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FRONT PAGE NEWS
26 February 2020

UNCERTAINTY GRIPS MALAYSIA AS MAHATHIR CONSIDERS NEXT MOVE

The political guessing game continues in Malaysia a day after Prime Minister
Mahathir Mohamad's abrupt resignation, prolonging the atmosphere of
uncertainty in the nation of more than 30 million people.
While Mahathir stays on as premier in an interim capacity without a cabinet,
efforts are under way on Tuesday to find the country's next leader.
Now there are questions whether the 94-year-old leader will make another
comeback, or will his would-be successor, Anwar Ibrahim, cobble enough
support from a fractious coalition to become the next prime minister.
But the possibility of a dissolution of the parliament, which paves the way
for new elections has also emerged.
Malaysia's king is holding meetings with all members of parliament on
Tuesday and Wednesday to determine who the majority wants to support and
form a new government.
"The king will be meeting all 222 MPs to find out who they support as PM.
The person who has the support of at least 112 MPs will be the most likely
one to be appointed as PM," a senior member of Mahathir's Pakatan Harapan
(Alliance of Hope) coalition explained to Al Jazeera.
In the meantime, Mahathir runs the government with the king's backing and
the help of civil servants, Kadir Jasin, Mahathir's media adviser, said.
On Tuesday, Mahathir's office confirmed that he met leaders of different
parties across Malaysia's political divide, including Anwar, as well as the
opposition.
Reuters news agency is also reporting that he is proposing to lead a "unity
government", but it is unclear which political blocs would be willing to
join such an arrangement.
On Tuesday night, UMNO, the main opposition party, has rejected a unity
government with Mahathir, adding that its members favour a dissolution of
parliament that would pave the way for a general election.

NETANYAHU VOWS SETTLER HOMES IN WEST BANK AREA

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Tuesday to build 3,500 new
settler homes in a super-sensitive area of the occupied West Bank, just a
week before a tight general election.
"I gave immediate instructions for a permit to deposit (plans) for the
construction of 3,500 units in E1," Netanyahu said. The international
community has warned repeatedly that Jewish settlement construction in the
E1 corridor would cut the West Bank in two and compromise the contiguity of
a future Palestinian state. "We are building Jerusalem and Jerusalem's
outskirts," Netanyahu said at a conference in remarks relayed by a
spokesman.
In 2013, Netanyahu had vetoed construction in the E1 corridor in the face of
UN, EU and US pressure.
The move to advance new homes, which would constitute a new neighbourhood of
Maale Adumim, a nearby settlement town, were praised by the Yesha Council, a
settler lobby group, which noted that plans for homes there have existed
since 2004. "Advancing the issue will enable broad and strategic
construction between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem," Yesha Council head David
Elhayani said in a statement.


CHINA JAILS SWEDISH BOOKSELLER FOR 10 YEARS

A court in eastern China has sentenced a Swedish seller of books that took a
skeptical look at the ruling Communist Party to 10 years in prison for
"illegally providing intelligence overseas," in a further sign of Beijing's
hard line toward its critics.
Gui Minhai first disappeared in 2015, when he was believed to have been
abducted by Chinese agents from his seaside home in Thailand. He and four
others who worked for the same Hong Kong publishing company all went missing
at around the same time, only to turn up months later in police custody in
China.
The Ningbo Intermediate People's Court announced Tuesday that it gave Gui, a
naturalised Swedish citizen, a 10-year prison sentence. Gui admitted to his
crime, agreed with the sentence and will not appeal, the court said.

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