Posts Tagged ‘British Prime Minister Theresa May’

Future of Iran deal may depend on European intervention

April 16, 2018

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Yemen’s Houtis launch an Iranian made ballistic missile toward Saudi Arabia. This still image taken from a video distributed by Yemen’s pro-Houthi Al Masirah television.

WASHINGTON: The future of the landmark Iran nuclear deal hangs in the balance and its survival may depend on the unlikely success of last-minute European interventions with President Donald Trump.

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French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are to visit Washington separately later this month and, barring a sudden trip by British Prime Minister Theresa May, will likely be the last foreign leaders invested in the deal to see Trump ahead of his mid-May deadline for the accord to be strengthened. Trump has vowed to withdraw from the 2015 agreement by May 12 unless US, British, French and German negotiators can agree to fix what he sees as its serious flaws.

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Iran has said US withdrawal from the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions would destroy the agreement and has threatened a range of responses, including immediately restarting nuclear activities currently barred under the deal.

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Negotiators met for a fourth time last week and made some progress but were unable to reach agreement on all points, according to US officials and outside advisers to the Trump administration familiar with the status of the talks. That potentially leaves the Iran deal’s fate to Macron, who will make a state visit to Washington on April 24, and Merkel, who pays a working visit to the US capital on April 27, these people said.

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“It’s important to them and I know they’ll raise their hopes and concerns when they travel here to the United States in the coming days,” Mike Pompeo, the CIA chief and secretary of state-designate, told lawmakers on Thursday.

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Pompeo’s testimony at his Senate confirmation hearing came a day after the negotiators met at the State Department to go over the four issues that Trump says must be addressed if he is to once again renew sanctions relief for Iran, officials said.

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Those are: Iran’s ballistic missile testing and destabilizing behavior in the region, which are not covered by the deal, along with inspections of suspected nuclear sites and so-called “sunset provisions” that gradually allow Iran to resume advanced nuclear work after several years, which are part of the agreement.

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Two senior US officials said the sides are “close to agreement” on missiles and inspections but “not there yet” on the sunset provisions.

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Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

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“Malign” Iranian activities, including its support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Houthi Shiite rebels in Yemen, were dealt with in a separate session that ended inconclusively, according to the officials, who like the outside advisers were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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The two officials and two outside advisers said the missile and inspections issues are essentially settled, but would not detail exactly what had been agreed or predict whether it would pass muster with Trump, let alone his new national security adviser John Bolton and Pompeo. Both men are Iran hawks and share the president’s disdain for the deal, which was a signature foreign policy achievement of former President Barack Obama.

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Bolton and Pompeo’s voices on Iran could be heard as senior US officials discussed Trump’s decision to launch airstrikes against Syria on Friday. In addition to punishing Syria for its apparent use of chemical weapons, the strikes were meant to send a message to Iran about its role in the country, the officials told reporters on Saturday.

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The officials and advisers said the main sticking point on the Iran deal remains the sunset provisions, with the Europeans balking at US demands for the automatic re-imposition of sanctions should Iran engage in advanced nuclear activity that would be permitted by the agreement once the restrictions expire.

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To clear the impasse, one official and one outside adviser said a compromise is being considered under which sanctions would be re-imposed if Iran did enough work to reduce the time it would need to develop a nuclear weapon to less than a year. The current deal aims to keep Iran’s so-called “breakout time” to a year. But the expiration of the sunset provisions, the first of which is in 2024, means that the breakout time could eventually drop.

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The Europeans, who along with the Iranians, have said they will not re-open the deal for negotiation, are reluctant to automatically re-impose sanctions for permitted activity, but have agreed in principle that Iran dropping below a one-year breakout time should be cause to at least consider new sanctions, according to the official and the adviser. How that breakout time is determined is still being discussed, they said.

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Given the remaining differences, US national security officials are stepping up planning for various “day after” scenarios, including how to sell a pullout as the correct step for national security, how aggressively to reimpose US sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the agreement and how to deal with Iranian and European fallout from such a step.

Associated Press

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1285431/middle-east

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British PM Theresa May orders submarines to move within missile range of Syria

April 12, 2018

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The British Royal Navy submarine HMS Astute leaving Barrow-in-Furness for sea trials on Nov 15, 2009. British Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered British Royal Navy submarines to move within missile range of Syria.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (REUTERS) – British Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered British submarines to move within missile range of Syria in readiness for strikes against the Syrian military that could begin as early as Thursday (April 12) night, the Daily Telegraph newspaper said.

Mrs May has not reached a final decision on whether Britain would join any strikes by the United States and France in response to a suspected chemical attack, but wants to be able to act swiftly, the newspaper said.

It quoted government sources as saying Britain was “doing everything necessary” to be able to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles from submarines against military targets in Syria.

Mrs May has summoned Cabinet to discuss the government’s response to the chemical weapons attack, but the BBC, citing unnamed sources, said that Britain may join the military action in Syria before parliamentary consent is received.

The BBC said that Mrs May is reluctant to ask the US to hold off on any action until she has consulted MPs.

The MPs are due to return to Parliament from their Easter recess on Monday.

Mrs May has not yet attributed the chemical weapons attack in Syria to regime forces, but has spoken of the need for action if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is found to bear responsibility.

British PM May summons ministers to discuss possible military action in Syria

April 12, 2018

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LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May summoned her senior ministers to a special cabinet meeting on Thursday to discuss joining the United States and France in possible military action against Syria after a suspected poison gas attack on civilians

U.S. President Donald Trump warned Russia on Wednesday of imminent military action in Syria, declaring that missiles “will be coming” and lambasting Moscow for standing by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia has warned the West against attacking its Syrian ally, which is also supported by Iran, and says there was no chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma.

May recalled the ministers from their Easter holiday for a special cabinet meeting in Downing Street later on Thursday to discuss Britain’s response to what she has cast as a barbaric attack that cannot go unchallenged.

The BBC said May was ready to give the go-ahead for Britain to take part in action led by the United States without seeking prior approval from parliament. Downing Street spokesmen repeatedly declined to comment on that report.

“The chemical weapons attack that took place on Saturday in Douma in Syria was a shocking and barbaric act,” May told reporters on Wednesday. “All the indications are that the Syrian regime was responsible.”

The Daily Telegraph newspaper said May had ordered British submarines to move within missile range of Syria in readiness for strikes against the Syrian military.

 HMS Vanguard (Image: Ministry of Defence)

May is not obliged to win parliament’s approval, but a non-binding constitutional convention to do so has been established since a 2003 vote on joining the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. It has been observed in subsequent military deployments in Libya and Iraq.

Britain has been launching air strikes in Syria from its military base in Cyprus, but only against targets linked to the Islamic State militant group.

Parliament voted down British military action against Assad’s government in 2013, in an embarrassment for May’s predecessor, David Cameron. That then deterred the U.S. administration of Barack Obama from similar action.

Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Andrew Roche

Allies Mull Joint Military Attack on Syria — Can Syria’s chemical weapons be the target? — “Could send a message of international unity about enforcing the prohibitions on chemical weapons”

April 11, 2018
Robert Burns and Josh Lederman
Associated Press

Trump administration officials consulted with global allies Tuesday on a possible joint military response to Syria’s alleged poison gas attack, as President Donald Trump canceled a foreign trip in order to manage a crisis that is testing his vow to stand up to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Trump spoke with other world leaders, and other U.S. officials said the U.S., France and Britain were in extensive consultations about launching a military strike as early as the end of this week. None of the three countries’ leaders had made a firm decision, according to the officials, who were not authorized to discuss military planning by name.

A joint military operation, possibly with France rather than the U.S. in the lead, could send a message of international unity about enforcing the prohibitions on chemical weapons and counter Syria’s political and military support from Russia and Iran.

 

President Emmanuel Macron said France, the U.S. and Britain will decide how to respond in the coming days. He called for a “strong and joint response” to the attack in the Syrian town of Douma on Saturday, which Syrian activists and rescuers say killed 40 people. The Syrian government denies responsibility.

The French president does not need parliamentary permission to launch a military operation. France is already involved in the U.S.-led coalition created in 2014 to fight the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. Multiple IS attacks have targeted French soil, including one last month.

Trump suggested Monday he had little doubt that Syrian government forces were to blame for what he said was a chemical attack, but neither he nor other administration officials have produced hard evidence. Officials suggested such evidence was lacking, or at least not yet at hand. This is in contrast to an incident one year ago in which U.S. intelligence agencies had video and other evidence of certain aspects of the actual attack, which involved the use of Sarin gas. Trump responded by launching Navy cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield.

One official said the U.S., France and Britain were considering military options that would be more extensive than the punitive, one-day strike last April. That strike did not appear to have had the desired effect of deterring Assad from further use of chemical agents. So the three countries are discussing a range of options, including preventing Assad from conducting future attacks by striking military capabilities involved in carrying out such attack, the official said.

Asked whether France would take military action, Macron said his country will continue discussing technical and strategic information with U.S. and British allies and “in the coming days we will announce our decision.” He said any action would “target chemical weapons” stocks. Under a 2013 agreement for which Russia was a guarantor, Syria was to have eliminated all its chemical weapons, but it has used chlorine and perhaps other chemicals since then.

Trump spoke by phone with British Prime Minister Theresa May. A British government statement said the two agreed the attack in Syria was “utterly reprehensible” and that the international community must respond “to uphold the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.” Trump met at the White House with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who told reporters that he and Trump “see eye to eye” on the Syria problem.

“We cannot tolerate with a war criminal,” the emir said, adding, “This matter should end immediately.” Qatar hosts the United States’ main air operations center for the Middle East, which would coordinate any American air attack in Syria.

A watchdog agency, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, announced that it will send “shortly” a fact-finding mission to Douma, after receiving a request from the Syrian government and its Russian backers to investigate the allegations. It was not immediately clear whether that visit would delay or avert U.S. or allied military action.

The Russian military, which has troops in Syria, said on Monday that its officers had visited the site of the alleged attack and found no evidence to back up reports of poison gas being used.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis canceled plans to travel to California this week, indicating his focus on Syria. He was expected at a White House meeting Wednesday for further consultations on Syria.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump will not attend the 8th Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, or travel to Bogota, Colombia, as planned. She said he will stay home to “oversee the American response to Syria and to monitor developments around the world.”

The president’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, urged Trump to skip the trip, an official said. This reflects a view in the White House that deeper Russian and Iranian involvement in Syria have complicated calculations about a response to any U.S. military attack, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Moscow has cautioned the U.S. not to launch a military attack.

Amid the tough talk from the White House, the U.S. military appeared to be in position to carry out any attack order. A Navy destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, got underway in the eastern Mediterranean on Monday after completing a port call in Cyprus. The guided missile destroyer is armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, the weapon of choice in a U.S. attack one year ago on an airfield in Syria following an alleged sarin gas attack on civilians.

Also, the Navy said the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier and its strike group will depart Norfolk, Virginia, on Wednesday for a regularly scheduled deployment to Europe. The Navy does not currently have a carrier in the Persian Gulf.

Associated Press writers Angela Charlton in Paris, Edith M. Lederer in New York and Jill Colvin, Ken Thomas, Catherine Lucey and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

See also:

What could the US target in Syria and how is Russia likely to react?

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/10/what-could-the-us-target-in-syria-and-how-might-russia-react

and

Trump Weighs More Robust Military Strike Against Syria

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/10/us/politics/trump-military-strike-syria.html

and

Preventing Chemical Weapons Use in Syria  (From 2012)

https://www.cfr.org/expert-brief/preventing-chemical-weapons-use-syria

and

Fears grow for fate of Syria’s chemical weapons (From 2012)

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-18483788

US believes Russia is ‘responsible’ for UK spy poisoning

March 15, 2018

The United States has told the UN Security Council that Moscow was behind a nerve agent attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England. Russia vehemently denies it was involved.

Nikki Haley

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Wednesday that Washington believes Russia is to blame for the poisoning of an ex-spy and his daughter on March 4 in southern England.

“The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom, using a military-grade nerve agent,” Haley said in New York.

Former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia are in critical condition in the hospital after being poisoned in Salisbury with what British authorities have identified as the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.

Read moreSergei Skripal case adds to West’s ‘massive trust deficit’ against Russia

US President Donald Trump had pledged support to Britain and urged Russia to cooperate, but he did not suggest Russian culpability in the attempted murders.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN reiterated Moscow’s denial of any involvement in the attack. “Russia had nothing to do with this incident,” Vassily Nebenzia said. “We have nothing to fear, nothing to hide.”

Nebenzia said British Prime Minister Theresa May was creating a “hysterical atmosphere” when she said it was “highly likely” Russia was behind the attack and demanded information from Moscow about how a Cold War nerve agent was used in England.

“We do not speak the language of ultimatums,” Nebenzia said. He called on Britain to hand over samples of the nerve agent for analysis, and provide “material proof” of “the allegedly found Russian trace.”

‘No alternative conclusion’

During Wednesday’s emergency meeting, Haley called on the UN to hold permanent council member Russia accountable.

“It must account for its actions,” she said. “If we don’t take immediate, concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used.”

Read moreRussian press slams UK , West in nerve agent attack coverage

British Deputy Ambassador Jonathan Allen appealed to Security Council members for support.

He said there was “no alternative conclusion than that the Russian state was responsible for the attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter.”

He added that Russia was in breach of the chemical weapons convention for not declaring the Novichok program. “This was a reckless and indiscriminate act that put at risk the lives of civilians.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May said this week it was “highly likely” Moscow was behind the attack. On Wednesday, May announced that the UK would expel 23 Russian diplomats after a Tuesday deadline for Moscow to provide an explanation was ignored.

nm/sms (Reuters, AFP)

http://www.dw.com/en/us-believes-russia-is-responsible-for-uk-spy-poisoning/a-42980629

Donald Tusk: “Hard border” for Ireland necessary part of Brexit

March 1, 2018

Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Council President Donald Tusk warned Britain on Thursday that its plan to leave the EU’s customs union and single market on Brexit could mean a return to a “hard border” on the island of Ireland.

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European Council President Donald Tusk with the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier

Addressing a business conference in Brussels before leaving for lunch in London with British Prime Minister Theresa May, the EU summit chair said an EU proposal on Wednesday to incorporate Northern Ireland within a “common regulatory area” with the EU was the best option to avoid border friction — but he would be asking in London if Britain could propose something better.

“Until now, no one has come up with anything wiser than that,” Tusk told the Business Europe event. “In a few hours, I will be asking London whether the UK government has another idea that will be as effective in preventing a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.”

Tusk also confirmed that he will distribute negotiating proposals next week for a future trade relationship with Britain. That will follow May’s expected announcement of her proposals on Friday.

But, Tusk warned, May’s “red lines” of leaving the single market and customs union meant that some friction in EU-UK trade would be inevitable.

“There can be no frictionless trade outside of the customs union and the single market. Friction is an inevitable side effect of Brexit, by nature,” he said.

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Samantha Koester; editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek

Asian Markets Sell Off To Start March — Tokyo sank three percent; China Lower

March 1, 2018
© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP | Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell is due to appear before lawmakers again Thursday, days after his comments spooked global markets

HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian markets saw in March with sharp losses on Thursday, extending a global sell-off on US interest rate hike fears, with energy firms taking another hit from plunging oil prices.After a couple of weeks of calm, the volatility that kicked off February has returned on worries that the strong US economy and Donald Trump’s tax cuts will lead the Federal Reserve to tighten borrowing costs more than previously thought.

The latest bout of selling came after new Fed boss Jerome Powell gave an upbeat assessment for the economic outlook as he appeared before lawmakers Tuesday. Similarly, markets went into spasms at the start of last month in reaction to a strong report on US jobs and wages growth.

Powell is due to speak on Capitol Hill again Thursday.

Adding to the unease are the relatively high valuations of stocks after a stellar 2017 and January, which saw some indexes hit record or multi-year highs.

“February finally cracked the volatility genie out of the bottle, and now the big question is: will he stay out for good?” Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial, asked in a note.

“The good news is that March kicks off two of the strongest months historically for equities, before we hit a period of seasonal weakness from May through October.”

On Wall Street, the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all ended sharply lower for a second successive day, and Asia again followed suit.

Tokyo finished the morning session 1.6 percent lower, with a stronger yen hitting exporters, while Hong Kong fell 0.4 percent, Sydney shed 0.8 percent and Singapore slipped 0.6 percent.

Wellington, Taipei, Manila and Kuala Lumpur were also well down. Shanghai was flat.

– Oil prices sink –

Among the biggest losers were petroleum-linked firms, tracking their counterparts in New York, which were hit by data showing a bigger-than-expected rise in US stockpiles. Hong Kong-listed CNOOC, PetroChina and Sinopec were all down around two percent, while Inpex in Tokyo sank three percent.

Both main contracts have been taking a hit recently as a ramp-up in US shale production offsets the effects of a key OPEC-Russia cap, while gains in the dollar against higher-yielding currencies make the commodity more expensive. Brent lost more than one percent and WTI more than two percent Wednesday.

Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA, said: “Traders are hypersensitive to crucial inventories data, especially top-side builds, given the market’s refocusing on shale production output as the US remains on course to be the world’s largest oil producer.”

On currency markets the pound continues to struggle against the dollar after falling Wednesday on worries about faltering Brexit talks.

British Prime Minister Theresa May rejected a draft EU proposal over the tricky Northern Ireland issue, while the bloc’s chief negotiator said the pace of trade talks needs to pick up to reach a deal this year.

“Brexit is going to get really ugly or it’s not going to happen,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

“First, the UK government is making a mess of the negotiations… (and) second is that the EU clearly does not want the UK to leave, is making it as difficult as possible for it to do so and has just delivered a poison pill to … May it knows she cannot swallow.

– Key figures around 0230 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.6 percent at 21,714.97 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.4 percent at 30,716.08

Shanghai – Composite: FLAT at 3,260.65

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2189 from $1.2201 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3749 from $1.3769

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 106.63 yen from 106.71 yen

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN four cents at $61.60 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 11 cents at $64.62 (new contract)

New York – DOW: DOWN 1.5 percent at 25,029.20 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.7 percent at 7,231.91 (close)

Davos: Saudi youth want to achieve ambitions ‘now’ — Foreign minister says — “Competing visions” for the future of the Middle East — one characterized by light, the other by darkness

January 25, 2018

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir addressing the World Economic Forum. (WEF)

DAVOS: Empowering young people and removing barriers to their success is key to the transformation of Saudi Arabia, the foreign minister told the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday.

Saudi youth “have hopes, they have dreams, they have ambitions — and they want it now,” Adel Al-Jubeir told the forum.

“They expect transparent government, efficient government … You have to open up the path and get out of the way. That’s how our country will rise,” he said.

“And in order to do this you have to have a fundamental transformation of your country, you have to open up areas that previously were not open: Entertainment, recreation, open up the media space, allow more public discussion, and deal with corruption in a very clear and strong manner.”

Al-Jubeir described the two “competing visions” for the future of the Middle East — one characterized by light, the other by darkness.

“The vision of darkness is sectarianism, it’s trying to restore an empire that was destroyed thousands of years ago, it’s using sectarianism and terrorism in order to interfere in the affairs of other countries so that you can promote this revolution and this imperialistic expansion,” Al-Jubeir said.

“That’s the dark vision … it’s called Iran.”

Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s minister of defense, said her country also sees “a lot of problems” with Iran. “We share many, many worries about Iran, without any question,” she said.

But von der Leyen said the 2015 agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear program was important in tackling such worries. “The Iran deal encapsulates the core problem, and therefore we think we should stick to the deal as long as Iran sticks to the deal too,” she said.

US President Donald Trump is expected to raise the need to address Iran’s mounting influence in the Middle East when he arrives in Davos this week. Trump will meet world leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and British Prime Minister Theresa May, and will deliver a speech on Friday.

During his meeting with Netanyahu, Trump will “reiterate America’s strong commitment to Israel and efforts to reduce Iran’s influence in the Middle East and ways to achieve lasting peace,” US national security adviser H.R. McMaster said.

Trump has been outspoken in his criticism of the Iranian regime, and tweeted his support for protesters during demonstrations across Iran in December and January.

The US president believes the nuclear agreement, the signature foreign policy of the Obama administration, has serious flaws, and has threatened to withdraw from the deal unless those flaws are fixed.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri was interviewed at Davos on Wednesday, where he spoke of US sanctions against the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group, which he said were not targeting the wider Lebanese economy.

“I am not worried,” he said. “The focus of the United States is Hezbollah, it’s not the Lebanese people or the Lebanese economy.”

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US officials defend trade moves as Davos braces for Trump

January 24, 2018

The Associated Press

Theresa May shakes up government in crunch year for Brexit

January 8, 2018

AFP

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© AFP / by Alice RITCHIE | British Prime Minister Theresa May is reshuffling her cabinet, a move sparked by the sacking of her deputy last month

LONDON (AFP) – British Prime Minister Theresa May began a major shake-up of her ministers on Monday as she seeks to give fresh impetus to her government in a crucial year for the Brexit negotiations.The most senior foreign, finance and Brexit ministers were expected to keep their jobs, but many others were expected to move in a reshuffle sparked by the sacking of May’s deputy last month.

Damian Green was the third minister to leave the cabinet in a space of weeks, after the defence secretary and international development minister both quit — all three following separate scandals.

“The prime minister has started a refresh of her ministerial team,” said the official Downing Street Twitter feed.

The chairman of May’s Conservative party, Patrick McLoughlin, was the first to go, telling Sky News that his time in government had been a “great privilege”.

In a chaotic start, a new chairman was announced on Twitter — only for the tweet to be almost immediately deleted. A different minister, Brandon Lewis, was then confirmed to the role.

McLoughlin had been widely tipped for the sack after last summer’s disastrous snap election, in which the Tories lost their parliamentary majority.

He also drew fire after a protester interrupted May’s speech to the party conference in October — an address that was also marred by a coughing fit and a collapsing set.

It was one of several low points in a tough year for the prime minister, who took over the helm of a divided government and country in July 2016 after the EU referendum.

The cabinet reshuffle is being viewed as a chance at a fresh start, although it also brings risks of upsetting the delicate balance of eurosceptic and pro-European ministers.

May was reportedly set to create a new “no-deal” cabinet post with responsibility to prepare for a possible break-down in the talks with the European Union.

Britain is due to leave the bloc in March 2019, and although it has reached agreement on the key separation issues, the toughest talks on the future relationship have yet to begin.

Ahead of the reshuffle announcement, Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire revealed he was stepping down for health reasons.

He has failed to bring together feuding political parties in the British province, where the devolved government collapsed almost exactly one year ago.

– Brexit talks loom –

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a leading Brexit supporter, is expected to keep his job despite challenging the prime minister’s strategy last year.

Brexit minister David Davis is also like to remain, along with Finance Minister Philip Hammond and International Trade Minister Liam Fox.

After starting the two-year Brexit process in March last year, Britain struck a deal on the financial settlement, expatriate rights and the Irish border in December.

Negotiations on a transition deal to ease the break begin this month, while talks on a post-Brexit trade agreement between Britain and the EU are set to start in March.

However, many of May’s ministers disagree on the shape of the future relationship, and she has yet to make public what she wants beyond a “deep and special partnership”.

Monday’s reshuffle was sparked by the need to replace Green, a close ally of the prime minister who was forced to quit last month over a pornography scandal.

“Damian Green’s departure before Christmas means that some changes do have to be made, and I will be making some changes,” May told the BBC on Sunday.

Reports suggest she will seek to bring a wider range of talent into the cabinet, including more women and ethnic minorities, and some younger rising stars.

May has said she intends to stay in office “as long as people want me to serve”, but last year saw numerous reports of plots to oust her — and many ministers will have their eye on a future leadership challenge.

by Alice RITCHIE