United Nations, Sept 26 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump got some laughter when he addressed world leaders on Tuesday. It wasn't intentional.
The president was highlighting U.S. gains under his watch as he opened his address to the U.N. General Assembly. He said the American economy was "booming like never before" and that his administration has accomplished more in less than two years than almost any other administration.
His boast elicited laughter from the scores of heads of state and delegates in the audience for the speech.
Trump, who has long claimed that his predecessors' weak leadership prompted other nations "to laugh" at the US. appeared flustered and responded, "I didn't expect that reaction, but that's OK."
Later, as he was leaving the U.N., he told reporters that he had meant to be funny.
"Oh it was great, well, that was meant to get some laughter, so it was great," he said.
In his speech, Trump said the U.S. is a "stronger, safer and richer country" than when he took office in January 2017. He said "we are standing up for America and for the American people, and we are also standing up for the world."
A little further into his speech, German diplomats appeared bemused by Trump's latest swipe at their country as he reiterated his criticism of Germany's planned undersea gas pipeline from Russia.
After the president's warning that "Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course," cameras showed German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas gently shaking his head, while senior diplomats smiled.
Some in the audience also grumbled during Trump's remarks when he said "we reject the ideology" of globalism. When Trump criticized socialism, a member of the Swedish delegation frowned with disapproval.
Washington, Sept 25(AP/UNB) — The Trump administration on Tuesday slapped financial sanctions on four members of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's inner circle, including his wife and the nation's vice president, on allegations of corruption.
As part of the actions, the U.S. barred Americans from doing business with and will seize any financial assets in the U.S. belonging to First Lady Cilia Flores, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez and Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino.
"We are continuing to designate loyalists who enable Maduro to solidify his hold on the military and the government while the Venezuelan people suffer," Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement. "Treasury will continue to impose a financial toll on those responsible for Venezuela's tragic decline, and the networks and front-men they use to mask their illicit wealth."
Over the past two years the Trump administration has sanctioned dozens of individuals, including Maduro himself, on allegations of corruption, drug trafficking and human rights abuses.
But until now it had spared key leaders like Delcy Rodriguez, as well as the U.S.-trained Padrino, believing they occupy seats of power and could play a key role in an eventual transition.
David Smilde, a Tulane University professor who has spent more than two decades living and working in Venezuela, said Tuesday's actions would seem to suggest the U.S. has given up trying to sow division within the government in the hopes it could force a democratic transition from within.
"This clearly breaks from that strategy, said Smilde. "If everyone is sanctioned then it could end up uniting the government."
Trump, arriving at the United Nations General Assembly before his speech Tuesday, said Venezuela is "a very sad case and we want to see it fixed. What's happening there is a human tragedy."
But beyond rallying Maduro's opponents, it's unclear what impact the sanctions will have.
For over a year, top U.S. officials have struggled to build support for more sweeping oil sanctions, facing resistance from energy companies still active in the country and fearing it could tip the OPEC nation over the edge at a time of hyperinflation and widespread food and medicine shortages.
As part of the actions announced Tuesday, the Treasury Department also seized a $20 million private jet belonging to an alleged front man for powerful socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello.
London, Sept 25 (AP/UNB) — Britain's main opposition Labour Party announced Tuesday it will reject Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May's proposed divorce deal with the European Union when it comes to a vote in Parliament and might support a new Brexit referendum.
One official said May's government was offering the country a choice between "really bad and even worse."
If Britain and the EU agree on a deal, it must be approved by individual EU nations before Britain leaves. In the U.K. that means a vote by lawmakers. The math on that vote looks ominous for May's government, however, because it lacks an overall majority.
Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer told Labour's annual conference that the party would vote against a Brexit deal along the lines that May is proposing because it does not meet "six tests" it has set, including protecting workers' rights and retaining access to European markets.
"We do not accept that the choice is between whatever the prime minister manages to cobble together and no deal ... between 'really bad' and 'even worse,'" Starmer said.
Starmer said if the British Parliament rejected the deal there should be a new election on Brexit.
"If that is not possible, we must have other options," he said. "Our options must include campaigning for a public vote — and nobody is ruling out 'remain' as an option."
Starmer's suggestion that a new referendum could reverse Britain's 2016 decision to leave the EU — which was not in the advanced printed text of his speech — drew a standing ovation from many delegates in the conference hall.
Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has long opposed the idea of a new Brexit referendum, saying the party must respect voters' decision to leave.
Most of the party's half a million members voted in 2016 to remain in the EU, but many of its 257 lawmakers represent areas that supported Brexit. Brendan Chilton of the pro-Brexit group Labour Leave argues that the party would "hemorrhage votes" if it tried to stop Britain from leaving the 28-nation bloc.
But with Britain due to leave EU in six months, on March 29, and negotiations at an impasse, Corbyn is under intense pressure from party members to support a new public vote.
Conference delegates are expected later Tuesday to back a compromise motion leaving the option of a second Brexit referendum open but not calling for it directly.
EU leaders last week rejected the British government's blueprint for future trade ties at a fractious summit in the Austrian city of Salzburg.
May's plan seeks to keep the U.K. in the EU's vast single market for goods but not for services, in order to ensure free trade with the bloc and an open border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. But EU officials say that amounts to unacceptable "cherry-picking" of elements of membership in the bloc without accepting all the costs and responsibilities.
The Salzburg rebuff left May under siege from Brexit-supporting Conservatives, who want her to seek a looser relationship based on a bare-bones free trade agreement that would leave Britain free to strike new deals around the world.
For now, May is sticking by her plan. After a meeting of her divided Cabinet on Monday, May's Downing St. office said hers is "the only plan on the table ... and she remains confident of securing a deal with the EU."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Tuesday that time is tight. An EU summit next month is seen as a make-or-break moment for a Brexit deal.
Speaking in Berlin, Merkel said there were "six to eight weeks of very hard work in front of us in which we must take the political decisions."
"Of course, to a significant extent, this also depends on what Britain really wants — the discussion isn't so clear here," she said.
Tehran, Sept 25 (AP/UNB) — An Iranian media outlet close to the hard-line Revolutionary Guard published a video Tuesday threatening missile attacks on the capitals of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, further raising tensions after a weekend militant attack on an Iranian military parade.
The video, in a tweet by the semi-official Fars news agency that was later deleted, comes as Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed Riyadh and Abu Dhabi for the attack in the city of Ahvaz on Saturday, which killed at least 24 people and wounded over 60.
The threat amplifies the unease felt across the Persian Gulf, as Iran's economy reels in the wake of America's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and Saudi and Emirati forces are bogged down in their war against Iran-aligned rebels in Yemen.
Iranian officials on Tuesday identified the five men who carried out the parade attack, which authorities have blamed on Arab separatists. At least two of the men have appeared in a video distributed by the Islamic State group in its own claim of responsibility for the Ahvaz attack. This further complicates the process of determining who exactly was behind the assault.
The Fars video showed file footage of previous ballistic missiles launched by the Guard, then a graphic of a sniper rifle scope trained on Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The video also threatened Israel.
"The era of the hit-and-run has expired," Khamenei is heard saying in the video, a clip from an April speech by the supreme leader. "A heavy punishment is underway."
Fars did not say why it took the video down. However, it came just before President Hassan Rouhani was to address the U.N. General Assembly later in the day.
Iran has launched two ballistic missile attacks in recent years. In 2017, responding to an Islamic State attack on Tehran, the Guard fired missiles striking IS targets in Syria. Earlier this month, Iran launched a strike on a meeting of Iranian Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq.
The Guard, a paramilitary force answerable only to Khamenei, has sole control over Iran's ballistic missile program.
Under Khamenei's orders, Iran now limits its ballistic missiles to a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles), which gives Tehran the range to strike Israel, Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as regional American military bases.
The Fars video follows a long tradition of martial propaganda films across the Mideast.
Last December, a pro-Saudi computer-animated video depicted a scenario in which the kingdom launched its own missiles into Iran and later sent its troops into Tehran to the applause of cheering Iranians. Iran likewise released a video in 2016 showing Iranian forces triumphing over an American naval fleet after they shot down an airliner, a reference to the USS Vincennes downing an Iran Air flight in 1988, which killed all 290 people aboard.
Saturday's attack targeted one of many parades in Iran marking the start of the country's long 1980s war with Iraq, part of a commemoration known as "Sacred Defense Week." Militants disguised as soldiers opened fire as rows of troops marched past officials in Ahvaz.
Arab separatists in the region claimed the attack and Iranian officials have blamed them for the assault. The separatists accuse Iran's Persian-dominated government of discriminating against its ethnic Arab minority. Iran's Khuzestan province, where Ahvaz is the provincial capital, has seen recent protests over Iran's nationwide drought, as well as economic protests.
IS also claimed Saturday's attack, initially offering incorrect information about it and later publishing a video of three men it identified as the attackers. The men in the video, however, did not pledge allegiance or otherwise identify themselves as IS followers.
Iran's Intelligence Ministry on Tuesday identified the attackers as Hassan Darvishi, Javad Sari, Ahmad Mansouri, Foad Mansouri and Ayad Mansouri. It said two of them were brothers and another was their cousin.
Darvishi and Ayad Mansouri both appeared in the IS video. A third man in the video resembled either Ahmad or Foad Mansouri, but The Associated Press could not independently verify his identity.
Iranian officials have maintained that Arab separatists carried out the attack. A spokesman for an Ahvazi separatist group on Saturday also identified one of the attackers by name — Ahmad Mansouri — in an interview with AP reporters.
State TV reported late Monday that authorities have detained 22 suspects linked to the group behind the attack and confiscated ammunition and communication equipment.
The state-run IRNA news agency meanwhile dropped the death toll from the attack to at least 24 killed, noting the initial figure of 25 included one of the attackers. It said the assault wounded at least 68 people.
London (Bernama), Sept 25 (UNB) - Malaysia must punish corrupt people but the problem has not reached such a stage that the corrupt should be sentenced to life in prison, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“They (corrupt individuals) might be jailed. How long they need to be jailed depends on the extent of the corruption, and I think different levels of corruption need different punishments,” he said at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies in London on Sept 25, reports The Star.
“But we have not reached the stage of having to sentence people for life,” he added.
Dr Mahathir made the remark in response to a question on whether he supported the death penalty for corrupt leaders after he had delivered a lecture on “The Challenge of Good Governance in the Muslim World”.
Those found guilty of corruption by the courts in Malaysia would be sent to jail, he said, adding that in some countries they actually shot corrupt people.
However, this would not solve the problem, he said.
In his lecture, Dr Mahathir said Muslim countries adopting the democratic system needed to spend more time trying to understand the workings of democracy.
“If you don't understand that in a democracy the vote is powerful, then you cannot have a democratic system,” he said, adding that such Muslim countries were much more comfortable with a monarchy.
In some Muslim countries, the transition to the democratic system was disastrous, he said.
“Every time they try a democratic system, there will be fighting among themselves and the countries can be almost destroyed,” he said.
In a democratic system, he said, people chose the government and supported the government for a period of time.
However, in some Muslim countries, people could not wait for the term to end and wanted to change immediately after the election, he said.
“(It’s) time for them to respect the vote and set up a government that uses power for the betterment of the country and people,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said the democratic system somehow worked in Malaysia because while the people were loyal to their royal rulers, they also wanted a democratic system.
“We (in Malaysia) don't like violence. We don't overthrow a government. The government changes by itself,” he said, drawing laughter from the floor.
Previously, in 1996, on his maiden visit to the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Dr Mahathir delivered the memorable lecture entitled “Islam, the Misunderstood Religion”.
The centre, since its founding in 1985, has invited many leading figures to speak on matters related to the Islamic world.
At its new premises, the centre has a number of dedicated lecture spaces, including the Malaysia auditorium, to allow for further development of its programmes. – Bernama