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Israel meetings row: Indian-origin UK minister resigns

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London, Nov 9: Amid flak over unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials, Indian-origin International Development Secretary of UK Priti Patel stepped down on Wednesday late night, media reports said.

Patel resigned after being summoned back from a trip to Uganda and Ethiopia by Downing Street after it emerged that she failed to be candid with Prime Minister Theresa May about 14 unofficial meetings with Israeli ministers, business people and a senior lobbyist, the Guardian reported.

Earlier on Wednesday evening, Patel met May for just six minutes.

In her resignation letter, Patel admitted that her actions “fell below the high standards that are expected of a secretary of state”.

“While my actions were meant with the best of intentions, my actions also fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated.

“I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the government for what has happened and offer my resignation.”

Responding to this, May said Patel’s decision was the correct one. She argued in a letter to Patel that the UK and Israel were close allies and should work closely together.

“But that must be done formally, and through official channels. That is why, when we met on Monday, I was glad to accept your apology and welcomed your clarification about your trip to Israel over the summer.

“Now that further details have come to light, it is right that you have decided to resign and adhere to the high standards of transparency and openness that you have advocated,” May wrote in the letter.

She added that Patel should “take pride” in what had been achieved during her time in office.

Patel had apologised to May on Monday after news about the unauthorised meetings in August with Israeli politicians including prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yuval Rotem, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official, came to light, reports the BBC.

But it later emerged she had two further meetings in September without the presence of any government officials.

A replacement for Patel is anticipated to be announced on Thursday.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told the BBC: “Priti Patel has been a very good colleague and friend for a long time and a first class secretary of state for international development.

“It’s been a real pleasure working with her and I’m sure she has a great future ahead of her.”

Patel’s resignation from the cabinet is the second in seven days, after Michael Fallon stepped down as Defence Secretary on November 1 amid allegations about his behaviour.

Patel was appointed as Conservative MP for Witham in May 2010. She has served several prominent posts such as Treasury Minister (July 2014 to May 2015), Employment Minister (May 2015 to July 2016) and was elevated as the International Development Secretary in July last year.

Wefornews Bureau 

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Japanese PM Shinzo Abe wins 3rd consecutive term as ruling party president

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Tokyo, Sep 20: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won the ruling Liberal Democratic Partys (LDP) leadership election on Thursday, securing a historic third term that will effectively extend his time in power by another three years.

Abe comfortably beat his only contender, former Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba, by securing 553 out of a total 807 votes, reports The Japan Times.

He won 329 out of the 402 valid ballots cast by LDP MPs and 224 out of the remaining 405 votes allocated to party branches in each prefecture based on the number of members age 18 or older who have paid party fees.

His extended term in office signals the possibility that Abe, who has already been at the helm of the world’s third-largest economy for nearly six years in his second stint as Prime Minister, may become the longest-serving premier in Japanese history.

With his renewed leadership, Abe is likely to reshuffle his Cabinet in the coming weeks, reportedly as soon as early October.

Abe has credited himself with “restoring a decent economy” under his Abenomics policy and taking the Japan-US alliance to a stronger level.

He also repeated that it’s the “responsibility of the LDP” to revise the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution to formalise the ambiguous status of the Self-Defense Forces – the nation’s de facto military – which he said “protects the peace and independence of Japan”.

IANS

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Donald Trump visits areas affected by Florence, promises residents aid

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Washington, Sep 20: President Donald Trump on Wednesday visited the two states most heavily affected by Hurricane Florence and promised that “a lot of money” will be coming from Washington and significant resources will be invested in reconstruction in the region, although he also sparked controversy by expressing interest in an area where he owns a golf course.

Trump travelled to North and South Carolina, which were deluged last week by a storm that killed at least 36 people in the region, forced the evacuation of thousands and caused economic damage valued at up to $60 billion, according to preliminary estimates, Efe reported.

“To the families who have lost loved ones, America grieves with you, and our hearts break for you. God bless you,” the president said in a statement.

“We will never forget your loss. We will never leave your side. We’re with you all way. And to all those impacted by this terrible storm, our entire American family is with you and ready to help. And you will recover,” he added.

The president, who last year visited Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico after the passage of several hurricanes, repeated several activities that he had undertaken there, distributing hot dogs and other food to people forced from their homes and chatting with some of those affected.

During one stop in the coastal town of New Bern, North Carolina, where heavy flooding damaged more than 4,300 homes, Trump was surprised to see a yacht that had been washed against the back porch of a home.

“Is this your boat?” the president asked the homeowner, and when the owner said no, Trump reportedly smiled and replied, “At least you got a nice boat out of the deal.”

Although the president avoided mistakes such as he made last year in Puerto Rico, where he downplayed the tragedy and said that Hurricane Maria had not been a “real catastrophe,” he did spark some criticism by taking advantage of his trip to visit Navy installations in North Carolina to ask about the condition of Lake Norman.

“I love that area. I can’t tell you why, but I love that area,” said Trump, avoiding mentioning that one of his golf courses, Trump National Golf Club, is located on the shore of Lake Norman, near Charlotte.

Trump also had a sober warning for South Carolina, whose authorities still fear significant additional damage due to flooding caused by Florence.

The president said at the emergency centre in the town of Conway that the help that local residents had seen is “nothing” compared to what will be arriving soon.

South Carolina’s Republican governor, Henry McMaster, said that “the worst is yet to come,” and predicted that the floodwaters could reach some five feet in height, adding that the storm and its aftermath could be the worst disaster ever to hit South Carolina.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, about 10,000 people are still being housed in shelters and “thousands” of people have not had the power restored in their homes, the state’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, said in his meeting with Trump.

Of the 36 people confirmed dead in the storm by local authorities, 27 died in North Carolina, eight in South Carolina and one in Virginia.

Crops of cotton and peanuts in those states have also suffered and 3.4 million chickens and 5,500 hogs drowned on North Carolina farms, according to official calculations.

IANS

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Avenfield case: Pakistan court orders release of Nawaz Sharif, Maryam

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Islamabad, Sep 19: The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday suspended the jail terms of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar in the Avenfield case.

Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb gave the ruling on petitions filed by the three challenging the July verdict against them, Geo News reported.

Justice Minallah quashed the sentences handed to them by Accountability Court judge Mohammad Bashir.

Sharif, Maryam and Safdar had been awarded imprisonment of 11 years, eight years and one year respectively for owning London properties disproportionate to their sources of income.

Delivering the judgement, the judges also asked the three to submit bail bonds worth Rs 0.5 million each.

WeForNews 

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