World Newsletter

27 January 2020


Three rockets slammed into the U.S. Embassy in Iraq's capital on Sunday in
the first direct hit reported after months of close calls, as thousands kept
up anti-government sit-ins across the country.
The attack marked a dangerous escalation in the spree of rocket attacks in
recent months that have targeted the embassy or Iraqi military bases where
American troops are deployed.
None of the attacks has been claimed but Washington has repeatedly blamed
Iran-backed military factions in Iraq. On Sunday, one rocket hit an embassy
cafeteria at dinner time while two others landed nearby, a security source
told AFP. The US embassy did not immediately respond to requests for
comment, but a statement by Iraqi security forces earlier in the evening
said there were no casualties. However, at least one person has been wounded
in the attack, a senior Iraqi official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The attack took place earlier in the day than usual, with AFP reporters
hearing the booms on the western bank of the river Tigris at precisely 7:30
pm (1630 GMT). Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi and Speaker of
Parliament Mohammed Halbusi both condemned the incident, saying it risked
dragging their homeland into war.
The United States called on Iraq to protect American diplomatic facilities
after the US embassy in Baghdad was hit by three rockets.


Donald Trump demanded the dismissal of Marie Yovanovitch, the Ambassador to
Ukraine and a key figure in the President's impeachment trial, according to
a video recording released to U.S. media on Saturday.
The footage was reportedly taken during an April 2018 donor dinner at a
hotel and released to news outlets by an attorney for Lev Parnas, an
indicted associate of Mr. Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Mr. Parnas and his business partner Igor Fruman are key players in Mr.
Trump's alleged campaign to pressure the government of Ukraine to dig up
dirt on Joe Biden, a potential election opponent for the President.
The issue is central to Mr. Trump's ongoing impeachment trial in the U.S.
His order to fire the Ambassador came after Mr. Parnas told him that Ms.
Yovanovich was an impediment, and claiming that she had privately disparaged
the President. "Get rid of her!" Mr. Trump says on the tape, reportedly
addressing a White House aide at the dining table. "Get her out tomorrow. I
don't care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it."
Images taken at an awkward angle appear at the start of the one hour,
23-minute long video. The rest of the recording shows a tan background, as
if the camera were covered, but Mr. Trump's distinctive voice is clear.


The number of people killed in China by the coronavirus has risen to 80,
with almost 3,000 confirmed ill.
The national new year holiday has been extended by three days to Sunday, in
an attempt to contain the outbreak.
Wuhan in Hubei, the source of the outbreak, is in lockdown and several
cities have imposed travel bans.
Health commission officials said on Monday that the number of deaths in
Hubei province had climbed from 56 to 76, with four deaths elsewhere.
The overall number of confirmed cases in China is 2,744. State media say
more than 300 are critically ill.
More than half a million medical staff have joined prevention, control and
treatment operations in Hubei.
Two new makeshift hospitals with at least two-thousand beds are being built
and factories are rushing to produce masks and protective clothing.
On the weekend, Chinese officials warned the virus was able to spread during
its incubation period, making it harder to contain the illness.
In humans, the incubation period - during which a person has the disease,
but no symptoms - ranges from between one and 14 days, officials believe.


The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which has triggered a set of domino
protests across the country and led to 26 deaths, will be taken up for
debate in the European Parliament next week. The European Parliament will
also vote on a draft resolution, which states the law will "create the
largest statelessness crisis in the world," PTI reported.
The resolution was tabled by the European United Left/ Nordic Green Left
(GUE/NGL) Group in the Parliament. It will be taken up for discussion next
week on Wednesday and voted on the day after.
"The CAA marks a dangerous shift in the way citizenship will be determined
in India and is set to create the largest statelessness crisis in the world
and cause immense human suffering," the resolution says.
The MEA has maintained that the law "does not seek to strip anybody of
citizenship" and that the CAA "does not alter the basic structure of the
The resolution makes a reference to the United Nations Charter, Article 15
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the India-EU
Strategic Partnership Joint Action Plan signed in November 2005, and to the
EU-India Thematic Dialogue on Human Rights.
The draft, which has been characterised under the "Relations with Asian
countries" section, urges Indian authorities to "engage constructively" with
those protesting against the CAA and consider their demands to repeal the
"discriminatory" Citizenship law.


The United States will not lift sanctions on Iran in order to negotiate,
U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted late on Saturday, seemingly in response
to a Der Spiegel interview with Iran's Foreign Minister.
"Iranian Foreign Minister says Iran wants to negotiate with The United
States, but wants sanctions removed. @FoxNews @OANN No Thanks!" Mr. Trump
tweeted in English on Saturday and later in Farsi.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded on Sunday by tweeting
an excerpt from the interview with German magazine Der Spiegel published on
Friday, where he said Iran is still open to negotiations with U.S. if
sanctions are lifted.
"@realdonaldtrump is better advised to base his foreign policy comments &
decisions on facts, rather than @FoxNews headlines or his Farsi
translators," Mr. Zarif said in the tweet with the interview excerpt.


Palestinian officials threatened on Sunday to withdraw from key provisions
of the Oslo Accords, which define relations with Israel, if U.S. President
Donald Trump announces his Middle East peace plan next week.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told AFP that the Palestine
Liberation Organisation reserved the right "to withdraw from the interim
agreement" if Mr. Trump unveils his plan.
Mr. Trump's initiative will turn Israel's "temporary occupation (of
Palestinian territory) into a permanent occupation", Mr. Erekat said.
The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, signed in Washington in 1995,
sought to put into practice the first Oslo peace deal agreed two years
Sometimes called Oslo II, the interim agreement set out the scope of
Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza.
The interim pact was only supposed to last five years while a permanent
agreement was finalised but it has tacitly been rolled over for more than
two decades.
Mr. Erekat's comment came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was
headed to Washington, where he will meet Mr. Trump at the White House on
Monday and Tuesday to discuss the project.
"It's a great plan. It's a plan that really would work," Mr. Trump had said.
The Palestinian leadership was not invited and has already rejected Mr.
Trump's initiative amid tense relations with the U.S. President over his
recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's undivided capital.


The 2020 Grammys ceremony has opened with a heartfelt tribute to basketball
player Kobe Bryant, who died on Sunday.
"Tonight is for you Kobe," declared pop star Lizzo, opening the show with
her stirring ballad Cuz I Love You.
Host Alicia Keys then dedicated the show to Bryant's memory, with an
a-capella version of It's So Hard To Say Goodbye, accompanied by Boyz II
The show is taking place at the Staples Center, where Bryant played his
entire career with the LA Lakers.
News of the star's death at the age of 41 stunned artists and performers
backstage at the arena when it broke earlier in the day.
The mood was sombre as the ceremony started, and Keys acknowledged the
atmosphere in her opening speech.
"Here we are together on music's biggest night, celebrating our artists that
do it best," she began "but, to be honest with you were all feeling crazy
sadness right now, because earlier today Los Angeles, America and the whole
wide world lost a hero.
"I know how much Kobe loved music," she added later, "so we got to make this
a celebration in his honour."

2020: REPORT

Pakistan's external affairs will remain challenging throughout 2020 which
will have serious implications for its economy, security and internal
stability, says a report published by an Islamabad-based think-tank.
The think-tank, Islamabad Policy Institute, believes that tense relations
with India would continue to consume much of Pakistan's strategic and
diplomatic bandwidth, reports Dawn news.
It, moreover, forecast that peace process in Afghanistan would in near
future continue to be marred by uncertainty.
The report tilted, "Pakistan Outlook 2020: Politics, Economy &
Security", has reviewed current trends in external environment, economy,
political stability, and security and on the basis of that made short-term
projections in these areas.
The report said that chances of limited conflict between India and Pakistan
would remain high.
It further said that navigating China-US competition will test craft of
Pakistani policy-makers in near term. This would, moreover, strain
Pakistan-US ties while complicating regional environment from Pakistan's
About ties with the US, the report said, it was a near certainty that
bilateral engagement will remain limited to the minimum agenda of
Afghanistan for foreseeable future and transactional nature of the
relationship will continue.
The report flagged developments in the Middle East as a defining challenge
for Pakistan's foreign policy.


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