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Iraq protests dig in for third week, as politicians do the same

JERUSALEM: Israel’s Premier Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that Naftali Bennett would be appointed defense minister and their parties would unite, as the political system remained deadlocked after two inconclusive elections.Netanyahu, who has so far failed to form a coalition after a September 17 poll, had in the past refused to give the security-oriented Bennett this…

Iraq protests dig in for third week, as politicians do the same

JERUSALEM: Israel’s Premier Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that Naftali Bennett would be appointed defense minister and their parties would unite, as the political system remained deadlocked after two inconclusive elections.Netanyahu, who has so far failed to form a coalition after a September 17 poll, had in the past refused to give the security-oriented Bennett this coveted portfolio.But wary of his main challenger Benny Gantz attempting to collect the support of 61 lawmakers necessary to form a coalition and become prime minister himself, the incumbent has changed course.In doing so, he effectively locked in the three lawmakers of Bennett’s New Right to his ruling Likud party.A statement by Likud said that Netanyahu had “offered to appoint (Bennett) as defense minister, and Naftali Bennett accepted the offer.”“Bennett agreed that if a new government is formed” without a third election, “a different person will be appointed defense minister,” the statement read.The two also agreed that the New Right — formed by Bennett and former justice minister Ayelet Shaked — would join Likud to become a combined force, the statement said.They will “commit to act as a joint faction throughout the current parliamentary term,” it added.Bennett did not comment on the move, but Shaked said her party had been offered a choice of the defense ministry on its own or two lesser ministries.The choices available for the latter were agriculture, diaspora and welfare, Shaked said.“In a joint decision we agreed that Bennett will be appointed defense minister until a new government is formed,” she said on Twitter.Gantz’s Blue and White called Bennett’s appointment “inappropriate,” accusing Netanyahu of acting out of a “narrow political and personal interest” rather than toward an inclusive unity government.Both Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White say they want a unity government, but disagree on how to achieve it.Likud has been seeking to negotiate based on a compromise proposed by President Reuven Rivlin that takes into account the possibility Netanyahu will be indicted for corruption in the coming weeks.It could see him remain prime minister for now, but step aside at some point later as he combats the charges.Gantz would take over as acting premier under such a scenario.Blue and White says Gantz should be prime minister first under any rotation arrangement since his party won the most seats, finishing with 33 compared to Likud’s 32 — before the addition of Bennett’s party.Whoever wants to govern needs to find partners with which to control a majority of at least 61 seats in the 120-member Israeli parliament.Negotiators for Likud and Blue and White, as well as the heads of the two factions, have been meeting since the elections.On Friday, both Netanyahu and Gantz took to Facebook to trade blame for the political deadlock.Netanyahu said his Likud was prepared to make concessions while Gantz was “using every excuse to not form the government Israeli citizens want: a national unity government.”And Gantz said Netanyahu has determined to “drag Israel to a third election” which would be “a disaster for the state.”Blue and White and Likud each won 35 seats in an April election that was also inconclusive.

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Middle East News

Britain says war with Iran would strengthen militants

BRUSSELS: The EU’s diplomatic chief on Tuesday condemned Turkish “interference” in Libya after Ankara sent troops to support the UN-backed Tripoli government, warning this complicates the crisis in the oil-rich state.After emergency talks on the situation with the foreign ministers of France, Britain, Germany and Italy, Josep Borrell said the Turkish intervention was “something that we…

Britain says war with Iran would strengthen militants

BRUSSELS: The EU’s diplomatic chief on Tuesday condemned Turkish “interference” in Libya after Ankara sent troops to support the UN-backed Tripoli government, warning this complicates the crisis in the oil-rich state.After emergency talks on the situation with the foreign ministers of France, Britain, Germany and Italy, Josep Borrell said the Turkish intervention was “something that we reject and which increases our worries about the situation in Libya”.

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Middle East News

US warns ships in Middle East waterways of possible Iran action

LONDON: Britain on Tuesday called for calm after the United States killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and said a war with Iran would only benefit Islamist militants across the Middle East.“What we’re looking to do is to de-escalate the tensions with Iran and make sure in relation to Iraq that we don’t lose the…

US warns ships in Middle East waterways of possible Iran action

LONDON: Britain on Tuesday called for calm after the United States killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and said a war with Iran would only benefit Islamist militants across the Middle East.“What we’re looking to do is to de-escalate the tensions with Iran and make sure in relation to Iraq that we don’t lose the hard-won gains that we secured against Daesh,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday said the US killing of Soleimani was state terrorism, and that Iran would ‘respond proportionately.’“We are concerned that if we see a full-blown war it would be very damaging and actually the terrorists, in particular Daesh, would be the only winners,” the British foreign secretary said.“We’re working with our US partners, our EU partners, that is why I’m travelling out to Brussels today, to make sure we send a very clear and consistent message on the need for de-escalation and to find a diplomatic route though.”

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Arab League reaffirms rejection of foreign interference, calls for Libya solution

CAIRO: Egypt’s recent decision to transport ancient Pharaonic artifacts to a traffic circle in the congested heart of Cairo has fueled fresh controversy over the government’s handling of its archaeological heritage.Cairo has some of the worst air pollution in the world, according to recent studies. Archaeologists and heritage experts fear vehicle exhaust will damage the…

Arab League reaffirms rejection of foreign interference, calls for Libya solution

CAIRO: Egypt’s recent decision to transport ancient Pharaonic artifacts to a traffic circle in the congested heart of Cairo has fueled fresh controversy over the government’s handling of its archaeological heritage.Cairo has some of the worst air pollution in the world, according to recent studies. Archaeologists and heritage experts fear vehicle exhaust will damage the four ram-headed sphinxes and an obelisk, currently en route to their new home in Tahrir Square.Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has weighed in to say that similar obelisks are displayed in Western cities, according to a statement late Monday.But Dr. Monica Hanna, a heritage expert, said Egyptian artifacts in cities like London, Paris and New York are themselves endangered by being outdoors.“The sphinxes are made of sandstone, they are part of the dry environment in Luxor, when they would be moved to Tahrir Square with all the pollution, they will deteriorate as a result of the reactions with the carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the air,” Hanna told The Associated Press.She and a member of parliament are part of a lawsuit to block the artifacts’ move, filed recently by a local rights group.Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the government “will do everything” to protect the artifacts.Tahrir Square was the epicenter of Egypt’s so-called Arab Spring uprising in 2011. The square also contains the Egyptian Museum.The decision to move the artifacts as part of a larger renovation of Tahrir Square was taken without debate in parliament. The controversy only surfaced after archaeologists objected.Since coming to power in 2013, El-Sisi has touted a number of megaprojects aimed at rebuilding and expanding infrastructure. Those include an expansion of the Suez Canal and a new Egyptian museum near the Giza Pyramids.A centerpiece of the new museum is a towering statue of Ramses II. It once stood in a busy square near Cairo’s main railway station, but was removed in the 1990s due to preservation concerns.Waziri, the antiquities chief, said the four sphinxes are not part of the famed avenue of sphinxes in the city of Luxor. They were among several located behind the first edifice of the temple of Karnak.The obelisk was recently moved to Cairo from the San el-Haggar archaeological site in the Nile Delta, the ministry said.But Hanna, the heritage expert, stressed that the obelisks in Western capitals had been moved during the colonial era. “We really had no say in their shipment.”

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