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Lebanese PM resigns

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Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri

Beirut, Nov 5: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has unexpectedly resigned during a trip to Saudi Arabia, saying his life was in danger, and creating a leadership vacuum in an already politically fractured country, the media reported.

In a televised address from Riyadh on Saturday night, Hariri said he feared an assassination plot and accused Iran of meddling in the region, causing “devastation and chaos”, reports CNN.

“Iran controls the region and the decision-making in both Syria and Iraq,” he said.

“I want to tell Iran and its followers that it will lose in its interventions in the internal affairs of Arab countries.”

In response, Tehran dismissed the reports, accusing the US and Saudi Arabia of orchestrating the resignation.

“Hariri’s resignation was coordinated with US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad bin Salman,” Iranian Foreign Ministry official Hossein Sheikholeslam told the Fars News Agency.

“The resignation was aimed at creating tension in Lebanon and the region. This resignation was also meant to compensate the US for its failures after the defeat of the IS (Islamic State).”

In his speech, Hariri, a Sunni politician, also pointed to Hezbollah, the powerful Iranian-backed Shia militant group in Lebanon, CNN reported.

“Over the past decades, Hezbollah has unfortunately managed to impose a fait accompli in Lebanon by the force of its weapons, which it alleges is a resistance weapon,.

“Lebanon and the great Lebanese people became in the eye of the storm and subjected to international condemnations and economic sanctions because of Iran and its arm Hezbollah,” he said.

While the US considers Hezbollah a terrorist group, its political wing is the most powerful bloc in Lebanon’s divided coalition government, and several of its politicians are ministers.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a Christian who is affiliated with Hezbollah, confirmed he had received a phone call from Hariri about stepping down.

Aoun’s office said he would wait for the Prime Minister to return to Beirut to discuss the circumstances of his resignation.

Hariri added that the present atmosphere in Lebanon was similar to the one that existed 12 years ago right before the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

“We live in an atmosphere similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and I sensed what is being woven in secret to target my life,” he said.

Rafik Hariri was assassinated in February 2005 when a bomb struck his motorcade near the Beirut seafront.

President Aoun asked Hariri to become Prime Minister last year. He headed a national unity Cabinet that included Hezbollah, CNN reported.

It marked Hariri’s second stint as Prime Minister. He first took office in June 2009. Less than two years later, 11 Hezbollah members of his Cabinet resigned, causing a coalition government to collapse.

Under the Lebanese Constitution, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni and the speaker of the Parliament a Shia Muslim.

IANS

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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.

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