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German parties show united front amid fears of coalition collapse

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The meeting was held after disastrous European election results and the shock resignation of the leader of the Social Democrats (SPD).

Andrea Nahles’ departure earlier this month prompted speculation the centre-left party could pull out of Germany’s governing alliance.

Parliamentary leaders from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the SPD are determined to make the work of the coalition a success, Alexander Dobrindt of the CSU said after the meeting.

The officials agreed steps to improve mobile network coverage in Germany, including by creating a new federal body for mobile infrastructure to construct phone towers in unserviced regions.

“Spots without mobile reception do not fit with our aspiration to be one of the leading economies of the world,’’ a paper adopted at the meeting said.

The parliamentary leaders also agreed to seek to improve the situation in the nursing care sector through higher salaries and less bureaucracy, and to start abolishing the solidarity surcharge a tax introduced at the time of German reunification.

Ralph Brinkhaus, parliamentary leader of Merkel’s conservative bloc, spoke of harmonious talks with “a lot, of consensus.’’

Rolf Muetzenich, one of the three interim SPD leaders, said that a mid-term review of the coalition would likely be conducted at the end of the year.

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U.S. military drone shot down over Yemen – officials

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Drone

Washington, Aug. 21, 2019 A U.S. military MQ-9 drone was shot down in Yemen’s Dhamar governorate, southeast of the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa, two U.S. officials told Reuters on Wednesday.

A Houthi military spokesman had earlier said that air defences had brought down a U.S. drone.

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the drone was shot down late on Tuesday.

This is not the first time a U.S. drone has been shot down in Yemen.

In June, the U.S. military said that Houthi rebels shot down a U.S. government-operated drone with assistance from Iran.

U.S. forces have occasionally launched drone and airstrikes against Yemen’s al-Qaeda branch, known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

One of the officials said that it appeared that the drone had been shot down by a surface-to-air missile operated by the Iran-aligned Houthi group.

The other official cautioned that it was too early to tell who was responsible for the incident.

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Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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South African court sets aside arms deal inquiry findings

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South African court sets aside arms deal inquiry findings

Arms

Johannesburg, Aug. 21, 2019 South Africa’s High Court on Wednesday set aside the findings of an inquiry that found no evidence of corruption in an arms deal in the 1990s linked to former President Jacob Zuma.

Corruption campaigners have long denounced the inquiry set up by Zuma in 2011 and headed by Judge Willie Seriti as a “whitewash” and challenged its findings in court.

The High Court found the inquiry had failed to comprehensively examine corruption allegations over the deal to buy 30 billion rand (2 billion dollars) of European military hardware for the South African armed forces.

Zuma was linked to the deal through his former financial adviser, who was jailed for corruption, but denied wrongdoing.

The High Court found the Seriti inquiry had failed to test witnesses with an open and inquiring mind.

“This is hardly an investigation whose objective is to get to the bottom of the allegations,” Judge Dunstan Mlambo, said.

Charges against Zuma over the arms deal were reinstated in 2018, and Zuma has been in court on several occasions since, cementing a fall from grace for a politician, who had dominated politics for a decade.

Zuma’s successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa, has promised to crack down on corruption since becoming head of state in February 2018, but his room for maneuver has been limited by the influence that Zuma allies still wield in the governing African National Congress (ANC) party.

Zuma’s lawyers argued in court in May that the 77-year-old former president had been treated unfairly by prosecutors and sought a permanent stay of prosecution.

The case against Zuma and co-accused French arms company, Thales, has been postponed pending judgment on the stay of prosecution.

Thales has said it believed “it cannot obtain a fair trial” because of lengthy delays in the case. (Reuters/NAN)

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Rights group urges Myanmar, Bangladesh to stop Rohingya repatriation

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Repatriation

“Myanmar has yet to address the systematic persecution and violence against the Rohingya, so refugees have every reason to fear for their safety if they return,’’ Meenakshi Ganguly, the group’s South Asia director, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Rohingya have long been denied citizenship and freedom of movement in Myanmar and starting in 2017, more than 740,000 were expelled by the military in a campaign that UN investigators have said was genocidal.

More than 100,000 Rohingya, who remain in Myanmar, are confined to open-air detention camps.

The HRW statement quotes one refugee as saying: “We do not want to go back to Myanmar, where so many of our loved ones did not even get a funeral and ended up in mass graves after they were killed’’.

Dozens of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh held a protest on Tuesday demanding to return only with guarantees of safety and citizenship.

The current repatriation plan follows an earlier attempt by Myanmar and Bangladesh to repatriate more than 2,000 Rohingya refugees in November 2018.

Repatriation failed after the two governments neglected to consult with the UN and refugees themselves.

Many of the refugees on the list went into hiding.

“Bangladesh has been generous with the Rohingya – though conditions in the camps have been difficult – no refugee should feel compelled to return to a place that isn’t safe,’’ Ganguly said. (Reuters/NAN)

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China threatens sanctions over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan

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Sanctions

China “resolutely opposes” the arms sales and has lodged “solemn protests” to the U.S., said a statement on the Foreign Ministry’s WeChat account.

”China will take all necessary measures to safeguard its own interests including imposing sanctions against U.S. companies involved in the arms sales to Taiwan,” the ministry said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, urged the U.S. to stop the arms sales and end military contact with Taiwan.

The U.S. government has approved the possible eight billion dollars (6.6 billion euros) deal involving 66 aircraft, the biggest in decades.

The potential sale comes amid ongoing tensions between Washington and Beijing, notably over trade.

China regards Taiwan as part of its territory which should be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

It has regularly criticised U.S. arms deals with Taiwan including the current one, which has been widely discussed.

The U.S. Defence Security Cooperation Agency announced the deal on Tuesday in an official notification to Congress.

In a statement, it said that the deal was for 66 F-16 fighter aircraft, 75 General Electric engines and other systems.

The sale was in U.S. national interests and would help improve Taiwan’s security, it added.

Quoted by Chinese state media, Mr Geng said the sale was a violation of international law and international relations, as well as the One China policy – under which the U.S. recognises and has only formal ties with China and not Taiwan. (dpa/NAN)

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Veteran general Burhan sworn in as Sudan’s new leader

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Veteran general Burhan sworn in as Sudan’s new leader

Sudan

Khartoum, Aug. 21, 2019 (dpa/NAN) Military Lt.-Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan has been sworn in as Sudan’s new leader, state news agency SUNA said on Wednesday.

The swearing-in came hours after the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the country’s pro-democracy opposition movement formed an 11-member sovereign council to lead the country through a three-year transitional period towards civilian rule.

Burhan, who chaired the TMC after former president Omar al-Bashir was ousted in an April military coup, has a long-standing military career, with positions as former commander of Sudan’s ground forces and inspector general of the army.

Born in 1960, Burhan will lead the Sovereign Council, made up of six civilians and five TMC officers, for the next 21 months.

A civilian will take over from Burhan for the remaining 18 months until 2022, when democratic elections are due.

A prime minister and the remaining members of the Sovereign Council are expected to be sworn in later in the day.

A spokesman for the TMC announced the names of the members of the council in a televised address late Tuesday.

The council was formed after a power-sharing deal was signed between the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) and the military on Aug. 17, regulating how power is divided.

The deal gives the pro-democracy movement two-thirds of the seats in Sudan’s Legislative Council and the power to select the prime minister.

The military council will have the power to choose the interior and defence ministers.

The interim government follows months of massive pro-democracy demonstrations in Sudan.

The protests initially led to the ousting of al-Bashir, who had ruled the country in north-eastern Africa for three decades with an iron fist.

Protesters continued to call for civilian rule in the wake of his replacement by the TMC. (dpa/NAN)

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