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Malaysia foils Daesh-linked plot, seizes explosives

BRUSSELS: Iran and the United States could trigger a conflict by accident in an already unstable Gulf region, Britain’s foreign minister said on Monday, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks in Brussels with the main European powers on the crisis.President Donald Trump is seeking to isolate Tehran by cutting off its oil…

Malaysia foils Daesh-linked plot, seizes explosives

BRUSSELS: Iran and the United States could trigger a conflict by accident in an already unstable Gulf region, Britain’s foreign minister said on Monday, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks in Brussels with the main European powers on the crisis.President Donald Trump is seeking to isolate Tehran by cutting off its oil exports after pulling out of a 2015 deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program. Trump has also beefed up the US military presence in the Gulf to pressure Iran.While the European Union shares some US concerns about Iran, including over its involvement in the Syrian conflict, it still backs the 2015 nuclear deal, saying that it is in Europe’s own security interests.“We are very worried about a conflict, about the risk of a conflict … of an escalation that is unintended,” Britain’s Jeremy Hunt told reporters in Brussels ahead of the talks with Pompeo.Britain, Germany and France are signatories to the 2015 deal and their foreign ministers were holding separate meetings in Brussels on Monday with Pompeo, who canceled a planned stopover in Moscow in order to brief the European allies on Washington’s latest moves.Trump, who wants to force Tehran to agree a broader arms control accord, has sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Gulf in a show of force against what US officials have said is a threat to US troops in the region.Iran says the strategy amounts to “psychological warfare” and a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander on Sunday said Iran would retaliate to any aggressive US moves.“TAKING DIFFERENT COURSES“The US State Department billed Monday’s talks in Brussels as a chance “to discuss recent threatening actions and statements” by Iran.German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he had told Pompeo during their Monday meeting: “We do not want it to come to a military conflict (between the United States and Iran).”Maas avoided any public criticism of Washington, saying both sides wanted to ensure peace in the Middle East. But he said it was clear that Europe and the United States were “going about it in different ways … taking different courses.”Before his meeting with Pompeo, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged Europeans to remain united in support of the nuclear deal, which was signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, and which the European Union helped to negotiate.For Europe, the tensions with the Trump administration mark a deepening split in transatlantic ties that were traditionally marked by close coordination on Middle East policy, despite sharp disagreements over the 2003 Iraq war.Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned last week that Tehran could resume enrichment at a higher grade if the European powers, China and Russia did not do more to circumvent punitive US measures on banking and energy to boost trade.Hunt, who held talks with Maas and Le Drian on the margins of a regular EU meeting in Brussels, expressed concern about the risks of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East if Iran were to acquire such weapons.“We need to make sure that we don’t end up putting Iran back on the path to re-nuclearization,” Hunt said, calling for “a period of calm so that everyone understands what the other side is thinking.”EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU would continue to support the nuclear pact because Iran continued to comply with inspections and uranium production limits.The EU is trying to implement a new channel to allow Iran to sell its oil and circumvent newly-instated US sanctions, but setting it up is proving complex.Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said Madrid was considering joining the special trade channel, known as INSTEX, which so far counts France, Germany and Britain as shareholders and could be operational by the end of June.

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UK PM Theresa May to ask lawmakers to vote on a second Brexit referendum

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May said her government will include in her Withdrawal Agreement Bill a requirement for lawmakers to vote on whether to hold another Brexit referendum. “I recognise the genuine and sincere strength of feeling across the House on this important issue,” May said. “The government will therefore include in the Withdrawal…

UK PM Theresa May to ask lawmakers to vote on a second Brexit referendum

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May said her government will include in her Withdrawal Agreement Bill a requirement for lawmakers to vote on whether to hold another Brexit referendum.

“I recognise the genuine and sincere strength of feeling across the House on this important issue,” May said. “The government will therefore include in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at introduction a requirement to vote on whether to hold a second referendum.”

“So to those MPs who want a second referendum to confirm the deal – you need a deal and therefore Withdrawal Agreement Bill to make it happen,” May said.

May is offering concessions in what she says is a “last chance” to secure an orderly British departure from the bloc.

The deal that she struck with the EU has been rejected by UK lawmakers three times already.

Since then, she has tried to secure backing from lawmakers with promises to maintain high standards on workers’ rights and environmental protections — issues that are priorities for the left-of-center opposition Labour Party.

She also said UK lawmakers would get to decide how close a trade relationship to seek with the EU after Brexit, in a concession to Labour’s demands for a customs union.

May said she was “making a new offer to find common ground in Parliament.”

“I have compromised. Now I ask you to compromise too,” she said.

May has said that after Parliament votes on the bill she will set out a timetable for her departure as Conservative leader and prime minister. Pro-Brexit Conservatives blame May for the country’s political deadlock and want to replace her with a staunch Brexit supporter such as Boris Johnson, a former foreign secretary.

(With agencies)

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Venezuelans fleeing crisis deserve refugee status: UN

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May said her government will include in her Withdrawal Agreement Bill a requirement for lawmakers to vote on whether to hold another Brexit referendum. “I recognise the genuine and sincere strength of feeling across the House on this important issue,” May said. “The government will therefore include in the Withdrawal…

Venezuelans fleeing crisis deserve refugee status: UN

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May said her government will include in her Withdrawal Agreement Bill a requirement for lawmakers to vote on whether to hold another Brexit referendum.

“I recognise the genuine and sincere strength of feeling across the House on this important issue,” May said. “The government will therefore include in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at introduction a requirement to vote on whether to hold a second referendum.”

“So to those MPs who want a second referendum to confirm the deal – you need a deal and therefore Withdrawal Agreement Bill to make it happen,” May said.

May is offering concessions in what she says is a “last chance” to secure an orderly British departure from the bloc.

The deal that she struck with the EU has been rejected by UK lawmakers three times already.

Since then, she has tried to secure backing from lawmakers with promises to maintain high standards on workers’ rights and environmental protections — issues that are priorities for the left-of-center opposition Labour Party.

She also said UK lawmakers would get to decide how close a trade relationship to seek with the EU after Brexit, in a concession to Labour’s demands for a customs union.

May said she was “making a new offer to find common ground in Parliament.”

“I have compromised. Now I ask you to compromise too,” she said.

May has said that after Parliament votes on the bill she will set out a timetable for her departure as Conservative leader and prime minister. Pro-Brexit Conservatives blame May for the country’s political deadlock and want to replace her with a staunch Brexit supporter such as Boris Johnson, a former foreign secretary.

(With agencies)

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Sweden asks for detention of WikiLeaks’ Assange

WASHINGTON: The US military said one of its warships sailed near the disputed Scarborough Shoal claimed by China in the South China Sea on Sunday, a move likely to anger Beijing at a time of tense ties between the world’s two biggest economies.The busy waterway is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the…

Sweden asks for detention of WikiLeaks’ Assange

WASHINGTON: The US military said one of its warships sailed near the disputed Scarborough Shoal claimed by China in the South China Sea on Sunday, a move likely to anger Beijing at a time of tense ties between the world’s two biggest economies.The busy waterway is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the US-China relationship, which also include a trade war, US sanctions and Taiwan.China struck a more aggressive tone in its trade war with the United States on Friday. The tough talk capped a week that saw Beijing unveil fresh retaliatory tariffs.The US destroyer Preble carried out the operation, a US military spokesman told Reuters.“Preble sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Reef in order to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” said Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the Seventh Fleet.It was the second such US military operation in the South China Sea in the last month. On Wednesday, the chief of the US Navy said its freedom of navigation movements in the disputed South China Sea drew more attention than they deserved.The US military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including areas claimed by allies, and they are separate from political considerations.The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies operate.China claims almost all of the strategic South China Sea and frequently lambasts the United States and its allies over naval operations near Chinese-occupied islands.Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have competing claims in the region.China and the United States have repeatedly traded barbs in the past over what Washington says is Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea by building military installations on artificial islands and reefs.China defends its construction as necessary for self-defense and says the United States is responsible for ratcheting up tension in the region by sending warships and military planes close to islands Beijing claims.Last month, China’s navy chief said freedom of navigation should not be used to infringe upon the rights of other nations.

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