Tuesday, 17 September, 2019
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Israeli minister boasts his country has been ‘killing Iranians’

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An Israeli minister boasted Sunday that his country was the only one that “has been killing Iranians”, after tensions between Britain and Iran rose in the Gulf.

Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi’s comments to public radio were a reference to Israeli strikes in neighbouring Syria against Iranian and Hezbollah military targets.

But they came after Iran seized a British-flagged tanker on Friday, adding to tensions between Washington and Tehran linked to a 2015 nuclear deal.

Hanegbi accused Iran, Israel’s main enemy, of seeking to create “chaos” and “harm freedom of navigation.”

Asked if he feared that Israel would not receive the backing of the United States in the case of a conflict with Iran, Hanegbi suggested that Tehran would avoid such a scenario.

“Israel is the only country in the world that has been killing Iranians for two years,” he said.

“We strike the Iranians hundreds of times in Syria. Sometimes we acknowledge it and sometimes foreign reports reveal it.”

He added that the Iranians “understand that Israel means business.”

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah military targets.

It has vowed to keep Iran from entrenching itself militarily there.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke in a similar vein last week with cadets at the national security college.

“At the moment, the only army in the world to fight Iran is the Israeli army,” he said.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu warned that Israeli fighter jets “can reach anywhere in the Middle East, including Iran”.

Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz for breaking “international maritime rules” came some two weeks after Britain seized an Iranian tanker at the mouth of the Mediterranean on allegations of breaching UN sanctions against Syria.

Senegal reach Cup of Nations final as own goal sinks Tunisia

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Senegal reached the Africa Cup of Nations final for the second time with a Dylan Bronn own goal giving them a 1-0 win over Tunisia on Sunday in a tense last-four clash in Cairo.

With 11 minutes gone in extra time, goalkeeper Mouez Hassen pushed a free-kick against the head of Bronn and the ball went backwards into the net.

Tunisia thought they would have a chance to equalise when Idrissa Gueye handled in the box, but the Ethiopian referee rejected their penalty appeals after checking the incident on the VAR monitor.

Both teams missed penalties in regular time with Ferjani Sassi the Tunisian culprit before Henri Saivet failed for the Senegalese.

Senegal will miss star defender Kalidou Koulibaly for the final against Algeria or Nigeria, who meet in Cairo later Sunday, after he was yellow-carded.

It was the second caution of the knockout phase for the Napoli centre-back and triggered an automatic one-match suspension.

Senegal last reached the title decider 17 years ago, when current coach Aliou Cisse captained a team beaten on penalties by Cameroon in Mali.

Cisse made one change to the team that defeated Benin in the quarter-finals with 20-year-old forward Krepin Diatta replacing Keita Balde.

Tunisia coach Alain Giresse changed two of the side that eliminated Madagascar, promoting Mohamed Drager and Ayman Ben Mohamed and benching Wajdi Kechrida and Ghaylen Chaaleli.

The countries were meeting for the sixth time in the Cup of Nations with each winning one match and the other three drawn.

– Clearcut chance –

Tunisia had the first clearcut chance at the 30 June Stadium in the Egyptian capital, but unmarked captain Youssef Msakni headed a corner well over.

Senegal then took control and had three opportunities before half-time to end the deadlock and edge closer to the July 19 final.

Youssouf Sabaly unleashed a curling shot from the edge of the box that beat Mouez but cannoned back into play off the woodwork on 26 minutes.

Then, in a 60-second purple patch, Mbaye Niang and Liverpool star Sadio Mane were unable to convert chances before a small crowd.

Niang swivelled inside the box only to fire well wide and Mane rounded Hassen but his shot from an acute angle finished well off target.

Giresse took off Msakni at half-time and introduced Naim Sliti, scorer of the stoppage-time goal that sealed a convincing last-eight win over giantkillers Madagascar.

Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, a virtual spectator in the opening half, reacted quickly early in the second half to push away a Sassi snap shot.

Attackers Niang and Diatta were having little success and came off with Mbaye Diagne and Ismaila Sarr replacing them as an intriguing semi-final entered the final quarter.

The Sassi penalty was weak, allowing Gomis to save comfortably, while Hassen made a brilliant one-hand block to foil a powerfully struck spot-kick by Saivet.

French envoy visits Iran to try salvage nuclear deal

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A French envoy was due in Tehran on Tuesday to boost European efforts to save the 2015 nuclear deal, after Iran warned Europe against retaliatory measures for breaching a uranium enrichment cap.

The accord between Tehran and world powers promised sanctions relief, economic benefits and an end to international isolation of the Islamic republic in return for stringent curbs on its nuclear programme.

But Tehran says it has lost patience with perceived inaction by European countries more than a year after President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the landmark agreement.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), tasked with inspections, while Iran consistently lived up to its commitments under the deal until recently it is now in breach of two of them.

French President Emmanuel Macron sent his top diplomatic advisor to Tehran after Iran announced on Monday it had passed 4.5 percent uranium enrichment — above the 3.7 percent limit under the agreement.

Emmanuel Bonne is due to visit until Wednesday but details of his schedule were unclear.

Bonne is “to piece together a deescalation” strategy, the French presidency’s office said.

The 2015 deal had been described as a triumph of diplomacy against unilateralism and a major step to counter proliferation.

But after the US withdrew in May 2018 and reimposed stinging sanctions on Iran, especially on its banking and oil sectors, the future of the accord became uncertain.

As the Iranian economy went into free-fall, Tehran demanded that the other parties to the deal, especially France, Germany and Britain, deliver the promised economic benefits and help it bypass US sanctions.

– Rising tensions –

However, it gradually became clear that this was no simple task, and Iran — whose economy is heavily dependant on oil sales — changed tack and said it would reshape its policy of “strategic patience”.

In May, a year after Trump’s withdrawal, President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran would roll back its commitments under the deal in stages every 60 days in an effort to force the other parties to deliver on their side of the bargain.

As tensions rose the United States dispatched a naval carrier, bombers and extra troops to the region to counter perceived threats from Iran.

Last month Trump said he had called off a retaliatory military strike against the Islamic republic at the last minute after Tehran shot down a US drone that it said had crossed into its airspace, a claim denied by Washington.

The IAEA confirmed on Monday that Iran had enriched uranium to a level above the deal’s cap of 3.67 percent, though the 4.5-percent level reported by Tehran is still far below the 90 percent necessary for military purposes.

The UN nuclear watchdog confirmed this month that Iran has exceeded a 300-kilogramme limit on enriched uranium reserves, another cap that was imposed by the deal.

– ‘US, Europe deceiving us’ –

Macron on Saturday held an hour-long conversation with Rouhani in which he said he wanted to “explore the conditions for a resumption of dialogue between all parties”.

He suggested that be done by July 15.

On Monday the White House confirmed that Macron and Trump had talked about the standoff.

The two leaders “discussed ongoing efforts to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon and to end Iran’s destabilising behaviour in the Middle East,” the White House said in a statement.

While immensely popular to begin with, the nuclear deal has now lost some of its appeal among supporters in Iran.

“The US and the European countries are deceiving us… We wasted six years investing in our relationship with Europe,” Majidi, a salesman in Tehran, adding that the best option now is to pull out of the deal immediately.

New Zealand slams Google over murder case gaffe

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Google was accused of “giving the middle finger” by New Zealand’s Justice Minister Thursday, after the US tech giant refused to tighten publication standards after breaching court suppression orders in a high-profile murder case.

A Google news email that went out to the general public named the accused killer of Briton Grace Millane in December, despite a court order suppressing his identity while he was on trial.

The tech firm initially appeared contrite, holding meetings with Justice Minister Andrew Little and assuring Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier this year that the issue was being looked at.

Little said a follow-up inquiry in March yielded no results, before he finally received a one-paragraph email from Google this week indicating the company saw no need to change its policy as the case had been “extensively reported by overseas media”.

A furious Little described the response, which included a link to Google’s legal support page, as “contemptible” and “extraordinarily disrespectful”.

“It’s giving the middle finger to New Zealand justice and the family of Grace Millane,” he told AFP.

Little said suppression orders were put in place to ensure the court system gave the accused a fair trial and Google’s actions potentially undermined that right.

“I can’t let that happen,” he said.

“If Google aren’t going to change then I have to find a way to put pressure on them through the legal system or through international agreements.”

He said he would raise the issue at meetings with his international counterparts in coming months.

Millane, 22, was killed in December last year shortly after arriving in Auckland on holiday in a crime that shocked New Zealand.

A 27-year-old man has pleaded not guilty to her murder.

The row is the second time the New Zealand government has taken social media giants to task in recent months.

Ardern led global efforts to force them to curb hate speech in the wake of the Christchurch mosques massacre in March, when a gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers as they gathered for Friday prayers.

Little said Google had shown a willingness to take responsible action in the wake of the attack and he hoped it would do so again in the Millane case.

OPEC to ink new charter with Russia and other allies

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The OPEC bloc of oil producers is expected Tuesday to sign off a new charter of cooperation with other major producers — including Russia — a day after thrashing out the document at a marathon meeting.

The new agreement between OPEC and its so-called OPEC+ partners is being seen as a sign of the cartel’s efforts to stay relevant in a market which has been transformed by booming US shale oil output.

The growing influence of Russia on the bloc was already in evidence on Monday when Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak declared that all of OPEC’s ministers had agreed to prolong its daily production cuts.

The cuts had previously been agreed by Russia and OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia at the G20 summit in Osaka last weekend, prompting Iran to warn that OPEC could “die” if it were reduced to a rubber-stamp for decisions made in advance.

However, Iran did support the extension of production cuts which will run until March 2020.

Tuesday’s meeting of OPEC+ — a grouping that comprises 24 crude producers including Russia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and Mexico — is also expected to approve the collective production limits.

Monday’s gathering of OPEC ministers ran almost five hours late into the evening as ministers discussed the details of the new charter.

Iran was more sceptical of the idea and its Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said on leaving the meeting that the charter would have “no impact on OPEC and its mechanism or decision taking”.

Also speaking late Monday, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the charter would allow OPEC and non-OPEC countries to establish “a structure for technical meetings, ministry meetings, regular summits” with the OPEC secretariat in Vienna acting as “the main coordinator”.

While Monday’s agreement in Vienna had intially sent oil prices surging, on Tuesday they were more subdued amid fresh worries over the global economic outlook.

‘Shunning is not the answer’: Salah says Warda can change

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Egypt star Mohamed Salah said exiled team-mate Amr Warda “shouldn’t be sent straight to the guillotine” after the forward was banished from the squad over mounting sexual harassment allegations.

The 25-year-old Warda was excluded ahead of Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over the Democratic Republic of Congo after sexual harassment claims surfaced earlier this week on social media platforms. Multiple women posted screenshots and testimonies of Warda’s alleged lewd comments.

The decision came hours after another viral clip posted on Twitter by a social media user showed him apparently exposing himself to her. AFP cannot verify the authenticity of the brief video.

Salah, who has made a point of speaking up for women in the Muslim world, lent his support to the embattled Warda while condemning his actions.

“Women must be treated with the utmost respect. ‘No’ means ‘no’. Those things are and must remain sacred. I also believe that many who make mistakes can change for the better and shouldn’t be sent straight to the guillotine, which is the easiest way out,” Salah tweeted shortly after Egypt’s qualification for the last 16 at the Africa Cup of Nations.

“We need to believe in second chances… we need to guide and educate. Shunning is not the answer.”

Warda, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Atromitos from PAOK in Greece, issued an apology in a video on Facebook.

“I apologise for what I’ve done, I apologise to my family, the players and the technical staff,” he said. “I’m sorry, I promise that in the coming period I will not do anything to bother others.”

In 2017, Portuguese football club CD Feirense terminated Warda’s contract over claims that he sexually harassed the wives of two of his team-mates. His tenure lasted only three days and he was transferred to PAOK.

Apple recalls Macbook Pros over battery fire risk

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Apple has recalled a number of its older generation MacBook Pro because their batteries may overheat and “pose a fire safety risk.”

The recall affects 15-inch MacBook Pros with Retina displays sold between September 2015 and February 2017, the company said, adding it would replace batteries free of charge.

A number of countries are covered by the recall.

In mainland China, around 63,000 units may be affected by the problem, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation said.

The regulator said there have been six reported incidents of overheating among laptops that qualify for the recall in China.

The tech giant, however, said it had not received any reports of significant damage to computers or injuries due to the defect, but urged owners of the affected devices to stop using them immediately.

It said a dedicated recall website has been set up where users can input the serial number to determine if their computer is affected.

The company said the recall does not include newer 15-inch MacBook Pro units or Apple laptops of other sizes and variations.

The battery recall marks the second technical glitch to affect Apple laptops this year. Last month, the US behemoth confirmed that some of its newer laptops had problematic keyboards and offered free replacements to affected customers.

In 2016, South Korean phonemaker Samsung suspended sales of its Galaxy Note 7 handset after devices caught fire due to flawed batteries exploding.

Ousted Sudanese leader transferred to prosecutor’s office to face corruption charges

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Fallen Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir was Sunday seen in public for the first time since being ousted, as he was driven in an armed convoy to the prosecutor’s office.

The former strongman, who ruled his northeast African nation with an iron fist for three decades, was toppled on April 11 after weeks of protests against his reign.

Dressed in a white traditional robe and turban, Bashir rode in a heavily-armed convoy from the notorious Kober prison in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to [the] prosecutors’ office to face charges of alleged corruption.

Prosecutor Alaeddin Dafallah told reporters after Bashir left the office that the ousted president had been informed that he was facing charges of “possessing foreign currency, corruption and receiving gifts illegally.”

Meanwhile, a top general from the country’s new ruling military council vowed that those who carried out a deadly crackdown on an iconic protest site that left dozens dead earlier this month would face the death penalty.

“We are working hard to take those who did this to the gallows,” Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy chief of the ruling military council said in a speech broadcast live on state television.

“Whoever committed any fault” will be held accountable, Dagalo added.

Thousands of protesters who had camped outside Khartoum’s military headquarters for weeks were violently dispersed by armed men in military fatigues on June 3, according to witnesses.

More than 100 people were killed that day in Khartoum, according to doctors linked to the protest movement, while the health ministry put the nationwide death toll at 61.

‘Regret’ for crackdown

Protesters and witnesses accuse the feared paramilitary group led by Dagalo, the Rapid Support Forces, of carrying out the assault on demonstrators.

Demonstrators and US officials have called for an independent probe into the crackdown.

On Thursday, military council spokesman General Shamseddine Kabbashi expressed “regret” over the crackdown.

But the council insists it did not order the dispersal, saying it had actually planned to purge an area near the protest camp where people are said to sell drugs.

“The planning of the operation of Colombia (area) was done by military and security authorities,” the council said in a statement late Saturday.

“We assure you that the council is keen to investigate minute by minute facts through its investigation committee.”

Brigadier Abderrahim Badreddine, spokesman for the investigative committee, told state television Saturday initial findings indicate that “officers and soldiers of different ranks and regular forces” had entered the sit-in without any orders from their superiors.

As calls for an independent probe grew, Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit visited Khartoum on Sunday where the military council said he met its chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

Bashir had swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.

Sudan suffered high rates of corruption during his rule, ranking 172 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index.

When he imposed a state of emergency on February 22 in a bid to quell protests that erupted in December over the spiralling costs, Bashir issued a decree making it illegal to possess more than $5,000 in foreign currency.

But in April, military council chief Burhan said more than $113 million worth of cash in three currencies had been seized from Bashir’s residence after he was toppled.

A team of police, army and security agents found seven million euros ($7.8 million), $350,000 and five billion Sudanese pounds ($105 million).

Suspects in Ortiz shooting to be held for up to a year during probe

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Nine suspects in the shooting of American baseball star David Ortiz will remain in custody for up to a year while the investigation proceeds, a judge in the Dominican Republic has ordered.

The attorney general’s office made the announcement late Friday and also said the probe was at an advanced stage.

The motive is not known for the June 9 shooting of Ortiz, a long-time Boston Red Sox great who is from the Dominican Republic and is now retired from the sport.

Ortiz, 43, was shot in the back while he was at a nightclub with friends.

So far 10 people have been taken into custody, including one who surrendered on Friday. Another four are on the run.

Dominican law allows suspects to be held for a year while a criminal investigation is carried out and evidence is gathered.

In a first operation in the Dominican Republic, doctors removed Ortiz’s gallbladder and part of his colon and intestines. He also sustained liver damage. Ortiz was then flown to Boston for more surgery.

The alleged trigger man is among those in custody. Police say he is a 25-year-old who claims to have been offered the equivalent of around $8,000 to shoot Ortiz.

The former designated hitter and first baseman, who retired in 2016, was in the Dominican Republic for business and personal reasons.

Known affectionately as “Big Papi,” he played 14 seasons for the Red Sox and made 10 All-Star appearances in his 20-year career.

Ortiz hit 541 home runs with 1,768 RBIs in 2,408 games in the major league.

Ortiz began his career by playing six seasons for the Minnesota Twins (1997-2002), but his career took off after he joined the Red Sox.

He helped Boston capture its first World Series title in 86 years in 2004, when he was the MVP of the American League championship series.

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