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Stuck on US terror list, Sudan turns to wealthy Gulf for aid
By SAMY MAGDY | Wed, November 6, 2019 01:01 EST
CAIRO (AP) — Sudan’s new prime minister has repeatedly urged the West to end his country’s international pariah status. He says it’s the only way to save the nation’s fragile democratic transition from a plunging economy.
In September, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok said he was expecting a “big breakthrough” that would lead to removing Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and unlocking desperately needed foreign aid.
But so far, nothing has changed — except that Hamdok is now turning to two wealthy Gulf Arab monarchies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to secure the funds to keep his government afloat. Both countries are known for bankrolling military rulers in Egypt, Libya and, previously, Sudan.
The U.S. named Sudan a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993, and the designation stuck throughout President Omar al-Bashir’s rule. The U.S. began a formal process to de-list Sudan in January 2017, but this was put on hold when Sudan’s mass protests erupted last year. The uprising toppled al-Bashir and eventually forced the military into a power-sharing agreement with civilians.
Sudanese officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to talk to reporters, are warning the slow response and “empty promises” from Western governments could weaken Sudan’s new civilian leaders, only three months after they were appointed.
“The West has not taken any concrete steps to help the Sudanese,” said one official, a government minister. “What we see now are words but no actions. They are demanding things that might take years to address.”
The officials said American and European officials have set conditions that include reaching a peace agreement with the country’s rebel groups, as well as addressing the role of Sudan’s security forces in the transition.
The last is a key sticking point in talks. In a visit by a Sudanese delegation to Berlin last week, a top German official urged clearly defining the role of Sudan’s security agencies — especially the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
The powerful unit grew out of the feared Janjaweed militias unleashed during the Darfur conflict in the 2000s. It’s led by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo and has supplied ground forces to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen’s civil war.
A Sudanese official who attended the meeting said Stefan Oswald, director of Sub-Saharan Africa in Germany’s economic cooperation and development ministry, told the delegation it was important to “build trust” about how foreign aid would be spent, and “address the black holes,” referring to the influence of the security forces that served al-Bashir’s regime for decades.
The German ministry refused to comment on the meeting.
Hamdok has counted on Washington lifting Sudan’s terror designation, which would clear the way for loans from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. A widely respected economist, he says Sudan needs up to $8 billion in foreign aid in the next two years and another $2 billion deposited as reserves to shore up the local currency.
Instead, Sudanese Assistant Undersecretary Elham Ahmed found herself repeating the same demand in an October meeting with Brian Shukan, the new U.S. chargé d’affaires to Khartoum, asking for a U.S. plan to end the designation. Shukan told Sudanese Foreign Minister Asma Abdalla on Sunday that there are attempts to remove Sudan from the U.S. list but that this “requires some time.”
However, the challenges facing Sudan are so daunting, it may no longer be able to wait for a change in Western policy. Battered by decades of U.S. sanctions and mismanagement under al-Bashir, Sudan suffers from high inflation, an enormous foreign debt at close to $60 billion, and widespread shortages of essential goods, including fuel, bread and medicine.
Hamdok and Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the sovereign council overseeing Sudan’s transition, visited Saudi Arabia and the UAE earlier this month, directly after the prime minister returned from the U.N. General Assembly and France.
Both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi vowed to provide $3 billion in aid following the Sudanese military’s overthrow of al-Bashir in April. At the time, many Sudanese protesters saw it as a bid to shore up military rule and stifle their pro-democracy movement.
The two monarchies have already delivered half of the $3 billion. The remaining half is expected to be delivered by the end of next year, said Sudan’s Finance Minister Ibrahim Elbadawi.
Germany and France’s foreign ministers visited Sudan in September and vowed to step up European efforts to readmit the country into the international economy, and lobby Washington to remove it from the U.S. terror list.
The U.S. says that is has reached out to Sudanese authorities about possibly lifting the terrorism designation, according to a statement from a meeting of the Friends of Sudan held in Washington in late October. The meeting was chaired by a top U.S. diplomat, David Hale, and Tibor Nagy, U.S. assistant secretary for African affairs.
The White House announced last week that “actions and policies” that led Washington to impose sanctions on Sudan “have not been resolved” and “continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
Sudan’s Finance Minister Ibrahim Elbadawi told reporters in Khartoum last week that Hamdok would travel to the U.S. “soon” to meet with Congress leaders and other U.S. officials in efforts to end the designation.
“I’m afraid the window of opportunity for the civilian (government) in Sudan to succeed is closing, and largely so because the West isn’t helping Sudan out of its financial hole,” said Alex de Waal, a Sudan expert at Tufts University.
Osman Mirghani, editor of the Sudanese newspaper al-Tayar, attended the October meeting with German officials. He said the West views the current government in Sudan as “weak, fragile and unstable” — one that’s failed to take the required measures regarding political freedoms, women’s and human rights.
“In fact, nothing has changed except the overthrow of the regime’s head, Omar al-Bashir,” he said.
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Family: France’s Catherine Deneuve hospitalized with stroke
By THOMAS ADAMSON | 01:14 EST
PARIS (AP) — French actress Catherine Deneuve has had a mild stroke while filming her latest movie, the screen star’s family said Wednesday.
The 76-year-old Deneuve suffered a “very limited and therefore reversible” stroke, according to a family statement sent to The Associated Press by the media representative for Artmedia, the agency that represents Deneuve. It said no further statements were planned.
“Fortunately, she has no motor deficits (but) must, of course, take some time to rest.”
Deneuve was hospitalized in Paris, but the family didn’t disclose the name of the facility. No details were given on when she had the stroke, but French media reported that it happened late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
Deneuve has been filming “De son vivant” (In One’s Lifetime), the story of a mother who loses her son to cancer. It was the third film by Emmanuelle Bercot, the director, starring Deneuve.
With her long blond hair, heavy eyelids and sultry stare, Oscar-nominated Deneuve first came to prominence in Jacques Demy’s 1964 musical “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.”
But longevity was one of the French film star’s greatest skills. She dazzled red carpets as fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent’s muse and won myriad awards in a career that spans seven decades.
She won several Cesar Awards, France’s answer to the Oscars, including for Francois Truffaut’s 1980 hit “The Last Metro” and consolidated her status as one of France’s most famous exports with an Academy Award nomination for 1992’s “Indochine,” a drama set in colonial French Indochina during the 1930s to 1950s.
She hasn’t stopped. Deneuve starred in a film released earlier this year, “Fete de Famille” (Happy Birthday), directed by Cedric Kahn.
Her own family grew via her romantic involvement with several famous men. She had a son, Christian Vadim, with director Roger Vadim, and a daughter, French actress Chiara Mastroianni, with actor Marcello Mastroianni, with whom she had lived.
It was arguably her prize-winning turn in Luis Bunuel’s 1967 masterpiece “Belle de Jour,” the avant-garde story of a bored young housewife who spends her weekday afternoons as a posh prostitute, for which she may be best remembered.
John Leicester and Elaine Ganley contributed to this report.
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Serbia set to buy Russian missiles despite US sanctions hint
By DUSAN STOJANOVIC | 10:07 EST
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Russia will deliver a sophisticated anti-aircraft missile system to Serbia even though the U.S. has warned of possible sanctions against the Balkan country in the event of such purchases.
Russia’s state TASS news agency said Wednesday that the Pantsir-S system will be delivered to Serbia “in the next few months in accordance with the signed contract.”
The U.S.’s special envoy for the Western Balkans, Matthew Palmer, warned Serbia last week that the purchase of Russian weapons “poses a risk” of U.S. sanctions.
“We hope that our Serbian partners will be careful about any transactions of this kind,” Palmer said in an interview with Macedonian television Alsat M.
Serbia remains a key ally of Russia even though it wants to join the European Union. Belgrade has pledged to stay out of NATO and refused to join Western sanctions against Russia over the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Russia has been helping Serbia beef up its military with fighter jets, attack helicopters and battle tanks, raising concerns in the war-scarred Balkan region. During the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Serbia was at war with neighbors Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in a state TV interview on Tuesday that Serbia is purchasing defensive weapons from the Russians and that he wants to avoid any U.S. sanctions “or confrontation with America.”
“Serbia is arming itself because it is a free country surrounded by NATO-member states with which we want to be friends,” Vucic said, adding he won’t allow Serbia to “be as weak as it was in the 1990s.”
Serbia was bombed by NATO in 1999 to stop a bloody crackdown against Kosovo Albanians, an experience that left Serbs with a deep mistrust of the Western military alliance. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move Belgrade and Moscow don’t recognize.
Pantsir is a truck-mounted short to medium range anti-aircraft missile system that has also been deployed in Syria. It can also target drones and cruise missiles.
EarthLink – News
AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s wildfire tweets not grounded in facts
By SETH BORENSTEIN | Tue, November 5, 2019 05:11 EST
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is scorching the facts about California’s wildfires.
The president in recent tweets blamed California and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom for the fires because of state forest management practices and said California’s fires were too expensive and worse than in other states. In fact, the fires were not raging mostly in forests. The bulk of California’s forests are also federally managed, and other parts of the U.S. are burning even more.
Four university professors who study fires and the environment faulted the president’s tweets Sunday to varying degrees.
TRUMP: “Every year, as the fire’s rage & California burns, it is the same thing – and then he (Newsom) comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more. Get your act together Governor. You don’t see close to the level of burn in other states.”
THE FACTS: Not true. There are far fewer acres burned in California than other places, like Alaska.
So far this year, slightly more than 266,000 acres (108,000 hectares) of California have burned in more than 7,700 fires. That’s fewer than in recent years for California, but the fires command attention because they are close to people.
While Alaska has had only 700 fires, it has lost 2.57 million acres (1.04 million hectares) to wildfires this year, more than nine times as much as California, according to statistics from the National Interagency Fire Center.
The Great Basin, Southern and Southwestern regions have all had more than 440,000 acres (180,000 hectares) burned this year, far more than California.
“Fire is increasing everywhere because of climate change, but the impacts on people are more directly observable in California because of its population and wealth,” said LeRoy Westerling, a fire expert at the University of California, Merced.
California did have the most acres burned in 2018, but Montana and Nevada had more acres burned in 2017 and Oklahoma had the most acreage burned in 2016, while Alaska and Washington had more in 2015, according to fire center statistics.
TRUMP: “The Governor of California, @GavinNewsom, has done a terrible job of forest management. I told him from the first day we met he must ‘clean’ his forest floors, regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him. Must also do burns and cut fire stoppers.”
THE FACTS: Trump is sidestepping responsibility. Of the 33 million acres (13.3 million hectares) of forest land in California, 57% is owned and managed by the federal government, 40% by private landowners and 3% by the state, according to Newsom’s office, Forest Unlimited and the University of California’s Forest Research and Outreach center.
Many of the fires burning the past week or so are not in forests but shrub, agricultural areas and grasslands, so forest management is not an issue, University of Alberta fire expert Mike Flannigan said in an email.
Westerling showed pictures of the areas before the fire, illustrating mostly grass and shrub. It is not a forest, and clearing debris would be of little use there.
“Are there things California should be doing to reduce the risks?” asked Chris Field, director of the Stanford Wood Institute for the Environment. “Yes. I agree with the president that fuel reduction and fire breaks are important.
“But they are just the beginning. We also need to upgrade homes and businesses to make them more fire resistant, improve defensible spaces around buildings, and limit ignitions, including from downed power lines.”
The recent Tick and Maria fires in Southern California were mainly in chaparral and grassland. In such habitats, Field said, “widespread fuel reduction doesn’t provide a benefit, but defensible spaces and modern building codes can be hugely helpful.”
While California is increasing its spending for reducing fuels for fire by about $200 million for five years, federal officials are crying for money, Westerling said.
The National Forest Service’s California office says it needs $300 million more a year to meet its goal of restoring 500,000 acres (200,000 hectares) per year, up from 200,000 acres annually.
TRUMP: “Also, open up the ridiculously closed water lanes coming down from the North. Don’t pour it out into the Pacific Ocean. Should be done immediately. California desperately needs water, and you can have it now!”
THE FACTS: Trump’s point is irrelevant to battling wildfires.
“Fire suppression is not limited in any way by the availability of water,” Westerling said. “How does President Trump propose that these waters be used to reduce fire risk? Is he proposing to build a statewide sprinkler system with federal money?”
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EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures
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Johnson tries to shake off rocky start as UK election begins
By JILL LAWLESS and DANICA KIRKA | 12:58 EST
LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson told British voters on Wednesday that they have to back his Conservatives if they want an end to Brexit delays, as he tried to shake off a rocky start to the governing party’s election campaign.
Speaking outside his No. 10 Downing St. office on the first official day of Britain’s five-week campaign, Johnson said the political impasse over Britain’s departure from the European Union made him want to “chew my own tie in frustration.”
“I don’t want an early election, and no one much wants to have an election in December, but we have got to the stage where we have no choice,” he said.
Johnson, trying to set the stage for a people-versus-Parliament campaign, said lawmakers were “refusing time and again to deliver Brexit and honor the result of the referendum.”
In fact, lawmakers approved Johnson’s EU divorce deal in principle last month, but asked for more time to scrutinize it. Johnson then withdrew the bill and pushed for an early election instead.
Johnson also slammed his main rival, left-wing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, comparing him to former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and — erroneously — claiming he had sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over a nerve-agent attack on British soil.
All 650 seats in the House of Commons are up for grabs in the Dec. 12 election, which is coming more than two years early. Some 46 million British voters are eligible to take part in the country’s first December election in 96 years.
Johnson urged voters to deliver a Conservative majority so Britain could “put uncertainty behind us.” With that support, Johnson vowed he would get Parliament to ratify his Brexit deal and the country would leave the EU as scheduled on Jan. 31.
Brexit was supposed to happen on Oct. 31, but with Britain’s politicians deadlocked, the bloc granted the U.K. a three-month delay.
While unofficial campaigning has been ramping up for weeks, the campaign formally began when Parliament was dissolved Wednesday. Johnson went to Buckingham Palace to notify Queen Elizabeth II of that and was heading off to his first campaign rally, an evening event in central England.
The Conservative campaign has had a bumpy start. Just minutes before Johnson spoke Wednesday, Cabinet Minister Alun Cairns resigned over allegations about a former aide’s role in a rape trial.
Cairns said he was quitting as Welsh secretary because of “speculation” surrounding the “very sensitive matter,” which is under investigation. He said he was confident he would be cleared of wrongdoing.
Cairns denies allegations that he knew his former staffer Ross England made claims about a victim’s sexual history when he was a witness in a 2018 rape trial. That is not allowed, and the trial collapsed. The judge accused England of deliberately sabotaging the trial. Cairns later endorsed England as a candidate for an upcoming Welsh Assembly election.
On Tuesday, another Conservative, outgoing House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, was forced to apologize for suggesting that the victims of a 2017 London apartment block inferno that killed 72 people lacked common sense for following fire department advice to wait in their apartments for help.
The comments drew sharp rebukes from opposition politicians — and from rap star Stormzy, who urged the Conservative lawmaker to resign and tweeted: “These politicians are actual aliens.”
The Conservatives were also criticized for posting a doctored video of a senior Labour figure on Twitter that appeared to show him failing to answer a question, when in fact he did. Conservative Party chair James Cleverly claimed Wednesday the ad was just “a lighthearted satirical video.”
In another over-the-top political insult, Johnson used a column in the Daily Telegraph to accuse the Labour Party under Corbyn of attacking the rich “with a relish and vindictiveness not seen since Stalin persecuted the kulaks,” the wealthier peasants targeted by the Soviet regime in the 1930s.
In his Downing Street speech, Johnson also claimed inaccurately that Corbyn had “sided with Putin” after a former Russian spy and his daughter were attacked with a nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury.
Corbyn initially asked for “incontrovertible evidence” that Moscow was behind the 2018 attack, as Britain’s Conservative government had insisted. He later said he believed Russia was responsible for the poisoning.
Other parties in the race include the Liberal Democrats, who want to cancel Brexit; the Scottish National Party, which opposes Brexit and wants Scotland to leave the U.K.; and the Brexit Party, which says Britain should leave the bloc without a deal.
The Labour Party wants to shift the election debate away from Brexit and onto domestic issues such as health care, the environment and social welfare, saying it will reverse Britain’s increasing social inequality.
Corbyn has labelled Johnson’s economic plans “Thatcherism on steroids,” in reference to the free-market, low-spending ideology of the late former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
“I don’t do personal attacks,” Corbyn told supporters in Telford, central England. He said, if elected, he would be “a very different kind of prime minister.”
“I was not born to rule,” Corbyn said, contrasting himself with the affluent, Oxford University-educated Johnson. “I don’t pursue the kind of politics that thinks it’s all a game, a parlor game, a debating society game.”
Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit and British politics at https://www.apnews.com/Brexit