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Escape tunnel underneath Berlin Wall opens to public

PARIS: NATO partners argued Thursday over the alliance’s worth after French President Emmanuel Macron said it was undergoing “brain death,” prompting a fierce defense of the bloc from Germany and the US while drawing praise from non-member Russia.“What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO,” Macron told The Economist magazine in an…

Escape tunnel underneath Berlin Wall opens to public

PARIS: NATO partners argued Thursday over the alliance’s worth after French President Emmanuel Macron said it was undergoing “brain death,” prompting a fierce defense of the bloc from Germany and the US while drawing praise from non-member Russia.“What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO,” Macron told The Economist magazine in an interview published Thursday, ahead of a NATO summit next month.But German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the 70-year-old military alliance as “indispensible” and said Macron’s “sweeping judgments” were not “necessary.”Addressing journalists by Merkel’s side, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned that a weakened transatlantic alliance could “divide Europe,” while the US Secretary of State, also in Germany, insisted NATO was “important, critical.”In the interview, Macron decried a lack of coordination between Europe and the US and lamented recent unilateral action in Syria by Turkey, a key member of the 70-year-old military alliance.“You have no coordination whatsoever of strategic decision-making between the United States and its NATO allies. None,” he said.“You have an uncoordinated aggressive action by another NATO ally, Turkey, in an area where our interests are at stake,” Macron added according to an English transcript released by The Economist.After talks with Stoltenberg in Berlin, Merkel said Macron “used drastic words, that is not my view of cooperation in NATO.”She added: “I don’t think that such sweeping judgments are necessary, even if we have problems and need to pull together,” while insisting that “the transatlantic partnership is indispensible for us.”Stoltenberg said any attempt to distance Europe from North America “risks not only to weaken the Alliance, the transatlantic bond, but also to divide Europe.”In a recent setback for the alliance, a Turkish military operation against Kurdish forces in northern Syria was staunchly opposed by fellow members like France, but made possible by a withdrawal of US forces ordered by President Donald Trump.For Macron, “strategically and politically, we need to recognize that we have a problem.”“We should reassess the reality of what NATO is in light of the commitment of the United States,” he warned, adding that: “In my opinion, Europe has the capacity to defend itself.”Stoltenberg said he welcomed efforts to strengthen European defense, “but European unity cannot replace transatlantic unity. We need to stand together.”Pompeo, on a visit to the German city of Leipzig as part of anniversary events for the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago, agreed.“I think NATO remains an important, critical, perhaps historically one of the most critical strategic partnerships in all of recorded history,” he told journalists.Macron said it was crucial to seek rapprochement with Moscow, which regards NATO and its expansion into ex-Communist bloc states with huge suspicion given that the alliance was set up to counter the USSR.“We need to reopen a strategic dialogue, without being naive and which will take time, with Russia,” said Macron, who wants to broker an end to the conflict in Ukraine and has courted President Vladimir Putin as a partner.He said NATO did not reexamine its role after the collapse of the Soviet Union and “the unarticulated assumption is that the enemy is still Russia.”And for all the anti-Western bombast from the Kremlin, Putin would find his long-term strategic options limited to “a partnership project with Europe,” the president said.“If we want to build peace in Europe, to rebuild European strategic autonomy, we need to reconsider our position with Russia,” he insisted.From Moscow, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova hailed Macron’s “brain death” observation as “golden words… a precise definition of the current state of NATO.”The French president, seen by many analysts as Europe’s most prominent leader amid Brexit and Merkel’s looming exit in 2021, has sought to stand tall on the foreign policy stage and to implement a vision of reforming Europe.But he said the European Union was on “the edge of a precipice.”“Europe has forgotten that it is a community, by increasingly thinking of itself as a market…,” said Macron, who recently blocked expanding the EU to include North Macedonia and Albania.He also said he wanted European nations to break a “taboo” against using deficits to stimulate growth and investment.Macron said the world was in turmoil, with a risk of the US and China becoming the sole global powers, and authoritarian regimes emerging in Europe’s own backyard.“All this has led to the exceptional fragility of Europe which, if it can’t think of itself as a global power, will disappear, because it will take a hard knock,” he said.

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World News

Trump suggests he may give written testimony in House probe

SEOUL: North Korea has responded to a tweet by US President Donald Trump that hinted at another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying it has no interest in giving Trump further meetings to brag about unless it gets something substantial in return. The statement on Monday by Foreign Ministry adviser Kim Kye…

Trump suggests he may give written testimony in House probe

SEOUL: North Korea has responded to a tweet by US President Donald Trump that hinted at another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying it has no interest in giving Trump further meetings to brag about unless it gets something substantial in return.
The statement on Monday by Foreign Ministry adviser Kim Kye Gwan is the latest call by North Korea for US concessions ahead of an end-of-year deadline set by KimJong Un for the Trump administration to offer mutually acceptable terms for a deal to salvage nuclear diplomacy.
Kim Kye Gwan says Washington must discard what North Korea sees as its “hostile” policies to keep the negotiations alive.

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North Korea says it won’t give Trump a summit for free

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump suggested Monday he might be willing to offer written testimony in the House impeachment inquiry over whether he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden and his son as he withheld aid to the country.In a pair of tweets, Trump says he will “strongly consider” an offer by House Speaker Nancy…

North Korea says it won’t give Trump a summit for free

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump suggested Monday he might be willing to offer written testimony in the House impeachment inquiry over whether he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden and his son as he withheld aid to the country.In a pair of tweets, Trump says he will “strongly consider” an offer by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to testify before the House impeachment panel.Trump tweeted, “She also said I could do it in writing. Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!”Pelosi told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that Trump could come before the committee and “speak all the truth that he wants.”

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France’s yellow vests stage new protests for anniversary

COLOMBO: Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who spearheaded the brutal crushing of the Tamil Tigers 10 years ago, stormed to victory Sunday in Sri Lanka’s presidential elections, seven months after Islamist extremist attacks killed 269 people.Rajapaksa conducted a nationalist campaign with a promise of security and a vow to crush religious extremism in the Buddhist-majority country following the…

France’s yellow vests stage new protests for anniversary

COLOMBO: Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who spearheaded the brutal crushing of the Tamil Tigers 10 years ago, stormed to victory Sunday in Sri Lanka’s presidential elections, seven months after Islamist extremist attacks killed 269 people.Rajapaksa conducted a nationalist campaign with a promise of security and a vow to crush religious extremism in the Buddhist-majority country following the April 21 suicide bomb attacks blamed on a homegrown militant group.His triumph will, however, alarm Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Muslim minorities as well as activists, journalists and possibly some in the international community following the 2005-15 presidency of his older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa.Mahinda, with Gotabaya effectively running the security forces, ended a 37-year civil war with Tamil separatists. His decade in power was also marked by alleged rights abuses, murky extra-judicial killings and closer ties with China.Gotabaya, a retired lieutenant-colonel, 70, nicknamed the “Terminator” by his own family, romped to victory with 51.9 percent of the vote, results from the two-thirds of votes counted so far showed.“I didn’t sleep all night,” said student Devni, 22, one of around 30 people who gathered outside Rajapaksa’s Colombo residence. “I am so excited, he is the president we need.”Rajapaksa’s main rival, the moderate Sajith Premadasa of the ruling party, trailed on 42.3 percent. The 52-year-old conceded the race and congratulated Rajapaksa.On Sunday three cabinet members resigned — including Finance Minister Mangalar Samaraweera.The final result was expected later on Sunday with Rajapaksa due to be sworn in on Monday. Turnout was over 80 percent.Premadasa had strong support in minority Tamil areas but a poor showing in Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese heartland, a core support base where Rajapaksa won some two-thirds of the vote.Saturday’s poll was the first popularity test of the United National Party (UNP) government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.Wickremesinghe’s administration failed to prevent the April attacks despite prior and detailed intelligence warnings from India, according a parliamentary investigation.Premadasa also offered better security and a pledge to make a former war general, Sarath Fonseka, his national security chief, projecting himself as a victim seeking to crush terrorism.He is the son of assassinated ex-president Ranasinghe Premadasa who fell victim to a Tamil rebel suicide bomber in May 1993.But Gotabaya is adored by the Sinhalese majority and the powerful Buddhist clergy for how he and Mahinda ended the war in 2009, when 40,000 Tamil civilians allegedly perished at the hands of the army.Under his brother, Gotabaya was defense secretary and effectively ran the security forces, allegedly overseeing “death squads” that bumped off rivals, journalists and others. He denies the allegations.This makes the brothers detested and feared among many Tamils, who make up 15 percent of the population. Some in the Muslim community, who make up 10 percent, are also fearful of Gotabaya, having faced days of mob violence in the wake of the April attacks.Under Mahinda, Sri Lanka also borrowed heavily from China for infrastructure projects and even allowed two Chinese submarines to dock in Colombo in 2014, alarming Western countries as well as India.Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Sunday that India looked forward to “deepening the close and fraternal ties… and for peace, prosperity as well as security in our region.”The projects ballooned Sri Lanka’s debts and many turned into white elephants — such as an airport in the south devoid of airlines — mired in corruption allegations.Unlike in 2015 when there were bomb attacks and shootings, this election was relatively peaceful by the standards of Sri Lanka’s fiery politics.The only major incident was on Saturday when gunmen fired at two vehicles in a convoy of at least 100 buses taking Muslim voters to cast ballots. Two people were injured.According to the Election Commission the contest was, however, the worst ever for hate speech and misinformation.

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