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  1. US President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam on November 11, 2017. ? Reuters FILE WASHINGTON: Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump discussed the crisis over North Korea?s nuclear program in a phone call Thursday, in which the US president took the unusual step of thanking his Russian counterpart for praising America?s economy. The two heads of state discussed "the situation in several crisis zones, with a focus on solving the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula," the Kremlin said in a statement, without elaborating. The White House said the two "discussed working together to resolve the very dangerous situation in North Korea." But Trump?s thanks to Putin took top billing in the US statement. "President Trump thanked President Putin for acknowledging America?s strong economic performance in his annual press conference," it said. Earlier in the day, Putin told his press conference: "Look at how the markets are reacting, they are growing. This shows confidence in the American economy. With all due respect to [Trump?s] opponents, these are objective facts." The pair have lavished praise on each other in the past, with commentators describing their cozy relationship as a "bromance." Special counsel Robert Mueller is currently investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow to tilt the White House race in his favour. Washington this week said it was ready to talk to North Korea -- which has launched several intercontinental ballistic missiles in recent months -- "without preconditions." US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that while the Trump administration was still determined to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear arsenal, it was willing to "have the first meeting without preconditions." Putin, in his annual press conference with hundreds of journalists in Moscow, welcomed the United States? "awareness of reality" in the crisis. However, he called on all sides to "stop aggravating the situation" and said Moscow did not recognise North Korea?s status as a nuclear power.
  2. Hamas leader Ismail Haniya and Hamas´s leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar wave during a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the founding of the movement. -AFP GAZA CITY: The head of Palestinian movement Hamas called Thursday for fresh protests across the world against US President Donald Trump's controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. "We demand the Islamic world make every Friday a day of anger and revolution in every capital and city until we bring down Trump's decision," Ismail Haniya said. "We ask churches, the Pope and our Christian brothers to devote their Sunday prayers to Jerusalem," he added. Speaking in front of tens of thousands of supporters in Hamas-run Gaza at an event to commemorate the movement's 30th anniversary, Haniya railed against Trump's December 6 announcement that he would move his country's embassy to Jerusalem and recognise the city as Israel's capital. "We will bring down Trump´s decision once and for all," he added. The event was attended by major Hamas figures as well as politicians from other political parties, including longtime rivals Fatah. The two signed an October reconciliation agreement that was supposed to see Hamas hand over control in Gaza by December 1, but the deal has faltered. Hamas seized control of Gaza from Fatah in 2007 and has fought three wars with Israel since. It is considered a terrorist organisation by Israel, the United States and others. Since Trump's controversial announcement last week, at least 12 rockets or mortars have been fired from Gaza towards Israel. In response the Jewish state´s army has hit at least 10 targets in Gaza, mostly Hamas bases. Protests in other parts of the Palestinian territories, as well as across the Arab world, have broken out since Trump´s announcement.
  3. MOSCOW: Opponents of Donald Trump made up allegations of Russian interference in last year's US elections to discredit him, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at his annual press conference Thursday. "All this was made up by people who are opposed to Trump so as to delegitimise his work," the president said in response to a question about allegations of Russian influence. Putin said representatives of the Russian government had met with Trump´s team but said this was normal diplomatic practice. "Our ambassador was accused of meeting with someone, but this is normal practice worldwide," the president said. "What is so transgressive in this case and why should it take on this spy-thriller tone?" Putin said he hoped relations between the two countries would improve but suggested it would not be possible in the current US political climate. Asked to assess Trump's work so far as president, Putin said it was up to US voters rather than him to judge. "We can see several quite significant achievements in the short time he has been at work," Putin said, citing the markets and consumer confidence in particular.
  4. Sensing the gathering storm, Trump tried to absolve himself of blame and urged Republicans to run "GREAT Republican candidates" in future WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump is scrambling to come to grips with a more perilous political reality, after a stunning Democratic election victory in America´s deeply conservative south threw the depth and breadth of his support into serious doubt. Doug Jones´ win in an Alabama Senate race Tuesday -- the first such Democratic victory in a quarter-century -- cut the Republican majority in the Senate to 51-49, squeezing Trump´s ability to get legislation through Congress. The finger of blame turned squarely to Republican candidate Roy Moore, who ran on an openly bigoted message, was plagued by allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls and ignored party calls to drop out. Sensing the gathering storm, Trump tried to absolve himself of blame and urged Republicans to run "GREAT Republican candidates" in future. "Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!" Trump tweeted, reminding Americans that Moore was not his first choice in the race. He had unsuccessfully endorsed another candidate in the party primary. But as the broader political autopsy commenced, Trump´s role in the race and the implications for his presidency came under the microscope. Trump ignored the advice of party leaders to throw his weight behind 70-year-old Moore, seeing the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice as something of a kindred political spirit. Like Trump, Moore had sought to win through a coalition of evangelical and white voters, betting that bedrock of support would be enough -- and would shield him from any political scandal. Moore -- aided by Trump´s former chief strategist Steve Bannon -- also borrowed liberally from Trump´s playbook, reveling in racially charged statements such as casting doubt on the desirability of abolishing slavery, as well as constant attacks on the press and other "elites." In the run-up to the vote, Trump appealed to evangelicals by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel´s capital and worked to pass tax reform, a central issue for Republicans. Lessons for 2018? But some in Trump´s inner circle now wonder whether Alabama shows the limits of his approach: If it does not work in deep red Alabama, where can it work? The question is one that the White House will have to solve urgently. Next year sees mid-term legislative elections that offer Democrats a chance to regain control of both chambers of Congress. For months, Republican donors have voiced concerns that the party may lose control of the House of Representatives. After the upset in Alabama, even the Senate may be in play. "It opens the door to an unlikely Democratic Senate takeover next year," wrote Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley of the University of Virginia´s politics department. Roy Moore/File photo Keeping control of both houses is key to Trump passing his agenda -- and avoiding moves toward his own impeachment. With an approval rating of 35 percent, Trump has faced one controversy after another during his 11 months in office. Normally cautious paper USA Today all but called for Trump´s resignation after he suggested a female senator would do "anything" for campaign contributions. "A president who´d all but call a senator a whore is unfit to clean toilets in Obama´s presidential library or to shine George W. Bush´s shoes" the paper wrote in a searing editorial. ´We can be unified´ With 100 percent of Alabama precincts reporting, Jones won 49.9 percent of the vote compared to Moore´s 48.4 percent, a margin of nearly 21,000 votes out of 1.3 million cast, according to figures posted by US media. Jones, 63, is a former federal prosecutor who shot to local prominence when he convicted members of the Ku Klux Klan who bombed a black church in the 1960s, killing four girls. "We have shown the country the way that we can be unified," Jones told ecstatic supporters at his election night party in Birmingham. Democrat Jones wins US Senate seat in Alabama in blow to Trump The stunning upset makes Jones the first Democrat elected to the US Senate from Alabama in a quarter-century and will trim the Republicans? already narrow Senate majority to 51-49 Alabama, which Trump won last year by 28 points, has been at a "crossroads" before, and sometimes did not take the correct path forward, Jones said. "You took the right road," he said. Moore however refused to concede, declaring: "When the vote is this close, it is not over." He signaled he wanted a recount, but Alabama law only provides for an automatic recount if the margin is within half a percentage point. The current margin stands at 1.5 percent. Alabama officials will certify the vote between December 26 and January 3. If no recount is ordered, Jones is expected to be seated in the US Senate in early January. "In this race, we have not received the final count to include military and provisional ballots. This has been a very close race and we are awaiting certification by the Secretary of State," Moore said late Wednesday. "Abortion, sodomy, and materialism have taken the place of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
  5. Democrat Doug Jones won a bitter fight for a US Senate seat in deeply conservative Alabama on Tuesday, dealing a political blow to President Donald Trump in a race marked by sexual misconduct accusations against Republican candidate Roy Moore. The stunning upset makes Jones the first Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama in a quarter-century and will trim the Republicans? already narrow Senate majority to 51-49, endangering Trump?s agenda and opening the door for Democrats to possibly retake the chamber in next year?s congressional elections. With 99 percent of the vote counted, Jones had a lead of 1.5 percentage points over Moore. But the Republican refused to concede, telling supporters in Montgomery that votes were still coming in and state law would trigger a recount if the margin was within half a percent. In a CNN interview, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said it was ?highly unlikely? that anything would change the election outcome. ?The people of Alabama have spoken,? he said. The ugly campaign drew national attention and split the Republican Party following accusations by several women that Moore sexually assaulted or pursued them when they were teens and he was in his 30s. Moore, 70, a Christian conservative twice removed from the state Supreme Court in Alabama for ignoring federal law, denied the allegations and said he did not know any of the women who made them. Reuters has not independently verified them. Trump endorsed Moore even as other party leaders in Washington walked away from him, but Jones, 63, a former federal prosecutor, portrayed the campaign as a referendum on decency and promised the state?s voters he would not embarrass them in Washington. ?I have always believed that the people of Alabama have more in common than divides us,? Jones told cheering supporters at his Birmingham victory party, where Lynyrd Skynyrd?s ?Sweet Home Alabama? had blasted from loudspeakers earlier. ?We have shown the country the way we can be unified,? said Jones, who as a US attorney prosecuted members of the Ku Klux Klan for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four little girls. Jones, who cast himself on the campaign trail as the candidate who could reach across the aisle and get things done in Washington, said Alabama had often taken the wrong road when it came to a crossroads. ?Tonight you took the right road,? Jones said. Jones is expected to take office early in January, after the results are certified. His election will not effect the pending votes in Congress on a tax overhaul or government funding. TRUMP CONGRATULATES JONES Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had called on Moore to drop out of the race and other Senate leaders had suggested he should be expelled if elected. ?Decency wins,? tweeted retiring Republican Senator Jeff Flake, a frequent critic of Trump. The sexual misconduct allegations against Moore came at a time when many powerful men, including Trump, have faced similar accusations. Democrats had promised to try to link many Republican candidates in next year?s elections to Moore, and use the issue to appeal to women and suburban voters. The network exit polls found 54 percent of voters said the sexual allegations against Moore were not important to their vote, while 41 percent said they were. ?Part of the problem with this campaign is we?ve been painted in an unfavorable light,? Moore told supporters in Montgomery who sang Christian hymns while waiting for his speech. Trump tweeted his congratulations to Jones, saying, ?A win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never ends!? Network exit polls, however, showed Trump was not a factor in the decision for about half of Alabama voters. A further 29 percent said they voted to express support for Trump, and 20 percent said they voted to oppose him. David Lockwood, 37, a designer from Nashville, Tennesee, who watched the race on the news drove down to Birmingham Monday to see the finish. ?I just had to see it,? he said. ?I believe this race has national implications and that it?s totally about Trump, 100 percent. I feel this is a victory for the national Democrats.? John Laine, 65, a retired book editor from Birmingham who backed Jones, said he thought many Republicans crossed over and voted for a Democrat ?maybe for the first time in the lives. My cousin said she had to hold her nose and vote Democrat.? He added, ?The reason is that people just couldn?t stomach any more of Roy Moore.? Former Democratic President Barack Obama recorded robo-calls for Jones to help turn out African-American voters, who, network exit polls said, constituted about 30 percent of the electorate on Tuesday. Jones also supported abortion rights and opposed the repeal of Obama?s signature healthcare law, unpopular positions in the conservative state. Moore and Trump labeled Jones a liberal follower of Democratic House of Representatives leader Nancy Pelosi.
  6. WASHINGTON: President Donald on Tuesday signed a massive defense policy bill that he said would help America bolster its military might and modernise the services. The National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) calls for nearly $700 billion of military spending for the coming fiscal year, but Congress has yet to fully fund it. "With the signing of this defense bill, we accelerate the process of fully restoring America?s military might," Trump said at a White House signing ceremony, where he was flanked by Pentagon top brass including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. "This legislation will enhance our readiness ... and modernise our forces, and help provide our service members with the tools that they need to fight and to win." While the NDAA passed Congress with bipartisan support, lawmakers have not agreed on how to fund the mammoth spending package, which amounts to more than that of the world?s next seven militaries combined. Trump called on Democrats in Congress to get in line with Republicans and back a "clean funding bill." "We must work across party lines to give our heroic troops the equipment, resources, and support that they have earned a thousand times over," Trump said. The president also took aim at Obama-era budget caps known as sequestration, which Republicans in Congress love to hate. "Congress must finish the job by eliminating the defense sequester and passing a clean appropriations bill," Trump said. "I think it?s going to happen. We need our military. It?s got to be perfecto." Trump campaigned on the pledge of increasing military spending and has said America needs more ships, submarines, troops and missiles. He said the NDAA would give troops their biggest pay increase in eight years.
  7. US President Donald Trump on Tuesday lashed out at the women who have accused him of sexual harassment, denouncing their "false accusations and fabricated stories," after several of them called for Congress to investigate him. Photo: AFP file WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Tuesday lashed out at the women who have accused him of sexual harassment, denouncing their "false accusations and fabricated stories," after several of them called for Congress to investigate him. Three women who claim they were sexually harassed by Trump before he ran for president urged lawmakers Monday to open an inquiry into his behaviour and allegations of misconduct. Rachel Crooks, who worked as a receptionist in Trump Tower in New York, says the Republican president forcibly kissed her on the mouth after she introduced herself to him in 2005. Jessica Leeds, who says she was groped and forcibly kissed by Trump on a commercial flight decades ago, said the president has not been held accountable for "what he is and who he is." On Twitter, Trump struck back ? and seemingly accused Democrats of egging on the women who addressed reporters about the alleged harassment. "Despite thousands of hours wasted and many millions of dollars spent, the Democrats have been unable to show any collusion with Russia - so now they are moving on to the false accusations and fabricated stories of women who I don?t know and/or have never met. FAKE NEWS!" he tweeted. A group of 54 Democratic women in Congress called for a probe on Monday, and Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called on Trump to resign. The president bashed her as a "lightweight" and said she "would come to my office ?begging? for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them)" ? a tweet that earned quick scorn from the senator. "You cannot silence me or the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out about the unfitness and shame you have brought to the Oval Office," Gillibrand fired back. Sixteen women have come forward with claims of misconduct by Trump, who boasted in a videotape that surfaced during the campaign that he could kiss and grope women with impunity, because of his celebrity. Three US lawmakers announced their resignations from Congress last week over sexual harassment allegations, including Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota.
  8. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi/ file photo ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday left for Turkey to attend the special Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit on Al-Quds Al-Sharif (Jerusalem). Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif is also accompanying the prime minister on the trip, said in a press release by the PM Office. Earlier in December, US President Donald Trump recognised the disputed city as Israel's capital ? a historic decision that overturns decades of American policy and risks triggering a fresh wave of violence in the Middle East. Pakistan strongly condemned US President Donald Trump's move to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, voicing its concern "over the implications of this decision for international peace and security, especially in the Middle East", according to a Foreign Office statement. A statement from the Prime Minister Office had stated that it is "deeply regrettable that pleas from states across the globe not to alter the legal and historical status of Al-Quds Al-Sharif have been ignored, more out of choice than necessity." The Government of Pakistan had also welcomed the announcement by Turkey to convene an extraordinary Islamic Summit to discuss this serious issue.
  9. President Donald Trump?s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel?s capital might hinder the US drive for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Sunday. Photo: AFP file WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump?s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel?s capital might hinder the US drive for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Sunday. His comments were in stark contrast to those of the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who said it would "move the ball forward." The new US stance, criticized by Palestinians, Arab leaders and others as gravely damaging any prospects for peace, has given rise to swelling protests across the region in recent days. Speaking on CNN, Guterres said he was pleased that Trump?s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner had been meeting with Israelis and Palestinians on a new peace plan after years of stalemate in the process. "I am not saying that it will happen, but there was a hope that it would be possible to finally bring this horrible conflict between Israel and the Palestinians to an end," Guterres said. "I think that the decision that was taken on Wednesday risks to compromise this effort," he added. But Haley suggested that fears of unrest over the Trump decision are overblown. She told CNN that Trump was the first US president to have the "courage" to make a move that she said many Americans and others around the world supported. ?To move the ball forward? "When it comes to those people (who are) upset, we knew that was going to happen. But courage causes that... I strongly believe this is going to move the ball forward for the peace process." When a CNN interviewer asked repeatedly how the change would help the cause of peace, Haley suggested that it would simplify negotiations. "Now they get to come together to decide what the borders look like, they get to decide the boundaries and they get to talk about how they want to see Jerusalem, going forward. "All we did was say, ?this is not something we?re going to allow to happen in the middle of your negotiations.?" Critics of the US shift say it will have the opposite effect: It has long been US policy that the critically sensitive status of Jerusalem ? claimed as capital by both Israelis and Palestinians ? must be saved for the end of peace negotiations, not taken off the table at the start. Protests, sometimes violent, have flared across the region since Trump announced the new policy on Wednesday. Two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were killed in clashes on Friday, and two others died in Israeli air strikes in retaliation for rockets fired from the Palestinian enclave. On Sunday, a Palestinian stabbed and seriously wounded an Israeli security guard in Jerusalem. And in Beirut, Lebanese security forces fired tear gas and water cannon on Sunday at several hundred pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered near the US embassy.
  10. United States ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley addresses the UN Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, US, December 8, 2017. Photo: Reuters WASHINGTON: UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Sunday she believes any woman who has felt violated or mistreated by a man has every right to speak up, even if it is President Donald Trump they are accusing. Accusations of inappropriate sexual behaviour or misconduct have led to the resignations of three members of Congress this month. The growing wave of women reporting abuse or misconduct has brought down powerful men from Hollywood to Washington, from movie producer Harvey Weinstein to popular television personality Matt Lauer. More than 10 women have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct before he was president, and Trump, while filming a segment of the television program ?Access Hollywood,? said he has kissed and groped women. The tape emerged during the 2016 presidential campaign. Haley, discussing a cultural shift of women coming forward on the CBS ?Face the Nation? program, applauded women who have come forward: ?I?m proud of their strength. I?m proud of their courage.? Asked how people should assess the accusers of the president, Haley said, it was ?the same thing.? ?Women who accuse anyone should be heard. They should be heard and they should be dealt with, and I think we heard them prior to the election,? she said. ?I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way - they have every right to speak up.? Whether Trump?s election settled the matter was ?for the people to decide,? Haley said. ?I know that he was elected but women should always feel comfortable coming forward and we should all be willing to listen to them.?
  11. US President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, US, July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/Files WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump rewound the videotape Friday to show how three predecessors ? Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama ? made promises on Jerusalem that they later backtracked on. "I fulfilled my campaign promise - others didn?t!" he boasted on Twitter, posting a video montage of his predecessors to prove his point. During their respective campaigns, both Clinton and Bush said they favoured moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, then changed their mind once in office. Barack Obama never specifically addressed the question of moving the embassy but called Jerusalem "the capital of Israel". "As soon as I take office, I will begin the process of moving the US embassy to the city Israel has chosen as its capital," Bush said in a speech in 2000, excerpted on the montage. It concludes with an image of Trump?s speech on Wednesday announcing official US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel?s capital and his decision to move the US embassy there. In the speech, Trump alluded to the lack of "courage" of those who occupied the White House before him. Tens of thousands of people protested Friday in several Arab and Muslim countries against Trump?s decision and in solidarity with the Palestinians.
  12. LEFT: Roy Moore arrives at the RSA Activity Center ? during the runoff election for the Republican nomination for Alabama's US Senate seat ? in Montgomery, Alabama, US, September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Marvin Gentry/Files; RIGHT: US President Donald Trump delivers a foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, US, April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/Files WASHINGTON: Donald Trump threw his full weight Friday behind Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican running for the US Senate with the president?s support despite being accused of molesting teenage girls. "VOTE ROY MOORE!" tweeted the US leader, who later Friday heads to Pensacola on the Florida-Alabama state line for a campaign-style rally seen as the reaffirmation of his backing for Moore in next week?s closely-watched election. Trump earlier this week officially endorsed the ultra-conservative Christian in the December 12 vote ? a change of tack after he initially characterized the allegations against Moore as "very troubling." Moore, a 70-year-old former state judge, stands accused of sexual assault by several women who were teenagers at the time, including one who was 14. Trump has cited Moore?s potentially decisive Senate vote on everything from immigration to abortion as reasons to support him, saying a victory for his Democratic rival Doug Jones would be a "disaster." "LAST thing the Make America Great Again Agenda needs is a Liberal Democrat in Senate where we have so little margin for victory already," he repeated Friday. Jones, Trump tweeted, "would vote against us 100% of the time." "He?s bad on Crime, Life, Border, Vets, Guns & Military." The Alabama race, which is being held to replace Jeff Sessions ? who Trump named US attorney general ? has national repercussions because the Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate. A win for Jones would make it 51-49. Moore?s local supporters have dismissed the allegations against him, first reported by the Washington Post, as part of a politically-motivated campaign to undermine his election bid. At the national level, however, Republicans fear the race will give the impression the party tolerates abusive behaviour towards women, as the country grapples with snowballing allegations of harassment and assault in the worlds of politics, entertainment and the media. On Thursday, US Senator Al Franken became the second prominent Democrat in a week to resign in the face of accusations of sexual misconduct ? in his case that he kissed and touched several women without consent. In a defiant resignation address, the comedian-turned-lawmaker noted with bitter irony that Moore was running for election with the president?s support ? while accused of far more serious offences.
  13. International travellers (reflected in a closed door) arrive on the day that US President Donald Trump's limited travel ban ? approved by the US Supreme Court ? goes into effect, at Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, US, June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/Files WASHINGTON: The US State Department said it began fully implementing President Donald Trump?s travel ban targeting six Muslim-majority countries on Friday, four days after the Supreme Court ruled the order could be enforced while legal appeals continue. Trump?s order ? which calls for ?enhancing vetting capabilities? at US embassies and consulates overseas ? directs the departments of State and Homeland Security to restrict the entry of people from six Muslim-majority countries, which comprise Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen as well as from Venezuela and North Korea. The State Department said in a statement on Friday that no visas would be revoked under the new vetting procedures. It said the restrictions were not intended to be permanent and could be lifted as ?countries work with the US government to ensure the safety of Americans?. Trump promised as a candidate to impose ?a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States? and his effort to implement a travel ban has run into repeated legal challenges since he first announced it a week after taking office. The current ban is the third version from the administration. Lower courts allowed the provisions covering North Korea and Venezuela to go into effect. Challenges continue for the six predominantly Muslim countries, charging that the ban discriminates on the basis of religion in violation of the US Constitution and is not permissible under immigration laws. The Supreme Court on Monday granted the administration?s request to lift two injunctions that partially blocked the ban. The decision allows the restrictions to go into force, even as legal challenges continue in lower courts. Two liberal justices dissented.
  14. US Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy Dina Powell arrives to attend a joint news conference with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington, US, March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/Files WASHINGTON: Dina Powell ? US President Donald Trump?s Deputy National Security Adviser for strategy ? plans to resign early next year but will continue to have a role in Middle East diplomacy, the White House said on Friday. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Powell ? a key player in US diplomatic efforts in the Middle East ? had always planned to stay one year at the Trump White House and then return to her home in New York. Powell could be one of several administration officials to leave at the one-year mark of Trump?s presidency. Speculation has centred on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ? who officials say could be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo ? and top economic adviser Gary Cohn may possibly leave also. Powell?s replacement is likely to be Nadia Schadlow ? a National Security Council aide who has been working with Powell on a new US national security strategy expected to be released in the next couple of weeks, a senior administration official said. Powell has been one of Trump?s inner circle and a key aide to National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. She engaged in diplomacy throughout the Middle East with Jared Kushner ? Trump?s senior adviser and son-in-law. ?Dina has done a great job for the administration and has been a valued member of the Israeli-Palestinian peace team. She will continue to play a key role in our peace efforts and we will share more details on that in the future,? Kushner said in a statement. Trump?s move to have the United States officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has been denounced across much of the Arab world. His team is working on a framework for a potential Israeli-Palestinian peace deal that aides say could be released early next year.
  15. FBI Director Christopher Wray sits during a meeting with Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley on Capitol Hill, Washington, US, June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/Files WASHINGTON: Christopher Wray ? the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ? defended his agency Thursday against US President Donald Trump's criticism aimed at discrediting the probe into alleged collusion between his campaign and Russia in last year's election. Trump laid into the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Twitter last weekend, accusing its agents of political bias and Wray's predecessor James Comey, who Trump fired in May, of lying. "Its reputation is in Tatters ? worst in History," Trump wrote of the FBI, at the end of series of tweets about a senior agent who allegedly supported Hillary Clinton ? Trump's Democratic rival. "My experience has been that our reputation is quite good," Wray told the House Judiciary Committee. "The agents, analysts and staff of the FBI are big boys and girls. We understand that we will take criticism from all corners. We're accustomed to that," he said. Wray fielded tough questions over whether both last year's probe into Clinton's use of classified material on a private email server and special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion by the Trump campaign with Russian interference, were run by anti-Trump investigators. Wray acknowledged the controversy over the allegedly pro-Clinton FBI agent who was dismissed as a lead investigator on Mueller's team ? the news which sparked Trump's weekend anti-FBI tweetstorm. Agent Peter Strzok also allegedly had a key role in Comey's July 2016 decision ? in the middle of a tense election campaign ? to clear Clinton of any crime. Mueller dismissed Strzok around mid-year from the Russia probe after it surfaced that he had sent pro-Clinton text messages to a colleague, which Republicans say prove his bias in both probes. But Republicans have hiked up the pressure, saying that Mueller's team, which has already charged four former Trump aides with crimes, was overwhelmingly pro-Clinton. They noted public records which show that nine out of 16 lawyers under Mueller having donated money to Democratic presidential candidates and none to Trump. "There are all kinds of people on Mueller's team who are pro-Clinton," said Republican Congressman Jim Jordan. "If you kicked everybody off Mueller's team who are anti-Trump, I don't think there would be anybody left." Jordan alleged that Strzok, whom he described as the head of counter-intelligence operations at the FBI, had used a "fake news" dossier as evidence last year to obtain a secret national security warrant to spy on senior figures of the Trump campaign. Wray refused to discuss Strzok, saying his behaviour was currently under "outside, independent" investigation by a government inspector general.
  16. Incoming FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks to Federal Bureau of Investigation employees during his installation ceremony at FBI headquarters in Washington, U.S., September 28, 2017. REUTERS WASHINGTON: The Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee lambasted the FBI on Thursday over how it handled an investigation into Hillary Clinton?s use of a private email server, and questioned whether Justice Department officials gave her preferential treatment over President Donald Trump. During a routine oversight hearing before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Republicans questioned FBI Director Christopher Wray, who took over at the helm of the Federal Bureau of Investigation after Trump abruptly fired the previous head, James Comey, earlier this year. Republicans, including Trump, have in recent weeks ramped up their attacks on the FBI and openly questioned its integrity. ?The FBI?s reputation as an impartial, non-political agency has been called into question recently. We cannot afford for the FBI - which has traditionally been dubbed the premier law enforcement agency in the world - to become tainted by politicization or the perception of a lack of even-handedness,? Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said. Their criticism comes as Special Counsel Robert Mueller has charged four people from Trump?s inner circle since October as part of an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. Republicans had been frustrated with Comey?s decision not to charge Hillary Clinton for sending classified emails through her private email server. With potential challenges looming for the party as it heads into the 2018 congressional elections, House and Senate Republican leaders have ramped up attacks on Comey, Mueller and the FBI in recent weeks with a fresh round of congressional inquiries. Most recently, Republicans have questioned whether Mueller?s team has a political bias against Trump, after media reports said FBI agent Peter Strzok was removed from working on the Russia probe because he had exchanged text messages that disparaged Trump and supported Clinton. Strzok was involved in both the Clinton email and Russia investigations. Representative Jerrold Nadler told Wray he expected the attacks on the FBI to grow louder as the special counsel?s investigation continues and the ?walls close in around the president.? ?Your job requires you to have the courage to stand up to the president, Mr. Director,? Nadler said. ?There are real consequences for allowing the President to continue unchecked in this manner.? Republicans have also separately accused the FBI of improperly basing wiretap requests on a dossier written by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence investigator who was hired by the firm Fusion GPS to do opposition research for the Democrats. Steele?s dossier alleges collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign in the 2016 presidential election, and claims the Russians possess compromising information that could be used to blackmail Trump. To date, however, there has been no evidence to suggest the FBI wiretaps were improperly obtained.
  17. Palestinian protestors burn an effigy of US President Donald Trump following his decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. -AFP2 RAMALLAH: US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital sparked Palestinian protests, clashes and a call for a new intifada on Thursday as fears grew of fresh bloodshed in the region. Trump's announcement also prompted an almost universal diplomatic backlash that continued on Thursday, with fresh warnings from Turkey, the European Union and Russia. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, lavished praise on Trump, saying his name would now be associated with Jerusalem's long history and urging other countries to follow his lead. The Israeli military deployed hundreds of more troops to the occupied West Bank amid uncertainty over the fallout, while clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces erupted in various areas. In a speech in Gaza City, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya called for a new intifada, or uprising. Protests were held in West Bank cities including Ramallah, Hebron and Nablus, as well as in the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces dispersed several hundred protesters with tear gas at a checkpoint at the entrance to Ramallah, while the Palestinian Red Crescent reported dozens wounded from tear gas, rubber bullets and live fire in the West Bank. Three Palestinians were wounded east of the city of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip, medical sources and witnesses said. Trump's defiant move - making good on a pledge made during his 2016 presidential campaign - ends seven decades of US ambiguity on the status of the Holy City, which is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians. Trump said it marks the start of a "new approach" to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "It is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," he said in a speech from the White House on Wednesday, urging calm and "the voices of tolerance to prevail over the purveyors of hate." 'Darker times' But his willingness to part with international consensus on such a sensitive issue drew increasingly urgent warnings from around the world. EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the decision could take the region "backwards to even darker times." Russia said it viewed the move with "serious concern" and Saudi Arabia called it "unjustified and irresponsible." Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it would put the region in a "ring of fire." "Hey Trump! What do you want to do?" he asked. "What kind of approach is this? Political leaders do not stir things up, they seek to make peace." Palestinian protestors clash with Israeli forces near an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah. -AFP Palestinian leaders were outraged, with president Mahmud Abbas saying Trump had disqualified the United States from its traditional role as peace broker in the Middle East conflict. Palestinian shops in east Jerusalem, including the Old City, as well as in the West Bank were largely shuttered and schools closed on Thursday after a general strike was called. "By this decision, America became a very small country, like any small country in the world, like Micronesia," Salah Zuhikeh, 55, told AFP in Jerusalem´s Old City. "America was a great country for us and everyone." Trump's move left many angry US allies struggling to find a diplomatic response. Through gritted teeth, Britain described the move as "unhelpful" and France called it "regrettable." Germany said plainly that it "does not support" Trump's decision. Eight countries including Britain, France and Italy pressed for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in response, which was set for Friday. Right-wing politics Trump also kicked off the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In doing so, he begins to make good on a campaign promise dear to US evangelical Christian and right-wing Jewish voters - as well as donors. Trump's predecessors, from Bill Clinton to George Bush, had made the same promise, but quickly reneged upon taking office. The 45th US president was determined to show his arrival in Washington spells the end of business as usual, suggesting his predecessors failed to act though lack of "courage." Israel seized Arab east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community. The Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state. Several peace plans have unravelled in the past decades over the issue of how to divide sovereignty or oversee holy sites in Jerusalem. The international community does not recognise the ancient city as Israel's capital, insisting the issue can only be resolved in negotiations - a point reiterated by UN chief Antonio Guterres in the wake of Trump's decision. Guterres implicitly criticised Trump, stressing his opposition to "any unilateral measures that would jeopardise the prospect of peace." Trump insisted the move did not prejudge final talks, saying it simply reflected the reality that west Jerusalem is and will continue to be part of Israel under any settlement. "Peace is never beyond the grasp of those willing to reach it," said the US leader, who declared that "this decision is not intended in any way to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace." "The United States would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides," Trump said, as he announced that Vice President Mike Pence would travel to the region in the coming days. Trump further stated that the United States was not taking a position on any "final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. "Those questions are up to the parties involved," he said.
  18. US President Donald Trump recognised the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital Wednesday. Photo: courtesy Getty Images WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump recognised the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital Wednesday, prompting an almost universal diplomatic backlash and fears of new bloodshed in the Middle East. Trump's defiant move, making good on a core campaign pledge, ended seven decades of US ambiguity on the status of the Holy City, which is vociferously claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians. America's leader appeared further isolated, as allies and foes alike denounced his decision and Palestinians questioned whether their dream of statehood, as part of a peace deal brokered by Washington, was still possible. But the US president claimed this marked the start of a "new approach" to solving the thorny Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital," Trump said in a speech given from the White House. "It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," he said, urging calm and "the voices of tolerance to prevail over the purveyors of hate." 'Courageous' or 'deplorable'? Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Trump's "deplorable and unacceptable" move signified America´s withdrawal as a sponsor of the peace process. Hamas -- the Palestinian movement that runs the Gaza Strip -- warned that Trump had opened "the gates of hell on US interests in the region." Hamas says Trump's decision opens 'gates of hell' Radwan called on the Arab and Islamic states to 'cut off economic and political ties with the US embassy' this decision And although welcomed by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a "courageous and just decision," Trump´s move left many angry US allies struggling to find a measured response -- and hoping that the tinderbox region is not destined for yet another round of bloodletting. Through gritted teeth, Britain described the move as "unhelpful" and France called it "regrettable." Germany said plainly that it "does not support" Trump´s decision. Eight countries including Britain, France and Italy pressed for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in response to the move, which was set for Friday. The leaders of Muslim nations meanwhile deployed ever-harsher rhetoric to describe Trump´s decision. Turkey and Iran -- both vying for regional influence -- tried to give voice to the anger felt by many across the Muslim world. Turkey called the decision "irresponsible" and illegal. Iran said it would "provoke Muslims and inflame a new intifada." Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia branded the move "unjustified and irresponsible" -- and said it goes against the "historical and permanent rights of the Palestinian people." Diplomatic fallout Trump also kicked off the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In doing so, he begins to make good on a campaign promise dear to evangelical Christian and right-wing Jewish voters -- as well as donors. Trump´s predecessors -- from Bill Clinton to George Bush -- had made the same promise, but quickly reneged upon taking office and assuming responsibility for war and peace. The 45th US president was determined to show his arrival in Washington spells the end of business as usual, suggesting his predecessors failed to act though lack of "courage." UN Security Council to meet Friday on Jerusalem: diplomats 'We believe the Council needs to address this issue with urgency' Moving the embassy will probably take years to implement, but the repercussions of Trump´s decision preceded even his announcement. Hundreds of Palestinians burned US and Israeli flags as well as pictures of Trump in the Gaza Strip, while relatively small clashes erupted near the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron. The Palestine Liberation Organization announced a strike across the West Bank Thursday, while Hamas called for a "day of rage" on Friday. US government officials and their families were ordered to avoid Jerusalem´s Old City and the West Bank, though the situation remained largely calm up until Trump´s address. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on a visit to Germany, said the United States had "implemented robust security plans to protect the safety of Americans in affected regions." Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the main pan-Islamic body, in Istanbul next week to display joint action over Jerusalem. Jordan and the Palestinians also requested an emergency meeting of the Arab League. Peace still possible, US says Most of the international community does not formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel´s capital, insisting the issue can only be resolved in negotiations -- a point reiterated by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in the wake of Trump´s decision. Guterres implicitly criticised Trump, stressing his opposition to "any unilateral measures that would jeopardise the prospect of peace." Trump insisted the move did not prejudge final talks, saying it simply reflected the reality that west Jerusalem is and will continue to be part of Israel under any settlement. Pakistan 'deeply concerned' as Trump Jerusalem move targets 'entire Muslim world' 'This is a blatant evidence of opposition to Muslims,' the minister says of Jerusalem's recognition as Israel's capital "This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do," Trump said. "Peace is never beyond the grasp of those willing to reach it," said the US leader, who declared that "this decision is not intended in any way to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace." "The United States would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides," Trump said, as he announced that Vice President Mike Pence would travel to the region in the coming days. Trump further stated that the United States was not taking a position on any "final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders." "Those questions are up to the parties involved," he said. Israel seized the largely Arab eastern sector of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, claiming both sides of the city as its capital. The Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state. Several peace plans have unravelled in the past decades over the issue of how to divide sovereignty or oversee holy sites in Jerusalem.
  19. US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before departing the White House for New York in Washington, US, December 2, 2017. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan/Files WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump called for Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to immediately allow humanitarian aid to reach the Yemeni people, suggesting Washington had run out of patience with a Saudi-led blockade that has been condemned by relief organizations. The Saudi-led military coalition fighting the Iran-aligned armed Houthi movement in Yemen?s civil war started a blockade of ports a month ago after Saudi Arabia intercepted a missile fired toward its capital Riyadh from Yemen. Although the blockade later eased and showed signs of breaking on Wednesday, Yemen?s situation remained dire. About 8 million people are on the brink of famine with outbreaks of cholera and diphtheria. ?I have directed officials in my administration to call the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to request that they completely allow food, fuel, water and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it,? Trump said in a statement, without elaborating. ?This must be done for humanitarian reasons immediately,? Trump said. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said the first food and fuel had arrived in Hodeidah and Saleef ports, but supplies were at a trickle compared to what was needed, since Yemen?s population of 27 million was almost entirely reliant on imports for food, fuel and medicine. Oxfam International applauded Trump?s statement, calling it ?long overdue but hugely important.? Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, who has called for restrictions on US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, said he expected the Kingdom to heed Trump?s call. Trump?s brief, one-paragraph statement is one of the clearest signs of US concern over aspects of Saudi Arabia?s foreign policy. Saudi Arabia has also split with Trump over his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Warmer ties Publicly, Trump, his top aides and senior Saudi officials have hailed what they say is a major improvement in US-Saudi ties compared with relations under former President Barack Obama, who upset the Saudis by sealing a nuclear deal with their arch-foe Iran. Even as ties improve, however, US diplomats and intelligence analysts privately express anxiety over some of the more hawkish actions by Saudi Arabia?s crown prince, especially toward Yemen and Lebanon, as Saudi Arabia seeks to contain Iranian influence. In turn, Saudi Arabia has been unusually public about its concerns over US policy on Jerusalem. King Salman told Trump ahead of his Jerusalem announcement on Wednesday that any decision on the status of Jerusalem before a permanent peace settlement was reached would ?harm peace talks and increase tensions in the area,? according to Saudi state-owned media. A White House official said Trump?s statement on aid to Yemen did not represent retaliation for the Saudi position on Jerusalem. ?It has to do with the fact that there is a serious humanitarian issue in Yemen and the Saudis should and can do more,? the official said. The fuel shortages caused by the blockade have meant that areas hardest hit by war, malnutrition and cholera lack functioning hospital generators, cooking fuel and water pumps. It also makes it harder to move food and medical aid around the country. The Saudi-led military coalition stepped up air strikes on Yemen?s Houthis on Wednesday as the armed movement tightened its grip on Sanaa a day after the son of slain former president Ali Abdullah Saleh vowed revenge for his father?s death. Saleh, who was killed in an attack on his convoy, plunged Yemen deeper into turmoil last week by switching allegiance after years helping the Houthis win control of much of northern Yemen, including the capital. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that the killing of Saleh would likely worsen an already dire humanitarian situation in the country in the short term. ?This is where we?ve all got to roll up our sleeves and figure out what you?re going to do about medicine and food and clean water, cholera,? Mattis said.
  20. WASHINGTON: United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday will announce his decision on recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital. In a move which has already stoked sentiments across the world, if the US president moves forward with his campaign promise, it would prove to be extremely divisive. Hours before the momentous announcement Trump said that the move was "long overdue." "Many presidents have said they want to do something and they didn't do it, whether it´s courage or they changed their mind, I can't tell you," Trump said, portraying himself as daring to fulfill a promise that previous presidents have shied away from. "I think it's long overdue," he said. Trump is expected to upend decades of US policy later Wednesday by stating that the holy city - part of which is claimed by Palestinians -- rightfully belongs to Israel. The announcement has been preceded by warnings of a violent response in the Muslim world and demonstrators in the Gaza Strip burning American flags.
  21. SAN FRANSISCO: US President Donald Trump is perhaps the world's most famous Twitter user, but the most popular post of 2017 was from... Barack Obama. Three tweets by the former US leader made it onto Twitter's Top 10 list of retweeted messages for this year but there were none from Trump despite his prolific use of the platform. Trump was, however, the elected leader most tweeted about, Twitter said. A tweet racking up the most "likes," about 4.6 million as of Tuesday, came from Obama's personal Twitter account on the day of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The tweet showed a photo of a racially diverse group of children looking out a window at Obama as he smiled back, and bore a quote from Nelson Mandela. The same Twitter post was the second most re-tweeted of the year, behind a tweet from a teenager trying to win a year's supply of chicken nuggets from fast food chain Wendy's.
  22. US President Donald Trump made a historic visit, the first of any American president in US history, to the Western Wall earlier in 2017 WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump will recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital Wednesday, upending decades of careful US policy and ignoring dire warnings of a historic misstep that could trigger a surge of violence in the Middle East. A senior administration official said Trump would make the landmark announcement ? which flies in the face of warnings from America´s allies across the region and the world ? at 1pm (1800 GMT) from the White House. "He will say that that the United States government recognises that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel," a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "He views this as a recognition of reality, both historic reality," the source added, "and modern reality." Plunging further into a bitter centuries-old argument between Jews, Muslims and Christians, Trump will also order planning to begin on moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. "It will take some time to find a site, to address security concerns, design a new facility, fund a new facility and build it," the official said, indicating that the move will not be immediate. "It will be a matter of some years, it won´t be months, it´s going to take time." The status of Jerusalem is a central issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with both sides claiming the city as their capital, and expectations of Trump´s announcement have roiled the combustible region. In a frantic series of calls on its eve, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the EU, France, Germany and Turkey all warned Trump against the move. Anticipating widespread demonstrations, US government officials have been ordered to avoid Jerusalem´s Old City and the West Bank. But Trump´s move comes close to fulfilling a campaign promise and will delight his political donors and the conservative and evangelical base that is so vital for the embattled president. ´Red line´ Most of the international community does not formally recognise Jerusalem as Israel´s capital, insisting the issue can only be resolved in final status negotiations. US officials talk of "threading the needle" ? fulfilling Trump´s campaign pledge, while keeping the peace process on the rails. The White House argues that such a move would not prejudge final talks and would represent the reality that west Jerusalem is and will continue to be part of Israel under any settlement. "President Trump remains committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians and is optimistic that peace can be achieved," a second official said. "President Trump is prepared to support a two State solution... If agreed to by the two parties." But critics say Trump´s approach is more like "splitting the baby" and could also extinguish his own much-vaunted efforts to broker Middle East peace while igniting the flames of conflict in a region already reeling from crises in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Qatar. Trump tells Abbas of intention to move embassy to Jerusalem: Palestinian spokesman Trump likely to make the announcement to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel The Hamas movement has threatened to launch a new "intifada" or uprising. Saudi Arabia´s King Salman warned his close ally that moving the US embassy was a "dangerous step" that could rile Muslims around the world. "Mr Trump! Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims," Turkey´s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a raucous televised speech, echoing alarm expressed by Palestinian and Arab leaders. ´Embassy Act´ Israel seized the largely-Arab eastern sector of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, claiming both sides of the city as its "eternal and undivided capital." But the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state and fiercely oppose any Israeli attempt to extend sovereignty there. Trump was pushed to act on the embassy as a result of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which stated that the city "should be recognised as the capital of the State of Israel" and that the US embassy should be moved there. An inbuilt waiver has been repeatedly invoked by successive US presidents, postponing the move on grounds of "national security" once every six months, meaning the law has never taken effect. Several peace plans have unravelled over the issue of how to divide sovereignty or oversee sites in the city that are holy for Christians, Jews and Muslims.
  23. US President Donald Trump speaks at the Utah State Capitol, where he announced big cuts to Utah's sprawling wilderness national monuments, in Salt Lake City, Utah, US, December 4, 2017. REUTERS WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday amid reports the United States is planning to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a source familiar with the call told Reuters. A senior administration official said last week that Trump would likely make the announcement on Wednesday, a decision that would break with decades of US policy and could fuel violence in the Middle East. Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said the president had not yet made a final decision.
  24. A view of Old City, Jerusalem WASHINGTON: Facing dark warnings of a historic misstep and widespread unrest, US President Donald Trump on Monday delayed a decision on whether to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and move the US embassy there. The White House said Trump would miss a deadline to decide on shifting the embassy from Tel Aviv, after a frantic 48 hours of public warnings from allies and private phone calls between world leaders. The mercurial president has yet to make his final decision, officials said, but is expected to stop short of moving the embassy to Jerusalem outright, a central campaign pledge which has been postponed once already by the new administration. "The president has been clear on this issue from the get-go: It´s not a matter of if, it´s a matter of when," said White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, who said a declaration on the move would be made "in the coming days." Domestic politics may however push Trump toward recognizing Jerusalem as Israel´s capital instead, in a gesture towards conservative voters and donors. The status of Jerusalem is a key issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with both Israelis and Palestinians claiming the city as their capital. With Trump´s decision looming, leaders from across the Middle East and elsewhere ramped up public warnings against any shift in decades-old US policy. French President Emmanuel Macron was among those who warned Trump that Jerusalem´s status must be decided "within the framework of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians." Amid internal White House disagreements, several US administration officials were unable or unwilling to say with certainty what Trump would decide. "The president´s going to make his decision," his Middle East peace envoy and son-in-law Jared Kushner said. Israeli´s defense minister Avigdor Lieberman urged Trump to grasp a "historic opportunity." But from elsewhere in the region the message was clear: don´t do it. "If the status of Jerusalem is changed and another step is taken... that would be a major catastrophe," Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said. "It would completely destroy the fragile peace process in the region, and lead to new conflicts, new disputes and new unrest." ´Threat´ to stability All foreign embassies are located in Tel Aviv with consular representation in Jerusalem, and Trump was theoretically due Monday to decide whether to sign a legal waiver delaying by six months plans to move the US embassy from the Holy City -- as successive administrations have done at regular intervals for more than two decades. "The president is still considering options," a State Department official said when asked about a possible move. Trump is expected to begrudgingly sign the waiver for a second time at some point this week. According to diplomats and observers, however, he may also make a speech on Wednesday announcing his support for Israel´s claim on Jerusalem as its capital. The Arab League said it was closely following the matter, with leader Abul Gheit warning any such move would pose a threat "to the stability of the Middle East and the whole world." Muslim nations call for summit if Trump recognises Jerusalem OIC warned that recognising Jerusalem or establishing any diplomatic mission in the disputed city would be seen as a "It will not serve peace or stability, instead it will nourish fanaticism and violence," he said on Sunday, noting that the League was closely following the issue and would coordinate a joint position with Palestinian and Arab leaders if Trump took the step. Jordan´s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi also warned that any change to the status of Jerusalem would have "grave consequences", in a phone conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday. It was crucial, he said, "to preserve the historical and legal status of Jerusalem and refrain from any decision that aims to change that status," the official Petra news agency reported. A move in waiting In 1995, the US Congress passed the so-called Jerusalem Embassy Act recognizing Jerusalem as Israel´s capital and stating that the US embassy should be moved there. But an inbuilt waiver, which allows the president to temporarily postpone the move on grounds of "national security", has been repeatedly invoked by successive US presidents, from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush and Barack Obama, meaning the law has never taken effect. Israel seized the largely-Arab eastern sector of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, claims both halves of the city to be its "eternal and undivided capital." But the Palestinians want the eastern sector as capital of their promised state and fiercely oppose any Israeli attempt to extend sovereignty there. Several peace plans have come unstuck over debates on whether, and how, to divide sovereignty or oversee the sites holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims. ´Disqualifying´ Palestinian leaders have been lobbying regional leaders to oppose any shift in US policy and the armed Islamist movement Hamas has threatened to launch a new "intifada." Saeb Erakat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, warned that a change in the US stance on Jerusalem would spell disaster, and would amount to an own goal for US peace efforts in the region. He said in a statement that Washington would "be disqualifying itself to play any role in any initiative towards achieving a just and lasting peace." Trump has said he wants to relaunch frozen peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in search of the "ultimate deal".
  25. US Supreme Court says government could fully enforce a revised ban on travelers from six mainly Muslim countries pending appeal WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court said Monday that the government could fully enforce a revised ban on travelers from six mainly Muslim countries pending appeal, backing President Donald Trump in the year-long battle over the controversial measure. The court stayed October rulings from two lower courts that had blocked implementation of the ban on visitors from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen while legal challenges to it continued. The third version of Trump´s travel ban, unveiled in September, drew immediate challenges in federal appeals courts in Richmond, Virginia and San Francisco, California. Plaintiffs argued that the measure targets Muslims in violation of the US Constitution and did not advance security goals as the government claimed. The challengers convinced the lower courts to put implementation on hold while they and government lawyers fight out the legality of the policy. But the Trump administration, which says the ban is crucial to protect US national security and deter terror attacks, secured strong support from the Supreme Court in a 7-2 vote to let the government move ahead while the appeals continue. "We are not surprised by today´s Supreme Court decision permitting immediate enforcement of the President´s proclamation limiting travel from countries presenting heightened risks of terrorism," the White House said. "The proclamation is lawful and essential to protecting our homeland. We look forward to presenting a fuller defense of the proclamation as the pending cases work their way through the courts," it added. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation´s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, criticized the ruling. "This decision ignores the very real human consequences to American citizens and their families abroad imposed by President Trump´s Muslim Ban 3.0," said CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri. The Supreme Court justices said they expect the lower appeals courts to expedite their decisions, leaving open the possibility that the policy could return to the Supreme Court in yet another legal challenge to the White House. The San Francisco court will hear the case on Wednesday and the Richmond court on Friday. Open-ended ban The ban also covers people from North Korea and a selection of senior officials from Venezuela, but its main focus is travelers from the six mainly Muslim countries. Trump has battled to implement a travel ban since just after he became president on January 20, after having repeatedly promised during last year´s election campaign to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Those promises have undermined the administration´s argument in a series of court challenges that its policy is not Muslim-focused but rather based on security needs. After Monday´s court ruling the Department of Homeland Security said: "the administration´s common sense travel restrictions on countries that do not meet basic security standards and do not share critical information with us about terrorists and criminals are designed to defend the homeland and keep Americans safe." The initial ban was to be for 90 days, ostensibly to give the US and the targeted countries time to implement tougher and more thorough vetting procedures for visitors. After rolling court battles, the 90 day ban was finally allowed in June. Meanwhile, vetting for US-bound travelers from every country has intensified. But when the six-country ban expired in September, the administration sought to replace it with an open-ended ban, with Chad added to the list while Sudan was removed, and North Korea and Venezuela appended as well. Immigration and civil rights activists maintain it still essentially targets Muslims, which would violate the US Constitution´s guarantees of religious rights. When Trump last week retweeted three video clips from an extremist British group that vilified Muslims, his critics said it supported the idea that his immigration policies were anti-Muslim. "President Trump´s anti-Muslim prejudice is no secret -- he has repeatedly confirmed it, including just last week on Twitter," said Omar Jadwat, director of the Immigrants´ Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. "It´s unfortunate that the full ban can move forward for now, but this order does not address the merits of our claims. We continue to stand for freedom, equality, and for those who are unfairly being separated from their loved ones."