other top civilians arrested during the coup and a return to power sharing ahead of elections in 2023.
    Al Jazeera said it held Sudan’s military authorities responsible for the safety of all its employees.
    “Al Jazeera condemns in the strongest terms the reprehensible actions of the military and calls on the authorities to release El Kabbashi immediately and to allow its journalists to operate unhindered,” it said in a statement.
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah, Khalid Abdelaziz, Nafisa Eltahir; writing by Mahmoud Mourad and Aidan Lewis; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

11/14/2021 As UAE Waits For U.S. F-35s, Russia Pitches New Warplane In Dubai by Alexander Cornwell
Yuri Slusar, head of United Aircraft Corporation talks to media in front of a Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate prototype
warplane during the Dubai Airshow, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, November 14, 2021. REUTERS/Imad Creidi
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Russia showed off a prototype of its new fifth-generation warplane at the Dubai Airshow on Sunday as the United Arab Emirates’ deal to buy American F-35 fighter jets makes slow progress.
    It was the first time the Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate, unveiled in July, had been shown outside Russia, and according to the Russian state news agency it was visited by an Emirati delegation.
    A glitzy English-language computer simulation video showed the light tactical warplane, capable of simultaneously carrying five air-to-air missiles, destroying multiple targets at once.
    The Russian presentation pitched the Checkmate, which was inspected by Vladimir Putin during its July unveiling, as a cost-efficient fighter jet that can fly at speeds of Mach 1.8 and a range of 2,800-2,900 kilometres.
    The Checkmate, due to take its maiden test flight in 2023 and to start production by 2026, has yet to seal an order.    The Lockheed Martin F-35 entered into service in 2015 with the U.S. Marine Corps.
    Yury Slusar, head of United Aircraft Corp, part of Russia’s state aerospace and defence conglomerate, Rostec, said there had been “intensive contacts” with the Russian air force.
    Western diplomats doubt U.S.-allied Gulf states would buy sophisticated equipment like the Checkmate, though sales of Russian hardware to the Gulf have increased in recent years.
    The UAE in 2017 signed a preliminary deal to buy Sukhoi Su-35 warplanes and jointly work with Russia on a next generation fighter but so far it appears not to have made progress.
    “The UAE likes the idea of cultivating ties with the Russian defence industry but it’s mainly a way to send a message to the U.S.,” said Jean-Loup Samaan, senior research fellow with the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore.
    Washington’s sale of 50 F-35 Lighting II warplanes to the UAE has slowed amid concerns about the UAE’s relationship with China, including the prevalence of Huawei 5G technology in the country.
    The U.S. agreed to sell the plane after the UAE last year established ties with Israel.
(This story adds dropped word “to” in “yet to seal an order”, in paragraph 5)
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Nick Macfie)

11/14/2021 Son Of Former Libyan Ruler Gaddafi Runs For President by Ahmed Elumami
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. REUTERS/Stringer
    TRIPOLI (Reuters) - The son of late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi appeared for nearly the first time in a decade on Sunday to register as a presidential candidate for a December vote planned to help end the years of chaos since his father was toppled.
    Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, 49, appeared in an electoral commission video in traditional brown robe and turban, and with a grey beard and glasses, signing documents at the election centre in the southern town of Sebha.
    Gaddafi is one of the most prominent – and controversial – figures expected to run for president, a list that https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/libya-register-election-candidates-monday-2021-11-07 also includes eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar, Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah and parliament speaker Aguila Saleh.
    But while his name is one of the best known in Libya, and though he once played a major role in shaping policy before the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that destroyed his family’s regime, he has barely been seen for a decade.
    The only public sight of him that his fellow Libyans have had since he was captured during the fighting in 2011 was when he appeared via videolink before a Tripoli court that sentenced him to death for war crimes.
    Despite that ruling, he never left the mountainous Zintan region, beyond the writ of the Tripoli authorities, where his captors later allowed him to go free.
    His formal entry into an election whose rules are still contested by Libya’s squabbling factions may also cast new questions over a contest that features candidates viewed in some regions as unacceptable.
    Libya’s military prosecutor, answerable to the unity government’s defence ministry in Tripoli, confirmed it had written to the electoral commission to demand it put Gaddafi’s candidacy on pause.
    Despite the public backing of most Libyan factions and foreign powers for elections on Dec. 24, the vote remains in doubt as rival entities bicker over the rules and schedule.
    A major conference in Paris on Friday https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/libyan-political-impasse-threatens-election-powers-meet-crisis-2021-11-11 agreed to sanction any who disrupt or prevent the vote, but with less than six weeks to go, there is still no agreement on rules to govern who should be able to run.
    While Gaddafi is likely to play on nostalgia for the era before the 2011 uprising that swept his father from power and ushered in a decade of chaos and violence, analysts say he may not prove to be a front runner.
    The Gaddafi era is still remembered by many Libyans as one of harsh autocracy, while Saif al-Islam and other former regime figures have been out of power for so long they may find it difficult to mobilise as much support as major rivals.
    However, after his announcement, Gaddafi supporters demonstrated in his hometown of Sirte, and in Bani Walid, a former Gaddafi stronghold.
    Muammar al-Gaddafi was captured outside Sirte by opposition fighters in Oct. 2011 and summarily shot.    Saif al-Islam was seized days later by fighters from Zintan as he tried to flee Libya for Niger.
AMBITIONS
    Just over a decade later, Saif al-Islam is now something of a cipher for Libyans.    The Zintan fighters kept him for years out of public sight and his views on the crisis are not known.
    He gave an interview to the New York Times earlier this year, but has not yet made any public appearance speaking directly to Libyans.
    After his 2015 conviction, he would likely face arrest or other dangers if he appeared publicly in the capital Tripoli.    He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court.
    Educated at the London School of Economics and a fluent English speaker, Saif al-Islam was once seen by many governments as the acceptable, Western-friendly face of Libya, and a possible heir apparent.
    But when a rebellion broke out in 2011 against Muammar Gaddafi’s long rule, Saif al-Islam immediately chose family and clan loyalties over his many friendships in the West, telling Reuters television: “We fight here in Libya; we die here in Libya.”
(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami, writing by Angus McDowall, editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Nick Macfie)

11/14/2021 Clashes Erupt In Yemen’s Hodeidah As Pro-Coalition Forces Cede Ground To Houthis
Cars and motorcycles are seen through a car windshield as they drive past a building damaged by clashes
on the outskirts of the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen November 13, 2021. REUTERS/Manal Qaed
    ADEN (Reuters) -Yemen’s warring sides clashed south of the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah late on Saturday, after Iranian-backed Houthi fighters moved into territory ceded by forces allied to a Saudi-led coalition, military sources and witnesses said.
    Yemeni forces backed by the United Arab Emirates had on Friday announced they were redeploying from around Yemen’s main port in the west, a move which a U.N. monitoring mission and the government said they had no advance notice of.
    The Saudi-backed government and the Iran-aligned Houthis, who hold Hodeidah city, had in 2018 agreed a United Nations-sponsored pact for a truce in Hodeidah that largely held and a troop withdrawal by both sides, stalled since 2019.
    Coalition warplanes launched air strikes on Al Faza area south of Hodeidah as Houthi fighters battled UAE-backed forces until midnight, two military sources and residents said.
    Al Faza lies 15 km (9 miles) from coalition-held Al-Khokha, to which hundreds of Yemenis have fled after the Houthi advance.
    A U.N. mission overseeing the Hodeidah pact, UNMHA, urged both sides to ensure the safety of civilians, saying it “was not informed in advance of the movements.”    The Saudi-backed government’s team for UNMHA also said it had no prior knowledge.
    In a sign of differences among pro-coalition forces, the Red Sea coastal plain Tihama fighters on Sunday condemned the “unjustified withdrawal.”
REDEPLOYMENT
    It was not clear if the pullback in Hodeidah was linked to what the Saudi-led alliance had described as a redeployment in south Yemen, where sources said the Saudi military had left a main base in Aden, the interim seat of government.
    Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, in an interview with France 24 TV on Saturday, reiterated a coalition denial that the Saudi military was withdrawing, saying “there continues to be strong support for the government of Yemen and (coalition) forces
    The alliance intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis ousted the government from the capital, Sanaa.    The conflict is seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.
    Washington is pressing Riyadh to lift a coalition blockade on Houthi-held ports, a condition from the group for ceasefire talks.
    Hodeidah is the main entry point for commercial goods and aid flows and a lifeline for millions facing starvation in what the U.N. describes as the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari and Reyam Mokhashef; Additional reporting and writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Alex Richardson)

11/14/2021 U.S. To Partner With Israel To Combat Ransomware Attacks by Kanishka Singh
FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of the Treasury headquarters
in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo
    (Reuters) -The U.S. Treasury Department said on Sunday it will partner with Israel to combat ransomware, with the two countries launching a joint task force to address cybersecurity.
    The task force will develop a memorandum of understanding supporting information sharing related to the financial sector, including cybersecurity regulations and threat intelligence, the Treasury Department said.
    The announcement follows a virtual meeting on ransomware that held at the White House in October with the European Union and more than 30 countries, including Israel.
    Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo asked then for international cooperation to address the abuse of virtual currency and disrupt the ransomware business model.
    The partnership follows measures taken to combat a surge in ransomware that has struck several big U.S. companies, including an attack on the largest fuel pipeline in the United States that crippled fuel delivery for several days.
    A broader U.S.-Israeli task force was also launched on Sunday to address issues related to fintech and cybersecurity, the Treasury Department said.
    Adeyemo met with Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Director General of the National Cyber Directorate Yigal Unna in Israel on Sunday to establish a bilateral partnership, the department said in a statement.
    Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department charged a Ukraine national and a Russian in one of the worst ransomware attacks against American targets.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Daniel Wallis)

11/15/2021 Israel Denies Espionage Charge Against Couple Arrested In Turkey
FILE PHOTO: Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks during a weekly cabinet meeting at the
Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem November 7, 2021. Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    JERUSALEM/ANKARA (Reuters) – Israel is working for the release of an Israeli couple being held in Turkey, denying allegations carried by Turkish state media that the two were spies, the Israeli prime minister said.
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement that he had spoken the family of the two Israelis, Natali and Mody Oknin, and updated them on the efforts being made to bring them back to Israel.
    The couple, Bennett said, “as has already been emphasized by officials, do not work for any Israeli agency.”
    “The most senior echelons in Israel dealt with this issue throughout the weekend, led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and will continue to work tirelessly with the aim of finding a solution as soon as possible,” he said.
    A Turkish court arrested the Israeli couple on Friday on charges of espionage for taking photographs of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s residence from the Camlica Tower, a telecommunications tower in Istanbul with observation decks, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu agency reported.
    Anadolu said an employee tipped off the police after seeing the couple take pictures of Erdogan’s residence from the tower’s restaurant.
    It said a Turkish national, who was with the couple, was also arrested on charges of political and military espionage.
(This story corrects typo in dateline)
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem and Ece Toksabay in Ankara; Editing by Alex Richardson)

11/15/2021 Al Jazeera’s Sudan Bureau Chief Arrested After Protests
FILE PHOTO: The Al Jazeera Media Network logo is seen inside its
headquarters in Doha, Qatar June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon
    CAIRO (Reuters) -Sudanese security forces raided the home of Al Jazeera’s Khartoum bureau chief and arrested him on Sunday, the Qatar-based news channel said, a day after street protests across Sudan against a military takeover.
    Security forces used tear gas and gunfire to try to disperse the protests https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/sudanese-gather-mass-protests-against-coup-amid-tight-security-2021-11-13 in the capital Khartoum and other cities.
    The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, which is aligned with the protest movement, said the number of demonstrators killed on Saturday had risen to seven with the death of a 13-year-old girl from a bullet wound to her head.
    More than 200 people were injured, more than 100 of them from gunshot wounds, the committee said. At least 11 were in serious condition. The death toll for those killed in protests since the Oct. 25 coup was 22, they said.
    Pro-democracy groups led by neighbourhood resistance committees are organising a campaign of civil disobedience and protests against military rule, with another day of demonstrations planned for Nov. 17.
    The coup ended a military-civilian power-sharing arrangement set up after the overthrow of autocratic ruler Omar al-Bashir in 2019.    Western powers that had backed Sudan’s political transition towards elections after Bashir’s ouster have condemned the military takeover and suspended economic assistance.
    The European Union on Sunday condemned “in the strongest terms the violence perpetrated against peaceful civilian protesters” on Saturday, and said it was “very worried” by the detention of journalists.
    “The interventions by the military since 25 October last are undoing much of the progress achieved under the civilian-led government,” the bloc said in a statement.    “This will have serious consequences for the support of the European Union.”
    Separately, a group that represents refugees and displaced people in the western Darfur region, where security has deteriorated in recent months, said that four civilians had been killed in several incidents over the past week and a refugee camp had been attacked.
    Efforts to mobilise opposition to the coup have been complicated by a mobile internet blackout across the country.    On Sunday a judge issued a third order for providers to restore connections.
    Since the takeover, military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has moved to consolidate his position, replacing key state officials https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/sudans-military-rulers-draw-bashir-era-veterans-tighten-grip-2021-11-11 and naming a new ruling council, which held its first meeting on Sunday.
    The council is expected to name a new prime minister after efforts involving the United Nations to mediate between the military and ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok stalled.
    Hamdok, who is under house arrest, had demanded the release of other top civilians arrested during the coup and a return to power sharing ahead of elections in 2023.
    Al Jazeera said it held Sudan’s military authorities responsible for the safety of all its employees after bureau chief El Musalmi El Kabbashi was arrested.
    “Al Jazeera condemns in the strongest terms the reprehensible actions of the military and calls on the authorities to release El Kabbashi immediately and to allow its journalists to operate unhindered,” it said in a statement.
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah, Khalid Abdelaziz, Nafisa Eltahir; writing by Mahmoud Mourad and Aidan Lewis; Editing by Nick Macfie and Stephen Coates)

11/15/2021 Kuwaiti Dissidents Return Home After Emir’s Pardon by Ahmed Hagagy
FILE PHOTO: Kuwait's Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah attends the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) 41st Summit in
Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia January 5, 2021. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
    KUWAIT (Reuters) – At least three Kuwaiti dissidents returned to the Gulf state on Monday after being pardoned by the ruling emir, part of his efforts to ease tensions with the opposition, which has been locked in a months-long standoff with the government.
    Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who has looked frail in his recent public appearances and asked the crown prince to carry out some duties on a temporary basis, has been working to meet conditions from the opposition to end a political impasse blocking fiscal reforms in Kuwait.
    Sheikh Nawaf issued two decrees on Saturday granting pardons and reduced sentences to 35 dissidents, including 11 politicians who have lived in self-imposed exile in Turkey since fleeing prosecution in Kuwait over the last ten years.
    Jamaan al-Harbesh, Mubarak Al-Waalan and Salem Al-Namlan, who were sentenced for taking part in a protest against government corruption and mismanagement that involved storming the parliament building in 2011, arrived at Kuwait’s international airport late on Monday.
    A crowd of supporters and local reporters gathered at the airport to receive the three politicians.
    “We thank his Highness the emir for his generous initiative that would come only from a generous leader,” Harbesh told the crowd.    Waalan knelt and kissed the ground after leaving the airport, Reuters witnesses said.
    Musallam al-Barrak, another pardoned leader of the opposition, is expected to arrive on Nov. 17, Kuwaiti MPs said.
    The political deadlock will focus on parliament potentially questioning Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah, a member of the royal family, on several issues including handling the COVID-19 pandemic and corruption until the end of 2022.
    Sheikh Nawaf accepted on Sunday the resignation of Sheikh Sabah’s government, in another step by the emir to end the feud with the opposition.
(Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

11/15/2021 Abu Dhabi Crown Prince To Visit Turkey After Years Of Tension – Officials by Orhan Coskun
FILE PHOTO: Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan gestures as he walks
outside Downing Street in London, Britain, September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) -Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the UAE’s de facto ruler, will visit Turkey for the first time in years as the regional rivals work to repair frayed relations, two Turkish officials said on Monday.
    The visit, which will include talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, is scheduled to take place as soon as Nov. 24, the officials said.
    Turkey and the UAE have been battling for influence in the Middle East since the Arab uprisings erupted a decade ago.    They have supported opposing sides in Libya’s civil war, and their disputes extended to the eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf, before Ankara started a charm offensive in the region last year.
    In August, Erdogan said Turkey and the UAE had made progress in improving ties, which could lead to significant investment in Turkey, after a rare meeting with UAE National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan.    Two weeks after their talks, Erdogan held a phone call with Sheikh Mohammed.
    The two leaders will discuss bilateral ties, trade, regional developments and investments, one of the Turkish officials said on condition of anonymity.    The second official said the final date had not yet been set.
    “Sheikh Mohammed’s visit will contribute to bringing ties to a better place,” the second official said, adding that a “high-level visit” from Turkey would be on the agenda soon.
    The UAE foreign ministry declined to comment.
    Asked about the planned visit, a spokesman for Erdogan’s AK Party did not specify a date but said talks between Ankara and Abu Dhabi on normalising ties would continue and that the progress made so far was positive.
    “This rapprochement between the UAE and Turkey, this intense cooperation for the resolution of problems, is good,” Omer Celik told reporters, adding Ankara had a “comprehensive action plan and sincere approach” for resolving regional disputes.
    “Dialogue, contacts, and negotiations for the resolution of various issues (with the UAE) will continue strongly.”
    Last year Turkey accused the UAE of bringing chaos to the Middle East through interventions in Libya and Yemen, while the UAE and others criticised Turkish military actions.    Erdogan had also threatened to break off diplomatic ties with the UAE after the Gulf state’s move to normalise ties with Israel.
    Ankara’s efforts to repair ties come after similar overtures this year towards Egypt and Saudi Arabia which have yielded little public progress.
    With political differences still running deep between Abu Dhabi and Ankara, the two sides have focused on economic ties and de-escalation, rather than resolving their ideological rift.
    Turkey said it was in talks with the UAE over investments in energy, such as power generation.    The UAE has said it seeks deeper trade and economic ties with Turkey, and Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth funds have also made significant investments in Turkish online grocer Getir and e-commerce platform Trendyol.
    Turkey and the UAE will also hold a business forum in Dubai on Nov. 23.
(Reporting by Orhan Coskun in Ankara and Ghaida Ghantous in Dubai; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans)

11/15/2021 Kuwait’s Ruler Hands Some Duties To Crown Prince – Decree
FILE PHOTO: Kuwait's newly appointed crown prince Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah waves before he is
sworn in, at the parliament, in Kuwait City, Kuwait October 8, 2020. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) -Kuwait’s crown prince has been asked to carry out some of Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Sabah’s constitutional duties on a temporary basis, state news agency KUNA said on Monday, citing an Emiri decree.
    Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah, also in his 80s, is half brother of the emir and his designated successor, appointed when Sheikh Nawaf assumed power just over a year ago.
    KUNA gave no further details, including on the health of the emir, who looked frail in his last public appearance in late October when he briefly addressed parliament.    In July, he underwent medical check-ups.
    Sheikh Nawaf, 84, became ruler of the OPEC oil producer and U.S. ally after the death in September 2020 of his brother, who had ruled for more than a decade.    Under Kuwait’s constitution, the crown prince automatically becomes emir.
    On Sunday, Sheikh Nawaf accepted the government’s resignation as part of efforts to end a standoff with opposition lawmakers who had insisted on questioning the prime minister despite a March motion granting him temporary immunity.
    The emir has yet to name a premier to form a new cabinet, which would be the country’s third this year at a time when it is pursuing fiscal reform and trying to bolster finances hit hard last year by low oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic.
    In another move to advance domestic political detente, the emir issued an amnesty https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/embraces-flowers-greet-kuwaiti-prisoners-freed-under-amnesty-2021-11-14 sought by opposition lawmakers pardoning political dissidents, including former MPs in self-exile abroad.
(Reporting by Nadine Awadalla; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli, Lisa Barrington and Ghaida Ghantous;, Editing by Alex Richardson, William Maclean)

11/15/2021 U.N. Calls For New Talks On Yemen’s Hodeidah Port As Frontlines Shift
FILE PHOTO: A view of an arch damaged by clashes is seen on the outskirts of the Red Sea port city
of Hodeidah, Yemen November 13, 2021. Picture taken November 13, 2021. REUTERS/Manal Qaed
    ADEN (Reuters) – An U.N. monitoring mission on Monday called on Yemen’s warring parties to hold new talks over Hodeidah as the Saudi-led coalition strafed areas south of the port city, where Houthi fighters advanced in the wake of withdrawing coalition forces.
    The air strikes, which began on Sunday, were the first since late 2018 when the Saudi-backed government and the Iran-aligned Houthis agreed a U.N.-sponsored pact for a truce in Hodeidah and a troop redeployment by both sides that never materialised.
    Coalition spokesman General Turki al-Malki, in the first clarification on the abrupt withdrawal from around Houthi-held Hodeidah City, said the redeployment was ordered to support other fronts and in line with the coalition’s “future plans.”
    The U.N. mission overseeing the Hodeidah deal, UNMHA, and the Yemeni government team involved in it had said they had no advance notice, while some Yemeni coalition units have criticised the withdrawal, including Red Sea coast fighters.
    UNMHA on Monday said the departure of joint Yemeni forces from Hodeidah city, al-Durayhimi, Bayt al Faqih and parts of al-Tahita and subsequent Houthi takeover was “a major shift” in frontlines that warranted discussions between the parties.
    The coalition earlier said it carried out 11 air strikes “outside the areas covered under the Stockholm pact.”
    Houthi fighters on Monday clashed with Yemeni coalition forces in Hays district, south of Hodeidah city, two military sources said, following fighting in Al Faza on Sunday.
    The United Nations said the shifting frontlines led some 700 families to leave for Al-Khokhah and some 180 families head further south to Al-Mokha, both under coalition control.
    It was not clear if the Hodeidah pullback was linked to what the coalition has described as a redeployment in the south, where sources said the Saudi military had left a main base in Aden, the interim seat of government.
    Yemen has been mired in violence since the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the coalition to intervene in a conflict seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
    U.N. and U.S. efforts to engineer a nationwide ceasefire have stalled as the Houthis insist the coalition first lift a blockade on their areas, while Riyadh wants a simultaneous deal.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Additional reporting by Nayera Abdallah; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous Editing by Angus MacSwan and Mark Potter)

11/15/2021 Tunisia’s Govt Says It Will Implement All Deals Reached With Union
The head of UGTT union, Noureddine Taboubi, speaks during a joint news conference with Minister of
Employment Nasreddine Nsibi in Tunis, Tunisia November 15, 2021. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui
    TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisian employment minister Nassreddine Nsibi said on Monday that the government is committed to implementing any deals it reaches with the country’s powerful UGTT union, such as on the minimum wage – even as the country faces a financial crisis.
    Tunisia last week resumed talks with the International Monetary Fund on a loan package predicated on Tunis imposing painful and unpopular steps aimed at liberalising the economy.
    International donors have also raised the need for broad support within Tunisia for reforms to help tackle corruption and waste, meaning the government is likely to need the backing of the UGTT, which represents 1 million workers and wields huge political clout, to secure an IMF deal.
    On Monday, Prime Minister Najla Bouden and the government met with Noureddine Taboubi, the head of the UGTT, and other union officials to discuss the situation.
    “There is an agreement that the government will implement previous agreements, including on the minimum wage.    We will announce the details soon,” Nsibi told a news conference at the governmental palace.
    Taboubi said that the first meeting with the government was positive and that agreements will be issued later.
    The government last year approved a plan to raise the wages of about 700,000 employees in the public sector in addition to raising the national minimum wage.
    The IMF has urged Tunisia to slash subsidies and its bloated public sector wage bill, however, as well as privatise loss-making state-owned enterprises.
    Adding to the government’s problems, the UGTT last week rejected the idea of cutting subsidies, a stance that will complicate its efforts to reach a deal with the IMF.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara, Editing by Nick Zieminski and Hugh Lawson)

11/16/2021 Turkey Arrests Suspect In Connection With Haitian President’s Murder
A picture of the late Haitian President Jovenel Moise hangs on a wall before a news conference
by interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph at his house, almost a week after his assassination,
in Port-au-Prince, Haiti July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish authorities have arrested a man considered a suspect of “great interest” in the July assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, Haiti’s Foreign Minister Claude Joseph said late on Monday.
    The 53-year-old former businessman Moise, who took office in 2017, was shot dead at his private residence and his wife was wounded in the attack. A group of Colombian mercenaries emerged as the main suspects though nobody has been charged or convicted in connection with the case.
    “I just had a phone conversation with the Turkish Minister, my friend Mevlut Cavusoglu, to thank Turkey for the arrest of Samir Handal, one of the persons of great interest in the investigation into the assassination of the president,” Joseph said on Twitter.
    Turkish media reported on Tuesday that Handal, who was being sought with an Interpol Red Notice, was detained at the Istanbul Airport by authorities as he was flying transit from the United States to Jordan.
    Turkey’s Interior Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)

11/16/2021 Triple Suicide Bombing Kills Three, Wounds Dozens In Ugandan Capital by Elias Biryabarema
Ugandan police and explosion experts secure the scene of a blast
in Kampala, Uganda November 16, 2021. REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa
    KAMPALA (Reuters) - A triple suicide bombing killed three people in the heart of Uganda’s capital on Tuesday, sending lawmakers and others rushing for cover as cars burst into flames, the latest in a wave of bomb attacks.
    The blasts in Kampala shocked a nation known as a bulwark against violent Islamist militants in East Africa, and whose leader has spent years cultivating Western security support.
    At least 33 people were being treated in hospital, including five in critical condition, police spokesperson Fred Enanga said.
    The death toll including the three bombers was six, Enanga said, including policemen.    A diplomat told Reuters two police were killed.
    There was no claim of responsibility, but police said intelligence indicated the Islamic State-aligned Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) were responsible.
    “Our intelligence…indicates that these are domestic terror groups that are linked to ADF,” Enanga said.
    The explosions three minutes apart – the first near the central police station and the second very close to parliament – sent bloodied office workers rushing for cover over shards of broken glass as a plume of white smoke rose above downtown.
    A suicide bomber wearing a backpack detonated near the checkpoint at the police station, killing two, Enanga said.    The second attack, involving two suicide bombers on motorbikes, killed one person.
    “A booming sound like that from a big gun went off.    The ground shook, my ears nearly went deaf,” said Peter Olupot, a 28-year-old bank guard close to parliament.
    “I saw a vehicle on fire and everyone was running and panicking.    I saw a boda boda (motorcycle) man – his head was smashed.”
    Anti-terrorism police caught another potential suicide bomber and found a device at his home, Enanga said.
MILITANT GROUPS
    The al Qaeda-linked Somali insurgent group al Shabaab has previously carried out deadly attacks in Uganda, including a 2010 attack that killed 70.
    Ugandan soldiers are fighting al Shabaab in Somalia as part of an U.N.-backed African Union peacekeeping force.    An al Shabab spokesman was not available for comment. The group usually quickly claims attacks.
    The ADF is a separate group, founded by Ugandan Muslims but now based in the forested mountains of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, where it has been blamed for thousands of civilian deaths.
    Last month, Islamic State claimed its first blast in Uganda – an attack on a police station in Kampala which killed no one.
    Days later, it later said a “security detachment” in “Central Africa Province” bombed a restaurant.    Police said the device killed a waitress and wounded three others, and linked it to the ADF, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
    Also last month, Ugandan police said a suicide bomber had blown up a bus, killing only himself.    His affiliation was unclear.
    Dino Mahtani of the think tank International Crisis Group said ADF’s focus had shifted from settling local scores and controlling local war economies.
    “With the more recent affiliation of its main faction to ISIS (Islamic State), a number of foreigners from across East Africa with more globalist jihadist agendas have been arriving into its camps,” he said.
    Laren Poole from the U.S.-based Bridgeway Foundation said the Uganda bombings and a recent attempt in Rwanda, which police announced on Oct. 1, appeared to be linked to a Ugandan bomb maker active in eastern Congo called Meddie Nkalubo, nicknamed “Punisher.”
    The group begin training fighters to use suicide vests in March, he said, and since then have hatched increasingly sophisticated plots.    Initial physical evidence linked Tuesday’s Kampala attack to the ADF, he said – probably an attempt to showcase its strength to attract volunteers.
    Islamic State is heavily promoting actions in what it calls “Central Africa Province,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld in Nairobi and Hereward Holland in Kinshasa; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Giles Elgood, Angus MacSwan and Timothy Heritage)

11/16/2021 Libya’s Eastern Commander Haftar Announces Election Bid
FILE PHOTO: Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar gestures as he speaks
in Benghazi, Libya December 24, 2020. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori/File Photo
    BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Khalifa Haftar, a major figure in the Libyan civil war who wields wide sway over the east of the country, announced on Tuesday he will run in a Dec. 24 presidential election that aims to help end a decade of conflict.
    A divisive figure, his candidacy is one of many points of contention overshadowing the presidential and parliamentary votes which remain in doubt with just weeks to go, despite international pressure https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/world-powers-meet-push-elections-politically-fragile-libya-2021-11-12 for them to happen on time.
    Declaring his candidacy in a televised speech, Haftar said elections were the only way out of the crisis in Libya, which has suffered chaos and conflict since the NATO-backed uprising that ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
    Haftar, head of a force called the Libyan National Army, waged war on factions in the west after the country split in 2014, including a 14-month offensive to capture Tripoli which was repelled by the internationally recognised government.
    Haftar, who formally registered for the vote at an election commission centre in Benghazi, pledged “to begin the path of reconciliation, peace and construction” in the event of his victory.
    His decision to run will anger many in Tripoli and western regions who say no vote in areas he holds can be fair and who accuse him of war crimes during the assault, something he denies.
    The election is meant as a milestone in the U.N.-backed political process to knit Libya back together.
    However, with no clear agreement on the legal basis for the election, major factions may reject the vote.    On Monday, interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, who may also be a candidate for president, called for a new election law https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/libyas-dbeibah-says-election-law-flawed-2021-11-15.
    In September, Haftar paved the way for his presidential bid by saying he would step down from his military role for three months – as required by an election law that has been rejected by armed factions based in Tripoli.
    Haftar’s campaign to take Tripoli was backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia.    The internationally recognised government in Tripoli received military support from Turkey.
    Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/son-former-libyan-ruler-gaddafi-runs-president-officials-say-2021-11-14, registered his candidacy on Sunday to run in the election.
    Analysts say they do not expect Gaddafi to prove as strong a candidate as rivals who have been able to build constituencies through their control over financial or military resources during the past decade.
    Among the officers who supported Gaddafi when he seized power from King Idris in 1969, Haftar was disowned by Gaddafi after he was captured leading Libyan forces in Chad in 1987.
    He settled outside Washington D.C. in Virginia and returned to Libya only as the revolt against Gaddafi was gathering pace.
(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfali in Benghazi and Maher Chmaytelli in Dubai; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Catherine Evans, Giles Elgood, William Maclean)

11/16/2021 Gaddafi, Haftar Election Bids Add Fresh Uncertainty To Libya Turmoil by Angus McDowall
FILE PHOTO: Libya's eastern commander Khalifa Haftar speaks as he annouces election bid in this
still image obtained from an undated handout video. Libyan National Army/Handout via REUTERS
    (Reuters) – The entry of two men accused of war crimes into Libya’s presidential race has ramped up the perils of an election meant to help end years of chaos but which could instead set the fuse for a new conflict.
    Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, wanted internationally for his role in crushing the 2011 revolution that toppled his father declared on Sunday, while eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, who laid siege to Tripoli from 2019-20, announced his bid on Tuesday.
    Gaddafi’s announcement quickly led to street protests that temporarily closed election offices around Libya, and to a statement by the council of a major city demanding his ejection from the race.    Haftar’s candidacy could trigger similar scenes, and threats to boycott the vote altogether.
    Less than six weeks before the vote is due to take place, the discord over who should be allowed to run in the country’s first direct election for president looks poised to worsen.
    Though Haftar, Gaddafi and other divisive figures from Libya’s violent recent past were expected to take part despite bitter opposition, their actual registration as candidates is loading fresh gunpowder into the keg, some Libyans fear.
    It tests an approach that those supporting the push for elections privately say they want to see – subjecting Libya’s most prominent figures to national judgement via the ballot box.
    “People are being asked to take a risk that a democratic process could result in something they find abhorrent… maybe it’s better to let the people decide,” said a diplomat.
    Those who support that approach – including prominent candidates – say it is the only way to move towards a lasting political resolution, and that cancelling or delaying the vote would be far more destabilising than holding it.
    Eastern factions have warned they may not accept the unity government’s rule beyond the Dec. 24 date set for the vote, and that they could break off and again form a rival government if it does not go ahead.
    However, the risks of pushing ahead without clear and widespread agreement on the rules governing the vote, including who should be allowed to run, remain evident.
    Libyans remember the catastrophic aftermath of the last internationally backed elections in 2014, when a previous parliament and powerful armed groups rejected the election, citing a court ruling.
    Those disputes ignited an already smouldering schism between eastern and western factions, plunging Libya into the war between rival administrations in Tripoli and Benghazi that the latest peace process is intended to resolve.
RAW WOUNDS
    Despite a year of peace since Haftar’s assault on Tripoli was turned back, bringing the two sides to accept a unity government and elections, the wounds of that war are still raw.
    Haftar’s attack on Tripoli left large parts of the city in ruins and its southern suburbs salted with deadly booby traps that have killed civilians.    An allied group is accused of scores of killings in nearby Tarhouna and burying victims in mass graves. Haftar denies the abuses.
    Gaddafi is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes it says state security forces committed in 2011.    A Tripoli court sentenced him to death for those same crimes in 2015 when he appeared via videolink.    He also denies war crimes.
    Activists wonder whether any election held in areas where armed forces are aligned with one of the candidates can be fair even with international monitoring, adding to their qualms about the vote.
    Meanwhile, the only election law now on the table – issued in controversial circumstances by parliament speaker Aguila Saleh who is himself an expected candidate – may rule out a likely frontrunner: Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah.
    Saleh’s law said any officeholder entering the race would have to step down from their duties three months before the vote, which he and Haftar both did in late September.
    Dbeibah, who had already promised not to run for office when he was appointed to lead the interim government in March through a U.N. process, has not stepped down and has called Saleh’s voting law “flawed.”
    The lack of agreed rules means any candidate could be challenged after a victory – setting the stage for the old power brokers to resist change once again.
(Reporting by Angus McDowall, Editing by William Maclean)

11/16/2021 Netanyahu Makes Rare Appearance At His Corruption Trial
Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a hearing on corruption charges
at Jerusalem's District Court, in Jerusalem November 16, 2021. Jack Guez/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a rare appearance at his corruption trial on Tuesday but an expected courtroom encounter with an ex-aide who has turned state’s witness never happened as judges postponed his testimony.
    Netanyahu, who served as prime minister for 12 consecutive years but lost power in June and is now the opposition leader, has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud in cases that centre on alleged regulatory favours he awarded to media tycoons in return for positive press coverage and illicit receipt of gifts, including cigars and champagne.
    He is not required to attend all the hearings in his trial, which began last year, and had not previously been seen in the court since April. The 72-year-old made no comment to reporters as he arrived at the     Jerusalem courthouse in a motorcade.
    Live Israeli TV broadcasts from outside the courtroom, a noisy street demonstration by pro-Netanyahu supporters and a phalanx of bodyguards added to a sense of drama.
    Netanyahu’s former spokesman and close adviser Nir Hefetz, one of a small group of ex-aides to turn state’s witness, had been due to begin on Tuesday what is likely to be weeks or even months of testimony.
    But the three-judge court agreed to a defence motion requesting time to study new evidence provided by another witness, so it postponed Hefetz’s testimony until Nov. 22.
    With Netanyahu now out of office, police and security forces did not ring the courthouse as they had during his appearances when he was still prime minister.
    Netanyahu has vowed to unseat the new coalition government of his successor, Naftali Bennett.
    But the government, careful to avoid divisive issues such as peacemaking with the Palestinians, seems well-entrenched for now, especially after parliament passed a budget this month.    Failure to do so would have triggered a new election.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Gareth Jones)

11/16/2021 U.S. Intends To Move Forward On F-35 Sale To UAE, U.S. Official Says
FILE PHOTO: F-35 Lightning II pilot U.S. Air Force Captain Kristin "BEO" Wolfe performs the "high-speed pass"
maneuver at approximately .95 mach, which is just below the speed of sound, at the 2020 Fort Lauderdale Air Show
in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. November 22, 2020. U.S. Air Force/Capt. Kip Sumner/Handout via REUTERS.
    DUBAI (Reuters) -The United States intends to move forward with the sale of 50 F-35 stealth fighters jets to the United Arab Emirates but there must be a clear understanding of “Emirati obligations,” a U.S. official said on Tuesday as progress on the sale slows.
    “We continue consulting with Emirati officials to ensure we have unmistakeable, clear mutually understanding with respect to Emirati obligations and actions before, during and after delivery,” said Mira Resnick a deputy U.S. assistant secretary of state, on a call with reporters, without elaborating on what the obligations were.
    The sale of 50 F-35 warplanes to the UAE has slowed amid concerns in Washington over Abu Dhabi’s relationship with China, including use of Huawei 5G technology in the country.
    “i>Washington continues to press Abu Dhabi on specific commitments regarding how and where the system will be operated once delivered, some of which might be viewed by the UAE as an infringement on its sovereignty,” the head of the U.S.-UAE Business Council, Danny Sebright, told Reuters.
    “Chinese involvement (in) the UAE’s next generation of communications and data networks, China’s presence at UAE naval ports, and China’s offer of certain sensitive military technologies to the UAE are also significant sticking points complicating closure of the F-35 deal with the U.S.
    The United States under then-President Donald Trump agreed to sell the warplane after the UAE last year established ties with Israel.    President Joe Biden’s administration has said this year it would proceed with the sale.
(Reporting by Alexander CornwellEditing by Peter Graff and Jonathan Oatis)

11/17/2021 In Ivory Coast, A Battle To Save Cocoa-Ravaged Forests by Joe Bavier, Maytaal Angel and Ange Aboa
Traditional chief Phillipe Ipou Kouadio stands next to his truck in the Ivorian cocoa farming village of Djigbadji,
commonly known as Bandikro or Bandit Town, located inside the Rapides Grah protected forest and destroyed by forest
authorities in January 2020, in Soubre, Ivory Coast January 7, 2021. Picture taken January 7, 2021. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
    DJIGBADJI, Ivory Coast (Reuters) – This cocoa-growing settlement was all but destroyed last year by Ivorian forest agents, leaving farmers to rake through their beans amid broken concrete and other remnants.
    “They set the whole village on fire,” said Alexis Kouassi Akpoue, describing the day in January 2020 when the agents raided the settlement in Rapides Grah, a protected forest, where he had illicitly planted cocoa with thousands of other farmers.    “The next morning at 5 o’clock they sent in the bulldozers.”
    Yet when Reuters returned to the village a year later, business was again thriving.    Farmers dried and bagged beans among the demolished buildings as buyers hunted for quality cocoa, much of it destined for use in chocolate bars and candies made in Europe.
    The government of Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa-growing country, has been cracking down on cultivators after decades of intensive and often illicit farming decimated its tropical forests.    Leading chocolate and cocoa companies are meanwhile monitoring their own supply chains for illicitly grown cocoa.
    But the conservation efforts are falling short, European Union officials say.
    That’s one reason the bloc’s executive arm, the European Commission, plans to propose legislation on Wednesday that would compel companies to find and fix environmental and human rights risks in their international supply chains – or face penalties. Companies would be restricted from sourcing beans grown on land deforested after a certain date, which is to be set by the law.
    “Voluntary initiatives by companies to stop deforestation have largely failed,” said EU Parliament member Delara Burkhardt.    Though not finalized, the legislation is expected to pass in some form as soon as 2022.
    Chocolate and cocoa companies say they support the new regulations but dispute that their efforts have failed.    They told Reuters their supply chain monitoring systems, including GPS mapping, satellite surveillance and third-party certification, give them assurance that the beans they source do not come from the Rapides Grah forest or other illegal farming operations.
    However, the sector’s leading cocoa certification body has acknowledged that thousands of farms in protected areas received its stamp of approval in error.
    In addition, purchasing documents and interviews with farmers and farmer cooperatives suggest that co-ops serving some of the chocolate industry’s biggest players – including Nestle, Mars Inc, Cargill Inc and Touton S.A. – source at least a portion of their beans from protected forests.
    Reuters did not trace specific shipments of illicitly farmed cocoa to the companies.    In separate statements, Cargill, Mars and Nestle said they had not knowingly purchased illegally grown cocoa. Touton did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
    Tracing the origin of cocoa beans is extremely difficult, in part because co-ops regularly buy from growers who are not members.    Ivory Coast’s Ministry of Water and Forests estimates 20% to 30% of the roughly 2 million tonnes of cocoa produced annually is grown illegally and that practically all those beans enter the global supply chain.
    “We want that to stop,” said Water and Forests Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi.
    The Ivorian government faults locals for the problem but contends multinational corporations continue to profit from deforestation and have a duty to help forests recover.
PROGRESS AND CHALLENGES
    In 2017, Ivory Coast and neighboring Ghana, the world’s No. 2 cocoa producer, teamed up with dozens of companies under an initiative aimed at eliminating deforestation. A study by the University of Maryland found the two African countries reduced the rate of primary forest loss by over 50% in 2019 compared to the previous year.
    Ivory Coast now aims to plant 3 billion trees on government-managed land over the next decade.
    Meanwhile, state forestry management company SODEFOR estimates some 1.3 million people are living illegally in protected forests, mostly farming cocoa.
    Pilot-phase reforestation efforts, which include eliminating illegal settlements in the Rapides Grah forest, point to a tough road ahead for the government and farmers. Most growers are immigrants living below the United Nations poverty line of $1.90 a day.
    Over the years, the 10,000 or so residents of Djigbadji – commonly known as Bandikro, or Bandit Town – chopped down the towering canopy.    The 315,000-hectare forest is today covered in cocoa plantations, most of them illegal.
    The proposed legislation by the EU Commission is expected to prohibit companies that sell products in the EU from sourcing beans grown in officially protected forests like Rapides Grah, no matter when they were cleared.
    Separately, under the Ivorian government’s plan to double the country’s forested area, farmers who help with reforestation can stay and maintain existing cocoa plantations for 10 to 15 years, until their trees die off.
    “Listen, we have the national interest in mind,” Lt. Olivier Nogbo of SODEFOR, who is in charge of Rapides Grah’s northern half, told Reuters during an armed patrol last year, with his handful of agents dressed in camouflage and carrying AK47s.
    “It’s not for 10,000 people that we’re going to allow the environment to be destroyed.”
SIGNS AMID THE RUBBLE
    During an initial visit to Bandikro weeks after the January 2020 raid, Reuters scoured the remains of half a dozen demolished co-op purchasing outposts that store cocoa.    It found remnants of a thriving buying hub as well as possible indications of who was purchasing the illicit beans.
    At one bulldozed outpost, Reuters found a receipt book along with the sign that once hung above the door, both bearing the name of the farmer cooperative SCAES COOP-CA.
    SCAES is part of the in-house sustainability programmes run by Cargill and Touton, two of the world’s largest agricultural commodities traders.    The companies say the programmes aim to ensure their practices do not harm people or the planet.    Cargill sells SCAES’ cocoa to Nestle, according to Nestle’s supply-chain disclosures on its website.
    Jean-Robert Gnanago, a SCAES director and head office employee at the co-op’s headquarters in Meagui, told Reuters the co-op sold cocoa to various industry majors, including around 5,000 tonnes a year to Cargill, but denied it purchased beans inside Rapides Grah.
    “If someone used our sign somewhere, that’s possible,” Gnanago said.    “But we aren’t aware of it.”
    In a statement, the chairman of SCAES’s board of directors, Souleymane Coulibaly, said the co-op does not buy cocoa from protected land and that it stopped sourcing from buyers who operate near high-risk areas in 2015.    The statement added that the cocoa purchase receipts Reuters discovered in Bandikro predate SCAES’s move out of high-risk areas.
    Cargill and Nestle did not directly address Reuters inquiries about the SCAES receipt book and sign.
    Many co-ops that once operated inside Bandikro have since the January 2020 raid simply moved their purchasing outposts just outside the Rapides Grah boundary, Reuters found. But “eighty percent of the product comes from here,” said Bandikro village leader Francis Bogui, referring to the protected forest.
    Bandikro’s traditional chief Phillipe Ipou Kouadio told Reuters early this year he had personally sold 120 tonnes of cocoa to a co-op called SOCAGNIPI between October 2020 and January.    Several other Bandikro farmers also told Reuters they sold beans to SOCAGNIPI.
    SOCAGNIPI is listed as a supplier by U.S. confectionary giant Mars, maker of M&Ms and Snickers. The co-op participates in Mars’ in-house sustainability programme.
    In its statement to Reuters, Mars did not address questions about SOCAGNIPI.    Employees at SOCAGNIPI’S main office, in an Ivory Coast town called Gnipi 2, declined to speak to Reuters.
    The co-ops named in this article were audited by independent third parties such as UTZ, a Dutch nonprofit that certifies sustainable agriculture. Auditors’ labels indicate a product has been certified as free from human rights and environmental abuses such as deforestation and child labor.
    UTZ used a subcontractor called Bureau Veritas to audit SCAES in 2019. Later that year, UTZ reprimanded Bureau Veritas for poor performance.    In a statement to Reuters, Rainforest Alliance, which merged with UTZ in 2018, said the reason for the reprimand is confidential.
    Bureau Veritas could not be reached for comment.
    After a 2019 review discovered that nearly 5,000 of its certified farms in Ivory Coast were on protected land, UTZ suspended the expansion of its certification programmes in Ghana and Ivory Coast, saying it wanted to focus on improving the quality of current certification.
‘GREATER ASSURANCE’
    Mars, Nestle and Cargill said they use GPS technology to map farms belonging to cooperatives with which they partner, making sure their boundaries don’t overlap with protected areas.    Cargill said it monitors those farms via satellites that alert it in real time to forest loss.
    In separate statements, Cargill and Nestle said they source beans from SCAES COOP-CA and that the co-op participates in their in-house sustainability programmes.    Cargill said audits of the co-op had not found evidence it buys from protected land.
    Mars and Cargill both said they have yield estimates for farms belonging to co-ops in their sustainability programmes.    If yields are high compared to estimates, this can result in supply-chain audits.
    Cargill and Nestle said the co-ops with which they partner also tag and bar-code the sacks of beans they get from individual farmers.
    This “gives us greater assurance that beans come from known and mapped farms,” Cargill said.
(Reporting by Joe Bavier and Ange Aboa in Djigbadji, Ivory Coast, and Maytaal Angel in London. Editing by Julie Marquis and Alexandra Zavis)

11/17/2021 At Least 15 People Shot Dead In Anti-Coup Protests In Sudan, Medics Say by Khalid Abdelaziz
FILE PHOTO: Protesters carry a banner and national flags as they march against the Sudanese military's
recent seizure of power and ousting of the civilian government, in the streets
of the capital Khartoum, Sudan October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin/File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Security forces shot dead at least 15 people and wounded dozens as thousands of Sudanese took to the streets on Wednesday on the deadliest day in a month of demonstrations against military rule, medics said.
    The protesters, marching against an Oct. 25 coup across the capital Khartoum and in the cities of Bahri and Omdurman, demanded a full handover to civilian authorities and for the leaders of the Oct. 25 coup to be put on trial.
    Security forces fired live rounds and tear gas to prevent gatherings in all three cities, and mobile phone communications were cut, witnesses said. State television said there were injuries among protesters and police.
    “The coup forces used live bullets heavily in different areas of the capital and there are tens of gunshot injuries, some of them in serious condition,” said the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, a group aligned with the protest movement.    Deaths were concentrated in Bahri, they said.
    In response, protesters built extensive barricades, emptying the streets of traffic, a Reuters witness said.
    “People are just terrified right now,” said an Omdurman protester.
    Earlier, on a main road in Khartoum, protesters burned tyres and chanted: “The people are stronger, and retreat is impossible.”
    Others carried pictures of people killed in previous protests and of Abdalla Hamdok, the civilian prime minister who was put under house arrest during the coup, with the slogan: “Legitimacy comes from the street, not from the cannons.”
    Images of protests in towns including Port Sudan, Kassala, Dongola, Wad Madani and Geneina were posted on social media.
    Security forces were heavily deployed on main roads and intersections, and bridges across the River Nile were closed, witnesses said.
    There was no immediate comment from the security forces and a police representative could not be reached for comment.    Military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has said peaceful protests are allowed and the military does not kill protesters.
ARRESTS
    The coup ended a transitional partnership between the military and a civilian coalition that helped topple autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
    Despite pressure from Western states, which have suspended economic assistance, efforts at mediation have stalled, with Burhan moving to cement control with help from Bashir-era veterans.
    Speaking in Kenya, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “We back (the Sudanese people’s) call to restore Sudan’s democratic transition,” saying the country had been on a path towards stability and that he was “engaged intensely” in the matter.
    Protesters and a Reuters witness said they saw security forces chase protesters into neighbourhoods and homes to carry out arrests.
    “We haven’t ever had violence in Bahri like today’s, even under the old regime,” said one demonstrator, who said the air was thick with tear gas and security forces used live bullets into Wednesday night.
    “The coup forces are practising excessive repression and are encircling the revolutionaries’ marches in several areas,” said the Sudanese Professionals Association, which has helped promote the protests.
    “This was preceded by the deliberate interruption of voice and internet communications services.”
    Mobile internet services in Sudan have been suspended since Oct. 25, complicating a campaign of anti-military rallies, strikes and civil disobedience.
    The doctors’ committee and other unions said in a statement that security forces had tried to raid one hospital in Omdurman and were surrounding another, releasing tear gas and blocking patients’ access.    The same was witnessed at hospitals in Bahri, said a demonstrator.
    Wednesday’s deaths brought the committee’s death toll since the coup to 39 people.
    “Military commanders will be held accountable for these abuses,” said the U.N. special rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Peaceful, Assembly Clement Voule, in a tweet.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, El Tayeb Siddig, Nafisa Eltahir and Omar Fahmy; Writing by Aidan Lewis, Editing by Giles Elgood and Alistair Bell)

11/17/2021 Israel’s Top Court Halts Return Of Boy To Italy
FILE PHOTO: Shmuel Peleg, the grandfather of Eitan Biran, a 6-year-old boy, the sole survivor
of an Italian cable car disaster and the focus of a cross-border custody battle, arrives
to the District court in Tel Aviv, Israel November 11, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A six-year-old boy, the sole survivor of an Italian cable car disaster who was kidnapped and taken to Israel by his grandfather, will remain in the country for the next seven days, Israel’s Supreme Court said on Wednesday, as it reviews a request to appeal his return to Italy.
    Eitan Biran’s maternal grandfather lost an appeal at a district court on Thursday against a family court’s decision in October to send the boy back to his paternal aunt in Italy in a cross-border custody battle.
    The child had been living with the aunt since his parents, younger brother and 11 other people died when a gondola plunged to the ground in northern Italy in May.
    In September, while visiting Eitan, his maternal grandfather, without the aunt’s consent, drove him to Switzerland and chartered a private jet onward to Israel.
    The aunt petitioned the family court for his return to Italy.    The court found that the grandfather’s actions amounted to kidnapping under the Hague Convention on the return of abducted children.
    The grandfather’s lawyers have asked Israel’s top court to hear another appeal.
    On Wednesday, the court gave a Nov 23. deadline until the sides hand in their arguments, after which it will issue its ruling on whether yet another appeal may be filed.    Until then, the court said, all proceedings in the case were to be halted.
    The aunt’s lawyers said in a statement that they had hoped that the grandfather “would do the right thing and free Eitan to return home to his regular life.”    They said they were confidant the Supreme Court would uphold the two previous rulings.
    The grandfather and the aunt cannot be named due to Israeli court restrictions.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell,; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Angus MacSwan)

11/17/2021 Eastern Congo Lawmakers Sound Alarm Over 144 Violent Civilian Deaths This Month
FILE PHOTO: Congolese civilians carry their belongings after fleeing from the renewed fighting
between the assailants and army troops of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, at the
Bunagana border crossing point in Western Uganda November 10, 2021. REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa/File Photo
    KINSHASA (Reuters) – At least 144 civilians have been killed in eastern Congo this month, lawmakers from the conflict-hit provinces said on Wednesday, refusing to back extending a state of siege https://www.reuters.com/article/congo-security-idAFL8N2MO00E they said was failing its mission to end decades of instability.
    Despite the lawmakers’ objections, parliament on Wednesday approved the motion to extend the state of siege as it as done every two weeks.
    Under the siege initiative, the government in May replaced civilian administrations in North Kivu and Ituri provinces with police and military figures, but a parliamentary report https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/lack-planning-finances-crippling-congos-state-siege-report-2021-10-29 last month criticised a lack of proper planning and funding.
    Civilians have been killed at the same rate as before the state of siege, according to data from Kivu Security Tracker, which maps violence in the region where more than 120 rebel groups operate.
    “We have noted with regret that the government has not put forward any concrete action or strong signal likely to meet our concerns,” 48 lawmakers from the east said in a joint declaration.
    The lawmakers’ declaration listed a number of recent massacres, including the killing of at least 22 civilians in the village of Chabusiku in Ituri province overnight on Sunday and the killing of at least 70 civilians in the village of Kisunga in North Kivu last week.
    A further 52 decomposing bodies were found around villages in Ituri’s Mambasa territory between Nov. 3 and Nov. 8, it said.
    “It has been one of the deadliest two weeks since the state of siege began.    We’ve not seen any positive impact on the pace and intensity of the massacres since it began in May,” said Pierre Boisselet from Kivu Security Tracker.
    The lawmakers called on the government to implement parliamentary recommendations, which include formulating a clearer strategy, strengthening border controls and boosting humanitarian support.
(Reporting by Hereward Holland in Kinshasa; Additional reporting by Stanis Bujakera in Kinshasa; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

11/18/2021 Turkey Releases Israeli Couple Held For Photographing Erdogan’s Residence
Mordi Oknin gestures from his balconny after him and his wife Natali were detained over espionage charges
for allegedly taking photographs of President Tayyip Erdogan's residence during a trip to Istanbul,
and Turkey has released them, in his home in Modiin Israel, November 18, 2021 REUTERS/ Ammar Awad
    TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Turkey released on Thursday an Israeli couple who had been arrested for photographing President Tayyip Erdogan’s residence in Istanbul and suspected of spying, an allegation denied by Israel.
Mordi and Natali Oknin were detained on Nov 9.    A Turk was also arrested on charges of political and military espionage, state-run news agency Anadolu said.
    The couple’s family said the pair, drivers for Israel’s biggest bus company, had been on vacation.     The Oknins’ case became a cause celebre in Israel, whose relations with Turkey have been strained for years as the Islamist-rooted Erdogan has championed the Palestinian cause.     “Thank you to the entire nation of Israel.    Thank you to everyone who helped and supported and got us freed,” Natali Oknin told reporters after she and Mordi landed in Tel Aviv aboard a chartered private plane.
    Turkish officials did not immediately comment.
    Israel had denied https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-denies-espionage-charge-against-couple-arrested-turkey-2021-11-14 the spying charges against the pair, saying they do not work for any state agency, and sent a senior envoy to Turkey to seek their release.    In a joint statement, Prime Minister     Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid thanked Erdogan and Turkey’s government “for the cooperation.”
    Matan Kahana, an Israeli cabinet minister, said Turkish authorities had realised that the Oknins were innocent civilians.    The Bennett government gave Ankara nothing in return for the couple’s release, he added.
    “This certainly could have spiralled into a needless crisis,” Kahana told Israel’s Army Radio.
    “Let’s hope that ties with Turkey will warm.    I’m confident that, after days of such intensive contacts, connections were created that will naturally be of service to us in the future,” Kahana said.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Kim Coghill & Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/18/2021 At Least 15 People Shot Dead In Anti-Coup Protests In Sudan, Medics Say by Khalid Abdelaziz
FILE PHOTO: Protesters carry a banner and national flags as they march against the Sudanese
military's recent seizure of power and ousting of the civilian government, in the streets
of the capital Khartoum, Sudan October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin/File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Security forces shot dead at least 15 people and wounded dozens as thousands of Sudanese took to the streets on Wednesday on the deadliest day in a month of demonstrations against military rule, medics said.
    The protesters, marching against an Oct. 25 coup across the capital Khartoum and in the cities of Bahri and Omdurman, demanded a full handover to civilian authorities and for the leaders of the Oct. 25 coup to be put on trial.
    Security forces fired live rounds and tear gas to prevent gatherings in all three cities, and mobile phone communications were cut, witnesses said.    State television said there were injuries among protesters and police.
    “The coup forces used live bullets heavily in different areas of the capital and there are tens of gunshot injuries, some of them in serious condition,” said the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, a group aligned with the protest movement. Deaths were concentrated in Bahri, they said.
    In response, protesters built extensive barricades, emptying the streets of traffic, a Reuters witness said.
    “People are just terrified right now,” said an Omdurman protester.
    Earlier, on a main road in Khartoum, protesters burned tyres and chanted: “The people are stronger, and retreat is impossible.”
    Others carried pictures of people killed in previous protests and of Abdalla Hamdok, the civilian prime minister who was put under house arrest during the coup, with the slogan: “Legitimacy comes from the street, not from the cannons.”
    Images of protests in towns including Port Sudan, Kassala, Dongola, Wad Madani and Geneina were posted on social media.
    Security forces were heavily deployed on main roads and intersections, and bridges across the River Nile were closed, witnesses said.
    There was no immediate comment from the security forces and a police representative could not be reached for comment.    Military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has said peaceful protests are allowed and the military does not kill protesters.
    U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee said in a tweet: “I am saddened by reports of violence and loss of life today in Sudan.    We condemn violence towards peaceful protesters and call for the respect and protection of human rights in Sudan.”
    Phee met Hamdok during a visit to Khartoum on Tuesday where they discussed ways to restore Sudan’s democratic transition.
ARRESTS
    The coup ended a transitional partnership https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sudan-politics-timeline-idAFKBN2HJ2NE between the military and a civilian coalition that helped topple autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
    Despite pressure from Western states, which have suspended economic assistance, efforts at mediation have stalled, with Burhan moving to cement control with help from Bashir-era veterans https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/sudans-military-rulers-draw-bashir-era-veterans-tighten-grip-2021-11-11.     Speaking in Kenya, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “We back (the Sudanese people’s) call to restore Sudan’s democratic transition,” adding that the country had been on a path towards stability and that he was “engaged intensely” in the matter.
    Protesters and a Reuters witness said they saw security forces chase protesters into neighbourhoods and homes to carry out arrests.
    “We haven’t ever had violence in Bahri like today’s, even under the old regime,” said one demonstrator, who said the air was thick with tear gas and security forces used live bullets into Wednesday night.     “The coup forces are practising excessive repression and are encircling the revolutionaries’ marches in several areas,” said the Sudanese Professionals Association, which has helped promote the protests.
    “This was preceded by the deliberate interruption of voice and internet communications services.” Mobile internet services in Sudan have been suspended since Oct. 25, complicating a campaign of anti-military rallies, strikes and civil disobedience.
    The doctors’ committee and other unions said in a statement that security forces had tried to raid one hospital in Omdurman and were surrounding another, releasing tear gas and blocking patients’ access.    The same was witnessed at hospitals in Bahri, said a demonstrator.
    Wednesday’s deaths brought the committee’s death toll since the coup to 39 people.
Military commanders will be held accountable for these abuses,” said the U.N. special rapporteur on Freedom of     Association and Peaceful, Assembly Clement Voule, in a tweet.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, El Tayeb Siddig, Nafisa Eltahir and Omar Fahmy; Writing by Aidan Lewis, Editing by Giles Elgood, Alistair Bell and Richard Pullin)

11/18/2021 Security, Climate Dominate As U.S. Secretary Of State Kicks Off Africa Tour by Duncan Miriri and Katharine Houreld
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards his plane at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, U.S., November 16, 2021,
en route to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya. Andrew Harnik/ Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    NAIROBI (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony reiterated calls for an unconditional ceasefire in the Ethiopian conflict on Wednesday on the first leg of an African trip which will take in Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal.
    Blinken also appealed to Sudan’s military leaders to free prisoners taken in the coup there last month and to return to the path of democracy, saying some of the financial assistance that was frozen might be restored if civilian leadership returned.
    The war in northern Ethiopia, the coup in Sudan and Somalia’s long-delayed elections dominated the agenda, along with climate change, as Blinken and Kenya’s foreign minister Raychelle Omamo addressed the media in Nairobi.
    Blinken described Ethiopia’s year-old war as “a growing risk to the unity and the integrity of the Ethiopian state.”
    He pledged support for mediation efforts by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, now the Africa Union’s High Representative for the Horn of Africa, and said there was still time for a ceasefire to succeed.
    “I strongly believe there is an opportunity and an absolute necessity for all the parties to stop, to talk, to move back, for humanitarian assistance to flow and also to be at the table together,” he said.
    He also urged rebellious Tigrayan-led forces to stop their threatened advance on the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa – where the AU is headquarted.
    Blinken arrived in Nairobi on Wednesday for his first Africa trip following the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, where poorer nations called on rich governments to do more to help them combat climate change.
    He praised Kenya for getting 90% of its energy from renewable sources, saying it presented a global model.
    Omamo said Kenya looked forward to working with the United States to plug the climate financing gap, saying that poorer countries who did not create the problem paid the greatest price for global warming.
VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA
    On Thursday, Blinken will visit Nigeria – Africa’s largest oil exporter – to meet President Muhammadu Buhari, whose government is battling an Islamist insurgency in the northeast and mass kidnappings by armed gangs in the north and northwest.
    The two are expected to discuss possible security assistance from the United States, a source in the Nigerian presidency told Reuters.    In July, Nigeria received its first six A-29 Super Tucano planes four years after the United States agreed to sell the light attack aircraft to fight insurgents.
    But analysts say Buhari has made little progress tackling corruption that has eroded the country’s infrastructure or abuses by the security services.
    Blinken’s final leg is Senegal, considered one of Africa’s most stable democracies, where the focus will be on leaders and female entrepreneurs.
(Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Angus MacSwan)

11/18/2021 Qatar, Egypt Agree To Supply Fuel And Basic Building Materials To Gaza
FILE PHOTO: Building equipment, sent by Egypt for Palestinians, arrive
in the southern Gaza Strip June 4, 2021. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Qatar and Egypt have signed agreements to supply fuel and basic building materials to the Gaza Strip, the Qatari Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
    The announcement was made in Oslo by Soltan bin Saad Al-Muraikhi, Qatar’s minister of state for foreign affairs, during a ministerial meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), the international donor group for Palestinians.
    He (Muraikhi) affirmed that these joint collaborative efforts will contribute to improving living conditions (in Gaza),” the Foreign Ministry statement said.
    About 2,200 homes in the enclave were destroyed and 37,000 others were damaged during the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in May, says Gaza’s Hamas-run government.
    Some homes in Israel were damaged by rockets launched by Islamist organisation Hamas and other Gaza militant groups.
    Palestinian officials say 250 people, including 66 children, were killed by Israeli air strikes on Gaza.    Israeli officials says 13 people, including two children, were killed in Israel by militant rockets.
    Following a May 21 ceasefire, mediated by Egypt, access to reconstruction funds and materials has been a key Hamas demand.    Israel limits construction materials entering the territory, saying Hamas uses them to build weapons to wage attacks.
    But following an agreement with the United Nations and Qatar, Israel allowed financial aid from the Gulf state to enter Gaza.
    Gaza officials estimate it will take $479 million to rebuild homes and infrastructure damaged in the May fighting.    Qatar and Egypt have each pledged $500 million for Gaza reconstruction.
(Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad and Omar Fahmy; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Peter Cooney)

11/18/201 Death Toll Soars To 53 After Attack On Burkina Faso Security Post by Thiam Ndiaga
FILE PHOTO: Civil organisations hold a protest following an attack on a gendarmerie post,
calling for Burkina Faso's President Roch Kabore to resign and for departure of French forces
that patrol the country, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso November 16, 2021. REUTERS/Anne Mimault
    OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Fifty-three people were killed in a weekend attack on a gendarmerie post in Burkina Faso, an updated government toll showed on Wednesday, as President Roch Kabore responded to a public outcry over the worst strike on security forces in years.
    Sunday’s bloodshed has provoked protests over the authorities’ failure to curb a four-year Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands and forced more than a million people to flee their homes.
    The attack, near a gold mine in Inata, a territory in the northern Soum region, killed 49 military police officers and four civilians, a government spokesperson said, updating a previous estimate of 32 killed.
    On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Burkina Faso’s capital, demanding Kabore resign for failing to rein in militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State who regularly target Burkinabe forces and civilians.
    In a public address on Wednesday, Kabore said he understood why some citizens were angry about the attack and the circumstances leading up to it.
    The personnel stationed at the gendarmerie post had run out of food and been forced to slaughter animals in the vicinity for the past two weeks, according to a memo sent by the post’s commander to his superiors last week and seen by Reuters.
    “We must no longer hear about food issues in our army,” Kabore said, promising an investigation.    “We must put our men in conditions that allow them to counter terrorism with all the courage and determination it takes.”
    Two senior security service commanders have already been dismissed, according to the government spokesperson.
(Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Aaron Ross, Kevin Liffey and Mark Heinrich)

11/18/2021 Iraqis Fly Back Home After Failing To Cross From Belarus To EU by Charlotte Bruneau and Kawa Omar
Migrants gather at the airport for their departure to Iraq,
Minsk, Belarus November 18, 2021. Andrey Pokumeyko/BelTA/Handout via REUTERS
    BAGHDAD/ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - Hundreds of Iraqis who had camped for weeks at Belarus’ borders with the EU seeking to cross into the bloc flew back home on Thursday.
    Around 430 would-be migrants, mostly Iraqi Kurds, touched down in Erbil in Iraq’s autonomous northern Kurdistan region on a flight from Minsk.    The plane took off again for Baghdad where it will deposit other returnees, the foreign ministry said.
    The migrants, who included young children, disembarked and made their way through the Erbil arrivals hall carrying suitcases stuffed with the warm clothes they had taken to survive the European winter.
    Some looked dejected, but vowed to try again to emigrate.
    Mohsen Addi, a Yazidi from Sinjar in northwestern Iraq whose community suffered massacres and enslavement under Islamic State several years ago, had taken his wife and children to Turkey then Belarus.
    “We spent a month in Belarus but it was so cold and so tough there."
    “I would have stayed till death, but my family were in danger.    If the situation doesn’t improve in Iraq I’ll leave again.    There’s no other choice,” he said.
    Addi complained that his Iraqi hometown still lacked basic services such as electricity and healthcare years after Islamic State’s defeat.
    Belarusian authorities on Thursday cleared the main camps https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/more-migrants-try-enter-poland-belarus-east-west-standoff-2021-11-18 where migrants had huddled at the border with Poland, in what could potentially be a turning point in a crisis that has spiralled in recent weeks into a major East-West confrontation.
    Iraqis, especially Kurds, have made up a significant number of the estimated 4,000 migrants waiting in freezing forests and trying to cross into Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.
    For months, EU countries have accused Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko of orchestrating the migrant crisis to avenge sanctions imposed after he won a disputed 2020 election and authorities cracked down on mass protests against him.
    They said Belarus had made it easier for people from the Middle East to fly to Minsk and try to get into the 27-nation bloc – an accusation he denies.
    Now, hundreds of would-be migrants are returning home having failed to cross the heavily guarded frontier. Some described the harsh conditions of living in the forest in winter, often with young children, and of beatings by border guards.
    A 30-year-old Iraqi Kurd, who declined to give his name, decided to register for the evacuation flight with his wife after they attempted to cross at least eight time from Belarus to Lithuania and Poland.
    “I would not go back (to Iraq) if it wasn’t for my wife,” he told Reuters a day ahead of the evacuation flight.    “She does not want to go back with me to the border, because she saw too many horrors over there.”
    Brussels will hope that a combination of pressure on airlines to stop flying migrants to Minsk and migrants giving up attempts to enter the EU will eventually see the crisis ease.
    Several airlines have already agreed to halt flights into the Belarusian capital for most passengers from countries including Iraq and Syria.
    At least eight people have died at the border in recent months, including a 19-year-old Syrian man who drowned in a river trying to cross to the EU.
(Reporting by Charlotte Bruneau; additional reporting, writing by John Davison; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Mark Heinrich)

11/18/2021 U.S. Wants ‘Race To The Top’ On Africa Infrastructure Amid China Competition, Says Blinken by Felix Onuah
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meets with Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo,
and Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama, during a meeting at the
Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja, Nigeria, November 18, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
    ABUJA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that Washington’s involvement in infrastructure in Africa was not about China, but intended to improve the standard of infrastructure without countries becoming burdened by debt.
    On a visit to Africa’s most populous country, Blinken was asked about U.S.-China competition over infrastructure investment on the continent, where China has grown its influence in recent years through such investments.
    “When it comes to infrastructure investment, again, this is not about China or anyone else, it is about what we would like to think of as a race to the top when it comes to those investments,” Blinken said at a joint news conference with Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama.
    Blinken said investment from China in Africa was in principle a good thing, but that countries should not be left with “tremendous debt that they cannot repay,” adding that workers rights, environmental protections and safeguards against corruption should also be in place.
    Developed countries in the G7 would invest in Africa as part of the so-called Build Back Better World programme, he added.
    Blinken signed a $2.17 billion development assistance program with Onyeama on Thursday and said Washington would also continue to invest in security in Nigeria.
    Onyeama said Nigeria needed investment from China to tackle a severe infrastructure deficit, and said the debt it has taken on was “sustainable.”
    China is one of the major bilateral lenders to Nigeria and has provided financing for infrastructure development such as roads, rail and gas pipelines.    Nigeria’s public debt office says on its website that Chinese debt stood at $3.121 billion or 3.94% of the country’s total public debt stock as of March 2020.
    “We saw a great opportunity with the Chinese,” Onyeama said.    “They are used to a lot of these huge capital projects and infrastructure projects.”
(Reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja, Macdonald Dzirutwe in Harare, and Simon Lewis and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Editing by Franklin Paul Editing by Alex Richardson)

11/18/2021 U.S. Secretary Of State Talks Security, Democracy In Nigeria by Felix Onuah
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives at Nnamdi Azikiwe
Airport in Abuja, Nigeria, November 18, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
    ABUJA (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday and discussed domestic and regional security, and West Africa’s democratic backsliding, including Nigeria’s handling of anti-police brutality protests last year.
    Blinken’s trip to Nigeria came days after a leaked report said the Nigerian army fired live rounds at peaceful protesters at a toll gate in Lagos in October 2020 and described the incident as a “massacre.”
    Blinken said during a joint news conference with Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama that depending on the conclusions of the report, authorities should “hold accountable any of those responsible for human rights abuses, and to do that again in full transparency.”
    U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has repeatedly said advocating for human rights and working to improve democracies around the world is at the heart of its foreign policy, even though critics have said promotion of human rights often takes a back seat to preserve national security priorities.
    Buhari, in the first official government comment on the substance of the damning report, told Blinken that his administration would take a lead from state governments which commissioned the report.
    “We at the Federal (Government) have to wait for the steps taken by the states, and we have to allow the system to work.    We can’t impose ideas on them,” Buhari said in a statement after meeting with Blinken.
    The shootings ended weeks of nationwide protests against police brutality and sparked the worst civil unrest in Nigeria since the return to civilian rule in 1999.
    Blinken’s three-nation Africa trip started in Kenya, where he reiterated calls for an unconditional ceasefire in the Ethiopian conflict and appealed for a return to civilian democracy in Sudan after last month’s coup.br>     America’s top diplomat said he had discussed support to build the capacity of Nigeria’s military but in a way that fully respects human rights.    Nigeria has been battling Islamist insurgents in the northeast of the country for more than a decade.
    Blinken’s trip to the region comes at a time when several crises are engulfing the continent, including the war in northern Ethiopia and Sudan’s military coup.
    He said the United States was deeply concerned by the violence used by the Sudanese military against civilian protesters.
    “The military must respect the rights of civilians to assemble peacefully and express their views,” said Blinken.
    On Friday, Blinken will lay out in a speech the Biden administration’s policy towards Africa.
(Writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe, Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by Alex Richardson and Jonathan Oatis)

11/18/2021 U.S. Envoy Meets Ethiopia Deputy PM In Bid To Revive Truce Efforts
FILE PHOTO: U.N. Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman speaks during
a news conference in Colombo March 3, 2015. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/File Photo
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - A U.S. special envoy met Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister on Thursday in a bid to revive ceasefire talks, as the government gave permission for 369 aid trucks to enter famine-hit Tigray, where fighting began a year ago.
    Jeffrey Feltman and Olusegun Obasanjo, the African Union’s High Representative for the Horn of Africa, arrived in Ethiopia on Thursday.
    The two envoys want the government and rebellious Tigrayan forces and their allies to declare an unconditional ceasefire and allow access for humanitarian aid to areas in northern Ethiopia affected by fighting.
    Feltman later met deputy prime minister and foreign minister Demeke Mekonnen.    “During their discussions, Demeke disclosed that humanitarian flights to Lalibela and Kombolcha are allowed and in addition 369 aid trucks are permitted to enter to Tigray,” the government communications service tweeted.
    Tigrayan forces say they control Lalibela and Kombolcha in Amhara, and have also moved into parts of the Afar region.    Widespread hunger is reported in both.
    Around 400,000 people are believed to be living in famine conditions in Tigray, where the U.N. said on Thursday it has been unable to deliver food for a month.    Its report said most pregnant and nursing mothers there are acutely malnourished.
    The government denies accusations by U.N. officials that it is operating a de facto blockade.
    Leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) want Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to step down, and humanitarian aid to enter Tigray.    The government wants Tigrayan forces to withdraw from territory they have captured in neighbouring regions.
    Ethiopia on Nov. 2 declared a state of emergency as fighting spread further south towards the capital.
    The TPLF have publicly speculated that Tigrayan forces might march on Addis Ababa, but more intense fighting has been reported in their push east to try to capture the route linking landlocked Ethiopia to the port of Djibouti.
    Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    Talks in Kenya between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Uhuru Kenyatta, focused on “how we marry the different efforts” from the United States, the AU, and other mediators, a senior state department official told reporters
    Kenyatta, who was in Addis Ababa on Sunday, indicated that Abiy “is more willing than he has been in the past to take advantage of the diplomatic efforts,” the official said.
    On Wednesday, Ethiopia’s state-appointed rights commission https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/ethiopia-rights-body-concerned-about-detentions-under-state-emergency-2021-11-17 said some human rights were not being upheld during the emergency and thousands of people had been detained.
    An inquiry board of seven parliamentarians will visit detainees, investigate whether their detentions were ethnically driven and make recommendations, chair Lemme Tessema told reporters on Thursday.
    U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said six U.N. staff arrested since the state of emergency was declared had been released, while five U.N. staff and one dependent remain in detention.    He said the last of more than 70 truck drivers contracted by the United Nations and detained by authorities were also released this week.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa Newsroom; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Giles Elgood and Catherine Evans)

11/18/2021 Iraqi Cleric Sadr Urges Militias To Purge ‘Undisciplined’ Members
Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr speaks during a news conference
in Najaf, Iraq, November 18, 2021 REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Powerful Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr urged the country’s paramilitaries on Thursday to purge what he called undisciplined members and for non-state armed groups to hand over their weapons.
    Sadr’s remarks come after Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim militia were accused of an attempt to kill outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi by armed drone on Nov. 7.
    The militias are disputing the result of an October general election that handed them a crushing defeat and have also staged sit-ins in Baghdad which turned violent this month.
    Sadr, who commands his own militia but opposes all foreign influence in Iraq, including that of Iran, is seen as the main Shi’ite rival of the paramilitaries Tehran has backed.
    “You must step back in order to regain the trust of the people,” Sadr said in a statement delivered to news cameras from his base in the southern holy city of Najaf.
    “What you’re doing right now will tarnish your history and increase your alienation from the people.”
    Sadr did not refer explicitly to recent events, but addressed his message to what he called the losing parties in Iraq’s election.
    He called on Iraq’s state paramilitary grouping the Popular Mobilisation Forces, which is dominated by the Iran-aligned factions, to purge “undisciplined elements” and for non-state armed groups to dissolve themselves and lay down their weapons.
    Sadr will likely have a big say in the formation of the next Iraqi government, a prospect that worries his main rivals the Iran-backed groups, according to Iraqi officials and independent analysts.
    “If you want to participate in forming the next government, you must hold those corrupt among you to account,” he added.
(Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Alistair Bell)

11/18/2021 Tunisian President Says He’s Drafting Timetable For Political Reforms
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/File Photo
    TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisian President Kais Saied said on Thursday he was working non-stop on a timetable for reforms to defuse growing criticism at home and abroad since he dismissed the cabinet, suspended parliament and took personal power four months ago.
    But Saied did not specify when he expected to present the action plan even as pressure mounts for a roadmap to end a state of emergency and return to parliamentary democracy.
    “We are working day and night to set a timetable for reforming the political system in a way that responds to the demands of Tunisians,” Saied said during a meeting with his appointed government.
    Saied seized nearly all powers in July in a move his critics called a coup, a decade after the Arab Spring’s first and only successful pro-democracy uprising, before installing a new prime minister and announcing he would rule by decree.
    Last week, thousands of Tunisians protested near parliament in the capital, demanding he reinstate the assembly, while major foreign donors whose financial assistance is needed to unlock an International Monetary Fund rescue package for the economy have urged him to return to a normal constitutional order.
    Saied has defended his takeover as the only way to end governmental paralysis after years of political squabbling and economic stagnation, and he has promised to uphold rights and freedoms won in the 2011 revolution.
(Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/18/2021 Bennett, Erdogan Speak After Turkey Releases Israeli Couple
FILE PHOTO: Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett heads a weekly cabinet meeting
at his office in Jerusalem, November 14, 2021. Ariel Schalit/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday spoke with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan after Turkey released an Israeli couple who had been arrested for photographing Erdogan’s residence in Istanbul and suspected of spying.
    Bennett thanked Erdogan for his help in securing the couple’s release, Bennett’s office said in a statement.
    It was the first conversation between an Israeli prime minister and Turkey’s president since 2013, according to Bennett’s office.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, Editing by Dan Williams)

11/19/2021 Lebanon PM Says He Will Call Cabinet To Meet Soon
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Friday he will call for a cabinet meeting soon after more than a month of political paralysis.
    The cabinet has not met since Oct. 12, amid a row over the probe into last year’s deadly Beirut port blast.
    Mikati, who met President Michel Aoun earlier on Friday, added that the country was going through a “difficult and dangerous” phase.
    “It is a miracle that the Lebanese citizen hasn’t lost patience yet,” Mikati told a meeting with the labour union, adding that the country could no longer afford to spend on subsidies of vital goods.
    Lebanon is in the throes of an economic meltdown described by the World Bank as one of the deepest depressions of modern times.
    The local currency has lost 90% of its value and three quarters of its population is in poverty. Mikati’s cabinet, which is focused on re-starting talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to unlock much needed foreign aid, has been in political paralysis since an argument over the lead investigator of the Beirut port blast probe disrupted a meeting.
    Mikati had said he would not call for another cabinet meeting until a framework for a solution over the matter was reached.
(Reporting by Yasmin Hussein and Maha El Dahan, editing by Philippa Fletcher)

11/19/2021 Iraqis Fly Back Home After Failing To Cross From Belarus To EU by Charlotte Bruneau and Kawa Omar
Iraqi migrants, who voluntarily registered for an evacuation flight from Belarus, arrive
at Baghdad International Airport, in Baghdad, Iraq, November 18, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad
    BAGHDAD/ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - Hundreds of Iraqis who had camped for weeks at Belarus’ borders with the EU seeking to cross into the bloc flew back home on Thursday.
    Around 430 would-be migrants, mostly Iraqi Kurds, touched down in Erbil in Iraq’s autonomous northern Kurdistan region on a flight from Minsk. The plane took off again for Baghdad where it will deposit other returnees, the foreign ministry said.
    The migrants, who included young children, disembarked and made their way through the Erbil arrivals hall carrying suitcases stuffed with the warm clothes they had taken to survive the European winter.
    Some looked dejected, but vowed to try again to emigrate.
    Mohsen Addi, a Yazidi from Sinjar in northwestern Iraq whose community suffered massacres and enslavement under Islamic State several years ago, had taken his wife and children to Turkey then Belarus.
    “We spent a month in Belarus but it was so cold and so tough there."
    “I would have stayed till death, but my family were in danger.    If the situation doesn’t improve in Iraq I’ll leave again.    There’s no other choice,” he said.
    Addi complained that his Iraqi hometown still lacked basic services such as electricity and healthcare years after Islamic State’s defeat.
    Belarusian authorities on Thursday cleared the main camps https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/more-migrants-try-enter-poland-belarus-east-west-standoff-2021-11-18 where migrants had huddled at the border with Poland, in what could potentially be a turning point in a crisis that has spiralled in recent weeks into a major East-West confrontation.
    Iraqis, especially Kurds, have made up a significant number of the estimated 4,000 migrants waiting in freezing forests and trying to cross into Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.
    For months, EU countries have accused Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko of orchestrating the migrant crisis to avenge sanctions imposed after he won a disputed 2020 election and authorities cracked down on mass protests against him.
    They said Belarus had made it easier for people from the Middle East to fly to Minsk and try to get into the 27-nation bloc – an accusation he denies.
    Now, hundreds of would-be migrants are returning home having failed to cross the heavily guarded frontier.    Some described the harsh conditions of living in the forest in winter, often with young children, and of beatings by border guards.
    A 30-year-old Iraqi Kurd, who declined to give his name, decided to register for the evacuation flight with his wife after they attempted to cross at least eight time from Belarus to Lithuania and Poland.
    “I would not go back (to Iraq) if it wasn’t for my wife,” he told Reuters a day ahead of the evacuation flight.    “She does not want to go back with me to the border, because she saw too many horrors over there.”
    Brussels will hope that a combination of pressure on airlines to stop flying migrants to Minsk and migrants giving up attempts to enter the EU will eventually see the crisis ease.
    Several airlines have already agreed to halt flights into the Belarusian capital for most passengers from countries including Iraq and Syria.
    At least eight people have died at the border in recent months, including a 19-year-old Syrian man who drowned in a river trying to cross to the EU.
(Reporting by Charlotte Bruneau; additional reporting, writing by John Davison; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Mark Heinrich)

11/19/2021 U.S. Wants ‘Race To The Top’ On Africa Infrastructure Amid China Competition, Says Blinken by Felix Onuah
Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama, accompanied by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, attend a news
conference at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja, Nigeria, November 18, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
    ABUJA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that Washington’s involvement in infrastructure in Africa was not about China, but intended to improve the standard of infrastructure without countries becoming burdened by debt.
    On a visit to Africa’s most populous country, Blinken was asked about U.S.-China competition over infrastructure investment on the continent, where China has grown its influence in recent years through such investments.
    “When it comes to infrastructure investment, again, this is not about China or anyone else, it is about what we would like to think of as a race to the top when it comes to those investments,” Blinken said at a joint news conference with Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama.
    Blinken said investment from China in Africa was in principle a good thing, but that countries should not be left with “tremendous debt that they cannot repay,” adding that workers rights, environmental protections and safeguards against corruption should also be in place.
    Developed countries in the G7 would invest in Africa as part of the so-called Build Back Better World programme, he added.
    Blinken signed a $2.17 billion development assistance program with Onyeama on Thursday and said Washington would also continue to invest in security in Nigeria.
    Onyeama said Nigeria needed investment from China to tackle a severe infrastructure deficit, and said the debt it has taken on was “sustainable
    China is one of the major bilateral lenders to Nigeria and has provided financing for infrastructure development such as roads, rail and gas pipelines. Nigeria’s public debt office says on its website that Chinese debt stood at $3.121 billion or 3.94% of the country’s total public debt stock as of March 2020.
    “We saw a great opportunity with the Chinese,” Onyeama said. “They are used to a lot of these huge capital projects and infrastructure projects.”
(Reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja, Macdonald Dzirutwe in Harare, and Simon Lewis and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Editing by Franklin Paul Editing by Alex Richardson)

11/19/2021 U.S. Treasury’s Adeyemo, Qatari Leaders Discussed Afghanistan Humanitarian Needs
FILE PHOTO: Economist Adewale "Wally" Adeyemo answers questions during his Senate Finance
Committee nomination hearing to be Deputy Secretary of the Treasury in the Dirksen
Senate Office Building, in Washington, D.C., U.S., February 23, 2021. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo and senior Qatari leaders this week discussed their shared interest in meeting the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement on Friday.
    Adeyemo also discussed equitable growth, the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges and opportunities of virtual assets during his meetings with Prime Minster Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdelaziz Al Thani and other senior government and economic leaders in Doha on Thursday, it said.
    The United States and Qatar affirmed their intention to work together on countering illicit finance, Treasury said.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and David Lawder; Editing by Chris Reese)

11/19/2021 U.S. Demands Immediate Release Of Yemeni Staff Detained By Houthis - Blinken
FILE PHOTO: Houthi soldiers walk past the the U.S. embassy's gate following a demonstration
against the United States over its decision to designate the Houthis a foreign
terrorist organisation, in Sanaa, Yemen January 18, 2021. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States condemns the detention of Yemeni staff of the U.S. embassy in Sanaa by the Houthi movement and demands their immediate release, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Friday.
    Dozens of Yemeni citizens and their family members have been detained and mistreated by the Iran-aligned Houthis because they worked for the United States in a caretaker capacity since the embassy there closed in 2015, the statement said.
    “The Houthis must immediately release unharmed all Yemeni employees of the United States, vacate the embassy compound, return seized property, and cease their threats,” Blinken said.
(Reporting by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Chris Reese)

11/19/2021 Britain Outlaws Palestinian Militant Group Hamas -Interior Minister by Stephen Farrell and Alistair Smout
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel speaks during a news conference about
the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, inside
10 Downing Street, in London, Britain January 21, 2021. Matt Dunham/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM/LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s interior minister Priti Patel on Friday said she had banned the Palestinian militant group Hamas in a move that brings the UK’s stance on Gaza’s rulers in line with the United States and the European Union.
    “Hamas has significant terrorist capability, including access to extensive and sophisticated weaponry, as well as terrorist training facilities,” Patel said in a statement.
    “That is why today I have acted to proscribe Hamas in its entirety.”
    The organisation would be banned under the Terrorism Act and anyone expressing support for Hamas, flying its flag or arranging meetings for the organisation would be in breach of the law, the interior ministry confirmed.    Patel is expected to present the change to parliament next week.
    Hamas has political and military wings. Founded in 1987, it opposes the existence of Israel and peace talks, instead advocating “armed resistance” against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.
    Until now Britain had banned only its military arm — the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
    Hamas political official Sami Abu Zuhri said Britain’s move showed “absolute bias toward the Israeli occupation and is a submission to Israeli blackmail and dictations.”
    “Resisting occupation by all available means, including armed resistance, is a right granted to people under occupation as stated by the international law,” said Hamas in a separate statement.
    The Palestinian Mission to the United Kingdom, which represents President Mahmoud Abbas’s Western-backed Palestinian Authority, also condemned the move.
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett welcomed the decision, saying on Twitter: “Hamas is a terrorist organization, simply put.    The ‘political arm’ enables its military activity.”
    Hamas and Israel clashed most recently in a deadly 11-day conflict in May. During the second Palestinian uprising two decades ago, Hamas suicide bombers killed hundreds of Israelis, a campaign publicly backed by its political wing.
‘STRENGTHENING TIES’
    In 2017 Patel was forced to resign as Britain’s international development secretary after she failed to disclose meetings with senior Israeli officials during a private holiday to the country, including then-opposition leader Yair Lapid.
    Lapid, now Israel’s foreign minister, hailed the decision on Hamas as “part of strengthening ties with Britain.”
    Hamas is on the U.S. list of designated foreign terrorist organisations.    The European Union also deems it a terrorist movement.
    Based in Gaza, Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election, defeating its nationalist rival Fatah.    It seized military control of Gaza the following year.
(Reporting by Stephen Farrell in Jerusalem and Aistair Smout in London; Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Toby Chopra)

11/19/2021 Ivory Coast Abidjan Commuters Turn To Boats To Escape Traffic Jams by Loucoumane Coulibaly
Modern boats from several lagoon transport companies sail on the Ebrie Lagoon in front of buildings in the
economic capital Abidjan, Ivory Coast, October 15, 2021. Picture taken October 15, 2021. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
    ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Commuters in Ivory Coast’s bustling commercial capital Abidjan are turning to waterways to escape worsening road traffic, with growing boat fleets offering faster and cheaper trips across the lagoon.
    The government estimates that Abidjan residents spend about three hours a day in transit, often on congested, poorly kept roads.    Almost every neighbourhood in the city of five million is on the water, presenting an attractive alternative.
    The government liberalized transport on the lagoon in 2016 to attract more private boat operators, and plans to build a modern water station in each city district, said Aristide Gahie, director of planning at Abidjan’s urban mobility authority.
    “There is real movement underway on the lagoon and the state is working to have boats that are safer for the population,” Gahie said.
    About 100,000 people per day now travel by water in Abidjan, nearly half in traditional boats.    The state wants to see 300,000 travellers per day in the next five years and to have 200 modern boats in operation, compared to about 50 now, he said.
    To take advantage of this potential market, the company Aqualines and its South African partner Nautique have brought in bus boats that can carry more than 200 seated passengers.
    The trip from the Yopougon district to downtown costs 300 CFA francs ($0.52) and takes 10 minutes on one of Aqualines’ boats, compared to an hour-long journey by road that costs twice that.    The boat station is crowded all day.
    The company plans to increase its fleet to serve 100,000 passengers per day in the next two to five years, compared to around 12,000 passengers now, said Marie-Laure Ehui, marketing manager at Aqualines.
    “People need to be reassured.    We are in Africa and when it comes to water people are reluctant.    But if we guarantee them safety and comfort, they will come,” she said.
    Christelle Ahui, a sales representative at a local firm, used to wake up between 4:00 and 5:00 am to be on time for work.    Now she wakes up at 6:00 am and takes the water bus.
    “With the boat it’s faster and you avoid the traffic jams.    I also have asthma and I can’t stand the heat.    That’s why I opted for the water bus,” Ahui said, after buying her ticket at Yopougon station to go to the Treichville district.
($1 = 571.2100 CFA francs)
(Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Bate Felix, William Maclean)

11/20/2021 In Middle East, Pentagon Chief Seeks To Reassure Concerned Allies by Idrees Ali
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin attends a NATO Defence Ministers meeting at the
Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo
    MANAMA (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sought on Saturday to reassure allies in the Middle East that President Joe Biden’s administration was committed to the region despite Washington increasingly turning its attention towards countering China.
    It was unclear how much impact Austin’s speech would have with allies in the Middle East, since it is not backed by any announcements of further deployments or new weapon sales in the region.
    Gulf Arab states, heavily reliant on the U.S. military umbrella, have expressed uncertainty about Biden’s focus on the region, especially after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.    They are closely watching efforts to revive a global-powers nuclear pact with Iran.
    In a speech in Bahrain during a trip to the Gulf, Austin acknowledged concern in the region and globally that the United States was solely focussed on China’s challenge.
    “Let’s be clear: America’s commitment to security in the Middle East is strong and sure,” Austin said.
    He added that the United States was committed to countering Iran, even as Washington works to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
    “We remain committed to a diplomatic outcome of the nuclear issue.    But if Iran isn’t willing to engage seriously, then we will look at all the options necessary to keep the United States secure,” Austin said.
    The Pentagon chief said that the United States would be coming to the indirect negotiations on reviving the deal on Nov. 29 in good faith.
    “But Iran’s actions in recent months have not been encouraging – especially because of the expansion of their nuclear programme,” he added.
    Gulf Arab states have asked to be included in the negotiations, and for any deal to address what they call Iran’s ballistic missile programme and destabilising behaviour in the region.
IMPENDING AMERICAN ABANDONMENT”?
    While a number of U.S. administrations have tried to move the focus away from the Middle East and towards the Pacific, Biden in August ended the longest U.S. war, in Afghanistan.
    “There’s dismay that the United States is on its way out the door.    I’m not sure messaging addresses that sense of impending American abandonment,” said Jon Alterman of the Washington CSIS think tank.
    A senior U.S. defence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Austin was not expected to make any new commitments in the region on the trip.
    Saudi Arabia, one of the United States’ closest allies in the region, has been frustrated by Biden’s approach.
    The Biden White House has been pressuring Saudi Arabia to improve its record on human rights, including the release of political prisoners, such as women’s rights advocates, from jail.
    Austin was set to visit Saudi Arabia in September but the trip was postponed at the last minute.    He will not be visiting Riyadh on this trip.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by William Mallard)

11/20/2021 Blinken Says U.S. Investing In Africa Without Unsustainable Debt by Bate Felix
U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with members of the civil society at
the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria November 19, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
    DAKAR (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday his country was investing in Africa without imposing unsustainable levels of debt, as he witnessed the signing of contracts worth more than $1 billion in Senegal’s capital Dakar.
    The deals between four U.S. companies and Senegal are being billed as part of his country’s pitch to help Africa build infrastructure with transparent and sustainable deals.
    Careful not to directly criticise Chinese infrastructure projects, which have proliferated across the continent in the past decade, Blinken said during a visit to Nigeria on Friday that international deals were too often opaque and coercive.
    The U.S. is investing “without saddling the country with a debt that it cannot handle,” he said during the signing ceremony with Senegal’s Economy Minister Amadou Hott.
    He said he had a deep concern for the stability of neighbouring Mali, which has experienced two coups in the last 18 months, and that the upcoming election there must follow a timetable drawn up by the regional bloc ECOWAS.
    Earlier this month ECOWAS, West Africa’s main political and economic bloc, imposed sanctions on Mali’s transitional leaders, after they informed the organisation they would not be able to hold presidential and legislative elections in February.
    “We look forward to resuming the full array of assistance as soon as this democratically elected government takes office,” Blinken told reporters.
    Reuters reported in September that Mali’s military junta was in discussions about deploying a Russian military contractor, Wagner Group, in Mali to help fight a growing Islamist insurgency.
    “It would be especially unfortunate if outside actors engaged in making things even more difficult and more complicated and I’m thinking particularly of groups like the Wagner Group,” Blinken said.
‘ILLUSORY PROVOCATION’
    Blinken said the U.S. has real concerns, widely shared with partners in Europe, over Russia’s “unusual activity” at the Ukrainian border, after Ukraine said it feared Russia might be preparing an attack.
    “We do know the playbook of trying to cite some illusory provocation from Ukraine or any other country and using that as an excuse to do what Russia was planning to do all along,” Blinken said.
    Intensive diplomacy was ongoing to end civil conflict in Ethiopia, he said, where Washington continues to push for an immediate end to hostilities without preconditions and humanitarian access to millions of people in the north.
    During a visit to Dakar’s Institute Pasteur bio-medical research center, Blinken said the United States was working with partners to generate more financing for vaccine manufacturing in Senegal.
    In October BioNTech signed an agreement with the Institut Pasteur de Dakar and the Rwandan government to construct the first mRNA vaccine facilities in Africa, starting in mid-2022.
(Reporting by Bate Felix; writing by Hereward Holland; editing by Christina Fincher and Ros Russell)

11/20/2021 Lebanon Needs To Show That Hezbollah Can Change Behaviour, Bahrain Minister Says
FILE PHOTO: Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani addresses the media during a joint news conference with
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas after a meeting in Berlin, Germany, August 11, 2021. Michael Sohn/Pool via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahrain’s foreign minister, Abdullatif Al Zayani, said on Saturday that Lebanon needs to demonstrate that its powerful Iran-allied Hezbollah movement can change its behaviour to mend a rift with Gulf Arab states.
    Lebanon is facing a diplomatic crisis with Gulf states, triggered by a minister’s critical comments about the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen that prompted Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait to expel Lebanon’s top diplomats and recall their own envoys.
    Concerned about Hezbollah’s growing influence, Gulf states – traditional aid donors to Lebanon – have been withholding support to the country which is suffering a deep economic crisis.
    “We (can) extend support and try to find solutions in the future, but once it is demonstrated that Hezbollah can be changing its behaviour,” Zayani told the IISS Manama Dialogue security forum in Bahrain.
    Riyadh, locked in a regional rivalry with Iran, has said its measures last month against Lebanon, including an import ban, were not only in response to the minister’s remarks, but were also to demonstrate unease over Hezbollah’s “domination” of Lebanese politics.
    Lebanon’s newly appointed information minister George Kordahi said his remarks were made in an interview before he joined the cabinet and has refused to apologise or step down.    Hezbollah’s leader has supported him in the diplomatic row and rejected calls for his resignation.
(Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous and Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Ros Russell)

11/21/2021 Sudan Military To Reinstate Ousted PM Hamdok After Deal Reached – Umma Party Head by Khalid Abdelaziz
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's then-Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, speaks during a Reuters interview
in Khartoum, Sudan August 24, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) -Sudan’s military plans to reinstate ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok following weeks of unrest triggered by a coup, Fadlallah Burma Nasir, the head of the Umma Party, told Reuters.
    Hamdok will form an independent cabinet of technocrats, and all political detainees will be released under an agreement between the military and civilian political parties, said Nasir, who attended the negotiations that led to the agreement.
    The Sovereign Council will hold an urgent meeting on Sunday before announcing the agreement, said a source with knowledge of the talks.
    It was unclear how much of the Forces of Freedom and Change civilian coalition that had been sharing power with the military would be part of the deal.
    Activist groups leading protests since the coup have demanded that the military exit politics altogether.
    The media adviser of military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan could not immediately be reached for comment.
    Hamdok was placed under house arrest when the military seized power on Oct. 25, derailing a transition towards democracy agreed after the overthrow of long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
    The military dissolved Hamdok’s cabinet and detained a number of civilians who held top positions under a power-sharing deal agreed with the military following Bashir’s ouster.
    Following the coup, Hamdok had demanded the release of all political detainees and a return to power-sharing as a precondition for negotiating, according to sources close to him.
    The coup triggered a campaign of mass demonstrations against the military, and activists had called for further protests on Sunday.
    Western powers that had backed Sudan’s political transition condemned the takeover and suspended some economic assistance to Sudan.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Nadine Awadalla and Michael Georgy; Editing by Aidan Lewis, Christopher Cushing and William Mallard)

11/21/2021 Blinken Says U.S. Investing In Africa Without Unsustainable Debt by Bate Felix
U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with members of the civil society at the
U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria November 19, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
    DAKAR (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday his country was investing in Africa without imposing unsustainable levels of debt, as he witnessed the signing of contracts worth more than $1 billion in Senegal’s capital Dakar.
    The deals between four U.S. companies and Senegal are being billed as part of his country’s pitch to help Africa build infrastructure with transparent and sustainable deals.
    Careful not to directly criticise Chinese infrastructure projects, which have proliferated across the continent in the past decade, Blinken said during a visit to Nigeria on Friday that international deals were too often opaque and coercive.
    The U.S. is investing “without saddling the country with a debt that it cannot handle,” he said during the signing ceremony with Senegal’s Economy Minister Amadou Hott.
    He said he had a deep concern for the stability of neighbouring Mali, which has experienced two coups in the last 18 months, and that the upcoming election there must follow a timetable drawn up by the regional bloc ECOWAS.
    Earlier this month ECOWAS, West Africa’s main political and economic bloc, imposed sanctions on Mali’s transitional leaders, after they informed the organisation they would not be able to hold presidential and legislative elections in February.
    “We look forward to resuming the full array of assistance as soon as this democratically elected government takes office,” Blinken told reporters.
    Reuters reported in September that Mali’s military junta was in discussions about deploying a Russian military contractor, Wagner Group, in Mali to help fight a growing Islamist insurgency.
    “It would be especially unfortunate if outside actors engaged in making things even more difficult and more complicated and I’m thinking particularly of groups like the Wagner Group,” Blinken said.
‘ILLUSORY PROVOCATION’
    Blinken said the U.S. has real concerns, widely shared with partners in Europe, over Russia’s “unusual activity” at the Ukrainian border, after Ukraine said it feared Russia might be preparing an attack.
    “We do know the playbook of trying to cite some illusory provocation from Ukraine or any other country and using that as an excuse to do what Russia was planning to do all along,” Blinken said.
    Intensive diplomacy was ongoing to end civil conflict in Ethiopia, he said, where Washington continues to push for an immediate end to hostilities without preconditions and humanitarian access to millions of people in the north.
    During a visit to Dakar’s Institute Pasteur bio-medical research center, Blinken said the United States was working with partners to generate more financing for vaccine manufacturing in Senegal.
    In October BioNTech signed an agreement with the Institut Pasteur de Dakar and the Rwandan government to construct the first mRNA vaccine facilities in Africa, starting in mid-2022.
(Reporting by Bate Felix; writing by Hereward Holland; editing by Christina Fincher and Ros Russell)

11/21/2021 Hamas Gunman Kills Israeli In Jerusalem’s Old City, Is Shot Dead By Police
Top Israeli police officials gather near the site of a shooting incident
in Jerusalem's Old City November 21, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -A Palestinian gunman from the Islamist group Hamas killed an Israeli and wounded three other people in Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday before being shot dead by police, officials said.
    The incident, the second attack in Jerusalem in four days, occurred near one of the gates to the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third-holiest site in Islam.    Jews revere the site as the remnant of two ancient temples.
    Hamas identified the gunman as one of its leaders in East Jerusalem, among areas where Palestinians seek statehood.
    Unlike the more moderate Palestinian Authority which governs in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, refuses permanent coexistence with Israel.
    Britain on Friday banned Hamas, bringing London’s stance in line with the United States and the European Union.
    “On a morning like this one can draw support from the (British) decision to designate Hamas – including what is called its political wing – as a terrorist organisation,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told his cabinet.
    Sunday’s attack also wounded a second civilian and two Israeli police officers, police said.    The dead civilian was identified as a recent Jewish immigrant from South Africa.
    Israel captured the Old City and other parts of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed them as its capital in a move not recognised internationally.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub, Dan Williams, Nisreen Salem and Nidal al-Mughrabi; editing by David Evans, William Maclean)

11/21/2021 Libyan Interim PM Registers Bid For Presidency
Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah speaks after submitting his candidacy papers for the upcoming presidential
election at the headquarters of the electoral commission in Tripoli, Libya November 21, 2021. REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed
    TRIPOLI (Reuters) -Libya’s interim prime minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah registered as a candidate for the presidency on Sunday despite having vowed not to do so as a condition of taking his current post and despite contested election rules that may prevent him from standing.
    Dbeibah’s entry into a race that now features many of Libya’s main players of the past decade of chaos adds to the turmoil over a vote that is due to take place within five weeks, but for which rules have not yet been agreed.
    Parliamentary and presidential elections on Dec. 24 were demanded by a U.N. political forum last year as part of a roadmap to end Libya’s civil war, a process that also led to the formation of Dbeibah’s interim unity government.
    Libya has had little stability since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi as the country fragmented among myriad armed groups. Government was split in 2014 between warring rival administrations based in east and west.
    However, the disputes over the election threaten to derail the U.N.-backed peace process that emerged last year after the collapse of an eastern military offensive to seize the capital Tripoli.
    The elections are being organised under a law issued by parliament speaker Aguila Saleh in September that set a first-round presidential vote for Dec. 24 but that delayed the parliamentary election to January or February.
    Dbeibah and some major political figures and groupings in western Libya have criticised Saleh’s election law, saying it was passed improperly, and have called for both votes to be delayed until there is agreement on the rules.
    The electoral commission and Libyan courts are likely to rule on the eligibility of candidates in the coming weeks – a process that may itself stir new disputes.
DISPUTES
    Dbeibah is likely to be a frontrunner in the election after implementing a series of populist spending measures in recent months including infrastructure projects and payments to support young newlyweds.
    The 63-year old hails from one of Libya’s wealthiest business families, but he was not a prominent figure in his own right before the U.N. political forum chose him to lead the interim government overseeing the run-up to elections.
    As prime minister, he has pledged investment in Libyan regions that suffered neglect during the past decade of chaos, agreed major contracts with countries involved on both sides of the civil war and courted young people with financial support.
    He has not yet said publicly why he has chosen to break the televised promise he made when he was appointed that he would play no role in the election.
    Saleh’s law might also rule him out as a candidate because it requires him to step down from his position three months before the vote, which he did not do.
    His best-known rivals include Gaddafi’s son and one-time heir apparent Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the commander of the eastern forces in the civil war Khalifa Haftar, and Saleh himself.
    Gaddafi and Haftar are both accused of war crimes, which they deny, and would be seen in swathes of Libya as unacceptable after years of warfare.
(Reporting by Reuters Libya newsroom, writing by Angus McDowall, editing by Andrew Heavens and Hugh Lawson)

11/21/2021 Factbox-Sudan’s Abdalla Hamdok
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) address
the media at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo
    (Reuters) – Sudan’s military leaders have released Abdalla Hamdok from house arrest and reinstated him as prime minister less than a month after dissolving his government in a coup.
WHO IS HAMDOK?
– Before becoming prime minister, Hamdok worked for the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank and as a special adviser at the Trade and Development Bank in Ethiopia. He studied economics at the universities of Khartoum and Manchester.
– He was named prime minister in August 2019 by the Sovereign Council, a ruling body of civilians and the army that was set up to oversee a transition towards democracy after long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir was toppled.
– Upon taking office, he said his priorities included solving an economic crisis, addressing a public debt burden, and achieving peace in a country long fractured by civil wars.
– He quickly started talks with International Monetary Fund and World Bank to discuss restructuring Sudan’s debt.
– He also opened talks with the United States to have Sudan removed from its list of states that sponsor terrorism, a designation that had isolated Sudan from the international financial system since 1993. Sudan was removed from the list in 2020.
– On his watch, the IMF accepted Sudan into the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative based on the country’s commitment to macroeconomic reforms.    This meant Sudan could finally get relief on more than $56 bln in debt and access new funds.
– The economic reforms he promoted included the removal of fuel subsidies that cost several billion dollars a year, and the devaluation and floating of the currency. He also sought to bring under government control firms owned by the security forces https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sudan-economy-idINKBN23Z0PX.
– A few weeks before he was removed from office on Oct. 25, he acknowledged the hardship arising from reforms but expressed hope that their positive impact would be felt on the ground very soon.    “The Sudanese people have borne a very high cost of the reforms and we cannot take their patience for granted,” he said.
– He is a firm supporter of Sudan’s transition to civilian-led rule.    As tensions grew between the army and civilians in the power-sharing administration in September, Hamdok presented a roadmap out of crisis https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/sudans-pm-hamdok-unveils-roadmap-with-political-players-end-crisis-2021-10-15.    “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.
– His stance has won him support among the population.    During rallies against the coup, protesters carried photos of Hamdok and hung banners featuring him from billboards.
– After signing a deal to return as prime minister he said he had done so to halt bloodshed after several dozen civilians had been killed during protests.
(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Peter Graff, Kirsten Donovan and Angus MacSwan)

11/21/2021 Tunisia Says U.S. Will Support It Once Political Reforms Are Announced
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/File Photo
    TUNIS (Reuters) – The United States will offer support to Tunisia once it has announced dates for political reform, a Tunisia presidency statement said, nearly four months after President Kais Saied seized political power.
    The statement added that the U.S. Secretary of State had informed Saied in a phone call that the country would continue to support Tunisia with international institutions and other countries once reforms were announced, and asked that Tunisia ended a state of emergency quickly.
(Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

11/22/2021 Israel’s Netanyahu Faces Key Witness In Court
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is surrounded by journalists and lawyers in a courtroom
before testimony by star witness Nir Hefetz, a former aide, in Netanyahu's corruption trial
at the District Court in east Jerusalem, November 22, 2021. Maya Alleruzzo/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared in court on Monday to face a key prosecution witness in his corruption trial.
    Netanyahu, who served as prime minister for 12 years until June, has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud in cases that centre on alleged regulatory favours he awarded to media tycoons in return for positive press coverage and receipt of gifts, including cigars and champagne.
    Netanyahu, now opposition leader, smiled under his black face mask as he walked into the Jerusalem District courtroom to hear the testimony of his former spokesman and close adviser Nir Hefetz, one of a small group of ex-aides to turn state’s witness against the country’s first premier to be criminally charged while still in office.
    “Netanyahu spends at least as much as his time on media as he spends on security matters, including on matters an outsider would consider nonsense,” Hefetz told the court.
    Netanyahu, 72, is not required to attend the trial hearings and he has made few court appearances.    He made no comment to reporters as slogans shouted outside in the street by a cluster of his supporters wafted into the courtroom who faced off with a small group of anti-Netanyahu protesters.
    Netanyahu’s trial has been a polarising issue for Israelis.    His loyal supporters bemoan it as a left-wing witch-hunt that targeted a popular right-wing leader, while his staunch critics hail it as the triumph of law over grave government corruption that had plunged Israel into two years of political turmoil.
    After four inconclusive elections, Netanyahu’s former right-wing ally Naftali Bennett in June unseated Israel’s longest- serving leader by forming a patchwork coalition government of rightist, centrist, left-wing and Muslim Arab parties.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell, editing by Ed Osmond)

11/22/2021 African Nations Mend And Make Do As China Tightens Belt And Road by Duncan Miriri
Workers are seen on site during the construction of the Nairobi Expressway, undertaken by the
China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis, along Uhuru Highway
in Nairobi, Kenya October 20, 2021. Picture taken October 20, 2021. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Deep in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, members of the National Youth Service tirelessly swing machetes to clear dense shrubs obscuring railway tracks more than a century old.
    It’s a distinctly low-tech phase for China’s Belt and Road drive in Africa to create the trade highways of the future.
    There’s not enough money left to complete the new 1,000-km super-fast rail link from the port of Mombasa to Uganda.    It ends abruptly in the countryside, 468 km short of the border, and now Kenya is resorting to finishing the route by revamping the 19th-century colonial British-built tracks that once passed that way.
    China has lent African countries hundreds of billions of dollars as part of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which envisaged Chinese institutions financing the bulk of the infrastructure in mainly developing nations.    Yet the credit has dried up in recent years.
    On top of the damage wrought to both China and its creditors by COVID-19, analysts and academics attribute the slowdown to factors such as a waning appetite in Beijing for large foreign investments, a commodity price crash that has complicated African debt servicing, plus some borrowers’ reluctance to enter lending deals backed by their natural resources.
    “We are not in the go-go period anymore,” Adam Tooze, a Columbia University historian, said about China’s overseas investment projects.    “There is definitely a rebalancing from the China side,” said Tooze, whose new book Shutdown examines how COVID-19 affected the world economy, adding that Beijing’s current account surplus was “dwindling somewhat.”
    Chinese investments in the 138 countries targeted by BRI slid 54% from 2019 to $47 billion last year, the lowest amount since the BRI was unveiled in 2013, according to Green BRI, a China-based think-tank that focuses on analysing the initiative.
    In Africa, home to 40 of those BRI nations, Chinese bank financing for infrastructure projects fell from $11 billion in 2017 to $3.3 billion in 2020, according to a report by international law firm Baker McKenzie.
    This is a blow for governments who were anticipating securing Chinese loans to build highways and rail lines linking landlocked countries to sea ports and trade routes to Asia and Europe.    The continent is facing an estimated annual infrastructure investment deficit of around $100 billion, according to the African Development Bank.
    “The pandemic has actually made things worse.    Those numbers will go up,” said Akinwumi Adesina, the president of the bank, citing the need for additional infrastructure to support health services.
    Hold-ups have hit some other BRI projects across the continent, such as a $3 billion Nigerian rail project and a $450 million highway in Cameroon.
    China’s ministry of foreign affairs did not respond to a request for comment.
    Beijing officials have said that the two sides have a mutually beneficial and cooperative relationship and that lending is done openly and transparently.
    “When providing interest-free loans and concessional loans, we fully consider the debt situation and repayment capacity of the recipient countries in Africa, and work in accordance with the law,” Zhou Liujun, vice chairman of China International Development Cooperation Agency told reporters in late October.
    Another Chinese official, who declined to be named as they are not authorised to speak to the media, said Beijing always intended to implement BRI gradually to manage debt default risks by countries or projects.
‘RAILWAY WILL BE BUILT’
    Officials in Kenya said its rail route were long-term projects that would be seen through over time, without giving any specific timeframe.    The COVID-19 has presented the world with unforeseen and unprecedented challenges, they added.
    “Eventually, this standard gauge railway will still be complete because it is part of what we call the Belt and Road Initiative,” said James Macharia, Kenya’s transport minister.
    The government has already spent about $5 billion on its new rail link, and can’t currently afford the additional $3.7 billion needed to finish it. The last station hooked up is only accessible by dirt roads.
    Hence engineers in the Rift Valley are no longer building new infrastructure, but rather shoring up colonial-era viaducts and bridges in an operation that the government estimates will cost about 10 billion shillings ($91 million).
    There are knock-on effects and, over the border in Uganda, construction on a modern railway line has been delayed because it’s supposed to link to the Kenyan one.
    That has been one factor in the hold-up in a $2.2 billion loan from the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank), David Mugabe, spokesperson for Uganda’s Standard Gauge Railway project, told Reuters.
    In Nigeria, the government turned to London-headquartered Standard Chartered Bank this year to finance the $3 billion railway project https://www.reuters.com/article/nigeria-railway-funding-idUKL5N2OE43A initially slated to receive Chinese backing.    Standard Chartered declined to comment on the deal, citing confidentiality agreements.
    In Cameroon, the $450 million highway linking the capital Yaounde and the economic hub of Douala, whose funding was secured from China’s Exim Bank in 2012, stalled in 2019 as the bank stopped disbursing further tranches of the loan.
    Exim Bank did not respond to a request for comment on its loans to Uganda and Cameroon.
MALAYSIA TO BOLIVIA
    Zhou Yuyuan, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for West Asian and African Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said the COVID-19 crisis had strained Chinese lending institutions and African finances alike.
    In future, he added, Beijing was likely to encourage more corporate Chinese investment in the continent, to fill the role of state-backed financing.    “Once the pandemic is over, Africa’s economy is likely to recover,” he said.    “That could drive China’s corporate investment.”
    The pandemic has added to the obstacles facing President Xi’s self-described “project of the century”. After peaking at $125.25 billion in 2015, Chinese investments into BRI nations have dropped every year, apart from 2018, when they edged up 6.7%, the Green BRI data showed.
    In 2018, Pakistan https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pakistan-silkroad-railway-insight-idUSKCN1MA028 balked at the cost and the financing terms of building a railway. The previous year, there were signs of growing problems for BRI, after China’s push in Sri Lanka https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sri-lanka-china-insight-idUSKBN15G5UT sparked protests.
    AidData, a research lab at the College of William and Mary in the United States, said in a study https://www.reuters.com/world/china/chinas-belt-road-plans-losing-momentum-opposition-debt-mount-study-2021-09-29 at the end of September that $11.58 billion in projects in Malaysia had been cancelled over 2013-2021, with nearly $1.5 billion cancelled in Kazakhstan and more than a $1 billion in Bolivia.
    “A growing number of policymakers in low and middle-income countries are mothballing high-profile BRI projects because of overpricing, corruption and debt sustainability concerns,” said Brad Parks, one of the study’s authors.
    China’s foreign ministry said in response to the AidData report that “not all debts are unsustainable,” adding that since its launch the BRI had “consistently upheld principles of shared consultation, shared contributions and shared benefits.”
‘RESOURCES ARE FINITE’
    A key problem is debt sustainability.
    Copper producer Zambia became Africa’s first pandemic-era sovereign default last year after failing to keep up with payments on more than $12 billion of international debt, for example.    A recent study suggested more than half of that burden is owed to Chinese public and private lenders.
    In late 2018, Beijing agreed to restructure billions of dollars in debt owed by Ethiopia.
    Some African governments are also growing more reluctant to take out loans backed commodities such as oil and metals.
    “We can’t mortgage our oil,” Uganda’s works and transport minister Katumba Wamala told Reuters, confirming the country had refused to pledge untapped oil in fields in the west to secure the railway loan.
    The finance squeeze means African governments must make more strategic investment decisions in terms of debt sustainability, said Yvette Babb, a Netherlands-based fixed income portfolio manager at William Blair.
    “There is no infinite amount of capital,” she said.
($1 = 110.2500 Kenyan shillings)
(Additional reporting by Joe Bavier in Johannesburg, Elias Biryabarema in Kampala, Kevin Yao and Ella Cao in Beijing; Editing by Katharine Houreld, Karin Stohecker and Pravin Char)

11/22/2021 Sudan Military Reinstates Prime Minister, But Protests Continue by Khalid Abdelaziz
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's then-Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, speaks during a Reuters interview
in Khartoum, Sudan August 24, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s military reinstated Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on Sunday and promised to release all political detainees after weeks of deadly unrest triggered by a coup, although large crowds took to the streets to reject any deal involving the army.
    Under an agreement signed with military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Hamdok, first appointed after the overthrow of autocrat Omar al-Bashir in a 2019 uprising, will lead a civilian government of technocrats for a transitional period.
    The deal faces opposition from pro-democracy groups that have demanded full civilian rule since Bashir’s ouster and have been angered by the deaths of dozens of protesters since the Oct. 25 coup.
    A hero for the protest movement, Hamdok quickly became the villain for some.
    “Hamdok has sold the revolution,” protesters chanted after the deal was announced.    The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a leading protest group, called it “treacherous.”
    Tens of thousands of people joined scheduled rallies in the capital, Khartoum, and its twin cities of Omdurman and Bahri.    Security forces fired bullets and tear gas to disperse them, witnesses said. A 16-year-old protester in Omdurman died from a bullet wound, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said.
    “Hamdok has disappointed us. Our only option is the street,” said Omar Ibrahim, a 26-year-old protester in Khartoum.
    The United States, Britain, Norway, the European Union, Canada and Switzerland welcomed the reinstatement of Hamdok and in a joint statement urged the release of other political detainees.    The United Nations also welcomed Sunday’s deal Western powers had condemned last month’s takeover and suspended economic assistance to Sudan, which has been trying to recover from a deep economic crisis.
    The coup triggered mass demonstrations against the military, and medics aligned with the protest movement say security forces have killed 41 civilians in increasingly violent crackdowns.
    Hamdok said he agreed to the deal to prevent more casualties.
    “Sudanese blood is precious.    Let us stop the bloodshed and direct the youth’s energy into building and development,” he said at a signing ceremony broadcast on state television.
    Burhan said the deal would be inclusive.    “We do not want to exclude anyone except, as we’ve agreed, the National Congress Party,” he said, referring to Bashir’s former ruling party.
    But the agreement made no mention of the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), the civilian coalition that shared power with the military before the coup. A number of people at the signing ceremony had political ties to Bashir.
‘NO LEGITIMACY’
    The FFC said it did not recognise any agreement with the military.    The Sudanese Congress Party, a leading FFC member, several of whose leaders are detained, described Hamdok joining the deal as “illegitimate and unconstitutional” and providing political cover for the coup.
    Several of the resistance committees that have been organising protests also put out statements rejecting any deal with the military.
    Hamdok was placed under house arrest when the military seized power, derailing a transition towards elections in 2023.
    The military dissolved Hamdok’s Cabinet and detained a number of civilians who held top positions under the power-sharing deal agreed after Bashir was toppled.
    Politicians Omer Eldigair, Yasir Arman, Ali Alrayah Alsanhouri and Siddig al-Mahdi would be released on Sunday night, a government source said.    Only Arman is among the former sitting officials, many of whom had engaged in a war of words with military leaders before the coup.
    Under Sunday’s deal, a constitutional declaration struck between the military and civilians in 2019 will remain the foundation in further talks.
    “The next government will focus on limited issues, chiefly the democratic transition,” Al Jazeera quoted Hamdok as saying in an interview. Hamdok said elections would take place before July 2023, the channel added.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Nafisa Eltahir and Nadine Awadalla; Writing by Michael Georgy and Aidan Lewis; Editing by David Clarke, Angus MacSwan and Peter Cooney)

11/22/2021 Saudi-Led Coalition Warns Of Danger To Global Trade South Of Red Sea – State Media
FILE PHOTO: A view of Red Sea is seen through a window of a cruise ship during a leasure
trip to Red Sea, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, September 20, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Benmansour
    CAIRO (Reuters) – The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed Houthi movement in Yemen said it detected indications of an imminent danger to navigation and global trade south of the Red Sea, Saudi state media reported early on Monday.
    The coalition said also that it detected hostile movements and activity by the Yemeni Houthi forces using explosive laden boats, adding that measures are being taken to neutralize the threat and ensure freedom of navigation.     No more details were provided.
(Reporting by Alaa Swilam; writig by Mahmoud Mourad; editing by Richard Pullin)

11/22/2021 Hamas Gunman Kills Israeli In Jerusalem’s Old City, Is Shot Dead By Police
Top Israeli police officials gather near the site of a shooting incident
in Jerusalem's Old City November 21, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A Palestinian gunman from the Islamist group Hamas killed an Israeli and wounded three other people in Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday before being shot dead by police, officials said.
    The incident, the second attack in Jerusalem in four days, occurred near one of the gates to the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third-holiest site in Islam.    Jews revere the site as the remnant of two ancient temples.
    Hamas identified the gunman as one of its leaders in East Jerusalem, among areas where Palestinians seek statehood.
    Unlike the more moderate Palestinian Authority which governs in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, refuses permanent coexistence with Israel.
    Britain on Friday banned Hamas, bringing London’s stance in line with the United States and the European Union.
    “On a morning like this one can draw support from the (British) decision to designate Hamas – including what is called its political wing – as a terrorist organisation,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told his cabinet.
    Sunday’s attack also wounded a second civilian and two Israeli police officers, police said.    The dead civilian was identified as a recent Jewish immigrant from South Africa.
    Israel captured the Old City and other parts of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed them as its capital in a move not recognised internationally.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub, Dan Williams, Nisreen Salem and Nidal al-Mughrabi; editing by David Evans, William Maclean)

11/22/2021 Hamas Official Says Qatar Enables Fuel-To-Cash Scheme For Gaza Civil Servants by Nidal al-Mughrabi
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian policemen loyal to Hamas drive in front of fuel tankers entering Gaza through
the Rafah border between Egypt and southern Gaza Strip June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
    GAZA (Reuters) – A Hamas official said on Monday that Qatar will start sending Gaza up to $10 million worth of Egyptian fuel a month under a plan to fund civil service pay in the impoverished Palestinian enclave ruled by the Islamist group.
    Qatar announced on Nov. 17 that it had signed agreements with Egypt to supply fuel and building materials https://www.reuters.com/article/israel-palestinians-egypt-qatar-idAFL1N2S82QE to Gaza. Qatari authorities did not respond to a request for comment on Monday about the fuel being used to pay Gaza civil servants.
    A source familiar with the talks said Qatar and Hamas had not yet finalised an agreement over the initiative, which would see Hamas sell the fuel to Gaza petrol stations and use the proceeds to pay civil servants, including doctors and teachers.
    Qatar and Hamas are still in discussions over checks Doha requires to ensure the proceeds of the fuel sold reach the civil servants it is intended for, the source added.
    The initiative would help bypass Israeli curbs on Qatari aid to the enclave put in place before a war between Israel and Hamas in May.
    Israel used to permit the Gulf state to send millions of dollars into Gaza through Israeli border crossings to support Hamas’ cash-strapped government.    But Israeli authorities halted such Qatari aid in May, demanding more checks on how the money is used.
    “According to the agreement, Qatar will pay the equivalent of its monthly aid to Gaza civil servants, which is between $7 and $10 million, in fuel,” said Salama Marouf, director of Gaza’s government media office.
    The fuel “will come through the (Egyptian) border crossing, and will then be sold in the market … the proceeds will then go to the treasury of the Gaza finance ministry, which will later pay it out to employees.”
    Marouf said the cash raised from selling the fuel would help pay around 40,000 civil servants in Gaza, home to 2 million Palestinians.
    Spokespeople for Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defence Minister Benny Gantz and the defence ministry declined to comment.
    Israel captured Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war.    It pulled its settlers and military out of the enclave in 2005, but leads a blockade of the territory, citing threats from Hamas.    The West deems the group a terrorist organisation.
    The World Bank says Israel’s restrictions have contributed to soaring poverty in Gaza.    Qatar, which has pumped more than $1 billion into Gaza since 2014, says its aid is meant to cement calm along the frontier with Israel.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Mills in Doha; Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by William Maclean and Toby Chopra)

11/22/2021 Jordan Parliament Begins Debate On Constitutional Changes by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
FILE PHOTO: Jordan's King Abdullah II chats with Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales at the
Al Husseiniya Palace, in Amman, Jordan November 16, 2021. Arthur Edwards/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    AMMAN (Reuters) – Jordan’s parliament began deliberations on Monday of proposed constitutional reforms that officials say revitalise the monarchy and are part of a drive to deliver on long promised political reforms.
    A royal committee appointed by King Abdullah drafted the proposals to try to modernize the country’s political system and revamp the existing political parties and elections law.
    In April former crown prince Hamza was accused of agitating against Abdullah, exposing faultlines within a royal family that has helped shield Jordan from the sort of turmoil that has consumed neighbouring Syria and Iraq.
    Prime Minister Bisher al Khasawneh said the draft legislation would pave the way for a prime minister emerging from a parliamentary majority rather than one handpicked by the monarch, a main plank of the reformist agenda favored by a mix of Islamist and tribal figures.
    “..It allows the leader of the country (king) to go towards party based governments,” he told the assembly.
    U.S.-backed Abdullah, who can dissolve parliament and appoint governments and is the ultimate arbiter in the country of 10 million, has said in recent years he hoped one day to become a constitutional monarch.
    The proposals include setting up a national security council headed by the monarch falling under government jurisdiction, a move some experts and politicians see as whittling away the monarch’s powers.
    Liberal politicians say the monarch, who has ruled since 1999, has been forced to opt for timid steps toward democracy in response to regional turmoil, constrained by a conservative bureaucracy and a tribal power base which sees reforms as a threat to political and economic benefits.
    “This is a coup against the Jordanian constitution and its institutions … How dare the government attack the constitution in this manner,” said deputy Saleh al Armouti in a heated session.
    Some deputies also criticized the alterations to the kingdom’s constitution saying it also sidelined parliament and eroded successive governments’ executive powers.
    Other changes in the text seen by Reuters widen the representation of women and political parties in an expanded 138-member assembly.    It lowers the age for elected deputies to 25 years.     Jordan has in recent years seen bouts of civil unrest and street protests led by disaffected tribes and a mainly Islamist opposition that has demanded the king fight corruption and called for wider political freedoms.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Howard Goller)

11/22/2021 Israel Starts Vaccinating Young Children As Coronavirus Rises by Maayan Lubell
Yoav, 9-years-old, receives his first coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination, after the country
approved vaccinations for children aged 5-11, in Tel Aviv, Israel November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Corinna Kern
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel began rolling out Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccinations for 5-to-11-year-olds on Monday hoping to beat down a recent rise in coronavirus infections.
    A fourth wave of infections that hit Israel in June began subsiding in September.    But over the past two weeks the “R,” or reproduction rate of the virus, that had remained below one for two months began climbing and has now crossed that threshold, indicating the virus could again be spreading exponentially.
    Daily cases have also crept up over the past few days, with half the confirmed infections presently among children age 11 and younger.
    Israel’s 9.4 million population is relatively young, with around 1.2 million children in the 5-to-11 age group.    By November, that group comprised more than a third of new cases, according to health ministry data.    Scientists and officials have been doubtful the country can reach “herd immunity” unless children are vaccinated.
    But policy makers also say that the vaccination of younger children is meant first and foremost to protect their individual health and not just to stop the transmission of the virus.
    In the past week they have stressed that although COVID-19 is rarely severe among young children, many show no symptoms at all, it can carry risks in the longer term.
    Israel’s health ministry estimates that one in 3,500 children infected with coronavirus will later develop Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)in which parts of the body become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, and gastrointestinal organs.    Most children who suffer from the condition require intensive care treatment and 1-2% die.
    Officials have also noted the risk of lingering symptoms, such as sleep disruption, muscle pain, loss of smell and taste, headaches and a cough, commonly known as “long Covid.”
    A survey by the health ministry of more than 13,000 children showed that around 11% of them had suffered lingering symptoms, with 1.8% to 4.6%, depending on their age, six months after recovery.
    “All these phenomena can be severe and we want to prevent them,” Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz told lawmakers on Monday.
    Monday’s vaccination kicked off in a Tel Aviv square and the campaign will start nationwide on Tuesday.
    A poll by Israeli healthcare provider Maccabi found that 41% of parents to children age 5 to 11 were positive they will vaccinate their children, while 21% were still undecided and 38% will not vaccinate their children.
    Israel has recorded 1.3 million total confirmed cases and more than 8,000 dead since the start of the pandemic.
    Around 57% of Israel’s population is fully vaccinated, according to the health ministry, which means they have either received a third jab or it has not yet been five months since receiving their second.
(Additional reporting by Rami Amichay in Tel Aviv; Editing by Rami Ayyub and Angus MacSwan)

11/22/2021 Last Christmas Was Grim, Bethlehem Hopes This Year Will Be Better by Zainah El-Haroun
Foreign tourists stand in Manger Square as they visit the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem in the
Israeli-occupied West Bank November 18, 2021. Picture taken November 18, 2021. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma
    BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Reuters) – The trickle of tourists is sometimes scarcely enough to fill a manger, let alone an inn, but Bethlehem’s Palestinians are hopeful that numbers will rise in the month before Christmas.
    The traditional birthplace of Jesus was all but shuttered by the pandemic last year, ravaging the tourism-dependent economy and leading some hoteliers to consider selling up.
    But this year Israel has eased curbs on foreign tourists in time for Christmas, although everyone remains wary of a winter coronavirus wave.
    While grateful for the return of some foreign tourists and Christian Palestinians from the West Bank and Israel, it is a far cry from the 3.5 million visitors who came in winter 2019, just before the pandemic.
    “Of course the numbers are very few, but as a start, as a beginning, I think it’s good,” Palestinian tourism minister Rula Maayah told Reuters.    “Hopefully very soon these few hundreds will be a few thousand.”
    The reduced numbers have at least improved the experience for those who are there.
    One of just three wise tourists standing in an otherwise-deserted Manger Square on Nov. 17, Danish pilgrim Trina Dybkjaer said their timing seemed ideal.
    “I came to see where Jesus was born,” she said, looking up at the half-decorated Christmas tree outside the Church of the Nativity.
    “I can almost feel the history of how it was back then.    It hasn’t been, at least today, destroyed by a lot of tourists.”
    Bethlehem’s municipality scaled back the town’s Christmas market last year and banned most spectators from the tree-lighting ceremony.
    But Mayor Anton Salman said this year’s celebration will proceed as normal on Dec. 4, with visitors asked to wear masks.    He expected around 15,000 people, mostly Palestinians.
    Across Bethlehem, souvenir-sellers and hoteliers say they are struggling to make a living.
    “We have Christmas reservations from Britain, Colombia, the U.S., all over, we can’t complain about that,” said Joey Canavati, manager of Nativity Street’s Alexander Hotel.
    “We just don’t know what will happen next week, or next month – will there be another COVID wave?    Will everything shut down again?
(Zainah El-Haroun reported from Bethlehem; Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Stephen Farrell and Giles Elgood)

11/22/2021 Oman, Qatar Sign Six Agreements During Sultan’s Visit To Doha
Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq witness the signing of
agreements between the two countries in Doha, Qatar November 22, 2021. Qatar News Agency/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Oman and Qatar on Monday signed agreements on military cooperation, taxation, tourism, ports, labour and investment as Oman seeks to invigorate its debt-burdened economy, the state news agencies of both the Gulf states said.
    Oman is among the weakest financially of the Gulf oil producers.    It has been pursuing wide-ranging reforms and austerity measures since Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said took power almost two years ago following the death of his predecessor who ruled for half a century.
    The agreements were signed during a two-day state visit by Oman’s Sultan Haitham to the small but wealthy state of Qatar, one of the world’s top producers of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
    The deals included an agreement on double taxation and tax evasion on income and capital taxes, and an investment cooperation agreement between sovereign wealth funds the Qatar Investment Authority and the Oman Investment Authority, said Qatar’s Amiri Diwan, the administrative office of the Emir.
    Further details on the deals were not immediately available.
    Since the oil price crash in 2014, Oman, a country of around 5 million people, has accumulated large amounts of debt.    It recently embarked on a medium-term plan to fix its finances that were also hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Oman last year was in talks with some Gulf countries for financial help, according to an October 2020 bond prospectus.
(Reporting by Moataz Abdelrahiem and Omar Fahmy; Writing by Nadine Awadalla and Lisa Barrington; Editing by William Maclean and Bernadette Baum)

11/22/2021 Uganda Says Seven Suspects Killed During Probe Of Last Week’s Kampala Blasts by Elias Biryabarema
FILE PHOTO: 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/File Photo
    KAMPALA (Reuters) – Uganda said on Monday that seven suspects had been killed and 106 people detained during operations by the security services linked to three suicide bombings in the capital Kampala last week.
    Islamic State (IS), which is allied with an anti-Uganda rebel group – Allied Democratic Forces (ADF)- claimed responsibility for the Nov. 16 attack, which killed seven people, including the three bombers, and injured dozens more.    One police officer was among the 4 others killed and 27 out 37 wounded were also police officers.
    “To disrupt and dismantle acts of domestic terrorism, we have intensified operations.    Since these operations began, a total of 106 suspects have been arrested,” police spokesperson Fred Enanga said in a statement posted on Facebook.
    Police did not provide details on how the seven suspects were killed.
    In last week’s attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of a police station in the centre of Kampala.    Three minutes later two other suicide bombers exploded along a road that leads to the parliament.
    The explosions set vehicles alight, and sent glass shards flying and panicked officers and workers fleeing multi-storied buildings.
    Enanga said those detained “included those who were involved in terrorist financing and persons who were involved in mobilisation and incitement of vulnerable Ugandans into the ranks of ADF.”
    “We are actively monitoring all spaces in homes, places of worship, which are acting as domains for recruitment and as collection centres, for children who are introduced to ideological messages and beliefs,” Enanga said.
    A security raid on a suspected radicalisation centre in central Uganda had found 22 young people who security personnel suspects were being prepared for recruitment into ADF, he added.
    The ADF was founded by Ugandan Muslims in 1990s and initially waged a war against the Ugandan government from bases in the country’s west.
    They were eventually routed and fled into eastern Congo where they have been operating since, with the U.N. blaming them for thousands of civilian deaths.
(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema in Kampala; Editing by George Obulutsa and Grant McCool)

11/23/2021 U.S. Envoy On Afghanistan To Return To Doha To Meet Taliban - State Department
FILE PHOTO: State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks on the situation in Afghanistan at the
State Department in Washington, DC, U.S. August 18, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan will visit Doha next week for two weeks of meetings with leaders of the Taliban, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Tuesday.
    “They’ll discuss … our vital national interests when it comes to Afghanistan,” said Price.    “That includes counterterrorism, that includes safe passage for U.S. citizens and for Afghans to whom we have a special commitment and that includes humanitarian assistance and the economic situation of the country.”
    The U.S. envoy, Tom West, earlier this month attended a meeting of the so-called extended Troika, comprising Pakistan, China, Russia and the United States to discuss Afghanistan. The group had also met with senior Taliban representatives.
    West was also part of the U.S. delegation in meetings with Taliban officials in Doha in October, the first such talks between Washington and the Taliban after United States’ chaotic end to its two decade-long war in Afghanistan on Aug. 31.
    An abrupt withdrawal of most foreign development support after the Taliban seized power on Aug. 15 from Afghanistan’s Western-backed government has sent the economy into freefall.    There is a shortage of hard cash and Taliban leaders are under Western sanctions.
    With winter approaching, deeply impoverished Afghanistan has emerged from all-out war into a humanitarian crisis.    Millions face growing hunger amid soaring food prices and a drought.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis; editing by Grant McCool)

11/23/2021 Military Moves In Ethiopia Risk Undermining Progress Toward Peace Talks - U.S. Envoy
FILE PHOTO: U.N. Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman speaks
during a news conference in Colombo March 3, 2015. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa said on Tuesday that “nascent progress” toward getting all parties to Ethiopia’s conflict into negotiations on a ceasefire risks being outpaced by an “alarming” increase in military operations.     Envoy Jeffrey Feltman briefed reporters in Washington after returning on Monday from Ethiopia, where he met Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed and discussed a potential diplomatic solution to the year-old conflict, which has killed thousands and displaced millions in Africa’s second most populous nation.
    Both Abiy and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party controlling the northern region of Tigray, seem to believe they are on the cusp of military victory, Feltman said.
    “There is some nascent progress in trying to get the parties to move from a military confrontation to a negotiating process,” Feltman said.    “What concerns us is this fragile progress risks being outpaced by the alarming developments on the ground that threaten Ethiopia’s overall stability and unity.”
    Abiy’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.    TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda could not immediately be reached for comment.
    War broke out in November 2020 in Tigray between Ethiopian federal troops and the TPLF.    In July, the conflict spread into two neighboring regions in northern Ethiopia.
    Feltman said both sides were talking to the United States about beginning a discreet peace process, and said that the key desires of both sides were not mutually exclusive.
    The TPLF wants what the U.N. calls a “de facto government blockade” to be lifted and humanitarian aid to be allowed into Tigray, where 400,000 people are living in famine; Abiy wants the Tigrayan forces to withdraw from captured territory.
    But the TPLF has also called on Abiy, who won a landslide victory in national elections this year, to step down.
    Although Feltman said he discussed diplomatic solutions with Abiy, the Ethiopian leader expressed confidence he could achieve his goals militarily.
    Abiy had posted a statement on Twitter on Monday promising to lead from the frontlines on Tuesday.
    “I will head to the frontline to lead the defense forces personally,” he wrote.    “Let’s meet at the war front … the time has come to lead the country with sacrifice.”
    Tigrayan forces and their allies have threatened to march on the capital, but have also been fighting fiercely to try to cut a transport corridor linking landlocked Ethiopia with the region’s main port Djibouti.
    Feltman said the Ethiopian military and regional militias had been able to “more or less stem” the Tigrayan moves to cut the corridor but Tigrayan forces had been able to move south towards Addis.
    Ethiopia’s military spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.
    “For a while the lines were static, and then about a week ago the …(Tigrayan forces) started to move again,” Feltman said.    “It alarms us for several reasons.”
    If Tigrayan forces move closer to Addis, they might increase their demands, Feltman said.
    “We are absolutely opposed to the (Tigrayan forces) threatening Addis by cutting off the road to Djibouti or threatening Addis by actually entering Addis,” Feltman added.
    Also on Tuesday, Germany joined France and the United States in urging its citizens to leave Ethiopia immediately.    U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric also told reporters in New York that a few hundred family members of international staff would be relocated from Ethiopia.
    “Staff will remain in Ethiopia to deliver on our mandates,” he said.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis; Editing by Dan Grebler and Grant McCool)

11/23/2021 IAEA’s Grossi Says In Iran That He Wants To Deepen Cooperation by Parisa Hafezi
FILE PHOTO: International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks with
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (off frame) in the Benjamin Franklin Room ahead of a meeting at the
State Department in Washington, D.C., U.S. October 18, 2021. Mandel Ngan/Pool via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) -U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi said on Tuesday he wanted to deepen cooperation with Iran in his talks in Tehran, days before the resumption of negotiations between the Islamic Republic and world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal.
    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last week issued reports detailing its conflicts with Iran, from rough treatment of its inspectors to re-installing cameras it deems “essential” for the revival of the nuclear deal.
    “The agency is seeking to continue and deepen the dialogue with the government of Iran…We agreed to continue our joint work on transparency and this will continue,” Grossi, who arrived in Tehran on Monday, told a televised news conference.
    Tehran and Washington will resume indirect negotiations on Nov. 29 in Vienna – on hold since June – to find ways to reinstate the deal abandoned in 2018 by then-U.S. President Donald Trump, who then reimposed harsh sanctions on Iran.
    Tehran responded by breaching key limits on nuclear activity set by the accord, including rebuilding stockpiles of enriched uranium, refining it to higher fissile purity and installing advanced centrifuges to speed up output.
    A failure of diplomacy to bring back Tehran and Washington into compliance with the nuclear deal could raise the risk of a fresh regional war.
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett signalled readiness on Tuesday to step up Israel’s confrontation with Iran and reiterated that his country would not be bound https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-signals-readiness-escalate-iran-confrontation-amid-nuclear-talks-2021-11-23 by any new nuclear deal.
    In September, Western powers at the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors scrapped plans for a resolution against Iran after Tehran agreed to prolong monitoring of some nuclear activities.
    But they still demand Iranian action on two central issues – explaining uranium traces found at three undeclared sites and granting IAEA inspectors access to the TESA Karaj centrifuge component manufacturing workshop to replace the agency’s surveillance cameras there.
    The workshop was the victim of apparent sabotage in June in which one of four IAEA cameras there was destroyed.    Iran has not returned that camera’s “data storage medium” and the IAEA said it had asked Iran to locate it and explain.
    “Some questions were raised based on documents published by our enemies.    These questions have now been answered,” Iran’s nuclear chief, Mohammad Eslami, said after meeting with Grossi.
    Grossi later met for the first time with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, who urged the IAEA to “continue to cooperate with Iran in the context of its technical duties, and avoid taking political positions,” state media said.
    Diplomats say no action is likely to be taken against Iran when the IAEA board convenes on Wednesday, for fear of harming the nuclear talks between Iran and world powers.
    Grossi had been due to hold a news conference upon his return to Vienna on Tuesday night but it was cancelled with less than an hour’s notice.    No reason was given.    He will hold a separate, long scheduled news conference at 12:30 p.m. (1130 GMT) on Wednesday.
(Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in ViennaWriting by Parisa HafeziEditing by Nick Macfie, Alison Williams and Mark Heinrich)

11/23/2021 UN Atomic Watchdog Chief Cancels Planned News Conference Post Iran Trip – IAEA Spokesman
FILE PHOTO: International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks with
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (off frame) in the Benjamin Franklin Room ahead of a meeting at the
State Department in Washington, D.C., U.S. October 18, 2021. Mandel Ngan/Pool via REUTERS
    VIENNA (Reuters) – U.N. atomic watchdog chief Rafael Grossi cancelled a news conference planned for Tuesday evening upon his return from Tehran, where he held talks with Iranian officials over the country’s nuclear programme, an IAEA spokesman said.
    Grossi will hold a separate news conference on Wednesday at 1230 (1130 GMT) as previously announced on the opening day of quarterly meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) 35-nation Board of Governors.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; editing by John Irish)

11/23/2021 Lira Collapse Leaves Turks Bewildered, Opposition Angry by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu
FILE PHOTO: A street vendor sells Turkish national flags at Mahmutpasa street, a popular middle-class
shopping district, in Istanbul, Turkey March 22, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Anxious Turks struggled to keep up with a bewildering collapse in their currency and the main opposition party leader said the country was experiencing its darkest “catastrophe” as the lira slumped 15% on Tuesday against the dollar.
    Tuesday’s meltdown follows weeks of steep falls in the lira which have already driven up prices, leaving ordinary Turks reconsidering everything from their holiday plans to weekly grocery shopping.
    “There has not been such a catastrophe in the history of the Republic,” said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party, blaming the currency freefall on President Tayyip Erdogan who has led the country since 2003.
    “At this point, you are a fundamental national security problem for the Republic of Turkey,” Kilicdaroglu said.
    Erdogan has pressured the central bank to slash interest rates in a move he says will boost exports, investment and jobs, but which critics say will further fuel double-digit inflation and erode the lira, cutting deeply into Turks’ earnings.
    Shoppers at a central Ankara mall said they could not take their eyes off the lira rate, which plunged as far as 13.45 to the dollar on Tuesday.    A year ago it was 8 to the dollar, last month it reached 9 and last week it hit 10.
    “I’ve become unable to work without following the dollar,” said 28-year-old advertising agency worker Selin.
    “I don’t think there is a single day where I don’t have to watch my budget, and the calculation changes 100 times by the time I get next month’s salary.    There is nothing left, including toilet paper, that I buy without thinking carefully.”
    Former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a founding member of Erdogan’s ruling, Islamist-rooted AK Party before breaking away to form his own party, described the president’s economic measures as “treason and not ignorance.”
    Kilicdaroglu, Davutoglu and some other opposition leaders have announced emergency meetings to discuss the currency after Tuesday’s crash – the lira’s second biggest fall ever.
‘WE ARE SINKING’
    Turks took to social media to express dismay. Top trending topics on Twitter were dominated by hashtags on the economy including “We are sinking” “Government resign” and “We cannot make ends meet.”
    In the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, shop owners burned what appeared to be fake dollars on the street in a symbolic gesture of protest, saying: “We cannot sleep, we don’t know about our future.”
    Several people who spoke to Reuters said that as soon as they received their salaries or pensions, they converted them into foreign currency.
    “I have asked for an advance on my monthly salary just to convert it into dollars so that I can maintain some sense of value in my earnings,” said Emirhan Metin, 28, a lawyer in Istanbul.    “It’s nearly impossible to focus or talk about anything else at this point.”
    Haluk, a 36-year-old freelance film editor, said he was often paid with a lag of six to eight months.    “So the contract I signed last month is worth 20% less today.    Who knows how much it will be worth when I get paid six months from now?
    Doruk Akpek, CEO at a menstrual hygiene brand startup, said he tried to keep his savings in dollars and crypto-currency, but added the situation was tougher for those who only had lira.
    “There is also a psychological unhappiness, you see the country collapsing in front of your eyes.    It impacts the morale and motivation of people,” Akpek said.
(Additional reporting by Can Sezer and Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Dominic Evans and Gareth Jones)

11/23/2021 U.N. Libya Mediator Quits Weeks Before Planned Election by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and U.N. envoy Jan Kubis hold a news
conference following a meeting on the political process in Libya at the Foreign Ministry
in Berlin, Germany, March 18, 2021. Kay Nietfeld/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United Nations Libya mediator Jan Kubis is stepping down, a U.N. spokesman said on Tuesday, less than a year after he took up the role and a month before planned elections in the country.
    The United Nations is informally suggesting veteran British diplomat Nicholas Kay as a replacement, said diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity.    The 15-member U.N. Security Council, operating by consensus, must approve a new appointment.
    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres accepted Kubis’ resignation “with regret,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.    When asked when Kubis would leave, Dujarric said: “Mr Kubis has made it clear that he’s not slamming the door today.”
    “He, more than anyone, does not want to have the mission destabilized in any way, shape, or form,” he said.
    “The Secretary-General is working on an appropriate replacement.    We are fully aware of the electoral calendar and are working as quickly as possible to ensure continuity of leadership,” Dujarric said.
    Kubis is a former Slovak foreign minister who has also served as the U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon and the U.N. special envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Security Council approved his appointment as Libya mediator in January, succeeding Ghassan Salame, who quit in March 2020 due to stress.
    It was not immediately clear why Kubis was stepping down. Dujarric said the resignation “did not come as a complete surprise,” but did not give further details.
    Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of longtime autocrat Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.    In October last year, the two major sides in Libya’s war – the internationally recognized Government of National Accord and Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army – agreed a ceasefire.
    Parliamentary and presidential elections on Dec. 24 were demanded by a U.N. political forum last year as part of a roadmap to end Libya’s civil war.    However, disputes over the planned vote threaten to derail the peace process.
    A first-round presidential vote is set for Dec. 24 and the parliamentary election has been delayed to January or February. However, rules for the elections have not yet been agreed.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by William Maclean, Mark Heinrich and Grant McCool)

11/23/2021 Israel Sees Iranian Atomic Bomb In Five Years, Deal Or No Deal by Dan Williams
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends a cabinet meeting at the
Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, November 21, 2021. Abir Sultan Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Iran is five years away from developing a nuclear weapon, and international talks due to restart next week will do nothing to slow it down, Israel said on Tuesday, adding it reserved the right to act to protect itself.
    Indirect negotiations https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/iran-says-nuclear-talks-with-world-powers-resume-nov-29-2021-11-03 to revive the 2015 accord, under which Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international sanctions, are due to resume in Vienna next Monday after a five-month pause.
    Israel long opposed the nuclear deal, but Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government, in power since June, had previously said it could be open to a new deal with tougher restrictions.    In remarks on Tuesday to a security forum, however, he sounded less accomodating.
    Bennett described Iran, which denies it is pursuing nuclear arms, as being at “the most advanced stage” of a nuclear weapons programme.
    “In any event, even if there is a return to a deal, Israel is of course not a party to the deal and Israel is not obligated by the deal,” he told the conference, hosted by Reichman University.
    Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman said: “With or without an agreement, Iran will be a nuclear state and have a nuclear weapon within five years, tops.”
    Israel, itself widely believed to have nuclear weapons, has long argued that the 2015 deal was too weak to prevent Iran from pursuing a bomb. Former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, describing it as too soft, and Iran responded by violating some of the deal’s restrictions. President Joe Biden’s administration aims to revive it.
    Israel has also complained that the nuclear agreement does nothing to rein in Iran’s missile programme, or hostile activity by Iranian-backed militia.
    “The Iranians have encircled the State of Israel with missiles while they sit safely in Tehran,” Bennett said. “To chase the terrorist du jour sent by the (Iranian covert) Qods Force does not pay off anymore.    We must go for the dispatcher.”
    Speaking separately, the chief of Israel’s air force offered cooperation with Gulf Arab partners against Iranian-made attack drones, a rare public airing of the possibility of joint operations.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Giles Elgood)

11/23/2021 Israel Flags Iranian UAV Bases, Offers Counter-Measures To Arab Allies
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz walks past the media during the weekly
cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, August 1, 2021. Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israel sharpened its rhetoric against Iranian combat drones on Tuesday, disclosing what it said were two bases used to carry out maritime attacks with the remote-controlled planes and offering to cooperate with Arab partners on counter-measures.
    Gulf Arab countries share Israeli concerns about such drones, seeing the hand of Iran or its allies in aerial attacks on shipping or on energy facilities in Saudi Arabia.    Tehran has often denied such allegations.
    “Today I reveal to you two central bases in the area of Chabahar and Qeshm island in south Iran, from which operations in the maritime arena were launched, and where today, too, advanced Shahed attack drones are deployed,” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz told a televised security conference.
    Separately, the chief of Israel’s air force proposed working with Arab partners – such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, with which Israel formalised ties last year – against the drone threat.
    “It think that this is a great opportunity to create contacts and to build a defence plan for all the countries that have a common interest in protecting themselves,” Major-General Amikam Norkin told the conference, hosted by Reichman University.
    “We can help significantly (against drones), whether in terms of intelligence, detection or interception.”
(Writing by Dan WilliamsEditing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

11/24/2021 Exclusive-UAE Holds Talks With Taliban To Run Kabul Airport – Foreign Diplomats by Alexander Cornwell
FILE PHOTO: Taliban soldiers stand in front of a sign at the international airport
in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 9, 2021. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates has held talks with the Taliban to run Kabul airport, going up against Gulf rival Qatar in a diplomatic tussle for influence with Afghanistan’s new rulers, according to four sources with knowledge of the matter.
    UAE officials have held a series of discussions with the group in recent weeks to discuss operating the airport that serves as landlocked Afghanistan’s main air link to the world, the foreign diplomats based in the Gulf region told Reuters.
    The talks demonstrate how countries are seeking to assert their influence in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan even as the hardline Islamist group largely remains an international pariah and its government not formally recognised by any country.
    The Emiratis are keen to counter diplomatic clout enjoyed there by Qatar, according to the sources who declined to be name due to the sensitivity of the matter.
    The Qataris have been helping run the Hamid Karzai International Airport along with Turkey after playing a major role in evacuation efforts following the chaotic U.S. withdrawal in August, and have said they are willing to take over the operations.
    Yet the Taliban has not yet formalised an arrangement with Qatar, the four diplomats said.
    A senior Emirati foreign ministry official said the UAE, which previously ran Kabul airport during the U.S.-backed Afghan republic, “remains committed to continuing to assist in operating” it to ensure humanitarian access and safe passage.
    Abu Dhabi also aided recent evacuation efforts.
    The Taliban and Qatari authorities did not respond to requests for comment.
    Two of the diplomats said the Taliban has also sought financial assistance from the UAE, though they added it was not clear if this was related to the airport discussions.
    The Emirati foreign ministry official, Salem Al Zaabi, director of international security cooperation, did not respond to a question on whether the UAE was considering providing financial help to the Taliban.
AIRPORT INTELLIGENCE
    One key issue that’s still to be resolved between the Taliban and potential airport operators is who would provide security at the site, the four diplomats said.    The Taliban say they do not want foreign forces in the country following their return to power after two decades of war.
    Still, Qatari special forces are presently providing security within the airport’s perimeter, the diplomats added, while Taliban special forces were patrolling areas outside.
    So far countries have been reluctant to formally recognise the Taliban’s government, accusing the group of backtracking on pledges to uphold the rights of women and minorities.
    Yet Qatari officials have urged greater international engagement with the Taliban to prevent impoverished Afghanistan from falling into a humanitarian crisis. Gulf states have also voiced concern https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/gulf-arabs-jittery-about-taliban-takeover-may-seek-pragmatic-ties-2021-08-20 that the U.S. withdrawal would allow al Qaeda to regain a foothold in Afghanistan.
    While there is little commercial benefit for any operator, the airport would provide a much-needed source of intelligence on movements in and out of the country, according to the four diplomats, who said that since the withdrawal many countries have lacked real-time information.
REGIONAL RIVALRIES
    Qatar and the UAE have had strained relations for years as they competed for regional influence.
    The UAE, Saudi Arabia and their allies boycotted Qatar for over three years, cutting off political, trade and transport ties, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism – a charge that it denies.    The dispute was resolved in January this year.
    Qatar has long been the gateway to the Taliban, with Doha hosting the group’s political office since 2013 and negotiations with the U.S. in early 2020 that led to the withdrawal.
    Last week, Qatari officials strengthened their position by signing an accord https://www.reuters.com/world/exclusive-qatar-act-us-diplomatic-representative-afghanistan-official-2021-11-12 to represent American diplomatic interests in Afghanistan.
    The UAE has maintained ties with the Taliban too, according to two of the diplomats.    They said the country had been home to some members of the group in recent years, including Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who they added lived in the Sharjah emirate with his family from at least 2013.    Stanikzai is now deputy foreign minister in the Taliban administration.
    Al Zaabi did not respond to questions on the UAE’s relationship with Stanikzai.    The Taliban did not immediately respond to queries on Stanikzai living in the UAE.
    The Taliban said this month that the UAE had reopened its embassy in Kabul.    The UAE has not commented.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun in Ankara, Jonathan Landay in Washington, Andrew Mills in Doha and Aziz El Yaakoubi in Dubai; Editing by Pravin Char)

11/24/2021 Sudan’s Hamdok To Review Appointments Made By Military
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) address
the media at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok will review appointments and dismissals made by the military to key state posts, the General Secretariat of the cabinet said.
    After seizing power on Oct. 25, Sudan’s military rulers drew on veteran ex-officials of toppled leader Omar al-Bashir for important positions in the state bureaucracy.
    Hamdok, who was arrested during the coup and then reinstated under a deal with the military reached on Sunday, issued a directive to freeze all hiring and dismissals in state jobs.
    “In addition, all the appointments and dismissals that have taken place in the previous period will be placed under study, evaluation and review,” said the secretariat.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

11/24/2021 Humanitarian Situation Worsening In Yemen’s Marib Conflict Zone - IOM
FILE PHOTO: Women and children wait outside a clinic at a camp for internally displaced
people (IDPs) in Marib, Yemen, November 3, 2021. REUTERS/Nabeel al-Awzari/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The number of displaced people in camps in Yemen’s Marib province has risen nearly 10-fold since September, with over 45,000 people fleeing their homes as Houthi forces press an offensive, the U.N. migration agency IOM said on Wednesday.
    Conditions at 137 displacement sites are poor and deteriorating, the IOM said, calling for more funding and warning of a larger exodus should fighting reach Marib city, the capital.
    “We’ve not witnessed this much desperation in Marib in the last two years as we have in the last two months,” said IOM Yemen chief representative Christa Rottensteiner.
    “Communities are being repeatedly displaced and arriving at our sites in dire need,” Rottensteiner said, adding that up to 40 people sometimes share one small tent.
    The Iran-aligned Houthis have advanced on most districts in energy-rich Marib, which is the internationally recognised government’s last stronghold in the country’s north.
    Marib city is home to three million people, including nearly 1 million who fled other parts of Yemen after the Houthis ousted the government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting a Saudi-led coalition to intervene in the conflict.
    “IOM is extremely concerned about the prospect that hundreds of thousands of people might be forced to move again if violence reaches the city, as well as rising civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure,” said Rottensteiner.
    The war has caused what the United Nations describes as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.    IOM said this year’s $3.85 billion aid response plan is only 57% funded, and that the agency itself has received only half its requested $170 million.
    U.N.-led efforts to agree a ceasefire have stalled in the conflict, which is seen largely as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.    The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.
(Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/24/2021 Ethiopian Leader Heads To War’s Front Lines As Olympians Join The Military
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrives for the inauguration ceremony of the Meskel square, marking
the last election rally he will hold in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 13, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has gone to direct the war from the front lines, state-affiliated media reported on Wednesday, as two Olympian athletes announced they were enlisting in the military.
    Gold medallist Haile Gebrselassie, who set 27 long distance running records, told Reuters he was joining up. So is Olympic silver medallist runner Feyisa Lelisa, local media reported.
    “What would you do when the existence of a country is at stake?    You just put down everything.    Alas, nothing will bind you.    I am sorry!” Haile told Reuters https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/ethiopian-olympic-gold-medallist-haile-gebreselassie-join-war-ready-pay-ultimate-2021-11-24.
    While Abiy is away, Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen Hassen would take charge of routine government business in his absence, government spokesman Legesse Tulu told a news conference, according to a report from Fana news outlet.
    Abiy announced late on Monday he was planning to personally direct the fight against Tigrayan forces and their allies.
    “Let’s meet at the war front,” he wrote “The time has come to lead the country with sacrifice.”
    Last month Tigrayan forces and their allies threatened to march on the capital Addis Ababa.    They have also been fighting fiercely to try to cut a transport corridor linking landlocked Ethiopia with the region’s main port Djibouti.
    On Tuesday, U.S. Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman said the Ethiopian military and regional militias had been able to hold back Tigrayan attempts to cut the corridor, but Tigrayan forces had been able to move south towards the capital.
    Ethiopia’s military spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.
    Ethiopian police have trained around 147,000 civilians in the capital to form neighbourhood defence groups https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/residents-patrol-ethiopian-capital-after-tigrayan-forces-advance-2021-11-24 and help detect possible infiltrates, police told Reuters.
DIPLOMATS EXPELLED
    Feltman, along with former Nigerian president turned African Union envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, has been trying to broker a ceasefire between the two sides.
    On Tuesday, Feltman said that nascent progress risked being overshadowed by military developments.
    On Wednesday, Ethiopia expelled four of six Irish diplomats from the country because of Ireland’s stance on the conflict, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said.
    Ireland has been at the forefront of calling for meetings of the U.N. Security Council on Ethiopia and pushing for council statements on the conflict since it joined the 15-member body in January.
    “Ireland has been shining a spotlight on things that have been happening in Ethiopia that really are breaches of international law and are of serious humanitarian and human rights concern,” he told Ireland’s RTE radio.
    “We’ve already had unfortunately a lot of death and a lot of killing in Ethiopia this year, but it could get an awful lot worse in the next few weeks …and that is why, unfortunately, the Ethiopian government has decided to target Ireland.”
    Dina Mufti, spokesperson for the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    The Irish foreign ministry said its embassy would remain open, but that it had asked its citizens to leave by commercial means immediately, and said those planning to visit should avoid travel.
    Also on Wednesday, Switzerland and Britain advised their citizens to leave Ethiopia, citing the worsening security situation. France and the United State have already called on citizens to leave.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom; Additional reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin; Editing by Alex Richardson)

11/24/2021 Libya Election Panel Rejects Gaddafi’s Son As Presidential Candidate
FILE PHOTO: Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, attends
a hearing behind bars in a courtroom in Zintan May 25, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer
    TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libya’s election commission said on Wednesday that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the former ruler and a major candidate in December’s planned presidential election, was ineligible to run, compounding the turmoil surrounding the vote.
    Gaddafi was one of 25 candidates the commission disqualified in an initial decision pending an appeals process that will ultimately be decided by the judiciary.    Some 98 Libyans registered as candidates.
    Disputes over the election rules, including the legal basis of the vote and who should be eligible to stand, threaten to derail an internationally backed peace process aimed at ending a decade of violent factional chaos.
    The commission said Gaddafi was ineligible because he had been convicted of a crime.    A Tripoli court sentenced him to death in absentia in 2015 for war crimes committed during the uprising against his late father Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
    He appeared in that trial by videolink from the town of Zintan, where he was being held by fighters who captured him as he tried to escape Libya after his father’s overthrow.    He has denied wrongdoing.
    Two other well-known candidates, former premier Ali Zeidan and former parliament Nouri Abusahmain, were also excluded.
    Some of the candidates approved by the commission, including likely frontrunners, have also been accused of possible violations by political rivals.
    Interim prime minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah vowed not to run for president as a condition of taking on his present role, and did not stand down from it three months before the vote as is required by a contested election law.
    Another prominent candidate, eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, is said to have U.S. nationality, which could also rule him out.    Many people in western Libya also accuse him of war crimes committed during his 2019-20 assault on Tripoli.
    Haftar denies war crimes and says he is not a U.S. citizen. Dbeibah has described as “flawed” the election rules issued in September by the parliament speaker Aguila Saleh, who is also a candidate.
    U.N. Libya envoy Jan Kubis, who is stepping down from his post, told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that Libya’s judiciary would make the final decision on the rules and on whether candidates were eligible.
(Reporting by Hani Amara, Ayman al-Warfali and Ahmed Elumami; writing by Angus McDowall; editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/24/2021 Nigeria’s President Says Aiteo Oil Spill Will Be ‘Speedily Addressed’
FILE PHOTO: Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari speaks during the 75th anniversary celebrations
of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at UNESCO
headquarters in Paris, France, November 12, 2021. Julien de Rosa/ Pool via REUTERS
    ABUJA (Reuters) – An oil spill in Nigeria’s Delta region that has been spewing for more than two weeks will be “speedily addressed,” President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement on Wednesday.
    Nigerian oil firm Aiteo Eastern E&P reported the spill on Nov. 5 in the Nembe area of Bayelsa state in Nigeria’s Delta, one of the most polluted places on earth after decades of spills that have hurt farming and fishing.
    Videos shared with Reuters last week showed oil gushing from the wellhead.    On Wednesday, locals said the spill continued.
    Buhari’s minister of state for petroleum, Timipre Sylva, led a high-level delegation that visited the site on Wednesday.
    Sylva, in the statement issued by Buhari’s office, said relevant agencies had been deployed in the area to tackle the spill and that he was working to ensure that there were no problems between Aiteo and the community.    In a statement on Nov. 20, Aiteo said it had contracted well control specialists Boots & Coots, a Halliburton subsidiary, to get the spill in check.
    The company initially said the leak was “of an extremely high order” and that efforts to reach the site were aborted due to the high pressure of the leak.
(Reporting By Felix Onuah in Abuja; Additional reporting by Tife Owolabi; Writing by Libby George;Editing by Leslie Adler)

11/24/2021 Turkey, UAE Sign Investment Accords Worth Billions Of Dollars by Orhan Coskun
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan,
the UAE's de facto ruler, review a guard of honour during a welcome ceremony in Ankara, Turkey,
November 24, 2021. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    ANKARA (Reuters) -Turkey and the United Arab Emirates signed accords for billions of dollars of investments on Wednesday, including in technology and energy, after talks between President Tayyip Erdogan and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
    Sheikh Mohammed’s visit to Ankara, the first in years, comes as the two countries work to mend frayed ties and amid a currency crisis in Turkey.
    The memorandums of understanding were signed between the Abu Dhabi Development Holding (ADQ), Turkish Wealth Fund (TVF), and the Turkish Presidency Investment Office, as well as with some Turkish companies.
    The agreements highlight the countries’ pivot towards partnership after a battle for regional influence since the Arab uprisings erupted a decade ago.    The disputes extended to the eastern Mediterranean and Gulf, before Ankara launched a regional charm offensive last year.
    Sheikh Mohammed said he had had “fruitful” talks with Erdogan on strengthening bilateral ties.
    “I look forward to exploring new cooperation opportunities to benefit our two nations and advance our mutual development goals,” he said on Twitter.
    ADQ signed an accord on investing in Turkish technology firms and establishing a technology-oriented fund, while Abu Dhabi Ports signed a deal on port and logistics cooperation.
    A deal between ADQ and Turkish company Kalyon on energy and infrastructure, another with CCN Group on health cooperation, and a third with Turkey’s Presidency Investment Office on renewable energy were also among the agreements, a Turkish official said.
$10 BILLION FUND
    “Problems with the UAE are now behind us. We are entering a period based fully on cooperation and mutual benefit,” said another official familiar with preparations for Wednesday’s visit, and added the UAE investment would ultimately be in the billions of dollars.
    The UAE announced a $10 billion fund to support mainly strategic investments in Turkey, including in the health and energy fields, its state news agency WAM said.
    Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency cited Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu saying he would visit Abu Dhabi in December and that the two countries held “very constructive” talks.
    The Turkish and Emirati central banks also signed a cooperation agreement on Wednesday.    Earlier, two sources said they were holding talks about a potential swap agreement.
    Turkey’s central bank has previously sought swap deals with other countries as a source of hard currency to build reserves and support the lira, which has lost as much as 45% this year.
    It has swap agreements worth $6 billion with China, $15 billion with Qatar and $2 billion with South Korea, for a total of $23 billion.
    Turkey said in September it was in talks with the UAE over investments in energy such as power generation.    The UAE, whose sovereign wealth funds have made significant investments in Turkish online grocer Getir and e-commerce platform Trendyol, has said it seeks deeper economic ties with Ankara.
    Turkey, at odds with several regional powers as well as its Western allies over various issues, has launched similar normalisation efforts with its rivals Egypt and Saudi Arabia, though those channels have yielded little public improvement.
(Additional reporting by Saeed Azhar in Dubai, Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul, and Lilian Wagdy in Cairo; Additional reporting and writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Editing by Dominic Evans, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Timothy Heritage and Gareth Jones)

11/24/2021 Israel Signs Defence Pact With Morocco, As Cooperation With New Arab Partners Builds by Ahmed Eljechtimi
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz attends a cabinet meeting at the
Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, November 21, 2021. Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS
    RABAT (Reuters) – Israel signed a defence pact with Morocco on Wednesday, its latest public display of readiness to advance national security interests in tandem with Arab countries that have drawn closer to it amid shared concern over Iran and Islamist militancy.
    The memorandum of understanding could herald intelligence cooperation, arms deals and joint military training, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said in Rabat.
    His two-day visit came within weeks of an Israeli-hosted air force drill that was attended by an Emirati general, and naval maneuvers by Israel, UAE and Bahrain.    The two Gulf states, along with Morocco and Sudan, forged relations with Israel last year.
    After the signing ceremony with Abdellatif Loudiyi, Morocco’s defence administration minister, a senior Gantz aide said he saw a Moroccan market for Israeli counter-insurgency know-how.
    “This is a deal that will enable us to help them with what they need from us, of course subject to our interests in the region,” the aide, Zohar Palti, told Israel’s Kan broadcaster.
    “Morocco has for years been battling terror on several fronts, and is a country that is struggling against al Qaeda and global jihadi groups.”
    Rabat had no immediate comment on Wednesday’s agreement.    Its Royal Armed Forces said the countries previously signed an memorandum on cyber cooperation and data security – the latter a possible preamble to purchases of high-end Israeli military technologies.
    Israeli media have speculated about possible sales to Morocco of pilotless aircraft or missile defence systems.
    The chief of Israel’s air force, Major-General Amikam Norkin, declined to discuss any such specific prospects at a conference on Tuesday, saying only that he favoured “airpower diplomacy” with Arab partners to help offset Iran’s clout.
    “I think that this (Gantz visit to Rabat) is an opportunity,” Norkin said, recalling how, at this month’s Dubai Airshow, his Moroccan counterpart had come to introduce himself and “added a few sentences in Hebrew” when they conversed.
    Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid travelled to Morocco in August for the first visit by Israel’s top diplomat to that country since 2003.
(Additional reporting by Dan Williams and Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller, Alex Richardson and Alistair Bell)

11/24/2021 United Nations Calls For Immediate End To Fighting In Ethiopia
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses the media at the end of his visit
to mark five years since the signing of a peace deal between the FARC rebels and the Colombian
government in Bogota, Colombia November 24, 2021. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez
    BOGOTA (Reuters) – United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for an end to fighting in Ethiopia while in Colombia’s capital Bogota on Wednesday, urging Ethiopian leaders to follow the Andean country’s example of peace.
    Guterres, who was visiting Colombia to mark the five-year anniversary of the peace deal between the government and the demobilized leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, called for an immediate end to hostilities.
    “The peace process in Colombia today inspires me to make an urgent call to the protagonists of the conflict in Ethiopia for an unconditional and immediate ceasefire,” Guterres said during a joint address with Colombia’s President Ivan Duque.
    War in Ethiopia broke out in November 2020 in the country’s Tigray region between Ethiopian federal troops and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.    In July, the conflict spread into two neighboring regions in northern Ethiopia.
    Ending fighting in Ethiopia would allow a dialogue to take place between Ethiopians, Guterres said, permitting the country to once again contribute to the stability of the region.
    “I would very much like Colombia to be the example followed by the leaders in Ethiopia,” Guterres added.
    Guterres also urged Colombian lawmakers to ratify the ratify Escazu Accord, an agreement among Latin American and Caribbean countries that enshrines protections for those working on environmental causes.
    According to advocacy group Global Witness, Colombia is the most dangerous country for environmental defenders in the world, with a record 65 killed in 2020.
    Colombia’s government has blamed crime gangs and leftist rebels involved in drug trafficking for the rise in activist killings.
(Reporting by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Chris Reese and Sam Holmes)

11/24/2021 Burkina Faso Government Extends Internet Suspension Amid Protests
FILE PHOTO: Civil organisations hold a protest following an attack on a gendarmerie post that killed
32 people, calling for Burkina Faso's President Roch Kabore to resign and for departure of French
forces that patrol the country, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso November 16, 2021. REUTERS/Anne Mimault
    OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) – Burkina Faso’s government, facing mounting public anger over repeated killings by Islamist militants, extended its suspension of mobile internet service on Wednesday while offering conflicting reasons for why access was cut in the first place.
    The authorities cut mobile internet on Saturday, which they later justified by citing a legal provision related to “the quality and security of networks and services and the respect of obligations of national defence and public security.”
    The suspension came amid protests against the government and allied French forces after 49 military police officers and four civilians were killed on Nov. 14 near the northern town of Inata by suspected jihadists.
    The internet cut was due to expire on Wednesday evening, but the government ordered it extended for another 96 hours, citing the same legal provision in a statement signed by government spokesperson Ousseni Tamboura.
    Hours earlier, however, Tamboura provided a different explanation for the initial internet cut in comments to reporters.
    “We thought that our nation needed silence … in order to make sure we are able to bury our soldiers in a dignified manner.    This restriction is linked strictly to that,” he said.
    Many of the military police officers slain in Inata were buried on Tuesday at a ceremony some of their family members and friends criticised as lacking dignity.
    Opponents of President Roch Kabore have called for fresh protests on Saturday against the government’s inability to contain violence by militants from West African regional affiliates of al Qaeda and Islamic State.
    Some of the public’s anger has been directed against former colonial power France, which has thousands of soldiers deployed in the region.
    Hundreds of people in the city of Kaya massed over the weekend to block a convoy of French armoured vehicles on its way to neighbouring Niger.    The convoy has still not been able to leave Burkina Faso.
(Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Leslie Adler)

11/25/2021 Erdogan Faces Uphill Bid To Woo Turkey’s Large Alevi Minority by Daren Butler and Birsen Altayli
Members of the local Alevi community attend a cem, a ceremony filled with symbolic rituals,
music and dance, at a cemevi, the Alevi places of worship, in Istanbul,
Turkey November 11, 2021. Picture taken November 11, 2021. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Ali Erdem leads his Alevi community each week in a ceremony filled with symbolic ritual, music and dance, performing in a place of worship that has been thrust into political debate ahead of Turkish elections due by 2023.
    As a musician plays the lute-like saz and worshippers in red sashes dance in a circle to experience union with God, Erdem recites prayers and tales of persecution that Alevis, Turkey’s largest religious minority, have faced in Turkish history.
    With pre-election polls showing dwindling support for his long-ruling AK Party (AKP), President Tayyip Erdogan recently sent representatives to 1,585 cemevis, the Alevi places of worship, to hear the community’s long list of grievances.
    Erdogan faces an uphill battle to win over a minority – 15-20% of Turkey’s 84 million population – that is mostly left of centre and suspicious of the Islamist-rooted AKP’s objectives after past efforts to address Alevi concerns collapsed.
    Alevi groups have demanded the official recognition of cemevis, the implementation of court rulings on the issue and an end to what they say is assimilation through compulsory religious education and discrimination in public life.
    “The AK Party government is trying to create its own Alevis,” Erdem said before the cemevi ceremony in Istanbul.
    “We were repressed for hundreds of years but never bowed down to anyone,” he said, recounting a series of historical massacres of Alevis.
    Alevis draw on Shi’ite Muslim, Sufi and Anatolian folk traditions, practising rituals which can put them at odds with Turkey’s Sunni Muslim majority.    They are associated with Shi’ite Islam because of their veneration for Ali, whom Shi’ites believe was the Prophet Mohammad’s rightful successor.
    In 1993, 37 people, mostly Alevi intellectuals, were killed in a hotel fire in Sivas province that occurred during a Sunni Islamist protest against the presence at an Alevi festival of a translator of Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses.”
WILL FOR CHANGE?
    A decade ago, Erdogan launched an undertaking to help the Alevis – only for it to collapse amid the turmoil caused by anti-government unrest focused on Istanbul’s Gezi Park in 2013.
    But, amid signs https://www.reuters.com/markets/us/not-currently-available-turks-cant-buy-iphones-other-electronics-after-lira-2021-11-24 of diminishing AKP popularity, the issue re-emerged at a recent cabinet meeting, after which Erdogan pledged to work harder to enable all Turks “to breathe easily.”
    Ali Yurumez, an Alevi association representative at another Istanbul cemevi, said officials who visited the pre-fabricated building had offered to reconstruct it.
    But he rejected this, saying such offers of material help suggested the government was not keen on making legal changes.
    “They were thinking ‘can we create a division among Alevis,’ with an election ahead of us.    But I don’t think Alevis will play along with that game,” he said, sitting below photographs of the victims of the Sivas blaze.
    He said Alevis had recently been targeted with expressions of hate, citing a Sunni theologian’s declaration that an Alevi whose faith is contrary to Islam could not marry a Sunni woman.
    However, Turkish officials said there was a real will for change in the latest overture to the Alevis.
    “The president wants this issue resolved,” a senior AKP official told Reuters.    “The status of place of worship, which has long been demanded, may be given this time.”
    A senior Turkish official acknowledged the potential electoral benefit of such moves on minority rights, but denied that this was the motive for the work regarding Alevis.
    “There may be an impact on votes but this work was launched years ago and was interrupted by the Gezi (Park protests),” he said.    “It is unjust to see this as preparation for an election.”
    In 2016, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Alevis were denied the right to freedom of religion and faced discrimination.    Turkey’s appeals court ruled in 2018 that cemevis were places of worship.
    But the government has not acted on these rulings and there appeared to be diverging government views on cemevis’ status.    The senior AKP official said they might be designated as cultural centres, exempting them from rent and utility payments.
    Such a move would fall short of Alevi demands for place of worship status, even if there were financial benefits for cemevis that rely on private donations to finance the practice of the Alevi faith in the absence of state support.
    By contrast, Turkey’s nearly 90,000 mosques and their staff are financed by the Diyanet, or Religious Affairs Directorate, with a budget approaching $2 billion. But Alevis repeatedly stressed financial help was not what they sought.
    Erdem himself works as a minibus driver ferrying factory workers around before making his way to the cemevi, but rejected the idea of the state paying a wage to faith leaders like him.
    “I would never want a salary.    We would never become the men of the state or the AKP.”
(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun in Ankara and Umit Bektas; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/25/2021 Turkish Police Break Up ‘Violence Against Women’ Protest
Demonstrators run away from a tear gas during a protest against gender-based violence on the International Day
for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in Istanbul, Turkey November 25, 2021. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Riot police fired pepper gas to disperse demonstrators who gathered in Istanbul on Thursday to protest violence against women, some chanting “government resign,” nearly five months after Turkey withdrew from a treaty on the issue.
    The group of several thousand, mostly women, marched to the city centre’s Taksim Square, blocked off with barriers amid a heavy police presence.    The police fired the gas and scuffled with the protesters after urging the crowd to disperse.
    The protest, held to mark the international day for the elimination of violence against women, coincided with other small anti-government protests this week over the sharp slide in the value of the lira currency.
    The protesters chanted and help up banners, demanding urgent action against gender-based violence in Turkey.
    “We are not silent, not afraid, not obeying,” chanted the demonstrators, who rushed at the police barriers.
    At the start of July, Turkey withdrew from an international treaty to combat violence against women, known as the Istanbul Convention and negotiated in Turkey’s biggest city in 2011, in a move strongly criticised by Western allies.
    Erdogan announced the withdrawal in March, saying Turkey would use local laws to protect women’s rights.
(Reporting by Yesim Dikmen, Mehmet Emin Caliskan, Huseyin Aldemir, Umit Bektas; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

11/25/2021 Egypt Revives Ancient Road Connecting Luxor And Karnak
Fireworks explode during the opening ceremony for the restored Avenue of the Sphinxes or Road of the Rams, a 3,000-year-old avenue
that connects Luxor Temple with Karnak Temple, in Luxor, Egypt, November 25, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
    LUXOR, Egypt (Reuters) – A restored road connecting two ancient Egyptian temple complexes in Karnak and Luxor was unveiled on Thursday in a lavish ceremony aimed at raising the profile of one of Egypt’s top tourist spots.
    The procession to reopen the 2.7 km (1.7 mile) road included a reenactment of the ancient Opet festival, where statues of Theban deities were paraded annually during the New Kingdom era in celebration of fertility and the flooding of the Nile.
    President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi marched along the road at the start of the ceremony.    Pharaonic chariots and more than 400 young performers dressed in pharaonic costumes paraded along the avenue.
    The 3,400-year-old road linking the ancient centres of Karnak and Luxor, also known as Road of the Rams or the Avenue of the Sphinxes, is lined with hundreds of ram- and human-headed sphinxes, though over the years many have been eroded or destroyed.
    The road has undergone several restoration efforts since being discovered in 1949, and the latest began in 2017.
    Tourism is a crucial source of jobs and hard currency for Egypt, which has made a concerted effort to lure back the travellers kept away by the coronavirus pandemic.
    In April, 22 ancient royal mummies from Luxor and the nearby Valley of the Kings were borne in procession Egyptian mummies paraded from Cairo’s Egyptian Museum to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation.
    Egypt’s tourism revenues plunged to about $4 billion in 2020, down from $13 billion in 2019.
(Reporting by Sarah El Safty; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Kevin Liffey)

11/25/2021 Israel Slashes List Of Countries That Can Buy Cyber Tech - Report
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Israeli cyber firm NSO Group is seen at one of its branches
in the Arava Desert, southern Israel July 22, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel slashed its list of countries eligible to buy its cyber technologies following concern over possible abuses abroad of a hacking tool sold by Israeli firm NSO Group, Israel’s Calcalist financial newspaper reported on Thursday.
    The newspaper, which did not disclose its sources, said Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates were among countries which would now be barred from importing Israeli cyber tech. The list of countries licensed to buy it had been cut to just 37 states, down from 102.
    Israel’s Defence Ministry, responding to the report, said in a statement it takes “appropriate steps” when terms of usage set in export licenses it issues are violated, but stopped short of confirming any licenses had been revoked.
    Israel has been under pressure to rein in exports of spyware since July, when a group of international news organisations reported that NSO’s Pegasus tool had been used to hack into phones of journalists, government officials and rights activists in several countries.
    Those reports prompted Israel to review the cyber export policy administered by the Defence Ministry.
    Morocco and the UAE, which both normalised relations with Israel last year, as well as Saudi Arabia and Mexico were among countries where Pegasus has been linked to political surveillance, according to Amnesty     International and the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab which studies surveillance.
    NSO has denied any wrongdoing, saying it sells its tools only to governments and law enforcement agencies and has safeguards in place to prevent misuse.
    Earlier this month, U.S. officials placed NSO on a trade blacklist https://www.reuters.com/technology/us-blacklists-four-companies-israel-russia-singapore-citing-spyware-2021-11-03 for selling spyware to governments that misused it.    The company said it was dismayed by the decision, since its technologies “support U.S. national security interests and policies by preventing terrorism and crime.”
    NSO has also faced lawsuits and criticism from big tech firms who accuse it of exposing their customers to hacking. Apple Inc was the latest to sue NSO https://www.reuters.com/technology/apple-files-lawsuit-against-nso-group-2021-11-23 this week.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller)

11/26/2021 Two Planes Bring More Migrants Back To Iraq From Belarus
Iraqi migrants, who voluntarily registered for an evacuation flight from Belarus, board a bus upon
arriving at Erbil International Airport, in Erbil, Iraq, November 26, 2021. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
    ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – Two flights brought hundreds of Iraqis who had sought to enter the European Union back to Iraq from Belarus on Friday, as more migrants begin to lose hope of getting safely into the prosperous bloc.
    The planes touched down in Erbil, capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, in the early hours carrying around 600 Iraqis, mostly Kurds, the Kurdistan government and officials at Erbil airport said.
    Many of the passengers said they were relieved to be home.
    “I don’t want to go back along that route.    It was bad, there was a lot of rain and snow,” said 11-year-old Malak Hassan, whose family had tried to get across the Belarus border into the EU.
    Awat Qader, from Kurdistan, said he had seen migrants beaten while he camped near the Belarus-Lithuania border, and that he would not try the journey again.
    “We had to pay a lot of money even just to get back to Minsk” from the border, he said.
    Iraqis who fled seeking economic opportunity and in some cases political asylum began returning to their country https://www.reuters.com/world/iraqis-check-flight-home-after-failed-attempts-get-into-eu-2021-11-18 a week ago having failed to get into the EU via a route that smugglers promised them would work.
    The EU accuses Minsk of creating the crisis as part of a “hybrid attack” on the bloc – distributing Belarusian visas in the Middle East, flying in the migrants and pushing them to cross the border illegally.    Belarus denies fomenting the crisis.
    In a separate incident on Wednesday, 27 migrants died trying to cross the English Channel when their dinghy deflated, an echo of the 2015 migrant crisis when thousands of people fleeing war in the Middle East drowned on boats bound for Europe.
    Iraq is no longer at war since the defeat of Islamic State in 2017, but a lack of opportunities and basic services, as well as a political system most Iraqis say is corrupt and nepotistic, mean ordinary people see little chance of a decent life at home.
(Reporting by Azad Lashkari in Erbil, Charlotte Bruneau in Baghdad, Ali Sultan in Sulaimnaiya; Writing by John Davison in Baghdad; Editing by Mark Potter)

11/26/2021 Turkey Holds First Kavala Hearing After Row With Western Allies by Ali Kucukgocmen
FILE PHOTO: Lawyers and opposition lawmakers 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. The banner reads: "Gezi cannot be judged!" REUTERS/Dilara Senkaya/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A Turkish court on Friday will hold the latest hearing in the trial of philanthropist businessman Osman Kavala, whose case provoked a diplomatic tussle between Ankara and its Western allies after they called for his immediate release.
    The trial of Kavala, who has been in jail without conviction for more than four years, has been criticised as politically motivated and symbolic of a crackdown on dissent under President Tayyip Erdogan.
    The government rejects this and says Turkey’s courts are independent.
    Last month Erdogan threatened to expel the ambassadors of 10 countries, including the United States, Germany and France, after they echoed a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling that Kavala should be freed.
    The prospect of further deterioration in Western ties added at the time to pressure on Turkey’s lira currency, which has hit new record lows since September due mostly to aggressive interest rate cuts.
‘MEANINGLESS’
    Kavala 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.    He has denied any wrongdoing.
    Kavala, 64, said it would be “meaningless” for him to attend the court hearings as a fair trial was impossible given Erdogan’s comments about him.
    “As a citizen defending the rule of law, I think it is not right to act in a way that would legitimize the current situation the judiciary is exposed to,” he said in a statement.
    Kavala is on trial with 51 other people in a combination of three separate cases over the 2013 protests and a 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan and his government.
    The ECHR called for Kavala’s release in late 2019 over a lack of reasonable suspicion that he committed an offence, ruling that his detention served to silence him.
    The Council of Europe has said it will begin infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released, which could eventually lead to Turkey being expelled from the body.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Gareth Jones)

11/26/2021 South Africa Says UK Flight Ban Over COVID-19 Variant Seems Rushed
A traveller is tested for the coronavirus disease amid a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown,
at the Grasmere Toll Plaza, in Lenasia, South Africa, January 14, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa said on Friday a British ban on flights from six southern African countries because of the detection of a new COVID-19 variant seemed rushed as even the World Health Organization (WHO) was yet to advise on the next steps.
    Scientists have so far only detected the B.1.1.529 variant in relatively small numbers in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong, but they are concerned by its high number of mutations which could help it evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible.
    Britain said the variant was the most significant one found yet after temporarily banning flights from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia from midday on Friday.
    The rand slumped more than 1% against the dollar early on Friday, as the variant made investors cautious.    Hospitality stocks like Tsogo Sun Hotels and City Lodge Hotels plummeted on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, falling 9% and 20% respectively, as South Africa is a major destination for British travellers.
    “Our immediate concern is the damage that this decision will cause to both the tourism industries and businesses of both countries,” South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said in a statement.
    Southern African tourism association SATSA said the British travel restrictions punished countries like South Africa with advanced genome sequencing capabilities.
    South Africa will speak to British authorities to try to get them to reconsider their decision, the foreign ministry added.
    Singapore said it would also restrict arrivals from South Africa and nearby countries to try to keep the variant out, while India issued an advisory to all states to rigorously test and screen international travellers from South Africa and other “at risk” countries.
INFECTIONS RISING
    South Africa has requested an urgent sitting of a WHO working group on virus evolution on Friday to discuss the new variant.
    The country – the worst affected in Africa in terms of total reported cases and deaths – had been experiencing a lull in COVID-19 cases after a severe third wave of infections, until last week when new infections started to pick up.
    On Thursday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) reported 2,465 new cases, almost double the previous day’s number.    Although the NICD did not link the resurgence to the B.1.1.529 variant, leading local scientists suspect it is the cause.
    The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said it strongly discouraged travel bans on countries that had reported the variant.
    “We have observed that imposing bans on travellers from countries where a new variant is reported has not yielded a meaningful outcome.    Rather implementing public health and social measures should be prioritised,” it said in a statement.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Kim Coghill and Mark Potter)

11/26/2021 Turkish Police Break Up ‘Violence Against Women’ Protest
Demonstrators run away from a tear gas during a protest against gender-based violence on the International Day
for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in Istanbul, Turkey November 25, 2021. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Riot police fired pepper gas to disperse demonstrators who gathered in Istanbul on Thursday to protest violence against women, some chanting “government resign,” nearly five months after Turkey withdrew from a treaty on the issue.
    The group of several thousand, mostly women, marched to the city centre’s Taksim Square, blocked off with barriers amid a heavy police presence.    The police fired the gas and scuffled with the protesters after urging the crowd to disperse.
    The protest, held to mark the international day for the elimination of violence against women, coincided with other small anti-government protests this week over the sharp slide in the value of the lira currency.
    The protesters chanted and help up banners, demanding urgent action against gender-based violence in Turkey.
    “We are not silent, not afraid, not obeying,” chanted the demonstrators, who rushed at the police barriers.
    At the start of July, Turkey withdrew from an international treaty to combat violence against women, known as the Istanbul Convention and negotiated in Turkey’s biggest city in 2011, in a move strongly criticised by Western allies.
    Erdogan announced the withdrawal in March, saying Turkey would use local laws to protect women’s rights.
(Reporting by Yesim Dikmen, Mehmet Emin Caliskan, Huseyin Aldemir, Umit Bektas; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

11/26/2021 Rwanda Reinstates 24-Hour Quarantine For All Foreign Visitors Over COVID-19 Variant
FILE PHOTO: Buses wait at the Nyabugogo Bus Park in Kigali, Rwanda. March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Maggie Andresen
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Rwanda will reinstate a mandatory 24-hour quarantine for all visitors arriving from Nov. 28 after the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant, its health ministry said on Friday.
    “Following confirmation of a serious new #COVID19 variant detected in Southern Africa, @RwandaHealth is reinstating the obligatory 24-hour quarantine in designated hotels for all persons arriving into Rwanda, effective Sunday … at noon,” it said on its Twitter account.    Those who quarantine will do so at their own expense, it added.
(Reporting by George Obulutsa, Editing by William Maclean)

11/26/2021 Ethiopia PM At Frontline With Army In Afar Region – State-Affiliated TV
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/File Photo
    NAIROBI (Reuters) - Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is on the frontline with the army fighting rebellious Tigrayan forces in the northeastern Afar region, state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting reported on Friday.
    Abiy was wearing military fatigues and speaking to the television station in the Afaan Oromo and Amharic languages, according to the broadcast.    Reuters could not independently verify exactly where it was filmed.
    “What you see over there is a mountain that was captured by the enemy until yesterday. Now we have been able to fully capture it,” Abiy said, wearing a hat and sunglasses.
    “The morale of the army is very exciting,” he said, promising to capture the town of Chifra, on the border between Tigray and Afar, “today.”
    “We won’t flinch backward till we bury the enemy and ensure Ethiopia’s freedom. What we need to see is an Ethiopia that stands by itself, and we will die for it,” Abiy said.
    Abiy announced late on Monday night that he was going to the frontlines to direct the fight against rebellious forces from the northern region of Tigray and their allies.
    The Tigrayan forces have threatened to push into the capital Addis Ababa or to try to cut a corridor linking landlocked Ethiopia with the region’s largest port.
    U.S. Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman said this week that the Tigrayan forces had been able to make progress south towards the capital but that the military had beaten back several attempts to cut the transport corridor on the eastern front.
    The spread of the year-old conflict into the neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions mean that 9.4 million need food aid as a direct result of ongoing conflict, the U.N.’s World Food Program announced on Friday.    More than 80% of those in need are behind the battlelines, it added.
    “Corridors into Tigray had been closed due to the recent Tigrayan offences on Afar and Amhara, as well as severe disruptions in clearances from Federal Government.    Since mid-July, less than a third of the supplies required … have entered the region,” the organisation said.
(Reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Editing by Alison Williams, Alex Richardson and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

11/26/2021 Israel Bans Arrivals From Most Of Africa Over New Coronavirus Variant
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends a cabinet meeting at the
Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, November 21, 2021. Abir Sultan Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israel on Friday imposed a travel ban on most African states, after reporting cases of a new and potentially vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa.
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett widened a ban https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-safrica-israel-idUSL8N2SG57Kannounced on Thursday on the entry of foreigners from seven African countries and travel to them.
    “We are currently on the verge of a state of emergency https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israeli-pm-warns-state-emergency-due-new-coronavirus-variant-2021-11-26,” he said, adding that the B.1.1.529 variant had “arrived at a very complicated time,” coinciding with the Hanukkah vacation when children, mostly unvaccinated, are out of school.
    Bennett said a few cases had been reported in Israel, including at least person who had already received a vaccine booster shot.
    “That doesn’t mean the vaccines are no good (against the new variant).    It might mean they are effective to a certain degree,” said Bennett, who met Israeli health experts before the travel edicts were announced.
    Under the broader restrictions, all African nations, except those in North Africa, were added to Israel’s “red list” of high-risk countries.
    Other authorities including in the EU and Britain also reacted with alarm to the new variant, while the World Health Organisation (WHO) https://www.reuters.com/world/who-cautions-against-imposing-travel-restrictions-due-new-variant-2021-11-26cautioned countries against hastily imposing travel restrictions, favouring a “risk-based and scientific approach.”
    Bennett told journalists a national lockdown was not an option at the moment, though Israel’s coronavirus panel of experts would reconvene on Saturday night to discuss possible additional measures.
    Israel has recorded 1.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 8,000 fatalities since the pandemic began.
    Around 43% of Israel’s population of 9.4 million have received three doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller and Ari Rabinovitch; editing by John Stonestreet)

11/26/2021 Ethiopia Restricts Information Sharing About War
FILE PHOTO: A general view of Hitsats refugee camp in the Tigray region
of Ethiopia, photographed in 2019. Natalia Paszkiewicz/Handout via REUTERS
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Ethiopia has announced new restrictions on the sharing of information about the war in the north of the country which stipulate that battlefront updates can only come from the government.
    “Disseminating information on military maneuvers, war front updates and results via any medium is forbidden,” except for information provided by a joint civilian-military command set up to oversee a state of emergency, the government’s communication service said late on Thursday.    The statement did not specify the implications of the new rules for journalists or media outlets covering the war, which broke out last November between the government and rebellious forces from the northern region of Tigray.
    It did not, for instance, address the consequence of publishing information provided by unauthorized sources.    Ethiopia’s media regulator did not return calls from Reuters seeking clarification on the matter.    The prime minister’s spokeswoman, Billene Seyoum, told Reuters on Friday, “The state of emergency prohibits unauthorized entities from disseminating activities from the front via various channels including media.”    She did not elaborate.
    Ethiopia’s parliament designated the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the party that controls most of Tigray, a terrorist group earlier this year. In its statement, the government’s communication service instructed “those using freedom of speech as a pretext … to support the terrorist group” to refrain from doing so.    Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed oversaw sweeping reforms when he took office in 2018, including the unbanning of more than 250 media outlets, the release of dozens of journalists and the repeal of some widely criticized media laws.    However, some rights groups say press freedom has eroded since then as the government has faced outbreaks of deadly violence, including the conflict in Tigray and neighbouring regions.    At least 38 journalists and media workers have been detained since early 2020, most of them since the conflict began, according to a Reuters tally.
    Asked about the arrests in May, Ethiopia’s media regulator said “freedom of expression and the protection of the press are sacred values that are enshrined in the Ethiopian constitution.”
(Reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Editing by Alexandra Zavis and Nick Tattersall)

11/26/2021 Thousands Protest In Sudan Over Deal Between The Prime Minister, Military by OAN Newsroom
Thousands of protesters take to the streets to renew their demand for a civilian government in the
Sudanese capital Khartoum, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. The rallies came just days after the military signed a power-sharing
deal with the prime minister, after releasing him from house arrest and reinstating him as head of government.
The deal came almost a month after the generals orchestrated a coup. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)
    Thousands of people in Sudan are protesting against a deal made between the military and the prime minister.    On Thursday, tens of thousands of Sudanese flooded the streets of Khartoum and other cities to protest after military leaders struck a deal to bring back civilian Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok.
    Demonstrators gathered in opposition of the prime minister’s reinstatement while accusing him of committing “treason.”    Those gathered were heard chanting “power to the people” and “a civilian government is the people’s choice.”
    “The oppression that the security uses against people is plenty and intended at making sure the street’s voice is not heard,” stated a protester by the name of Intissa.    “Now, the sound of bombs (tear gas or bullets) is behind me, but so is the sound of protesters which are remaining peaceful.    No to deals with the coup instigators.”
    Despite authorities claiming they are committed to democracy and freedom of speech, Sudanese protestors continue in their fight against oppressive army generals.

11/26/2021 South Africa Claims Found New COVID Variant, Mainstream Media Already Calls New Strain ‘Worst Ever’ Despite Lack Of Data by OAN Newsroom
People lineup to get on the Air France flight to Paris at OR Tambo’s airport in Johannesburg,
South Africa’, Friday Nov. 26, 2021. A slew of nations moved to stop air travel from southern Africa on
Friday in reaction to news of a new, potentially more transmissible COVID-19 variant that has been detected
in South Africa. Scientists say it is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread
among young people in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
    An alleged new variant of COVID-19 is found in South Africa amid media claims of rising cases ahead of the Christmas holiday season.    In a statement Thursday, the South African Health Ministry said the new variant was first found in Hong Kong and Botswana among airline passengers from the rainbow nation.
    Scientists have said the new variant has a “i>constellation of new mutations/i>,” but it’s unclear how infectious it is.    This comes after the Delta variant went into “self-extinction” in Japan due to multiple mutations.
    “Everyone that gets infected with the same viruses that transmitting and have the numbers to transmit to the population…and that it is at the moment what we should be focusing at,” stated Professor Tulio De Oliveira, Director of South African Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation.    “Not really on the origin of the variants, we will never know if the origins originate in South Africa, neighboring country or someone that arrived by plane.”
    Mainstream media is already claiming the new variant is “the worst ever” despite the lack of data on its transmissibility.

11/26/2021 Hezbollah Spent $10 Million On Iranian Fuel For Lebanese, Nasrallah Says
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addresses his supporters through a screen during a rally
commemorating the annual Hezbollah Martyrs' Day in Nabatieh, Lebanon, November 11, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said on Friday the group had spent more than $10 million on free and subsidized fuel sourced from Iran for the Lebanese people since September.
    In a televised address, Nasrallah said $2.6 million worth of fuel had been provided for free to Lebanese NGOs, municipalities, government hospitals and other organizations, while more than $7.5 million had been sold at subsidized rates.
    He said the program would go on for one more month and then end, and that those living above 500 meters altitude would be prioritized as the cold winter months approach.
    Hezbollah began importing Iranian fuel via Syria in September in a move the party said was aimed at addressing shortages in the country driven by its crushing economic crisis.
    The fuel has been transported by convoys of trucks from Syria’s Banyas port to Lebanon in an effort to avoid potential U.S. sanctions on Lebanon for dealing with Iran.
    Fuel shortages in Lebanon peaked over the summer but have eased after the government ended almost all subsidies, leading prices to skyrocket and consumption to drop.
(Reporting by Timour Azhari and Laila BassamEditing by William Maclean and Matthew Lewis)

11/27/2021 Blinken Calls For Speedy Negotiations Over Ethiopia Military Escalation
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks during a meeting
with Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita (not pictured) at the State Department
in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger/Pool
    NAIROBI (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is greatly concerned about Ethiopia’s military escalation and called for urgent negotiations over the crisis, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said.
    The comments came hours after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appeared on the frontline https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/ethiopia-pm-frontline-with-army-afar-region-state-affiliated-tv-2021-11-26 with the national army.
    “Secretary Blinken expressed grave concern about worrying signs of military escalation in Ethiopia and emphasised the need to urgently move to negotiations,” Ned Price said in a statement late on Friday.
    Price released the statement after a phone call between Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and Blinken.
    On Friday, Ethiopia’s state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting reported that Abiy was on the frontline with the army fighting rebellious Tigrayan forces in the northeastern Afar region.    Abiy posted the same video on his Twitter account.
    Abiy’s government has been fighting Tigrayan forces for more than a year, in a conflict that has killed thousands and displaced millions in Africa’s second-most populous nation.
(Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Sam Holmes)

11/27/2021 Sudanese Politicians Released After Beginning Hunger Strike
A person wears a Sudanese flag during a protest,
in Khartoum, Sudan, November 25, 2021. REUTERS/El Tayeb Siddig
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Sudan’s former minister of cabinet affairs Khalid Omer Yousif was released from detention along with others less than a day after beginning a hunger strike, the country’s information ministry said in a statement early on Saturday.
    An army takeover on Oct. 25 halted a power sharing deal between the military and civilians from the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) alliance, and a number of ministers and top civilian officials were detained.
    Also released on Saturday were former Khartoum State governor Ayman Nimir and anti-corruption taskforce member Maher Abouljokh.
    Several high profile politicians remain in custody.
    Yousif and others had began the hunger strike, according to the Sudanese Congress Party, to protest their continued detention despite the signing of a deal between military leaders and civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok which provided for the release of all civilian detainees.
    Several other prominent civilian politicians and activists had been released on Monday and Friday.
    Protests calling for the military to exit politics and be held to account for the deaths of civilian protesters have continued https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/hundreds-sudanese-protest-against-deal-between-pm-hamdok-military-2021-11-25 since the announcement of the deal between military leaders and Hamdok.
    A call has been issued for more mass rallies on Sunday.
    The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said late on Friday that 63 people had been injured during the dispersal of protests on Thursday, including one by gunshot wound in the city of Bahri.
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah, writing by Nafisa Eltahir, editing by Chris Reese)

11/27/2021 South Africa Says Travel Bans Over New Variant Unjustified by Alexander Winning and Tim Cocks
A traveller is tested for the coronavirus disease amid a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, at the
Grasmere Toll Plaza, in Lenasia, South Africa, January 14, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -South Africa said on Friday that imposing restrictions on travellers from the country because of a newly identified COVID-19 variant was unjustified, after a British ban on flights from southern African countries that others have followed.
    Health Minister Joe Phaahla told a media briefing that South Africa was acting with transparency and travel bans were against the norms and standards of the World Health Organization (WHO), which held an emergency meeting over the variant named omicron.
    Scientists have so far only detected the variant in relatively small numbers, mainly in South Africa but also in Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel.    But they are concerned by its high number of mutations which raised concerns that it could be more vaccine-resistant and transmissible.
    The WHO designated omicron as “of concern,” its most serious level, following a meeting of its technical advisory group.
    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke on Friday afternoon and discussed ways to reopen international travel, a Downing Street spokesperson said.
    “Our immediate concern is the damage that this decision will cause to both the tourism industries and businesses of both countries,” South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said in a statement.
    Ramaphosa will convene an advisory council on Sunday to consider evidence on the variant.
    The rand currency slumped as much as 2% against the dollar, and South African hospitality stocks plummeted as investors were unnerved.
    Britain said the variant was the most significant found yet and banned flights from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia.    European Union states also agreed to suspend travel to southern Africa, the presidency of the EU said.
    However, Salim Abdool Karim, one of South Africa’s top epidemiologists, said a global response was important, noting the delta variant spread to 53 countries within three weeks of being identified.
    “So it doesn’t really help to close borders… We’ve got to find solutions to this variant together.    And part of that is not to overreact,” he told Reuters in an interview, characterising the British travel ban as a “panic reaction” that was understandable.
VACCINE FOCUS
    Scientists expressed frustration at the travel bans, saying the focus should be on getting more people vaccinated in places that have struggled to access sufficient shots.    It could take weeks for scientists to fully understand the impact of the variant’s mutations.
    “This virus can evolve in the absence of adequate levels of vaccination. It’s upsetting that it takes this to happen to get the point across,” Richard Lessells, a South Africa-based infectious disease expert, told Reuters.
    In South Africa about 35% of adults are fully vaccinated, higher than in most other African nations, but half the government’s year-end target.    While the continent struggled initially to obtain sufficient doses, some countries including South Africa now have too much stock, with vaccine hesitancy and apathy slowing the inoculation campaign.
    South Africa has been the country worst affected in Africa in terms of total reported COVID-19 cases and deaths, with nearly 3 million infections and more than 89,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.    It had been experiencing a lull after a severe third wave of infections, until last week when new infections started to pick up.
    On Thursday, it reported 2,465 new cases, almost double the previous day’s number. On Friday, there was a more modest rise in daily infections to 2,828 new cases.
(Additional reporting by Wendell Roelf in Cape Town, Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Emma Rumney in Johannesburg, and Alistair Smout in LondonEditing by John Stonestreet, Frances Kerry, Toby Chopra and Cynthia Osterman)

11/27/2021 Jordanians Protest Against Water-For-Energy Deal With Israel by Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Muath Freij
Jordanians carry flags and placards as they demonstrate against the declaration of intent for water-for-energy deal
signed by Israel, Jordan and the UAE, in Amman, Jordan November 26, 2021. REUTERS/Muath Freij
    AMMAN (Reuters) – Several thousand Jordanians protested on Friday against a water-for-energy deal with Israel and the United Emirates, calling on their government to scrap its peace agreement with Israel and saying any normalisation was a humiliating submission.
    Police were deployed heavily around a downtown area of the capital Amman leading to the Husseini mosque where demonstrators marched after Friday prayers.
    “No to the agreement of shame,” protesters chanted, some carrying banners such as “Normalisation is Treason” in a protest organized by a mix of opposition parties including Islamists and leftists as well as tribal groups and unions.
    Jordan, Israel and the UAE signed the deal https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/israel-jordan-partner-water-for-energy-deal-israeli-ministry-says-2021-11-22/#:~:text=JERUSALEM%2FDUBAI%2C%20Nov%2022%20(,deal%20between%20the%20two%20countries last Monday in the presence of U.S. climate envoy John Kerry.     Under the agreement, Jordan would install 600 megawatts of solar power generating capacity to be exported to Israel, while Israel would provide water-scarce Jordan with 200 million cubic metres of desalinated water.
    The UAE, which became the first Gulf state to normalise relations with Israel last year, was expected build the solar plant in Jordan.
    The initiative is subject to feasibility studies, but if it comes to fruition it will be one of the largest regional cooperation projects undertaken between Israel and Arab countries, Western diplomats say.
    “This deal is aimed at linking Jordan with the Zionist entity completely.    It is not a trade deal, it is a normalization deal that is shameful and humiliating,” said Ali Abu Sukkar, a prominent Islamist opposition figure.
    Many Jordanians oppose the normalisation of ties with Israel that resulted from a landmark peace deal in 1994, which opened the way for far-reaching cooperation in energy, water and gas.
    Anti-Israel sentiment runs high in a country where most of the 10 million citizens are of Palestinian origin.    They or their parents were expelled or fled to Jordan in the fighting that accompanied the creation of Israel in 1948.
    After the deal was announced this week sporadic demonstrations sprang up at university campuses across the country in defiance of a ban on protests.    Hundreds of students chanted anti-Israel slogans and called on the government to sever ties with its neighbour and scrap the project.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi Additional reporting by Jehad Abu Shalbak, Editing by William Maclean)
[SOME ENTITY IS TRYING TO THROW A WRENCH INTO THE ABRAHAM ACCORD AND ALL WAS GOING SMOOTH UNTIL THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION BEGAN TO INTERFERE WITH IT SO LETS SEE WHAT COMES OF THIS.].

11/27/2021 Israel To Ban Entry Of Foreigners From All Countries Over Omicron by Maayan Lubell
FILE PHOTO: A passenger arrives to a terminal at Ben Gurion international airport before Israel bans international
flights, taking effect from Monday midnight until the end of January, in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) and new coronavirus strains, in Lod near Tel Aviv, Israel January 25, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel on Saturday said it would ban the entry of all foreigners into the country, making it the first country to shut its borders completely in response to a new and potentially more contagious coronavirus variant, and said it would use counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology in order to contain the spread of the Omicron variant.
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement that the ban, pending government approval, would last 14 days.    Officials hope that within that period there will be more information on how effective COVID-19 vaccines are against Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa and has been dubbed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.
    “Our working hypotheses are that the variant is already in nearly every country,” Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked told N12’s “Meet the Press,” “and that the vaccine is effective, although we don’t yet know to what degree.”
    Israelis entering the country, including those who are vaccinated, will be required to quarantine, Bennett said.    The ban will come into effect at midnight between Sunday and Monday.    A travel ban on foreigners coming from most African states was imposed on Friday.
    The Shin Bet counter-terrorism agency’s phone-tracking technology will be used to locate carriers of the new variant in order to curb its transmission to others, Bennett said.
    Used on and off since March 2020, the surveillance technology matched virus carriers’ locations against other mobile phones nearby to determine with whom they had come into contact.    Israel’s Supreme Court this year limited the scope of its use after civil rights groups mounted challenges over privacy concerns.
    The variant, which has also been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany and Britain, has sparked global concern and a wave of travel curbs, although epidemiologists say such restrictions may be too late to stop Omicron from circulating globally.
    Israel has so far confirmed one case of Omicron, with seven suspected cases.    The Health Ministry has not said whether the confirmed case was vaccinated.    Three of the seven suspected cases were fully vaccinated, the ministry said on Saturday, and three had not returned from travel abroad recently.
    Around 57% of Israel’s 9.4 million population is fully vaccinated, according to the Health Ministry, which means they have either received a third shot of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine or it has not yet been five months since they received their second dose. Israel has recorded 1.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 8,000 fatalities since the pandemic began.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Leslie Adler)

11/27/2021 Saudi Arabia To Allow Conditional Entry ‘From All Countries’ Despite Omicron
FILE PHOTO: Saudis keeping social distance wait for their turn to check-in their baggages at the
King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 16, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri
    CAIRO (REUTERS) -Saudi Arabia will allow entry to travellers “from all countries” as long as they have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine inside the kingdom, it said on Saturday, a day after suspending flights from seven African countries due to the Omicron variant.
    The ministry said the travellers would be allowed in from next Saturday and would need to quarantine for three days.    It did not mention the flight suspensions.
    Saudi Arabia on Friday suspended flights to and from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini due to concerns related to the Omicron coronavirus variant.
(Reporting by Omar Fahmy and Moataz AbdelrahiemEditing by Nick Macfie)

11/27/2021 Burkina Faso Protest Against Militant Violence Turns Violent by Thiam Ndiaga
A gendarme stands as civil organisations hold a protest calling for Burkina Faso's
President Roch Kabore to resign and for the departure of French forces that patrol the country,
in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, November 27, 2021. REUTERS/Anne Mimault
    OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Protesters burned tyres and pillaged a government building in Burkina Faso’s capital on Saturday after police fired tear gas to disperse a march against the state’s failure to stop a wave of violence by Islamist militants.
    Activist groups called for renewed protests in response to a recent surge of attacks in the West African country, including one by al Qaeda-linked militants https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/death-toll-attack-burkina-security-post-soars-53-2021-11-17 that killed 49 military police officers and four civilians two weeks ago.
    The assault near the northern town of Inata was the deadliest Burkinabe security forces have suffered since an insurgency broke out in 2015 and has fuelled anger against the government and the French military forces that support it.
    Since then, there have been scattered protests against President Roch Kabore’s government. On Saturday morning, military police officers launched tear gas canisters to disperse about 100 protesters who were trying to march toward downtown Ouagadougou, the capital, a Reuters reporter said.
    Demonstrators in the city of Kaya also prevented the passage of a French military convoy on its way to neighbouring Niger for nearly a week.
    In Ouagadougou, protesters erected barricades and burned tyres and trash cans.    Some demonstrators later vandalised a government records building across from the mayor’s office, leaving computers and documents in the street.
    “Since he (Kabore) is in power, terrorists are spreading desolation in this country and he is incapable of finding a solution to this problem. So we ask for his immediate resignation,” Valentin Yamkoudougou, spokesperson for the “Save Burkina Faso” movement that organised the protest, told Reuters.
    Kabore promised in a speech to the nation on Thursday to end “dysfunction” within the military after reports the gendarmes at the base near Inata had run out of food weeks before the attack.
    The public’s angry response to the latest attacks has unnerved the authorities, who cut mobile internet access a week ago and refused to authorise Saturday’s demonstration.
    The United Nations’ special envoy to West Africa said on Thursday he was concerned about the situation in Burkina Faso and warned against any military takeover, following coups in three neighbouring countries over the past year.
(Additional reporting by Anne Mimault; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Alexander Smith and Clelia Oziel)

11/27/2021 Erdogan Orders Probe Into Turkish Lira’s Slump – Anadolu
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting
at the party headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, November 23, 2021. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has ordered an investigation into possible currency manipulation after the lira fell sharply to record lows against the dollar this week, the Anadolu news agency reported on Saturday.
    It said Erdogan had tasked the State Supervisory Council, an auditing agency which reports to the presidency, to identify institutions that had bought large amounts of foreign currency and to determine whether any manipulation had occurred.
    The lira plunged to record lows this week after Erdogan pledged to stick with a policy of easing interest rates.    It has lost as much as 45% of its value this year, with about half of those losses in the last two weeks.
    The currency fell as far as 13.45 to the dollar in a historic 15% selloff https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/turkish-lira-drifts-off-record-low-erdogan-defends-policy-rate-2021-11-23 on Tuesday that followed a speech in which Erdogan defended the central bank’s move to slash its policy rate to 15%, despite inflation of 20%.
    During the speech, he said Turkey was fighting an “economic war of independence” and would not yield to pressure to change course.
    “We are seeing the games that are being played over the exchange rate, interest rates and price rises by those who want to push our country out of the equation,” he said.
    Turkey’s State Supervisory Council can demand that organisations present relevant information and documents, and will forward its findings to relevant authorities, state-owned Anadolu said.
(Reporting by Azra Ceylan; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Helen Popper)

11/27/2021 Sudanese Prime Minister Dismisses Police Chief And His Deputy
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's then-Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, speaks during a Reuters interview
in Khartoum, Sudan August 24, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said on Saturday he dismissed the chief of police, Lieutenant-General Khaled Mahdi Ibrahim Al-Emam, and his deputy.
    Lieutenant-General Anan Hamed Mohammed Omar was appointed as the new police chief and Major General Muddathir Abd al-Rahman Nasr al-Din as his deputy, Hamdok added in a post on Twitter.
(Reporting by Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Enas Alashray; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/28/2021 S. African Doctor Says Patients With Omicron Variant Have “Very Mild” Symptoms by Promit Mukherjee
International check-in counters stand empty as several airlines stopped flying out of South Africa,
amidst the spread of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron, at O.R. Tambo International
Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 28, 2021. REUTERS/ Sumaya Hisham
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A South African doctor who was one of the first to suspect a different coronavirus strain among patients said on Sunday that symptoms of the Omicron variant were so far mild and could be treated at home.
    Dr. Angelique Coetzee, a private practitioner and chair of South African Medical Association, told Reuters that on Nov. 18 she noticed seven patients at her clinic who had symptoms different from the dominant Delta variant, albeit “very mild.”
    Now designated Omicron by the World Health Organization, the variant was detected and announced by South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on Nov. 25 from samples taken from a laboratory from Nov. 14 to Nov. 16.
    Coetzee said a patient on Nov. 18 reported at her clinic being “extremely fatigued” for two days with body aches and headache.
    “Symptoms at that stage was very much related to normal viral infection.    And because we haven’t seen COVID-19 for the past eight to 10 weeks, we decided to test,” she said, adding that the patient and his family turned out to be positive.
    On the same day, more patients came in with similar symptoms, which was when she realised there was “something else going on.”    Since then, she’s seen two to three patients a day.
    “We have seen a lot of Delta patients during the third wave.    And this doesn’t fit in the clinical picture,” she said, adding she alerted NICD on the same day with the clinical results.
    “Most of them are seeing very, very mild symptoms and none of them so far have admitted patients to surgeries.    We have been able to treat these patients conservatively at home,” she said.
    Coetzee, who is also on the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Vaccines, said unlike the Delta so far patients have not reported loss of smell or taste and there has been no major drop in oxygen levels with the new variant.
    Her experience so far has been that the variant is affecting people who are 40 or younger. Almost half of the patients with Omicron symptoms that she treated were not vaccinated.
    “The most predominant clinical complaint is severe fatigue for one or two days.    With them, the headache and the body aches and pain.”
    The news of the new variant emerging from South Africa prompted a swift reaction from several countries, including Britain, which on Friday imposed a travel ban on several southern African countries with immediate effect, a decision South Africa has strongly contested.
    Since Friday, many countries have also banned air travel to and from South Africa, including the United States, other European countries, and some Asian nations.
(Reporting by Promit Mukherjee; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

11/28/2021 Burkina Faso Lifts Internet Suspension A Day After Violent Protest
Gendarmerie members stand watch during a protest, calling for Burkina Faso's President Roch Kabore to resign and for the departure of
French forces that patrol the country, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso November 27, 2021. REUTERS/Vincent Bado
    OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) – The Burkina Faso government said it was lifting a suspension on the mobile internet from Sunday evening, a week after imposing the ban for what it said was security and defence reasons.
    The suspension came amid widespread anger and violent protests in Burkina Faso over what demonstrators said was the government’s inability to stop deadly attacks by Islamist militants.
    Protesters burned tyres and ransacked a government building in the capital on Saturday following a call by activists and opposition parties in response to attacks by militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State that have killed more than 60 members of the security forces and at least a dozen civilians since Nov. 14.
(Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

11/28/2021 UK, Israel To Work Together To Stop Iran Gaining Nuclear Weapons
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
    (Reuters) - Britain and Israel will “work night and day” in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, the foreign ministers of the two countries wrote in a joint article.
    “The clock is ticking, which heightens the need for close cooperation with our partners and friends to thwart Tehran’s ambitions,” the UK’s Liz Truss and her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid wrote in the Telegraph newspaper on Sunday.
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said earlier in the day that his country was “very worried” that world powers will remove sanctions on Iran in exchange for insufficient caps on its nuclear programme, as negotiators convene in Vienna on Monday in a last-ditch effort to salvage a nuclear deal.
    Meanwhile, Israel and Britain will sign a 10-year agreement on Monday to work closely on areas such as cybersecurity, technology, trade and defence, according to the Telegraph.
    The foreign ministers added in the article that Israel will officially become Britain’s “tier one” cyber partner, in a bid to improve its cyber defences as countries around the world face increased threats.
(Reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

11/28/2021 Sudan’s Burhan Dismisses Senior Intelligence Officers, Sources Say
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan attends a news conference
in Paris, France, May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/Pool/File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan’s military leader has overhauled top intelligence positions, dismissing at least eight general intelligence officers and replacing the head of military intelligence, two official sources told Reuters on Sunday.
    The decision by Sovereign Council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan comes a week after he struck a deal to reinstate Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who had been placed under house arrest in an Oct. 25 coup.
    Of the officers dismissed, five were in senior positions and had been in place since before the 2019 overthrow of long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir, the sources said.    On Saturday, official sources said Burhan had replaced the head of the general intelligence service.
    It was not immediately clear what impact the decisions could have on the balance of power https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/sudans-political-transition-balance-2021-11-22 following Hamdok’s return.    Hamdok replaced the country’s top two police officials on Saturday, following deadly violence against anti-military protesters in recent weeks.
    Before the coup, the military had been sharing power with civilian groups that took part in an uprising against Bashir.    Many within those groups have opposed the deal between Burhan and Hamdok, saying they want the army to exit politics.
    One condition of the deal was that political prisoners arrested since the coup should be freed.    Some have been released but others remain in detention.
    The United States, Britain and Norway, which lead Western foreign policy on Sudan, called for the release of all those imprisoned for their political beliefs across Sudan.
    “These are necessary steps to rebuild trust and return Sudan to the path of freedom and democracy,” they said in a statement.
(Reporting by Khalid AbdelazizWriting by Enas Alashray and Aidan LewisEditing by David Goodman and Louise Heavens)

11/28/2021 Emirates Postpones Start Of Tel Aviv Flights
FILE PHOTO: Emirates airliners are seen on the tarmac in a general view of Dubai International Airport in Dubai,
United Arab Emirates January 13, 2021. Picture taken through a window. REUTERS/Abdel Hadi Ramahi/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Dubai airline Emirates has postponed the Dec. 6 launch of flights to Tel Aviv until further notice, a company spokesperson said on Sunday, after Israel announced it would ban foreigners from entering in to combat the latest coronavirus variant.
    “The postponement comes as a result of recent changes in entry protocols issued by the Israeli government.    The airline is committed to launching services to Tel Aviv as soon as the situation allows,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
    Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennet on Saturday said the country would ban all foreigners from entering for 14 days as it awaits more information on how effective COVID-19 vaccines are against the Omicron variant first detected in South Africa.
    Emirates was set to be the third United Arab Emirates airline, after flydubai and Etihad Airways, to start direct flights to Tel Aviv since the two countries established diplomatic relations last year.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by David Goodman)

11/28/2021 Israel Worries Iran Will Get Sanctions Relief Without Capping Nuclear Projects
FILE PHOTO: Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett heads a weekly cabinet meeting
at his office in Jerusalem, November 14, 2021. Ariel Schalit/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israel worries Iran will secure a windfall in sanctions relief in renewed nuclear negotiations with world powers but will not sufficiently roll back projects with bomb-making potential, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday.
    Negotiators will convene in Vienna on Monday https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/low-expectations-nuclear-talks-iran-creates-facts-grounds-2021-11-28 in a last-ditch effort to salvage a nuclear deal which the United States under then-President Donald Trump quit in 2018, reimposing sanctions on Iran.    That led to breaches of the deal by Tehran, and dismayed the other powers involved.
    Israel, which is not a party to the talks, opposed the original 2015 pact as too limited in scope and duration.    Israeli leaders have long threatened military action against Iran if they deem diplomacy a dead end for denying it nuclear weaponry.
    The Islamic Republic says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.
    “Israel is very worried about the readiness to remove the sanctions and to allow a flow of billions (of dollars) to     Iran in exchange for unsatisfactory restrictions in the nuclear realm,” Bennett told his cabinet in televised remarks.
    “This is the message that we are relaying in every manner, whether to the Americans or to the other countries negotiating with Iran.”
    Few expect a breakthrough in the talks as Iran’s uranium enrichment activities have escalated in an apparent bid to gain leverage against the West.
    Six rounds of indirect talks were held between April and June.    The new round begins after a hiatus caused by the election of a new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline cleric. (Reporting by Dan WilliamsEditing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Heinrich)

11/29/2021 Israel’s Lapid Urges World To Keep Up Pressure On Iran
Britain's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid walk after attending a news conference
at the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office in London, Britain, November 29, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
    LONDON (Reuters) – Israel urged world leaders to keep up pressure on Iran and not lift sanctions as part of nuclear negotiations that were set to resume in Vienna on Monday, saying that tighter supervision of Tehran was needed.
    Negotiators were to convene in a last-ditch effort https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/nuclear-talks-resume-west-asks-whether-iran-is-serious-or-stalling-2021-11-29 to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned three years later by the United States under then-President Donald Trump, who then reimposed sweeping U.S. sanctions on Iran.    That led to breaches of the deal by Tehran, and dismayed the other powers involved.
    Israel has warned that Iran, its arch-enemy, will try to secure a windfall in sanctions relief at the talks, without sufficiently rolling back nuclear bomb-making potential through its accelerating enrichment of uranium.
    Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, speaking in London alongside his British counterpart Liz Truss, said Iran was only attending the talks because they wanted access to money.
    “This is what they have done in the past.    And this is what they will do this time as well.    The intelligence is clear, it leaves no doubt,” he told reporters after signing a Memorandum of Understanding on trade, technology and defence with Britain.
    “A nuclear Iran will thrust the entire Middle East into a nuclear arms race; we will find ourselves in a new Cold War.    But this time the bomb will be in the hands of religious fanatics who are engaged in terrorism as a way of life,” Lapid said.
    “The world must prevent this and it can prevent this: tighter sanctions, tighter supervision, conduct any talks from a position of strength.”
    In Jerusalem earlier on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett cautioned world powers to beware of what he described as Iranian “nuclear blackmail.”
    Iran says it is enriching uranium solely for civil uses.
    Truss said Britain was “absolutely determined” to prevent Iran from securing a nuclear weapon.
    “As far as I am concerned, these talks are the last opportunity for the Iranians to come to the table and agree the JCPOA…,” she said, referring to the 2015 deal.    “We will look at all options if that doesn’t happen.”
(Reporting by Paul Sandle in London and Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/29/2021 Congo Denies Agreeing To Joint Operations With Ugandan Army by Hereward Holland and Elias Biryabarema
FILE PHOTO: Congo's President Felix Antoine Tshilombo Tshisekedi addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly
at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo
    KINSHASA (Reuters) -Democratic Republic of Congo’s government on Monday denied agreeing to joint operations with Uganda’s army to track down Islamist rebels accused of suicide bombings in Kampala, insisting the two countries were only sharing intelligence.
    Islamic State said their local affiliate, known as the Allied Democratic Forces https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/who-are-islamic-states-affiliates-central-africa-2021-11-16 (ADF), were behind a Nov. 16 attack which killed seven people, including the three bombers, and injured dozens more.
    News reports about the proposed cross-border campaign, which was confirmed by two diplomatic sources, have sparked anxiety amongst some Congolese, who recall Uganda’s role in civil wars that ended in 2003.
    President Felix Tshisekedi informed the United Nations peacekeeping mission on Friday he had authorised military cooperation with Uganda against the ADF, but did not provide any further details, a senior U.N. diplomat said.
    The second diplomatic source said the same, but also had no more details.
    Congo’s government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said the two armies have been exchanging information for many months, and that no Ugandan troops were currently in Congo.
    “We have not said there will be joint operations.    We have said there will be concerted actions,” he told a news conference, without elaborating.    “If there is a need to go up a notch, we will.”
    Ugandan authorities declined to comment, but last week its foreign minister said his country had the right to pursue the ADF in Congo, where the militia has been based for two decades, and has been blamed for a dozens of massacres in recent years.
    “We have a right to self defence, to hot pursuit.    We can respond in self defence and enter DRC,” Henry Okello Oryem, state minister for foreign affairs, told Reuters.
    Kinshasa is still seeking over $13 billion in reparations from Kampala for Uganda’s involvement in the 1998-2003 conflict.
    Denis Mukwege, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his decades of work treating female victims of conflict, said the decision was unacceptable.
    “No to arsonist-firefighters, the same errors will produce the same tragic effects,” the Congolese gynaecologist said on Twitter.
    Juvenal Munubo, who sits on Congo’s parliamentary Defence and Security Commission, said Uganda’s presence in Congo could also reheat the rivalry between Kampala and Kigali.
(Reporting by Hereward Holland in Kinshasa and Elias Biryabarema in Kampala; Editing by Bate Felix and Angus MacSwan)

11/29/2021 Stop Harmful Travel Curbs, Says South Africa
FILE PHOTO: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses a press conference after the G20 Compact with Africa
conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany August 27, 2021. Tobias Schwarz/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    DAKAR (Reuters) – South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday that the world needed to resist unjustified and unscientific COVID-19 travel restrictions that mostly hurt developing nations.
    Global authorities have reacted with alarm to the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, which was detected in South Africa, with various countries re-imposing travel curbs.
    South Africa said on Saturday it was being punished for its advanced ability to detect new variants early, as bans and restrictions threaten to harm tourism and other sectors.
    “We need to resist unjustified and unscientific travel restrictions that are damaging the economies and sectors of the economies that rely on travel,” Ramaphosa said during a speech at the opening of the China-Africa Summit in Dakar.
    “There is a world order where a country’s wealth is the difference between sickness and health,” he added.
    Senegal’s President Macky Sall, who was hosting the summit, replied that Africa was in solidarity with South Africa and Africa “will not close its doors to South Africa.”
(Reporting by Edward McAllister and Bate Felix; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

11/29/2021 Domestic Politics To Test Kuwait’s Crown Prince In Push For Fiscal Reform by Ahmed Hagagy and Ghaida Ghantous
Kuwait's newly appointed crown prince Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah gestures before he is
sworn in, at the parliament, in Kuwait City, Kuwait October 8, 2020. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee
    KUWAIT (Reuters) – The biggest task facing Kuwait’s octogenarian crown prince after unexpectedly stepping in for the emir this month will be to tackle the perennial political feuding which has long blocked badly needed fiscal reform in the wealthy oil producer.
    Previously a low-profile figure who avoided public politics, little was known about Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah, 81, who was security chief and then deputy of the National Guard before being named crown prince by his half-brother the emir in 2020.
    On Nov. 15, he was moved further into the spotlight when a frail-looking emir temporarily handed him most of his duties as Kuwait focuses on recovering from a coronavirus downturn, though higher oil prices have eased pressure on finances.
    Before the handover, the emir undertook conciliatory moves to defuse a standoff between government and the elected parliament that paralysed legislative work with only one regular session proceeding this year to approve the state budget.
    “Kuwait needs to address its fiscal situation.    I think the focus really will be getting the house in order financially,” said Courtney Freer, fellow at Atlanta’s Emory University.
    This may prove difficult given Sheikh Meshal never held a ministerial post, she said, including that of premier who deals with the Gulf’s liveliest and most powerful legislature.
    The government has sought palliative measures to temporarily boost finances while more structural and fiscal reforms remain deadlocked, including a debt law to tap international markets.
    Successive parliaments have also resisted efforts to introduce new taxes, including value-added tax, and to reform a lavish cradle-to-grave welfare system for Kuwaitis, who account for less than a third of the state’s 4.6 million population.
    The crown prince last week reappointed Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid and tasked him with forming a new cabinet, the third this year under the standoff in which members of parliament wanted to question the premier on various issues.    Sheikh Meshal also met opposition lawmakers.
    “The emir and crown prince see him (Sheikh Sabah) as the most suited and strongest to deal with parliament at the current stage,” said Kuwaiti political analyst Dahem Al Qahtani.
    Analysts say resolution efforts are expected to end the legislative paralysis and further benefit from a divided opposition, some of whom wanted to question Sheikh Sabah on various issues, including perceived corruption.
    “The so-called opposition has serious divisions.    It will be difficult for them to continue united,” said Kuwaiti political analyst Ghanim Alnajjar.
    The new cabinet could also see more than one lawmaker — as had been the norm — become a minister, Al Qahtani said, adding they would be among pro-government legislators.
CLOSE TO SAUDI ARABIA
    Domestic matters are expected to take precedence over foreign policy at a time of simmering tension between Kuwait’s larger and more powerful neighbours Saudi Arabia and Iran, which are locked in several proxy wars around the region.
    Some Kuwait experts say the crown prince is close to Saudi Arabia and may move to further align Kuwait with Riyadh.    His first calls after taking on his brother’s duties were with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
    Sheikh Meshal could seek closer cooperation with Saudi Arabia on security and economic matters, said Abdulaziz Al-Anjeri, founder of Kuwait-based Reconnaissance Research.
    A Western diplomat said Kuwait sent “a strong sign” of support to Saudi Arabia when it followed Riyadh last month in expelling the top Lebanese envoy and recalling its own in a rift with Lebanon over the growing power of Iran-backed Hezbollah.
    However, according to diplomats and analysts, Sheikh Meshal is expected to maintain the balanced foreign policy shaped by late emir Sheikh Sabah that helped steer Kuwait through regional turmoil and from the ruins of Iraq’s 1990 invasion.
    Neither the current emir nor the crown prince, they said, have the diplomatic shrewdness of Sheikh Sabah, a regional conciliator who ran Kuwait’s foreign policy for over 50 years.
    “The capacity to make major foreign policy change is not there and there is no need for it at this time,” said Alnajjar, noting that Riyadh and Abu Dhabi were engaging with Tehran.
(Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy in Kuwait and Ghaida Ghantous in Dubai; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

11/30/2021 U.K. Prime Minister Backs Israel Amid Biden-Iran Nuclear Talks, Says Israel Has Right To Defend Itself by OAN Newsroom
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, left, meets with Jewish community leaders during a visit to the
Talmud Torah synagogue in Rabat, Morocco, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. Israel’s defense minister said Thursday
he hopes a better nuclear deal will come out of upcoming talks between world powers and Iran, but that
Israel is hedging its bets and building up its military capabilities. (AP Photo/Ilan Ben Zion)
    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated his commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.    While speaking at a Conservative Friends of Israel meeting in London on Monday, he said Britain fully supports Israel and he understands that Iran is seeking to destabilize the region.
    “And it is for the sake of peace that the U.K. supports Israel’s right to defend itself with no equivocation, including from hostile states like Iran,” he stated.
    Johnson’s remarks come amid ongoing indirect talks between the Biden administration and the Ayatollah regime to restore the Obama-era nuclear deal.    Israel said even a partial deal would help Iran create a nuclear weapon and must be stopped.
    “We will continue to do everything we can to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and as talks resume in Vienna, we hope that diplomacy could work,” Johnson continued.    “But while the nuclear issue is the most urgent, Iran’s overall behavior has to change.    The attacks at sea, the support for terrorism, the destabilization of the region all form part of the same pattern.”
    The British prime minister said the international community must pressure Iran to stop supporting terror groups, stop attacks on oil tankers and stop destabilizing the Middle East.

11/30/2021 Pentagon Chief Orders Review Of 2019 Syria Strike
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin attends a NATO Defence Ministers meeting at the
Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a four-star general to review a 2019 strike in Syria that caused civilian casualties, the Pentagon said on Monday.
    Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters that General Michael Garrett, the head of U.S. Army Forces Command, would have 90 days to complete his review on the civilians killed, the compliance of the law of war and record keeping.
    Earlier this month the New York Times reported that the U.S. strike in Baghuz, Syria, killed up to 64 women and children during the battle against Islamic State.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
[HERE WE GO AGAIN AS THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION IS TRYING TO FIND SOMETHING THAT TRUMP DID AS ISIS PUT WOMEN AND CHILDREN AT THE FRONT WHILE THEY RAN AWAY LIKE WEAK WOMEN WHEN HE WIPED OUT ISIS WHICH WAS CREATED WHEN OBAMA KILLED GADDAFI AND TRUMP FILLED THE NATIONAL OIL RESERVES WHICH OBAMA EMPTIED IT AND NEVER REFILLED IT AND NOW THE STUPID BIDEN IS TRYING TO EMPTY IT AGAIN SO WHO REALLY NEEDS TO BE INVESTIGATED.].

12/1/2021 Disgraced Ex-President Jammeh Looms Over Gambia Election by Pap Saine and Edward McAllister
FILE PHOTO: A security officer of former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh cries as he arrives at
the airport before flying into exile from Gambia, January 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon
    BANJUL (Reuters) – At a pre-election rally last month, supporters of Gambia’s main opposition coalition cheered the opening of the star attraction – a speech by former President Yahya Jammeh delivered over a crackly phone line from exile 2,000 miles away.
    “(President) Adama Barrow destroyed everything good I left for Gambians to benefit from – the hospitals, agriculture and education,” Jammeh said to enthusiastic applause.    “We should all unite and vote him out.”
    Gambians go to the polls on Saturday and for the first time in 27 years Jammeh, who took power in a 1994 coup, will not be on the ballot.
    He fled to Equatorial Guinea in 2017 after refusing to accept defeat to Barrow, ending a tenure marked by killing, torture, financial plunder and false claims of a homemade cure for AIDS.
    Last week, Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) said between 240 and 250 people died at the hands of the state under Jammeh, and recommended that those responsible be prosecuted.
    Yet Jammeh’s influence remains. In a string of speeches by telephone, he has urged crowds of rapt listeners not to vote for Barrow and has persuaded supporters to join a coalition run by opposition candidate Mama     Kandeh, who came third in 2016 and who Jammeh has described as his “slave.”
    The move has split Jammeh’s APRC party, some members of which have formed an alliance with Barrow’s NPP.
    It has also put pressure on Barrow to convince voters that he has dragged the country out of its difficult past.    That is not a straight-forward task after COVID-19 crippled tourism under Barrow and shrank the tiny economy in 2020.
    Thousands of Europeans flocked to its white sand beaches each year prior to the pandemic.    It is also a peanut and fish exporter.    But unemployment in the country of 2.5 million people forces the young to attempt perilous migration routes to Europe by boat or through the Sahara Desert.
    Jammeh did not respond to requests for comment.    He has denied wrongdoing.    In one recent speech he promised to return home, an unthinkable prospect for some Gambians.
    “For people who were tortured, raped or had loved ones killed under Yahya Jammeh, it’s painful to see him trying to play king-maker instead of answering atrocity charges before a court of law,” said Reed Brody from the non-profit International Commission of Jurists, who has worked with Jammeh’s victims.
ROADS, POWER
    Jammeh’s fall was seen as a major win for democracy in the region, though hopes of a domino affect have largely been dashed by coups in Mali, Chad and Guinea over the past year.    This election is seen as a test of the strength of Gambia’s democracy.
    Barrow will face five challengers, including former mentor Ousainou Darboe and Essa Mbye Faal, who served as chief counsel of the TRRC which chronicled the abuses of the Jammeh era.
    Critics say Barrow’s rule has been characterised by crime and spotty internet and power networks.
    Some are mistrustful of the president.    Barrow initially said he would only serve as a transitional leader for three years after Jammeh left.
    He has made lavish promises on the campaign trail, including to build hundreds of miles of roads and deliver uninterrupted electricity to the whole country by 2023.
    For all the difficulties, many see Barrow’s rule as a welcome break from the past.
    “We are free to express ourselves,” said Ousman Jobarteh, a 47-year-old businessman.    “We go to bed without ever thinking that we might be picked up by agents of the state.”
(Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

12/1/2021 Omicron Variant Could Outcompete Delta, South African Disease Expert Says by Alexander Winning
FILE PHOTO: Syringes with needles are seen in front of a displayed stock graph and words "Omicron
SARS-CoV-2" in this illustration taken, November 27, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The Omicron coronavirus variant detected in southern Africa could be the most likely candidate to displace the highly contagious Delta variant, the director of South Africa’s communicable disease institute said on Tuesday.     The discovery of Omicron has caused global alarm, with countries limiting travel from southern Africa for fear it could spread quickly even in vaccinated populations and the World Health Organization saying it carries a high risk of infection surges.
    “We thought what will outcompete Delta? That has always been the question, in terms of transmissibility at least, … perhaps this particular variant is the variant,” Adrian Puren, acting executive director of South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), told Reuters in an interview.
    If Omicron proves even more transmissible than the Delta variant, it could lead to a sharp spike in infections that could put pressure on hospitals.
    Puren said scientists should know within four weeks to what extent Omicron can evade the immunity generated by vaccines or prior infection, and whether it leads to worse clinical symptoms than other variants.     Anecdotal accounts by doctors who have treated South African COVID-19 patients say Omicron appears to be producing mild symptoms, including a dry cough, fever and night sweats, but experts have cautioned against drawing firm conclusions.     Puren said it was too early to say whether Omicron was displacing Delta in South Africa, since local scientists have only produced 87 sequences of Omicron so far.
    But the fact that cases have started to rise rapidly, especially in the most populated Gauteng province, is a sign that some displacement might already be happening.
    Delta drove a third wave of COVID-19 infections in South Africa that peaked at more than 26,000 cases per day in early July.    Omicron is expected to trigger a fourth wave, with daily infections seen topping 10,000 by the end of the week from around 2,270 on Monday.
    Anne von Gottberg, a clinical microbiologist at the NICD, said it looked like infections were rising throughout the country.
    On Monday, an NICD presentation a flagged a large number of COVID-19 admissions among infants aged under two years as an area of concern.    But von Gottberg cautioned against linking that with Omicron just yet.
    “It looks like in fact some of those admissions might have started before the emergence of Omicron.    We are also seeing that there was an increase in influenza cases just in the last month or so, and so we need to be really careful to look at the other respiratory infections,” she said.
    “We are looking at the data very, very carefully, but at the moment I’m not too sure that we can link it definitively to Omicron.”
    South Africa has been praised for alerting the global scientific community and WHO so quickly to Omicron — a brave move given the damage that travel restrictions imposed by multiple countries including Britain will do to its important tourism sector.
    The country has reported close to 3 million COVID-19 infections during the pandemic and over 89,000 deaths, the most on the African continent.
(Additional reporting by Tim Cocks in Johannesburg; Editing by Alison Williams)

12/1/2021 U.S. Delegation Met With Afghan Taliban Representatives In Qatar - State Department
FILE PHOTO: Head of the Taliban delegation Abdul Salam Hanafi and other members of the delegation take part in
international talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Russia, October 20, 2021. Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A U.S. delegation led by the special representative for Afghanistan, Thomas West, held talks with senior Afghan Taliban representatives in Qatar on Monday and Tuesday, the U.S. State Department said.
    The two sides discussed the international community’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and the U.S. delegation pledged to continue to support U.N. efforts to address the situation, the State Department said in a statement on Tuesday.
    The U.S. officials “expressed deep concern regarding allegations of human rights abuses and urged the Taliban to protect the rights of all Afghans, uphold and enforce its policy of general amnesty and take additional steps to form an inclusive and representative government,” the State Department said.
    The U.S. officials urged the Taliban to implement a commitment on providing countrywide access to education at all levels for women and girls.
    “The Taliban expressed openness to engaging with the international community on full access to education and welcomed efforts to verify and monitor progress to enroll women and girls in school at all levels,” the State Department said.
    It said the U.S. delegation included representatives from the intelligence community, the Treasury Department and the U.S. international aid agency USAID, while “technocratic professionals” also took part on the Afghan side.
(Reporting by Mohammad Zargham and Kanishka Singh; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sam Holmes)

12/1/2021 S. African Data Suggests Omicron Gets Around Some, Not All Immunity by Promit Mukherjee and Estelle Shirbon
General view of a marquee where school leavers attend Rage Festival
in Ballito, South Africa November 30, 2021. REUTERS/Rogan Ward
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The Omicron variant appears able to get around some immunity but vaccines should still offer protection against severe disease, according to the latest data from South Africa where it is fast overtaking Delta to become the dominant variant.
    Omicron, which has raised global fears of a surge in infections, was first detected in southern Africa last week and has prompted governments across continents to impose travel restrictions https://www.reuters.com/world/us-tightens-covid-19-travel-rules-countries-race-quell-omicron-threat-2021-12-01 and take other measures to try and contain it.
    The new variant has been detected in five out of nine South African provinces and was likely to be present all over the country, the latest official report showed on Wednesday.
    The daily number of reported cases doubled to 8,561.    It was not known how many of those were Omicron as not all test samples are subject to genomic sequencing, but an official presentation said Omicron was “rapidly becoming the dominant variant.”
    Omicron accounted for 74% of the 249 virus genomes sequenced in South Africa in November, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), which is collecting data as part of a wider national network for genomic surveillance.
    South Africa conducts genome sequencing on only a small proportion of total samples collected each week.    The NICD did not give a total number of confirmed cases of Omicron infection.
    “(The) mutation profile and epidemiological picture suggests Omicron is able to get around some of our immune protection (to cause infection) but the protection against severe disease and death from vaccines should be less affected,” the latest report from the surveillance network said.
    The earliest sample in which the variant was detected was collected on Nov. 8 in Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous province, where Johannesburg and Pretoria are located.
    Since then, it has been detected in Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga and Western Cape.
PARTY OVER
    Earlier, organisers halted a music festival for young people after 36 people tested positive for COVID-19 at the site.
    The Ballito Rage music festival began on Tuesday in the town of Ballito, north of Durban on South Africa’s eastern coast.    Out of 940 people tested for COVID during the first eight hours of the event, 32 guests and four staff were positive.
    It was not known whether the 36 were infected with Omicron or another variant.
    The Delta variant drove South Africa’s third wave of infections, which peaked at more than 26,000 cases per day in early July.
    Since the start of the pandemic, the country has reported close to 3 million infections and over 89,000 deaths, the most on the African continent.
(Reporting by Promit Mukherjee and Olivia Kumwemda-Mtambo in Johannesburg, Rogan Ward in Durban and Estelle Shirbon in LondonEditing by Sonya Hepinstall)

12/2/2021 Lebanese Minister Whose Comments Sparked Saudi Dispute To Resign Friday, Sources Say
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi meets with Maronite Patriarch Bechara
Boutros Al-Rai (not pictured) in Bkerke, Lebanon October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    (Reuters) – Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi is expected to announce his resignation on Friday to pave the way for a possible resolution of a diplomatic spat between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia sparked by comments he made, sources said on Thursday.
    The sources said Kordahi’s resignation aimed to open the door for negotiations by French President Emmanuel Macron to resolve the dispute during a planned visit to Saudi Arabia this weekend.
    Critical comments by Kordahi on the Saudi-led war in Yemen led Saudi Arabia in late October to expel Lebanon’s envoy to the kingdom, recall its ambassador and ban all imports from Lebanon, dealing a new blow to the country’s ailing economy.
    Other Gulf states that are historical allies of Lebanon, including the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, took similar punitive diplomatic measures.
    Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said last month that the kingdom’s decision to cut ties was driven by Iran-backed Hezbollah’s growing grip on Lebanon and that dealing with Lebanon’s Hezbollah-backed government “is not productive and not helpful.”
    Hezbollah had backed Kordahi’s decision not to resign, saying that Riyadh had contrived the crisis and Lebanon should not bow to foreign dictates.
(Reporting by Laila Bassam; Writing by Timour Azhari; editing by Grant McCool)

12/2/2021 S. Africa’s Health Body Sees Threefold Higher Risk Of Reinfection From Omicron
FILE PHOTO: A nurse prepares a dose of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine as the new Omicron variant
spreads, in Dutywa, in the Eastern Cape province, South Africa November 29, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The new Omicron variant of the coronavirus poses a threefold higher risk of reinfection than the currently dominant Delta variant and the Beta strain, a group of South African health bodies said on Thursday.
    The South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA) and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) said the latest findings “provide epidemiological evidence for Omicron’s ability to evade immunity from prior infection.”
    Their statement was issued after a group of South African health organisations published a paper on medrxiv.org as a pre-print, meaning the work was not yet certified by peer review.
    Earlier in the day, microbiologist Anne von Gottberg at NICD had echoed the same views at an online news conference hosted by the World Health Organization, saying South Africa was seeing an increase in COVID-19 reinfections due to Omicron.
    South Africa had been seeing a sudden spike in daily reported cases of coronavirus with the government reporting 11,535 new infections on Thursday, up from 312 ten days ago.
    The NICD, which alongside a wider network of health organisations does genome sequencing on samples, said on Wednesday the Omicron variant was able to get around some immunity and was fast becoming the dominant variant in the country.
    An analysis of routine surveillance data from South Africa from March 2020 till Nov. 27 showed the “reinfection risk profile of Omicron is substantially higher than that associated with the Beta and Delta variants during the second and third waves,” NICD said in the statement on Thursday.
    An increase of reinfections rather than new infections would be an indication the new variant has developed the ability to evade natural immunity from previous infection, it said.
    Juliet Pulliam, director of SACEMA and the author of the pre-print paper, said in her article that Omicron’s pattern is likely to be established across all provinces of South Africa by early to mid-December, NICD said.
    The analysis is based on 2,796,982 individuals with positive test results at least 90 days prior to Nov. 27, out of which 35,670 were suspected reinfections, it added.
(Reporting by Promit Mukherjee; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Edmund Blair)

12/2/2021 Libya Court Reinstates Gaddafi Presidential Bid Amid Election Chaos
FILE PHOTO: Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's most prominent son, Saif al-Islam,
speaks during an interview with Reuters in Tripoli March 10, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
    TRIPOLI (Reuters) – A Libyan court ruled on Thursday that the son of the late leader Muammar Gaddafi could run for president, his lawyer said, as arguments intensified over the conduct of an election aimed at ending a decade of turmoil.
    Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s appeal against disqualification for the Dec. 24 vote was delayed for days as fighters blocked off the court, one of several incidents that may foreshadow wider election unrest.
    In another incident on Thursday, the elections commission said armed men had stormed five election centres in western Libya, stealing ballot cards.
    Analysts fear a contested vote, or one with clear violations, could derail a peace process that this year led to the formation of a unity government in an effort to bridge the rift between warring eastern and western factions.
    A final list of candidates for the election has not yet been released amid a chaotic appeals process after the election commission initially disqualified 25 of the 98 who registered to run for president.
    Gaddafi, who was sentenced to death by a Tripoli court in absentia in 2015 for warcrimes committed during the failed battle to save his father’s 40-year rule from a NATO-backed uprising, is one of several divisive candidates in the race.
    He is a figurehead for Libyans still loyal to the former government of his father, whose toppling and death in 2011 heralded a decade of strife.    After his lawyer announced the decision, his supporters celebrated in the streets across Sebha, witnesses said.
    However, many other Libyans, including in the armed groups that hold the balance of power across swathes of the country, view his presence on the ballot as unacceptable after the bloody struggle to oust his father.
    The blockade of the Sebha court this week by fighters allied to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar indicated the potential chaos that the planned election could unleash with armed groups backing or opposing rival candidates.
    Haftar, whose Libyan National Army (LNA) controls much of eastern and southern Libya, is himself a candidate for the election.    The LNA said the units allied to it had been protecting the court rather than blocking it.
(Reporting by Reuters Libya newsroom and Hani Amara, writing by Angus McDowall, editing by Angus MacSwan)

12/2/2021 Israel Halts Disputed Omicron Tracing Through Phone Surveillance
FILE PHOTO: A passenger arrives at a terminal at Ben Gurion international airport before Israel
banned international flights from Monday, Jan. 25, midnight, until the end of January, in order
to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and new coronavirus strains, in Lod near
Tel Aviv, Israel January 25, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel said on Thursday it was halting the use of mobile phone tracing to curb the spread of the new coronavirus variant Omicron, a practice that had been challenged by privacy watchdogs.
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government authorised the surveillance technology, which matches virus carriers’ locations against other mobile phones nearby to determine their contacts, to be used for Omicron cases on Nov. 27.
    That authorisation will not be renewed after it lapses at midnight between Thursday and Friday, Bennett’s office said in a statement, citing “up-to-date situational assessments.”
    The technology, originally developed by Israel’s Shin Bet security agency for counter-terrorism and counter-espionage, had “contributed over the last week to the effort to break the chain of infection,” the statement said.
    Israel has confirmed at three cases of the new variant and at least 30 others are suspected of having contracted it, the Health Ministry said.
    Earlier on Thursday, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a petition by four rights groups seeking to repeal the measure.
    “Considering the uncertainty around the Omicron variant and its effects…, it has not been proven that the Shin Bet authorisation poses a disproportionate infringement on the right to privacy which would justify its striking down,” the ruling said.
    Earlier this year, the court limited the scope of the technology’s use after rights groups mounted challenges over privacy concerns when it was implemented on a wider scale.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub and Maayan Lubell; Editing by Nick Macfie and Mark Heinrich)

12/2/2021 WHO Says Surge Team Deployed In S.Africa’s Gauteng To Tackle Omicron
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker collects a swab from a passenger for a PCR test against the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) before traveling to Uganda, amidst the spread of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron,
at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 28, 2021. REUTERS/ Sumaya Hisham
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) is deploying a surge team to South Africa’s Gauteng province, epicentre of the outbreak of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, to help with surveillance and contact tracing, it said on Thursday.
    The WHO’s Regional Emergency Director for Africa, Salam Gueye, also said it was providing technical assistance to boost the production and distribution of medical oxygen in Botswana, where Omicron has also been detected.
(Reporting by Katharine Houreld and Estelle Shirbon; editing by John Stonestreet)

12/3/2021 Iran Nuclear Talks To Break On Friday With Formal Meeting - Officials
Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Enrique Mora and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator
Ali Bagheri Kani wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria November 29, 2021.
EU Delegation in Vienna/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
    DUBAI/VIENNA (Reuters) -The seventh round of indirect talks between Iran and the United States on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which began this week, will end on Friday with a formal meeting of the remaining parties to the deal, European and Iranian officials said.
    The meeting of Iran, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China is in a format known as the Joint Commission which has bookended previous rounds of talks.    The Iranian official said the meeting would be held around noon (1100 GMT).    The aim is to resume the talks next week, the European diplomat said.
    “The Europeans want to return to their capitals for consultations … We are ready to stay in Vienna for further talks,” an Iranian official close to the talks told Reuters.
    On the fourth day of indirect U.S.-Iran talks on bringing both nations fully back into the deal, the United States and Iran both sounded pessimistic about the chances of reinstating the deal, which former U.S.     President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.
(Reporting by John Irish in Dubai and Parisa Hafezi in ViennaWriting by Francois Murphy and Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Toby Chopra)

12/3/2021 Europe Rights Watchdog Moves Against Turkey Over Jailed Philanthropist by Daren Butler
FILE PHOTO: Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala, jailed since 2017 on a charges of seeking
to overthrow the government, is seen at an unspecified area in this undated handout
photo received by Reuters, October 26, 2021. Anadolu Culture Center/Handout via REUTERS.
    ANKARA (Reuters) - A European human rights watchdog told Turkey on Friday it was preparing “infringement proceedings” over its failure to release imprisoned philanthropist Osman Kavala, a move that could lead to Ankara’s suspension from the body.
    The Council of Europe’s warning, issued in line with a 2019 ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), prompted Turkey to accuse the Strasbourg-based body of meddling in the workings of its independent courts.
    Last week a Turkish court ruled to keep Kavala in prison, extending his four-year detention without conviction in a trial which has added to strains in Ankara’s troubled relations with its Western allies.
    “By failing to ensure the applicant’s immediate release, the Committee (of Ministers) considers that Turkey is refusing to abide by the Court’s (ECHR’s) final judgment in this case,” the Council of Europe statement said.
    The Council asked Ankara to submit its view on the case by Jan 19, 2022, it said.
RULING
    The ECHR ruled in 2019 that Kavala’s detention was political and called for his immediate release over a lack of reasonable suspicion that he committed an offence and ruling his detention served to silence him. Turkey has not complied with the ruling.
    The Council’s Committee of Ministers, which oversees implementation of ECHR decisions, has repeatedly called on Turkey to release Kavala in line with the ruling.
    Turkey’s foreign ministry criticised the Committee’s move.
    “(We) invite the CoE to refrain from continuing with this decision that will have the quality of interfering with the independent judiciary,” it said.
    Kavala’s trial has been criticised as politically motivated and symbolic of a crackdown on dissent under President Tayyip Erdogan.    The government rejects this and says Turkey’s courts are independent.
    Last month Erdogan threatened to expel the ambassadors of 10 countries, including the United States, Germany and France, after they echoed the ECHR ruling that Kavala should be freed.
    The Council of Europe, established after World War Two, has limited powers.    Its Committee of Ministers is composed of the foreign ministers of the organisation’s 47 member states.
(Writing by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Gareth Jones)

12/3/2021 South Africa Hit By Fourth COVID Wave Driven By Omicron by Wendell Roelf
People queue outside a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination centre as the country opens vaccinations for
    CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Africa is being hit by a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections driven by the Omicron variant which has been detected in seven of the country’s nine provinces, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Friday.
    Omicron, which has raised global fears of a surge in infections, was first detected in southern Africa last month and has prompted governments across continents to impose travel curbs and take other measures to contain it.
    Phaahla told a media briefing that he hoped that the variant could be managed without causing too many deaths.
    He urged South Africans to get fully vaccinated, adding that the country could manage the fourth wave without stricter lockdown restrictions over Christmas.
    “We can still manage this in a manner where government doesn’t have to invoke serious restrictions over the next few days if we all just do our basic duties of the safety measures, but also if more and more of us who are eligible … approach their nearest vaccination sites,” Phaahla said.
    Top scientist Michelle Groome of South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said at the briefing the country was facing an “unprecedented rise” in infections over a short time due to Omicron.
    The infections were also moving from the younger age cohort into older people, she said.
    It was important for surge preparedness to include paediatric beds and staff as there has been increased admissions among children under four, she said.
    Omicron has been listed as a “variant of concern” by the WHO and scientists are still gathering data to establish how contagious Omicron is, and the severity of the illness it causes.
(Writing by James Macharia Chege; Editing by Nick Macfie)

12/3/2021 UAE And France Sign Deal For 80 Rafale Fighter Jets
FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes a guest at the
Elysee Palace in Paris, France, December 1, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
    DUBAI (Reuters) – France and the United Arab Emirates confirmed on Friday that they had signed deal on the supply of 80 Rafale warplanes, manufactured by French company Dassault Aviation.
    French President Emmanuel Macron has forged a good relationship with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (MBZ), with investments flowing between both countries.    Paris has a permanent military base in the Emirati capital.
(Reporting by John Irish; Writing by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)

12/3/2021 Cementing Ties With France, UAE Places $19 Billion Order For Warplanes, Helicopters by John Irish
French President Emmanuel Macron, wearing a protective face mask, waits for a guest
at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, December 1, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates ordered 80 Rafale fighter jets and 12 military helicopters on Friday, deepening economic and political ties with France through an arms contract worth 17 billion euros ($19.20 billion).
    The largest ever overseas sale of the French warplane was sealed as French President Emmanuel Macron began a two-day trip to the Gulf, during which he will also visit Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
    “This contract is historic,” French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said in a statement.
    The French presidency said deal, signed at a ceremony between Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (MBZ) and Macron on the sidelines of the Dubai Expo 2020, is worth $19 billion.
    “This contract cements a strategic partnership that is stronger than ever and directly contributes to regional stability," the French presidency said in a statement.
    Macron’s visit comes at a time when Gulf Arab states have voiced uncertainty about the United States’ focus on the region even as they seek more weapons from their key security ally.
    The French leader has forged a good relationship with MBZ with investments flowing between the two countries.    Paris has a permanent military base in the Emirati capital.
    Shares in Dassault Aviation SA , the Rafale’s maker, rose more than 9%.
    It is the biggest bulk purchase of the Dassault-made Rafale, other than by the French army, and comes after deals in Greece, Egypt and Croatia this year.
    Abu Dhabi also ordered 12 Caracal helicopters.    It is the French code name for the H225M, the multirole military version of the Super Puma.
    The on-off negotiations for the Rafale fighter jets took more than a decade with Abu Dhabi publicly rebuffing France’s offer to supply 60 Rafale jets in 2011 as “uncompetitive and unworkable.”    Abu Dhabi already has French-built Mirage 2000 warplanes.
    Defence sources said the Rafale would replace the Mirage 2000 fleet but is unlikely to displace the American-built F-35 as the UAE continues to hedge its security with two major suppliers, France and the United States.
    The deal could nonetheless be seen as a signal of impatience as the U.S. Congress hesitates on approving an F-35 deal amid concerns about the UAE’s relationship with China, including the prevalence of Huawei 5G technology in the country.
    Paris is one of the UAE’s main arms’ suppliers, but it has faced increasing pressure to review its sales because of the conflict between a Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen, which has become one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
    “France is going ahead with these sales despite the UAE playing a leading role in the atrocity-marred military operations led by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement.    The French president should denounce the human rights violations in these three counties.
($1 = 0.8856 euros)
(Additional reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Tim Hepher, Karishma Singh,; David Evans and Simon Cameron-Moore)

12/3/2021 Lebanon’s Information Minister Quits To Ease Saudi Dispute
Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi gestures during a news conference to
announce his resignation in Beirut, Lebanon December 3, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) -Lebanon’s information minister resigned on Friday saying he was putting the nation before his personal interest to help end a diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia sparked by his comments.
    George Kordahi said he had quit before the French president visited Riyadh in the hope Emmanuel Macron would help ease the crisis sparked by the Lebanese TV host-turned-politican’s critical remarks about Saudi Arabia’s role in the Yemen war.
    Saudi Arabia expelled Lebanon’s envoy to the kingdom, recalled its ambassador to Beirut and banned Lebanese imports https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/saudi-import-ban-deals-another-blow-reeling-lebanese-industry-2021-11-05 after Kordahi’s comments which Riyadh said were a symptom of the wider issue of Iran-backed Hezbollah’s grip on Lebanon.
    Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran have long battled for influence in the region, including in Lebanon, which is struggling with a deep economic crisis and desperately needs financial support from regional and international donors.
    Other Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait, followed Saudi Arabia’s lead with similar measures against Lebanon.
    Kordahi, a Christian whose Marada party is backed by Hezbollah, had refused to resign in the weeks afterwards even as Prime Minister Najib Mikati asked him to put “national interest” first.
    “I understood from Mikati … that the French want my resignation to take place ahead of his (Macron’s) visit,” Kordahi told a news conference, saying he believed Mikati had assurances that Macron would discuss Lebanon’s ties with Riyadh.
    “I refuse to be used as a reason to harm Lebanon and my fellow Lebanese in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries,” he said, adding he wanted to prevent any punitive action against the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese living in Gulf Arab states.
    Karim Emile Bitar, head of the political science institute at Saint Joseph University of Beirut, said Kordahi’s resignation was more of a catalyst than cause for the Saudi measures, which he said were unlikely to be lifted swiftly as they were driven by the ongoing regional tussle between Tehran and Riyadh.
    “The whole Kordahi affair was a sideshow that showed once again that Lebanon is not a sovereign country and is paying the price of the Saudi-Iranian proxy war,” he said.
(Reporting by Timour Azhari and Maha El Dahan; Editing by Edmund Blair)

12/3/2021 Reports: At Least 9 State Dept. Staffers Have Been Hacked by OAN Newsroom
WASHINGTON, D.C. – JANUARY 26: The U.S. State Department is shown
January 26, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
    The U.S. State Department is investigating a hacking attempt on American diplomats in Uganda.
    According to reports on Friday, up to 11 State Department employees had spyware on their iPhones from Israel-based tech firm “NSO Group.”    Reports said the staffers were being hacked over the past several months.
    However, NSO Group has denied their products were used in this particular attack and claim to have blocked “relevant customers” from accessing their systems.    Officials with the company said they will comply with any government probe.
    Several federal agencies have flagged NSO as a national security risk.    This comes as the company has been sued by several U.S. tech companies over hacking claims from customers.
    The State Department has not yet commented on the matter and haven’t confirmed the culprit of the hackings.

12/3/2021 Uganda Says Troops To Stay In Congo As Long As Needed To Defeat ADF by Hereward Holland and Elias Biryabarema
FILE PHOTO: Democratic Republic of Congo soldiers rest next to a road after Allied
Democratic Forces rebels attacked area around Mukoko village, North Kivu province of
Democratic Republic of Congo, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File Photo
    KINSHASA (Reuters) – Uganda said on Friday that its troops sent this week into eastern Democratic Republic of Congo would stay as long as needed to defeat Islamist militants, with the progress of the mission to be evaluated after two months.
    Uganda and Congo launched a joint operation this week, but have so far shared few details about its size or expected duration, even as some voiced alarm about the presence of Ugandan troops on Congolese soil.
    At least 1,700 Ugandan soldiers have so far crossed into eastern Congo to join Congolese forces battling the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group aligned with Islamic State, two security sources and local media said on Friday.
    The Ugandan defence ministry did not confirm how many troops had been deployed, but said infantry, artillery, armoured and special forces would be in Congo under Operation Shujja, which means hero in Swahili.
    In its first clear indication of the duration of the planned operation, Uganda’s Ministry of Defence said in a statement that the operation would be reviewed after two months to gauge its progress against the ADF.
    “The duration of this operation will be determined by the military-strategic end-state… to defeat the rebels and defeat their will to fight,” Major General Kayanja Muhanga said in a video posted to Twitter.
    The campaign will target four ADF camps: Yayuwa, Tondoli, Beni One and Beni Two, he said.
    Joint forces have already conducted search operations in the wake of air and artillery strikes against suspected ADF bases in the forests of eastern Congo earlier this week, according to both countries’ military.
    Hundreds of Ugandan soldiers and dozens of armoured vehicles have been seen crossing the border at Nobili since the offensive started on Nov 30.    The two security sources with knowledge of the mission said another 300 Ugandan troops were expected to arrive imminently.
    The scale of the deployment suggests it is the largest foreign intervention in Congo in over a decade, apart from a U.N. peacekeeping operation, said Pierre Boisselet from Kivu Security Tracker, which monitors unrest in the region.
    Congo’s government spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the number of Ugandan soldiers in Congo.
    “Deployments are still going on, so I can’t say whether we have a battalion yet, or brigade or whatever,” Uganda’s army spokeswoman Flavia Byekwaso told Reuters.
    Uganda blamed the ADF for a triple suicide bombing in its capital Kampala on Nov. 16, which killed seven people, including the bombers.
    The ADF began as an uprising in Uganda but has been based in Congo since the late 1990s.    It pledged allegiance to Islamic State in mid-2019 and is accused of killing hundreds of villagers in frequent raids over the past two years.
    Islamic State has claimed responsibility for some of the ADF’s violence, including the recent bombings in Uganda, but United Nations researchers have found no evidence Islamic State exerts command and control over ADF operations.
(Reporting by Hereward Holland and Elias Biryabarema; Additional reporting by Erikas Mwisi Kambale; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Peter Graff)

12/3/2021 Blinken Says Ethiopia Conflict Risks Implosion Of Country
FILE PHOTO: Villagers return from a market to Yechila town in south central Tigray walking past
scores of burned vehicles, in Tigray, Ethiopia, July 10, 2021. REUTERS/Giulia Paravicini
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has sanctions authorities at its disposal to use against those perpetuating the conflict in Ethiopia, which is increasing ethnic tensions and risks implosion of the country itself, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday.
    “We’ve used some of them already against Eritrea, which has been, unfortunately a very negative actor in this drama.    Those tools remain at our disposal for others,” Blinken said at the Reuters Next conference of the conflict in Africa’s second largest nation.
(Reporting by Alessandra Galloni, Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis; Writing by Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

12/4/2021 In Khashoggi’s Shadow, Macron Set For Saudi Talks With Crown Prince by John Irish
FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron leaves after a joint statement with Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis
Karins at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, December 1, 2021. Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool via REUTERS
    JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday for face-to-face talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, becoming the first major western leader to step on the kingdom’s soil since journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s 2018 murder.
    Macron considers Saudi Arabia vital to help forge a region-wide peace deal with Iran, as well as an ally in the fight against Islamist militants from the Middle East to West Africa, and a rampart against the Muslim Brotherhood.
    France is one of Saudi Arabia’s main arms suppliers, but it has faced increasing pressure to review its sales because of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen, now one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
    While ties between Paris and Riyadh were warmer under Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande, France has not reaped the business rewards.    The relationship has cooled in recent years despite Macron, prior to     Khashoggi’s murder, urging detractors to give time to the then 33-year-old leader-in-waiting.
    A business delegation of about 100 companies including TotalEnergies, EDF, Thales and Vivendi is due to attend an investment forum during Macron’s trip.
    Speaking to reporters in Dubai, Macron rejected accusations that he was legitimising the crown prince, adding that the region’s multiple crises could not be dealt with by ignoring the kingdom.
    “We (can) decide after the Khashoggi affair that we have no policy in the region, which is a choice some can defend, but I think France has an important role to play in the region.    That doesn’t mean we are complicit or that we forget,” Macron said.
    Recent contracts have been few, with most centred on the Al-Ula tourism project that aims to bring to life the kingdom’s Nabatean history https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/archaeologists-saudi-arabia-excavate-forgotten-kingdoms-2021-11-02/#:~:text=AL%20ULA%2C%20Saudi%20Arabia%2C%20Nov,kingdoms%20of%20Dadan%20and%20Lihyan, part of Saudi Arabia’s diversification drive to wean its economy off oil revenues.
    Macron’s visit comes at a time when Gulf Arab states have voiced uncertainty about the U.S. focus on the region even as they seek more weapons from Washington.
    Saudi Arabia has been frustrated by the approach of U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, which has pressed Riyadh over its human rights record and the Yemen war and released intelligence https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-saudi-khashoggi-int/saudi-de-facto-ruler-approved-operation-that-led-to-khashoggis-death-u-s-idUSKBN2AQ2OA linking bin Salman to Khashoggi’s murder.
    The crown prince has denied any involvement in the killing of the journalist in Riyadh’s Istanbul consulate, an incident that sparked global outrage and tainted Prince Mohammed’s image.
    “Whether it’s the objective or not, (this trip) contributes to a policy of rehabilitating the Saudi prince,” said Agnes Callamard, secretary general of the rights group Amnesty International.    “It pains me that France, the country of human rights, is the instrument of this policy.”
    Macron is the first major Western head of state to visit Saudi Arabia since Khashoggi’s killing and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, which dashed Riyadh’s hopes of hosting G20 leaders during its 2020 presidency.
    The two men are expected to discuss regional issues, including the Iran nuclear matter and Lebanon https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanon-information-minister-resigns-ease-saudi-spat-2021-12-03, where Macron has so far failed to convince Gulf Arab states, wary of Iran-backed Hezbollah’s heft, to engage on trying to find a solution.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Ghaida Ghantous and Will Dunham)

12/4/2021 France, Europeans Working To Open Joint Mission In Afghanistan – Macron by John Irish
FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron wears a face mask as he arrives to deliver a statement with Latvian Prime Minister
Krisjanis Karins at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, December 1, 2021. Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool via REUTERS
    DOHA (Reuters) – Several European countries are working on opening up a joint diplomatic mission in Afghanistan that would enable their ambassadors to return to the country, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday.
    Western countries have been grappling with how to engage with the Taliban after they took over Afghanistan in a lightning advance in August as U.S.-led forces were completing their pullout.
    The United States and other Western countries shut their embassies and withdrew their diplomats as the Taliban seized Kabul, following which the militants declared an interim government whose top members are under U.S. and U.N. sanctions.
    “We are thinking of an organisation between several European countries… a common location for several Europeans, which would allow our ambassadors to be present,” Macron told reporters in Doha before heading to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
    The United States, European countries and others are reluctant to formally recognize the Pashtun-dominated Taliban, accusing them of backtracking on pledges of political and ethnic inclusivity and to uphold the rights of women and minorities.
    “This is a different demarche than a political recognition or political dialogue with the Taliban … we will have a representation as soon as we can open,” he said, adding that the still needed to iron out security issues.
    In a statement following talks with the Taliban a week ago, the European Union suggested it could open a mission soon.
    “The EU delegation underlined that the possibility of establishing a minimal presence on the ground in Kabul, which would not entail recognition, will directly depend on the security situation, as well as on effective decisions by the de facto authorities to allow the EU to ensure adequate protection of its staff and premises,” it said.
    France separately announced on Friday that it had carried out an evacuation mission in Afghanistan with Qatar’s help, taking more than 300 people, mostly Afghans, out of the country.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Mills; Editing by William Mallard and Frances Kerry)

12/4/2021 Gambians Vote With Marbles In Key Test For Stability by Pap Saine and Bate Felix
People shop at the street market ahead of the presidential election
in Banjul, Gambia, December 3, 2021. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
    BANJUL (Reuters) – Polls opened in Gambia on Saturday with voters using a unique voting system, marbles dropped in each candidate’s ballot drum, in a tightly fought presidential election that will test stability and democratic progress.
    It is Gambia’s first democratic election since former President Yahya Jammeh was voted out of office in 2016.
    Jammeh, who was defeated by an opposition coalition that backed current President Adama Barrow, fled to Equatorial Guinea in 2017 after refusing to accept defeat.
    Barrow, a 56-year-old former security guard and property developer, will face five challengers including his former political mentor, Ousainou Darboe, 73.
    Nearly 1 million people out of a 2.5 million population are registered to vote in mainland Africa’s smallest country. Turnout is expected to be high, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
    At one polling station in the capital Banjul, election officials carried the voting drums outside to show the long lines of voters they were empty before voting started.
    Siddy Khan was first to vote in his booth.    He walked out leaning on his cane, blue ink on his right index finger to show he had voted. “I feel good. I hope the vote will go well,” the 71-year-old said.
    Gambians are comfortable with the process of using glass marbles to vote, said Mamadou A. Barry, a returning officer at the IEC. The system was introduced in the 1960s to avoid spoilt ballots in a nation with a high illiteracy rate.
    “Each voter gets a marble,” he said.    “I think it is transparent and fair.”
    Results are expected by Sunday under the simple majority system.
    The other candidates include Essa Mbye Faal, who served as chief counsel of Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission that chronicled the abuses of Jammeh’s rule, and Mama Kandeh, who came third in 2016 and is backed by Jammeh.
    On Thursday night as the campaign came to a close, hundreds of jubilant Barrow supporters gathered in downtown Banjul for a final rally, hoping another Barrow term would secure stability as Gambia seeks to put 22 years of Jammeh rule behind it.
    Barrow, who has made lavish promises during the campaign, told the crowd he planned to introduce health insurance that would grant access to treatment without upfront payments.
    Critics, however, say Barrow has broken his promises, pointing to how he backtracked on a pledge to serve only three years after winning in 2016. Barrow has argued the constitution requires him to serve out a full five-year term.
    Barrow’s main challenger, Darboe, told supporters on Thursday that he intended to work towards reconciling Gambians and giving justice to those who suffered under Jammeh’s rule.
(Reporting by Pap Saine and Bate Felix; Editing by Sandra Maler and David Clarke)

12/5/2021 UAE Defence Ministry Says French Warplanes Not A Substitute For U.S. Jets
FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron meets with Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin
Zayed al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates December 3, 2021. WAM/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates defence ministry said its purchase of French Rafale fighter jets would complement its planned deal to buy American F-35 warplanes, which has slowed due to Washington’s concerns over Abu Dhabi’s relationship with China.
    The Gulf Arab state on Friday ordered 80 Rafales made by Dassault Aviation and 12 Caracal military helicopters made by Airbus Helicopters in an arms contract worth 17 billion euros ($19.2 billion).
    Major General Ibrahim Nasser Al Alawi, commander of the UAE Air Force and Air Defence, said in a statement on state news agency WAM late on Saturday that the Rafale jets would replace the UAE’s French-built Mirage 2000 fleet.
    “This deal is not considered as an alternative for the forthcoming F-35 deal, it is rather a complementary deal … as we develop our air force capabilities,” Alawi said, adding the UAE had for some time been looking to replace its Mirage fleet.
    The sale of 50 F-35 warplanes made by Lockheed Martin to the UAE has slowed amid concerns in Washington over Abu Dhabi’s relationship with China, including use of Huawei 5G technology in the country.
    Last month, a U.S. official said the United States intends to move forward with the sale but that there must be a clear understanding of “Emirati obligations.”
    The United States under then-President Donald Trump agreed to sell the jets after the UAE last year established ties with Israel.    President Joe Biden’s administration has said this year it would proceed with the sale.
(Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

12/5/2021 U.S. Reluctance To Lift All Iran Sanctions Main Hurdle To Reviving 2015 Pact- Iranian Official by Parisa Hafezi and John Irish
FILE PHOTO: European External Action Service (EEAS) Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora and Iranian Deputy
at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi wait for the start of talks on reviving the 2015
Iran nuclear deal in Vienna, Austria June 20, 2021. EU Delegation in Vienna/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) - The reluctance of the United States to lift all sanctions on Iran is the main challenge to reviving a 2015 nuclear pact, a senior Iranian official said on Sunday, as Western powers questioned Tehran’s determination to salvage the agreement.
    Indirect talks between Washington and Tehran on reinstating their nuclear pact broke off https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/iran-nuclear-talks-break-friday-with-formal-meeting-officials-2021-12-03 on Friday, with both sides saying they would resume the following week, as Western officials voiced dismay at sweeping demands by the Islamic Republic.
    “It is now clear that Washington’s reluctance to give up sanctions altogether is the main challenge to the progress of the talks,” the unnamed official was quoted as saying by Iran’s Tasnim news agency.
    “We believe that a deal is within reach if the U.S. government gives up its campaign of maximum pressure and the European parties show serious flexibility and political will in the talks.”
    Iran and major powers started talks in April aimed at bringing back Tehran and Washington into full compliance with the pact, which was abandoned by former U.S. President Donald Trump three years ago.
    But the talks stopped after the election of Iran’s hardline President Ebrahim Raisi in June.
    A year after Trump’s reimposition of harsh sanctions on Iran, Tehran began to gradually violate nuclear limits of the agreement.    Iran wants all sanctions imposed by the United States to be lifted in a verifiable process.
    While stressing that the United States still wanted to revive the deal, under which Iran had limited its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Saturday time was running short.
    Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani said on Monday that Tehran had delivered two draft proposals to the remaining parties to the deal in Vienna, one on sanctions removal and the other on nuclear limitations.
    Tehran said it will later provide a third draft proposal on the “mechanism and time of verification and issues related to receiving guarantees to prevent the re-withdrawal of the U.S. from the nuclear deal
    Speaking at the Reuters Next conference, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that the United States would not let Iran drag out the process while continuing to advance its program and that Washington will pursue other options if diplomacy fails.
    “Contrary to the remarks of the American officials, I believe that if other parties have good will, and stop their futile blame game, an agreement is within reach,” the Iranian official said, according to Tasnim.
    “Other parties should provide proper response or present new proposals and clear ideas in writing …     Then, ways will be opened for the conclusion of a deal and settlement of differences.”
(Writing by John Irish and Parisa HafeziEditing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
[I SUGGEST YOU GO BACK TO THE TRUMP POLICIES BECAUSE THEY WILL GO BACK TO THEIR OLD ISSUES.].

12/5/2021 Gambian President Barrow On Course For Resounding Election Win by Bate Felix
Gambia's President Adama Barrow, flanked by his wives, speaks to the media after voting during
the presidential election, in Banjul, Gambia, December 4, 2021. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
    BANJUL (Reuters) – Gambia’s incumbent president, Adama Barrow, was on course for a resounding election win on Sunday, partial results indicated, that could help to draw a line under recent political turmoil.
    Saturday’s vote was the first in 27 years without disgraced former president Yahya Jammeh, who lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea after refusing to accept defeat to Barrow in 2016.
    Jammeh, whose 22-year rule over the tiny nation of 2.5 million people was characterised by killings and torture of political opponents, had tried to persuade supporters to vote for an opposition coalition in telephoned speeches that were relayed to campaign rallies.
    But his lingering influence was not enough to dent Barrow’s showing.    The president, who only needs to win more votes than the second-placed candidate, won 36 of the first 41 constituencies announced, taking 315,547 votes.
    His nearest rival, political veteran Ousainou Darboe, had 133,177 votes, with four other candidates far behind.
    Only 12 constituencies remained to be announced.
    The election was seen as a test of Gambia’s democratic progress and its ability to leave the Jammeh era behind.
    Barrow’s first term was marked by the coronavirus pandemic, which damaged an economy that relies heavily on tourism, as well as exports of peanuts and fish.
(Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Frances Kerry)

12/5/2021 S. Africans Protest Against Shell Oil Exploration In Pristine Coastal Area by Siyabonga Sishi
Wild Coast residents join a demonstration against Royal Dutch Shell's plans to start
seismic surveys to explore petroleum systems off the country's popular Wild Coast
at Mzamba Beach, Sigidi, South Africa, December 5, 2021. REUTERS/Rogan Ward
    PORT EDWARD, South Africa (Reuters) – South Africans took to their beaches on Sunday to protest against plans by Royal Dutch Shell to do seimsic oil exploration they say will threaten marine wildlife such as whales, dolphins, seals and penguins on a pristine coastal stretch.
    A South African court on Friday struck down https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/shell-wins-court-case-start-seismic-surveys-offshore-south-africa-2021-12-03 an application brought by environmentalists to stop the oil major exploring in the eastern seaboard’s Wild Coast, rejecting as unproven their argument that it would cause     “irreparable harm” to the marine environment, especially migrating hump-back whales.
    The Wild Coast is home of some of the country’s most undisturbed wildlife refuges, and it’s stunning coastal wildernesses are also a major tourist draw.
    At least 1,000 demonstrators gathered on a beach near Port Edward, a Reuters TV correspondent saw.
    “It’s just absolutely horrendous that they are even considering this.    Look around you?” said demonstrator Kas Wilson, indicating an unspoilt stretch of beach.    “It’s unacceptable and … we will stop it.”
    Shell officials were not immediately available for comment, but the company said on Friday that its planned exploration has regulatory approval, and it will significantly contribute to South Africa’s energy security if resources are found.
    But local people fear the seismic blasting conducted over 6,000 square kilometres will kill or scare away the fish they depend on to live.
    “I don’t want them to operate here because if they do we won’t be able to catch fish,” said 62-year-old free dive fisherwoman Toloza Mzobe, after pulling a wild lobster from the ground.    “What are we going to eat?
    Environmentalists are urging Shell and other oil companies to stop prospecting for oil, arguing that the world has no chance of reaching net zero carbon by 2050 if existing oil deposits are burned, let alone if new ones are found.
    Earlier this year, a Dutch court ordered Shell to reduce its planet warming carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels, a decision it plans to appeal.
    South Africa’s environment ministry referred Reuters to a statement late last month that “the Minister responsible for environmental affairs is … not mandated to consider the application or to make a decision on the authorisation of the seismic survey.”
(Writing by Tim Cocks;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

12/5/2021 Exclusive-Western Companies Are Blind To Ugandan Investments – President Museveni by Elias Biryabarema and Karin Strohecker
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni speaks during a Reuters interview at the National Leadership Institute (NALI)
in Kyankwanzi district, Uganda December 4, 2021. Picture taken December 4, 2021. REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa
    KYANKWANZI, Uganda (Reuters) – Chinese private investment in Uganda is growing while Westerners are losing appetite to put money to work in the country, President Yoweri Museveni told Reuters, pledging to step up efforts to tackle corruption that have made slow progress.
    Museveni, in power since 1986 and one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, said Uganda was working to sign a number of deals with Chinese private sector lenders in sectors such as agro- and fertilizer-processing, minerals processing and textiles.< br>     “The Western companies have lost their spectacles; they no longer have the eyes to see opportunities.    But the Chinese see opportunities, and they come, and they are knocking, they are coming very vigorously,” Museveni told Reuters.    “But (Western companies) are saturated with wealth.    They are not bothered.”
    Chinese state entities and private-sector firms have long been a driving force of investment in Africa https://www.reuters.com/markets/europe/african-nations-mend-make-do-china-tightens-belt-road-2021-11-22, lending countries on the continent hundreds of billions of dollars as part of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
    According to the Uganda Investment Authority, the country ranked third in Africa on foreign direct investment (FDI) from China in recent years.
    The ties have not been without conflict, however.
    A parliamentary probe in October concluded that China had imposed onerous conditions on a $200 million loan to Kampala, including the potential forfeiture of the east African country’s sole international airport.
    Museveni flatly denied using the airport as collateral.
    “I don’t remember mortgaging the airport for anything,” Museveni said, adding Kampala would pay what it owed to China.    “There is no problem, they will be paid.”
    Museveni’s administration, seeking to finance its infrastructure construction programme and shore up political support, has secured large credit lines from China https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-uganda-debt-idUSKBN2AB1BU over the last decade.
    Differences over the terms of the contract were also the reason why Kampala had not yet secured a deal with Beijing on the 1,000-km (620 miles) super-fast rail link from Kenya’s port of Mombasa to Uganda, though talks were still ongoing, the president said.
FAITH AGAINST CORRUPTION
    Talking about the fight against corruption, Museveni acknowledged more effort was needed. Transparency International ranked Uganda 142 out of 179 in its 2020 corruption perceptions index.     “We are still fighting.    I wouldn’t boast that we have improved – initially we weren’t really concentrating much on corruption,” the 77-year-old said, adding the battle against graft was one of his main priorities for his current and sixth term as president.
    His administration was focusing on recruiting from faith groups, of which the country had plenty, to have enough manpower to fight that war on corruption and would provide an assessment of progress on the issue in two years time, he said.
    “That is our struggle: to get clean people to implement – otherwise the laws are there, the institutions are there,” Museveni said.
    Speaking about the Nov. 16 bombings in Kampala, which killed three people and were blamed on the Islamic State-aligned Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), Museveni said that there was evidence of coordination from abroad with the men who carried out the attack.
    The blasts in the heart of the capital shocked a nation known as a bulwark against violent Islamist militants in East Africa, and prompted Museveni to send 1,700 troops into neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, where the ADF has training camps.    But Museveni said foreign links stretched beyond eastern Congo.
    “The bombs which they exploded in Kampala recently, we have some indication that they were coordinating with groups in Kenya and in Somalia,” Museveni said.    “Maybe not command and control but collaboration.”
    He was coordinating the operation with Congo’s president, Museveni said, but he did not answer a question whether there was coordination with Rwanda, which also has security interests in eastern Congo, and which has fought with Ugandan troops there before.
    Uganda said on Friday that its troops sent this week into eastern Democratic Republic of Congo would stay as long as needed to defeat Islamist militants.
(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema in Kyankwanzi, Karin Strohecker in London, Katharine Houreld in Nairobi, Hereward Holland in Kinshasa and Tommy Wilkes in London; Editing by Alex Richardson)

12/5/2021 Senegal Records First Omicron Case In Tourist Who Attended Demonstration
FILE PHOTO: People wait to receive a dose of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine
at Philippe Senghor Hospital in Dakar, amid a surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
cases in Senegal July 28, 2021. Picture taken July 28, 2021.REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
    DAKAR (Reuters) – Senegal has recorded its first case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in a tourist who attended a demonstration in the capital Dakar last month with about 300 people of varying nationalities, testing lab IRESSEF said on Sunday.
    The 58-year-old man was visiting from another West African country and tested positive when leaving Senegal on Friday.    He is under quarantine and has no symptoms, the lab said in a statement.
(Reporting by Diadie Ba; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by David Clarke)

12/5/2021 Syrian Foreign Minister Arrives In Tehran For Two-Day Visit – ISNA
FILE PHOTO: Syria’s foreign minister Faisal Mekdad 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
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Syria’s Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad is due in Tehran on Sunday for a two-day visit, Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency said.
    Mekdad’s stay in Tehran coincides with Emirati national security adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s official visit to the Iranian capital.
(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Editing by David Clarke)

12/5/2021 UAE’s Top Security Official To Visit Iran On Monday – Iranian Media
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
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates’ top national security adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan will visit Iran on Monday to discuss expanding bilateral ties with the Islamic Republic, Iranian state media reported on Sunday.
    There was no immediate comment from the UAE foreign ministry about the visit of Sheikh Tahnoon, who is a brother of the country’s de facto ruler Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and chairman of state investor ADQ.
    “He will meet secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani and other Iranian officials in Tehran,” said Iran’s Nournews, which is affiliated to the SNSC.
    In 2019, the UAE started engaging with Iran following attacks on tankers off Gulf waters and on Saudi energy infrastructure.    Sunni Muslim power Saudi Arabia began direct talks with Iran in April, with Riyadh describing the talks as “cordial” but largely exploratory.
    Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president, said last month that his country was “taking steps to de-escalate tensions with Iran as part of a policy choice towards diplomacy and away from confrontation.”
    Sheikh Tahnoon’s visit comes days after indirect talks between Washington and Tehran on reinstating Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal broke off on Friday until next week as Western officials voiced dismay at sweeping demands by the Islamic Republic.
    A senior U.S. official said on Saturday Iran came “with proposals that walked back anything – any of the compromises Tehran had floated in the previous six rounds of talks that started in April and were put on hold after the election of hardline president Ebrahim Raisi in June."
(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by William Mallard, Elaine Hardcastle and David Evans)

12/5/2021 New U.S. Ambassador To Israel Meets With President Herzog by OAN Newsroom
Newly-appointed U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides (R) takes part in a Menorah lighting ceremony
for Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, with Israeli President Isaac Herzog (C) and his
wife Michal in Jerusalem, on December 5, 2021. (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images)
    Newly-appointed U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides delivered diplomatic credentials to the president of the Jewish State.
    “My agenda as ambassador will be first and foremost to reinforce our unshakable and enduring commitment to Israel’s defense,” said Nides.
    During the ceremony in Jerusalem on Sunday, the two officials discussed risks to regional stability posed by Iran and its nuclear aspirations. Nides said the U.S. would replenish the Iron Dome missile defense system and would cooperate with Israeli security forces.
    During their meeting, the Israeli president also warned against restoring a nuclear deal with Iran.
    “We are closely following the international community’s recent negotiations with Iran,” said President Isaac Herzog.    “Israel is keeping all options on the table and it must be said that if the international community does not take a vigorous stance on this issue, Israel will do so.    Israel will protect itself.”
    Meanwhile, the Biden administration has been advancing indirect talks with Iran in Vienna to restore the failed 2015 nuclear deal, despite opposition by Israel.

12/6/2021 At Outbreak Epicentre, S. African Students Shrug Off Omicron And Fret About Exams by Tim Cocks
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker administers the Pfizer coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine
to Simphiwe, 13, amidst the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron in Johannesburg,
South Africa, December 04, 2021. Picture taken December 04, 2021. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham
    PRETORIA (Reuters) – The students knew their South African university was the epicentre of a new COVID-19 variant spreading panic across the globe, but over the past week many worried more about how Omicron would mess up exams and holiday plans than about catching it.
    At the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), in the capital Pretoria, learners languidly walked across the green campus shaded by trees, chatting, buying soft drinks, staring at their phones and sitting on benches overlooking a pond.
    Most wore masks; a few didn’t. Many were vaccinated; some obstinately were not. Around 30 students interviewed by Reuters were mostly concerned about their classes being disrupted again.    And whatever their opinions on the vaccine, the outbreak had done nothing to change their minds.
    “This variant has messed us up. It means even more classes online, which makes it hard to learn,” management student Nqubeko Chisale, 21, said.    “Sometimes the Internet link doesn’t work.    I need to have the teacher in the room.”
    Scientists are analysing Omicron to see if it evades the immunity conferred by vaccines or past illness.
    The government meanwhile is pushing to try get as many people vaccinated as possible, while urging the cancelling of possible super-spreader events — like the big student parties and festivals popular this time of year.
    Several have already been called off, including a music festival for young people on the coast, after 36 people tested positive for COVID-19 at the site.
    Some early data seems to show more young people getting the severe symptoms typically suffered by their elders.    But youths are also the least vaccinated: only a fifth of 18-34 year olds have had the shot, official data shows, partly owing to false beliefs about its safety proliferating on the Internet.
    Chisale admits he belongs to the other four-fifths.
    “So many things I’ve heard about the vaccine: it makes you sick, headache.    Maybe someday, but I don’t think I’m ready,” he said, and he’s in no rush to change his mind, even with the fourth wave of COVID-19 surging through his campus.
‘TRYING TO PERSUADE HIM’
    Other students successfully ignored the mountain of false vaccine information, like 20-year-nursing student Sinethemba Nkosi.    She and her friends all got the shot, except one — and he was the only one of them who got sick in the latest wave.    Nkosi never caught it from him, even though they share a house.
    “I was really encouraging him to get the vaccine, but he was worried about the side effects,” she said of her friend, who since last week has been in bed with a fever.    But her bigger concern was the delay of the exams she’d been itching to finish.
    At a lunch table shaded by a tree outside the university cafeteria, supply chain management students Thato Letsholo and Nkanyiso Sithole ate pork chops, complained about virtual classes, and disagreed with each other about the vaccine.
    Asked if he was worried about the disease itself, Letsholo said: “Yes.    I mean it’s killing people.”    But his far bigger fear was more dreaded online learning and having to repeat a year if his academic calendar keeps getting delayed.
    Letsholo’s mother is a nurse, so she convinced him to get the shot.    “I’ve been trying to persuade him,” he said, indicating his classmate, Sithole, who mumbled something about waiting to see how his friend who’d just had it would do before risking it.
    Sitting on beer crates under a tree, Tshepo Legon and his sports science classmate, Long Matimelami, said nothing but draconian regulations would get them to inoculate.
    “This thing of vaccines is rubbish.    I don’t want to take it,” Legon said.    “I don’t care about the new variant.    If I catch it, I’ll just take my traditional remedies.”
(Editing by Peter Graff)

12/6/2021 Israel Delays Major Settlement Plan For East Jerusalem
A general view of the former Atarot airport near Qalandia in the occupied West Bank where Israel plans to build a
settlement that it would designate as a new neighbourhood of Jerusalem November 25, 2021 REUTERS/ Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli state planning committee on Monday delayed granting further approval of a major settlement project in East Jerusalem that has drawn U.S. and Palestinian concern.
    The proposal that envisages building up to 9,000 homes for Jewish settlers, a move that would cement more occupied West Bank lands within Israel’s municipal boundaries for Jerusalem, received preliminary approval last month.
    A Jerusalem district planning and building committee has now decided against moving forward, citing the need for an environmental study, according to a statement from Israel’s Planning Administration.    No timeline for further discussion was given.
    Critics contend that the proposed construction between East Jerusalem and the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the West Bank would further dim any Palestinian hopes for a future state.
    “We hope the government takes advantage of the time to reexamine the damage the plan has on the chance for peace, the development of Jerusalem, and Israel’s relations with the United States,” said Israel’s Peace Now organization, which monitors and opposes Jewish settlement on occupied land.
    The site once housed an airport and is known to Israelis as Atarot.    The Palestinian Foreign Ministry condemned the settlement plan as a bid to finalise “the separation of Jerusalem from our outlying Palestinian area.”
    The Jerusalem municipal committee approved the project on Nov. 24, drawing Israeli media speculation that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett could move slowly towards final approval to avoid friction with Washington over settlement issues.
    Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.    Palestinans seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
    Most world powers deem Israeli settlements in occupied territory as illegal.    Israel, citing historical, biblical and political links to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, disputes this.
    On Sunday, the Atarot project was discussed in a call between Bennett and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, an Israeli statement said, without giving details.
    A State Department spokesperson said Blinken urged Israel and the Palestinians to refrain from any unilateral steps and noted that “advancing settlement activity” could undercut any efforts to negotiate a two-state solution to their conflict.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Nick Macfie)

12/6/2021 Strike Ends At Walmart-Owned Massmart After Agreement Reached
Workers disgruntled over low wages and changes to terms and conditions of employment, go on strike outside a Walmart-led
Massmart Holdings owned Makro store in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 19, 2021. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Thousands of striking workers at companies under Massmart Holdings in South Africa, which is owned by Walmart Inc, will return to work after reaching an agreement over disputes, a labour union said on Monday.
    The disgruntled workers had been on strike since Nov.19 over low wages, unilateral restructuring and changes to terms and conditions of employment.
    At Builders Warehouse, unions were demanding a wage increase of 500 rand ($31.50) monthly, while Massmart was offering an increase of 320 rand.
    The unions also wanted workers who had lost jobs due to restructuring at the general merchandise chain, Game, to be reinstated.    Massmart had said it had identified alternative jobs for those workers.
    In settlement agreements seen by Reuters and sent by the South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU), an affiliate of the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the parties agreed on an across- the-board monthly wage increase of 400 rand, or 4.5%, for all 45-hour permanent and 40-hour fixed employees who are union members.
    This will be “retrospectively” effective from July 1, 2021, according to the settlement agreements.
    They also agreed on an increase of 4.5% on the hourly rate for all permanent part time associates.
    In another agreement, Massmart said it would try to reinstate Game retrenched workers into vacant positions across the company.
    “This has been a challenging time for those involved and we are pleased that the decision to end the strike will enable participating SACCAWU members to return to work,” Massmart said in a statement.
    SACCAWU said workers returned this afternoon.
    The more than two-week strike had no impact on Massmart’s operations as it hired contract employees to its stores.
($1 = 15.8740 rand)
(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

12/6/2021 COVID Shots Are Finally Arriving, But Africa Can’t Get Them All Into Arms by Maggie Fick and Edward McAllister
A healthcare professional administers a dose of AstraZeneca (COVID-19) vaccine at the Narok County Referral
Hospital, in Narok, Kenya, December 1, 2021. Picture taken December 1, 2021. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
    SEKENANI, Kenya (Reuters) – When a group arrived at the Sekenani health clinic in rural Kenya for their COVID-19 vaccines recently, staff told them there were no doses left and that they should come back soon. For some, it meant a long wasted journey on foot and a day away from their cattle herds.
    Yet Narok county, where the clinic is located, was not short of vaccines; nearly 14,000 doses were sitting in a fridge in the nearest town, 115 km away.    A mix-up with county officials meant Sekenani did not get enough, two health workers said.
    “We had to say sorry. It’s not a good feeling, when somebody comes and they want the vaccine, and we don’t have it,” clinician Mike Nalakiti, 27, told Reuters.
    The small failure in a village 270 km southwest of the capital Nairobi is an illustration of the challenges African nations now face as they battle COVID-19: even though vaccine supplies are finally ramping up, getting needles into arms is proving the hard part.
    Successful vaccination campaigns in Africa are vital to ending the pandemic globally, health experts say.    The continent’s low inoculation rates encourage viral mutations like the new Omicron variant spreading across South Africa, which has prompted another spate of international travel bans.
    Only 102 million people, or 7.5% of the continent’s population, are fully vaccinated, according to the World Health Organization, which warned vaccine inequity will prolong the pandemic.
    African governments have been crying out for higher vaccine deliveries this year, but production constraints and hoarding by richer countries severely limited supplies until recently.
    Shortages of funds, medical staff and equipment, as well as vaccine hesitancy, were already hobbling inoculation campaigns in some parts of Africa.    The anticipated surge, comprising millions of jabs in the coming weeks, could expose those weaknesses further, experts warn.
    About 40% of vaccines that have arrived so far on the continent have not been used, according to data from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, a policy think-tank.
    The rate of vaccine use will have to rise four-fold to keep up with expected supply in coming months, the institute says.
    “We are all, like you, very concerned that countries are not picking up the vaccines.    The uptake is not as we would have loved to see,” head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention John Nkengasong said.
FRIDGES AND MOTORBIKES
    Vaccination rates vary widely across Africa, a continent of well over a billion people, and some health systems in relatively small nations and in North Africa are having more success.
    Cape Verde, an archipelago nation off West Africa with a population of about 600,000, has vaccinated nearly 65% of adults, rivalling some European countries.
    In Democratic Republic of Congo, a restive country in Central Africa with a population of nearly 90 million, the number is 0.1%.
    In some ways, Kenya is doing relatively well. East Africa’s largest economy has received nearly 5 million doses in the past two weeks after months of slow supplies.
    On Dec. 1, it vaccinated a record 110,000 people and aims to maintain that rate for the next 30 days, said Willis Akhwale, head of the government’s COVID-19 vaccine task force.    That would bring the total vaccinated to 10 million out of a population of 47 million, he said.
    Yet in the rural Sekenani clinic at the edge of the famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve, where elephants and lions roam, challenges abound.
    The clinic started offering COVID-19 vaccinations four weeks ago.    It keeps running out of doses and has only one reliable fridge, which is also used for routine immunisations, said clinical officer Gerald Yiaile.
    Staff need motorbikes to take vaccines to the community, semi-nomadic livestock herders from the Maasai ethnic group who struggle to afford transport for healthcare, he said.
    He applied to local authorities for funds for mobile vaccination and has not heard back.
    “We have been forced to ask the community to come to us instead of us going to them,” Yiaile said.
NOT ENOUGH MONEY
    African nations scrambled to ready their health systems earlier this year as global vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX began delivering doses in small quantities months after wealthy countries began inoculations.
    Cash-strapped countries were short of cotton wool, fridges, face masks and trucks.
    COVAX deliveries were then disrupted after COVAX’s major supplier India vaccine exports.    The pause gave countries time to improve vaccination rollout without being inundated.    They did so to differing degrees.
    The GAVI vaccine alliance, a co-leader of COVAX, initially did not prioritize investing in the ultra-cold chain equipment needed for mRNA shots like Pfizer’s because it expected the bulk of doses to be the cheaper and easier-to-administer AstraZeneca shots produced in India, Reuters reported in September.
    As vaccine deliveries to Africa soar, absorption of large volumes is expected to represent a major challenge for many poor countries, particularly because a substantial volume will be from Pfizer, GAVI said in internal documents prepared for its board meeting last week and seen by Reuters.
    Even Kenya, which has the ultra-cold chain capacity to store 3 million Pfizer doses, is worried its cold chain will get constrained by the influx, threatening its routine immunization program, Akhwale said.
    Cameroon in Central Africa had 244 vaccination centres at the start of its vaccine rollout in April, and now has 1,000, said Njoh Andreas Ateke, deputy head of the immunisation program.
    But health workers and officials say that power outages and lack of staff have compromised vaccines.
    The country has one refrigerated truck suitable to transport vaccines, said Leonard Kouadio, UNICEF’S health section head in Cameroon.    It needs at least 2,500 more fridge temperature gauges and more trucks to increase distribution, he added.
    Mali, one of Africa’s largest and poorest countries, has two refrigerated trucks to carry vaccines long distances.    Some health workers fled their posts in the north because of insecurity caused by an Islamist insurgency, said UNICEF health program manager in Mali, Abdoul Gadiry Fadiga.
    The country expects to receive about 3.5 million doses between now and the end of March, more than double the number it has received since inoculations began, Fadiga said.
    Mali has enough cold chain capacity to deal with the initial rush of doses until March, Fadiga added, but it still needs 288 fridges and freezers for its full rollout, only 10 freezers of which had arrived.
    Funds have been slow to materialise.    The World Bank has approved $9.8 billion for emergency health responses, including for vaccine deployment, in developing countries globally, but so far only $4.4 billion has been disbursed.
    Mali and Cameroon await support.
    A World Bank official said disbursements were happening “very fast.”
REACHING OUT
    Even when help arrives it can backfire.    Donors have sometimes sent African nations vaccine batches nearing expiration, in some cases rendering them unusable.
    Countries desperate for vaccines, including South Sudan and Congo, had to send some back because they could not distribute them in time.    Namibia warned last month it may have to destroy thousands of out-of-date doses.
    South Africa asked Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer to delay delivery of vaccines because it had too much stock.
    A key difficulty in administering vaccines is community skepticism, sometimes driven by religious belief and mistrust of Western drug companies and their own governments.    Insufficient education about COVID-19 vaccines enables rumours to spread.
    That can be the result of local staff and budget shortages, health workers from across the continent told Reuters.
    Ethiopia is worried that vaccines might expire before they are used due to low demand, and is trying to overcome vaccine hesitancy through outreach to communities via local religious and civil society groups, said Muluken Yohannes, a senior adviser to Ethiopia’s health ministry.
    “Currently, developed countries … have satisfied their vaccine needs. As a result, they are pushing leftover vaccines … to developing countries.    However, the golden period to absorb these vaccines has already passed,” he said.
    Kenya has ramped up its vaccine rollout with social media and television and radio ads promoting vaccines.    Posts on the health ministry Twitter feed urge pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to get vaccinated.
    Not everyone gets the message. Nicky Theron, 20, who works at a clothing shop in the town of Talek, is five months pregnant and scared of the jab.    She doesn’t follow any government Twitter accounts.
    “I have never heard of anybody who is pregnant receiving the vaccine,” she said.
    Some feel they could be persuaded if someone came to explain in person.
    Julius Tuyioto, who herds livestock on arid plains in southern Kenya, hears the government warn of the dangers of COVID-19 on the radio.    But the disease hasn’t hit his community; he says it doesn’t feel real.
    “There is no civic education on why we should be vaccinated.    No one is telling us,” Tuyioto told Reuters outside his mud brick home in Narok County, to the chime of goat bells.
    Last month, the government sent vaccines by motorbike to the nearest primary school, five kilometres away, he said.    But he did not hear about it until the third and final day, when it was too late for him to go.
(Reporting by Maggie Fick and Edward McAllister; Additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio in Brussels, Josiane Kouagheu in Douala, Cameroon and Giulia Paravicini in Addis Ababa; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Alexandra Zavis)

12/6/2021 Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Sets Off On Tour Of Gulf Arab States
Formula One F1- Saudi Arabian Grand Prix - Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - December 5, 2021
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is seen before the race Pool via REUTERS/Andrej Isakovic
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman set off on a tour of fellow Gulf Arab states on Monday ahead of a Gulf summit this month amid crucial talks aimed at salvaging a nuclear pact between Iran and the West.
    Prince Mohammed will visit Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait, Saudi state news agency SPA reported.    Oman will be the first leg of the tour.
    It will be the crown prince’s first trip to Qatar since Riyadh and its Arab allies imposed an embargo on Doha in mid-2017 in a row that was only resolved last January.
    Al Arabiya said the summit of Gulf Arab leaders would be held in the Saudi capital Riyadh in mid-December.
    Saudi Arabia and the UAE have engaged with long-time foe Iran in a bid to contain regional tensions as indirect talks between Washington and Tehran to revive the nuclear pact drag.
    In the latest round of talks in Vienna last week, Western powers questioned Iran’s determination to salvage the 2015 agreement, which Gulf states saw as flawed for not addressing Tehran’s missiles programme and network of regional proxies.
    Then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the pact in 2018 and reimposed U.S. sanctions, prompting Iran to begin violating nuclear restrictions.    Tehran denies seeking nuclear weapons.
    Prince Mohammed starts his regional tour on the same day that the UAE’s top national security adviser is expected to visit Iran.
    Sunni Muslim power Saudi Arabia in April launched direct talks with Shi’ite Iran, with which it is locked in several proxy conflicts in the Middle East.    Riyadh has described the discussions, held in Iraq, as largely exploratory.
(Writing by Ghaida Ghantous and Alexander Cornwell; editing by Richard Pullin, Lincoln Feast and Nick Macfie)

12/6/2021 Iraqi Forces, Kurdish Peshmerga Retake Northern Village From IS Fighters – Sources
Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take part in an intensive security deployment after Islamic State
militants took it over the previous day in Luhaiban village in Kirkuk, Iraq December 6,2021. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed
    SULAIMANIYA/BAGHDAD, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have recaptured a village in northern Iraq on Monday after Islamic State militants took it over the previous day, security and police sources said.
    Elite Iraq interior ministry forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters managed on early Monday to control Luhaiban village, though the militants have left some houses booby-trapped with explosive devices, the sources said.
    In a separate attack on Sunday, Islamic State militants killed four Peshmerga soldiers and a civilian, and wounded six other people when they attacked Qara Salem village in northern Iraq, security sources said.
    The Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs said in a statement that the attack caused casualties, but did not confirm the toll.
    Peshmerga are the military forces of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.
    One Peshmerga colonel said Islamic State fighters were using hit-and-run tactics in night attacks on their positions.
    “They avoid holding the ground for longer time … More reinforcement forces were dispatched to the area to prevent further attacks,” the colonel said.
    Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters reinforced their troops in the area on Monday where the attacks had been carried out by militant group with Iraqi military helicopters flying over to chase militants, two Iraqi security sources said.
    The two villages are in remote territory claimed by the Iraqi government in Baghdad and the government of the autonomous northern Kurdish region in Erbil where there are regular attacks by Islamic State.
    But it is a rare incident of Islamic State militants controlling a residential area near a main road, a highway that links Erbil to the city of Kirkuk.
    Iraq declared victory over the hardline Sunni militant group in December 2017.    Although the group has largely been defeated, it continues to carry out sporadic attacks and operate limited cells in the country, particularly in the north.
(Reporting by Ali Sultan in Sulaimanyiya, Mustafa Mahmoud in Kirkuk and Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad; Writing by Enas Alashray; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

12/6/2021 Yemen Houthis Bury Their Dead As Fighting In Gas-Rich Marib Rages by Adel Al-Khader
Police troopers carry the coffins of Houthi fighters killed in recent fighting against government
forces, during their funeral in Sanaa, Yemen December 6, 2021. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
    SANAA (Reuters) – Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis held military funerals on Monday for 25 fighters killed in battles with a Saudi-led coalition, as fighting showed no signs of abating despite intense international diplomacy to end the seven-year-old conflict.
    The funerals took place amid fierce fighting in the gas-rich Marib province, with warplanes from the coalition having intensified their bombing there as well as in the capital Sanaa and other areas.
    The Houthis have also stepped up cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia using armed drones and missiles.
    A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition late on Monday said one ballistic missile fired from Yemen towards the kingdom had been intercepted over Riyadh.    Residents reported loud blasts across the Saudi capital.
    Over the past 24 hours, the coalition had carried out 47 air strikes against Houthi targets in Marib, he also said.
    An honour guard carried the coffins – draped with flags, flowers and photographs of the dead – with military music through the capital Sanaa.    Relatives gathered to mourn their loved ones.
    “We are in these days inspired by these martyrs’ pride and dignity and say to them: ‘congratulations!    You have preceded us to a paradise as wide as the heavens and earth’,” said Ali Muhyaddin, a relative of one of the dead.
    The war in Yemen has killed tens of thousands and caused what the United Nations describes as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
    U.N.-led efforts to agree a ceasefire have stalled in the conflict, which is seen largely as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign invasion.
    Houthi media showed fighters exchanging heavy artillery fire with coalition forces in Marib on Sunday as warplanes flew overhead.    All of the 25 fighters buried in Sanaa were killed in Marib, Houthi officials said.
    The Houthis have launched a year-long offensive to take Marib, which hosts Yemen’s biggest gas fields.
    The city of Marib is the last stronghold of the internationally recognised government and home to 3 million people, including nearly 1 million who fled other parts of Yemen after the Houthis ousted the government from Sanaa in late 2014, prompting the Saudi-led coalition to intervene.
    The number of displaced people in camps in the province has risen nearly 10-fold since September, with more than 45,000 people fleeing their homes as Houthi forces press the offensive, the U.N. migration agency IOM said last month.
(Writing by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Alex Richardson, William Maclean and Paul Simao)

12/6/2021 Israeli Prime Minister Urges Countries To Take A Hardline Stance On Iran by OAN Newsroom
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett chairs a cabinet meeting at the prime minister’s office
in Jerusalem, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021. Bennett on Sunday urged world powers to take a hard line
against Iran in negotiations to curb the country’s nuclear program, as his top defense and
intelligence officials headed to Washington amid the flailing talks. (Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool via AP)
    Israel tapped the U.S. and other countries to take a hardline stance against Iran as the countries deliberate reviving the failed nuclear deal.
    On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urged countries to be wary when dealing with Iran, stressing Iran cannot continue to violate agreements while trying to negotiate new ones.
    Bennett’s sentiments came after deliberations in Vienna ended in a stalemate with U.S. and foreign negotiators reporting Iran had taken a hardline stance of its own.
    “We got an example of the nuclear blackmail I was talking about when, during the Vienna talks, it was published that they (the Iranians) began enriching uranium to 20 percent in advanced centrifuges in the underground facility of Fordo,” said the Israeli Prime Minister.    “This is a very serious stage.    I call on every country negotiating with Iran in Vienna to take a strong line and make it clear to Iran that they cannot enrich uranium and negotiate at the same time.”
    Since Joe Biden took over the U.S. White House, Iran has strengthened their nuclear stockpile far past the agreed amount.

12/7/2021 Dutch Appeals Court: Israel’s Gantz Cannot Be Held Liable For Palestinian Deaths In 2014
FILE PHOTO: Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State
Antony Blinken, at the State Department in Washington, U.S., June 3, 2021. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS
    AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – An appeals court in the Netherlands on Tuesday found that Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz cannot be held responsible for the death of six Palestinians in an Israeli air strike on Gaza in 2014.
(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch and Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Alex Richardson)

12/7/2021 UAE Announces Move To Saturday-Sunday Weekend To Align With Global Markets
FILE PHOTO: General view of the Burj Khalifa and the downtown skyline in
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, September 30, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates said on Tuesday it would transition to a four and half-day working week starting next year, with the full weekend falling on Saturday and Sunday in a move aimed at better aligning its economy with global markets.
    The oil producing Gulf state, the region’s commercial, trade and tourism hub, currently has a Friday-Saturday weekend. As of Jan. 1, 2022, the new weekend would start on Friday afternoon.
    The UAE has in the past year taken measures to make its economy more attractive to foreign investment and talent at a time of growing economic rivalry with neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
    A government statement said the move would “ensure smooth financial, trade and economic transactions with countries that follow a Saturday-Sunday weekend, facilitating stronger international business links and opportunities for thousands of UAE-based and multinational companies.”
    Friday is a weekly holiday in many predominantly Muslim countries.    The statement said that under the new work week for government entities, Friday working hours would end at 12 noon, ahead of Friday sermons and prayers.
    The statement said the extended weekend comes as part of UAE efforts to boost work-life balance.
    The UAE has also liberalised laws regarding cohabitation before marriage, alcohol and personal status laws in addition to introducing longer-term visas as a way to attract and retain talent and encourage more businesses to set up shop.
(Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Alex Richardson and Edmund Blair)

12/7/2021 Re-Elected Gambian President Barrow Promises New Constitution, Term Limits by Pap Saine
FILE PHOTO: Gambia’s president-elect Adama Barrow gives a victory speech
in Banjul, Gambia December 5, 2021. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo
    BANJUL (Reuters) – Gambia’s newly re-elected president, Adama Barrow, said on Tuesday that his government plans to draft a new constitution that would introduce presidential term limits, but fell short of saying whether he personally would seek additional mandates.
    Barrow comfortably won re-election on Sunday, despite challenges from some opposition candidates who initially rejected the results.    Election observers have said the poll was conducted fairly.
    In his first news conference since the election, Barrow said that in addition to imposing term limits, a new constitution would restructure the polling process to include potential runoff polls if no candidate wins 50% of the votes.
    “I promise Gambians and the world that my government will introduce a new constitution, which will include term limits and absolute majority,” Barrow said.
    Barrow, 56, will officially begin his second five-year term on Jan. 19, after being elected with 53% of Saturday’s vote under the current simple-majority system.
    He did not detail whether such term limits would be retroactive, or whether they would permit him to seek additional terms after his current mandate ends.
    The current constitution, drafted in 1997 at the dawn of former President Yahya Jammeh’s oppressive 22-year rule, does not include term limits.    Jammeh lost to Barrow in 2016 and was later forced into exile.
    Gambia’s parliament last year rejected a revised constitution that included a two-term limit, which also would have prevented Barrow from using the new charter to reset his term count.
    Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of the capital, Banjul, on Monday in support of three opposition candidates who said they would not accept Barrow’s election victory.    Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds.
    The otherwise peaceful election was seen as a test of stability for the small West African country, as it solidifies its democratic gains since Jammeh’s ouster.
(Reporting by Pap Saine; Writing by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Bate Felix and Peter Cooney)

12/7/2021 Saudi Coalition Bombs Sanaa In Tit-For-Tat Violence With Houthis by Aziz El Yaakoubi
Children look from the window of their apartment in a building near a car workshop hit
by a Saudi-led air strike, in Sanaa, Yemen December 7, 2021. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
    DUBAI (Reuters) -The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said on Tuesday it bombed military targets in the capital Sanaa after the Iran-aligned Houthis launched ballistic missiles and armed drones into Saudi Arabia, including at Aramco oil facilities in Jeddah.
    The tit-for-tat violence has escalated dramatically over the last months despite efforts by the United States and the United Nations to engineer a ceasefire in the seven-year-old war that has caused a dire humanitarian crisis.
    The coalition conducted “precision strikes on legitimate military targets in Sanaa” and in the last 24 hours also struck Houthi targets in Marib and Jouf, a coalition statement said.
    The Houthi military spokesman had earlier said the group fired several ballistic missiles and used 25 armed drones in attacks on Saudi targets, including an Aramco oil facility in Jeddah and the defence ministry in the capital Riyadh.
    The coalition said late on Monday one ballistic missile was intercepted over Riyadh, where residents reported loud blasts, and destroyed two armed drones launched from Yemen towards the kingdom.
    Aramco, which has a petroleum products distribution plant in Jeddah, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    There were no reports of casualties or significant damage from the Houthi strikes, which the spokesman said also included King Fahad air base in Taif region in addition to military sites in Riyadh and the city’s airport.
    U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg said the military escalation of the conflict in Yemen is “deeply alarming” and called on the warring sides to exercise restraint.
    “Military options will not result in sustainable solutions.    The parties have a responsibility to prioritize the needs of civilians and to cooperate with the U.N. efforts to revive a political process,” Grundberg said in a statement.
    The Houthis have stepped up cross-border attacks as the coalition has intensified air strikes on Sanaa and gas-rich Marib, which this year became the focus of the war and where thousands of fighters from both sides have been killed.
    The Saudis accuse Iran of supplying the Houthis with missiles, while U.N. investigators have said some of the weapons have technical characteristics similar to arms manufactured by Iran.    The Houthis say they manufacture their weapons themselves.
    The coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from Sanaa.
    The war has killed tens of thousands, predominantly civilians, and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.
(Additional reporting by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by John Stonestreet, Alistair Bell, William Maclean)

12/7/2021 Saudi Crown Prince Arrives In UAE On Gulf Tour Amid Economic Rivalry
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan receives Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in Abu
Dhabi, United Arab Emirates December 7, 2021. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on a tour of the Gulf region, arrived on Tuesday in the United Arab Emirates, an ally locked in a growing economic rivalry with the kingdom.
    He was met by the UAE’s de facto ruler, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, on arrival in the capital Abu Dhabi on a two-day visit, state media said.
    The tour comes ahead of a Gulf summit this month amid talks between Tehran and world powers aimed at salvaging a 2015 nuclear pact, a deal Gulf Arab states have criticised for not tackling Tehran’s missiles programme and regional behaviour.
    The ambitious princes of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi had forged an alliance that propelled a hawkish foreign policy which saw them launch a military campaign in Yemen, lead an Arab boycott of Qatar and lobby Washington to take a tougher stance with Iran.
    But economic rivalry and national interests have seen them chart separate paths, with differences first emerging in 2019 when the UAE withdrew its military presence in Yemen and started engaging with Iran, and then last year when it forged ties with Israel.
    With Gulf uncertainty deepening over the U.S. role in the region, Riyadh this year began direct talks with Iran to contain regional tensions as Gulf states double down on economic growth.
    Saudi Arabia is vying to become a regional commercial and tourism hub, a position long held by the UAE.
    Prince Mohammed’s visit comes after a top Emirati official visited Iran on Monday, the latest push by Abu Dhabi to mend ties with rivals including Turkey.    Riyadh has been slower to respond to overtures by Ankara.
    The Saudi prince is due to visit Qatar on Wednesday for the first time since 2017 when Riyadh and its allies boycotted Doha in a row that Saudi Arabia declared an end to last January.
(Writing by Ghaida Ghantous, Editing by William Maclean)

12/7/2021 African Union Calls For End To Omicron Travel Curbs On Some African Nations
FILE PHOTO: The African Union logo is seen outside the AU headquarters building
in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 8, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – The African Union on Tuesday called for an urgent end to travel restrictions imposed on some of its member states, saying the measures effectively penalize governments for timely data sharing in line with international health regulations.
    The measures act “as a disincentive for information sharing in the future, potentially posing a threat to health security on the continent and globally,” the AU said in a statement.
    Late last month, European Union states, the United States and Britain, among other nations such as Israel, imposed travel curbs on seven southern African countries after they reported several cases of the Omicron variant, which is considered highly infectious.
(Reporting by Maggie Fick; Editing by Mark Porter)

12/8/2021 Suspected Killer Of Saudi Journalist Khashoggi Was Identified By Passport, Not Just Name – Source
FILE PHOTO: The Committee to Protect Journalists and other press freedom activists hold a candlelight vigil in
front of the Saudi Embassy to mark the anniversary of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom's
consulate in Istanbul, Wednesday evening in Washington, U.S., October 2, 2019. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger/File Photo
    PARIS (Reuters) – A Saudi man held at a Paris airport over suspected links to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was arrested because his passport triggered an alert, a police source said on Wednesday, after Saudi Arabia said it was a case of mistaken identity.
    French law enforcement sources have named the man arrested on Tuesday as Khaled Aedh Al-Otaibi – the same name as a former member of the Saudi Royal Guard listed in U.S. and British sanctions documents and a U.N.-commissioned report as having been involved in Khashoggi’s killing.
    The Saudi Embassy in Paris said late on Tuesday the arrested person “has nothing to do with the case in question” and should be immediately released.
    The man was intercepted at the airport on Tuesday morning when his passport triggered an alert while being scanned, the police source said on Wednesday.
    The alert showed he was wanted in connection with a murder investigation, the source said, adding that the alert was based on a Turkish arrest warrant.
    According to French law, authorities have 48 hours from the moment he was intercepted at the airport – so until just before 10 a.m. (0900 GMT) on Thursday – to verify who he is and either release him or take steps to detain him longer and start potential extradition procedures.
    French police have his passport details and a picture of rather poor quality based on the Turkish arrest warrant, but no biometric information, the police source noted, adding that they could potentially request more information from Turkey.
    A 2019 U.N. investigation report said Al-Otaibi was a member of a 15-man Saudi team involved in killing Khashoggi after the journalist went to the consulate to obtain a document to allow him to marry his fiancee.
    Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist and critic of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. Turkish officials believe his body was dismembered and removed.    His remains have not been found.
    A U.S. intelligence report released in March https://www.dni.gov/files/ODNI/documents/assessments/Assessment-Saudi-Gov-Role-in-JK-Death-20210226v2.pdf this year said Prince Mohammed had approved the operation to kill or capture Khashoggi. The Saudi government has denied any involvement by the crown prince and rejected the report’s findings.
    Last weekend, French President Emmanuel https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/khashoggis-shadow-macron-set-saudi-talks-with-crown-prince-2021-12-04Macron held face-to-face talks in Saudi Arabia with Prince Mohammed, becoming the first major Western leader to visit the kingdom since Khashoggi’s murder.
(Reporting by Alain Acco; writing by Ingrid Melander; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

12/8/2021 Factbox-Who Is Fighting In Yemen’s War?
A Houthi fighter with an amputated right arm takes position at a frontline in
al-Jubah district of Yemen's Marib province in a frame grab from video handed out by the Houthi'
media center November 2, 2021. Houthi Media Center/Handout via Reuters/Files
    (Reuters) – The parties to the war in Yemen each have their own agenda, making the conflict hard to resolve. Here are some of these groups and what they want:
THE HOUTHIS
    In the late 1990s, the Houthi family in far north Yemen set up a religious revival movement involving the Zaydi sect of Shi’ite Islam, which had once ruled Yemen but whose northern heartland had been marginalised.
    As friction with the government grew, they fought a series of guerrilla wars with the national army and a brief border conflict with Saudi Arabia.    They built ties with Iran, but it is not clear how deep that relationship goes.
    Since seizing the capital Sanaa in 2014, the Houthis have relied on parts of the existing bureaucracy to govern much of the north and other big urban centres.    Their long-term strategy is unclear.
LOYALISTS OF THE LATE PRESIDENT SALEH
    Ali Abdullah Saleh took power in north Yemen in 1978 and after unification with the south in 1990 he stayed on as president.    He joined with tribal power brokers to dominate the country, placing his clansmen in key positions in the army and economy, prompting accusations of corruption.
    When former allies deserted him during the Arab Spring, forcing him from power, Saleh joined with his former foes, the     Houthis, and helped them seize Sanaa.
    Despite their differences, they ruled much of Yemen together after the war started in 2014.    Then Saleh saw a chance to regain power for his family by turning on the Houthis, then tried to flee in 2017 and was killed.
    When Saleh switched sides, so did some commanders and troops loyal to him.    They are now fighting against their former Houthi allies under the late president’s nephew, Tarek, an army general with ties to the United Arab Emirates.
PRESIDENT HADI’S GOVERNMENT
    A general in south Yemen before unification, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi sided with Saleh during the brief 1994 civil war.    After defeating the separatists, Saleh made Hadi vice president.
    When Saleh was forced from power, Hadi was elected to a two-year term in 2012 to oversee a transition to democracy with a new constitution and new elections scheduled for 2014.
    Hadi has been at odds with key Saudi ally the UAE due to his alliance with the Islamist Islah party.    It is seen as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been designated by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi as a terrorist organization.
    Hadi’s forces are vying for control of the southern port of Aden, the temporary seat of the government, where the influence of UAE-backed southern separatists has grown.
SOUTHERN SEPARATISTS
    After independence from Britain, South Yemen became the only Communist country in the Middle East, but it suffered constant infighting.    Weakened by that and the collapse of the Soviet Union, it unified with Saleh’s North Yemen in 1990.
    As it became clear most power was in northern hands, the old southern leadership tried to secede in 1994, but was swiftly beaten by Saleh’s army, which sacked Aden.    Many southerners have complained of increasing economic and political marginalisation.
    Led by Abu Dhabi-based general Aidaroos al-Zubaidi, the separatists captured the southern ports of Mukalla from al Qaeda and Aden from the Houthis in 2015.    They have more than 50,000 fighters, armed and trained by the UAE.
    The main separatist group Southern Transitional Council has seized control of Aden several times in a power struggle with Hadi’s government over the control of the south.    Tensions remain high despite a Saudi-brokered deal in 2019 to end the standoff.
AL QAEDA IN THE ARABIAN PENINSULA
    Set up by members of the global jihadist group who had escaped prison in Yemen and their comrades who fled Saudi Arabia, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula became one of its most powerful branches.
    It took advantage of Arab Spring chaos to create mini states in remote eastern regions and launched numerous attacks that undermined Hadi’s transitional government.
    During the civil war, it has carried out attacks against both sides.    Any prolonged chaos in Yemen will give it more room to consolidate and plot attacks abroad.
SAUDI ARABIA, THE UAE AND THE WESTERN-BACKED COALITION
    Saudi Arabia regards the Houthis as a proxy for Iran, its greatest regional rival, and it wants to stop Tehran gaining sway in its neighbour Yemen.
    Saudi troops have been deployed along the borders and in some Yemeni provinces but it has relied mostly on air strikes against Houthi-held areas.    Saudi Arabia has also provided a base in exile for Hadi and logistical support for the ground fighting in northern Yemen.
    The UAE, which also backed the 2012 transition plan, is the other main participant in the coalition.
    Abu Dhabi deployed some ground troops and suffered casualties in the war before largely ending its military presence on the ground in 2019.    It holds sway via tens of thousands of Yemenis, mostly from the southern provinces, that it armed and trained.
    The United States, Britain, France and other Western countries actively backed the alliance with weapons, logistics and intelligence throughout the war until late 2020.    U.S. President Joe Biden halted U.S. support to the war and made ending it a priority of his foreign policy amid an uproar over civilian casualties by the coalition’s bombings.
    Other countries in the coalition have been less closely involved, though Sudan has put some troops on the ground.
IRAN AND ITS REGIONAL ALLIES
    Iran champions the Houthis as part of its regional “axis of resistance,” and the movement has adopted elements of Tehran’s revolutionary ideology.
    But while Saudi Arabia and its allies accuse Iran of arming and training the Houthis, the extent of the relationship is disputed and Tehran has denied funnelling weapons into Yemen.
(Writing By Angus McDowall and Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Giles Elgood, Angus MacSwan and Kevin Liffey)

12/8/2021 Renewed Iran Nuclear Talks Seen Thursday, But France Discouraged by John Irish
FILE PHOTO: Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Enrique Mora
and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA
Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria December 3, 2021. EU Delegation in Vienna/Handout via REUTERS
    DOHA (Reuters) – Talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are expected to resume on Thursday, France’s foreign minister said, although he added that he feared Iran was playing for time.
    “The elements… are not very encouraging,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a French parliament committee, referring to the seventh round of nuclear talks between Iran and major powers that began on Nov. 29 and paused on Friday.
    “We have the feeling the Iranians want to make it last and the longer the talks last, the more they go back on their commitments… and get closer to capacity to get a nuclear weapon,” Le Drian said.
    Under the 2015 deal struck by Tehran and six major powers, Iran limited its nuclear program in return for relief from U.S., European Union and U.N. sanctions.
    Then-President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh U.S. sanctions, and Iran began violating the nuclear restrictions a year later.
    While Le Drian and Iranian media reports said talks were expected to resume Thursday, a senior U.S. State Department official said Washington did not yet have a confirmed date.
    The indirect U.S.-Iranian talks in Vienna, in which other diplomats shuttle between them because Tehran refuses direct talks with Washington, aim to get both sides to resume compliance with the deal.
    However, last week’s discussions broke off with European and U.S. officials voicing dismay at sweeping demands by Iran’s new, hardline government under anti-Western President Ebrahim Raisi, whose June election caused a five-month pause in the talks.
    A senior U.S. official on Saturday said Iran abandoned any compromises it had made in the previous six rounds of talks, pocketed those made by others, and demanded more last week.
    Each side appears to be trying to blame the other for the lack of progress.
    U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the presidents of the United States and Russia – two of the six major powers in the deal along with Britain, China, France, and Germany – had a “productive” discussion about Iran on Tuesday.
    “The more Iran demonstrates a lack of seriousness at the negotiating table, the more unity there is among the P5+1 and the more they will be exposed as the isolated party in this negotiation,” he told reporters, referring to the six powers.
    Speaking on Monday, Central Intelligence Agency Director Bill Burns said the agency does not believe Iran’s supreme leader has decided to take steps to “weaponize” a nuclear device but noted that it has made advances in its ability to enrich uranium, one pathway to the fissile material for a bomb.
    Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying it only wants to master nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
    “We don’t see any evidence as an agency right now that Iran’s supreme leader has made a decision to move to weaponize,” Burns told the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit.
    Burns described Iran’s challenge as “a three-legged race” to obtain fissile material, to “weaponize” by placing such material into a device designed to cause a nuclear explosion, and to mate it to a delivery system such as a ballistic missile.
    On weaponization, Burns said “the Iranians still have a lot of work to do there as far as we judge it.”
(Reporting by John Irish; Additional reporting by Idrees Ali and Simon Lewis in Washington and by Dubai newsroom; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Cynthia Osterman)

12/8/2021 Sudan Cut Off From $650 Million Of International Funding After Coup by Aidan Lewis, Khalid Abdelaziz and Nafisa Eltahir
FILE PHOTO: A person wearing a Sudan's flag stand in front of a burning pile of tyres during a protest
against prospect of military rule in Khartoum, Sudan October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan was unable to access $650 million in international funding in November when assistance was paused after a coup, the finance minister of the dissolved government said – a freeze that puts in doubt basic import payments and the fate of economic reforms.
    The financing included $500 million in budget support from the World Bank and $150 million in special drawing rights from the International Monetary Fund, said Jibril Ibrahim, who was appointed to a civilian transitional government in February.
    Foreign funding was seen as crucial in helping Sudan emerge from decades of isolation and supporting a transition towards democracy that began with the 2019 overthrow of Omar al-Bashir.
    The Oct. 25 coup upended that transition. The United States has put on hold $700 million in economic assistance since the coup and the World Bank, which had promised $2 billion in grants, has paused disbursements.
    After mass protests, the military on Nov. 21 announced a deal to reinstate Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.    He is tasked with forming a government of technocrats but faces political opposition to the deal.
    “Sudan had tremendous international support.    Now donors will be much more cautious,” said one former official from the dissolved government.
    The onus will now be on the military and the government to show they are not returning to the very Bashir-era model that was being restructured and reformed, the former official said.
    The U.S. Treasury declined to comment.    The IMF, which approved a $2.5 billion, 39-month loan programme in June that is subject to periodic review, said it continued to “closely monitor developments
    Before the coup the inflation rate, one of the highest in the world, had begun to fall, and the exchange rate had stabilized following a sharp devaluation in February.
    Western diplomats and bankers say those reforms are now at risk and it is unclear how Sudan can fund imports without printing banknotes, a policy that fuelled a long-running economic crisis but stopped during the transition.
    Around the time of the coup, Sudan had enough reserves to cover just two months of strategic imports, a second former official said.
GOLD REVENUES
    Ibrahim, a former rebel leader who secured his ministerial role through a peace deal and expects to retain it, said he hoped international support would return gradually over the next three to six months and that meanwhile bills could be paid and reforms would continue.
    “Basically we depend on tax, customs and gold revenues and on different (state) companies working in various fields,” Ibrahim said in an interview at the Finance Ministry in Khartoum.    For imported basic goods, such as flour, fuel and medicine, “we cannot cover it completely, but the majority of the strategic commodities we can cover with our exports,” he said.
    The government had begun to reduce its trade deficit through tax and customs reforms, but those revenues were interrupted by a blockade by a tribal group at Port Sudan before the coup.    A further blockade has been threatened.
    Ibrahim said the main impact of the freeze in international support would be on development projects covering areas including water supply, electricity, agriculture, health and transport.    An internationally funded basic income programme to lessen the impact of subsidy reform has also been frozen.
    Sudan’s 2022 budget was being planned with no allowance for international assistance, Ibrahim said, but with a target of sticking to a 1.5% deficit limit defined under an IMF financing programme.    Projected growth for 2022 could fall from 3% to 1.5-2%, he said.
    Ibrahim said Sudan would seek investment rather than grants from wealthy Gulf Arab states that now face their own economic challenges.
    “Up till now there have not been any big promises of support from any country, Arab or non-Arab, but contacts with all friendly states continue,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal, Writing by Aidan Lewis, Editing by William Maclean)

12/9/2021 U.S. And Israel Ramp Up Pressure On Iran As Diplomacy Stalls by Phil Stewart
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin welcomes Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz during an enhanced honor
cordon arrival ceremony at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., December 9, 2021. REUTERS/Ken Cedeno
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and Israel increased pressure on Iran on Thursday as nuclear talks stalled, with Israel’s visiting defense chief calling for discussions on joint military readiness to be able to halt Iran’s nuclear aspirations.
    Reuters exclusively reported that Thursday’s U.S.-Israeli agenda was expected to include discussions about possible military exercises that would prepare for a worst-case scenario to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities should diplomacy fail and if their nations’ leaders request it.
    U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at the start of the meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Benny Gantz, that Iran had failed to offer constructive diplomatic engagement in talks that President Joe Biden had hoped would revive a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
    Austin said Biden was “prepared to turn to other options” if the current American policy on Iran fails.
    “We are completely aligned in our commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
    This is a national security interest of the United States and Israel and the world
,” Austin said.
    Gantz described Iran, Israel’s arch foe, as “the biggest threat to the global and regional peace and stability.”
    Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying it wants to master nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.    But sweeping demands by Iran’s new, hardline government in talks have heightening suspicions in the West that Iran is playing for time while advancing its nuclear program.
    With the 2015 deal’s nuclear benefits now badly compromised, some Western officials say there is little time left before the foundation of the deal is damaged beyond repair.    Under the accord, Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions.
DETERRENCE
    The Pentagon declined comment on the Reuters report, which also disclosed an Oct. 25 briefing by Defense Department officials to U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on the full range of military options to ensure that Iran would not be able to produce a nuclear weapon.
    “I know there’s interest in a certain Reuters report,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told a news briefing.
    “I will tell you this: We routinely conduct exercises and training with our Israeli counterparts and I have nothing to announce to or speak to or point to or speculate about today.”
    Drills by the United States and Israel could address calls by Dennis Ross, a former senior U.S. official and Middle East expert, and others to signal openly to Tehran that the United States and Israel remain serious about preventing it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
    “Biden needs to disabuse Iran of the notion that Washington will not act militarily and will stop Israel from doing so,” Ross wrote last month.
    Ross also suggested the United States could signal a willingness to give the Israelis the U.S. military’s bunker-busting Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a 30,000-pound (13,600-kg)bomb.
    Central Intelligence Agency Director Bill Burns said on Monday that the CIA does not believe Iran’s supreme leader has decided to take steps to weaponize a nuclear device but noted advances in its ability to enrich uranium, one pathway to the fissile material for a bomb.
    Burns cautioned that, even if Iran decided to go ahead, it would still require a lot of work to weaponize that fissile material before attaching a nuclear weapon to a missile or other delivery system.
    “But they’re further along in their mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle and that’s the kind of knowledge that is very difficult to sanction away or make disappear,” he said.
    U.S. officials have also long worried about America’s ability to detect and destroy dispersed components of Iran’s nuclear weaponization program once enough fissile material for a bomb were produced.
(Additional reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Mary Milliken and Daniel Wallis)

12/9/2021 Compromised Hamdok Battles To Save Sudan’s Political Transition by Aidan Lewis and Khalid Abdelaziz
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok addresses the media at the Chancellery in Berlin
during an official visit to Germany, February 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke//File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, reinstated after a coup, must now pull off a political juggling act if he is to realise his ambition of forming a government to secure a civilian foothold in his country’s turbulent transition away from autocracy.
    To salvage the transition – as well as his reputation – the softly spoken economist needs to establish his independence from a military leadership that placed him under house arrest and detained some of his former cabinet for several weeks before striking a deal last month for his return.
    Failure could lead to further turmoil in Sudan, where the suspension of international economic support threatens financial disarray at a time when nearly a third of the population needs humanitarian aid, and renewed unrest threatens to destabilise regions including Darfur and its eastern border with Ethiopia.
    Hamdok’s Nov. 21 deal with military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan drew widespread criticism.
    It angered a large protest movement that has pushed for democracy since the 2019 overthrow of Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir, as well as alienating political factions that had been sharing power with the army.
    “The Burhan-Hamdok agreement legitimises the coup and it will not stand,” said Khalid Omer Yousif, who served as minister of cabinet affairs until his arrest in October.
    “We call on Hamdok, who made a big mistake, to return to the side of the revolution and the people.”
    As local mediators try to chart a course for a redesigned transition, the protest movement has denounced the military from the street under the slogan: “No partnership, no negotiation, no compromise.”
    Though high-profile political detainees have been released, activists say others outside the capital Khartoum are still held.
    At a rally on Monday in Bahri, Khartoum’s twin city north of the Blue Nile, several people said they had nothing against Hamdok personally but would continue to march until the military left power, whatever happened to the economy.
    “For a while we considered Hamdok one of us,” said Asjad Omer, a 31-year-old accountant.
    “As soon as he took the side of the military, for us any agreement became useless.”
    At sunset, a large convoy of riot police armed with sticks crossed the river into Bahri in the direction of the protests.
APPOINTMENTS FROZEN
    Hamdok has issued decisions to freeze or reverse appointments of Bashir-era veterans made between the coup and his return, but it is unclear how much influence reformists can recover in the state bureaucracy.
    Some senior officials appointed under the transition are unwilling to return and others have yet to decide, contributing to uncertainty at largely empty ministries.
    Hamdok is meant to name technocrats to a new government.
    But while the civilian coalition that emerged from the uprising against Bashir is excluded, former rebel groups aligned with the army are widely expected to retain posts gained through a 2020 peace deal.
    Jibril Ibrahim, who became finance minister after his Justice and Equality Movement signed that agreement, expressed support for the military before the coup and has continued to operate out of the ministry after it.
    A new ruling Sovereign Council has been appointed by the military and a 2019 agreement to hand over from military to civilian leadership of the transition ahead of elections in 2023 has been dropped.
    “He (Hamdok) has put himself in a very complex and very limiting situation,” said Kholood Khair of Insight Strategy Partners, a Khartoum-based think tank.    “What he needs very quickly is a functioning cabinet that people can get behind.”
    Hamdok could not be reached for comment but sources close to him have said he will quit if his agreement with the military fails to win political backing.
    Burhan has indicated that economic reforms will not be reversed and told Reuters an investigation into protest casualties had begun.
    But the coup has frozen major development plans.
    Most primary health care centres are not functioning and even in smarter areas of Khartoum, broken pipes spill sewage water onto potholed roads.
    Diplomats said Hamdok, who has a reputation for seeking consensus through lengthy consultations, had limited time to win back support from the street and show he was not simply doing the bidding of a military with a history of staging coups.
    “Even if you get back on track, how is anyone going to trust that this isn’t going to happen again?” said one.
(This story corrects spelling of Khair in paragraph 19)
(Writing by Aidan Lewis; editing by John Stonestreet)

12/9/2021 Current Tunisian Constitution No Longer Valid, Presidency Says
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators carry flags and banners during a protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied's
seizure of governing powers, in Tunis, Tunisia, October 10, 2021. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) – The Tunisian presidency said on Thursday the political problem in Tunisia today stemmed from the current 2014 constitution which was no longer valid.
    “The way forward is to return to the people in a completely new and different way.    There must be a legal solution based on the will and sovereignty of the people,” the statement quoted president Kais Saied as saying.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Ahmad Elhamy; Editing by Chris Reese)

12/9/2021 U.S.-Led Troops End Iraq Combat Mission, As Planned – Military Officials
FILE PHOTO: Iraq's National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji wearing a protective mask speaks
after he took up the post from the former security advisor Falih al-Fayyadh, during a meeting
with employees of the advisers in Baghdad, Iraq July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) -U.S.-led forces have ended their combat mission in Iraq, a move that transfers all remaining troops into a training and advising role, Iraqi military commanders and officials from the coalition led by the United States said on Thursday.
    Western security officials and diplomats say privately that this will make little difference to the number of troops stationed in the country – currently more than 2,000 – since those forces have had limited involvement in any combat operations for the last couple of years.
    The U.S.-led coalition began its mission in 2014 to defeat Islamic State, after the militants took over vast areas of Iraq and neighbouring Syria.
    Since the group’s military defeat in 2017, Islamic State fighters have been unable to hold territory but are waging a continued low-level insurgency that regularly kills Iraqi soldiers and civilians in remote mountain and desert areas.
    The coalition has also come under dozens of rocket and drone attacks by Iran-backed Shi’ite militias that helped defeat the Sunni extremist Islamic State and which say there is no longer a justification for Western forces to be in Iraq.
    “As we complete our combat role, we will remain here to advise, assist, and enable the ISF (Iraqi security forces), at the invitation of Republic of Iraq,” coalition commander Major General John W. Brennan, Jr. said in a statement.
    Iraqi commander Lieutenant General Abdul Amir al-Shammari said Iraqi forces were ready to handle the Islamic State threat.
    “Today, we renew our partnership with the Coalition, who are now serving in a new capacity – with a mission to advise, assist, and enable our brave military warriors,” he said.
    U.S. President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi sealed an agreement in July to formally end the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021.
    Iraqi Shi’ite militants have vowed to wage new attacks against coalition forces in 2022.
    Western security and diplomatic officials say that calling the shift a withdrawal, as it has sometimes been characterized by the Iraqi government, is misleading because it changes little in terms of the number of forces based in Iraq.
    The U.S. has kept around 2,500 troops in Iraq since 2020.    The Western officials say that most of those forces have been operating only in a training and advising role for some time.
(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad, John Davison in Erbil; additional reporting by Enas Alashray in Dubai; Writing by John Davison; Editing by Alex Richardson)

12/9/2021 One Person Dies, 12 Injured In Fire At Tunisian Ennahda Party HQ by Tarek Amara
Security forces stand outside the headquarters of Tunisia's Ennahda party after a fire
broke out a the building in Tunis, Tunisia December 9, 2021. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui
    TUNIS (Reuters) – One person died after he set himself on fire at the headquarters of Tunisia’s Ennahda Islamist party on Thursday, causing 12 injuries including Ali Larayedh, a former prime minister, the country’s civil protection agency and judicial authorities said.
    Ennahda said one of its members was killed in the fire but did not give details.
    Tunis court said the person that died in the fire is the man who set himself ablaze inside the main headquarters of Ennahda.
    Rached Ghannouchi, head of the party, told reporters, “This is a martyr of marginalization and poverty.    He is one of the Ennahda sons. He spent 10 years in prison against the dictatorship before the revolution.”    Ghannouchi added that the dead man obtained recognition from the state of his rights, but did not receive any compensation.
    Two senior party officials were among the injured in the blaze at the building in the capital, Tunis, according to Ennahda members and witnesses.
    One was Larayedh, who was injured when he jumped to safety from a second-floor window. Another was AbdelKarim Harouni, they said.
    Ennahda, Tunisia’s biggest party in parliament, was suspended by President Kais Saied on July 25.
    The Arab Spring – a wave of protests calling for more democracy across the Arab world – was famously sparked in Tunisia 11 years ago when a street vendor set himself on fire.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Yasmin Hussein, Ahmad Elhamy and Yomna Ehab; Editing by David Goodman, Frances Kerry and Mark Porter)

12/9/2021 Nigerians Displaced By Insurgency Fear Being Forced To Return Home by Libby George
Hauwa Kukuda, an internally displaced woman, sits next to her goats during an interview with Reuters at an
IDP camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria November 5, 2021. Picture taken November 5, 2021. REUTERS/Libby George
    MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) – Hauwa Ahmadu Kukuda rakes straw from the top of the two-room shack she shares with eight children.    Goats jostle for it as the children crouch next to tarp-covered walls.
    Outside, row after dusty row stretches for miles in the Bakassi camp in Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state, which houses some 30,000 people displaced by 12 years of Islamist insurgency.
    For Kukuda, 42, Bakassi has been home for the seven years since Boko Haram militants killed her husband in rural Gwoza.    Life is tough, but she is terrified to leave.
    “There no peace in my hometown,” Kukuda said.
    Kukuda, like the nearly 300,0000 others in Maiduguri’s camps, might not have a choice.
    Borno state plans to close all Maiduguri camps by the end of the year, citing improved security and the surrender of thousands of Boko Haram fighters in recent months.
    Residents rely on the government for food, so it can easily force them out.    But militant attacks across Borno continue, stoking their fears about returning home.
    Data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), showed 2,532 people had died in attacks in Borno by the end of November, compared with 3,184 in 2020.    In recent months, Islamist militants killed a general, a commanding officer and a lieutenant.    Borno Governor Babagana Zulum’s own convoy came under fire in the town of Malam Fatori in October.[ nL8N2RQ0UM]
    “They can say it’s not as bad, but at no point in time has it been that there is a cessation of hostility,” said Idayat Hassan, director of the Abuja-based research organization the Centre for Democracy and Development.    “There are hardly any weeks where there is actually no attack.”
    A Zulum spokesman said the governor “only approves and encourages safe, voluntary and dignified resettlement.”    He said they would support anyone who wished to live elsewhere in Maiduguri instead of returning home.
    “The most important thing is to ensure safe and dignified living for (internally displaced people) through productive means of livelihoods.    Relying on donor support is not sustainable,” spokesman Isa Gusau said.
    Bakassi camp residents said Zulum offered them cash to leave – 100,000 naira ($244) for men, 50,000 naira for women.
    Abba Rawa, 50, said he returned home to Marte last year at Zulum’s urging.    Security is so bad that residents cannot go more than a kilometre outside town – a problem for residents who farm or fish for a living.    He said they are totally reliant on government.
    “We live in hunger,” he said, surrounded by Bakassi residents discussing their plans.
    Privately, aid workers doubt the camps will quickly shut.    But some have already left, and the workers worry that they cannot help those in insecure rural areas.
    Hassan said that while the camps are imperfect, forcing them to return home is risky, particularly if they cannot farm or fish.
    “There should be no compulsion,” Hassan said.    “Everything that should be done should actually be based on the protection of civilians.”
($1 = 409.7400 naira)
(Reporting By Maiduguri newsroom and Libby George; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

12/10/2021 Burkina Faso President Picks Former Nuclear-Test Body Chief As PM by Thiam Ndiaga
FILE PHOTO: Secretary General of the Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)
Lassina Zerbo gestures during an interview with Reuters in Vienna, Austria September 28, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
    KINSHASA (Reuters) – Burkina Faso’s President Roch Kabore on Friday nominated the former head of a nuclear-test-ban agency Lassina Zerbo as prime minister amid an escalating security crisis that has killed thousands and led to street protests.
    Under pressure to make changes, Kabore fired Prime Minister Christophe Dabire on Wednesday, the latest upheaval in a leadership shake-up which has included military top brass.
    Zerbo, a physicist who studied in Paris, Canada and the United States, lead the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization for eight years, stepping down in August.
    Burkina Faso is at the heart of an Islamist insurgency that has swept through large parts the arid Sahel region, killing thousands of people and forcing millions more from their homes.
    Despite efforts by former colonial ruler France and other regional armies, attacks continue unabated, leaving local communities vulnerable.
(Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga; Writing by Hereward Holland and Alistair Bell)

12/10/2021 As Government Offensive Pushes Forward, Scars Of War Dot Ethiopia’s Amhara Region by Stephen Grey
FILE PHOTO: A satellite image shows the overview of troops and military trucks in Tarma Ber of
Amhara Region, Ethiopia December 2, 2021. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS
    GASHENA, Ethiopia (Reuters) – In a roadside village shattered by one of Africa’s bloodiest current conflicts, a donkey and its young, turbaned master tiptoe past an unexploded shell rusting by the blasted remnants of a tank, its turret and tracks tossed sideways.
    Ethiopian soldiers said the tank’s crew had been fighting for Tigray, the rebellious northern region battling the central government.    In June, Tigrayan fighters invaded the neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara, pushing so far south that by the end of November they were fighting near a town just 190 kilometres (118 miles) from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
    Now the tables have turned.
    A government offensive has driven Tigrayan forces back on multiple fronts.    Locals are returning to homes scarred not just by intensive fighting but by what they say are atrocities committed by Tigrayan fighters – a charge the rebels deny.
    Just outside the mountainous Amhara town of Gashena, around 150km east of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, a Reuters reporting team saw evidence of a fierce battle fought within the last week.
    Abandoned zig-zag trenches sliced the red-orange sandy soil parallel to the road.    The shattered tank lay on the edge of a village nestling in a grove of eucalyptus trees decapitated by heavy gunfire or air-bursting shells.
    Government soldiers and Amhara special forces described an ongoing battle to remove small pockets of Tigrayan fighters.
    “There is hand-to-hand conflict about 6 kilometres away,” said an Amhara militiaman in the town.
    “But you are safe here.    It’s just small groups.”
    As he spoke, an emplacement of mobile field guns in the greenery close by fired off repeated volleys.
LOOTING AND KILLING
    Gashena mayor Molla Tsega told Reuters that the town, captured by Tigrayan forces in July, was now back in government hands.    He said schools and medical clinics had been looted and destroyed, and that Tigrayan forces had killed at least 53 civilians.
    Tigrayan fighters had also raped several women, he said.    “The war has had an intolerable effect on the poor people here.”
    Reuters could not independently verify the accusations, but they fit a pattern of attacks reported elsewhere in Amhara by human rights organisations.
    Tigrayan forces summarily executed dozens of civilians in two towns they controlled in Amhara between Aug. 31 and Sept. 9, a report released on Friday by New York-based Human Rights Watch said.
    Reuters was unable to reach Tigrayan forces for comment.    Getachew Reda, spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the party that controls most of Tigray, has previously denied targeting civilians in areas under its control.
    The TPLF has said that Tigrayan forces entered Amhara to break a de facto government aid blockade on Tigray and free western Tigray – a contested area – from Amhara control.
    The government has denied United Nations accusations it was blocking food aid to the famine-hit region.
    Daniel Bekele, head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, said reports by villagers of abuses in Amhara, including killings, rapes and destruction of property were widespread and credible.
    They mirrored, he said, similar crimes committed by both sides earlier in the conflict, when fighting was taking place in Tigray.
    “It seems to be a cycle of revenge attacks on poor communities,” Bekele said in an interview in Addis Ababa.
    A joint investigation released last month by the United Nations and Bekele’s commission concluded that all sides had committed violations that may amount to war crimes.
ABIY TO THE FRONT
    The new offensive against Tigrayan forces came after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed went to lead military operations himself, addressing citizens wearing a combat uniform and surrounded by soldiers.
    “We will continue [liberating] the remaining areas … nothing will stop us.    The enemy will be destroyed,” he said this week.
    The offensive recaptured many towns this month, the prime minister’s office said, pushing Tigrayan forces back more than 180 km.
    Debretsion Gebremichael, the TPLF president, has described the withdrawal as a “territorial adjustment” that was part of a broader plan to secure Tigray.
    “Pulling out was a must,” he said in a video posted online this week, citing foreign intervention by unnamed powers as one reason why the military was making gains.    “The enemy is getting stronger; we also have to be strong and intensify our struggle.”
    Several government soldiers near Gashena told Reuters they had been reinforced by a huge influx of new troops, and airstrikes and drones had hit Tigrayan positions.    Ethiopia has bought drones from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
    A Reuters team spotted four destroyed tanks and two blown-up armoured anti-aircraft trucks.
    Neither side has released casualty figures, but soldiers reported heavy losses on both sides.
    Reuters saw six ambulances speeding from Gashena towards the rear lines in five hours.
    “Now our priority is to liberate ourselves,” Gizachew Muleneh, spokesman for the Amhara region, told Reuters.    Tigray’s forces would be pursued, he said.    “We will not stop our offensive until we have eliminated them.”
(Additional reporting by the Nairobi newsroom; Editing by Alex Richardson)

12/10/2021 Judge Probing Beirut Blast Calls For Arrest Of Powerful Suspect
FILE PHOTO: Members of the Lebanese army walk near the damaged grain silo during a joint effort with the
French military to clear the rubble from port of Beirut following the explosion, as part of a tour
organized for media and journalists in Beirut, Lebanon August 26, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – The judge investigating the deadly 2020 Beirut port explosion asked security forces on Friday to implement an arrest warrant he issued two months ago for a powerful former minister charged over the blast.
    Judge Tarek Bitar asked security forces, via the public prosecutors office, to implement the warrant against former finance minister Ali Hasan Khalil, else security forces themselves be prosecuted for defying judicial orders, a senior judicial source told Reuters.
    A number of current and former senior politicians and security officials have been charged in connection with the blast that killed more than 215 people, but have refused to be interrogated by Bitar, saying he lacks the authority to do so and is biased.
    His probe has repeatedly been stalled by lawsuits filed by suspects seeking his removal. It resumed this week after being suspended for more than a month.
    Bitar issued the warrant for Khalil on Oct. 12 after Khalil, a current member of parliament, skipped a planned interogation.
    The same day, ministers loyal to Iran-backed Hezbollah and Amal, of which Khalil is a senior member, asked for Bitar’s removal during a Cabinet session and the goups staged a protest on Oct. 14 in Beirut against Bitar that descended into violence and armed clashes.
    Cabinet has not met since.
    Khalil – the right-hand man of Lebanon’s parliament speaker – has remained free and participated in public life, such as attending a parliamentary session on Tuesday.
    Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, who oversees the Internal Security Forces, told Reuters he had not yet officially received Bitar’s request.    He did not elaborate further.
    Mawlawi previously did not respond when asked by a Reuters journalist why security forces under his command were not implementing the warrant.
    The Internal Security Forces on Nov. 8 said they had asked the judiciary for clarification on whether Khalil could be arrested while parliament was in session due to a constitutional article that limits when MPs can be arrested while parliament is in session, as it currently is.
(Reporting by Laila Bassam and Timour Azhari; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

12/11/2021 Palestinians Vote In Local Elections Amid Rising Anger With Abbas by Rami Ayyub and Ali Sawafta
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting with Russian President
Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia November 23, 2021. Sputnik/Evgeny Biyatov/Kremlin via REUTERS
    RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Palestinians held municipal elections in the occupied West Bank on Saturday in a rare democratic exercise and amid rising anger with President Mahmoud Abbas after he cancelled planned legislative and presidential votes earlier this year.
    More than 400,000 Palestinians were eligible to cast ballots for representatives in 154 village councils in the West Bank, where Abbas’ Palestinian Authority has limited self-rule.    Municipal votes are typically held every four or five years.
    But the elections are not being held in Gaza, whose Islamist rulers Hamas are boycotting the vote amid a rift with Abbas’ Fatah party.    And the 86-year-old leader postponed votes in the West Bank’s major cities, like Ramallah, where Fatah’s performance would be seen as a referendum on his rule.
    “These elections cannot be an alternative to legislative elections,” said Ahmad Issa, 23, outside a polling station in the village of Bir Nabala.    “We need (legislative) elections, to give a horizon to youth, and to make reforms, laws and change.”
    Abbas, already sagging in opinion polls, drew widespread anger in April when he cancelled https://www.reuters.com/article/us-palestinians-politics-election-idUSKBN189066 legislative and presidential elections scheduled for the summer, citing Israeli curbs on Palestinian voting in East Jerusalem.
    Abbas’ rivals, including Hamas, accused him of using the Jerusalem voting dispute as an excuse to cancel elections that polls showed he and his party would lose to the Islamist group. Abbas, who has ruled by decree for over a decade, denies this.
    A spokesman for Hamas, which boycotted previous municipal elections in 2012 and 2017, said in a statement the group “refuses to participate in partial elections that are tailored to Fatah, and conducted by the PA,” calling on Abbas to reschedule the cancelled summer votes.
    Hamas has enjoyed a surge in popularity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since fighting an 11-day war with Israel in May.    The group won student council elections this year at several top West Bank universities, an important barometer of support.
    The Palestinians seek statehood in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territory Israel captured in a 1967 war.    Israel annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally, and peace talks between the two sides broke down in 2014.
    Hamas won the Palestinians’ last legislative election, in 2006.    That laid the ground for a political rupture: Hamas seized Gaza after fighting a short civil war with Fatah in 2007, and has ruled the coastal enclave ever since.
(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Frances Kerry)

12/11/2021 Philosopher Sandel Says Saudi Reforms Need Critical Thinking To Succeed by Aziz El Yaakoubi
FILE PHOTO: U.S philosophy professor Michael J. Sandel receives the 2018 Princess of Asturias award
for Social Sciences from Spain's King Felipe, in Oviedo, Spain October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent West
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi authorities’ willingness to promote critical thinking will determine if a reform drive launched there succeeds, American political philosopher Michael Sandel said after participating in the ultra-conservative kingdom’s first-ever philosophy conference.
    Sandel, a Harvard University professor described by the Times Literary Supplement as the “most important and influential living philosopher,” spoke to Reuters after discussing notions of morality, justice and universal duty with Saudi students.
    Philosophy is not taught in Saudi universities and had been considered heretical thinking there for decades.
    “Engaging in philosophical discussions, especially in circumstances such as these, is a challenging, even a risky undertaking.    I felt it was a risk worth taking,” Sandel said on Friday in an online interview.
    The conference was part of a charm offensive by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is seeking to revive a reputation damaged by a poor human rights record, the war in Yemen and the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in 2018.
    Sandel said it was hard to predict what the ultimate course of the prince’s “experiment” would be.
    “But promoting critical thinking, I think, is at least worth trying,” he said, adding that Saudi Arabia’s younger generation seemed hungry to engage in philosophical discussions.
    “I want to encourage it, even while recognising that there is a certain risk and unpredictability to the course it may eventually kick.”
    Prince Mohammed, known as MbS, is de facto ruler of the kingdom, the world’s top oil exporter and a key U.S. ally.    He has moved over the past five years to consolidate power and sidelined rivals and detained hundreds of clerics, journalists, royals and activists.
    While many significant controls remain, authorities have eased the guardianship system, which gives men significant control over the lives of their female relatives, and lifted a ban on women driving.
    The kingdom also opened up for cinemas, concerts and tourism in a bid to diversify the economy away from oil.
    Sandel said it was too early to draw conclusions about the motivation behind the reform drive.
    “Is this a genuine opening for philosophy and critical thinking?    Or is it simply for… PR?    I’m not sure.    Only time will tell,” he said.
    “All I can say is I think that if there is a possibility of encouraging philosophy and critical thinking in Saudi Arabia, that’s a possibility worth exploring.”
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; editing by John Stonestreet)

12/11/2021 Blast In Palestinian Camp In South Lebanon Injures About A Dozen
Ambulances are parked at the entrance of the Palestinian camp where an explosion took place,
in the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre, Lebanon December 10, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    BEIRUT (Reuters) - A large explosion rocked a Palestinian camp in the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre on Friday night, injuring about a dozen people, according to rescue workers on the scene and a Palestinian source inside the camp.
    The state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported an unspecified number of deaths, but local media and civil defence workers on the scene said there had been no fatalities.    A security source also said fatalities had not been recorded.
    The NNA reported that the blast emanated from a weapons depot belonging to the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in the Burj al-Shemali camp.    It said a judge had ordered security forces to launch an investigation.
    Hamas said in a statement on Saturday that the blast was cause by an electrical fault in a warehouse containing oxygen and gas cylinders for coronavirus patients, as well as detergents and disinfectants.
    The fire damaged some property but losses were limited, the group said.
    A number of armed Palestinian factions, including Hamas and the Fatah Movement, hold effective control over roughly a dozen Palestinian camps in the country, which Lebanese authorities by custom do not enter.
    The area surrounding the blast had been evacuated and rescue crews had deployed, the Palestinian source said.
    Videos from the scene shared by local media show a number of small bright red flashes above the southern city, followed by a large explosion and the sound of glass breaking.
(Reporting by Maha El Dahan, Lilian Wagdy and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Timour Azhari and Moaz Abd-Alaziz; Editing by Alex Richardson, Sonya Hepinstall and Edmund Blair)

12/11/2021 Palestinians Vote In Local Elections Amid Rising Anger With Abbas by Rami Ayyub and Ali Sawafta
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting with Russian President
Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia November 23, 2021. Sputnik/Evgeny Biyatov/Kremlin via REUTERS
    RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Palestinians held municipal elections in the occupied West Bank on Saturday in a rare democratic exercise and amid rising anger with President Mahmoud Abbas after he cancelled planned legislative and presidential votes earlier this year.
    More than 400,000 Palestinians were eligible to cast ballots for representatives in 154 village councils in the West Bank, where Abbas’ Palestinian Authority has limited self-rule.    Municipal votes are typically held every four or five years.
    But the elections are not being held in Gaza, whose Islamist rulers Hamas are boycotting the vote amid a rift with Abbas’ Fatah party.    And the 86-year-old leader postponed votes in the West Bank’s major cities, like Ramallah, where Fatah’s performance would be seen as a referendum on his rule.
    “These elections cannot be an alternative to legislative elections,” said Ahmad Issa, 23, outside a polling station in the village of Bir Nabala.    “We need (legislative) elections, to give a horizon to youth, and to make reforms, laws and change.”
    Abbas, already sagging in opinion polls, drew widespread anger in April when he cancelled https://www.reuters.com/article/us-palestinians-politics-election-idUSKBN189066 legislative and presidential elections scheduled for the summer, citing Israeli curbs on Palestinian voting in East Jerusalem.
    Abbas’ rivals, including Hamas, accused him of using the Jerusalem voting dispute as an excuse to cancel elections that polls showed he and his party would lose to the Islamist group. Abbas, who has ruled by decree for over a decade, denies this.
    A spokesman for Hamas, which boycotted previous municipal elections in 2012 and 2017, said in a statement the group “refuses to participate in partial elections that are tailored to Fatah, and conducted by the PA,” calling on Abbas to reschedule the cancelled summer votes.
    Hamas has enjoyed a surge in popularity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since fighting an 11-day war with Israel in May. The group won student council elections this year at several top West Bank universities, an important barometer of support.
    The Palestinians seek statehood in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territory Israel captured in a 1967 war.    Israel annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally, and peace talks between the two sides broke down in 2014.
    Hamas won the Palestinians’ last legislative election, in 2006.    That laid the ground for a political rupture: Hamas seized Gaza after fighting a short civil war with Fatah in 2007, and has ruled the coastal enclave ever since.
(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Frances Kerry)

12/11/2021 Philosopher Sandel Says Saudi Reforms Need Critical Thinking To Succeed by Aziz El Yaakoubi
FILE PHOTO: U.S philosophy professor Michael J. Sandel receives the 2018 Princess of Asturias award for
Social Sciences from Spain's King Felipe, in Oviedo, Spain October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent West
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi authorities’ willingness to promote critical thinking will determine if a reform drive launched there succeeds, American political philosopher Michael Sandel said after participating in the ultra-conservative kingdom’s first-ever philosophy conference.
    Sandel, a Harvard University professor described by the Times Literary Supplement as the “most important and influential living philosopher,” spoke to Reuters after discussing notions of morality, justice and universal duty with Sa    udi students.
    Philosophy is not taught in Saudi universities and had been considered heretical thinking there for decades.
    “Engaging in philosophical discussions, especially in circumstances such as these, is a challenging, even a risky undertaking.    I felt it was a risk worth taking,” Sandel said on Friday in an online interview.
    The conference was part of a charm offensive by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is seeking to revive a reputation damaged by a poor human rights record, the war in Yemen and the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in 2018.
    Sandel said it was hard to predict what the ultimate course of the prince’s “experiment” would be.     “But promoting critical thinking, I think, is at least worth trying,” he said, adding that Saudi Arabia’s younger generation seemed hungry to engage in philosophical discussions.
    “I want to encourage it, even while recognising that there is a certain risk and unpredictability to the course it may eventually kick.”
    Prince Mohammed, known as MbS, is de facto ruler of the kingdom, the world’s top oil exporter and a key U.S. ally.    He has moved over the past five years to consolidate power and sidelined rivals and detained hundreds of clerics, journalists, royals and activists.
    While many significant controls remain, authorities have eased the guardianship system, which gives men significant control over the lives of their female relatives, and lifted a ban on women driving.
    The kingdom also opened up for cinemas, concerts and tourism in a bid to diversify the economy away from oil.
    Sandel said it was too early to draw conclusions about the motivation behind the reform drive. “Is this a genuine opening for philosophy and critical thinking? Or is it simply for… PR?    I’m not sure. Only time will tell,” he said.
    “All I can say is I think that if there is a possibility of encouraging philosophy and critical thinking in Saudi Arabia, that’s a possibility worth exploring.”
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; editing by John Stonestreet)

12/11/2021 Blast In Palestinian Camp In South Lebanon Injures About A Dozen
Ambulances are parked at the entrance of the Palestinian camp where an explosion took place,
in the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre, Lebanon December 10, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    BEIRUT (Reuters) - A large explosion rocked a Palestinian camp in the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre on Friday night, injuring about a dozen people, according to rescue workers on the scene and a Palestinian source inside the camp.
    The state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported an unspecified number of deaths, but local media and civil defence workers on the scene said there had been no fatalities.    A security source also said fatalities had not been recorded.
    The NNA reported that the blast emanated from a weapons depot belonging to the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in the Burj al-Shemali camp.    It said a judge had ordered security forces to launch an investigation.
    Hamas said in a statement on Saturday that the blast was cause by an electrical fault in a warehouse containing oxygen and gas cylinders for coronavirus patients, as well as detergents and disinfectants.
    The fire damaged some property but losses were limited, the group said.
    A number of armed Palestinian factions, including Hamas and the Fatah Movement, hold effective control over roughly a dozen Palestinian camps in the country, which Lebanese authorities by custom do not enter.
    The area surrounding the blast had been evacuated and rescue crews had deployed, the Palestinian source said.
    Videos from the scene shared by local media show a number of small bright red flashes above the southern city, followed by a large explosion and the sound of glass breaking.
(Reporting by Maha El Dahan, Lilian Wagdy and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Timour Azhari and Moaz Abd-Alaziz; Editing by Alex Richardson, Sonya Hepinstall and Edmund Blair)

12/12/2021 Israeli PM To Pay First Visit To UAE Since Formalising Ties by Dan Williams
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a cabinet meeting at the Prime
Minister's office in Jerusalem, Israel, December 5, 2021. Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will travel to the United Arab Emirates on Sunday and meet the Gulf state’s de facto ruler in the highest-level visit since the countries formalised relations last year.
    The trip comes amid heightened regional tension as world powers’ try to renew a nuclear deal with Iran.    Israel and some Gulf Arabs share concern over Iranian activities in the region.
    “I will be going out today to the United Arab Emirates, in the first visit ever by an Israeli prime minister,” Bennett told a meeting of his cabinet on Sunday.
    There was no immediate confirmation from Abu Dhabi.
    The UAE along with Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco moved toward normal ties with Israel under a U.S.-sponsored initiative dubbed the “Abraham Accords” in reference to the biblical patriarch revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
    Bennett’s trip on Sunday would be the first by an Israeli premier to any of those four countries.    Trips planned by his predecessor and Abraham Accords signatory Benjamin Netanyahu were cancelled, with Israel citing COVID-19 travel curbs and difficulties in arranging a flight over Jordanian territory.
    Bennett will meet Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan on Monday, the Israeli prime minister’s office said.
    The two leaders will discuss deepening ties, with an emphasis on economic issues that will contribute to prosperity, welfare and strengthening stability between the countries, the Israeli statement added.
(Reporting by Dan Williams, Rami AyyubEditing by Ari Rabinovitch and Raissa Kasolowsky)

12/12/2021 Iran Critical Of European Countries’ Stance On Nuclear Deal
FILE PHOTO: A police car drives past Palais Coburg, the site of a meeting of the Joint
Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in Vienna, Austria, December 9, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran said on Sunday that European countries had failed to offer constructive proposals to help to revive a 2015 nuclear deal, after Britain said there was still time for Tehran to save it but that this was the last chance.
    Talks have resumed in Vienna to try to revive the nuclear pact, with both sides trying to gauge the prospects of success after the latest exchanges in the stop-start negotiations.
    “European parties fail to come up with any initiatives to resolve differences over the removal of sanctions (on Iran),” Iran’s top negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani said, according to Iran’s state-run Press TV. He was referring to Britain, France and Germany, which are among the major powers trying to salvage the deal.
    British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said earlier on Sunday: “This is the last chance for Iran to come to the negotiating table with a serious resolution to this issue, which has to be agreeing the terms of the JCPOA (nuclear accord).”     “This is their last chance and it is vital that they do so. We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Truss said.
    Germany said on Saturday that time was running out to find a way to revive a 2015 nuclear accord.
    Speaking after meetings with her counterparts from G7 countries in Liverpool, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Iran had resumed the talks with a position that set the negotiations back six months.
    Under an original deal that then-U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, Iran limited its nuclear programme in return for relief from U.S., European Union and U.N. sanctions.
    The current round of talks in Vienna follow a pause of five months after the election of hardliner Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s president.
    Iranian officials have previously said they were sticking to their tough stance.
    Raisi said on Saturday that Tehran was serious in its nuclear talks in Vienna.
(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom and William James; Editing by Gareth Jones and Jane Merriman)

12/12/2021 Israel To Impose Travel Ban For Britain And Denmark, Health Officials Say
FILE PHOTO: A passenger arrives at a terminal at Ben Gurion international airport before Israel banned international flights from
Monday, Jan. 25, midnight, until the end of January, in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
and new coronavirus strains, in Lod near Tel Aviv, Israel January 25, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel announced on Sunday it was adding Britain and Denmark to its “red” list of countries that Israelis are forbidden to visit, citing concern over the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
    The travel restrictions for Britain and Denmark will go into effect on Wednesday, Sharon Alroy-Preis, Israel’s director of public health, told a news conference.
    She had also announced that Belgium would be included in the ban but the Health Ministry said later it had reassessed infection rates there and decided to keep the country off the “red” list for now.
    Israel has already banned the entry of foreigners to try to stem COVID-19 infection rates and has imposed three-to-seven day self-isolation orders for Israelis returning from abroad.
    At the news conference Alroy-Preis cited the “significant spread of the Omicron variant” abroad in imposing the new restrictions.
    Some 50 countries, mainly in Africa, have been declared “red” by Israel since the discovery of the highly contagious variant.
    Health officials said there have been 55 confirmed cases of Omicron infection in Israel, which has been trying to accelerate its vaccination programme while also considering stricter enforcement of mask mandates.
(Reporting by Jeffrey HellerEditing by William Maclean and Frances Kerry)

12/12/2021 Sudanese PM Replaces Acting State Governors Named After Coup – Document
FILE PHOTO: Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok addresses the media at the Chancellery in
Berlin during an official visit to Germany, February 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has replaced all acting state governors appointed by the country’s military leader after a coup in late October, a document seen by Reuters on Sunday said.
    The decision is part of efforts by Hamdok, who returned to the premiership under a deal with the military, to roll back changes made by the military following the takeover.
    Hamdok’s office confirmed the decision.
    Hamdok has also replaced most of the caretaker deputy ministers appointed by the military, some of them veterans https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/sudans-military-rulers-draw-bashir-era-veterans-tighten-grip-2021-11-11 of the rule of Omar al-Bashir, who was toppled amid a popular uprising in 2019.
    However, Hamdok has yet to name a cabinet of technocrats as stipulated by the Nov. 21 deal he struck with the military, and faces a challenge https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/compromised-hamdok-battles-save-sudans-political-transition-2021-12-09 in doing so due to opposition to the deal from political parties and protesters.
    The agreement was announced after mass protests against the military and wide condemnation by the international community of the coup, which upended a transition towards elections.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Aidan Lewis, William Maclean. Editing by Jane Merriman)

12/12/2021 Witnesses Say Tigrayan Forces In Ethiopia Retook Lalibela, UN Heritage Site
FILE PHOTO: A general view of the town of Lalibela after the decline in tourism due to the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Lalibela, Ethiopia, May 2, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -Rebellious Tigrayan forces have recaptured the Ethiopian town of Lalibela, witnesses told Reuters on Sunday, less than two weeks after the military and its allies took control of it as part of a broader offensive that pushed back Tigrayan forces on multiple fronts.
    Lalibela is a town in the Amhara region bordering the northern region of Tigray that is famed for its churches hewn from single lumps of rock and has been designated a U.N. World Heritage site.
    Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and a military spokesman did not respond to requests for comment on the reported recapture of the town by forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
    TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda also did not respond to a Reuters phone call seeking comment.    He tweeted a comment saying “our forces are doing very, very, very good!” but gave no details.
    One of the witnesses who spoke to Reuters said that Amhara forces, who are allies of the Ethiopian government, began leaving Lalibela on Saturday night.
    “The last batch left this morning. We heard gunshots from a distance last night but the Tigrayan forces recaptured Lalibela without firing guns in the town,” the witness, a hotel receptionist, said by phone.
    A second witness told Reuters on Sunday that residents had begun fleeing the town.    “We panicked, we never saw this coming.    TPLF forces are now patrolling the town wearing their uniforms,” the witness said.
    Tigrayan forces had taken control of the town in early August, as part of a push into Amhara territory that began in July.    But the tide turned against the Tigrayans at the end of November after they had threatened to march on the capital.
    The government declared a state of emergency and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed went to the frontlines to direct an offensive.    On Dec. 1, the Ethiopian military and Amhara forces recaptured Lalibela, a site of enormous religious significance.
    The year-old conflict between the federal government and the leadership of Tigray has killed thousands of civilians, forced millions to flee their homes, and made more than 9 million people dependent on food aid.
    On Sunday, Ethiopian Minister of Education Birhanu Nega said Amhara would need over 11 billion birr ($220 million) to rebuild 4,000 educational institutions and schools that he said were destroyed by Tigrayan forces.
    Ethiopian state television has also published pictures of what it described as the looting of a hospital in the town of Dessie by Tigrayan forces.    Footage showed empty shelves and boxes of medicines and equipment destroyed or strewn on the floor.
    Reuters was unable to reach the TPLF spokesperson for a comment.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom,Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, William Maclean and Frances Kerry)

12/12/2021 Four Killed In Shooting At Palestinian Camp In Lebanon, Hamas Officials Say by Moataz Abdel Rahiem and Nidal al-Mughrabi
Men carry the coffin of a man who was killed in an explosion that occurred on Friday night in the Palestinian camp of Burj al-Shemali,
during his funeral in southern Lebanese port city of Tyre, Lebanon December 12, 2021. REUTERS/Ali Hankir
    CAIRO/GAZA (Reuters) - Four people were killed and others were injured in a shooting on Sunday in the Palestinian camp of Burj al-Shemali in Lebanon, two officials of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas told Reuters, and they blamed the rival movement Fatah for the bloodshed.
    Fatah condemned the incident, rejected Hamas’ allegation and urged all sides to wait for the results of an investigation.
    The shootings took place during the funeral of a Hamas supporter who was killed in an explosion on Friday night in the camp in the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre.
    “Fatah gunmen deliberately opened fire against people taking part in the funeral march,” one Hamas official said, asking not to be named.
    Speaking to Reuters in Ramallah by phone from Beruit, the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon, Ashraf Dabour, rejected Hamas allegations.
    “This is a rejected and a condemned action… Investigation committees will reveal who stood behind it,” Dabour said.    “We have made contacts with Hamas leaders and demanded they wait for the investigation results.”
    Fatah controls the Palestinian Authority that exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.    Palestinian Authority officials in the West Bank, contacted for comment by Reuters, said they were checking the reports.
    Earlier on Sunday, Lebanese state media said two people were killed and seven were injured in a dispute that erupted in the Burj al-Shemali camp.
    Hamas said in a statement on Saturday that the blast on Friday night was caused by an electrical fault in a warehouse containing oxygen and gas cylinders for COVID patients, as well as detergents and disinfectants.
    A number of armed Palestinian factions, including Hamas and the Fatah movement, hold effective control over roughly a dozen Palestinian camps in the country, which Lebanese authorities by custom do not enter.
(Reporting by Moataz Adbel Rahiem and Nidal al-MughrabiAdditional reporting by Ali Sawafta in RamallahWriting by Ahmad ElhamyEditing by Gareth Jones, Frances Kerry and Barbara Lewis)

12/12/2021 Iran’s Nuclear Negotiator Says Good Progress Made In Nuclear Talks
FILE PHOTO: Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani leaves after a meeting of the Joint
Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna, Austria, November 29, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, said good progress had been made in nuclear talks with world powers in Vienna that could quickly pave the way for serious negotiations.
    “Our path during the negotiation was successful,” he was quoted as saying on Sunday by Lebanon’s pro-Iranian Al Mayadeen TV as saying.
(Reporting by Ahmad Elhamy; Editing by Gareth Jones)

12/12/2021 Analysis-Stuck In The Middle? UAE Walks Tightrope Between U.S, Israel And Iran by Ghaida Ghantous and Aziz El Yaakoubi
FILE PHOTO: Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan gestures as he walks
outside Downing Street in London, Britain, September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates is walking a diplomatic high wire between superpower ally Washington, new friend Israel and old adversary Iran as it seeks to avoid a costly regional conflict that could torpedo its trade and tourism ambitions.
    Abu Dhabi hosts Israel’s prime minister this week and will receive a U.S. delegation seeking to warn companies in the UAE about compliance with sanctions on Iran over its nuclear activities.    The Gulf state also dispatched a senior official to Tehran last week in a bid to mend ties and contain tensions.
    The whirl of diplomacy marks a shift in foreign policy approach for the UAE, which is retreating from military adventurism after having waded into a series of damaging conflicts over the past decade, from Yemen to Libya, according to Emirati officials, analysts and regional diplomats.
    “We need to avoid a major conflict that will embroil the United States or indeed the countries in the region,” senior UAE official Anwar Gargash told a U.S.-based think-tank on Thursday.    “Our interest is to try and avoid it at all costs.”
    The United States and Israel have recently increased rhetorical pressure on Iran about possible economic or military consequences should efforts to salvage a 2015 nuclear pact fail.
    World powers are trying to bring both Washington and Tehran back into full compliance with the pact, which then-President Donald Trump quit in 2018. He re-imposed sanctions, prompting Tehran to gradually violate the nuclear limits of the 2015 deal.
    Abu Dhabi, which forged ties with Israel last year, shares U.S. and Israeli concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions along with its missiles programme and regional proxies.    But it is trying to balance curtailing Iran with protecting its economic interests as a tourism and commercial hub post COVID-19 in the face of increasing economic competition in the region.
    “It is time to de-escalate, not escalate.    If Israel is in this mood, we are not going to share it,” said UAE political analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdulla.
    Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president, told the Arab Gulf States Institute that neither the region nor Washington want another conflict like Iraq or Afghanistan.
    Iran rejects Western suspicions that it is seeking atomic weapons, saying its nuclear activities are for civilian energy purposes.    It says it abided by the terms of the 2015 deal in good faith, and wants all sanctions imposed by the United States after Trump abandoned the deal to be lifted.
AMERICA IS ‘ABSOLUTE PRIORITY’
    The UAE and Saudi Arabia, while pressing global powers to address Iran’s missile programme and regional behaviour, are wary of a repeat of 2019 attacks on tankers in Gulf waters and on Saudi oil facilities that forced the kingdom to temporarily shut down more than half its crude output.
    The UAE “needs to hedge as best as it can to offset Iranian punitive actions, but there can be no doubt that its relationship with the U.S. is absolute priority,” said Neil Quilliam, associate fellow at Chatham House.
    Gulf nations rely heavily on the United States for security but there is deepening uncertainty over the U.S. regional role.    Israel has broached setting up joint defences with Gulf states following normalisation of ties with the UAE and Bahrain.
    The UAE signed a $23 billion deal at the tail end of the Trump presidency to buy American-made F-35 fighter jets, drones and other defence equipment.    But the sales progress has since slowed amid U.S. concerns over UAE ties with China, a major Emirati trade partner.
    Gargash said the UAE had recently halted work on Chinese facilities at an Emirati port after Washington voiced concern that they had military purposes.
    The UAE, Gargash said, wants to find a “common economic denominator” to improve ties with Iran, Turkey and Syria, even as Abu Dhabi builds on relations forged with Israel.
    In a sign Washington is cranking up economic pressure on Iran, Treasury official Andrea Gacki is due to visit the UAE as part of a delegation on Monday for what the State Department said were discussions with private sector firms and financial institutions that “facilitate non-compliant Iranian commerce.”
    The UAE, long one of Iran’s main links to the outside world with business ties stretching back a century, saw its exports with Iran shrink from $14 billion in 2017 to $7 billion in 2019 according to World Bank data.    Flows have started to recover.
    Analyst Abdulla said there was no appetite in the UAE for further economic penalties on Iran.
    “We have done our job and done our share of compliance in the past five, six years,” he added.    “But enough is enough.    Nobody is in the mood in Abu Dhabi to go for more sanctions.    That is very clear.”
(Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous and Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Pravin Char)

12/13/2021 Israeli PM To Discuss Iran, Bilateral Issues With Crown Prince In UAE
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett walks with United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan during
a welcoming ceremony upon his arrival in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates December 12, 2021. WAM/Handout via REUTERS.
    ABU DHABI (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will discuss Iran as well as bilateral issues during his landmark meeting with the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates on Monday, an Israeli envoy said, following outreach by the Gulf state to Tehran.
    Shared concern about Iranian activity was among reasons for the formalisation of Israel-UAE relations last year under a U.S.-led regional initiative known as the Abraham Accords.
    With world powers now trying to renew an Iran nuclear deal, Abu Dhabi last week sent an top envoy to its Persian neighbour.    A U.S. delegation is due in UAE this week to warn Emirati banks against non-compliance with Iran sanctions.
    Iran is Israel’s arch-foe.    But it has not been mentioned publicly by Bennett since he set off on Sunday for the first visit by an Israeli premier to UAE with pledges to promote bilateral commerce and other forms of civilian cooperation.
    “I suppose that it will not be a secret that this subject (Iran) will certainly come up” in Bennett’s meeting with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the Israeli ambassador to Abu Dhabi, Amir Hayek, said.
    Israel Hayom newspaper, citing unnamed officials, said Bennett was expected to brief Sheikh Mohammed on intelligence regarding Iranian-supplied militias and drones in the region.
    Hayek declined to elaborate on any discussion of Iran.    “The prime minister did not only come here solely to address the Iranian issue,” he told Israel’s Army Radio in an interview.
    Israel last month broached setting up joint defences against Iran with Gulf Arab states.    Hayek said military sales to UAE are in the works, though Israeli industry sources say advanced Israeli air defence systems have yet to be offered.
    “Israel is in cooperation with a new friend, with a partner for the long-term, and the considerations will be both considerations of defence and also considerations of how you work with a country which is very, very, very friendly to Israel,” Hayek said.
    Israel-UAE bilateral trade in goods alone reached nearly $500 million so far in 2021 – up from $125 million in 2020 – and is expected to continue growing rapidly.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Michael Perry)

12/13/2021 South Africa’s Ramaphosa Has COVID-19 But Symptoms Mild, Presidency Says
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa sits beside Elita de Klerk, widow of former President FW de Klerk
at the state memorial service in Cape Town, South Africa, December 12, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -South Africa’s 69-year-old President Cyril Ramaphosa tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, though is showing only mild symptoms, the presidency said.
    “The President started feeling unwell after leaving the State Memorial Service in honour of former Deputy President FW de Klerk in Cape Town earlier today,” the statement added.
    At the memorial service, a mask-wearing Ramaphosa gave a eulogy to the last leader of South Africa’s white minority government, who helped negotiate an end it.
    “The President, who is fully vaccinated, is in self-isolation in Cape Town and has delegated all responsibilities to Deputy President David Mabuza for the next week,” the presidency added.
    In the past few days, a nationwide outbreak believed to be linked to the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been infecting around 20,000 people a day.    South African scientists see no sign that the variant causes more severe illness.
(Reporting by Tim Cocks, Editing by William Maclean and Pravin Char)

12/13/2021 Israeli Leader Begins First Visit To UAE As Iran Tensions Surge
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's
office in Jerusalem, Israel, December 5, 2021. Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool via REUTERS
    ABU DHABI (Reuters) -Prime Minister Naftali Bennett began the first official visit by an Israeli leader to the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, seeking to strengthen Gulf ties at a time of heightened regional tension as world powers try to revive a nuclear deal with Iran.
    Bennett, a far-right politician who took office as the head of a broad Israeli coalition government in June, plans to hold talks on Monday with the UAE’s de facto leader, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
    The diplomatic outreach comes as world powers negotiate with Iran on salvaging a 2015 nuclear deal opposed by Israel and abandoned in 2018 by then-U.S. President Donald Trump.
    Since August 2020, the UAE, followed by Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, have moved to normalise ties with Israel under a U.S.-sponsored initiative dubbed the “Abraham Accords” after the biblical patriarch revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
    Bennett’s UAE trip is the first by an Israeli premier to any of those countries since the accords.     On arrival in Abu Dhabi after a flight from Tel Aviv, Bennett was welcomed by an honour guard and the UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed.
    “What a wonderful reception.    I am very excited to be here on behalf of my people (on the) first official visit of an Israeli leader here,” Bennett said.    “We are looking forward to strengthening the relationship,” he added.
    Israel has broached setting up joint defences with Gulf Arab states that share its concern over Iranian activities.    Pursuing economic, health and energy ties with its new ally, the UAE has signed dozens of memorandums of understanding with Israel since the Abraham Accords were signed.
    Yet the UAE has also reached out to its Iran, sending its senior national security adviser there last Monday to meet his Iranian counterpart and President Ebrahim Raisi.
    A flight-tracking app showed Bennett’s El Al Israel Airlines plane overflying Saudi Arabia, which does not have formal ties with Israel, en route to Abu Dhabi.    Riyadh agreed last year to allow Israel-UAE flights to cross its territory despite the absence of official ties.
    The rapprochement in the Gulf has been condemned by Palestinians, whose diplomacy with Israel stalled in 2014.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem, Additional reporting by Rami Ayyub, Ali Sawafta, Nidal al-Mughrabi and Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Ari Rabinovitch, Raissa Kasolowsky, Pravin Char and Jane Merriman)

12/13/2021 Saudi UN Envoy: Iran Playing “Games” In Talks With Kingdom
FILE PHOTO: Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi (R), Saudi Arabia's Permanent Representative to the U.N., speaks to the media next
to Saudi general Mesfer Al-Ghanim during a news conference in New York, U.S. March 1, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the United Nations said the kingdom wanted more substantive talks with Iran but that Tehran was so far biding its time and playing “games” in the discussions.
    Saudi Arabia and Iran, the region’s Sunni Muslim and Shi’ite powerhouses, launched direct talks this year at a time global powers are trying to salvage a nuclear pact with Tehran and as U.N.-led efforts to end the Yemen war stall.
    The kingdom, which cut ties with Tehran in 2016, has described the talks as cordial but exploratory, while an Iranian official in October said they had gone a “good distance.”
    Riyadh’s U.N. envoy Abdallah Al-Mouallimi told Saudi newspaper Arab News in a video interview published on Monday that no major results had been achieved.
    “We would like to push these discussions towards substantive issues that involve the behaviour of the Iranian government in the region,” Mouallimi said.
    “But as long as the Iranians continue to play games with these talks they are not going to go anywhere,” he said.    “The Iranians take a long-term attitude towards these talks.    We are not interested in talks for the sake of talks.”
    Tensions between the two foes spiked in 2019 after an assault on Saudi oil plants that Riyadh blamed on Iran, a charge Tehran denies, and continue to simmer over Yemen where a Saudi-led coalition is battling the Iran-aligned Houthi group.
    “It (Yemen) has proved to be intractable simply because the Houthis continue to receive a continuous supply of weapons and ammunition from their benefactors, particularly Iran,” Mouallimi said, reiterating a charge that both Iran and the group reject.
    The conflict is widely seen as a proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran, which are vying for influence across the region.
(Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

12/13/2021 Turkey Says Serb Move To Start Quitting Bosnia’s Key Institutions “Dangerous”
FILE PHOTO: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a joint news conference with his Greek
counterpart Nikos Dendias at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens, Greece, May 31, 2021. REUTERS/Costas Baltas
    ANKARA (Reuters) – A vote by Serb lawmakers to start pulling their autonomous Serb Republic out of Bosnia’s armed forces, judiciary, and tax system is “wrong, dangerous” and could threaten regional stability, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday.
    His comments came after Germany’s new government called on the European Union to impose sanctions on Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik over the decision.
    Last week’s non-binding motion is meant to pave the way for secession from Bosnia, which was split into two autonomous regions – the Serb Republic and the Federation, dominated by Bosniaks and Croats – after its 1992-1995 war.
    The three institutions represent the key pillars of joint security, rule of law and the economic system.
    “The environment of stability established in the Balkans for 30 years is under serious risk,” Cavusoglu told the Turkish parliament.    “The decision taken by parliament of the Serb Republic entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina is wrong, dangerous, and against the constitution.”
    Mostly Muslim Turkey has strong ties with Bosnia. President Tayyip Erdogan has often praised Bosnia’s wartime leader, Alija Izetbegovic, while forming friendly relations with Bosnia’s tripartite inter-ethnic presidency.
    Turkey’s foreign ministry had already voiced concern about the vote, at the weekend urging “those who will bear the responsibility of harming peace and prosperity to abide by the constitutional and legal framework and resort to dialogue.”
    Dodik wants to roll back on all reforms made after the war and return to the 1995 constitution, under which the state was represented by basic institutions only while all powers belonged to the regions.
    Bosnia’s opposition leaders warned the moves may lead the Serb Republic into a new war.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Catherine Evans)

12/13/2021 Tunisia’s President Says He Will Call Constitutional Referendum, Elections Next Year
FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Kais Saied takes the oath of office
in Tunis, Tunisia, October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi/File Photo
    TUNIS (Reuters) -Tunisian President Kais Saied said on Monday he would call a constitutional referendum next July, a year to the day after he seized broad powers in moves his opponents call a coup, and that parliamentary elections would follow at the end of 2022.
    Laying out the timeline for his proposed political changes in a televised speech, Saied said the referendum would take place on July 25, following an online public consultation that will start in January.
    Saied’s announcement of a road map out of the crisis has been awaited since he suspended parliament, dismissed the prime minister and assumed executive authority.
    While those moves appeared very popular after years of economic stagnation and political paralysis, opposition to his stance has sharpened, including from political parties and other major domestic players that were initially supportive.
    The delay in detailing the path forward, and the two months it took Saied to name a new prime minister, have added to concerns about Tunisia’s ability to address an urgent crisis in its public finances.
    The referendum date is Tunisia’s Republic Day and the anniversary of his sudden intervention, which has cast doubt on the North African country’s democratic gains since the 2011 revolution that triggered the “Arab spring” revolts.
    Saied in September brushed aside most of the 2014 democratic constitution to say he could rule by decree during a period of exceptional measures, and promised a dialogue on further changes.
    He said in Monday’s speech that parliament would remain suspended until Tunisians vote for a replacement assembly on Dec. 17, 2022, the date he has declared to be the official anniversary of the revolution.
    The anniversary had previously been marked on Jan. 14, the date when autocratic ruler Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled the country, after agreement among political factions and civil society groups that took part in the uprising.
    “We want to correct the paths of the revolution and history,” Saied said in his speech, after lambasting critics of his intervention.
    Saied said he would appoint a committee of experts to draft a new constitution, to be ready by June ahead of the referendum.
    A clear pathway to ordinary constitutional order may be important for Tunisia to secure international financial assistance as it struggles to finance its fiscal deficit and next year’s budget as well as debt repayments.
    It has opened talks with the International Monetary Fund, but major donors have indicated they are not willing to step in without what they have called an “inclusive” approach.
    There was no immediate comment from Ennahda, the biggest party in parliament, or from the powerful UGTT labour union. Mohammed Abou, a former minister, said in a televised interview that Saied’s “violation of the constitution” amounted to a coup.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Angus McDowall, Editing by Catherine Evans and Peter Cooney)

12/13/2021 Israel Hit Chemical Weapons Facilities In Syria Over Past Two Years – Washington Post
A war jet flies above Syria near the Israeli Syrian border as it is seen from the
Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Israel July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/Files
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel twice struck chemical weapons facilities in Syria over the past two years in a campaign to prevent Syria from renewing chemical weapons production, the Washington Post reported on Monday.
    The accuracy of the report, which cited unidentified current and former U.S. and Western intelligence officials, was confirmed to Reuters by a person familiar with the operation who declined to be identified by name or nationality.
    Israel’s military declined to comment.
    There was no immediate comment from officials in Syria.
    Syria’s government denies using chemical arms. In 2013 it promised to surrender its chemical weapons, which it says it has done.
    Israel has acknowledged conducting scores of air strikes in Syria which it says targeted Iranian deployments or weapon hand-overs to guerrilla allies.
    But on June 8, the newspaper reported, Israeli jets hit three military targets near the cities of Damascus and Homs, all linked to Syria’s former chemical weapons programme.
    In March the previous year, Israel targeted a villa and compound tied with the procurement of a chemical that can be used in nerve agents, it said.
    Repeated investigations by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons concluded that Syrian government forces used the nerve agent sarin and chlorine barrel bombs in attacks between 2015 and 2018 that investigators said killed or injured thousands.
    Israeli officials have voiced concern about the possibility of Syrian chemical weapons falling into the hands of militant groups.
(Reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Alison Williams)

12/14/2021 ‘You Can’t End The Spring’: Sudan Rallies Keep Pressure On Military by Nafisa Eltahir and Khalid Abdelaziz
Protesters march during a rally from Khartoum North to Omdurman against military rule following
last month's coup, in Khartoum, Sudan. December 13,2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people rallied in towns across Sudan on Monday, seeking to sustain pressure on military leaders who staged a coup in October but later reinstated Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok following mass protests.
    The rallies come three years after the first stirrings of the uprising that toppled long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019.    His removal led to a political transition with the military and civilians sharing power, but the coup cut it short.
    Thousands marched from the capital Khartoum’s twin city of Bahri over the Nile towards Omdurman, waving national flags and chanting slogans against the military.    Security forces had previously kept the bridge between Bahri and Omdurman closed during protests.
    “This battle is the second battle in bringing down the (Bashir) regime,” said Siddig Tawer, a former member of the transitional ruling council dissolved by the coup, who was protesting in Omdurman.    “Bashir’s fall was one stop, but after that it is about instituting a democratic system.”
    Late in the afternoon, security forces used tear gas to disperse protesters in Omdurman and Khartoum, witnesses said.
    Crackdowns on protests in the weeks following the coup left at least 44 people dead, many from gunshots fired by security forces, according to medics aligned with the protest movement.    On Monday the public prosecutor announced the formation of a committee to investigate violations during the protests.
    One banner carried by protesters in Bahri on Monday read: “You can cut down all the flowers but you can’t end the spring.”
    Authorities say they allow peaceful protests.
    “We are patient, the person who gets tired first loses,” said Fatma, a 22-year-old college student in Omdurman, adding that she was alarmed by a recent surge in violence and displacement in the western region of Darfur.
    The protests were the latest in a series planned by neighbourhood resistance committees against the military.
    Footage of demonstrations in towns and cities including Port Sudan, Atbara, Wad Madani, Al Gadarif, and the Darfur state capitals of El Fasher and Niyala, was posted on social media.
    Hamdok is due to appoint a cabinet of technocrats under his deal with the military, a task that is complicated by opposition to the agreement from political parties and protesters.
(Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Catherine Evans)

12/14/2021 Gulf Arab Summit Calls For Action, Not Words From Iran by Yousef Saba
Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamed al-Thani are seen ahead of the Gulf
Summit at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 14, 2021. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS
    RIYADH (Reuters) – A Gulf Arab summit in Saudi Arabia urged Iran on Tuesday to take concrete steps to ease tension while reiterating a call to include the region in talks between global powers and Tehran aimed at salvaging their nuclear agreement.
    Saudi Arabia’s crown prince had told the annual gathering of Gulf leaders before the final communique was issued that the nuclear and missile programmes of longstanding adversary Iran should be handled “seriously and effectively.”
    Indirect talks between Iran and the United States to revive the 2015 nuclear pact started in April, but stopped in June after the election of hardline President Ebrahim Raisi.    After a five-month hiatus, Iran’s negotiating team returned to Vienna with an uncompromising stance.
    “So far the reports show there is some stalling by Iran and we hope this will turn to progress in the near future,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud told a press conference after the Gulf summit.
    He said that while Gulf states prefer to be part of the talks they would be “open to any mechanism” that addresses their concerns, which also include Iran’s regional proxies.
    Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran are vying for influence in a rivalry that has played out across the region in events such as Yemen’s war and in Lebanon, where Iran-backed Hezbollah’s rising power has frayed Beirut’s Gulf ties.
    Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates are both engaging with Iran in a bid to contain tensions at a time of deepening Gulf uncertainty over the U.S. role in the region, and as the oil producing states focus on economic growth.
    Prince Faisal said the talks had seen no “real change on the ground” but that “we are open, we are willing.”
    Iran’s president has said his foreign policy priority would be improving ties with Gulf neighbours.
SOLIDARITY
    The Saudi crown prince toured the Gulf in a show of solidarity ahead of the summit, which took place nearly a year after Riyadh put an end to a 3-1/2-year Arab boycott of Qatar.
    Saudi Arabia and non-Gulf Egypt have restored diplomatic ties with Doha but the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have yet to do so, though Abu Dhabi has moved to mend fences.
    The four boycotting states had accused Qatar of supporting Islamist militants, a charge Doha denied.
    Saudi Arabia and the UAE have shifted away from hawkish foreign policies to a more conciliatory approach as they vie to lure foreign investment, and win over U.S. President Joe Biden.
    The UAE has acted faster to improve ties with Iran and Turkey, while also re-engaging with Syria after forging relations with Israel last year.
(Reporting by Yousef Saba and Lisa Barrington; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, William Maclean and Mark Heinrich)

12/14/2021 Pfizer Shot Less Effective In South Africa After Omicron Emerges – Study by Alexander Winning and Wendell Roelf
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker administers the Pfizer coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine to a man, amidst the spread of
the SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron, in Johannesburg, South Africa, December 9, 2021. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham/File Photo
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine has been less effective in South Africa at keeping people infected with the virus out of hospital since the Omicron variant emerged last month, a real-world study published on Tuesday showed.
    Between Nov. 15 and Dec. 7, people who had received two doses of the shot had a 70% chance of avoiding hospitalisation, down from 93% during the previous wave of Delta infections, the study showed.
    When it came to avoiding infection altogether, the study by South Africa’s largest private health insurance administrator, Discovery Health, showed that protection against catching COVID-19 had slumped to 33% from 80% previously.
    The findings from the real-world analysis are some of the first about the protection vaccines offer against Omicron outside of laboratory studies, which have so far shown a reduced ability to neutralise the virus.
    The study results were based on an analysis by Discovery’s clinical research and actuarial teams in collaboration with the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).
    South Africa alerted the world to Omicron in November, triggering alarm that it could cause another surge in global infections and leading to travel curbs on southern Africa.    South Africa’s daily infections have since risen to more than 20,000, with 35% of tests coming back positive in figures reported on Tuesday, and a further 600 hospital admissions and 24 deaths.
    The South African study was based on more than 211,000 COVID-19 test results of which 78,000 were attributed to Omicron, the variant labelled “of concern” by the World Health Organization and reported in more than 60 countries.
    The 78,000 cases were attributed to Omicron based on the relative prevalence of the variant within the country over the study period, but because they have not been confirmed as being the new variant the study cannot offer conclusive findings.
    South African scientists sent 630 positive COVID-19 tests for genome sequencing in November to see if they were Omicron and another 61 so far in December.    Last month, 78% were confirmed as Omicron and all 61 this month were the new variant.
‘CONFOUNDING FACTOR’
    Discovery cautioned that the study’s findings should be considered preliminary.    Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, also said there was a large degree of uncertainty for now about Omicron.
    “It is important to avoid inferring too much right now from any national scenario.    For example, the narrative around South Africa is that Omicron may be much milder, whereas reports out of Denmark broadly suggests the opposite,” he said.
    South Africa is using the Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson vaccines in its immunisation campaign, with more than 20 million Pfizer doses administered so far.
    J&J and the SAMRC are conducting a large real-world study of J&J’s vaccine and recent analysis has shown no deaths from Omicron, SAMRC President Glenda Gray said.
    “So that’s the good news, it shows again that the vaccine is effective against severe disease and death,” she said.
    With at least 70% of the South African population estimated to have been exposed to COVID-19 over the past 18 months, high estimated levels of existing antibodies might skew the data.
    “This could be a confounding factor for these hospital admission and severity indicators during this Omicron wave,” Ryan Noach, chief executive of Discovery Health, said in a briefing on the study.
    The analysis showed protection against hospital admission was maintained across all ages, from 18 to 79 years, with slightly lower levels of protection for the elderly.
    Protection against admission was also consistent across a range of chronic illnesses including diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and other cardiovascular diseases.
REINFECTION RISK
    The study concluded there was a higher risk of reinfection during the fourth wave than during previous waves and the risk of hospitalisation among adults diagnosed with COVID-19 was still 29% lower than during the country’s first wave last year.
    Children appeared to have a 20% higher risk of hospital admission with complications during the fourth wave than during the first, despite a very low absolute incidence, it said.
    “This is early data and requires careful follow up,” said Shirley Collie, chief health analytics actuary at Discovery Health.
    However, this trend aligns with a warning in recent days from South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) that during the country’s third wave from June to September they had seen an increase in paediatric admissions and now, in the fourth wave, they are seeing a similar increase in admissions for children under five, she said.
    South African scientists have said they cannot confirm a link between Omicron and the high admissions of infants, which could be due to other factors.
    Many unknowns still surround Omicron.
    The WHO has said there were early signs that vaccinated and previously infected people would not build enough antibodies to ward off an Omicron infection, resulting in high transmission rates, but was unclear whether Omicron was inherently more contagious than the globally dominant Delta variant.
    Pfizer and BioNTech said last week that two shots of their vaccine may still protect against severe disease, because its mutations were unlikely to evade the T-cells’ response.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning and Wendell Roelf; Writing by Josephine Mason in London; Editing by Giles Elgood, David Clarke and Alex Richardson)

12/14/2021 UAE Will Suspend Talks With US On F-35 Jets, Says Official
FILE PHOTO: A formation of U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II fighter jets perform aerial maneuvers during
as part of a combat power exercise over Utah Test and Training Range, Utah, U.S. November 19, 2018.
Picture taken November 19, 2018. U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Cory D. Payne/Handout via REUTERS.
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates has informed the United States that it will suspend discussions to acquire U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets, a UAE official said on Tuesday, part of a $23 billion deal that also includes drones and other advanced munitions.
    “Technical requirements, sovereign operational restrictions, and cost/benefit analysis led to the re-assessment,” the official said in a statement to Reuters, adding that discussions for the F-35 aircraft “may be re-opened in the future.”
(Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Gareth Jones)

12/14/2021 Congo President Says Ugandan Troops’ Presence Will Be Temporary by Hereward Holland
FILE PHOTO: Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi attends a meeting with International Monetary
Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, December 8, 2021. REUTERS/ Hereward Holland
    KINSHASA (Reuters) – Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi said on Monday he would ensure that the presence of Ugandan troops in Congo, where they are fighting an Islamist militant group alongside Congolese forces, was for a strictly limited period.
    Uganda and Congo launched a joint operation this month against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group allied with Islamic State, but have given few details about its scope or expected duration.
    “I will ensure that the presence of Ugandan troops on our soil is limited to the time strictly necessary for this operation,” Tshisekedi said in a state of the union speech that also covered the economy and COVID-19.
    Uganda’s intervention has provoked unease because of its army’s conduct during Congo’s 1998-2003 civil war, when Uganda was accused of occupying territory and plundering resources.
    At least 1,700 Ugandan soldiers have crossed into eastern Congo, and Uganda’s defence ministry has said its troops will stay as long as needed to defeat the ADF.
    On the economy, Tshisekedi said he had asked his government for additional reforms to boost revenue collection. Reforms have helped improve Congo’s economic outlook, with growth expected to reach 6.4% in 2022, the IMF said last week.
    “Despite this progress, too many in Congo are still struggling to make ends meet,” Tshisekedi told parliament, listing shortcomings in infrastructure and basic services, to jeers from opposition MPs.
    Tshisekedi’s main rival, Martin Fayulu, had called for a sit-in at the electoral commission on Monday to demand the resignation of the organisation’s head, who is seen as close to the president.
    Police, however, blocked roads leading to the commission’s headquarters.
    Tshisekedi said preparations were underway to ensure timely, transparent elections in 2023 and he urged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
    Congo has the world’s lowest coronavirus vaccination rate, with roughly 0.1% of its 90 million population inoculated.
    “I have asked the government to accelerate the implementation of projects with rapid and visible impact,” Tshisekedi said.
    The ministry of health on Monday announced the presence of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the country, as well as an exponential increase in cases of the disease, indicating the start of a fourth wave.
(Additional reporting Nellie Peyton, Bate Felix and Stanis Bujakera, Writing by Nellie Peyton,; Editing by Giles Elgood, Andrew Heavens and Ed Osmond)

12/14/2021 Kenya’s Odinga Launches Fifth Bid For Top Job With President’s Backing by Duncan Miriri
FILE PHOTO: Raila Odinga, Kenya's former Prime Minister and the African Union (AU)
High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa, speaks during an interview
with Reuters in Nairobi, Kenya February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo
    NAIROBI (Reuters) -Veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga launched his fifth bid for Kenya’s presidency on Friday, this time with the support of his former foe President Uhuru Kenyatta.
    Voters are due to go to the polls next August but Kenyatta will not be on the ballot due to a constitutional term limit of two, five-year terms.
    Odinga praised Kenyatta for initiating the dialogue that united them four years ago after a bitter dispute following the 2017 vote.
    “It takes a seasoned statesman to shake the hand of his rival,” he told tens of thousands of supporters gathered at Nairobi’s main sports stadium.
    Dressed in the orange and blue colors of Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party, the supporters sang and danced at the rally.    Some waved party and national flags.
    In Odinga’s last three runs for office in 2007, 2013, he led his supporters to protest at the outcomes or challenge them in court, saying his victories were stolen.    Deadly clashes followed the 2007 and 2017 votes.
    But he made peace with Kenyatta in early 2018, effectively sidelining Kenyatta’s deputy William Ruto, who has been vocal about his own presidential ambitions.
    Several ministers and other senior officials attended the campaign launch.    The vice chair of Kenyatta’s Jubilee party also addressed the crowd, underscoring the president’s support.
    Odinga outlined a plan for improving socioeconomic welfare and said he would fight poverty.
    Ruto, who quit Jubilee and is running on a new party called United Democratic Alliance (UDA), belongs to a different ethnic group in the Rift Valley.
    Odinga and Ruto have already been battling it out on the campaign trail, especially in central Kenya, where Kenyatta’s ethnic Kikuyu votes are up for grabs.
    Ruto fought alongside Odinga in 2007, when police crackdowns on protesters and clashes that turned into ethnic attacks killed more than 1,000 people in post-election violence, eventually prompting a new constitution to devolve power.    Ruto teamed up with Kenyatta in 2013.
    Odinga has secured the support of many of the central region’s business tycoons and ministers. Ruto has the backing of most of the region’s elected representatives.
    Odinga has been touting his long experience in national leadership, including a stint as prime minister.    He has also promised to stamp out widespread graft, give a monthly stipend of 6,000 shillings ($53) to the unemployed, and unite Kenya’s ethnic groups.
    Ruto has also pledged to focus on the poor if elected.
($1 = 112.8000 Kenyan shillings)
(Reporting by Duncan Miriri;Editing by Alison Williams and Angus MacSwan)

12/14/2021 Saudi Foreign Minister Says Iran Stalling At Vienna Talks, Hopes For Progress
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud speaks during
a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 22, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri/File Photo
    RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that Iran appeared to be “stalling” in talks with global powers to salvage a nuclear pact and hoped progress would be made soon.
    Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud, speaking at a press conference following a Gulf Arab summit in Riyadh, said the kingdom was in constant contact with parties to the talks in Vienna and the feedback “does not lead to optimism.”
    “So far the reports show there is some stalling by Iran and we hope this will turn to progress in the near future,” he said, adding while Gulf states prefer to be part of the talks they would be “open to any mechanism” that addresses their concerns.
(This story corrects name to Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud in 2nd paragraph)
(Reporting by Yousef Saba and Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Chris Reese)

12/14/2021 Cameroonian Refugees Cross River To Chad As Carnage Displaces Thousands by Mahamat Ramadane
Saleh Abderamane, 34, an injured Cameroonian who fled deadly intercommunal violence between
Arab Choa herders and Mousgoum and Massa farming communities, talks to journalist as he sits at the
temporarily refugee camp on the outskirts of Ndjamena, Chad December 13, 2021. REUTERS/Mahamat Ramadane
    KOUNDOUL, Chad (Reuters) – Cameroonian farmer Saleh Abderamane was bleeding from a machete wound to his head when his relatives ferried him across the river border to Chad among thousands of refugees fleeing violence between farmers and herders.
    The 34-year-old was attacked during a spate of fighting fuelled by water disputes in the Far North region that has driven 48,000 people to seek refuge in Chad so far this month, according to Chadian authorities.
    “I nearly died far out in the bush but luckily my relatives found me and took me across the river,” said Abderamane at a camp on the outskirts of Chad’s capital N’Djamena.
    A bloodstained bandage swathed the entire crown of his head.
    “We can’t go back there soon because even if the other communities don’t kill us, we would die of hunger,” he said, recalling the destruction of food stores, markets and fields.
    Refugees, mostly women and children, are still trying to reach Chad, crossing the rivers Chari and Logone on rickety boats.    Exhausted new arrivals to one of the camps were greeted with tears and wails of recognition from friends and relatives.
    The number of such refugees has risen 60% in the past week, putting substantial pressure on local communities which were already facing food shortages, said Chad’s Minister of Territorial Administration Mahamat Bechir Chérif.
    The refugees are staying in informal camps along the river bank outside the capital.    Lacking proper shelter, they sleep in the open air.    Teary-eyed children line up in the midday sun for meals from the local Red Cross.
    Chad is already home to close to 1 million refugees and internally displaced people and its resources to respond to their needs are critically low, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said.
    The agency, which is responding to the crisis, said the situation in the Far North region remained volatile, although security forces had been sent in an effort to restore calm.
    At least 22 people have been killed since the clashes broke out in early December following disputes between Arab Choa herders and Mousgoum and Massa farmers and fishermen, local authorities said last week.
    Similar violence in August killed dozens of people and forced thousands to flee to Chad.
(Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

12/15/2021 Blinken Says U.S. Ready To Move Forward With Sale Of F-35s, Drones To UAE
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at a press conference at the Fairmont
Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia December 14, 2021. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS
    KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – The United States is prepared to move forward with the sale of F-35 fighter jets and drones to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday, after reports the UAE intended to suspend discussion of the deal.
    A UAE official on Tuesday told Reuters that it had informed the United States that it would suspend discussions to acquire F-35 fighter jets, part of a $23 billion deal that includes drones and other advanced munitions.
    The official cited “technical requirements, sovereign operational restrictions, and cost/benefit analysis” as reasons that have prompted a re-assessment of the deal by the UAE government.
    The UAE had signed an agreement to purchase 50 F-35 jets and up to 18 armed drones, people familiar with the situation told Reuters in January.
    Speaking at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Blinken said Washington had to conduct some reviews.
    “We’ve wanted to make sure, for example, that our commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge is assured, so we wanted to make sure that we could do a thorough review of any technologies that are sold or transferred to other partners in the region, including the UAE,” Blinken said.
    “But I think we continue to be prepared to move forward if the UAE continues to want to pursue both of these,” he said.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Rozanna Latif; Editing by Robert Birsel)

12/15/2021 Rwanda Confirms Six Infections With Omicron Variant
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker holds a syringe and a vial with vaccine against the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) at the Masaka hospital in Kigali, Rwanda March 5, 2021. REUTERS/Jean Bizimana
    KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwanda has confirmed six cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the health ministry said, as it pushed for authorities in the small East African country to urge people to get vaccinated.     “All arriving passengers must quarantine for three days at a designated hotel at their own cost,” the cabinet of ministers said in a resolution on Tuesday, adding that it had suspended night club operations and live band entertainment.
    Some 40% of the Rwandan population have received two vaccine doses and it has started issuing booster shots.    It registered 50 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday with a positivity rate of 0.5%.
    Authorities last month suspended direct flights to and from southern Africa due to the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.
(Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Editing by Robert Birsel)

12/15/2021 S.Africa Reports Record Daily COVID-19 Cases As Omicron Spreads
FILE PHOTO: Empty recliners are seen at the popular Camps Bay Beach as numbers of
international tourists decline following recent coronavirus disease (COVID-19) travel
restrictions, in Cape Town, South Africa, December 3, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -South Africa reported a record number of new daily COVID-19 infections on Wednesday in a fourth wave believed to be largely caused by the Omicron coronavirus variant.
    The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) reported 26,976 new cases in the past 24 hours, surpassing a peak of 26,485 in early July during a third wave driven by the then-dominant Delta strain.
    The NICD also reported another 54 COVID-19 related deaths and an additional 620 hospital admissions.
    South Africa, the country worst affected by the pandemic on the African continent in terms of confirmed infections and deaths, alerted the world to Omicron in November, triggering alarm that it could cause a global surge in infections.
    Omicron has since been detected in more than 70 countries worldwide, with the World Health Organization labelling it “of concern.”
    Scientists suspect that Omicron is more transmissible given its rapid spread though they caution it’s too early to draw definitive conclusions about the severity of the disease that it causes.
    Some anecdotal accounts by doctors and researchers in South Africa suggest Omicron is mainly causing mild infections locally, but that could also be explained by high levels of previous COVID-19 infection and the fact that around 38% of the country’s adult population are now fully vaccinated.
    A major real-world study released on Tuesday found Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine had been less effective at keeping people infected with the virus out of hospital since Omicron emerged.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning, Editing by Mark Heinrich)

12/16/2021 Human Rights Watch Says Cameroonian Separatists Target Schools
FILE PHOTO: Sand covers a puddle of blood at an empty clasroom following a shooting at
a school in Kumba, Cameroon October 25, 2020. REUTERS/Josiane Kouagheu/File Photo
    DAKAR (Reuters) – An international human rights group on Thursday accused separatist fighters in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions of systematically targeting schools, students and teachers during a civil war that has killed thousands of people.
    The attacks have forced two out of every three schools in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions to close, denying over 700,000 students access to an education, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report.
    The report documented attacks on at least 70 schools since 2017, when a government crackdown on peaceful protesters ignited a full-blown conflict between the army of the mostly Francophone government and English-speaking militias.
    The separatists, who want to form a breakaway state called Ambazonia, have demanded that schools close to protest the government’s official curriculum – and have attacked those that do not comply.
    They have killed and abducted hundreds of students and teachers, destroyed schools, threatened parents, saying they must keep them at home, and used schools as bases to hold and torture hostages, the report said.
    “These criminal attacks don’t just cause immediate physical and psychological harm to victims; they jeopardize the future of tens of thousands of students,” wrote Ilaria Allegrozzi, the author of the report.
    Separatist leaders were not immediately available for comment when contacted by Reuters.
    In responses published in the HRW report, separatist leaders did not directly address accusations their groups had attacked schools.    They said that people living in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions had willingly rejected the formal education system in favour of an English-centric, community-led curriculum.
    Government forces, which are regularly accused of committing atrocities against civilians, have made only 23 arrests linked to education-related attacks as of November 2021, the report found.
    “As the future of children in the Anglophone regions hangs in the balance, the authorities should live up to their responsibility to ensure children’s safe access to education and protection from harm,” Allegrozzi said.
    A government spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
    More than 3,000 people have been killed in Cameroon since the conflict began, and half a million more displaced.
(Reporting by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Aaron Ross and Barbara Lewis)

12/16/2021 A Year Of War In Ethiopia Batters Investors And Citizens by Maggie Fick and Duncan Miriri
A labourer sits atop a truck queuing with sacks of grains at the grain market in
Merkato neighbourhood of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 30, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – When Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018, Ethiopia was one of the world’s fastest growing economies.    His pledges to open up one of Africa’s last untapped markets thrilled investors.
    But a year of war between the government and rebellious forces from the northern Tigray region has damaged government plans to modernise the economy and deterred some foreign investors.
    Parts of Tigray are in famine, the currency’s value has plummeted and annual inflation has topped 35%.
    “Ethiopia is uninvestable at the moment,” said Kevin Daly of London-based investment company abrdn.     “The political situation is very tenuous, and there is a lack of information and clarity on the economy, and on how things are going to be resolved.”
    The economy was on track to grow just 2% this year after consistently topping 10% before the pandemic, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in its world economic outlook published in October.    It did not include growth projections for 2022 to 2026, citing an “unusually high degree of uncertainty.”
    Officials in Ethiopia’s finance ministry and the prime minister’s office did not respond to requests for comment.    However, State Finance Minister Eyob Tekalign Tolina has accused Western media of exaggerating the war’s impact.    The government projects growth of 8.7% for the fiscal year ending in June 2022.    “Ethiopia is a very strong country, and we are talking about a conflict in one part of the country, but the rest of the country is thriving,” Eyob told India’s DD TV channel last month.
    Not everyone agrees.
    Fighting ruined harvests in rich agricultural regions, including a swathe of disputed territory claimed by Tigray and neighbouring Amhara, while drought and locust invasions also hit crops.    Around 9.4 million people need food aid in three regions affected by the war, according to the United Nations, compared with 4 million before the war.
    Far from the fighting, inflation is hitting the urban poor in the capital Addis Ababa.
    At an open-air market, Legesse Yadataa despaired at the price of teff, a staple grain.    A kilogram (2.2 lb) cost nearly 50 Ethiopian birr ($1.04), 25% higher than a year ago. That’s a third of his daily earnings on intermittent construction jobs.
    “Merchants keep increasing the price because of the war,” he said.    “We don’t have enough to eat.    Paying rent is getting beyond our means.    Life is very difficult.”
LOST TRACTORS
    The fighting has shuttered many firms operating in Tigray.    Authorities have also targeted Ethiopian companies suspected of working with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the party that controls most of the region.
    Frans Van Schaik, chief executive of the New York-based Africa Asset Finance Company, said the firm’s equipment leasing business in Ethiopia lost agricultural equipment worth nearly $1 million in the war.    GPS trackers showed Ethio Lease’s tractors moving towards the border with Sudan before losing contact.
    Next, the central government took control of the agricultural cooperative leasing the equipment, he said.    Their bank accounts were frozen, the board dismantled and caretaker leadership installed unfamiliar with its operations.
    “It’s a typical casualty of war,” he said.
    The conflict has also hurt companies outside the war zone.
    U.S. apparel giant PVH Corp., said last month it was closing a manufacturing facility south of Addis Ababa after the United States terminated Ethiopia’s duty-free access to its markets from Jan. 1 over allegations of rights abuses in Tigray.
    The Ethiopian Investment Commission did not respond to requests for comment.
PRESSURE
    Ethiopia is one of three African nations that applied for debt restructuring under the G20 Common Framework, designed to provide permanent relief to poorer countries.    But progress reworking the external debt has been slow.    The government has not disclosed the total amount of debt, which the World Bank last year put at $28.4 billion.
    Foreign investors had hoped that Abiy’s economic reforms would ease foreign exchange shortages.
    Instead, they have worsened since war erupted. Ethiopia has reserves of $2.4 billion, government data shows, enough to cover two months of imports – below the three months usually considered adequate.
    The war has also hurt Ethiopia’s ability to raise additional funds from capital markets or other creditors, with yields on its $1 billion dollar bond soaring well above 20% in recent months.
    Anders Faergemann, a London-based emerging markets portfolio manager at PineBridge Investments, which holds the bond maturing in 2024, said a coupon payment was made last week.    The payment due was around $32 million.
    Ethiopia’s credit rating, however, has slid further into junk territory.
    “We don’t have certainty about whether the conflict could escalate … and don’t feel comfortable buying Ethiopian debt at current levels,” said Yvette Babb, a fund manager at William Blair in the Netherlands.
LONG-TERM INVESTORS
    Despite the risks, some investors still cultivate Ethiopia’s large and growing market, said Patrick Heinisch, emerging markets economist at Helaba Bank in Germany.
    Spanish-listed wind turbine maker Siemens Gamesa, which in January agreed to build its first power project with state-run Ethiopian Electric Power, said it was business as usual.
    The awarding of an operating licence to a consortium led by Kenya’s Safaricom boosted foreign direct investment(FDI) in the second quarter of 2021 to $1.9 billion, from less than $750 million in the first quarter.
    FDI will continue to provide a “financial lifeline” to the government, said Heinisch, adding that the government’s need for cash gives investors more bargaining power if other state-owned firms are privatized.
(Additional reporting by Tommy Wilkes and Karin Strohecker in London and Addis Ababa newsroom; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Alex Richardson)

12/16/2021 Libyans In Dark Over Election With Eight Days To Go
FILE PHOTO: Employees of the Libya Karama Party stand in front of the party
building in Benghazi, Libya November 9, 2021. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori
    TUNIS/TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Eight days before Libyans were meant to cast presidential votes, there is utter confusion over the fate of an election that has not yet been formally delayed but that has almost no chance of going ahead on time.
    The planned Dec. 24 vote, along with a parallel election for a new parliament, was meant to help end Libya’s past decade of chaos by installing a political leadership with national legitimacy after years of factional division.
    However, the process has been dogged since the start by bitter disputes over the election’s legal basis and fundamental rules, including over the eligibility of deeply divisive front-runners, that have never been resolved.
    On Saturday the electoral commission said it would not announce the final list of eligible candidates, drawn from the 98 who registered, until after legal discussions with the judiciary and parliament.
    It means there is no time for candidates to campaign, while major security incidents over recent days have added to fears over electoral integrity if the vote does go ahead.
    Few of the Libyans Reuters spoke to on Thursday believed the vote would happen on time, though many expected only a short delay.    “It will be postponed for a maximum of three months,” said Ahmed Ali, 43, in Benghazi.
    Rival candidates and political factions have been exchanging recriminations, accusing each other of trying to block or manipulate the electoral process for their own advantage.
    International powers pushing for elections along with the U.N. have maintained their stance that polls must go ahead but this week stopped referring to the planned Dec. 24 ballot date in public statements.
    Over recent weeks very large numbers of Libyans have collected their ballot cards and thousands have registered to be parliamentary candidates, apparently signifying widespread popular support for an election.
    Tim Eaton of Chatham House, the London think tank, said none of Libya’s political bodies was ready to publicly say the vote would not happen for fear of being blamed for its failure.
    “It’s pretty clear that the legal wranglings cannot be resolved in the current circumstances,” he said.    “No one thinks this is happening on time, but nobody is saying it.”
    It left a choice between short delays to find fixes to push the elections over the line or longer delays to reshape the political road map, which could also include replacing the transitional government, he added.
FACTIONAL FIGHTING
    Since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has had no political stability and in 2014 the country split between warring eastern and western factions.
    Oil company employee Ali Saad, 66, said he wept for Libya’s future.    “Even if the elections are postponed, I hope it will be with an agreement and rules that can be worked on, because otherwise things will be tense and the consequences will be dire.”
    Analysts and diplomats say a return to direct warfare between eastern and western sides, both now well entrenched and with significant international military backing, appears unlikely for now.
    However, they say there is a bigger risk of tensions erupting into internal factional warfare within either camp, particularly in Tripoli, where armed forces are more diverse and political divisions are more open.
    On Wednesday night, an armed force surrounded government buildings in Tripoli, apparently in response to a decision to replace a senior military official, but there was no fighting and a security source said the situation was being resolved.
    In the southern city of Sebha there were fierce clashes early this week between groups aligned with rival factions.    Last month the electoral commission said fighters had raided voting centres, stealing ballot cards.
(Reporting by Angus McDowall in Tunis, Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli and Ayman al-Warfali in Benghazi; Editing by Giles Elgood)

12/17/2021 Israeli Killed In Palestinian Gun Attack In West Bank, Military Says by Rami Ayyub
Relatives and friends mourn during the funeral procession of Yehuda Dimentman who was killed in a Palestinian shooting
attack near the Jewish outpost of Homesh in the Israeli-occupied West Bank December 17, 2021 REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -An Israeli man was killed and two others were wounded in a Palestinian shooting attack near a Jewish settler outpost in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, an Israeli military spokesman said, amid an uptick in Israeli-Palestinian violence.
    Israeli troops were searching for suspects, who the spokesman said had fired at the Israelis’ car as they were leaving a Jewish seminary in the outpost, north of the Palestinian city of Nablus.
    The person killed, a man in his 20s, succumbed to gunshot wounds while being rushed to hospital, Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency service said.    The two injured Israelis had been struck by shards of glass and were lightly wounded, the service added.
    Sending his condolences to the families of those killed or injured, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett posted on Twitter: “Security forces will soon get their hands on the terrorists and we’ll ensure that justice is served.”
    Violence has simmered in the occupied West Bank, part of territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war, since U.S.-sponsored peace talks broke down in 2014.    The Palestinians seek the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem for a future state.
    The shooting occurred near Homesh, a settler outpost that was established without government permission and whose residents were evacuated in 2005.    The area houses an active yeshiva, or seminary, where the three Israelis studied, Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Amnon Shefler told reporters.
    The incident, which follows several Palestinian attacks https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/palestinian-girl-facing-jerusalem-eviction-held-suspicion-stabbing-jewish-2021-12-08 on Israelis in East Jerusalem in recent weeks, drew praise from the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.    No group claimed responsibility.
    Palestinians frequently complain of intimidation by Israeli troops and attacks by settlers, whose residence in the West Bank the international community considers illegal. Last week, Israeli troops shot dead https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israeli-troops-shoot-dead-palestinian-west-bank-clash-health-ministry-says-2021-12-10 a Palestinian during clashes at an anti-settlement protest.
    Israel disputes that the settlements are illegal, citing historical, biblical and political links to the West Bank, as well as its security needs.
(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in GazaEditing by Alison Williams and Jonathan Oatis)

12/17/2021 S.Africa Says Vaccines, Prior Infection Contributing To Mildness Of COVID-19 Infections
FILE PHOTO: A pharmacist prepares a dose of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Pfizer vaccine amidst the spread
of the SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron in Johannesburg, South Africa, December 04, 2021. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -South Africa’s health minister said on Friday that the government believed that vaccines and high levels of prior COVID-19 infection were helping to keep disease milder in a wave driven by the Omicron variant.
    There have been early anecdotal accounts suggesting that the Omicron variant driving the fourth wave, which saw the country report a record number of daily infections earlier this week, is causing less severe illness than previous variants in South Africa but scientists say it is too early to draw firm conclusions.
    “We believe that it might not necessarily just be that Omicron is less virulent, but … coverage of vaccination (and) … natural immunity of people who have already had contact with the virus is also adding to the protection,” Health Minister Joe Phaahla told a news conference.    “That’s why we are seeing mild illness.”
    South Africa has given 44% of its adult population at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, more than many African countries but well short of the government’s year-end target.    But among the over-50s vaccination coverage levels are over 60%.
    Addressing the same news conference, Michelle Groome from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said there had been an uptick in COVID-19 hospital admissions and deaths.
    “Starting to see a slight increase in deaths nationally, but once again this level is very much lower even than the baseline period we were seeing between the second and third waves,” Groome said.
    Phaahla said early indications were that infections might have peaked in the most populated Gauteng province, where cases initially surged.    He added that in the coming week the health department would report back to the National Coronavirus Command Council on whether COVID-19 restrictions should be adjusted.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Giles Elgood)

12/17/2021 Ethiopia Conflict Marked By Violations On All Sides, Mass Arrests – U.N.
FILE PHOTO: A boy sits on the barrel of a military tank destroyed recently during fighting between the
Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in Damot Kebele of Amhara
region, Ethiopia December 7, 2021. Picture taken December 7, 2021. REUTERS/Kumera Gemechu/File Photo
    GENEVA (Reuters) – All sides in the deepening conflict in Ethiopia’s northern region are committing “severe human rights violations,” the United Nations said on Friday, calling for them to pull back from war.
    An estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people are detained, including 9 UN staff, under the state of emergency and its “excessively broad provision,” declared by the government last month, said Nada al-Nashif, U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.
    “I also deplore increasing hate speech and incitement to violence by federal and regional authorities, as well as other public figures, particularly targeted against Tigrayans and members of the Oromo community,” she told a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Emma Farge)

12/17/2021 U.N. Rights Forum Agrees To Investigate Abuses In Ethiopia by Stephanie Nebehay and Emma Farge
FILE PHOTO: A boy sits on the barrel of a military tank destroyed recently during fighting between the
Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in Damot Kebele of Amhara
region, Ethiopia December 7, 2021. Picture taken December 7, 2021. REUTERS/Kumera Gemechu/File Photo
    GENEVA (Reuters) – The U.N. Human Rights Council voted on Friday to establish an independent investigation into abuses in the Ethiopian conflict, after a senior U.N. official said there had been violations on all sides and mass arrests under a government crackdown.
    Ethiopia said it was “extremely disappointed” by the move and vowed not to cooperate, describing the mechanism as “politically motivated.”
    The resolution, brought by the European Union and backed by Western states, passed despite objections from Ethiopia, which dismissed accusations of abuses and said it had already cooperated in investigations into the year-old war.
    “A number of these violations may amount to crimes against humanity, and urgently require further investigations by independent experts,” the EU delegation to the U.N. in Geneva said in a statement welcoming the decision.
    The resolution establishes a three-member panel of experts for one year to collect evidence and identify those responsible for violations with a view to future prosecutions.
    “Ethiopia would like to reiterate that it will not cooperate with the established mechanism imposed upon it against its consent,” the government said in a statement.
    “No more to double standards; no more to unilateral coercive measures; and no more to meddling in internal affairs under the pretext of human rights.”
    Earlier, Ethiopia’s envoy to the U.N. in Geneva Zenebe Kebede denounced what he said was a series of abuses by rebellious forces from the northern Tigray region.
    Thousands of civilians have died and millions have fled in the conflict between the federal government and rebellious forces including fighters loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition for nearly 30 years.
    There was no immediate comment from the TPLF on Friday. In the past, it has said some individual soldiers or militias may have committed abuses that should be investigated but that regular Tigrayan forces are well disciplined.
‘GRAVE CONCERN’
    The vote on the motion after a day-long special session was 21 states in favour, 15 against including China and Russia, with 11 abstentions at the 47-member forum in Geneva.
    The African Group of countries had also called for the resolution to be rejected, saying that the proposed investigative mechanism was “counterproductive and likely to exacerbate tensions.”
    But six African countries including Senegal and Sudan broke ranks and abstained.
    The U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada al-Nashif, told the session that all sides in the deepening conflict in northern Ethiopia are committing severe human rights violations and should pull back from the war.
    An estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people are detained, including nine U.N. staff, under a state of emergency and its “excessively broad provision” declared by the government last month, she said.
    “Many are detained incommunicado or in unknown locations.    This is tantamount to enforced disappearance, and a matter of very grave concern,” she said.
    Ethiopia’s Zenebe did not comment directly on the detentions.    But he said that the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission had already worked with the U.N rights office to investigate accusations of abuses, and was ready to do so again.
    That joint investigation published last month found that all sides in Tigray’s conflict had committed violations that may amount to war crimes.
    Some Tigrayans groups criticised the investigation, saying it had ignored many widely-reported and well-documented mass killings.    The government also complained it had not covered crimes committed by Tigrayan forces in Amhara region.    But the report said it could not be an exhaustive list of all crimes.
    The U.S. State Department on Friday said Washington is “gravely concerned” by unconfirmed reports alleging mass detentions, killings and forced expulsions of ethnic Tigrayans in western Tigray by Amhara security forces.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Louise Heavens and Grant McCool)

12/17/2021 Tunisians Protest Against President On Anniversary Of Uprising by Mohamed Argoubi
People protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied's seizure of governing power and declaration of
putting a new constitution to public referendum, in Tunis, Tunisia, December 17, 2021. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
    TUNIS (Reuters) – Several thousand people demonstrated against Tunisian President Kais Saied on Friday, pointing to growing opposition to his seizure of power and suspension of parliament five months ago.
    Called for the anniversary of the uprising that toppled autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali a decade ago, it was the first protest since Saied announced a long-awaited road map on Monday that keeps parliament suspended for another year.
    The protest suggested the road map has done little to assuage opponents who say Saied’s moves have derailed Tunisia’s democratic transition, a comparative success story of the “Arab Spring” that toppled several autocrats in 2011.
    The protesters gathered in the centre of Tunis, where security forces were heavily deployed.    Waving Tunisian flags, they chanted: “Freedom, freedom, the police state is over!,” and “The people want the removal of the president!
    Several hundred Saied supporters also rallied nearby, waving Tunisian flags too.
    Three parties opposing Saied’s measures accused security forces of stopping protesters at one end of Habib Bourguiba Avenue from filing into the wide, tree-lined street that has been the location of major protests for a decade.
    Issam Chebbi, secretary general of the Republican Party, said Saied supporters were, however, let through.
‘PERPETUATE THE CRISIS’
    Interior Minister Tawfiq Sharaf El-Din told broadcaster Jawahara FM security forces had treated everyone equally.
    Saied’s plan includes a constitutional referendum next July, followed by parliamentary elections at the end of 2022.
    “It isn’t a road map to exit the crisis, but to perpetuate the crisis,” said protester Jawhar Ben Mubarak, a constitutional law expert and activist in “Citizens against the coup.”    Saied “abducted the country half a year ago and wants to abduct it for another year,” he added.
    The anniversary of the uprising had previously been marked on Jan. 14, when Ben Ali fled Tunisia.
    But Saied changed the date to Dec. 17, when fruit seller Mohammed Bouazizi set himself ablaze in Sidi Bouzid after an altercation with a policewoman about where he had put his cart, igniting the uprising.
    In Sidi Bouzid on Friday, hundreds of unemployed people also protested, chanting “work, freedom, dignity, patriotism,” a slogan of the 2011 uprising, witnesses and the state news agency Tunis Afrique Presse reported.
    Saied’s power grab initially appeared to win broad support among Tunisians fed up with years of economic stagnation and political paralysis.    But opposition has sharpened, including from major domestic players who were initially supportive.
(Reporting by Mohamed Argoubi; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Giles Elgood and Andrew Cawthorne)

12/18/2021 Settlers Clash With Palestinians In Aftermath Of West Bank Killing by Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi
Mourners carry the body of Palestinian Ahmed Manasrah, during his funeral near Bethlehem,
in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    HOMESH, West Bank (Reuters) – The United Nations Mideast peace envoy warned against escalating tensions on Friday after Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli in the occupied West Bank and Jewish settlers were accused of attacking Arab villages in the aftermath.
    Yehuda Dimentman, 25, was killed on Thursday in an ambush on his car as he left Homesh, an Israeli settlement in the northern West Bank that was evacuated in 2005 and is now home to a religious seminary.
    On Friday hundreds of mourners boarded armoured buses to Homesh for a memorial service at which some called for the settlement to be re-established.
    Even as the procession took place Palestinians reported settlers attacking nearby villages, shooting, hurling stones and injuring one man in his home in Qaryut.    Settler leaders said Palestinians also threw rocks at Israelis.
    Tor Wennesland, the U.N. special coordinator, said he was “alarmed” by the escalation.
    “Last night, Palestinian assailants opened fire toward an Israeli vehicle near Nablus in which one Israeli was killed and two others injured.    Since this morning there have been several retaliatory attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians,” he said.    “These tragic incidents, and numerous others in recent weeks, highlight the volatility of the current situation.”
    No Palestinian group claimed responsibility for the latest shooting, which follows several Palestinian attacks on Israelis in recent weeks. Palestinians also complain of attacks by settlers, whose residence in the West Bank the international community considers illegal.
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a former head of the West Bank’s main settler movement, sent his “deepest condolences” to Dimentman’s family on Friday.
    “We will not be silent until we have caught and dealt with the vile murderers,” he said on Twitter.
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ office accused the settlers of intimidating Palestinians “with the encouragement and protection of the Israeli occupation government,” according to the official Wafa news agency.
    There were also clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police in the flashpoint East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
    The Associated Press news agency said one of its photographers, Mahmoud Illean, was “pushed and beaten by Israeli police in an unprovoked attack” while covering the protests, requiring hospital treatment.
    The AP said it was “outraged” and the Foreign Press Association called for an investigation.    In response, a police spokeswoman said officers “used means to disperse riots to maintain public order” and that the incident would be investigated.
(Reporting by Ronen Zvulun and Rami Amichay in Homesh, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Stephen Farrell in Jerusalem; Editing by Giles Elgood and Mark Porter)

12/18/2021 Sudan’s Stability And Unity Are At Risk, PM Says Amid Mass Protests
FILE PHOTO: Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok speaks during a Reuters interview
in Khartoum, Sudan August 24, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said on Saturday Sudan’s stability and unity were in danger and called for a political agreement to safeguard the country’s future amid mass protests against a military coup.
    Hamdok was speaking a day before more protests are planned against the coup carried out by military leaders on Oct. 25 and an agreement they announced on Nov. 21 to reinstate Hamdok, who had been under house arrest.
    Sunday’s planned demonstrations will mark the third anniversary of protests that started a popular uprising which led to the overthrow of long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
    “We face today a major setback to the path of our revolution that threatens the country’s security, unity, and stability, which alerts us to the beginning of a backslide into a pit that leaves us neither a nation nor a revolution,” Hamdok said in a statement.
    The Oct. 25 coup ended a partnership between military leaders and civilian political parties following Bashir’s removal.    Those parties, and neighbourhood resistance committees that have organised several mass protests, have rejected dialogue and partnership with the military.
    The agreement reinstating Hamdok faces opposition from protesters who previously saw him as a symbol of resistance to military rule and denounced it as a betrayal.
    Hamdok acknowledged the failure of previous mediation attempts but called for a new political agreement.
    “Unfortunately all these attempts have stumbled because of the insistence on the differing stances and views of the different forces,” he said.
    “I want on this occasion to renew my invitation to all revolutionary forces and all those who believe in a civilian democratic transition to agree to a political covenant that addresses the deficits of the past and achieves the remainder of the revolution’s goals.”
    Tear gas was fired at thousands of supporters of Sudan’s opposition Forces for Freedom and Change movement who gathered in the capital Khartoum on Friday, witnesses said.    The source of the tear gas was unclear.
(Reporting by Nafisa Eltahir, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

12/18/2021 We Wish You A Merry Vaccine! Lisbon Starts Inoculating Children by Catarina Demony and Miguel Pereira
A person in a Santa costume takes a picture with people at the Ajuda vaccination centre as Portugal
begins vaccinating 5 to 11 year-olds, in Lisbon, Portugal, December 18, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
    LISBON (Reuters) – Nurses wearing reindeer antler headbands danced to festive music and Santa Claus showed up at a Lisbon vaccination centre on Saturday as young children started to receive their COVID-19 shots.
    Martim Sobral, 10, and his dad Paulo were among the first to arrive at the large vaccination site after Portugal’s health authority last week approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those aged five to 11.
    “If I don’t get vaccinated I have more chances of getting COVID-19, and I don’t want that,” Martim said.    His father added: “It is important for everyone, for the world, for the country, that the vaccine exists so people can be protected.”
    Nurses wearing Rudolph the reindeer headbands or the red nose said they were trying to ease the children’s anxieties.
    “It is a mass vaccination campaign in an unwelcoming building so we tried to create a more relaxed environment so children are less anxious,” said nurse Paula Ramos.
    As children left the site to head home, staff handed out candy and gave them colourful stickers saying: “I’ve been vaccinated!
    Portugal, which has one of the world’s highest rates of vaccination against COVID-19 with around 87% of its 10 million population fully inoculated, is now facing a surge in infections, in part due to the Omicron variant.
    Rita Oliveira and her 11-year-old son Afonso, also showed up at the vaccination centre, both previously infected with COVID-19.    She took the opportunity to leave a message to parents still in doubt about whether to vaccinate their children or not.
    “Trust those that know more than we do … so this (pandemic) finally ends and we can have our lives back,” she said.
(Reporting by Catarina Demony, Miguel Pereira and Pedro Nunes, editing by Andrei Khalip and Clelia Oziel)

12/18/2021 U.N. Rights Forum Agrees To Investigate Abuses In Ethiopia by Stephanie Nebehay and Emma Farge
FILE PHOTO: A boy sits on the barrel of a military tank destroyed recently during fighting between the
Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in Damot Kebele of
Amhara region, Ethiopia December 7, 2021. Picture taken December 7, 2021. REUTERS/Kumera Gemechu/File Photo
    GENEVA (Reuters) – The U.N. Human Rights Council voted on Friday to establish an independent investigation into abuses in the Ethiopian conflict, after a senior U.N. official said there had been violations on all sides and mass arrests under a government crackdown.
    Ethiopia said it was “extremely disappointed” by the move and vowed not to cooperate, describing the mechanism as “politically motivated.”
    The resolution, brought by the European Union and backed by Western states, passed despite objections from Ethiopia, which dismissed accusations of abuses and said it had already cooperated in investigations into the year-old war.
    “A number of these violations may amount to crimes against humanity, and urgently require further investigations by independent experts,” the EU delegation to the U.N. in Geneva said in a statement welcoming the decision.
    The resolution establishes a three-member panel of experts for one year to collect evidence and identify those responsible for violations with a view to future prosecutions.
    “Ethiopia would like to reiterate that it will not cooperate with the established mechanism imposed upon it against its consent,” the government said in a statement.
    “No more to double standards; no more to unilateral coercive measures; and no more to meddling in internal affairs under the pretext of human rights.”
    Earlier, Ethiopia’s envoy to the U.N. in Geneva Zenebe Kebede denounced what he said was a series of abuses by rebellious forces from the northern Tigray region.
    Thousands of civilians have died and millions have fled in the conflict between the federal government and rebellious forces including fighters loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition for nearly 30 years.
    There was no immediate comment from the TPLF on Friday. In the past, it has said some individual soldiers or militias may have committed abuses that should be investigated but that regular Tigrayan forces are well disciplined.
‘GRAVE CONCERN’
    The vote on the motion after a day-long special session was 21 states in favour, 15 against including China and Russia, with 11 abstentions at the 47-member forum in Geneva.
    The African Group of countries had also called for the resolution to be rejected, saying that the proposed investigative mechanism was “counterproductive and likely to exacerbate tensions
    But six African countries including Senegal and Sudan broke ranks and abstained.
    The U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada al-Nashif, told the session that all sides in the deepening conflict in northern Ethiopia are committing severe human rights violations and should pull back from the war.
    An estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people are detained, including nine U.N. staff, under a state of emergency and its “excessively broad provision” declared by the government last month, she said.
    “Many are detained incommunicado or in unknown locations. This is tantamount to enforced disappearance, and a matter of very grave concern,” she said.
    Ethiopia’s Zenebe did not comment directly on the detentions.    But he said that the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission had already worked with the U.N rights office to investigate accusations of abuses, and was ready to do so again.
    That joint investigation published last month found that all sides in Tigray’s conflict had committed violations that may amount to war crimes.
    Some Tigrayans groups criticised the investigation, saying it had ignored many widely-reported and well-documented mass killings.    The government also complained it had not covered crimes committed by Tigrayan forces in Amhara region.    But the report said it could not be an exhaustive list of all crimes.
    The U.S. State Department on Friday said Washington is “gravely concerned” by unconfirmed reports alleging mass detentions, killings and forced expulsions of ethnic Tigrayans in western Tigray by Amhara security forces.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Louise Heavens and Grant McCool)

12/19/2021 Israel In Fifth COVID Wave, Mulls Adding U.S. To Omicron ‘Red’ List
FILE PHOTO: Shoppers explore the Carmel Market as coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
restrictions ease in Tel Aviv, Israel October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel is in the midst of a fifth COVID-19 wave due to the Omicron variant, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday, urging citizens to step up vaccination and to take precautions such as working from home.
    In a televised address, Bennett said Israel had bought some time by moving fast to limit travel when Omicron was first detected last month, but that this was now waning.    He predicted a surge of sicknesses within a few weeks.
    Earlier on Sunday, a Health Ministry advisory committee recommended that Israel add the United States to the list of “red” countries to which its citizens cannot fly without special permission.    Bennett did not mention this measure in his speech.
    Israel has logged 134 confirmed Omicron cases and another 307 suspected cases, the Health Ministry said.    Of these, 167 were symptomatic, it said.
    “The time we bought is running out,” Bennett said. “The numbers are still not high but it’s a very contagious variant, doubling itself every two-three days, as we see around the world. It’s possible to say that the fifth wave has begun.”
    In a rapid first response to Omicron, which was first detected in southern Africa and Hong Kong, Israel banned the entry of foreigners on Nov. 25 and has imposed three- to 14-day quarantine orders for Israelis returning from abroad.
    But Bennett has also come under domestic criticism for a foreign vacation his wife and children took after he urged Israelis to avoid such travel.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Frances Kerry)

12/19/2021 Hundreds Of Thousands March To Sudan Presidential Palace In Protest Against Coup by Khalid Abdelaziz and Nafisa Eltahir
People ride on top of military vehicle as they celebrate reaching the presidential palace protesting against
military rule following last month's coup in Khartoum, Sudan December 19, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of people marched to the presidential palace in Sudan’s capital Khartoum on Sunday in protest at the Oct. 25 military coup, drawing volleys of tear gas and stun grenades from security forces, Reuters witnesses said.
    Medics said scores of people were injured.
    Some protesters managed to reach the gates of the palace and the protest’s organisers called on more to join a planned sit-in there after sundown, but live video footage showed those who remained being tear gassed heavily.
    The outpouring of protest, the ninth major demonstration since the coup and one of the largest, marked the 2018 burning of a ruling party building which touched off a popular uprising that led to the overthrow of long-ruling Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
    Protests against the coup have continued even after the reinstatement of the prime minister last month, with demonstrators demanding no more military involvement at all in government in a transition towards free elections.
    Demonstrators marched down a main road leading to the palace, chanting “the people are stronger and retreat is impossible,” with some darting into side streets to dodge volleys of tear gas.
    Some 123 people were injured, according to the Sudanese health ministry, in Khartoum, its twin cities of Bahri and Omdurman, and the eastern city of Kassala.
    Medics affiliated with the protest movement accused security forces in a statement of using live bullets and heavy tear gas to disperse the sit-in, assaulting protesters and stealing their personal property.    They also accused them of encircling hospitals and firing tear gas at the entrances.
    There was no immediate statement from police.
    Despite security forces blocking bridges over the Nile river into the capital early on Sunday, protesters were able to cross a bridge connecting the city of Omdurman to central Khartoum but were met with heavy tear gas, Reuters witnesses said.
    Reuters witnesses also watched protesters crossing a bridge from Bahri, north of Khartoum, to the capital.
    Images shared on social media showed protests taking place in several other cities including Port Sudan, El-Deain, Madani and Kassala.
FLAGS AND MASKS
    Early on Sunday joint army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces sealed off major roads leading to the airport and the army headquarters and they were heavily deployed around the presidential palace.
    Protesters also blocked roads leading to the main route of the march.    Some were carrying Sudanese flags and photos of protesters who were killed in demonstrations in the past few months.    Others were handing out masks against COVID-19 and carrying stretchers in anticipation of people being wounded.
    The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors says 45 people have been killed in crackdowns on protesters since the Oct. 25 coup.
    It was the ninth in a series of demonstrations against the coup, which have continued even after the military signed a deal on Nov. 21 with Hamdok, who had been under house arrest, and released him and other high-profile political detainees.
    On Saturday night, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok warned in a statement https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/sudans-stability-unity-are-risk-pm-says-amid-mass-protests-2021-12-18 that Sudan’s revolution faced a major setback and that political intransigence from all sides threatened the country’s unity and stability.
    The military and civilian political parties known as the Forces of Freedom and Change Coalition (FFC) had shared power since Bashir’s removal. But the agreement reinstating Hamdok angered protesters, who previously had seen him as a symbol of resistance to military rule and denounced his deal with the military as a betrayal.
    Civilian parties, and neighbourhood resistance committees that have organised several mass protests, demand full civilian rule under the slogan “no negotiation, no partnership, no legitimacy.”
    In a statement, the FFC supported the resistance committees’ calls for sit-ins, strikes, and further protests, which are scheduled for Dec. 25 and Dec. 30.
    “We call on the people to continue escalating their resistance to the coup until power is handed over to the people,” they said, accusing security forces of excessive force.
    On Saturday night and early Sunday morning, people arrived in bus convoys from other states, including North Kordofan and Gezira, to join the protests in Khartoum, witnesses said.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz and Nafisa Eltahir; Writing by Nafisa Eltahir and Sarah El Safty; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Susan Fenton and Daniel Wallis)

12/19/2021 Islamic Countries Pledge Fund To Stave Off Afghanistan ‘Chaos’ by Asif Shahzad
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan poses with the delegates attending the 17th extraordinary session
of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers on the Afghanistan situation,
in Islamabad, Pakistan December 19, 2021. Press Information Department (PID)/Handout via REUTERS
    ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Islamic countries pledged on Sunday to set up a humanitarian trust fund for Afghanistan as, with millions facing hunger and a harsh winter setting in, Pakistan’s prime minister warned of chaos if the worsening emergency was not urgently addressed.
    The crisis is causing mounting alarm but the international response has been muted, given Western reluctance to help the Taliban government, which seized power in August.
    “Unless action is taken immediately, Afghanistan is heading for chaos,” Prime Minister Imran Khan told a meeting of foreign ministers from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Islamabad.
    The trust fund, announced by