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FRONT PAGE NEWS
12 October 2019

IRAN ADMITS IT SHOT DOWN PLANE IN ERROR, APOLOGISES AFTER DENIALS

Iran announced on Saturday that its military "unintentionally" shot down the
Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 aboard,
after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was
responsible.
The plane was shot down early on Wednesday, hours after Iran launched a
ballistic missile attack on two military bases housing US troops in Iraq in
retaliation for the killing of Iranian Gen Qassem Soleimani in an American
airstrike in Baghdad. No one was wounded in the attack on the bases.
A military statement carried by state media said the plane was mistaken for
a "hostile target" after it turned towards a "sensitive military centre" of
the Revolutionary Guard.
The military was at its "highest level of readiness", it said, amid the
heightened tensions with the United States. "In such a condition, because of
human error and in an unintentional way, the flight was hit," the statement
said. It apologised for the disaster and said it would upgrade its systems
to prevent future tragedies.
It also said those responsible for the strike on the plane would be
prosecuted.
Iran's acknowledgement of responsibility for the crash was likely to inflame
public sentiment against authorities after Iranians had rallied around their
leaders in the wake of Soleimani's killing.
But the vast majority of the plane victims were Iranians or
Iranian-Canadians, and the crash came just weeks after authorities quashed
nationwide protests ignited by a hike in gasoline prices.


TAIWAN LEADER WINS 2ND TERM IN REBUKE TO BEIJING

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen declared a landslide win in Saturday's
election as voters delivered a stunning rebuke of Beijing's campaign to
isolate the self-ruled island and handed its first woman leader a second
term. Ms. Tsai, 63, announced her victory as thousands of jubilant
supporters cheered and waved flags outside her party headquarters with the
ongoing vote count revealing an all but unassailable lead.
"Taiwan is showing the world how much we cherish our free, democratic way of
life and how much we cherish our nation," she told reporters.
Her main rival, Han Kuo-yu of the China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) party, had
conceded defeat shortly beforehand. Official results showed Ms. Tsai was
romping ahead with 57% - more than eight million votes - on Saturday
evening.
The Central Election Commission was still counting votes when Ms. Tsai
declared, but Mr. Han knew he could not close the gap.


QUEEN TO HOLD PRIVATE MEET WITH FAMILY TO DISCUSS PRINCE HARRY AND MEGHAN'S
DECISION TO QUIT AS 'SENIOR' ROYALS

The British Queen has reportedly called a private meeting with Prince
Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry to discuss the recent royal
developments that have unfolded since Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and
Duchess of Sussex, announced their decision last week to "step back as
'senior' members of the royal family" and work towards becoming "financially
independent."
The Royal family will attend the meeting on Monday at the queen's
Sandringham estate, a Buckingham Palace source told CNN. Meghan is also
expected to call into the meeting from Canada.
The Sussexes said last week that their decision to step back came "after
many months of reflection and internal discussions." The Duchess of Sussex
has since returned to Canada, where the couple spent the holidays with her
mother. It's unclear when Meghan will return to the UK from Canada.


MERKEL, PUTIN DISCUSS WEST ASIA AT KREMLIN

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the
Kremlin on Saturday for talks set to focus on flashpoints in the West Asian
region. Ms. Merkel and Mr. Putin shook hands at the start of the meeting
which the German leader said would cover topics, including turmoil in Libya
and the Syria conflict as well as Ukraine's war with pro-Russian
separatists.
"There is a lot to discuss," said Ms. Merkel, adding that "talking with one
another is always better than talking about one another." Mr. Putin thanked
the Chancellor for visiting and said they would focus on "the hottest"
topics.
Germany and Russia said ahead of the talks that they would cover the
confrontation between Washington and Tehran over the U.S. killing of a top
Iranian general and turmoil in Libya. The visit by Ms. Merkel was her first
to Russia since May 2018 when the leaders met at Mr. Putin's Black Sea
residence.
Mr. Putin visited Syria and Turkey this week and is keen to stress his role
as a regional powerbroker. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who
accompanied Ms. Merkel, said a "key reason" for the meeting was the
escalating crisis in Libya, where Berlin is acting as a mediator in a
conflict he has warned could become a "second Syria". Ms. Merkel is to
invite Mr. Putin to a Berlin conference on Libya later this month,
diplomatic sources told AFP. Mr. Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip
Erdogan called for a ceasefire in Libya on Wednesday, although they are seen
as supporting opposing sides in the conflict.
While Turkey has sent troops to support the UN-backed Tripoli government,
Moscow is accused of backing mercenaries supporting strongman Khalifa Haftar
in his fight against the government.


LIBYAN FORCES LOYAL TO HAFTAR ANNOUNCES CONDITIONAL CEASEFIRE: SPOKESMAN

Libya forces loyal to eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar announced on
January 11 a ceasefire starting 00:01 a.m. (03:31 IST) on January 12
conditional on acceptance by their rivals, spokesman Ahmed Mismari said in a
statement.
Turkey and Russia urged Libya's warring parties on January 8 to declare a
ceasefire on January 12 amid clashes and air strikes in a conflict drawing
increasing foreign involvement and concern.
Turkey backs Fayez al-Serraj's Tripoli-based, internationally recognised
Government of National Accord (GNA), while Russian military contractors have
been deployed alongside General Khalifa Haftar's eastern-based Libyan
National Army (LNA).


TRUMP'S BIRTHDAY GREETINGS TO KIM NOT ENOUGH TO RESTART TALKS: N. KOREA

North Korea has received birthday greetings to its leader Kim Jong-un from
U.S. President Donald Trump, but their personal relationship is not enough
for a return to talks, according to a statement published by state news
agency KCNA.
The comments on Saturday come against the backdrop of stalled
denuclearisation talks following a flurry of diplomacy between the U.S. and
North Korea in 2018 and early 2019.
While Mr. Kim could personally like Mr. Trump, he would not lead his country
on the basis of personal feelings, Kim Kye-gwan, an adviser to the North
Korean Foreign Ministry, said in the statement. "Although Chairman Kim
Jong-un has good personal feelings about President Trump, they are, in the
true sense of the word, 'personal'," he said. "We have been deceived by the
United States, being caught in the dialogue with it for over one year and a
half, and that was the lost time for us."
North Korea will not discuss proposals such as those Mr. Trump made at his
last summit with Mr. Kim in Hanoi in February 2019, the Foreign Ministry
adviser said. The North will not give up its nuclear facilities for partial
sanctions relief, and will only return to talks when the U.S. makes
concessions, he added. "The reopening of dialogue between the DPRK and the
U.S. may be possible only under the condition of the latter's absolute
agreement on the issues raised by the former, but we know well that the U.S.
is neither ready nor able to do so."
'Seoul not a mediator'
The North Korean adviser also cautioned South Korea to steer clear of ties
between the North and the U.S., saying it should not seek "to play a
mediator role".
On Friday, a South Korean official said Mr. Trump had asked the South
Koreans to pass on birthday greetings to North Korea. For South Korea to
meddle in personal relations between Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump was
"presumptuous", the North Korean adviser said, adding that the North had
already directly received from Mr. Trump a letter with the greetings.


UK AMBASSADOR TO IRAN ARRESTED: BRITISH GOVERNMENT

Iranian authorities briefly detained Britain's ambassador in Tehran on
Saturday, according to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, after he was
reportedly arrested during protests against the regime.
"The arrest of our ambassador in Tehran without grounds or explanation is a
flagrant violation of international law," Mr. Raab said in a statement after
the detention of Rob Macaire.
The minister warned Iran that it was "at a cross-roads moment", and had to
choose between "its march towards pariah status" or "take steps to
de-escalate tensions and engage in a diplomatic path forwards."
Mr. Macaire was arrested for allegedly "inciting" protesters in Tehran angry
at the military's accidental downing of a Ukranian passenger jet, killing
176 people, most of them Iranian citizens, according to the Daily Mail.
He was released after around an hour, it added.
President Hassan Rouhani said a military probe into the tragedy had found
"missiles fired due to human error" brought down the Boeing 737, calling it
an "unforgivable mistake".
The admission was an "important first step", Prime Minister Boris Johnson
said earlier Saturday.
"We will do everything we can to support the families of the four British
victims and ensure they get the answers and closure they deserve," he said
in a statement issued by his Downing Street office.


OMAN NAMES CULTURE MINISTER AS SUCCESSOR TO DECEASED SULTAN QABOOS

Oman announced Saturday culture minister Haitham bin Tariq Al Said as the
new ruler of the Gulf Arab country, ending speculation over the mystery of
who would succeed longtime ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
The announcement on Omani state television was read over footage showing
thousands gathered in the capital, Muscat, for the funeral of Sultan Qaboos
who ruled the country for 50 years and did not have any children. His choice
of successor was a closely guarded secret believed to have been known only
to the sultan.
"It is a sad day in Oman, but also represents a new beginning with a new
leader," a presenter on state TV said soberly.
Qaboos, the Middle East's longest-ruling monarch, came to power when he
deposed his father in a 1970 palace coup. He was known internationally for
his diplomatic balancing in the Persian Gulf. Under his leadership, Oman
often served as a facilitator of talks between adversaries, including Iran
and the U.S.
The new sultan vowed in an address carried on Omani state TV to continue the
foreign policy approach of Qaboos, one that he said is based on peaceful
coexistence between nations and on non-interference.

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