Manila, Sep 4 (AP/UNB) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has voided an amnesty given to a former rebel military officer and ordered the arrest of the man who as a senator has been one of the president's fiercest critics.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV spoke Tuesday in the Senate to condemn Duterte's move against him as illegal and draconian but added he won't resist arrest.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Duterte signed a proclamation last week voiding the 2011 amnesty because Trillanes failed to comply with all the amnesty requirements, including a clear admission of his involvement in past coup attempts.
Guevarra says law enforcers can enforce Duterte's arrest order anytime.
Tokyo, Sep 4 (AP/UNB) — High winds and heavy rain whipped the Japanese cities of Kobe and Osaka and surrounding areas Tuesday as a powerful typhoon made landfall, disrupting train service and air travel.
Typhoon Jebi was heading north across a swath of Japan's main island of Honshu toward the Sea of Japan. The storm had sustained winds of 160 kilometers per hour (100 miles per hour) with gusts to 215 kph (130 mph), the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
Japan's Kyodo News service said it was the strongest typhoon to make landfall in Japan since 1993.
In Osaka, the Universal Studios Japan theme park and U.S. Consulate were both closed. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe canceled a scheduled trip to Kyushu, Japan's southernmost main island, to oversee the government's response to the typhoon, Kyodo said.
The typhoon first made landfall on the island of Shikoku and then again near Kobe on Honshu. Television footage showed fallen tree branches and high seas overflowing onto low-lying areas.
More than 700 flights have been canceled, according to Japanese media tallies. High-speed bullet train service was suspended from Tokyo west to Hiroshima.
Tokyo escaped relatively unscathed, with some intermittent squalls.
Kabul, Sep 4 (AP/UNB) — At least six police officers were killed by insurgents in two separate attacks on checkpoints in Afghanistan's northwestern Badghis and eastern Paktia provinces, provincial officials said.
Jamshid Shahabi, provincial governor's spokesman in Badghis, said two police officers were killed and four others wounded in Tuesday's attack near Qala-i-Now, the provincial capital.
Shahabi said 11 insurgents were killed and 16 others wounded in the gun battle with police.
Three police vehicles were also burned by the insurgents, but police said they were able to regain control of the area.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Taliban insurgents are active in the province and often launch attacks against security forces.
In eastern Paktia province, Taliban launched a massive attack on Janikhail district police headquarters killing four officers, said Sardar Wali Tabasim, spokesman for the provincial police chief.
Tabasim said six other police were wounded in Monday night's attack by insurgents.
Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack. In a statement, he claimed that fighters took control of the entire district.
Tabasim denied that: "Afghan security forces are in control of the district and the Taliban's attack was repelled," he said. More than 20 insurgents were killed during the gun battle, Tabasim said.
Eastern Paktia province borders Pakistan and often insurgents cross the border to launch attacks in different districts.
Damascus, Sep 03 (AP/UNB) — Iran's foreign minister said at the start of a visit to Damascus on Monday that "terrorists must be purged" from Syria's Idlib and the entire northwestern province returned to government control.
Mohammad Javad Zarif's comments in Damascus were reported by Iran's semi-official Fars news agency and came as Syrian forces and their allies are preparing for an assault on Idlib, the last opposition stronghold in the country.
"Syria's territorial integrity should be safeguarded and all tribes and groups, as one society, should start the reconstruction process, and the refugees should return to their homes," Zarif said.
He met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, who is just back from a visit to Moscow. The visit comes days before the leaders of Iran, Turkey, and Russia are expected to meet in Iran to discuss the situation in Idlib.
During their meeting Assad and Zarif discussed the agenda of the summit in Iran. A statement from Assad's office said Iran and Syria "had similar views on the different issues" to be discussed. It provided no further details.
Zarif said it was necessary to consult "with our Syrian friends" ahead of the Sept. 7 summit, according to Fars.
Iran has lent crucial military and economic support to Assad throughout the seven-year civil war and the discussions are expected to focus on the decisive battle for Idlib.
Assad has vowed to defeat the opposition in its last refuge in the northwestern province if the rebels do not surrender to government rule.
Idlib and the surrounding area is home to some 3 million people — nearly half of them already displaced more than once by the civil war. Tens of thousands of people fled to Idlib after surrendering in government offensives elsewhere, choosing to relocate to an opposition-held area rather than risk reprisals or forced conscription at the hands of the government.
U.N. officials believe an offensive on Idlib would trigger a wave of displacement that could uproot an estimated 800,000 people and discourage refugees from returning home.
Thousands of government troops and allied fighters have been massing in areas surrounding the province.
In their meeting Monday, Assad and Zarif also discussed what they called "western pressure" on their two countries, in apparent reference to the U.S. sanctions on Iran and calls for limiting Iran's role in Syria. Israel has grown nervous of Iran's growing presence in Syria and threatened to prevent a build-up of pro-Iranian forces near its frontiers with Syria.
Russia, another Syria ally, and Damascus have also said that western countries are preparing to carry out strikes against Syria ahead of the Idlib offensive. They claim such threats were part of the west's attempt to undermine Syria's drive to restore control over all its territories.
The U.S. and France have warned an Idlib offensive would trigger a humanitarian crisis and warned that a chemical attack in Idlib would prompt a western retaliation.
In the statement from the Syrian President's office, Assad and Zarif said that resorting to "threats and pressure reflect the failure of those countries to realize their plans for the region after Syria and Iran confronted them."
Baghdad, Sep 03 (AP/UNB) — Iraq's newly-elected parliament held its first session on Monday as two blocs, both claiming to hold the most seats, vied for the right to form a new government.
The session opened with a prayer and an orchestral performance of the national anthem, as lawmakers convened for the first time since national elections were held in May.
The new parliament faces the twin tasks of rebuilding the north of the country following the war against the Islamic State group and rehabilitating services in the south, where severe water and electricity shortages have fueled protests.
"We must focus in the next stage on reconstruction, services, and providing jobs. It is the time for economic reforms and expanding our security achievements," said caretaker Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in an address to parliament.
Al-Abadi, who came to power in 2014, oversaw the war on IS after the extremists seized Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, and close to one-third of Iraqi territory.
Al-Abadi declared victory last year, but the militants continue to raid, kidnap, and murder Iraqis in lawless and underserved regions in the west and center of the country.
Lawmakers must now select a parliament speaker before electing a president, a largely ceremonial post. The president then appoints a prime minister, nominated by the largest bloc in parliament, to form a government.
Two blocs are claiming the right to name the prime minister.
A coalition led by al-Abadi and populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has the support of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, while an alliance between former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and militia leader Hadi al-Amiri has the backing of Iran.
Both alliances are dominated by Shiites, who have held the preponderance of power in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's ouster in 2003. But the largest Sunni blocs are aligned with al-Abadi and al-Sadr. Iraq's two main Kurdish parties have not taken a side.
By custom, the prime minister's post is reserved for Shiites, the speaker's post for Sunnis, and the presidency for Kurds.
On Monday, the al-Maliki bloc presented a statement with 150 signatories from the 329-member Parliament saying they had formed the largest grouping in the legislative body.
The al-Abadi bloc attested in a document to the legislative body that it had more than 160 members in its caucus, though their statement contained only a handful of signatories.
Lawmaker Qateh al-Rukabi said the matter would likely be taken to Iraq's highest court for a ruling.
Al-Maliki is said to be trying to woo lawmakers from al-Abadi's bloc. Al-Maliki and al-Abadi are both leading members of the Islamic Dawa party, which remains divided over the longstanding rivalry between the two men.
Mohamad Ali Zeini, parliament's oldest lawmaker and its caretaker speaker, adjourned the session until Tuesday to allow members time to choose a speaker.
He told The Associated Press he was doubtful a quorum would be achieved Tuesday as Sunni lawmakers were divided between 6 nominees.