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The Latest: Kurdish official: Forces withdrawn from border

October 22, 2019 - 10:28am

A senior Syrian Kurdish official says his forces have finished withdrawing from a border area before the end of a U.S.- brokered cease-fire. Turkey had threatened to relaunch its offensive if the withdrawal was not carried out. Ankara has agreed to the specified zone but Turkish officials said they still want to clear Kurdish fighters from their entire shared border.

Mnuchin, Kushner to Attend Saudi Arabia ‘Davos in Desert’ Forum

October 22, 2019 - 10:25am

(Bloomberg) -- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jared Kushner, a White House adviser and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, plan to travel to Saudi Arabia for an annual investment forum being held next week.They plan to stop first in Israel, according to people familiar with the matter. They’re departing this weekend and will be joined by Brian Hook, a U.S. State Department special representative for Iran.The investment forum, called the Future Investment Initiative, is a the three-day confab, known as “Davos in the Desert.” Held in Riyadh Oct. 29 to 31, the meeting is set to attract some of Wall Street’s top dealmakers, as well as representatives from major institutional investors across the globe.The Treasury Department declined to comment.Mnuchin last year boycotted the investment meeting after Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by Saudi agents in Turkey. The Treasury chief still traveled to Riyadh in October 2018, meeting with Mohammed Bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince.The CIA has concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered Khashoggi’s murder, according to the Washington Post. Saudi Arabia’s reputation abroad has also taken a hit since the 2018 killing and the arrest of prominent women’s rights activists accused by authorities of undermining state security.(Updates with Khashoggi details in fifth paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at;Nick Wadhams in Washington at nwadhams@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at, Justin Blum, Joshua GalluFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Russia, Turkey hold talks on future of border region

October 22, 2019 - 10:12am

As the leaders of Russia and Turkey sought to work out the fate of the Syrian border region, the United States ran into a new hitch in getting its troops out of Syria, with neighboring Iraq's military saying Tuesday that the American forces did not have permission to stay on its territory. The Iraqi announcement seemed to contradict U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who a day earlier said the forces leaving Syria would deploy in Iraq to fight the Islamic State group. The conflicting signals underscored how the United States has stumbled from one problem to another in getting its troops out of Syria after President Donald Trump abruptly ordered their withdrawal.

7,000 Syrian refugees arrive in Iraq in 7 days: UN

October 22, 2019 - 10:09am

Over 7,100 refugees arrived in Iraq from Syria within seven days, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Tuesday, as Turkish forces targeted Kurdish regions after the U.S. withdrew troops. A majority of the people -- three out of four -- are women and children, including unaccompanied minors, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said at a press briefing in Geneva.

Johnson Threatens to Pull Deal and Seek Election: Brexit Update

October 22, 2019 - 10:04am

(Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatened to scrap his attempt to pass a Brexit deal and move straight to an election, if members of Parliament defeat him tonight and vote for another delay.The premier will find out Tuesday evening whether he has any chance of getting his deal through the U.K. Parliament -- and whether he can do it ahead of his Oct. 31 deadline.His moment of truth will come at around 7 p.m. in London, with what’s known as the Second Reading vote -- on whether Parliament agrees with the general principles of the bill. There will then be another vote immediately afterward on his proposed fast-track timetable for passing the law.Follow developments as they happen here. All times U.K.Key Developments:House of Commons now debating the so-called Second Reading of the Brexit bill -- essentially the general principle of the agreementPrime Minister said a vote for his deal will unleash a “tide” of investment into Britain and warned he will scrap the draft law and push for an election if MPs vote against his fast-track timetableCommons votes on the second reading at 7 p.m. and then immediately on the proposed fast-track timetableThe pound fell by as much as 0.5% to $1.2891Read more: Northern Irish Loyalists Warn of ‘Angry’ Backlash to Brexit DealDUP’s Wilson Attacks Johnson’s Deal (5 p.m.)Sammy Wilson of the Democratic Unionist Party tore into Boris Johnson’s Brexit agreement. “I don’t believe we should be voting for this bill tonight,” he began. His primary objection is that the deal treats Northern Ireland -- a red line for his party -- and referring to the premier’s assurances on how measures applying to the province could be temporary, said: “The prime minister thinks I can’t read the agreement.”“We will be left in an arrangement whereby EU law on all trade, goods, will be applied to Northern Ireland,” he said.House of Commons Speaker John Bercow then interrupted Wilson before he could finish and confirm he’ll be voting against the deal -- but it didn’t sound good for the government.Letwin Backs Down on Timetable (4.15 p.m.)Oliver Letwin, one of the former Conservative MPs who has been such a thorn in Boris Johnson’s side, is now trying to help. “Getting seriously worried,” he said on Twitter, arguing that it would be a disaster if the bill were pulled. Instead, he said it was “the least of the evils” to back down in the face of Johnson’s threat and accept the accelerated timetable “whatever we really think of it.”Labour MPs Propose Referendum Amendment (3:40 p.m.)Phil Wilson, a Labour MP who put his name to an amendment calling for a confirmatory public vote on any Brexit deal earlier in the year, told Bloomberg he’d proposed it again. “We have put the amendment down because we genuinely believe in 2016 people voted to leave but they didn’t vote on how to leave,” he said.Labour to Whip Against Bill, Timetable (3:25 p.m.)The opposition Labour Party will whip its members of Parliament to vote against the second reading of Boris Johnson’s Brexit bill, and also to oppose the accelerated timetable -- the so-called program motion -- the premier proposes to debate the legislation, two people familiar with the matter said.But in the chamber of the House of Commons, party leader Jeremy Corbyn suggested that rebels won’t be punished with expulsion from the party -- as Johnson did to his own Conservative rebels last months. Asked by Jim Fitzpatrick, who has repeatedly rebelled on Brexit matters, for assurance that such a punishment wouldn’t be meted out, Corbyn declined to give it, but at the same time, suggested rebels will be safe.“I believe in the powers of persuasion,” Corbyn said. “And tonight, I would like to persuade my honorable friend come with us vote against this bill and vote against the program motion.”Can Johnson Even Call An Election? (3:10 p.m.)It’s all very well for Boris Johnson to threaten an election (see 2:45 p.m.), but if it were in his power to call one, Britain would have already voted. Johnson tried twice at the start of September to get one, failing both times because under the law, two thirds of MPs have to vote for an early election for one to happen.That means that as before, Johnson would still need the opposition Labour Party’s agreement, and that’s far from certain, even though leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he’d support one if it weren’t for the risk of a no-deal Brexit.In theory, Johnson could change the law to set another election date. That would require only a simple majority -- though he doesn’t have one of those, either.Barnier to Lead New EU Task Force (3 p.m.)The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, already has his next job lined up -- even though the U.K. is still navigating its withdrawal. The European Commission on Tuesday announced Barnier as head of the EU’s new Task Force for Relations with the U.K.The task force will coordinate work on “strategic, operational, legal and financial” issues related to Brexit, according to an emailed statement from the commission. It will also “be in charge of the finalization of the Article 50 negotiations, as well as the commission’s ‘no-deal’ preparedness work and the future relationship negotiations with the U.K.”What Exactly Is Johnson’s Election Threat? (2.45 p.m.)Boris Johnson’s election threat was carefully constructed. Here is it is full:“I will in no way allow months more of this. If Parliament refuses to allow Brexit to happen and instead gets its way and decides to delay everything until January or possibly longer, in no circumstances can the government continue with this. It is with great regret bill will have to be pulled and we will have to go forward to a general election.”The “until January” part of that could be significant. Johnson was required by law to seek a delay of Brexit until Jan. 31 if he was unable to get a deal done -- but the EU isn’t obliged to offer that long. If they offered a shorter period, perhaps Johnson is hinting he wouldn’t go through with his threat to pull the bill.Practically, given the time it would take to hold an election -- at least five weeks -- and the uncertainty around the outcome, it would be risky for the EU to offer a shorter delay. In that scenario, the U.K. could easily find itself on a course out of the door without a functioning government at all.Johnson Threatens Election If MPs Block Timetable (2:26 p.m.)Boris Johnson confirmed earlier reports he will indeed pull his Brexit bill if MPs reject the government’s accelerated timetable this evening.When asked by the SNP’s David Linden, Johnson told MPs that if the motion proposing a fast-track timetable is voted down, “the bill will have to be pulled” and “we will have to go forward to a general election.”Kinnock Proposes Single Market Amendment (2 p.m.)Labour MP Stephen Kinnock proposed an amendment to the bill which seeks to ensure the U.K. stays aligned with the EU single market after it’s left the EU.In an interview with Bloomberg, Kinnock said businesses have raised concerns that the EU would never do a free trade deal with a country that had diverged from its rules and regulations to become “Singapore on Thames.”The amendment proposes the government will work toward close alignment with the single market, “dynamic” rights and protections for workers and the environment, and to participate in EU agencies.Kinnock said the amendment has been proposed for debate and potentially voting on Tuesday or Wednesday.PM ‘Will Ditch Bill’ if Defeated on Timetable (1:45 p.m.)The prime minister may have the votes to get his deal approved but faces a major battle to convince MPs to rush the law through Parliament in just a few days. If they refuse his request for a speedy timetable, Johnson has little chance of meeting his goal of getting Brexit done by Oct. 31.The premier’s team hit back, with one senior government official in Johnson’s office saying he will abandon the bill entirely if he loses the vote on the fast-track timetable motion on Tuesday.The official said the prime minister will ditch the bill if Parliament votes again for a delay and the EU offers an extension to the Brexit deadline to Jan. 31. The official said the government will pull the Bill, there will be no further business for Parliament, and the Johnson will move to trigger an election before Christmas.The official’s comments may put more pressure on MPs to agree to the accelerated timetable ahead of the vote. The pound fell by as much as 0.5% to $1.2891, a fresh low for the day.Johnson: Back Brexit Deal to ‘Heal’ Britain (1:30 p.m.)Johnson opened the debate in Parliament on his deal, calling on MPs of all parties to back his Withdrawal Agreement Bill so that voters can focus on domestic priorities instead of Brexit.Passing the bill later Tuesday will allow the nation to “turn the page and allow this parliament and this country to heal,” Johnson said. A vote to support the new Brexit agreement would provide a “shot in the arm” for the British economy and unleash a “tide” of investment, he said. The premier was replying to a question on why the government hasn’t provided economic impact assessments of his deal.Johnson to Make Case for Fast Timetable (1 p.m.)Boris Johnson will be making the case for a three-day timetable for his Brexit bill to pass through the House of Commons when he opens the debate shortly, according to a U.K. official, though the prime minister won’t say what he’ll do if MPs vote against the accelerated schedule.But precedent suggests the bill could be pulled. According to the official, since so-called program motions were introduced in the 1980s, there is only a single example -- in 2011 -- of one being voted down. That bill was withdrawn, the official said.Johnson to Open Debate on Brexit Bill (12:30 p.m.)Prime Minister Boris Johnson will open the main debate on his Brexit legislation in the House of Commons, his spokesman told reporters, with Justice Secretary Robert Buckland making closing remarks at about 6:30 p.m.Voting down the timetable -- known as the program motion -- for the three-day passage of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through the House of Commons would have “serious implications,” spokesman James Slack said, declining to say what the government plans to do in that scenario, including whether the Brexit bill would be pulled.“If the program motion is passed, we have a clear path to leave on Oct. 31,” Slack said. “If it’s not passed, there’s no guarantee the EU will grant an extension.”Brexit May Tie N. Ireland to EU Forever: Judge (12:25 p.m.)Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal could permanently bind Northern Ireland to European Union law, according to an Irish judge at the bloc’s second-highest court, who suggested the accord may eventually bring the people of the island of Ireland together.Johnson’s agreement would have “very long-term consequences for the continued separation of Northern Ireland from Ireland,” Judge Anthony Collins said at an event in Brussels late Monday. That’s because EU law and practice would continue to be applied, which will aid the economic development of the region, he said.Boles Proposes Amendment to Extend Transition (11:15 a.m.)Former Conservative MP Nick Boles, who now sits as an independent in Parliament, has proposed an amendment that would force the government to seek an extension of the Brexit transition period to Dec. 2022 if it hasn’t agreed a trade deal with the European Union by the deadline at the end of next year.The amendment reflects unease among MPs that the government’s legislation creates a potential new cliff edge in Dec. 2020, when the U.K. could still face trading on no-deal terms with the EU if the government doesn’t reach a trade agreement. Labour’s Hilary Benn said on Twitter the draft law gives Parliament no say if the government doesn’t propose an extension -- and Boles’s amendment seeks to address that.Labour Party ‘Outraged’ at Government’s Timetable (11 a.m.)The main opposition’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Emily Thornberry said the Labour Party is “outraged” at the government’s accelerated timetable for debating its Brexit bill, but stopped short of saying the party would oppose what it sees as an “artificial” deadline. She told the BBC a decision would be made at a shadow cabinet meeting later on how to vote on Tuesday.Government Hints It Will Pull Bill If MPs Amend It (8.30 a.m.)Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC radio the government will not accept any amendments to the Brexit bill that “compromise the integrity of the deal we have secured from the EU,” implying the government will pull the bill altogether and seek a general election if MPs change Johnson’s legislation to include a second referendum or to keep the U.K. in the EU’s customs union.Labour has repeatedly voted down Johnson’s attempts for a general election, arguing an extension must be agreed with the European Union first.Juncker Expresses Brexit Regret (8:25 a.m.)For the European Union, Brexit has been a “waste of time and a waste of energy” when the bloc should have been doing other things, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.Standing with EU Council President Donald Tusk before the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Juncker said the EU has done all in its power to prevent a no-deal Brexit. He reiterated that the European Parliament -- which has a veto over the Brexit deal -- would only be able to ratify the deal after the British Parliament. That’s a potential spanner in the works when it comes to Boris Johnson’s ambition to leave the bloc on Oct. 31.EU’s Tusk Still Consulting on Delay (8:20 a.m.)EU Council President Donald Tusk said the situation on Brexit is complicated by the events in the House of Commons on Saturday, and a delay will depend on what the U.K. Parliament “decides or doesn’t decide.” Tusk is still consulting the EU’s 27 leaders on how to respond to Boris Johnson’s extension request, he told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.MPs Have Time to Scrutinize Deal: Government (8:10 a.m.)Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News there will be “sufficient” time for members of Parliament to go over the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and that the “vast majority” know where they on Brexit.But MPs from across the House of Commons are threatening to vote against Boris Johnson’s accelerated timetable for his Brexit plan, arguing three days of debate is not enough for proper analysis of the 110-page piece of legislation.Former Conservative Cabinet minister Rory Stewart, who now sits as an independent, told BBC radio Parliament should have “normal time” to discuss the bill, highlighting concerns from voters who wish to remain in the European Union and a lack of trust in Johnson’s government.Johnson: Get Brexit Done and Move On (Earlier)On the eve of the votes, the prime minister appealed to members of Parliament to back his deal and push it through the House of Commons.“We have negotiated a new deal so that we can leave without disruption and provide a framework for a new relationship based on free trade and friendly cooperation,” Boris Johnson said in an emailed statement.“I hope Parliament today votes to take back control for itself and the British people and the country can start to focus on the cost of living, the NHS, and conserving our environment,” he said. “The public doesn’t want any more delays, neither do other European leaders and neither do I. Let’s get Brexit done on Oct. 31 and move on.”Earlier:Boris Johnson Finally Gets to Put His Brexit Deal to the VoteBrexit’s Big Winner So Far Is Boris Johnson: Clive CrookFacebook Pledges Tighter Scrutiny for Next U.K. Election\--With assistance from John Ainger, Robert Hutton, Aoife White, Stephanie Bodoni, Ian Wishart and Jessica Shankleman.To contact the reporters on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London at;Robert Hutton in London at;Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at, Stuart BiggsFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Libya armed groups ignore laws of war in Tripoli: Amnesty

October 22, 2019 - 9:52am

Amnesty International accused both sides in the fight for Libya's capital of "utter disregard" for the laws of war, in a report released Tuesday citing possible war crimes. "Warring parties in the ongoing battle for Tripoli have killed and maimed scores of civilians by launching indiscriminate attacks and using a range of inaccurate explosive weapons in populated urban areas," the rights watchdog said. The forces of east Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to take Tripoli in April, but met fierce resistance from forces loyal to the United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the capital.

UK's Johnson threatens election if MPs derail Brexit timetable

October 22, 2019 - 9:49am

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatened Tuesday to abandon ratifying his Brexit deal and instead seek an early election if MPs defy his timetable to get the agreement passed in time to leave the EU on October 31. The Conservative leader was speaking ahead of two crucial votes in the House of Commons that will determine if Johnson can fulfil his "do or die" promise to deliver Brexit at the end of next week. Britain is entering a cliffhanger finale to a drama sparked by the 2016 referendum vote on whether to leave the EU, which has plunged the country into three years of political turmoil.

Lebanon PM seeks foreign support for reforms amid protests

October 22, 2019 - 9:45am

Lebanon's embattled prime minister sought international support Tuesday for economic reforms announced a day earlier, which were intended to pacify massive protests calling for his government to resign. Saad Hariri hopes the reform package will increase foreign investments and help Lebanon's struggling economy. Lebanon's biggest demonstrations in 15 years have unified an often-divided public in their revolt against status-quo leaders who have ruled for three decades and brought the economy to the brink of disaster.

Northern Irish Loyalists Warn of ‘Angry’ Backlash to Brexit Deal

October 22, 2019 - 9:41am

(Bloomberg) -- Northern Irish loyalists vowed to resist what they see as the economic reunification of Ireland implicit in Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, warning of civil disobedience on the streets of Belfast that risks tipping over into violence.In London on Tuesday, Parliament will vote on the general principles of Johnson’s accord with the European Union, which binds Northern Ireland tightly to the bloc to avoid the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit.“You are going to have an organic explosion of anger” if Johnson’s deal is passed, Jamie Bryson, who has emerged as a de-facto spokesman for loyalists, said in an interview. “We are going to have a difficult position to prevent loyalists taking to the streets and we would hope that would be peaceful. But you are asking people to go along with surrendering their country -- it is not going to happen. It’s a very fluid situation and it wouldn’t take much to spark it off.”The Democratic Unionist Party is opposed to the deal, suggesting it weakens Northern Ireland’s place in the union. The U.K. effectively split Ireland in 1921 to placate a largely Protestant, unionist majority in the north in the face of increasingly demands from the Catholic-dominated south for independence from Britain.“If this goes ahead we are into an economic United Ireland, the whole basis of the Union is gone, it’s weakened,” Bryson said. “It is going to have to be resisted.”Still, other forces in unionism cautioned against inflaming the situation. The Orange Order, which celebrates Northern Ireland’s place in the U.K., said it’s not the time for widespread protest which could paralyze the region, Reuters reported.“There is a feeling people need to do something but I would be encouraging people that it isn’t a case for street protest at this time,” Orange Order Grand Secretary Mervyn Gibson told Reuters.Bryson said all sides want to avoid a return to violence.“There’s a danger if you get a massive amount of people on the streets,” he said. “Violence would be foolish but I can’t predict the future.”Meanwhile, in Dublin, Sinn Fein suggested a vote on a uniting Ireland could take place sooner rather than later. The U.K. government can only call a unification referendum when it considers it likely a vote would be carried. “Germany was reunified in in one year,” Michelle O’Neill, leader of the party’s Northern Irish wing, said in a speech on Tuesday. “In less than one year, and that’s something for everybody to think about. Sometimes events can over take you.” To contact the reporter on this story: Rodney Edwards in London at redwards102@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at, Dara DoyleFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Trump hints at 'incredible' trade deal with North Korea

October 22, 2019 - 9:28am

President Trump wants more than just a nuclear agreement from North Korea.Trump spent more than an hour during a Monday Cabinet meeting spinning on everything from how he "captured" ISIS to how he doesn't believe in part of the Constitution. But buried in those talks was another, lesser discussed implication: That Trump is working on a trade deal with North Korea.After railing about health care at the end of the Monday remarks, Trump snuck in an unexpected mention of international trade deals. "These trade deals are incredible," Trump said. "Whether it's North Korea, South Korea -- probably, something is going to be happening with North Korea too," he continued, and then added some more vague claims: "There's some very interesting information on North Korea. A lot of things are going on. And that's going to be a major rebuild at a certain point."Trump's North Korea suggestions were obviously light on the details, and after mentioning the "rebuild," he moved on to talk South Korea and China. So it's unclear if a deal is really in the works, or if Trump was just stumbling through the region on his way to discuss South Korea.

Egypt arrests 22 for planned protest over grisly murder case

October 22, 2019 - 9:25am

Egypt says it has arrested nearly two dozen people for allegedly trying to incite protests over a grisly murder that's shocked the country. Earlier this month, a teenage boy fatally stabbed another boy who was defending a girl from sexual harassment. The killing of Mahmoud el-Banna has stunned Egypt.

Taliban say new intra-Afghan peace talks to be held in China

October 22, 2019 - 9:22am

The Taliban say a fresh round of intra-Afghan peace talks is to be held in China next week. Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Qatar, said Tuesday that the talks are planned for Oct. 28 and 29. A day earlier, the U.S. State Department said its peace envoy started a fresh round of talks with European, NATO and U.N. allies about ending the war.

Iraq: American troops leaving Syria cannot stay in Iraq

October 22, 2019 - 9:21am

U.S. troops leaving Syria and heading to neighboring Iraq do not have permission to stay in the country, Iraq's military said Tuesday as American forces continued to pull out of northern Syria after Turkey's invasion of the border region. The statement appears to contradict U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who has said that under the current plan, all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the military would continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group to prevent its resurgence in the region.

Turkey's Halkbank could face fine for failing to appear in U.S. court: prosecutor

October 22, 2019 - 9:12am

A U.S. prosecutor on Tuesday called Turkey's Halkbank a "fugitive" after it failed to make an initial court appearance in a criminal case accusing it of conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Lockard said at a hearing in federal court in Manhattan that prosecutors had served a summons on the bank's U.S. lawyer, and that the bank was "in contempt" for not appearing. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, who is presiding over the case, said the bank would get another two weeks.

Iranian beauty queen pleads for asylum in the Philippines

October 22, 2019 - 9:11am

An Iranian beauty queen is seeking asylum in the Philippines, fearing for her life after Tehran demanded her extradition for a crime she claims she did not commit.  Bahareh Zare Bahari, who represented Iran at the 2018 Miss Intercontinental pageant in Manila, and who has studied dental medicine in the Philippines since 2014, has been held for six days at the country’s Ninoy Aquino airport after Iran slapped an Interpol Red Notice on her for alleged assault.  In a series of messages, the distraught Ms Bahari told the Telegraph that the case was a “big lie,” adding that she believed she was being targeted for her political activism and outspoken support of women’s rights. If she was deported to Iran, “they will kill me,” she said.  Markk Perete, undersecretary at the Philippine department of justice, said that “the only reason she was held at the airport -  and we really don’t call it detention -  it is really restraining her from entering the Philippine territory, is only because of that Red Notice issued against her.” He added that the request had been made “presumably on account of a pending criminal case against her in Iran, and this case was filed by an Iranian national against her in relation to an assault that happened presumably here in the Philippines.” Bahareh Zare Bahari, who is studying dental medicine, is an outspoken advocate for women's rights Credit: Facebook However, Mr Perete said that the Philippines was unaware of this allegation, and that an earlier accusation of commercial fraud against her had been dismissed.  There were no criminal cases pending against Ms Bahari, he confirmed. “We don’t have any cause for refusing her entry for violation of our laws.” Ms Bahari’s asylum plea is now being considered by the justice department, with the help of a lawyer.  Meanwhile, the dental student is confined to Terminal 3’s transit area awaiting her fate. “There is no updating, no information about the reason why [they] keep me here so long,” she said.  She believes her political statement at the pageant - waving a poster of Reza Pahlavi, the exiled former crown prince, and one of the foremost critics of Iran’s Islamic government - made her enemies in Tehran.  Mr Pahlavi's name has been invoked by some Iranian groups who have called for a return of the monarchy to deal with corruption and poor economic conditions. “I used his photo on stage to be [the] voice of my people because all news and media are ignoring my people,” she said.  Human Rights Watch on Tuesday called for “a fair and impartial hearing of her claim” in Manila.  “It’s absolutely critical the Philippines provides Bahareh Zare Bahari with support, including access to legal counsel, to compile and file her asylum application,” said Phil Robertson, HRW deputy Asia director.  “While waiting for the details to become clear, there should be no action under Iran’s Interpol red notice, especially since under Interpol rules a red notice is null and void if the person named in the notice is found to be a refugee fleeing from the state that issued it.”

'America is running away': Syrian withdrawal turns chaotic

October 22, 2019 - 9:09am

The crowd hurled potatoes that thudded on the sides of the hulking U.S. armored vehicles. "What happened to Americans?" one man shouted in English up at the sole U.S. soldier visible on the back of a vehicle. It was yet another indignity in a U.S. withdrawal that has been carried out over the past two weeks with more haste and violence than expected — and which may now be partially reversed.

Hungary's Orban Gave Trump Harsh Analysis of Ukraine Before Key Meeting

October 22, 2019 - 8:57am

WASHINGTON -- Just 10 days before a key meeting on Ukraine, President Donald Trump met, over the objections of his national security adviser, with one of the former Soviet republic's most virulent critics, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, and heard a sharp assessment that bolstered his hostility toward the country, according to several people informed about the situation.Trump's conversation with Orban on May 13 exposed him to a harsh indictment of Ukraine at a time when his personal lawyer was pressing the new government in Kyiv to provide damaging information about Democrats. Trump's suspicious view of Ukraine set the stage for events that led to the impeachment inquiry against him.The visit by Orban, who is seen as an autocrat who has rolled back democracy, provoked a sharp dispute within the White House. John Bolton, then the president's national security adviser, and Fiona Hill, then the National Security Council's senior director for Eurasian and Russian affairs, opposed a White House invitation for the Hungarian leader, according to the people briefed on the matter. But they were outmaneuvered by Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, who supported such a meeting.As a result, Trump at a critical moment in the Ukraine saga sat down in the Oval Office with a European leader with a fiercely negative outlook on Ukraine that fortified opinions he had heard from his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and from President Vladimir Putin of Russia repeatedly over the months and years.Echoing Putin's view, Orban has publicly accused Ukraine of oppressing its Hungarian minority and has cast his eye on a section of Ukraine with a heavy Hungarian population. His government has accused Ukraine of being "semi-fascist" and sought to block important meetings for Ukraine with the European Union and NATO.Ten days after his meeting with Orban, Trump met on May 23 with several of his top advisers returning from the inauguration of Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The advisers, including Rick Perry, the energy secretary; Kurt D. Volker, then the special envoy for Ukraine; and Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, reassured Trump that Zelenskiy was a reformer who deserved U.S. support. But Trump expressed deep doubt, saying that Ukrainians were "terrible people" who "tried to take me down" during the 2016 presidential election.Orban's visit came up during testimony to House investigators last week by George P. Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Ukraine policy. The meeting with Orban and a separate May 3 phone call between Trump and Putin are of intense interest to House investigators seeking to piece together the back story that led to the president's pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrats.Kent testified behind closed doors that another government official had held the two episodes up to him as part of an explanation for Trump's darkening views of Zelenskiy last spring, according to a person familiar with his testimony. A third factor cited to him was Giuliani's influence.Kent did not have firsthand knowledge of either discussion, and it was not clear if the person who cited them did either. But two other people briefed on the matter said in interviews that Orban used the opportunity to disparage Ukraine with the president. The Washington Post first reported on the meeting with Orban and the call with Putin.It would not be surprising that Putin would fill Trump's ear with negative impressions of Ukraine or Zelenskiy. Putin has long denied that Ukraine even deserved to be a separate nation, and he sent undercover forces into Crimea in 2014 to set the stage to annex the Ukrainian territory. Putin's government has also armed Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, fomenting a civil war that has dragged on for five years.But allowing Orban to add his voice to that chorus set off a fight inside the West Wing. Bolton and Hill believed that Orban did not deserve the honor of an Oval Office visit, which would be seen as a huge political coup for an autocratic leader ostracized by many of his peers in Europe.Mulvaney, however, had come to respect Orban from his time as a member of Congress and his involvement with the International Catholic Legislators Network, according to an administration official close to the acting chief of staff. Orban has positioned himself as a champion of Christians in the Middle East, a position that earned him Mulvaney's admiration, the official said.Another official pushing for the Orban visit was David B. Cornstein, the United States ambassador to Hungary, who sidestepped the State Department to help set up a White House meeting, according to a person familiar with the matter. An 81-year-old jewelry magnate and longtime friend of Trump's, Cornstein told The Atlantic this year that the president envied Orban. "I can tell you, knowing the president for a good 25 or 30 years, that he would love to have the situation that Viktor Orban has, but he doesn't," Cornstein said.The Oval Office meeting with Trump took place just four days after Giuliani told The New York Times that he would travel to Ukraine to seek information that would be "very, very helpful to my client" and three days after Giuliani canceled the trip in response to the resulting criticism.In moves that have disturbed democracy advocates and many U.S. and European officials, Orban's government has targeted nongovernmental organizations, brought most of the news media under control of his allies, undermined the independent judiciary, altered the electoral process to favor his party and sought to drive out of the country an American-chartered university founded by billionaire George Soros.Orban's government has pressured Ukraine over what it says is discrimination and violence against ethnic Hungarians living in the western part of the country.Orban's efforts to undermine Ukraine in Europe drew enough concern among U.S. officials that Volker, while the State Department special envoy, visited Budapest and other places to meet with Hungarian officials to encourage them to talk with their counterparts in Kyiv to resolve their differences.Mulvaney's role in facilitating Orban's visit adds to the picture of the acting chief of staff's role in the Ukraine situation. It was Mulvaney who conveyed Trump's order suspending $391 million in U.S. assistance to Ukraine at the same time the president was trying to pressure Zelenskiy to investigate Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden.At a briefing last week, Mulvaney denied that the aid was held up to force Ukraine to investigate Biden but confirmed that one reason it was frozen was to make sure Ukraine investigated any involvement with Democrats in the 2016 presidential campaign. After a resulting furor, Mulvaney then sought to take back his comments, denying any quid pro quo.Bolton and Mulvaney also clashed when it became clear Mulvaney was facilitating Sondland's role in pressing Ukraine. "I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up," Bolton told Hill, according to her testimony to House investigators.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

EU sets up team under Barnier for post-Brexit UK ties

October 22, 2019 - 8:19am

The European Commission said Tuesday that its Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will head a new team to guide future relations with Britain after it leaves the EU. Britain is due to leave the union on October 31, but will remain in a transitional relationship for at least 14 months while Brussels and London negotiate a trade deal. Barnier's "Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom" will be a merger of his team that negotiated the withdrawal agreement and the EU's "Brexit preparedness" team.

EU team to start work on post-Brexit ties with UK on Nov 16

October 22, 2019 - 7:58am

The European Commission team in charge of negotiating the divorce deal for Britain's withdrawal from the EU will become the "Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom" and is due to start work on Nov. 16, the Commission said on Tuesday. The task force will begin its work regardless of developments in the United Kingdom, the Commission said. The task force, which will continue to be headed by the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, will finalise the divorce talks, be in charge of the Commission's preparations for a "no-deal" and the future relationship with the UK.

Johnson’s First Battle With MPs: The 2020 Trade Cliff Edge

October 22, 2019 - 7:56am

(Bloomberg) -- As Boris Johnson prepares for a knife-edge vote on his Brexit deal tonight, the big question dogging some of the waverers is: how do we stop another no-deal cliff edge a year from now?According to the bill, published late on Monday, Britain will have until 2020 to sign a trade agreement with the European Union. But if that doesn’t happen, and the two sides fail to agree to extend the transition period, the country could still crash out of the EU.The decision to extend lies in the hands of ministers rather than parliament -- something that the MPs who have thus far managed to take the Oct. 31 cliff edge off the table are desperately seeking to prevent. At the same time, that same threat might well have convinced some of the hardest Brexiteers to swing behind the Johnson deal. Lawmakers vote tonight on whether they agree with the general principles of the bill, and then on Johnson’s plan to fast-track the law through parliament. If that second vote fails, opponents to Johnson’s plan are likely to pounce.Former Conservative MP Nick Boles, who now sits as an independent in Parliament, has proposed an amendment that would force the government to seek an extension of the transition period to Dec. 2022 if it hasn’t agreed a deal with the EU by the deadline at the end of next year.Even if he succeeds in getting his Brexit deal through Parliament, Johnson may find that reaching a trade deal in less time than it took to negotiate the Withdrawal Agreement won’t be easy. EU members states all have their own axes to grind -- France, for example, wants access to British waters for its fishermen -- and may demand a high price from Johnson.To contact the reporter on this story: Edward Evans in London at eevans3@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Harris at hharris5@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.