Washington, July 21 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is returning to the Mideast at month's end to promote the administration's $50 billion economic support plan for the Palestinians that they've rejected because it ignores their political demands.
Kushner outlined the plan's ambitious investment and development goals at a Bahrain conference last month. It relies heavily on private sector investment in the West Bank, Gaza as well as Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.
The plan acknowledges its success depends on completing a long-elusive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
Trump has cut aid and political support to the Palestinians. Critics say that shows his administration's pro-Israel bias. The U.S. has also refused to endorse a two-state solution that's long been seen as the only viable path to peace.
Kushner's itinerary is being worked out.
Mexico City, July 21 (AP/UNB) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with his Mexican counterpart Marcelo Ebrard on Sunday near the end of a Latin American tour and at a key moment for U.S.-Mexico relations.
Pompeo arrived by caravan to the Foreign Relations Ministry in central Mexico City in the morning and left without making public comments, though the department released photos and soundless video of the two men shaking hands and talking at a table. The encounter was not open to journalists.
The meeting between Pompeo and Ebrard came at the halfway point of a 90-day span during which Mexico has agreed to reduce migration through its territory toward the U.S. border as part of a deal that headed off stiff tariffs on Mexican goods threatened by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Since then, Mexico has stepped up immigration enforcement, while the United States has expanded to two more border points a program sending asylum seekers back to Mexico to await the outcome of their claims.
The ministry said in a statement Sunday that Pompeo recognized that Mexico has made "significant" progress on migration enforcement.
Mexican officials say they have increased migration enforcement along the southern and northern borders, while deporting hundreds of Central Americans each week by plane. Mexico is also allowing applicants for asylum in the U.S. to await their hearings from Mexico.
Ebrard said that due to these advances, Mexico sees no need to negotiate a "third safe country" agreement with Washington that would require migrants to apply for asylum in Mexico rather than the U.S.
As the motorcade carrying Pompeo departed Sunday, a lawyer for convicted drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán jumped in front of a vehicle with a hand-painted sign that read: "Chapo's Money, No USA, Yes Mexico."
A U.S. judge ordered Guzmán to pay $12.6 billion as part of his U.S. life sentence announced Wednesday.
President Andres Manuel López Obrador said Thursday the money is Mexican, and that he will seek its return to the country by legal means, if necessary.
The driver of a black Suburban tapped Guzmán's lawyer three times with the front grill of the SUV before a Mexican official pulled the lawyer away.
Speaking to reporters, lawyer Jose Luis González said Guzmán wants his money to be distributed among Mexico's poor, rather than confiscated by the U.S. government. The lawyer is also fighting for Guzmán's extradition back to Mexico.
The ministry said that Ebrard suggested that the U.S. and Mexico work together to recover Guzmán's assets. Also, Ebrard asked for help to stem the flow of weapons trafficked into Mexico from the U.S.
Pompeo was to travel to El Salvador later Sunday and meet with President Nayib Bukele.
Bukele said last week that his country is trying to reduce irregular migration and fight crime and drug trafficking, and deserves to be considered differently than neighboring Guatemala and Honduras.
Those three countries make up Central America's so-called Northern Triangle, the source of most of a wave of migrants and asylum seekers who have sought to make it to the United States this year, fleeing violence and poverty back home.
Beirut, Jul 21 (AP/UNB) — Syrian first responders and activists say government bombing of the last rebel stronghold in the country has killed at least 11 civilians, as the nearly four-month offensive shows no sign of abating.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says six people were killed, including a child, in the government bombing of the village of Urum al-Joz in southern Idlib province. The opposition-operated Shaam news agency says those killed had been displaced from the southern tip of the rebel stronghold.
Rescue workers, known as Syria's Civil Defense or White Helmets, say three children and a woman were killed in Kfaruma, south of Urum al-Joz. A White Helmet volunteer was killed in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, the group says.
The offensive began in late April, displacing more than 300,000 people.
London, Jul 21 (AP/UNB) — British Treasury chief Philip Hammond said Sunday that he will quit if — as widely expected — Boris Johnson becomes prime minister this week on a promise to leave the European Union with or without a divorce deal.
Hammond said Johnson's vow to press for a no-deal Brexit if he can't secure a new agreement with the EU is "not something that I could ever sign up to."
Hammond was almost certain to be removed from office by the new leader in any case. He has angered Brexit-backers, who now dominate the governing Conservative Party, with his warnings about the economic pain that leaving the EU could cause.
Hammond told the BBC that if Johnson wins, "I'm not going to be sacked because I'm going to resign before we get to that point."
Johnson is the strong favorite to win a two-person runoff to lead the Conservative Party and the country. The winner is being announced Tuesday, with the victor taking over from Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday.
Britain is due to leave the EU on Oct. 31 but Parliament has repeatedly rejected the divorce deal struck between May and the bloc. Both Johnson and his rival Jeremy Hunt, the current foreign secretary, say they will leave the EU without an agreement if the EU won't renegotiate.
Most economists say quitting the 28-nation bloc without a deal would cause Britain economic turmoil. The U.K.'s official economic watchdog has forecast that a no-deal Brexit would trigger a recession, with the pound plummeting in value, borrowing soaring by 30 billion pounds ($37 billion) and the economy shrinking 2% in a year.
But Johnson, who helped lead the "leave" campaign in Britain's 2016 EU membership referendum, says a no-deal Brexit will be "vanishingly inexpensive" if the country prepares properly.
The EU insists it won't reopen the 585-page divorce deal it struck with May.
Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said Sunday that the bloc is "simply not going to move away from the Withdrawal Agreement."
"If the approach of the new British prime minister is that they're going to tear up the Withdrawal Agreement, then I think we're in trouble," he told the BBC. "We're all in trouble, quite frankly, because it's a little bit like saying: 'Either give me what I want or I'm going to burn the house down for everybody."
Hammond is the third U.K. minister within a week to quit or say they will resign in order to try to prevent a cliff-edge Brexit. Britain looks set for a fall showdown between the new Conservative government and British lawmakers determined to thwart a no-deal exit.
"I am confident that Parliament does have a way of preventing a no-deal exit on October 31 without parliamentary consent and I intend to work with others to ensure parliament uses its power to make sure that the new government can't do that," Hammond said.
Hong Kong, Jul 21 (AP/UNB) — Tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday, with some of the marchers defacing a national Chinese emblem in their latest expression of protest against mainland authorities.
After the march reached its designated end point in Hong Kong's Wan Chai district, thousands continued onward, at various points occupying key government and business districts before departing for the Liaison Office, which represents China's Communist Party-led central government within the city.
Protesters threw eggs at the building and spray-painted its surrounding surveillance cameras. China's national emblem, which adorns the front of the Liaison Office, was splattered with black ink.
Large protests began last month in the Chinese territory in opposition to a contentious extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to stand trial in mainland China, where critics say their rights would be compromised.
Hong Kong's leader, Carrie Lam, has declared the bill dead, but protesters are dissatisfied with her refusal to formally withdraw the legislation. Some are also calling for her to resign amid growing concerns about the steady erosion of civil rights in the city.
A former British colony, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 and was promised certain democratic freedoms under the framework of "one country, two systems." Fueled by anger at Lam and an enduring distrust of the Communist Party-ruled central government in Beijing, the current demonstrations have ballooned into calls for electoral reform and an investigation into alleged police brutality.
Walking in sweltering heat, protesters dressed in black kicked off Sunday's march at a public park, carrying a large banner that read "Independent Inquiry for Rule of Law."
"Free Hong Kong! Democracy now!" the protesters chanted, forming a dense procession through Hong Kong's Wan Chai district as they were joined by others who had been waiting in side streets.
"I think the government has never responded to our demands," said Karen Yu, a 52-year-old Hong Kong resident who has attended four protests since they started in early June. "No matter how much the government can do, at least it should come out and respond to us directly."
Marchers ignored orders from police to finish off the procession on a road in Wan Chai, according to police and the Civil Human Rights Front, the march's organizers.
Protesters repeated the five points of their "manifesto," which was first introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this month. Their main demands include universal suffrage — direct voting rights for all Hong Kong residents — as well as dropping charges against anti-extradition protesters, withdrawing the characterization of a clash between police and protesters as a "riot" and dissolving the Legislative Council.
Protesters read the demands aloud in both English and Cantonese in videos released Saturday.
"We did not want to embark on this path of resisting tyranny with our bare bodies," they said, "but for too long, our government has lied and deceived, and refused to respond to the demands of the people."
While the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, some confrontations between police and protesters have turned violent. In Sha Tin district last Sunday, they beat each other with umbrellas and bats inside a luxury shopping center. Demonstrators broke into the Legislative Council building on July 1 by moving past barricades and shattering windows. Meanwhile, police officers have used pepper spray, tear gas, bean bag rounds and rubber bullets to quell the crowds.
On Friday, Hong Kong police discovered a stash of a powerful homemade explosive and arrested a man in a raid on a commercial building. Materials voicing opposition to the extradition bill were found at the site, local media said, but a police spokesman said no concrete link had been established and the investigation was continuing.