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MANILA: Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said on Thursday he would seek to tighten ties with the US after President Joe Biden called him with congratulations on winning the Philippine presidential election. Biden was one of the first world leaders to acknowledge Marcos’s victory in Monday’s poll. While counting is still underway, the son and namesake…

MANILA: Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said on Thursday he would seek to tighten ties with the US after President Joe Biden called him with congratulations on winning the Philippine presidential election. Biden was one of the first world leaders to acknowledge Marcos’s victory in Monday’s poll. While counting is still underway, the son and namesake of the late Philippine dictator secured more than half of the votes.   Biden called Marcos on Thursday morning. “Marcos was grateful for the acknowledgment of his victory by the American president,” the Philippine president-elect’s office said in a statement, adding that it “could be one of the most important messages for his incoming administration.”   “The two leaders spoke of strengthening of ties in trade and diplomacy, as well as their common interest in democracy, self-determination, economic recovery.” Marcos also invited Biden to attend his inauguration on June 30 to “further fortify the relationship of the two countries.” The Philippines had tried to distance itself from the US, its former colonial master, during the presidency of incumbent Rodrigo Duterte, who had embraced a Beijing-friendly direction. But while Marcos and his running mate, Duterte’s daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio, have vowed to follow his key policies, including the position on China, Washington may have leverage on the new Philippine ruler who spent years of exile in the US. Marcos’s father ruled the Philippines with an iron fist for two decades — an era marred by widespread corruption and human rights abuses — and was removed from office in a popular uprising in 1986. After his ouster, the family fled to Hawaii on US helicopters. Following Biden’s call, the White House issued a statement saying that the US leader “looks forward to working with the President-elect to continue strengthening the U.S.-Philippine Alliance, while expanding bilateral cooperation on a wide range of issues.” The Philippines is one of the oldest Asian partners of the US and a major non-NATO ally. The alliance is anchored on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, which commits Washington and Manila to extend military support to each other if either of them is attacked by an external party. Manila sought to be less dependent on the US under Duterte’s rule. But Ramon Casiple, the executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said this was likely to change with Marcos. He told Arab News that Biden’s congratulatory call indicated that the US acknowledged Marcos’s electoral win, even though official results have not yet been announced, because of the US “experience during the Duterte years” and the geopolitical situation following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has placed China on the opposite side to the US. “The US is making a pragmatic decision,” he said. “This new situation, if you listen to the US intelligence report to the US Congress, basically opened a new era. It’s like a new Cold War.” He added that Washington-Manila relations were likely to be smoother, but on US terms. “Because Marcos is not the one dictating the base of this relationship. If the US thinks that they need to be on the good side with Marcos, meaning from the point of view of the China problems that the US has, then they would be very accommodating to Marcos.”  

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US calls for more crossing points for delivery of aid to Syria

More Iran sanctions needed to squeeze Hezbollah, says US Congressman Darrell Issa DAVOS, Switzerland: The Biden administration ought to apply further sanctions on Iran as a means of curtailing the influence of its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon, says Darrell Issa, a US congressman who is part of the American delegation at the World Economic Forum. …

More Iran sanctions needed to squeeze Hezbollah, says US Congressman Darrell Issa DAVOS, Switzerland: The Biden administration ought to apply further sanctions on Iran as a means of curtailing the influence of its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon, says Darrell Issa, a US congressman who is part of the American delegation at the World Economic Forum.  Despite generating little of its own revenues, Hezbollah has long enjoyed free rein in Lebanon thanks to Iranian largess, Issa says. He believes targeting Iran with further sanctions would undermine the militia’s control over Lebanese affairs.  “As much as I want to sanction Hezbollah, the group doesn’t generate much of their own money,” Issa, a California Republican, told Arab News on the fringes of WEF in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday.  “Their money is disproportionate because of Iranian influence. So, yes, while I do want more bank sanctions, those are ultimately irrelevant, unless we increase our sanctions on Iran.” Issa was among a group of US congressmen who traveled to Lebanon on a fact-finding mission in November last year, later reporting back to President Joe Biden and Congress to propose ways to help the Lebanese.  Iran has a policy of arming and funding proxy militias in neighboring countries to further its own geopolitical agenda, often to the detriment of the security and well-being of local populations.   Although Lebanon’s May 15 parliamentary election returned a poor result for Hezbollah and its allies, Issa says history shows the need to follow through on the results and not to simply return to business as usual. “If there’s a follow through, then there should be a new speaker and a new president free of unfair influence by Hezbollah,” Issa told Arab News.  “There should be a realignment of ministries, and more than anything else there should be a resolution to end corruption. “So far, the only thing we have are candidates who campaigned against corruption and who have achieved their goal of changing the majority, but they haven’t achieved the goal of ending corruption yet.” Hezbollah, the only militia that did not disarm after Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, lost its majority in the Lebanese parliament, with its bloc winning just 62 of the 128 seats on offer — three fewer than it needed.  The election of many anti-corruption independents has presented Lebanon with a rare opportunity to break free of the militia’s grip on public life and to carry out urgent reforms. Since 2019, Lebanon has been in the throes of its worst ever financial crisis, which has been further compounded by the economic strain of the COVID-19 pandemic and the nation’s political paralysis. For many Lebanese, the final straw was the Beirut port blast of Aug. 2020, which killed 218, injured 7,000, caused $15 billion in property damage, and left an estimated 300,000 people homeless. These concurrent crises have sent thousands of young Lebanese abroad in search of security and opportunity, including many of the country’s top medical professionals and educators. For Issa, preventing this brain-drain ought to be a high priority for any incoming government.  “Lebanon can turn around very quickly, but only if those people are still in the country,” Issa said. “And today, the US is trying to help, but there’s a lot of exodus from Lebanon, and that is going to hurt the recovery.”

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Salah staying at Liverpool ‘for sure’ next season

Saudi favorites to reach U-17 and U-20 Asian Cups in 2023 after draw in Kuala Lumpur Defending champions Saudi Arabia have been handed a favorable draw in their qualification group for the U-20 Asian Cup in 2023, and while the U-17 team look to have a more difficult path to their continental championships next year,…

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Saudi favorites to reach U-17 and U-20 Asian Cups in 2023 after draw in Kuala Lumpur Defending champions Saudi Arabia have been handed a favorable draw in their qualification group for the U-20 Asian Cup in 2023, and while the U-17 team look to have a more difficult path to their continental championships next year, they will also be confident about their prospects. The draw for qualification for both tournaments took place at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. In order to get a ticket to appear at the U-20 tournament, which will take place in Uzbekistan next year, Saudi Arabia will have to find some of the form that took them to the title back in 2018, when it was an U-19 competition. That was when the young Green Falcons defeated South Korea 2-1 in the final in Indonesia to be crowned continental champions. It is still their title to defend as the global pandemic ensured that the 2020 edition never took place, though Saudi Arabia had already booked a berth by winning their group in qualification back in November 2019.  Then they just managed to finish above Uzbekistan and have been grouped with the Central Asians once again in Group A, which will take place in September. This time, however, results against the White Wolves will not matter as they are already assured of a place in the tournament as host nation. That means that Saudi Arabia will just have to finish above China, Myanmar and the Maldives to guarantee a spot, though the five best-performing runners-up in the 10 groups will also go through. It would be a surprise if that did not happen and not least because all the games will be held in the eastern city of Dammam. Playing in front of their own fans in one of the country’s most passionate football cities will be a major advantage. China will be expected to provide the main test but with football going through a terrible time at the moment in the East Asian country, youth tournaments may not be the priority they once were. Chinese Super League clubs are going out of business, the country has given up hosting the 2022 Asian Games and the 2023 Asian Cup, and the future is very uncertain.  With the political situation in Myanmar, there has not been too much football played in recent months, and the young White Angels may be struggling for match fitness. Even when the Southeast Asians are at their best, a trip to Saudi Arabia is tough. And last but not least are the Maldives. The South Asians can be difficult opponents but should be no match for the defending champions, especially on their home patch.  The U-17 tournament, which has been rebranded from the past U-16 championships, will be held much closer to home, in neighboring Bahrain. Once again, the group, this time Group D, will be held in Dammam, and while it looks a little more challenging for the two-time champions, Saudi Arabia will again be strong favorites to progress with the format the same: the 10 group winners go through along with the five best runners-up to join the hosts Bahrain. The 2020 tournament did not go ahead thanks to the pandemic, but Saudi Arabia had booked their berth before it was called off by finishing above Oman, Pakistan and Syria in September 2019. The cancelation was a bitter pill to swallow for the boys from Riyadh, Jeddah and elsewhere as they had failed to qualify for the 2018 edition, losing out to Jordan. This group does not look quite so difficult as that. Interestingly, Myanmar and the Maldives are also opponents, and the same points apply to this age category as to the slightly older one. Neither will be expected to finish in the top two spots. India have ambitions in this regard and will relish the chance to test themselves against one of the continent’s big boys but maybe do not quite have the strength in depth to challenge in West Asia. Kuwait may be tricky. After suffering at the hands of Jordan in September 2017, the hosts will be wary of the Blues in October 2022. But given the opposition, home advantage and where Saudi Arabian football is currently at, both the U-17 and U-20 teams are strongly expected to make it to both Uzbekistan and Bahrain in 2023 and once there, will be expected to challenge for the big prize.

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Boehly’s Chelsea takeover puts US tycoon in spotlight

Saudi favorites to reach U-17 and U-20 Asian Cups in 2023 after draw in Kuala Lumpur Defending champions Saudi Arabia have been handed a favorable draw in their qualification group for the U-20 Asian Cup in 2023, and while the U-17 team look to have a more difficult path to their continental championships next year,…

Saudi favorites to reach U-17 and U-20 Asian Cups in 2023 after draw in Kuala Lumpur Defending champions Saudi Arabia have been handed a favorable draw in their qualification group for the U-20 Asian Cup in 2023, and while the U-17 team look to have a more difficult path to their continental championships next year, they will also be confident about their prospects. The draw for qualification for both tournaments took place at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. In order to get a ticket to appear at the U-20 tournament, which will take place in Uzbekistan next year, Saudi Arabia will have to find some of the form that took them to the title back in 2018, when it was an U-19 competition. That was when the young Green Falcons defeated South Korea 2-1 in the final in Indonesia to be crowned continental champions. It is still their title to defend as the global pandemic ensured that the 2020 edition never took place, though Saudi Arabia had already booked a berth by winning their group in qualification back in November 2019.  Then they just managed to finish above Uzbekistan and have been grouped with the Central Asians once again in Group A, which will take place in September. This time, however, results against the White Wolves will not matter as they are already assured of a place in the tournament as host nation. That means that Saudi Arabia will just have to finish above China, Myanmar and the Maldives to guarantee a spot, though the five best-performing runners-up in the 10 groups will also go through. It would be a surprise if that did not happen and not least because all the games will be held in the eastern city of Dammam. Playing in front of their own fans in one of the country’s most passionate football cities will be a major advantage. China will be expected to provide the main test but with football going through a terrible time at the moment in the East Asian country, youth tournaments may not be the priority they once were. Chinese Super League clubs are going out of business, the country has given up hosting the 2022 Asian Games and the 2023 Asian Cup, and the future is very uncertain.  With the political situation in Myanmar, there has not been too much football played in recent months, and the young White Angels may be struggling for match fitness. Even when the Southeast Asians are at their best, a trip to Saudi Arabia is tough. And last but not least are the Maldives. The South Asians can be difficult opponents but should be no match for the defending champions, especially on their home patch.  The U-17 tournament, which has been rebranded from the past U-16 championships, will be held much closer to home, in neighboring Bahrain. Once again, the group, this time Group D, will be held in Dammam, and while it looks a little more challenging for the two-time champions, Saudi Arabia will again be strong favorites to progress with the format the same: the 10 group winners go through along with the five best runners-up to join the hosts Bahrain. The 2020 tournament did not go ahead thanks to the pandemic, but Saudi Arabia had booked their berth before it was called off by finishing above Oman, Pakistan and Syria in September 2019. The cancelation was a bitter pill to swallow for the boys from Riyadh, Jeddah and elsewhere as they had failed to qualify for the 2018 edition, losing out to Jordan. This group does not look quite so difficult as that. Interestingly, Myanmar and the Maldives are also opponents, and the same points apply to this age category as to the slightly older one. Neither will be expected to finish in the top two spots. India have ambitions in this regard and will relish the chance to test themselves against one of the continent’s big boys but maybe do not quite have the strength in depth to challenge in West Asia. Kuwait may be tricky. After suffering at the hands of Jordan in September 2017, the hosts will be wary of the Blues in October 2022. But given the opposition, home advantage and where Saudi Arabian football is currently at, both the U-17 and U-20 teams are strongly expected to make it to both Uzbekistan and Bahrain in 2023 and once there, will be expected to challenge for the big prize.

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