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  1. LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May faced a rebellion by her own MPs on Wednesday over parliament's role in authorising a final Brexit deal, threatening a damaging defeat at home even as she makes progress in Brussels. Members of May´s Conservative party are demanding that an explicit legal guarantee be included in the landmark EU (Withdrawal) Bill to ensure MPs get a vote before any deal is signed. Dominic Grieve, a Conservative MP and former attorney general, has submitted an amendment to the bill, which has been signed by ten other Tory MPs and is backed by the main opposition Labour party. "The government needs to listen to what's being said to them," Grieve told Sky News television. "It seems to be a bit of a dialogue of the deaf. They've turned this into a battle of wills." The government has insisted it will not back down but the amendment is due to be voted on later on Wednesday, in what could lead to a parliamentary defeat for May. That would be a blow on the eve of a crucial summit in Brussels, where EU leaders are expected to approve the terms of the interim Brexit deal agreed last week after months of tortuous negotiations. Hampering 'smooth' Brexit Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith, a hardline Brexiteer, earlier accused Grieve of "looking for ways to derail the bill", saying his amendment would "tie the government´s hands" in negotiations with the EU. In a bid to smooth Britain's exit, the bill would transfer thousands of pieces of European legislation onto the UK statute books and give ministers powers to amend them to address any technical glitches. These so-called "Henry VIII" powers also extend to the implementation of the divorce deal agreed with Brussels - something many MPs say is unacceptable. In a last-ditch attempt to avoid a rebellion, Brexit Minister David Davis promised that lawmakers would have a vote on the withdrawal agreement. Parliament would then be asked to vote on a further piece of legislation to implement the divorce deal. But ministers want to preserve their special powers - statutory instruments - in the event that this law is not passed in time for Brexit day on March 29, 2019. "As currently drafted what the amendment says is that we shouldn't put any of those statutory instruments into place until the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill has reached the statute book," May said. "That could be at a very late stage in the proceedings, which could mean that we are not able to have the orderly and smooth exit from the European Union that we wish to have." 'Blank cheque' After months of wrangling, May secured a deal last week on three priorities of the separation - Britain´s financial settlement, the Irish border and the rights of expatriates. It was a rare moment of triumph for the prime minister, who has been struggling to assert her authority since losing her parliamentary majority in a disastrous election in June. The European Parliament on Wednesday gave its backing to the deal, and EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday are expected to give the green light to move the Brexit negotiations onto trade. However, the sense of victory has been tempered by a dispute with Brussels over comments made by Davis at the weekend, suggesting Britain was not fully committed to the agreement. Commentators have also warned of domestic trouble ahead for May, as the deal leaves open many questions about Britain´s future relationship with the EU. Ahead of Wednesday´s vote, Grieve warned that ministers were asking for "a blank cheque to the government to achieve something that, at the moment, we don´t know what it is".
  2. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in Tehran, Iran, December 10, 2017. AFP/Handout via Iranian Presidency TEHRAN: Britain's foreign minister Boris Johnson met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday, wrapping up a visit in which he pushed for the release of imprisoned dual nationals. A key focus of Johnson's visit had been the case of British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is serving five years for taking part in mass protests in 2009, which she denies. She was due in court on Sunday for fresh charges of "spreading propaganda", but her husband announced that the appearance had been cancelled at the last minute. "Nazanin's case was not held today in the wake of the foreign secretary's visit. This is undoubtedly a good sign," Richard Ratcliffe wrote in an email to reporters. UK's Johnson in Iran talks to lobby for jailed aid worker Talks with Zarif were 'constructive', Johnson?s office said, despite differences between the two countries He said Johnson met with her family in Iran and raised the issue at every meeting with the Iranians. The foreign secretary took flak from Iranian officials for not doing more to build on the nuclear deal signed with world powers in 2015. "Relations between the two countries have not matched the potential expected in the post-JCPOA (nuclear deal) atmosphere," Rouhani told Johnson, according to a statement from his office. Ali Larijani ? the powerful parliament speaker who met with Johnson on Saturday ? voiced similar criticism, saying other European countries had put in "much more effort". "You haven't even solved the banking problems of the Iranian embassy in London," Larijani said, according to the IRNA news agency. The British foreign office said the two sides had discussed "the full range of regional and bilateral issues, including banking matters and our concerns about the consular cases of dual nationals". "It has been a worthwhile visit and we leave with a sense that both sides want to keep up the momentum to resolve the difficult issues," it said in a statement. The Zaghari-Ratcliffe case has become a top priority for Johnson after he mistakenly said last month that she had been training journalists in Iran ? a "slip of the tongue" used by the Iranian authorities to help justify the new charges. Iran has been frustrated that the nuclear deal ? which lifted sanctions in exchange for curbs to its nuclear programme ? has not produced the expected windfall in trade deals mainly due to continuing US sanctions. Banking restrictions have also complicated long-running efforts to return an estimated 450 million pounds ($600 million) owed by Britain from a military contract cancelled due to the 1979 Islamic revolution. Richard Ratcliffe has claimed his wife is a pawn in Iran's efforts to extract the historic debt.
  3. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in Tallinn, Estonia, September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/Files LONDON: British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is set to visit Iran this weekend, where he is expected to raise the case of a British-Iranian woman held in a Tehran prison, The Guardian reported on Thursday. Johnson will meet with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif and is also expected to hold talks on the Iranian nuclear deal, the report said. It would be the first visit by a British foreign secretary to Iran since 2015 and only the third since 2003. The Foreign Office refused to confirm the trip. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison in September 2016 for taking part in the mass anti-regime protests in 2009, which she denies. She was working at the Thomson Reuters Foundation ? the media organisation's philanthropic arm ? at the time of her arrest. She is due to face fresh charges in the court of "spreading propaganda" on December 10. Thomson Reuters chief executive Monique Villa said recently that the new charges risked a further 16-year prison sentence and were "a mockery of justice". Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport on April 3, 2016, after visiting family. She was travelling with her daughter Gabriella, now three years old. The case has become highly politicised, especially after a "slip of the tongue" by Johnson last month when he stated that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been training journalists in Iran, which has been used by the Iranian authorities to help justify the new charges.
  4. A plot to assassinate Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May has been foiled, Sky News reported on Tuesday, citing sources. Police believe that the plan was to launch some sort of improvised explosive device at the Prime Minister?s residence at Downing Street and in the ensuing chaos to attack and kill Theresa May, Sky News reported. Sky News added that this was something which has been pursued over several weeks at least by Scotland Yard, MI5 and West Midlands Police. Earlier today, Prime Minister Theresa May?s spokesman had said that Britain has thwarted nine plots in the last 12 months.
  5. The entrance of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is seen in The Hague, Netherlands, March 3, 2011. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen/Files THE HAGUE: The International Criminal Court´s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said Monday there is a "reasonable basis" to believe that some British soldiers committed war crimes after the US-led invasion of Iraq. The disclosure came in a 74-page report on preliminary inquiries as the ICC´s member states gather in New York for its annual nine-day meeting to discuss matters relating to the tribunal. "Following a thorough factual and legal assessment of the information available... there is reasonable basis to believe that members of the UK armed forces committed war crimes, within the jurisdiction of the Court, against persons in their custody," Bensouda said. The Hague-based prosecutor in 2014 reopened an initial probe into war crimes allegations relating to prisoner abuse after rights groups and lawyers alleged that at least 1,071 Iraqi detainees were tortured and ill-treated between March 2003 to December 2008. The same group also alleged that British personnel committed 52 unlawful killings of people in their custody over the same period. However, a group of lawyers who formed part of the those making the allegations were later found guilty on misconduct charges resulting from a public inquiry. The lawyers´ lead counsellor was struck off. Bensouda´s office, however, said individual statements received from those lawyers "could be considered credible enough if substantiated with supporting material" such as detention records, medical certificates and photographs. Her office is now considering "complementarity and gravity" before evaluating further steps. Set up in 2002, the Hague-based ICC is an independent court of last resort, only to intervene and prosecute those committing the world´s worst crimes if a member country is unwilling or unable to do so themselves. "The prosecutor must be satisfied as to admissibility on both aspects before proceeding," the report said. Bensouda will then decide whether to ask ICC judges permission to launch a full-blown investigation. The world war crimes court´s previous chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in 2006 said he would not open a full probe in Iraq because he did not have enough evidence. Earlier this year Britain dismissed hundreds of allegations of misconduct by its soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  6. US President Donald Trump with British Prime Minister Theresa May/File photo WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump publicly upbraided British Prime Minister and ostensible ally Theresa May late Wednesday, rebutting her criticism of anti-Muslim propaganda in a diplomatic row between the two leaders. Plunging headlong into a high-profile spat with one of America´s closest international partners, Trump suggested May focus on defending the United Kingdom rather than criticizing him. "@theresa_may, don´t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!" he tweeted, after an earlier tweet with the same message used the wrong Twitter handle for May. Trump had drawn fierce condemnation at home and abroad earlier in the day for retweeting three incendiary anti-Muslim videos posted by the deputy head of a British far-right group who has been convicted of a hate crime. May said through a spokesperson that Trump was "wrong" to promote the "hateful narratives" of the group, British First. Trump´s interventions in British politics have strained the so-called "special relationship." He has infuriated British authorities with his tweets on terrorism in Britain, including highly publicized run-ins with London´s Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan. Khan on Wednesday described Britain First as "a vile, hate-fuelled organisation whose views should be condemned, not amplified." Before Trump´s latest missive, the White House had scrambled to limit the fallout, saying that even if the anti-Muslim videos were misleading, the president was pointing out a real problem. "The threat is real, and that´s what the president is talking about," said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. ´Never the wrong time´ Deputy spokesman Raj Shah also defended Trump´s actions: "It´s never the wrong time to talk about the security and safety of the American people. Those are the issues he was raising in his tweets this morning." One of the videos falsely claims to show a Muslim beating up a Dutch boy on crutches. The Dutch embassy in Washington took the unusual step of publicly criticizing a sitting US president on Twitter. "@realDonaldTrump Facts do matter. The perpetrator of the violent act in this video was born and raised in the Netherlands. He received and completed his sentence under Dutch law." Another video is described as showing a mob pushing a teenager off a rooftop, without any context -- it appears to be footage filmed during unrest in Egypt in 2013. A man was executed for his role in the teen´s death. The third video allegedly depicts a Muslim smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary. All three videos were originally posted by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the far-right group Britain First, which hailed Trump for his support. "THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, DONALD TRUMP, HAS RETWEETED THREE OF DEPUTY LEADER JAYDA FRANSEN´S TWITTER VIDEOS!" the group tweeted in triumph. "DONALD TRUMP HIMSELF HAS RETWEETED THESE VIDEOS AND HAS AROUND 44 MILLION FOLLOWERS! GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS AMERICA!" Fransen was found guilty last year of a hate crime after hurling abuse at a Muslim woman wearing a hijab. Britain First, which was formed in 2011 and is known for picketing outside mosques, has run and lost in several British and European parliament elections. ´Abhorrent, dangerous´ Brendan Cox, widower of MP Jo Cox who was murdered by a right-wing extremist last year, said: "Trump has legitimized the far right in his own country, now he´s trying to do it in ours. "Spreading hatred has consequences & the president should be ashamed of himself," he said. Trump´s behavior renewed calls for May to revoke an invitation for the American president to make a state visit. David Lammy, a lawmaker for Britain´s opposition Labour Party, said: "The president of the United States is promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group whose leaders have been arrested and convicted. "He is no ally or friend of ours," he said. Trump 'wrong' to retweet anti-Muslim videos: Downing Street 'British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right' Conservative Minister Sajid Javid said Trump had "endorsed the views of a vile, hate-filled racist organisation that hates me and people like me. He is wrong and I refuse to let it go and say nothing." Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said the retweets were "abhorrent, dangerous and a threat." Added Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson: "UK has a proud history as an open, tolerant society & hate speech has no place here." Trump´s Twitter posts Wednesday were part of an early morning burst in which he again dismissed CNN as "Fake News" and insisted the US economy was in "record territory" by many measures.
  7. US President Donald Trump retweeted anti-Muslim videos from his personal account to his over 43 million followers. The original posts by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First a far-right group, has previously been convicted of religious harassment. The three videos Trump retweeted without any comments show unverified anti-Islamic videos. One shows a group of Muslims pushing a boy from the roof of a building. Another video shows a man destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary and yet another shows immigrants hitting a Dutch Muslims
  8. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan unveils the bust of Pakistan's founder Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah at the British Museum, London, November 28, 2017. Geo.tv via social media/Mayor of London/@MayorofLondon LONDON: The Mayor of London unveiled Tuesday night a bust of Pakistan's founder Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah at the British Museum at a ceremony attended by various top officials. Revealed at an inauguration ceremony by Sadiq Khan, the bust will be moved to the Lincoln?s Inn ? its permanent home. Khan posted images of the event on Twitter, saying he was "proud to unveil this bronze bust to honour the great" leader. Syed Ibne Abbas ? the Pakistani High Commissioner to the United Kingdom who was also in attendance ? also made a statement, saying Quaid-e-Azam's struggle brought a reward in the shape of Pakistan. In his youth, Jinnah had travelled to London in order to pursue studies in law at Lincoln?s Inn from 1892 to 1896. His presence in February 1895 is confirmed by the British Museum in a register for the readers.
  9. Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May attend the Eastern Partnership summit at the European Council (EC) Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, November 24, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/Files LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May left London late Tuesday for a three-day visit to the Middle East, where she will meet Saudi and Jordanian leaders in a bid to bolster regional ties. The British leader will hold talks on issues including Qatar and Yemen with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, before heading to Jordan for meetings with King Abdullah II and Prime Minister Hani Mulki. "This visit demonstrates that as the UK leaves the EU we are determined to forge a bold, confident future for ourselves in the world, a spokesman for May said. "It is clearly in the UK's security interests to support Jordan and Saudi Arabia in tackling regional challenges to create a more stable region, and in delivering their ambitious reform programmes to ensure their own stability," he added. May ? embattled domestically after losing her parliamentary majority in a snap election over the summer and facing division over Brexit ? visited both countries in April. In Saudi Arabia, she is expected to reiterate her support for the kingdom's fledgeling social reform programme, which saw an end to the infamous ban on women driving last September. Britain's largest trading partner in the Middle East, London has signed off on more than £3.3 billion (EUR3.7 billion, $4.4 billion) worth of arms sales to Riyadh since March 2015. During that time Saudi Arabia has embarked on a bombing campaign in Yemen that has been condemned for contributing to a humanitarian disaster. The UN estimates that seven million Yemenis are on the verge of starvation. May is expected to discuss the crisis during her meetings.
  10. A man walks past a piece of street art by Pegasus depicting Meghan Markle in London, Britain, November 28, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi LONDON: Meghan Markle will embark upon her transition from US actress to British royal by getting baptised in the Church of England ahead of her marriage to Prince Harry in Windsor Castle next May and applying for British citizenship, royal officials said on Tuesday. "She intends to become a UK citizen. The process for that takes a number of years. She'll retain the US citizenship during that process," Harry's spokesman Jason Knauf told reporters at a briefing. Knauf said Harry and Markle, who are both passionate charity campaigners, planned to put their personal stamp on the wedding, adding, "They will be making sure it reflects who they are as a couple." They "want the public to feel part of their day". The couple will go to Nottingham in central England on Friday for their first joint visit since announcing their engagement on Monday. Knauf said Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth II's weekend residence near London, was a "very special place" for Harry and that he and Markle, 36, had spent time there together during their 16-month romance. Harry, 33, was also baptised in the chapel and it was the place where Charles and Camilla, who were both divorced at the time, received a religious blessing following their civil wedding ceremony in 2005. 'America's loss is our gain' Kensington Palace, Harry's official residence, said in a statement that the royal family would pay for the wedding and Elizabeth II "had granted permission for the wedding to take place in the chapel". The exact date of the wedding will be revealed later. The queen has expressed her approval and tributes continued to pour in on Tuesday from other royals. During a visit to a school in London, Prince William's wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, said she and her husband were "absolutely thrilled". "It's a really happy time for any couple," she said. Prince Charles's wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, said: "It's brilliant! America's loss is our gain. We're all absolutely delighted." Being American, a divorcee, an actress, a vocal feminist and of mixed-race heritage, Markle has an unusual background for a member of the British royal family and this has drawn extensive commentary. "When I looked at the royal family there was no one who looked like me, there was no one I could really relate to," Afua Hirsch, author of the book "Brit(ish)", said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "There is this pressure to always try and make your difference invisible or to say: 'We don't see race, it's fine, it will hopefully go away'. "She's the antithesis of that... It's a change in narrative as well as just the visual difference with visibly black heritage in the royal family." No gender work Markle's father is Presbyterian, her mother is Protestant and she attended a Catholic school. Royal officials said she would get baptised and confirmed in the Church of England. The palace said she would also be discontinuing her UN work on gender equality and other campaigning activities as an actress and would instead concentrate on her charity activities as a royal. In Nottingham on Friday, the two will visit an AIDS charity fair and a school, as well as go on a walkabout to meet members of the public ? a tradition for newly-engaged royal couples. Knauf said Harry was looking forward to going with Markle to Nottingham and introducing her to "a community that has become very special to him." Knauf also revealed that one of Markle's two dogs, Guy, would stay with her in Britain but the other, Bogart, would not be joining her. "Bogart is now living with friends," he said.
  11. The Obamas are known to enjoy a warm relationship with Prince Harry/File photo WASHINGTON: Barack and Michelle Obama said Monday they were "delighted" to learn of the engagement of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, whose Invictus Games the former presidential couple has actively championed. Britain´s royal family announced earlier Monday that the one-time playboy royal would marry his American actress girlfriend early next year, confirming months of speculation. "Michelle and I are delighted to congratulate Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on their engagement. We wish you a lifetime of joy and happiness together," Obama tweeted -- stealing a march on Donald Trump´s White House which had yet to officially react to the engagement. Both Barack and Michelle Obama are known to enjoy a warm relationship with Harry, and personally attended several editions of the prince´s Invictus Games for wounded servicemembers -- most recently in Toronto in September where chummy pictures of Harry and Obama sparked talk of a "bromance" between the pair. By contrast, Harry´s bride-to-be Markle has been an outspoken critic of Obama´s successor Trump, and at one point vowed to leave the United States for Canada if he won election. The British royal wedding is to take place in Spring 2018 The British royal wedding is to take place in the spring, after which the newlyweds will live at Nottingham Cottage in London´s Kensington Palace, where William and Kate -- the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge -- also live with their children. In the couple´s first interview after their engagement was announced, they revealed they knew little about each other when they were set up on a "blind date" by a mutual friend in July last year.
  12. Harvey Weinstein/File photo An aspiring British actress sued Harvey Weinstein in New York federal court on Monday accusing the movie producer of *** trafficking by inviting her to a hotel room in France and sexually assaulting her. The civil lawsuit filed by Kadian Noble in U.S. District Court in New York accused Weinstein of violating a US federal *** trafficking law in February 2014 in Cannes, France. The lawsuit alleged that Weinstein ?was able to force or coerce Kadian into sexual activity in his hotel room because of his promise to her of a film role and use of his influence on her behalf.? Holly Baird, a spokeswoman for Weinstein, said on Monday in an emailed statement, ?Mr. Weinstein denies allegations of non-consensual ***.? ?Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances,? Baird said. Weinstein has denied having non-consensual *** with anyone. Reuters has been unable to independently confirm any of the allegations. In the same lawsuit, Noble also sued the Weinstein Company and Weinstein?s brother Bob, accusing them of being aware of Harvey Weinstein?s behavior. Officials with the Weinstein Company, headed by Bob Weinstein, could not immediately be reached for comment. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. The *** trafficking law has a 10-year statute of limitation. More than 50 women have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexually harassing or assaulting them over the past three decades. In the fallout from the accusations, Weinstein was fired from The Weinstein Co, the independent studio he co-founded in 2005 with his brother Bob, and expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Police in New York, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and London have said they are investigating allegations of sexual assault that have been made against Weinstein. Also on Monday, the Directors Guild of America said in a statement that Weinstein resigned from the organization.
  13. While Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 'Padmavati' starring Deepika Padukone is facing protests in India, the movie has been cleared by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). The movie has been given a 12A rating by the BBFC citing "moderate violence, injury detail," and has given the movie a go-ahead for screening without any cuts. In India, Rajput groups and politicians have accused Bhansali of distorting history, with a bounty also being placed on Padukone and Bhansali. Meanwhile, historians are unsure whether the queen depicted in the movie ever existed. She is first mentioned in a 16th-century poem 'Padmavat' according to the Press Trust of India (PTI). As yet it is still unclear when 'Padmavati' earlier scheduled to be released on December 1 will be released.
  14. Saudi princes and businessman arrested on orders of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are being strung up by their feet and beaten by American private security contractors, claims a news report published in DailyMail. The group of the country's most powerful figures were arrested in a crackdown as many as three weeks ago, as he ordered the detention of at least 11 fellow princes and hundreds of businessmen and government officials over claims of corruption. The news report said that detained individuals went through a rigorous 'interrogations', which were being carried out by American mercenaries, ?Blackwater?. 'They are beating them, torturing them, slapping them, insulting them. They want to break them down,' a source told DailyMail.com. Prince Mohammed has reportedly bypassed the normal security forces in keeping the princes and other billionaires at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh. [embed_video1 url=http://stream.jeem.tv/vod/4351aeeda370df1382ed5f571b68fa9a.mp4/playlist.m3u8?wmsAuthSign=c2VydmVyX3RpbWU9MTEvMjMvMjAxNyA2OjUxOjUzIEFNJmhhc2hfdmFsdWU9MUVURHN0OGcveVdYOUpTdU1RdFIwdz09JnZhbGlkbWludXRlcz02MCZpZD0x style=center] 'All the guards in charge are private security because MBS (Mohammed Bin Salman) doesn't want Saudi officers there who have been saluting those detainees all their lives,' said the source, who asked to remain anonymous. 'Outside the hotels where they are being detained you see the armored vehicles of the Saudi special forces. But inside, it's a private security company. 'They've transferred all the guys from Abu Dhabi. Now they are in charge of everything,' said the source. The source said that Salman, often referred to by his initials MBS, is conducting some of the interrogations himself. 'When it's something big he asks them questions,' the source said. 'He speaks to them very nicely in the interrogation, and then he leaves the room, and the mercenaries go in. The prisoners are slapped, insulted, hung up, tortured.' The source says the crown prince is desperate to assert his authority through fear and wants to uncover an alleged network of foreign officials who have taken bribes from Saudi princes. The source said that the name 'Blackwater' is being circulated as providing the mercenaries. The controversial private security company, however, no longer exists under that name and is now Academi. A spokesperson for Constellis, Academi's parent company, denied the claims. The spokesperson claims that it has no presence in Saudi Arabia and does not carry out interrogations. 'Constellis through Academi does not now or have we ever provided interrogative services,' they said. 'We do not provide security services in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), we have no contact or connection with any government official or private party regarding this allegation.' When asked if Academi workers were involved in any kind of violence during these interrogations, the spokesperson said: 'No. Academi has no presence in KSA. We do not have interrogators, nor do we provide any interrogators, advisors or other similar services.' They added: 'Academi does not participate in interrogative services for any government or private customer. Academi has a zero tolerance policy for violence. We operate legally, morally, ethically and in compliance with local and US laws.'
  15. Lawrence of Abdoun ? the first 'diplo-cat' to be appointed by the British Embassy in Jordan ? sits next to a laptop that shows its official Twitter account at the embassy headquarters in Amman, Jordan, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed1 AMMAN: At the British embassy to Jordan, a former rescue cat is settling into his new position as chief mouser ? as a tradition well-established in the ministries of London goes global. ?Lawrence of Abdoun? is a fluffy black-and-white tom, who, according to his Twitter feed, reports directly to the Foreign Office?s Palmerston ? a cat that delights his 57,000 followers with regular updates from the ministry in Whitehall via @DiploMog. Lawrence ? named after T.E. Lawrence, a British military officer who fought alongside Arabs against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War ? has already gained 2,500 followers since being adopted from an animal shelter last month. Abdoun is the neighbourhood of Amman where the embassy is located. ?Apart from his mousing duties, he reaches out to followers on Twitter. What?s quite interesting is the British public are seeing the UK embassy in Jordan in a different light,? said Deputy Ambassador Laura Dauban. ?Through Lawrence?s Twitter account, we?re trying to show a different side to Jordan, what it is really like, a peaceful, prosperous country that British tourists should come and visit.? Tweeting under the name @LawrenceDipCat, Lawrence has discovered the perils of social media and has even been fat-shamed by trolls. Lawrence of Abdoun. Geo.tv via social media/Lawrence of Abdoun's Twitter account (@LawrenceDipCat) ?He?s been a bit upset because some people have said he looked a bit fat in the last tweet he did, so he?ll be doing some exercises and posting to sort of rectify that situation,? Dauban said.
  16. LONDON: British shell companies have been linked to 52 money laundering scandals involving 80 billion pounds ($105 billion) in the past 14 years, according to researchers at campaign group Transparency International. Tax evasion and financial crime has shot to the top of the international agenda in recent days following reports based on leaked documents from Appleby, a prominent offshore law firm founded in Bermuda. But the report from Transparency International?s UK arm said it?s not just Caribbean islands that are used to hide illicit money flows and that Britain was a key link in many of the largest corruption scandals of recent years. Fraudsters in eastern Europe and elsewhere often channel money through UK-registered entities because they appear to many people as more legitimate than tax haven-registered companies, the non-governmental body said. The UK Treasury declined immediate comment on the report. Britain says it is doing more than most countries to tackle illicit money flows. It is the only country to have introduced a functioning, publicly-available register of true beneficial owners of companies. However, the system is poorly policed. Companies House, the body which overseas British corporate records, does not have the resources to verify the information submitted to it. Also, successive British governments have sought to make it easy to register companies, for example allowing people to do so online and without verifying their identification, in the hope this spurs entrepreneurship. This has led to a small industry of formation agents establishing blocks of companies and partnerships which they then make available to overseas parties. Transparency International found that around half of the 766 companies alleged to have been involved in money laundering schemes were based at just eight UK addresses. ?Financially these scandals could amount to 80 billion pounds or more in illicit wealth, with some of them threatening the financial stability of whole economies. The human damage inflicted on the victims of these crimes is still being counted,? the report said.
  17. Britain's Employment Minister Priti Patel leaves after a cabinet meeting in Downing Street in central London, Britain, June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Files LONDON: British aid minister Priti Patel was forced from office on Wednesday over undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials after Prime Minister Theresa May sought to reassert her diminished authority as she negotiates Brexit. Patel ? a Brexit campaigner who is popular in the ruling Conservative Party ? had to abandon a trip to Africa earlier on Wednesday after being summoned by May to answer questions on more unsanctioned meetings that breached diplomatic protocol. After a hastily arranged meeting not long after Patel landed in London, May?s office released her minister?s letter of resignation, in which Patel said her conduct in Israel had fallen ?below the high standards? required of her post. ?While my actions were meant with the best of intentions, my actions also fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated,? Patel wrote in the letter to May. ?I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the government for what has happened and offer my resignation.? May responded in a letter, saying, ?Now that further details have come to light, it is right that you have decided to resign and adhere to the high standards of transparency and openness that you have advocated.? It was not clear who would replace Patel, who held the meetings during a holiday in Israel earlier this year. Under British protocol, a cabinet minister would normally organize meetings through the foreign office and be accompanied by officials, and visits with Israelis would typically be balanced with meetings with Palestinians. It is the second resignation in May?s top team in a week, underlining her weakness at a time when she faces the complicated task of unravelling more than 40 years of ties with the European Union and holding a deeply divided party together. Patel?s meetings with Israeli officials, which May?s office said they were not aware of, and a reported visit to an Israeli army field hospital in the Golan Heights, have increased the pressure on the prime minister, who depends on a Northern Irish party in parliament to pass legislation. Friend or foe But while acting quickly to force Patel to resign, the loss of an enthusiastic Brexit campaigner from her cabinet team of top ministers could mean that May faces greater pressure from lawmakers to pursue a clean break from the EU. ?Priti is more popular than Theresa, and has more contacts and influence overseas,? a senior Conservative source said. ?If I was May, I wouldn?t want Priti unleashed on the back benches,? the source said, using a term to describe lawmakers. Patel was sacked a week after May?s ally Michael Fallon ? her defence secretary ? resigned in a sexual harassment scandal that was also caught up two other ministers, including her deputy, Damian Green. In a week of crises, Boris Johnson ? her foreign minister ? on Tuesday was pressed to apologize over remarks he made about a jailed aid worker in Iran, which critics said could prompt the Islamic Republic to hand her a longer jail term. With Brexit talks all but hamstrung over how much Britain should pay to leave the European Union, opposition lawmakers and other critics are now openly questioning whether May can continue as prime minister. ?There are times when a government has the stench of death about it,? Pat McFadden ? a lawmaker from the main opposition Labour Party ? told parliament on Tuesday.
  18. A British court sentenced a Pakistani woman to four and a half years of prison on accounts of money laundering and vandalizing. Photo: File LONDON: A Pakistani woman on Tuesday was sentenced to four and a half years of prison on accounts of money laundering and vandalizing. Kingston Crown Court also sentenced Razwana Zeib's husband Rafaqat Hussain and three others for similar charges. The 35-year-old mother of four children has been jailed for conspiring to GBP7 million cash-in-transit from Heathrow Airport. The sum involved was one of the largest in recent years, the judge observed. "This was a sophisticated operation which involved meticulous planning and execution," Judge Stephen John said. She was jailed after travelling to Pakistan and setting up a bank account with the intention of laundering at least GBP0.9 million of the total amount that her spouse had helped steal. Hussain was jailed in October for conspiring to steal after he helped two security guards use his van to take 26 bags of cash belonging to Credit Suisse, from inside a British Airways cargo depot at the airport. Judge John told Zeib that while she may not have known about the fake heist, she was aware that the money she was dealing with was the product of a crime. "You accept that you were not coerced. You were a willing participant, you were in it for financial gain and you were not a naïve and unassuming wife," the judge added. On March 14, two Loomis employees, Mohammad Siddique and Ranjeev Singh, staged the fake heist under the guidance of Hussain. The two guards made it appear that they were victims; Siddique stopped the van to allow Singh a toilet break, who waited sometime before reporting the van missing. Siddique drove away at speed, before later being found bound by cables on a service road near the M40 in Buckinghamshire, with the vehicle abandoned and the cash missing. Hussain, 41, then conspired to launder the money with Zeib, 35, both of Chadwick Road, Slough. Secret recordings made by a device planted by the police in Hussain's car caught Zeib discussing with her husband the amount of stolen cash to be paid to a co-conspirator, the court heard. Prosecutor Sandip Patel QC said that the police probe shows that Zeib had a "prominent role" in these discussions. She was jailed for three-and-a-half years for conspiracy to money laundering and another year for conspiracy to commit burglary, having previously admitted to both counts. The second charge was related to planning to ransack a house, that Zeib and her husband wanted to buy with their share of the loot, in an attempt to bring down the property?s price. An 88-year-old woman was selling the house to fund a place in a care home, but after it was flooded and vandalized, with windows broken, her failure to tell insurers that she was not living there at the time of the burglary meant they failed to pay out. In sentencing Zeib, Judge John called the burglary a "breathtaking example of further greed". Hussain was jailed in October for 10 years and three months on accounts of conspiracy to steal, money laundering, and burglary. Siddique, 32, and Singh, 40, were both sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison for conspiracy to steal.
  19. COVER IMAGE: Top (L-R): Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood, California, US, February 26, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files; Actor Dustin Hoffman in London, Britain, October 6, 2017. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/Files | Bottom (L-R): Actor Kevin Spacey in Beverly Hills, California, US, January 12, 2014. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok/Files; Former British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon in London, Britain, February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/Files LONDON: British political party leaders agreed on Monday to introduce new safeguards for parliamentary staff, as Prime Minister Theresa May called for a "culture of respect" in Westminster amid a slew of sleaze and sexual harassment allegations. The leaders of Britain's main political parties met in parliament to give the go-ahead for a new grievance procedure and a face-to-face human resources service, upgrading an existing complaints hotline. The new service will be in place by the end of the month, while the grievance procedure will be introduced next year, May told reporters after the meeting with opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and others. "I'm sorry that we have seen these abuses of power ? too many taking place over too many years," she said. "And the fact that they have taken place here at our seat of democracy should be a matter of shame for us all." About a dozen MPs from both May's Conservative Party and the Labour Party have been accused of harassment in recent days and the government has admitted serious failures in reporting procedures. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon resigned last week and First Secretary of State Damian Green, May's deputy, is under investigation by the government over the claims, some of which date back several years. Speaking to the Confederation of British Industry ahead of the meeting, May had called for the new measures. "We need to establish a new culture of respect at the centre of our public life," she said. She added the new culture should be "one in which everyone can feel confident that they are working in a safe and secure environment, where complaints can be brought forward without prejudice and victims know that those complaints will be investigated properly". But May also said "people's careers cannot be damaged by unfounded rumours circulated anonymously online" after many claims made via social media. "Of course, people can be friends with their colleagues and consensual relationships can develop at work ? this isn't about prying into private lives," she said. 'Watershed moment' On Friday, May announced a new code of conduct for the Conservative Party ? under which several MPs were referred for investigation this weekend. Two Labour lawmakers have also been suspended, another is facing an investigation by the party and a fourth has apologised for making women feel "uncomfortable". One change that has been mooted is to make MPs' staff direct employees of parliament rather than of the politicians themselves ? an anomaly that has made some harassment victims reluctant to come forward. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said on Sunday the scandals were a "watershed moment" that was "clearing out" inappropriate behaviour but the interior minister denied May's minority government was at risk. Fallon announced his resignation on Wednesday after apologising for touching a journalist's knee in 2002. Another journalist alleged this weekend that Fallon had "lunged" at her after a lunch in 2003. She said she reported the incident to Downing Street this week, and he resigned hours later. Green meanwhile is being investigated for his own alleged inappropriate behaviour towards a journalist, which he strongly denies. Rudd confirmed that the probe had been widened to include a newspaper report on Sunday that "extreme" pornographic material had been found on his parliamentary computer in 2008. Green has strongly denied the story in The Sunday Times and accused the police source behind it of trying to cause him political damage. Also on Sunday, Conservative lawmaker Chris Pincher resigned from his role as a whip ? enforcing party discipline ? and referred himself to the party's complaints procedure and the police following allegations over his behaviour. The move followed a report in The Mail on Sunday newspaper that Pincher was accused of making an unwanted pass at former Olympic rower and Conservative activist Alex Story.
  20. Twitter provided evidence to US Congress this week about Russian-backed content aimed at meddling in last year's presidential election - AFP LONDON: A House of Commons committee investigating "fake news" and its influence on British politics asked Twitter on Friday for details of Russian-linked accounts, days after making a similar request of Facebook. Damian Collins, the chairman of the digital, culture, media and sport committee, noted evidence the Internet giant had provided to the US Congress about Russian-backed content aimed at meddling in last year's presidential election. "During the hearings, it became clear that your organisation has discovered 2,752 accounts related to the St Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency," he wrote to Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey. "It has subsequently emerged that some of these accounts were also posting content that relates to the politics of the United Kingdom. "Any interference by foreign actors in the democratic process of the United Kingdom is clearly a serious matter." He asked for "a list of accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency and any other Russian-linked accounts that it (Twitter) has removed and examples of any posts from these accounts that are linked to the United Kingdom". Collins asked for the information by the end of November. The MP wrote to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg last month requesting details "relating to any adverts and pages paid for, or set up by, Russia-linked accounts" relating to last year's Brexit vote or the June 2017 general election. Collins told AFP at the time that he plans to hold hearings at the British embassy in Washington early next year, with the aim of having social media bosses appear before the committee.
  21. Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth/Files LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May released a new code of conduct for Conservative Party representatives on Friday as a sexual harassment scandal dogged the British parliament. Following Michael Fallon's resignation as defence secretary, May outlined new procedures for dealing with allegations, as further claims swirled around Westminster. Her governing Conservatives will adopt a new complaints procedure with a hotline for reporting potential breaches, and officials want the measures replicated in other parties. May's announcement follows the flood of sexual assault and harassment claims against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Those revelations prompted allegations of inappropriate behaviour in Westminster ? with several allegations of misuse of power surfacing. May is due to meet leaders of other parties on Monday to thrash out a cross-party approach, saying it was not right that "vulnerable or concerned people" could be left to "navigate different grievance procedures." "There needs to be a common, transparent, independent grievance procedure for all those working in parliament who wish to raise concerns which provides clarity and certainty about how their concerns will be dealt with," May said. The new Conservative code applies to the party's elected representatives, from MPs to local councillors and city mayors, and party officers at all levels. Fallon quit as defence secretary on Wednesday, saying his behaviour had fallen short of the standards required. He admitted touching radio presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer's knee 15 years ago ? an incident she said was nothing other than "mildly amusing". According to The Sun newspaper on Friday, Fallon's resignation was actually prompted by complaints against him by Cabinet colleague Andrea Leadsom. But a source close to Fallon told the tabloid he categorically denies telling her at some point between 2010 and 2012 that he knew where she could put her cold hands to warm them up. May's Downing Street office then issued a statement saying Leadsom "did not, and has not, asked the prime minister to consider the position of Sir Michael Fallon when he was defence secretary". May replaced Fallon on Thursday with another loyalist, chief whip Gavin Williamson, who had been in charge of enforcing party discipline. The appointment triggered some dismay in Conservative ranks, with reports saying MPs were angry he had seemingly orchestrated Fallon's departure ? then became a beneficiary. The main opposition Labour Party has also suspended MP Kelvin Hopkins, 76, pending an investigation into claims he sent suggestive texts and acted inappropriately. Hopkins said he "absolutely and categorically" denied the allegations of inappropriate conduct.
  22. ISLAMABAD: Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua on Friday conveyed to British High Commissioner Thomas Drew Pakistan?s serious concerns at the display of slogans on London cabs which directly attack the country's territorial integrity and sovereignty. According to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release, Janjua called on the Drew and informed him that Pakistan, in line with the UN Charter, rejects actions and advertisements with malicious content that impinge on the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The issue was also being raised with the Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office by Pakistan's high commissioner in London, added the statement. ?Pakistan is aware of the intentions of such sinister and malicious campaigns, which should not be allowed on the soil of a friendly country,? the press release said further.
  23. EDENBRIDGE: An effigy of disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein will be torched this weekend as part of a British town´s Bonfire Night celebrations, organisers revealed on Wednesday. The 11-metre (36-foot) effigy of a semi-naked Weinstein, showing him clutching an Oscar statuette in one hand and a bra in the other, will go up in flames on Saturday in Edenbridge, south of London. Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire Night, is an annual event marking the foiling of a plot by Catholic conspirators to blow up Protestant king James I and the Houses of Parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder on November 5, 1605. It is celebrated with bonfires and fireworks displays either on November 5 or the nearest weekend, with effigies of the plotter Fawkes burned. More than 50 women including stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Mira Sorvino have accused 65-year-old Weinstein of sexual abuse and harassment, although he denies forcing himself on anyone. Police in New York, Los Angeles and London have all confirmed criminal investigations into Weinstein´s activities. Edenbridge has been poking fun at topical famous figures for 20 years, torching effigies of them alongside the traditional Guy Fawkes. Last year´s effigy was of then US presidential candidate Donald Trump and previous targets have included former FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
  24. A UK man who was preparing a bomb in Britain was helped by a pharmacist he met through an online dating site. Photo: AFP file. LONDON: A UK man who was preparing a bomb in Britain was helped by a pharmacist he met through an online dating site, a prosecutor said at their trial on Monday. Munir Mohammed met Rowaida El-Hassan on a dating site, where her profile said she was seeking a "very simple, honest and straightforward man who fears God before anything else." The pair, both of Sudanese origin, allegedly "rapidly formed emotional attachment and a shared ideology," according to prosecutor Anne Whyte. "This is a case which reflects the age in which we live. It demonstrates the relative ease with which acts of terrorism can be prepared, thanks to the internet. "The prosecution allege that Munir Mohammed had resolved upon a lone wolf attack and that Rowaida El-Hassan was aware of his engagement with such a plan," Whyte said. At the time of his arrest, Mohammed allegedly had two of the three ingredients needed for a bomb as well as instruction manuals on how to prepare explosives, mobile phone detonators and ricin. Mohammed, 36, and El-Hassan, 33, are accused of preparing terrorist acts between November 2015 and December 2016. Both deny the charge. "El-Hassan had a professional knowledge of chemicals because of her professional training and qualifications," Whyte said. "She assisted Mohammed by providing him with information about chemical components required for bomb-making and how to source them and she assisted his online research about the manufacture of ricin using castor beans.
  25. British Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday called for tougher rules governing MPs? conduct after a government minister was accused of asking his secretary to buy *** toys. Photo: AFP file LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday called for tougher rules governing MPs? conduct after a government minister was accused of asking his secretary to buy *** toys. Expressing her concern in a letter to the House of Commons speaker ? a lawmaker who acts as its impartial chief officer ? May said current disciplinary procedures lack "the required teeth". "I do not believe that this situation can be tolerated any longer. It is simply not fair on staff, many of whom are young and in their first job post-education," she wrote. The premier?s letter was prompted by allegations against Mark Garnier by his former secretary in The Mail on Sunday. Caroline Edmondson told the newspaper that the Conservative party lawmaker gave her money to buy two vibrators from a London *** store in 2010. The paper also reported that Edmondson, who now works for another lawmaker, said Garnier also described her in lewd terms on one occasion, in front of witnesses. The Cabinet Office ? responsible for ensuring effective government ? will investigate if Garnier?s behaviour violated ministerial codes of conduct, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Sunday. "These stories, if they are true, are obviously totally unacceptable," Hunt told a BBC political programme. The prime minister went further, saying the current suggested disciplinary procedure for MPs needed to be overhauled to make it contractually binding for lawmakers. "I would be grateful if you would be able to use your office to assist me in doing all we can to ensure that the reputation of Parliament is not damaged further by allegations of impropriety," May said in her letter. Garnier, a minister for international trade, could not be reached by AFP for comment on Sunday but has admitted the accusations, according to the paper, calling the *** toys purchase "high jinks". A Cabinet Office spokeswoman confirmed the investigation into Garnier ? a married father of three ? but declined to comment further. Garnier is the most senior of several British politicians named in media reports at the weekend accused of inappropriate behaviour or sexual harassment. They are in the spotlight following the avalanche of harassment and rape allegations against disgraced Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Former Conservative party cabinet minister Stephen Crabb, a devout Christian, apologised on Saturday after a newspaper investigation found he had sent sexually explicit messages to a young female job applicant. On Friday Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, called for an end to the "warped and degrading culture" at Westminster. "The problem doesn?t stop with those who make unwanted advances on women, it extends to a culture that has tolerated abuse for far too long," he said.