US President-elect Joe Biden will insist Iran agrees to new demands if it wants the US to return to a nuclear deal and lift sanctions, The New York Times said Wednesday. The Times said the Biden administration would seek to extend the duration of "restrictions on Iran s production of fissile material that could be used to make a (nuclear) bomb" in a new round of negotiations. Iran would also have to address its "malign" regional activities through proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen in the talks that would have to include its Arab neighbors like Saudi Arabia, the report said. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018 and has reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran as part of a "maximum pressure" campaign against the US s arch enemy. Biden, who defeated Trump at the ballot box last month, said during campaigning that he intends to offer Iran a "credible path back to diplomacy". In the Times interview published on Wednesday, the incoming US president stood by those views, saying: "It s going to be hard, but yeah." "Look, there s a lot of talk about precision missiles and all range of other things that are destabilizing the region," Biden was quoted as saying. But, he added, "the best way to achieve getting some stability in the region" was to deal "with the nuclear program". Biden warned that if Iran acquired a bomb, it would spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, "and the last goddamn thing we need in that part of the world is a buildup of nuclear capability". "In consultation with our allies and partners, we re going to engage in negotiations and follow-on agreements to tighten and lengthen Iran s nuclear constraints, as well as address the missile program," he told the Times. Biden was cited as saying that the United States always had the option to international snap back sanctions if need be, and that Iran knew that. The 2015 nuclear deal -- known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA -- gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program. In response to Trump s withdrawal, the Islamic republic has retaliated by rolling back its commitments to the accord. Iran s government has offered a cautious welcome to Biden s victory, but conservatives have accused it of yielding to what they say is an "illusion" of a change by the "Great Satan" of America.
An air strike killed a commander of Iran s Revolutionary Guards at the Iraq-Syria border sometime between Saturday and Sunday, Iraqi security and local militia officials said on Monday. They could not confirm the identity of the commander, who they said was killed alongside three other men travelling in a vehicle with him. The vehicle was carrying weapons across the Iraqi border and was hit after it had entered Syrian territory, two Iraqi security officials separately said. Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary groups helped retrieve the bodies, the two officials said, without elaborating or giving the exact time of the incident. Local military and militia sources confirmed the account, although Reuters was unable to verify independently that an Iranian commander had been killed. The incident came just days after Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in Tehran in a killing that Iran has blamed on Israel. Israel launched air raids against what it called a wide range of Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria last week, signalling that it will pursue its policy of striking Iranian targets in the region as U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to leave office. Iraqi officials fear a conflagration ahead of President-elect Joe Biden taking office because he is viewed as less confrontational with Iran than the Trump administration. Iran-backed Iraqi militias are still reeling from the U.S. assassination of Iranian military mastermind Qassem Soleimani in January and their Iraqi leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and have vowed revenge against the United States.
Turkey s seismic exploration vessel Oruc Reis returned to port on Monday from disputed Mediterranean waters, less than two weeks before a European Union summit where the bloc will evaluate possible sanctions against Ankara. NATO members Turkey and Greece have conflicting claims to continental shelves and rights to potential energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions flared in August when Ankara sent Oruc Reis to map out energy drilling prospects in waters also claimed by Greece. Turkey withdrew Oruc Reis from contested waters ahead of a previous EU summit in October to "allow for diplomacy", but later sent it back after what it called unsatisfactory outcomes from the summit. Earlier this month, Turkey said Oruc Reis would operate in the region until Nov. 29. The energy ministry said on Monday the vessel had completed a mission which started on Aug. 10. "Our ship, which has collected 10,995 km of 2D seismic data, has returned to the Antalya port," it said in a tweet. Refinitiv ship tracking data confirmed Oruc Reis was back in port in Antalya on Monday morning. The data also showed drill ship Yavuz in waters near Turkey s southern coast, while seismic survey vessel Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa was still out at sea south of Cyprus. After weeks of tension, Ankara and Athens agreed to resume talks over their contested maritime claims in September, ending a 4-year hiatus. But Greece has since said it would not begin talks as long as Turkish vessels were in contested waters. Last week, the EU s Parliament called for sanctions against Ankara over President Tayyip Erdogan s visit to Northern Cyprus and Turkish operations in the eastern Mediterranean, which it called illegal. Turkey said it fully rejected this. EU leaders will meet on Dec. 11-12 to discuss the sanctions, with France leading a push in the bloc to sanction Turkey. Paris has yet to draw up sanctions, but diplomats say any measures would likely target areas of Turkey s economy linked to hydrocarbon exploration.
Britain s foreign minister said Sunday there is only about a week left for the UK and the European Union to strike a post-Brexit trade deal, with fishing rights the major obstacle to an agreement. As talks continued between the two sides in London, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said ``I think we are into the last week or so of substantive negotiations. The UK left the EU early this year, but remained part of the 27-nation bloc s economic embrace during an 11-month transition as the two sides tried to negotiate a new free-trade deal to take effect Jan. 1. Talks have already slipped past the mid-November date long set as a deadline for agreement to be reached if it is to be approved by lawmakers in Britain and the EU before year s end. Despite the stalemate, Raab told Sky News that ``there s a deal to be done. He said the two sides had made progress on ``level playing field issues _ the standards the UK must meet to export into the EU. The biggest hurdle appears to be fish, a small part of the economy with an outsized symbolic importance for Europe s maritime nations. EU countries want their boats to be able to keep fishing in British waters, while the UK insists it must control access and quotas. ``On fisheries, there is a point of principle: As we leave the transition, we are an independent coastal state and we ve got to be able to control our waters, Raab said. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who met through the weekend with UK counterpart David Frost, has said there are still ``significant divergences. If there is no deal, New Year s Day will bring huge disruption, with the overnight imposition of tariffs and other barriers to UK-EU trade. That will hurt both sides, but the burden will fall most heavily on Britain, which does almost half its trade with the EU.
The Ethiopian military will begin the "final phase" of an offensive in the rebellious northern Tigray region, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Thursday, hours after an ultimatum for Tigray forces to surrender expired. The government gave the Tigray People s Liberation Front (TPLF) 72 hours on Sunday to lay down their arms or face an assault on Mekelle, the regional capital city of 500,000 people. Reuters was not immediately able to reach the TPLF forces for comment. Claims by all sides have been impossible to verify because phone and internet connections to the region are down and access to the area is tightly controlled. "The 72-hour period granted to the criminal TPLF clique to surrender peacefully is now over and our law enforcement campaign has reached its final stage," Abiy tweeted, adding that civilians would be spared and that thousands of fighters had already surrendered. "The last peaceful gate which remained open for the TPLF clique to walk through has now been firmly closed," Abiy said. Abiy called on the people of Mekelle to "disarm, stay at home and stay away from military targets". "Our National Defence Forces have carefully devised a strategy to bring the TPLF criminal clique to justice without harming innocent civilians, heritage sites, places of worship, development institutions and property," he added. African envoys went to Ethiopia to plead for peace on Wednesday, hours before the ultimatum was to expire. Rights groups fear any assault could bring huge civilian casualties. Thousands of people are already believed to have died and there has been widespread destruction from aerial bombardment and ground fighting since the war began on Nov. 4. Around 42,000 refugees have fled over the border to Sudan. TPLF rockets have hit neighbouring Eritrea. On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said both sides must avoid putting civilians in danger. The government s warning did not absolve it "of its duty to take constant care to protect civilians when carrying out military operations in urban areas". "We are also concerned by reports that the TPLF has deployed its forces in heavily populated areas. They need to ensure the safety of civilians under their control," it said.
The United Arab Emirates has stopped issuing new visas to citizens of 13 countries, including Iran, Syria and Somalia, according to a document issued by a state-owned business park. The document, which was sent to companies operating in the park and was seen by Reuters, cited an immigration circular that came into effect on Nov. 18. It said applications for new employment and visit visas had been suspended for nationals, who are outside the UAE, of the 13 countries, including Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen, until further notice. The visa ban also applies to citizens of Algeria, Kenya, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Tunisia and Turkey, the document says. It was not clear if there were any exceptions to the ban. The UAE s Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship had no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters. A source briefed on the matter told Reuters the UAE had temporarily stopped issuing new visas to Afghans, Pakistanis and citizens of several other countries over security concerns. The source did not say what those concerns were but said the visa ban was expected to last for a short period. Last week, Pakistan s foreign ministry said the UAE had stopped processing new visas for its citizens and those of some other countries. It said it was seeking information from the UAE on the reason for the suspension but that it thought it was related to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Pakistani ministry and the source said those holding valid visas were not affected by the new restrictions and could enter the UAE.
Saudi Aramco said on Tuesday its domestic fuel supplies were not affected by an attack from Yemen s Houthi group on a petroleum products distribution plant in the north of Jeddah city, with operations resuming three hours after the incident. Yemen s Iran-aligned Houthi forces on Monday said they fired a missile at and struck the facility. Saudi authorities later confirmed the attack. Aramco s oil production and export facilities are mostly in Saudi Arabia s Eastern Province, more than 1,000 km (620) from Jeddah. One of the 13 tanks used for diesel oil, gasoline and jet fuel at Aramco s North Jeddah Bulk Plant is currently out of action, the facility s manager Abdullah al-Ghamdi told journalists on a tour. Ghamdi said they were still assessing the scale and cost of the damage from the attack which happened at 3:50 am Saudi time on Monday. He described the site as a "critical facility" with total storage capacity of 5.2 million barrels. It can distribute more than 120,000 barrels of products per day domestically to Jeddah, Mecca and the al-Baha region. "Within a minute [of the attack] the response team started the firefighting system which is fixed to the tank itself. A minute or two later the fire station crew arrived at the scene," Ghamdi said. A fire caused by the attack was extinguished in around 40 minutes with no casualties, he said. "It was a big fire, a big explosion, but was dealt with swiftly," Ghamdi said. The projectile struck the storage tank, which has a maximum capacity of 500,000 barrels, from the top, causing "major damage" to its roof, with a hole around 2 metres square, the official said. Black marks and some damage around its top rim were visible. Monday s attack comes less than two weeks after a fire near a floating platform belonging to the Jazan oil products terminal was contained with no injuries. That fire was the result of another attempted Houthi attack in which the Saudi-led coalition intercepted and destroyed two explosive-laden boats in the southern Red Sea.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — As they frantically searched for ways to salvage President Donald Trump s failed reelection bid, his campaign pursued a dizzying game of legal hopscotch across six states that centered on the biggest prize of all: Pennsylvania. The strategy may have played well in front of television cameras and on talk radio to Trump s supporters. But it has proved a disaster in court, where judges uniformly rejected their claims of vote fraud and found the campaign s legal work amateurish. In a scathing ruling late Saturday, U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann — a Republican and Federalist Society member in central Pennsylvania — compared the campaign s legal arguments to “Frankenstein s Monster,” concluding that Trump s team offered only “speculative accusations,” not proof of rampant corruption. The campaign on Sunday filed notice it would appeal the decision to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a day before the state s 67 counties are set to certify their results and send them to state officials. And they asked Sunday night for an expedited hearing Wednesday as they seek to amend the Pennsylvania lawsuit that Brann dismissed. Trump s efforts in Pennsylvania show how far he is willing to push baseless theories of widespread voter fraud, even as the legal doors close on his attempts to have courts do what voters would not do on Election Day and deliver him a second term. The effort is being led by Rudy Giuliani, Trump s personal lawyer, who descended on the state the Saturday after the Nov. 3 election as the count dragged on and the president played golf. Summoning reporters to a scruffy, far-flung corner of Philadelphia on Nov. 7, he held forth at a site that would soon become legendary: Four Seasons Total Landscaping. The 11:30 a.m. news conference was doomed from the start. Only minutes earlier, news outlets had started calling the presidential contest for Democrat Joe Biden. The race was over. Just heating up was Trump s plan to subvert the election through litigation and howls of fraud — the same tactic he had used to stave off losses in the business world. And it would soon spread far beyond Pennsylvania. “Some of the ballots looked suspicious,” Giuliani, 76, said of the vote count in Philadelphia as he stood behind a chain link fence, next to a sex shop. He maligned the city as being run by a “decrepit Democratic machine.” “Those mail-in ballots could have been written the day before, by the Democratic Party hacks that were all over the convention center,” Giuliani said. He promised to file a new round of lawsuits. He rambled. “This is a very, very strong case,” he asserted. Justin Levitt, a Loyola Law School professor who specializes in election law, called the Trump lawsuits dangerous. “It is a sideshow, but it s a harmful sideshow,” Levitt said. “It s a toxic sideshow. The continuing baseless, evidence-free claims of alternative facts are actually having an effect on a substantial number of Americans. They are creating the conditions for elections not to work in the future.” ___ Not a single court has found merit in the core legal claims, but that did not stop Trump s team from firing off nearly two dozen legal challenges to Biden s victory in Pennsylvania, including an early morning suit on Election Day filed by a once-imprisoned lawyer. The president s lawyers fought the three-day grace period for mail-in ballots to arrive. They complained they weren t being let in to observe the vote count. They said Democratic counties unfairly let voters fix mistakes on their ballot envelopes. Everywhere they turned, they said, they sniffed fraud. “I felt insidious fraud going on,” Philadelphia poll watcher Lisette Tarragano said when Giuliani called her to the microphone at the landscaping company. In fact, a Republican runs the city s election board, and has said his office got death threats as Trump s rants about the election intensified. No judges ever found any evidence of election fraud in Pennsylvania or any other state where the campaign sued — not in Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada or Georgia. Instead, Trump lawyers found themselves backpedaling when pressed in court for admissible evidence, or dropping out when they were accused of helping derail the democratic process. “I am asking you as a member of the bar of this court, are people representing the Donald J. Trump for president (campaign) … in that room?” U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond asked at an after-hours hearing on Nov. 5, when Republicans asked him to stop the vote count in Philadelphia over their alleged banishment. “There s a nonzero number of people in the room,” lawyer Jerome Marcus replied. The count continued in Philadelphia. The Trump losses kept coming. By Friday, Nov. 6, when a state appeals court rejected a Republican complaint over provisional ballots and a Philadelphia judge refused to throw out 8,300 mail-in ballots they challenged, Biden was up by about 27,000 votes. Nationally, the race had not yet been called. But it was becoming clear that a Biden win in Pennsylvania, with its 20 electoral votes, was imminent. When it came, Trump quickly pivoted to litigation. It did not go well. A U.S. appeals court found Pennsylvania s three-day extension for mail-in ballots laudatory, given the disruption and mail delays cause by the pandemic. Judges in Michigan and Arizona, finding no evidence of fraud, refused to block the certification of county vote tallies. Law firms representing the campaign started to come under fire and withdrew. That left Giuliani, who had not argued a case in court for three decades, in charge of the effort to overturn the election. “You can say a lot at a driveway (news conference). … When you go to court, you can t,” said lawyer Mark Aronchick, who represented election officials in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and elsewhere in several of the Pennsylvania suits. “I don t really pay attention to the chatter until I see a legal brief.” ___ On Tuesday, Giuliani stepped into the courtroom. He was a late addition to the docket after election lawyers from Porter Wright Morris & Arthur had bowed out over the previous weekend. He had an entourage in tow, a show of force that had everything but a compelling legal argument. Giuliani asked Brann to hold up the certification of the state s 6.8 million ballots over two Republican voters whose mail-in ballots were tossed over technical errors. “I sat dumbfounded listening,” said Aronchick, a seasoned trial lawyer. “We were ready to argue the one count. Instead, he treated us to an even more expanded version of his Total Landscaping press conference,” Aronchick said. “It didn t bear any relationship to the actual case.” Giuliani, admired by some for his tough talk as Manhattan s top prosecutor and his leadership as New York City s mayor during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, struggled to answer even basic legal questions. But he waxed on about a supposed conspiracy to rig the state election. “The best description of this situation is widespread, nationwide voter fraud,” Giuliani argued. Under questioning, though, he acknowledged their complaint no longer included a fraud claim. And then, just as it had at Four Seasons, reality came crashing down on him, when news broke in the courtroom that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had rejected the campaign s appeal over observer access in Philadelphia. It was one of the campaign s last remaining claims. Even the dissent was crushing. “The notion that presumptively valid ballots cast by the Pennsylvania electorate would be disregarded based on isolated procedural irregularities that have been redressed … is misguided,” Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor wrote for the minority in the 5-2 decision. Brann, who sits in Williamsport, let the federal court hearing drag on past the dinner hour, and gave both sides time to file additional motions. The campaign filings were replete with typos, spelling mistakes and even an errant reference to a “Second Amendment Complaint” instead of a second amended complaint. The campaign took the opportunity to answer one of the more puzzling questions that its election challenge raised: It only wanted the presidential election results set aside, not votes on the same ballots for other offices. The briefs were filed by Giuliani and co-counsel Marc Scaringi, a local conservative talk radio host who, before he was hired, had questioned the point of the Trump litigation, saying “it will not reverse this election.” Aronchick balked at the campaign s core premise that local election workers — perhaps working for the Mafia, as Giuliani suggested — had plotted to spoil Trump s win. “You re going to suggest part of them are in a conspiracy? How does that work?” Aronchick asked. “Who? Where? When? How?” Brann, in his ruling, said he expected the campaign to present formidable evidence of rampant corruption as it sought to nullify millions of votes. Instead, he said, the campaign presented “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations.” The 3rd Circuit, based in Philadelphia, may have already tipped its hand. In its Nov. 13 ruling, the appeals court called it “indisputable in our democratic process: that the lawfully cast vote of every citizen must count.” Biden s lead in the state has expanded to more than 80,000 votes. “Our system depends on the possibility that you might lose a fair contest. If that possibility doesn t exist, you don t have a democracy,” said Levitt, the law school professor. “There are countries that run like that. It just doesn t describe America.”
Israel said Sunday its military struck Hamas targets in Gaza in response to a rocket attack launched from the Palestinian enclave. The Israeli air force struck two rocket ammunition manufacturing sites, a military compound and "underground infrastructures", the Israel Defence Forces said. A rocket was fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip on Saturday evening, according to the army, shortly after warning sirens sounded in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. The Israeli occupation army statement gave no further details, but emergency services said they had no notification of anyone wounded and Israeli media said the projectile fell on open ground. The latest reported fire from the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave came after two rockets were fired from the coastal strip into neighbouring Israel in the early hours of last Sunday. There were no casualties or damage in that attack. Israel struck back with fighter planes, helicopters and tanks, hitting what the army said were Hamas targets. There was no claim of responsibility for the November 15 rocket fire, but Israel routinely holds Islamist group Hamas responsible for all attacks originating from its territory. Hamas, considered a terrorist group by Israel, seized control of Gaza from the rival Palestinian movement Fatah in 2007 in a near civil war. Since then Hamas has fought three devastating wars with Israel in the coastal territory where about two million Palestinians live. Israel has since maintained a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip, to isolate Hamas.
Australian special forces allegedly killed 39 unarmed prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan, with senior commandos reportedly forcing junior soldiers to kill defenceless captives in order to "blood" them for combat, a four year investigation found. Australia said on Thursday that 19 current and former soldiers will be referred for potential criminal prosecution for allegedly killing the 39 Afghan locals. Detailing the findings of a long-awaited inquiry into the conduct of special forces personnel in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016, Australia s General Angus John Campbell said there was credible information of 39 unlawful killings by 25 Australian Special Forces personnel in 23 separate incidents. All of those kills were outside the "heat of battle", Campbell said. "These findings allege the most serious breaches of military conduct and professional values," Campbell told reporters in Canberra. "The unlawful killing, of civilians and prisoners is never acceptable." The report said the majority of those killed, which included prisoners, farmers and other Afghan locals, were captured when they were killed and therefore protected under international law. Following the recommendations of the report, Campbell said 19 current and former members of Australia s military will be referred to a soon-to-be appointed special investigator to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to prosecute. Australia s Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said last week that Canberra had been advised that local prosecution would negate charges at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. BLOODING Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had earlier warned the report would include "difficult and hard news for Australians", but few expected some of the most shocking revelations. While the report was heavily redacted, it included allegations that senior special forces personnel ordered the killing of unarmed Afghans. "There is credible information that junior soldiers were required by their patrol commanders to shoot a prisoner, in order to achieve the soldier’s first kill, in a practice that was known as ‘blooding’," the report read. Once a person had been killed, those allegedly responsible would stage a fight scene with foreign weapons or equipment to justify their action, the report concluded. The actions did not immediately come to light due to what the report concluded was a culture of secrecy and compartmentalisation in which information was kept and controlled within patrols. The veil of secrecy was a key reason that the allegations took so long to come to light. Although it has been the subject of rumour, Australia s official investigation only began after the publication of classified documents about alleged war crimes in Afghanistan. A former military lawyer, David McBride, has been charged with providing the classified papers to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. He admits that he supplied the papers, but says it is in the national interest. The four-year inquiry was conducted by New South Wales state Judge Paul Brereton, who was appointed by the Inspector-General of Defence in 2016 to investigate rumours of war crimes in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2016. The inquiry examined more than 20,000 documents and 25,000 images, and interviewed 423 witnesses under oath. The report recommended Canberra should compensate victims families even without a successful prosecution. Campbell said he would seek to revoke citations for special operations task groups that served in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013. The release of the report came after Morrison spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. "The Prime Minister of Australia expressed his deepest sorrow over the misconduct by some Australian troops in Afghanistan," Ghani s office wrote on Twitter. Australia has had troops in Afghanistan since 2002 as part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Taliban militia. Australia has about 1,500 troops remaining in Afghanistan.
Israel and Bahrain will open embassies soon, their foreign ministers said on Wednesday, as the two countries look to broaden cooperation that Washington has promoted as an anti-Iran alliance and potential economic bonanza. On a first official visit by Bahraini officials to Israel, the Gulf kingdom s foreign minister, Abdullatif Al-Zayani, said his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Asshkenazi, would visit Manama in December. "I was pleased to convey to Minister Ashkenazi the Kingdom of Bahrain s formal request to open an embassy in Israel and to inform him that Israel s reciprocal request for an embassy in Manama has been approved. This is a process which I hope can now move forward relatively quickly," said Al-Zayani. Askenazi, speaking at Israel s foreign ministry with Al-Zayani, said he hoped the opening ceremonies would be held by the end of 2020. Israeli and Bahrani officials signed several memoranda of understanding in October in Manama covering trade, air services, telecommunications, finance, banking and agriculture. Visas and flights By the end of 2020 Bahraini citizens will be able to apply online for a visa to visit Israel, Ashkenazi said, and direct flights would start soon. The Bahraini delegation travelled on Gulf Air flight GF972 - a reference to Israel s telephone country code - on the airline s first commercial flight to Tel Aviv. President Donald Trump s Middle East envoy, Avi Berkowitz, was also on the flight, which flew over Saudi Arabia, an accommodation by the Gulf s powerhouse, which has so far resisted U.S. appeals to normalise ties with Israel. Since September, the Trump administration has brokered agreements with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan toward normalising their relations with Israel in a strategic realignment against Iran. The shift has enraged the Palestinians who have demanded statehood before any such regional rapprochement. Although White House officials have said more countries are considering normalising ties with Israel, further developments appear unlikely before U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes office and establishes his administration s policy on Iran. Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen, speaking on Army Radio, said a commitment towards a tough policy on Iran by the next administration in Washington would determine whether other countries would opt for normalisation deals with Israel.
The U.S. administration and Europe need to work jointly on addressing actions led by Turkey in the Middle East over the past few months, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told French daily newspaper Le Figaro. "France s president Emmanuel Macron and I agree that Turkey s recent actions have been very aggressive," Pompeo said, citing Turkey s recent support to Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia as well as military moves in Libya and the Mediterranean. "Europe and the U.S. must work together to convince Erdogan such actions are not in the interest of his people," Pompeo said, referring to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Pompeo said increased use of Turkey s military capability was a concern, but he did not say whether the country, which hosts U.S. military forces at its Incirlik Air Base, should stay in or quit the North Atlantic Alliance. Pompeo told Le Figaro the U.S. administration had still work to do to maintain pressure on Iran.
President-elect Joe Biden on Monday will focus on plans for reviving a pandemic-battered U.S. economy as he prepares for his new administration, while President Donald Trump vowed to press ahead with long-shot court challenges to the election results. With the number of coronavirus cases surging across the country, Biden will receive a briefing and give a speech in his home state of Delaware on rebuilding an economy that has suffered millions of job losses as the pandemic has killed more than 245,000 Americans and closed many businesses. Biden’s scientific advisers will meet this week with pharmaceutical companies developing vaccines to battle COVID-19, a top aide to the president-elect said, in preparation for the logistical challenges of widespread vaccination. Trump sent mixed messages on Sunday, briefly appearing to acknowledge defeat in a morning tweet, only to backtrack, saying he concedes “nothing” and repeating his unfounded accusations of voter fraud. He later promised on Twitter to file “big cases showing the unconstitutionality of the 2020 Election,” even though he has made no headway with his legal challenges in multiple states so far. Legal experts have said the Trump litigation stands little chance of altering the election’s outcome, and election officials of both parties have said there is no evidence of major irregularities. In another blow to Trump’s legal strategy, his campaign on Sunday dropped a major part of a lawsuit it brought seeking to halt Pennsylvania from certifying its results, narrowing the case to an issue affecting a small number of ballots. Biden won the state by more than 60,000 votes. More than a week after Biden was declared the victor by major news organizations based on state-by-state vote counts, the General Services Administration has still not recognized him as president-elect, preventing his team from gaining access to government office space and funding normally provided to an incoming administration to ensure a smooth transition. Biden’s top advisers warned that Trump’s refusal to begin a transition could jeopardize the battle against the virus and inhibit vaccine distribution planning. The number of U.S. coronavirus cases passed 11 million on Sunday, a million more new cases than a week ago and the fastest increase since the pandemic began. The number of COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals also has reached an all-time high. ‘Future’s In Our Hands’ Michigan and Washington state on Sunday imposed sweeping new restrictions on gatherings, including halting indoor restaurant service, to slow the spread of the virus. “We are in a very dangerous period,” Dr. Michael Osterholm, a member of Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board and director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Unless action is taken now, “we’re going to see these numbers grow substantially,” Osterholm warned. “Our future’s in our hands.” Biden has promised to make the health crisis a top priority as president. Ron Klain, who will be White House chief of staff when Biden takes office on Jan. 20, said Biden s scientific advisers would meet with Pfizer Inc PFE.N and other drugmakers this week. Pfizer said last week its vaccine candidate proved more than 90% effective in initial trials, giving hope that widespread vaccination in the coming months could help get the pandemic under control. Other companies also are in advanced stages of developing promising vaccines. Biden beat Trump in the Nov. 3 election by the same 306-232 margin in the state-by-state Electoral College that Trump proclaimed a “landslide” when he won in 2016. The Democratic former vice president also won the national popular vote by at least 5.5 million votes, or 3.6 percentage points, with ballots still being counted. A laborious hand recount is under way in Georgia, where Biden has been projected the winner and holds a lead of more than 14,000 votes. Patrick Moore, a Biden campaign legal adviser, said the recount had so far shifted vote totals “almost imperceptibly,” and in Biden’s favor, and there had been no evidence of widespread irregularities. Control of the U.S. Senate will be decided by two January runoff elections in Georgia, which will be important for the fate of Biden’s ambitious legislative agenda. Klain said Biden may campaign in Georgia ahead of the runoffs.
Israel is moving forward on the construction of hundreds of new settler homes in a sensitive east Jerusalem neighborhood, the country s Housing Ministry and a settlement watchdog group said Sunday. The Housing Ministry on Sunday opened up tenders for more than 1,200 new homes in the Givat Hamatos area of Jerusalem. The settlement watchdog group Peace Now and other critics say construction there would seal off the Palestinian city of Bethlehem from east Jerusalem, further cutting off access for the Palestinians to the eastern sector of the city, which they claim as capital of a future state. The move may test the ties with the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden, who is expected to take a firmer tack against Israeli settlement expansion after four years of a more lenient policy under President Donald Trump. Brian Reeves, a spokesman for Peace Now, said the move allows contractors to begin bidding on the tenders, a process that will conclude just days before Biden s inauguration. Construction in the area could then begin within months. ``This is a lethal blow to the prospects for peace and the possibility of a two-state solution,`` between Israel and the Palestinians, Peace Now said in a statement, adding that Israel was ``taking advantage of the final weeks of the Trump administration in order to set facts on the ground that will be exceedingly hard to undo in order to achieve peace.
Dubai-based Emirates airline on Thursday posted a $3.4 billion half-year loss, its first in more than three decades, saying it had been badly hit by the coronavirus lockdown that brought air transport to "a literal standstill". "In this unprecedented situation for the aviation and travel industry, the Emirates Group recorded a half-year loss for the first time in over 30 years," the airline s chairman and chief executive, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said in a statement. The airline, which was forced to temporarily suspend operations earlier this year before building back its vast network, saw revenue fall 75 percent to $3.2 billion. Over the half-year to September, it carried just 1.5 million passengers, down 95 percent from the same period last year. The carrier, the Middle East s largest, said that its bottom line found some support with a "strong cargo business" as it repurposed its fleet to accommodate the need for supplies around the globe, including medical equipment. "As passenger traffic disappeared, Emirates and (air services arm) dnata have been able to rapidly pivot to serve cargo demand and other pockets of opportunity," Sheikh Ahmed said. "This has helped us recover our revenues from zero to 26% of our position same time last year."
Bahrain s Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, one of the world s longest-serving prime ministers who led his island nation s government for decades and survived the 2011 Arab Spring protests that demanded his ouster over corruption allegations, died on Wednesday. He was 84. Bahrain s state-run news agency announced his death, saying he had been receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic, without elaborating. Prince Khalifa s power and wealth could be seen everywhere in this small nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia home to the US Navy s 5th Fleet. His official portrait hung for decades on walls alongside the country s ruler. He had his own private island where he met foreign dignitaries, complete with a marina and a park that had peacocks and gazelle roam its grounds. The prince represented an older style of Gulf leadership, one that granted patronage and favors for support of the Sunni Al Khalifa family. That style would be challenged in the 2011 protests by the island s Shiite majority and others, who demonstrated against him over long-running corruption allegations surrounding his rule. Though less powerful and frailer in recent years, his machinations still drew attention in the kingdom as a new generation now jostles for power. ``Khalifa bin Salman represented the old guard in more ways than just age and seniority, said Kristin Smith Diwan, a senior resident scholar at the Washington-based Arab Gulf States Institute. ``He represented an old social understanding rooted in royal privilege and expressed through personal patronage.
Saeb Erekat, a prominent Palestinian spokesman for decades, died on Tuesday after contracting COVID-19, a senior member of his Fatah party said. He was 65. Chief negotiator in U.S.-brokered peace talks with Israel that collapsed in 2014, Erekat was also secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization and a member of its most powerful faction, Fatah. He was a strong advocate of a two-state solution of the conflict with Israel and a sharp critic of its settlement policy on occupied land that he said could destroy prospects for a viable Palestine. Erekat confirmed on Oct. 8 that he had been infected with the coronavirus. In 2017 he underwent a lung transplant in the United States, which suppressed his immune system. He was rushed from his home in the West Bank city of Jericho to Hadassah Medical Center in Israel last week. Doctors placed him on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma after his condition deteriorated. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas mourned his "friend" Erekat on Tuesday, describing the death of the veteran Palestinian negotiator as a "huge loss" for his people. "The departure of a brother and a friend, of the great fighter, Dr. Saeb Erekat, is a great loss for Palestine and our people, and we are deeply saddened," Abbas said in a statement shortly after Erekat s death was announced.
Jordanians vote on Tuesday for a 130-seat parliament, with tribal, centrist and pro-government deputies expected to remain dominant in a system that under-represents the cities where their Islamist and liberal opponents do best. The elections coincide with public discontent as Jordan grapples with its worst economic crisis in many years, with unemployment and poverty aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some facts about the election. * Parliamentary Powers Under the constitution, most powers rest with King Abdullah who appoints governments and can dissolve parliament. The assembly can force a cabinet to resign by a vote of no confidence. But successive governments have sidelined the almost toothless assembly. * Low Turnout Expected Widespread apathy at an assembly viewed as rubber stamp for government policy and activist calls for a boycott in protest at the holding of elections despite an alarming surge in COVID-19 could lead to one of the lowest turnouts in decades, analysts and politicians say. The government, which has mobilised around 45,000 security forces to oversee the nationwide ballot, hopes for a roughly 30 turnout among 4.6 million registered voters in a country with 8 million citizens. There are 1,717 candidates, including 368 women, competing. Twelve seats are reserved for minority Christians and Circassians and fifteen for the top-polling women candidates. Constituencies are structured so that urban areas have far fewer members of parliament per voter than the countryside. Voting by mainly urban Palestinians, who form a large part of the population, is traditionally low. Many of Jordan s citizens are Palestinians, whose families settled after successive Arab-Israeli wars, placing the kingdom - which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 - at the heart of decades of conflict. * Political Parties The elections are a contest between tribal leaders, establishment figures and businessmen, even though there are many more candidates running for recognised parties. Electoral laws that favour tribal areas rather than cities, where Islamists enjoy most support, mean the main opposition party, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood will remain marginalised. The IAF, which won 16 seats in 2016, when it ended a boycott that had turned parliament into a pro-government talking shop, says it is taking part, even though it is an unfair contest, to avoid being in the political wilderness and ensure vocal opposition to the pro-Western government. It says its participation, as part of a broad civic alliance, will advance demands for democratic reform and a crackdown on corruption.
Iran s president called on President-elect Joe Biden to ``compensate for past mistakes and return the U.S. to Tehran s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, a state-run news agency reported Sunday. Hassan Rouhani s comments mark the highest-level response from Iran to Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris clinching the Nov. 3 election. ``Now, an opportunity has come up for the next U.S. administration to compensate for past mistakes and return to the path of complying with international agreements through respect of international norms, the state-run IRNA news agency quoted him as saying. Under President Donald Trump, tensions between the U.S. and Iran have escalated, reaching fever-pitch earlier this year. One of Trump s signature foreign policy moves was unilaterally withdrawing the U.S. from Iran s nuclear deal in 2018, which had seen Tehran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. The U.S. has since reimposed punishing sanctions on Iran that have crippled its economy, which was further battered by the coronavirus outbreak. In an effort to pressure Europe to find a way around the sanctions, Iran has slowly abandoned the limits of the nuclear deal. ``The people of Iran, though their heroic resistance against the imposed economic war, proved that the U.S. maximum pressure policy was doomed to fail, Rouhani said. He added Iran ``considers constructive engagement with the world as a strategy.
Police in Portland declared riots, arrested 11 people and seized fireworks, hammers and a rifle, as Oregon Governor Kate Brown activated the National Guard in response to protests on the night after voting in the US presidential election. In New York, police said they had made about 50 arrests in protests that spread in the city late on Wednesday. Demonstrations, mostly small and peaceful, were held in cities across the United States by supporters of Democratic nominee Joe Biden. President Donald Trump has claimed victory and called for a halt to the counting of ballots in states that will determine the outcome of Tuesday s election. Biden has said he believes he is on course to win once the votes are counted. Four arrests were made in Denver as protesters clashed with police, the Denver Police Department said. Arrests were also made during demonstrations in Minneapolis after protesters blocked traffic, local police there said. Activists also staged rallies in Atlanta, Detroit and Oakland demanding that vote counts proceed unimpeded. "All of the gatherings that were declared riots were downtown," a Portland Police spokesman told Reuters in an emailed statement. "There have been 11 arrests tonight and we have not received any reports of injuries." Local partners of Protect the Results - a coalition of more than 165 grassroots organizations, advocacy groups and labor unions - have organized more than 100 events planned across the country between Wednesday and Saturday. Earlier on Wednesday, about 100 people gathered for an interfaith event before a planned march through downtown Detroit, in the battleground state of Michigan, to demand a full vote count and a peaceful transition of power. Heading into the Nov. 3 elections, the United States had seen months of protests following the death in May of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Portland has seen months of demonstrations since Floyd s death, particularly in the city s downtown area, with protests occasionally turning into clashes between demonstrators and police as well as between right- and left-wing groups.
President Donald Trump carried the prized battleground of Florida, then he and Democrat Joe Biden shifted their focus early Wednesday to three Northern industrial states _ Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania _ that could prove crucial in determining who wins the White House. However, the intense jockeying for the states was overshadowed by Trump s extraordinary early-morning declaration from the White House calling for outstanding ballots not to be counted. By early Wednesday, neither candidate had the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win. Trump made premature claims of victories in several key states and said he would take the election to the Supreme Court to stop the counting. It was unclear exactly what legal action he might try to pursue. Vote tabulations routinely continue beyond Election Day, and states largely set the rules for when the count has to end. In presidential elections, a key point is the date in December when presidential electors met. That s set by federal law. Several states allow mailed-in votes to be accepted after Election Day, as long as they were postmarked by Tuesday. That includes Pennsylvania, where ballots postmarked by Nov 3 can be accepted if they arrive up to three days after the election. Trump suggested those ballots shouldn t be counted. But Biden, briefly appearing in front of supporters in Delaware, urged patience, saying the election ``ain t over until every vote is counted, every ballot is counted. ``It s not my place or Donald Trump s place to declare who s won this election, Biden said. ``That s the decision of the American people. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf tweeted that his state had over 1 million ballots to be counted and that he ``promised Pennsylvanians that we would count every vote and that s what we re going to do.`` Legal experts were dubious of Trump s declaration. ``I do not see a way that he could go directly to the Supreme Court to stop the counting of votes. There could be fights in specific states, and some of those could end up at the Supreme Court. But this is not the way things work, said Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California-Irvine. Trump has appointed three of the high court s nine justices including, most recently, Amy Coney Barrett. Democrats typically outperform Republicans in mail voting, while the GOP looks to make up ground in Election Day turnout. That means the early margins between the candidates could be influenced by which type of votes _ early or Election Day _ were being reported by the states. Throughout the campaign, Trump cast doubt about the integrity of the election and repeatedly suggested that mail-in ballots should not be counted. Both campaigns had teams of lawyers at the ready to move into battleground states if there were legal challenges. The tight overall contest reflected a deeply polarized nation struggling to respond to the worst health crisis in more than a century, with millions of lost jobs, and a reckoning on racial injustice. Trump kept several states, including Texas, Iowa and Ohio, where Biden had made a strong play in the final stages of the campaign. But Biden also picked off states where Trump sought to compete, including New Hampshire and Minnesota. But Florida was the biggest, fiercely contested battleground on the map, with both campaigns battling over the 29 Electoral College votes that went to Trump. The president adopted Florida as his new home state, wooed its Latino community, particularly Cuban-Americans, and held rallies there incessantly. For his part, Biden deployed his top surrogate _ President Barack Obama _ there twice in the campaign s closing days and benefitted from a $100 million pledge in the state from Michael Bloomberg. Control of the Senate was at stake, too: Democrats needed to net three seats if Biden captured the White House to gain control of all of Washington for the first time in a decade. But Republicans maintained several seats that were considered vulnerable, including in Iowa, Texas and Kansas. The House was expected to remain under Democratic control. The pandemic _ and Trump s handling of it _ was the inescapable focus for 2020. For Trump, the election stood as a judgment on his four years in office, a term in which he bent Washington to his will, challenged faith in its institutions and changed how America was viewed across the globe. Rarely trying to unite a country divided along lines of race and class, he has often acted as an insurgent against the government he led while undermining the nation s scientists, bureaucracy and media. The momentum from early voting carried into Election Day, as an energized electorate produced long lines at polling sites throughout the country. Turnout was higher than in 2016 in numerous counties, including all of Florida, nearly every county in North Carolina and more than 100 counties in both Georgia and Texas. That tally seemed sure to increase as more counties reported their turnout figures. Voters braved worries of the coronavirus, threats of polling place intimidation and expectations of long lines caused by changes to voting systems, but appeared undeterred as turnout appeared it would easily surpass the 139 million ballots cast four years ago. No major problems arose on Tuesday, outside the typical glitches of a presidential election: Some polling places opened late, robocalls provided false information to voters in Iowa and Michigan, and machines or software malfunctioned in some counties in the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Texas. The cybersecurity agency at the Department of Homeland Security said there were no outward signs by midday of any malicious activity. With the coronavirus now surging anew, voters ranked the pandemic and the economy as top concerns in the race between Trump and Biden, according to AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate. Voters were especially likely to call the public health crisis the nation s most important issue, with the economy following close behind. Fewer named health care, racism, law enforcement, immigration or climate change The survey found that Trump s leadership loomed large in voters decision-making. Nearly two-thirds of voters said their vote was about Trump _ either for him or against him.
After years of working in the English version of Copts United, our journey comes to an end. Yes, to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3: 1). However, we didn t wish or expect to see our lovely platform closed that soon. In the past years, we have tried to be the voice for the voiceless following the vision of the creator of this electronic newspaper Eng. Adly Abadir.