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27 December 2019

ISRAEL'S PM BENJAMIN NETANYAHU CLAIMS WIN IN PARTY LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed a "huge win" in a vote 
that challenged his leadership of the Likud party. 
About 49% of Likud's 116,000 eligible members voted on Thursday, party 
figures show. 
Challenger Gideon Saar conceded defeat, saying he would now back Mr 
Netanyahu in March's general election. 
The internal party vote was seen as a test of Mr Netanyahu's hold on power 
at a time of mounting difficulties. 
Mr Netanyahu, 70, faces trial on bribery and corruption charges, as well as 
a third national election within a year. 
Previous elections held in April and September saw Likud deadlocked with the 
centrist Blue and White party - with neither able to form a government. 
After polls closed at 23:00 local time (21:00 GMT) on Thursday, Mr Netanyahu 
tweeted a claim that he had won, although a result is not expected until 
early on Friday. 
"With God and with your help, I will lead the Likud to a big victory in the 
upcoming elections and continue to lead the State of Israel to unprecedented 
achievements," he posted (in Hebrew). 
Mr Saar, a 53-year-old former minister, later conceded defeat in a tweet (in 
Hebrew). 
"I am content with my decision to have stood. Those who are unwilling to 
take a risk for what they believe in will never succeed," Mr Saar wrote. 
"My colleagues and I will stand behind [Netanyahu] in campaigning for the 
Likud's success in the general elections," he added. 
Mr Saar, a well-known figure in the party, had wanted to take Likud on a new 
path. 


AFTER FRANCE, ITALY APPROVES DIGITAL TAX ON LARGE TECH COMPANIES 

Following in the footsteps of France, Italy has approved a new tax to be 
levied on large tech companies, a move that is likely to put more strain on 
the country's relations with the U.S. 
The new tax passed this week by Italy's Parliament will come into force on 
January 1, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. 
The Italian parliament has approved a three percent digital tax on some 
digital revenue of technology companies that make over $831 million in 
global revenue, including least $6 million in Italy. 
The tax is similar to the one France implemented earlier this year which has 
attracted severe criticism from the U.S. 
According to a report in The Epoch Times, dozens of countries are working on 
proposals to change corporate tax schemes to capture money from tech firms 
that have users across the world, such as Facebook and Google's parent 
company Alphabet. 
In a recent letter to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and 
Development (OECD), a think-tank of rich economies, Treasury Secretary 
Steven Mnuchin said that there were concerns about a proposal put forward by 
some countries. 
The U.S. "firmly opposes digital services taxes because they have a 
discriminatory impact on U.S.-based businesses and are inconsistent with the 
architecture of current international tax rules, which seek to tax net 
income rather than gross revenues," Mnuchin wrote. 


PROTESTS CONTINUE IN IRAQ OVER PRIME MINISTER PICK 

Iraq's President said on Thursday he was "ready to resign" rather than put 
forward the candidate of a pro-Iranian coalition for the post of Prime 
Minister, deepening the country's political crisis. 
Barham Saleh's announcement came as anti-government protesters blocked roads 
and bridges in Baghdad. In the southern city of Nasiriyah, demonstrators set 
the provincial government building ablaze overnight for a second time since 
the protests began. Protesters also torched the new headquarters of a 
pro-Iran militia in Diwaniyah. 
In a letter to Parliament, Mr. Saleh said he wished to guarantee the 
"independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity" of Iraq. But he 
cited the Constitution, which obliges the President to task the candidate 
put forward by Parliament's biggest bloc with forming a government. 
"With all my respect to (Basra province governor) Mr Assaad al-Aidani, I 
decline to put him forward" for the post, Mr. Saleh wrote. 
As that could be seen as violating the constitution, "I place before members 
of Parliament my readiness to resign from the position of President", Mr. 
Saleh added. 
Mr. Aidani is considered as the candidate of Iran, which protesters accuse 
of meddling in Iraqi affairs. 


IRAN REIMPOSES INTERNET BLACKOUT IN VARIOUS PROVINCES: REPORT 

Iranian authorities have shut down mobile internet access across several 
provinces and security has been heightened in Tehran, the Iranian Labour 
News Agency reported, as mourning ceremonies approach for protesters killed 
last month in a government crackdown. 
The mourning services are scheduled to begin on Thursday. The independent 
Shargh newspaper said five unidentified provinces will be subject to the 
blackout, while ILNA said internet users in those areas will have access to 
a limited number of state-approved Iran websites and applications. 
Social media footage whose authenticity cannot be verified appeared to show 
an increased presence of security forces and riot police in the capital. 
Iran was rocked by protests in November after the government increased 
gasoline prices by as much as 200% and introduced rationing as the economy 
struggles under crippling U.S. sanctions. The unrest soon took a broader 
anti-establishment turn, sparking a violent government crackdown and similar 
restrictions on internet access. Amnesty International, the London-based 
human rights group, has said at least 304 protesters were killed, while 
Reuters, citing unidentified Iranian government officials, has put the 
figure around 1,500. 
Iran has acknowledged its security forces shot and killed protesters, but 
hasn't given a toll. It's called the Reuters number a lie and an 
exaggeration. 


PAKISTAN GOVT. FILES REVIEW PETITION IN ARMY CHIEF'S EXTENSION CASE 

The Pakistan government on Thursday filed a review petition against the 
Supreme Court's decision about legislation on the extension of service of 
army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. 
A three-member apex court Bench headed by then Chief Justice Asif Saeed 
Khosa on November 28 granted a six-month extension to Gen. Bajwa after being 
assured by the government that Parliament will pass a legislation on the 
extension/reappointment of an army chief within six months. 
The ruling came in the nick of time as Gen. Bajwa, 59, was set to retire at 
midnight on November 28. 
In the review petition filed by Attorney General Anwar Mansoor, the 
government has urged the apex court to form a larger Bench to hear the case 
and set aside the earlier judgment. It also requested the court to keep the 
proceedings in-camera. 
Firdous Ashiq Awan, the Special Advisor to the Prime Minister for 
Information and Broadcasting, said the review petition was filed "because 
our legal team thoroughly, comprehensively, and closely reviewed all aspects 
of the decision and concluded that there are several legal gaps in the 
verdict. 
"With due respect to the judiciary, the government wants rectification of 
the faults and thus decided to file the review petition," she said. 


INDIA COULD CARRY OUT 'ACTION OF SOME SORT' IN POK, CLAIMS PAK PM IMRAN KHAN 

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday claimed that India could 
carry out "an action of some sort" in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to divert 
attention from its domestic issues and warned that his army was prepared for 
any such move. 
Khan made the remarks while addressing a public gathering in Jhelum 
district, hours after the army said that two of its soldiers were killed in 
"unprovoked firing" by the Indian troops along the Line of Control (LOC). 
"I have been telling the world for the past five months that the Modi-RSS 
government, in order to divert the world attention away from Kashmir and the 
protests against the (citizenship) law, will definitely conduct some sort of 
action" in PoK, Khan said. 
The prime minister said he had told army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa about 
the threats from India and the general "told me that Pakistan is prepared 
for them". 
He extended condolences to the families of the two soldiers killed on 
Thursday. 
Khan said the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of 
Citizens attracted large-scale protests for being against 200 million 
Muslims living in India. 
He also said Pakistan would not do anything as what Prime Minister Modi was 
doing "would create a backlash that would bring his downfall". 


CHINA, RUSSIA, IRAN TO HOLD JOINT NAVAL DRILLS STARTING FRIDAY 

China, Iran and Russia will hold joint naval drills starting on Friday in 
the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman, China's defence ministry said on 
Thursday, amid heightened tension in the region between Iran and the United 
States. 
China will send the Xining, a guided missile destroyer, to the drills, which 
will last until Monday, and are meant to deepen cooperation between the 
three countries' navies, ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a monthly news 
briefing. 
The drill was a "normal military exchange" between the three armed forces 
and was in line with international law and practices, Wu said. 
"It is not necessarily connected with the regional situation," he said, 
without elaborating. 
The Gulf of Oman is a particularly sensitive waterway as it connects to the 
Strait of Hormuz - through which about a fifth of the world's oil passes - 
which in turn connects to the Gulf. 
The drills are also coming at a time of fraught tensions between the United 
States and Iran. 
Chinese President Xi Jinping is likely to visit Saudi Arabia next year as it 
is the host of the 2020 G20 summit. 

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