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News in Brief (12-1-2019)

January 12, 2019 00:00:00

Pompeo in Bahrain on first leg of tour of Gulf allies

MANAMA, Jan 11: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Bahrain on Friday, the first leg of a tour of Gulf monarchies which Washington says are "critical" to confronting Iran and jihadists. In Bahrain, Pompeo is due to have a working lunch with King Hamad, Crown Prince Salman and Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa, according to his official programmeme. — AFP

Moscow demands US explain charges against Russian lawyer

MOSCOW, Jan 11: Russia demanded on Friday an explanation from the United States (US) about charges brought against a Russian lawyer who attended a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower who was this week charged in a separate case. Natalia Veselnitskaya, who represented Russian defendants in a money laundering case settled in 2017, has been charged with obstructing justice in that case for submitting a declaration that she falsely represented came from the Russian government independently, US prosecutors said on Tuesday. Speaking at a weekly news conference, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said it had become a habit in the US to open criminal against Russians based on vague claims. — Reuters

Romania corruption amnesty would harm rule of law: EU

BUCHAREST, Jan 11: Under scrutiny during its first six-month EU presidency, Romania would be damaging rule of law should it decriminalise some forms of corruption and grant an amnesty to offenders, the head of the European Commission said on Friday. The leader of the ruling Social Democrats, Liviu Dragnea, has a conviction for vote-rigging and has been pressing Romania's President Klaus Iohannis for the legal changes. But the head of the EU bloc's executive, Jean-Claude Juncker, expressed disapproval of that at a joint news conference with Iohannis in Bucharest. Even though the European Union was built on compromises, there could be no negotiating legal principles, he said. — Reuters

India launches new bid to battle dirty air

NEW DELHI, Jan 11: India has launched a new campaign to improve air quality in more than 100 of its pollution-stricken cities, although an environment group said it lacked detail and the legal backing to ensure it is enforced. Air quality in the country of more than 1.25 billion people has deteriorated to critical levels in recent years, with the capital New Delhi and 13 other Indian cities in the top 15 of a UN list of the world's most polluted cities. Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan said late Thursday the National Clean Air Programmeme (NCAP) will cover 102 cities and aim to cut levels of the most dangerous particles under 10 microns in diameter by 20 to 30 per cent by 2024. — AFP

Germany recognises responsibility for Nazi crimes in Greece

ATHENS, Jan 11: Germany recognises its historical responsibility for crimes committed by the Nazis in Greece, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday on her first visit to Athens since 2014. "We recognise our historical responsibility. We know how much suffering we, as Germany in the time of Nazism, have brought to Greece," she said. "That is why it's a lesson for us to do everything to have good relations with Greece, and to lend each other support for the prosperity of both countries." Tensions linger over wartime reparations for the World War II Nazi occupation of Greece, with Berlin arguing the issue was settled in 1960 in a deal with several European governments. In talks with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras after her arrival on Thursday, Merkel lauded the sacrifices Greeks made during the country's economic crisis of 2010-2014. During her first visit to Greece in 2014, Merkel faced major protests and sought to ease tensions with Athens where Berlin was often blamed for biting austerity and bailouts. — AFP

Japan's FM to visit Moscow

MOSCOW, Jan 11: Japan's foreign minister Taro Kono will visit Moscow next week for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on a decades-long row over four disputed islands, the Russian foreign ministry said Friday. The visit comes after Russia accused Japan this week of whipping up tensions before an expected meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. — AFP

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