FRONT PAGE NEWS
4 January 2020
TEHRAN PROMISES 'HARSH RETALIATION', US AND ISRAEL BRACE FOR REVENGE ATTACKS
Iran vowed "harsh retaliation" for a US drone strike near Baghdad's airport
that killed a top Iranian general who had been the architect of its
interventions across the Middle East, and the US announced Friday it was
sending more troops to the region as tensions soared in the wake of the
The killing of General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds
Force, marks a major escalation in the standoff between Washington and Iran,
which has careened from one crisis to another since President Donald Trump
withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions.
The United States said it was sending nearly 3,000 more Army troops to the
Middle East and urged American citizens to leave Iraq "immediately"
following the early morning airstrike at Baghdad's international airport
that Iran's state TV said killed Soleimani and nine others.
The US State Department said the embassy in Baghdad, which was attacked by
Iran-backed militiamen and their supporters earlier this week, is closed and
all consular services have been suspended. US embassies also issued a
security alert for Americans in Lebanon, Bahrain Kuwait and Nigeria.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that "harsh retaliation
is waiting" for the US after the airstrike, calling Soleimani the
"international face of resistance". Khamenei declared three days of public
mourning and appointed Major General Esmail Ghaani, Soleimani's deputy, to
replace him as head of the Quds Force.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the killing a "heinous crime" and
vowed his country would "take revenge". Iran twice summoned the Swiss envoy,
the first time delivering a letter to pass onto the United States.
Thousands of worshippers in the Iranian capital Tehran took to the streets
after Friday prayers to condemn the killing, waving posters of Soleimani and
chanting "Death to deceitful America".
QASEM SOLEIMANI: STRIKE WAS TO 'STOP WAR', SAYS TRUMP
President Donald Trump has said the US killed Iran's top military commander
Qasem Soleimani "to stop a war, not to start one".
He said Soleimani's "reign of terror is over" after the strike at Baghdad
airport in Iraq on Friday. Soleimani spearheaded Iran's Middle East
operations as head of the Quds Force.
Iran has vowed "severe revenge" on those responsible for his death.
The killing marks a major escalation in tensions between the two countries.
US officials have said 3,000 additional troops will be sent to the Middle
East as a precaution.
Iraqi state television says there has been another air strike in the
country, 24 hours after the killing of Soleimani. However, there has been no
comment on this from Washington.
An Iraqi army source told Reuters news agency that six people have been
killed in the fresh strike, which hit a convoy of Iraqi militia in the early
hours of Saturday morning (local time).
Speaking at a news conference at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Mr Trump
said of Friday's attack: "Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister
attacks on American diplomats and military personnel but we caught him in
the act and terminated him."
DE-ESCALATE TENSIONS, CRY WORLD LEADERS
China on Friday appealed for restraint from all sides, "especially the
United States", after top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani was killed in a
US strike in Iraq.
"China has always opposed the use of force in international relations,"
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily press
briefing. "We urge the relevant sides, especially the United States, to
remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid further escalating tensions,"
Moscow warned on Friday that the US killing of top Iranian commander would
boost tensions across the Middle East. "The killing of Soleimani.... was an
adventurist step that will increase tensions throughout the region," news
agencies RIA Novosti and TASS quoted the foreign ministry as saying.
"Soleimani served the cause of protecting Iran's national interests with
devotion. We express our sincere condolences to the Iranian people."
The US killing of a top Iranian military commander has made the world "more
dangerous", France's Europe minister said Friday, calling for efforts to
de-escalate the deepening conflict in the Middle East. "We have woken up to
a more dangerous world," Amelie de Montchalin said, maintaining President
Emmanuel Macron would consult soon with "players in the region". "In such
operations, when we can see an escalation is underway, but what we want
above all is stability and de-escalation," Montchalin said.
TURKISH JET FIRM SAYS STAFF FALSIFIED GHOSN RECORDS
A Turkish airline company whose jets were used to fly former Nissan Chairman
Carlos Ghosn from Japan to Lebanon said an employee falsified records and
that Ghosn's name did not appear on any documentation related to the
Ghosn earlier this week jumped bail in Japan and fled to Lebanon rather than
face trial on financial misconduct charges in a dramatic escape that has
confounded and embarrassed authorities.
How he was able to flee Japan, avoiding the tight surveillance he was under
while free on 1.5 billion yen (USD 14 million) bail, is still a mystery,
though Lebanese authorities have said he entered the country legally on a
French passport. Ghosn's daring escape spanned three continents. Turkey
detained seven people Thursday as part of an investigation into how he
passed through the country, and they were appearing in court Friday.
UAE EXTENDS $200M AID TO PAKISTAN FOR ECONOMIC PROJECTS
The United Arab Emirates has extended USD 200 million aid to Pakistan for
the development of the small and medium-sized enterprises in the country,
Finance Adviser to Prime Minister Imran Khan has said.
The announcement came after Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed
Al Nahyan concluded his one-day visit to the country on Thursday.
The adviser, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, on Thursday said "the money will be spent
on small business promotion and jobs. This support is testimony to the
expanding economic relations and friendship between our countries."
The Crown Prince directed the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development to
allocate USD 200 million in order to assist the Pakistani government's
efforts to create a stable and balanced national economy that will help
achieve the country's sustainable development, Dawn News reported on Friday.
During the visit, the prince met Prime Minister Khan and held talks on
bilateral, regional and international issues.
The UAE is Pakistan's largest trading partner in the Middle East and a major
source of investments. The UAE is also among Pakistan's prime development
partners in education, health and energy sectors.
It hosts more than 1.6 million expatriate Pakistani community, which
contributes remittances of around USD 4.5 billion annually to the GDP.
This is the Crown Prince's second visit to Pakistan since Khan took office
in August 2018.
SRI LANKAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES TO CURB MINORITY
Sri Lanka's new president on Friday endorsed amending the constitution to
reduce the power of minority political parties, saying the country wasn't
suited to a system that creates unstable governments "constantly under the
influence of extremism".
In a speech after he presided over the start of a new Parliament session,
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said a majority of the voters who elected him
in last November's presidential election rejected "political agendas founded
on race" and proved "it is no longer possible for anyone to manipulate and
control the politics of this country by playing the role of kingmaker.
"Even though elections can be won through numbers, an unstable Parliament
that cannot take clear decisions and remains constantly under the influence
of extremism is not one that suits the country."
Voting patterns during the election showed a clear divide between the
majority Buddhist Sinhalese and minority Tamils and Muslims. A vast majority
of Sinhalese voted for Rajapaksa, while minorities overwhelmingly voted for
his main opponent, Sajith Premadasa.
He pledged to respect the aspirations of the majority by protecting the
unity of the country and Buddhism while ensuring people had the right to
practice the religion of their choice.
Sri Lanka has a proportional representative electoral system where parties
with a smaller support base could also return lawmakers with a minimum vote
percentage. Minority politicians say the system had given them reasonable
representation and help stem any anti-minority move in Parliament.
Rajapaksa said that the constitution has many "confusions" and changes are
needed. He said a strong presidency, parliament and judiciary needs to be
created through constitutional changes.
'WORLD'S LARGEST' FLOWER BLOOMS IN INDONESIA
Padang: Indonesian conservationists say they've spotted the biggest specimen
ever of what's already been billed as one of the world's largest flowers.
The giant Rafflesia tuan-mudae - a fleshy red flower with white blister-like
spots on its enormous petals - came in at a whopping 111 cm (3.6 foot) in
diameter. That's bigger than the previous record of 107 cm on a bloom also
found in the jungles of West Sumatra several years ago.