Sunday, October 22, 2017
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump reportedly asked for a dramatic increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during the same Pentagon meeting where Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him a “f*cking moron.”
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Hamas said in a statement that it had agreed to talks with the rival Fatah movement, to dissolve the Gaza administrative committee and hold general elections as a way to implement a deal to end their long-running feud. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Western-backed Palestine Authority, controlled by Fatah, fought a war with Hamas over Gaza in 2007, which led to Hamas taking over. Attempts to reconcile the two and form a power-sharing unity government in Gaza and the West Bank have failed. Hamas said in its statement that it agreed to dissolve administration running Gaza, allow the reconcillation government to carry out its duties in the territory, to hold elections and enter talks with Fatah. With the prospect of a Middle East peace initiative by a new U.S. Trump administration more sympathetic to Israel, Abbas has put pressure on Hamas, including not paying Israel for electricity for Gaza territory and cutting salaries for civil servants there.
The former al Qaeda branch in Syria has pledged to keep fighting government forces and their Russian and Iranian allies, and denounced ceasefire talks in Kazakhstan. Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed on Friday to deploy observers on the edge of a “de-escalation” zone in Syria’s Idlib province, which is largely under the control of Islamist insurgents. While they hailed the agreement as a breakthrough after months of talks in the Kazakh capital Astana, they gave few details. The move falls under a broader deal in which they would set up four such zones across Syria. The ex-Nusra Front said the Astana process amounted to the surrender of rebel-held pockets, and what had started with a ceasefire would “end with restoring Bashar’s rule to the areas”. The group cut ties with al-Qaeda last year, rebranded, and now spearheads the Tahrir al-Sham jihadist alliance, controlling parts of the northwestern Idlib province, on the border with Turkey. Tahrir al-Sham criticized FSA rebels who have attended the Astana meetings, which began with Moscow-led diplomatic efforts separate from U.N.-based peace talks in Geneva. “We fear the day will come when those factions will line up alongside Russian warplanes and fight those who reject Assad and his regime,” it said in its statement.
Iceland’s prime minister called a snap parliamentary election on Friday following the decision of one of the three coalition parties to quit the government formed less than nine months ago. “We have lost the majority and I don’t see anything that indicates we can regain that... I am calling an election,” Bjarni Benediktsson told reporters. He said he preferred the election to be held in November, almost a year after the last snap vote which was triggered by the Panama Papers scandal. The outgoing government party Bright Future made its decision to quit due to a “breach of trust” after the prime minister’s party purportedly tried to cover up a scandal involving his father. Bright Future accused Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson of failing to inform the government that his father had signed a letter supporting a convicted paedophile’s bid to have his honour restored.
An Egyptian court had upheld the life sentence against ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in what is known as the Qatar espionage case. The Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest appeal court, rejected the former president’s appeal and said the ruling is “final and unappealable,” state-run MENA news agency reported. The court also confirmed death sentences of three prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the same case. Life sentence in Egypt is 25 years in prison. Morsi received the original sentence in June 2016 after being found guilty of using his post to leak classified documents to Qatar and selling them to al-Jazeera channel. The documents allegedly include information on general and military intelligence, armed forces and state policy secrets which harm the national security. In October last year, the same court had confirmed a 20-year prison sentence against Morsi for taking part inciting violence near Ittihadeya presidential palace in 2012. In November, the court had quashed one of the two life sentences handed down to Morsi and ordered a retrial in connection with the Qatar espionage case.