Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to chair the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem May 26, 2019. Jim Hollander/Pool via REUTERS
May 26, 2019
By Jeffrey Heller
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embarked on Sunday on what he termed a “final effort” to break a deadlock on forming a governing coalition ahead of a Wednesday deadline for a deal.
In power for the past decade, Netanyahu has unexpectedly struggled to seal an agreement with a clutch of right-wing, far-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties that would align with his Likud party and ensure him a fifth term following Israel’s April 9 election.
Divisions between former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party and United Torah Judaism over a military conscription bill governing exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students have plunged the coalition talks into stalemate.
Lieberman has long said ultra-Orthodox men must share other Israeli Jews’ burden of mandatory service. Ultra-Orthodox parties say seminary students should be largely exempt from conscription as they have been since Israel was founded in 1948.
A 42-day deadline mandated by law to announce a new government expires on Wednesday, and President Reuven Rivlin can then assign the task to another legislator after consultations with the leaders of political parties.
That could open the way for former military chief Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party, to try. But he would need the backing of some of Likud’s allies to persuade Rivlin he could put together a ruling majority in parliament.
Likud and Blue and White each won 35 of the Knesset’s 120 seats seats in the April ballot, but Netanyahu was seen as having clinched victory because of the right-wing majority that emerged.
In a video published on Twitter on Sunday, Netanyahu said he had invited all of his negotiating partners to meet him in “a final attempt to form a right-wing government” and avoid “an unnecessary election”.
A Likud source said the sessions would be held later in the day and on Monday.
Parallel to the negotiations, Likud announced preparations for a possible national ballot, with November already touted by political analysts as a likely date.
Likud lawmaker Miki Zohar released a draft of a dissolution bill that he said he was submitting to parliament, but no date for a vote in the legislature was announced. Likud said its secretariat would meet on Tuesday “to prepare for an election”.
Some political commentators saw those moves as an attempt to pressure Likud’s negotiating partners into a deal, given the possibility of a voter backlash against another national ballot so soon after the previous one and the uncertainty of the election’s outcome in a country riven by divisions.
The scheduling of an election – and Likud could face an uphill battle for the necessary 61 votes in parliament to pass a dissolution resolution – would pre-empt a coalition-building assignment from Rivlin and ensure Netanyahu remains as interim prime minister until a new government is formed.
Already locked in a legal battle over his potential indictment in three corruption cases, Netanyahu has vowed to remain in office even if he is charged. He denies any wrongdoing and is scheduled to argue against indictment at a pre-trial hearing in October.
(Editing by Frances Kerry)
FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell of the Labour Party, arrives for cross party Brexit talks at Cabinet Office in London, Britain May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville
May 26, 2019
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s opposition Labour Party will seek to prevent Prime Minister Theresa May’s successor taking the country out of the European Union without a deal, its finance spokesman John McDonnell said on Sunday.
May said on Friday she would step down next month, and several of those vying to replace her have said Britain must leave the EU on its Oct. 31 deadline even if that means quitting without a deal.
“There is real threat now of an extremist Brexiteer becoming the leader of the Conservative Party and taking us over the cliff edge of a no deal,” McDonnell told Sky News, saying Labour was seeking to work with other opposition parties.
“We have got to move forward now, bring people together and block a no deal and if that means going back to the people (for a second referendum), so be it.”
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Keith Weir)
FILE PHOTO: North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump talk in the garden of the Metropole hotel during the second North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo
May 24, 2019
By Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Friday an “arbitrary and dishonest” U.S. position had resulted in the failure to reach a deal during a second North Korea-U.S. summit, warning the nuclear issue would never be resolved without a new approach.
A spokesman for North Korea’s foreign ministry accused the United States of trying to shift the blame for the breakdown of the summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump in February by raising a “completely irrelevant issue”. He did not elaborate.
“The underlying cause of setback of the DPRK-U.S. summit talks in Hanoi is the arbitrary and dishonest position taken by the United States, insisting on a method which is totally impossible to get through,” the unidentified spokesman said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
“The United States would not be able to move us even an inch with the device it is now weighing in its mind, and the further its mistrust and hostile acts toward the DPRK grow, the fiercer our reaction will be.”
The official was referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The statement was the latest criticism of the United States since the failed summit in Vietnam, where Kim had sought sanctions relief in return for the partial dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear program.
Trump called for a full roadmap for denuclearization including the transfer of bombs to the United States.
Tension has again mounted in recent weeks. The North fired short-range missiles early this month and Washington unveiled the seizure of a North Korean ship suspected of illicit coal shipments in breach of sanctions.
Kim has set a year-end deadline for the United States to show more flexibility, but Trump and other U.S. officials have brushed that aside, calling for Kim to take action on a commitment to denuclearize.
Unless the United States offered a new method of calculation, the stalled nuclear talks would never be restarted, the foreign ministry spokesman said.
“And by extension, the prospect for resolving the nuclear issue will be much gloomier,” the official said.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Robert Birsel)
Wads of British Pound Sterling banknotes are stacked in piles at the Money Service Austria company’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria, November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
May 24, 2019
By Ritvik Carvalho
LONDON (Reuters) – Sterling has been the focus for global investors rattled by Britain’s planned departure from the European Union, plunging immediately after the vote to leave and then moving wildly ever since on Brexit-related headlines.
Click https://tmsnrt.rs/2WW8QBb for an interactive Reuters graphic on Brexit and the moves in sterling.
Investors have largely been positioned for the pound to weaken — adding to those bets as Britain first struggled to agree a withdrawal plan with Brussels, and then as lawmakers in London this year rejected the deal three times.
Recent falls in the pound have been pronounced because investors had cut back on short positions, hoping Prime Minister Theresa May would reach a compromise with the opposition Labour Party over her Brexit deal.
But the failure of those talks, and the prospect of a new eurosceptic prime minister ahead of an Oct. 31 Brexit deadline, has renewed investor jitters that the UK could leave without any agreement to smooth economic disruption.
Such a no-deal Brexit, investors warn, would send sterling reeling to multi-decade lows.
(Graphic by Prasanta Kumar Dutta; Writing by Tommy Reggiori Wilkes; Editing by Catherine Evans)
FILE PHOTO – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during their talks in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Russia, May 14, 2019. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS
May 24, 2019
By Arshad Mohammed and Jonathan Landay
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department failed to meet a deadline on Thursday to provide information to three congressional committee chairmen looking into whether an annual arms control report slanted and politicized assessments about Iran, a congressional aide said.
In a May 16 letter, the Democratic chairmen of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence committees asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to provide a State Department briefing and documents no later than Thursday.
The chairmen’s letter cited a Reuters article on April 17 about how the administration’s annual report to Congress on global compliance with international arms control accords provoked a dispute with U.S. intelligence agencies and some State Department officials.
The dissenting officials, sources said, were concerned that the document politicized and skewed assessments against Iran in a bid to lay the groundwork to justify military action.
A U.S. official familiar with the issue and speaking on condition of anonymity said the chairmen were to be invited to a briefing by State Department and other government experts about the report on “adherence to and compliance with arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament agreements and commitments.”
The congressional aide, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said no such communication had been received.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
U.S.-Iranian tensions rose following U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal last year from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and his reimposition of tough economic sanctions. They sharpened earlier this month after Trump tightened sanctions to try to eliminate Iran’s oil exports.
Strains further deepened with Saudi Arabia accusing Iran of ordering armed drone attacks on two oil pumping stations and the May 12 sabotage of four vessels, including two Saudi tankers, off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
U.S. government sources said Washington strongly suspects militias with ties to Tehran were behind those attacks as well as a rocket strike in Baghdad’s Green Zone.
Iran denied involvement in the incidents.
In their May 16 letter to Pompeo, the three chairmen said they were “deeply concerned” the arms control report may have been produced by political appointees “disregarding intelligence or distorting its meaning.”
The State Department, they noted, was legally bound to submit to Congress a “detailed report” on compliance by the United States and other countries with international arms control accords.
Instead, they wrote, this year’s report was only 12 pages long, “contains no meaningful discussion” of U.S. and Russian compliance with such agreements and “consists largely of hypotheticals or opinion.”
Several sources told Reuters that the report made them wonder if the administration was painting Iran in the darkest light possible, much as the George W. Bush administration used bogus and exaggerated intelligence to justify its 2003 invasion of Iraq.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Jonathan Landay; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
FILE PHOTO: Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics – Opening ceremony – Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium – Pyeongchang, South Korea – February 9, 2018 – Hockey players from the unified Korean team carry the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo
May 23, 2019
(Reuters) – The organizers of July’s Swimming World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea and the world swimming body FINA have appealed to North Korea to participate in order to promote peace on the peninsula.
Nuclear-armed North Korea’s participation is in doubt after it raised tensions by test-firing rockets and at least one short-range missile this month.
“As president of the organizing committee, I would like to express the hope of 1.5 million citizens from Gwangju,” the city’s mayor, Lee Yong-sup, told reporters on Thursday.
“They’re sincerely expecting North Korea’s participation … North Korea’s presence is crucial for the success of this event as the motto of the competition is ‘Dive into Peace’.
“We would like to emphasize this message to the world. Last February, ministers from the two countries met with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) in Lausanne and this issue was discussed, but so far we have no answer from the North Korean side.”
FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu said correspondence was being exchanged in the hope of securing North Korea’s presence. The registration deadline is June 12.
“This is an ongoing process, and we are confident that over 190 nations will be present in Gwangju,” Marculescu said.
Sports diplomacy has been a prominent feature of the thaw in relations between the Koreas since early 2018, when they fielded a unified women’s ice hockey team at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and marched under a unified flag.
The two countries agreed to field joint teams in various sports in February and have also expressed interest in jointly hosting the 2023 women’s soccer World Cup.
However, the rocket drill brought talks about sports and other inter-Korean exchanges to a halt.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Kevin Liffey)