LONDON, September 6 -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday (Sept 6) he was not willing to contemplate resigning.
"I'll go to Brussels, I'll get a deal and we'll make sure we come out on October 31 - that's what we've got to do," Johnson told Sky News during a visit to Scotland. When asked if he would resign if he could not deliver that, he said: "That is not a hypothesis I'm willing to contemplate." Johnson is pushing for an election on Oct 15, two weeks before the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union, though opposition parties say they want a no-deal Brexit ruled out before they will agree to an election date. In a sign of how far Brexit has distorted British politics, Johnson's Conservatives expelled 21 rebels on Tuesday - including the grandson of Britain's World War II leader Winston Churchill and two former finance ministers - for seeking to block any exit from the EU without a deal. On Friday, Johnson said the rebels' expulsion "grieved me deeply". "These are friends of mine. I worked with them for many years. But we have to get Brexit done and we were being very clear about the risks we're running now in snarling up the process of leaving the EU in Parliament," he said. "And yes of course I am going to reach out to those colleagues and have been reaching out to them, try and find ways of building bridges but I have got to be clear - we must get Brexit done."
Meanwhile, British opposition parties were discussing on Friday how to respond to Johnson's bid to call a snap election, after the Prime Minister said he would rather die in a ditch than delay the planned Oct 31 departure from the EU. As the United Kingdom spins towards an election, Brexit remains up in the air more than three years after Britons voted to leave the bloc in a 2016 referendum. Options range from a turbulent "no-deal" exit to abandoning the whole endeavor. British lawmakers will on Monday hold another vote on a motion on whether to hold an early election, probably in mid-October, just over two weeks before the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on Oct 31. But opposition parties, including the Labour Party, want to ensure that an election does not allow Johnson to lead the United Kingdom out of the EU without a deal. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn will hold a conference call with other opposition parties on Friday, a Labour spokesman said. Johnson on Thursday said he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than delay Brexit. "We need to be absolutely sure that we are not going to end up in a situation where the general election is used as a distraction whilst they (the government) by some cunning wheeze bounce us out of the European Union without a deal," Emily Thornberry, Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, said.
The opposition Scottish National Party (SNP) will only agree a date for an election when it is sure the threat of a no-deal exit has been averted, its leader in the Westminster Parliament said. "We will choose the timing of when an election comes. I want to remove Boris Johnson as prime minister, but we need to make sure we don't leave the European Union on a no-deal basis, that's the first priority," the SNP's Ian Blackford said. An SNP source said: "The SNP is ready for an election, but we will not be played by Boris Johnson." "We are considering all options and discussing with all parties the best way to prevent a disastrous no-deal Brexit and get rid of this shambolic (Conservative) government as soon as possible," the source added.
MILAN, September 4 -- Members of Italy's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement were due to vote online on Tuesday on whether they approved a new coalition with the opposition Democratic Party, known as PD, with fresh elections looming if the pact is rejected.
On Monday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte urged members of 5-Star to back the coalition, saying the planned government could transform Italy. About 100,000 people who subscribe to 5-Star's so-called Rousseau website were asked to answer the question: "Do you agree that the 5-Star Movement should form a government together with the Democratic Party, chaired by Giuseppe Conte?" Conte on Monday delivered a video speech, through Facebook, to Rousseau subscribers, saying: "I understand your concerns. But I'd also like to remember that the 5-Star, before the elections last year, had said they were ready to join any political force that was ready to carry out the movement's political agenda. Today, we have a great chance to change this country." Shortly after he spoke, 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio also took to Facebook, but delivered a more subdued message and refused to advise his party members on how to vote. "There is no right or wrong vote, there are your ideas and the sum of your ideas will guide the movement," Di Maio said. "Don't be afraid ... we have already won, the world is waiting for the democratic outcome of your vote to know Italy's future."
An SWG opinion poll for La7 television channel said 51 percent of 5-Star supporters backed a tie-up with the PD, while some 69 percent of PD voters endorsed the idea. Though the two parties are longstanding enemies, they are also the two largest parties in Parliament. Italian President Sergio Mattarella gave Conte a mandate last week to try to form a new coalition following Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's decision to pull his right-wing League from a 14-month-old alliance with 5-Star in an attempt to trigger early elections. If no agreement is sealed in the coming week, Mattarella is expected to dissolve Parliament and set a date for a new vote. The 5-Star party's internet portal stated that the government program agreed with the PD would be available online to members when voting started.
Despite differences over policy and ministerial roles, senior figures from both sides spoke in support of a coalition over the weekend as the talks have continued. "I know it is difficult, but we're doing our best to give this country a new government," PD leader Nicola Zingaretti said on Sunday in a video post on Twitter. After talks with Conte, he said on Friday that Italy's next government must cut income taxes to boost consumption, relaunch investment and focus on health and education.
HONG KONG, September 4 -- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Wednesday formally withdrew a contentious extradition Bill following months of protests.
"The government will formally withdraw the Bill in order to fully allay public concerns," she said in a pre-recorded address in Cantonese and English that was carried by all major broadcasters in Hong Kong. Mrs Lam said a motion to withdraw with be tabled when the Legislative Council reconvenes. Although Mrs Lam had previously suspended the Bill – saying it was “dead” – her move did little to appease demonstrators, who continued protesting and expanded their demands to include calls for greater democratic freedom. Without the Bill’s formal withdrawal, it could be reintroduced in a matter of days. This essentially responds to one of five demands protesters have asked for. The others are: the retraction of the word “riot” to describe rallies; the release of all arrested demonstrators; an independent inquiry into the police; and the right for Hong Kong people to democratically choose their own leaders. While she ruled out setting up an independent commission to look into the events that have led to recent mass protests, she said that the Independent Police Complaints Commission will be reinforced by former director of education Helen Yu and senior lawyer Paul Lam. The government will also meet with various stakeholders and members of the public in a bid to address the various social issues she said.
"After more than two months of social unrest, it's obvious to many that the discontentment extends far beyond the (extradition) Bill," Mrs Lam added. The announcement follows a meeting with pro-establishment political figures, the South China Morning Post newspaper and other media reported, citing people they did not identify. The gathering included local legislators and the city's representatives to national legislative bodies. The meeting follows a weekend of demonstrations that saw some of the fiercest clashes between protesters and riot police. Activists have lobbed petrol bombs and set bonfires in the streets, while police officers fired tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray, making more than 1,100 arrests since early June. Hong Kong stocks jumped, led by property developers, after news reports said Mrs Lam will formally withdraw the extradition Bill that has sparked months of protests. The benchmark Hang Seng Index surged as much as 3.9 per cent before paring gains to 3.4 per cent at 3.06pm local time. The turmoil that followed Mrs Lam's attempt to introduce the ill-fated Bill - including mass marches that drew more than 1 million people and protests that shut the city's busy airport - have turned into the biggest crisis for Beijing's rule over the former British colony since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
SEOUL, September 1 -- A senior North Korean diplomat said Saturday the expectation that dialogue with the United States will resume is "gradually disappearing" after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the country's behavior as "rogue."
"Pompeo has gone so far in his language and it made the opening of the expected DPRK-U.S. working-level negotiations more difficult," First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency, using the acronym for North Korea's official name. "We are being pushed to re-examine all the measures we have taken so far," Choe said. Pompeo said in a speech to a veterans organization Tuesday that Pyongyang's "rogue behavior could not be ignored." North Korea, meanwhile, has notified the United Nations that the nation's ambassador-level official will deliver a speech at the upcoming U.N. General Assembly, a source close to the matter said, indicating Pyongyang may cancel Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho's participation. Ri's potential absence from the U.N. gathering, scheduled to be held in New York in late September, would deprive Pompeo of a chance to make contact with his North Korean counterpart. At their June 30 meeting at the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjeom, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed that Washington and Pyongyang would resume stalled denuclearization talks within weeks, but they have yet to take place. Instead, North Korea has repeatedly launched new weapons in recent months. Last Saturday, it fired two projectiles believed to be short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, in Pyongyang's seventh round of such launches since July 25.
CARACAS, August 27 -- Venezuela's National Assembly (parliament) controlled by the opposition has declared null and void a new agreement with Russia on military cooperation. The declaration was published on Monday.
The document concerns "the agreement on military cooperation between the governments of Venezuela and Russia, signed by defense ministers Vladimir Padrino Lopez and Sergey Shoigu." "This agreement was not considered either by a commission on foreign policy, sovereignty and integration or by parliament, which makes it unconstitutional, and this means that it is null and void," the declaration said. The parliament said that opening a Venezuelan embassy in North Korea was "a violation of the constitution." On August 15, Shoigu and Lopez signed an agreement on reciprocal visits of military ships at the meeting in Moscow. The defense ministers also discussed the situation in Venezuela and issues of bilateral military cooperation.
BIARRITZ, August 26 -- G-7 leaders discussed the return to the G-8 format with Russia's participation at a summitin the French city of Biarritz, Kyodo news agency reported, citing sources from Japanese government circles.
No details were provided about the content of the interview, and an agency source said the information "will never be disclosed". Earlier, US President Donald Trump agreed to a proposal by his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, to invite Russia to the G7 summit in 2020 in the US. Vladimir Putin, for his part, said that Russia considered all contacts with the G7 countries useful and did not rule out the resumption of the G8 form. German Chancellor Angela Merkel linked the issue of the resumption of the G-8 with progress in resolving the conflict in Ukraine. The G-7 is an association of economically developed countries that includes the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Canada, the United States, France and Japan. In the form of the seven, the club has existed from 1976 to 1997. After Russia's accession, it became known as the G8
HONG KONG, August 26 -- China sent the strongest warning yet of using troops on Hong Kong's streets, where Beijing says protests have turned into a "Colour Revolution", with water cannons and tear gas fired in skirmishes between police and demonstrators in the 12th straight weekend of unrest.
"It's not only the China central government's authority but also its responsibility to intervene when riots take place in Hong Kong," the state-run Xinhua News Agency said on Sunday (Aug 25) in a commentary, recalling comments by former top leader Deng Xiaoping that Beijing has to act under such circumstances. United States President Donald Trump said on Aug 13 that reports from US intelligence agencies show the Chinese government is moving troops to its border with Hong Kong. A day earlier, Global Times, a Chinese tabloid run by the People's Daily, reported that the Chinese People's Armed Police were assembling in Shenzhen ahead of "apparent large-scale exercises", where "numerous" armoured personnel carriers, trucks and other vehicles of the paramilitary force were seen heading towards Hong Kong's neighbouring city. In Sunday's commentary, Xinhua said Hong Kong's protests have turned into a Colour Revolution aimed at overturning the Special Administrative Region's constitutional institutions, a signal it was ready to take further action. Previously, Chinese officials described the protests as having some characteristics of a "Colour Revolution". Protesters' violent acts have pushed Hong Kong to an extremely dangerous edge, the city's government said in a statement after a day full of violent clashes between demonstrators and the police, where an officer fired warning shots in the air.
The U.S. administration of President Donald Trump has renewed sanctions on Iran after quitting Tehran's deal with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, which promised sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. "Iran's active diplomacy in pursuit of constructive engagement continues," Zarif tweeted. "Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying." The minister departed on a government plane for Iran on Sunday evening. A source at the French presidential office said practical discussions at the G-7 summit led to Zarif's visit to Biarritz, which the United States had acknowledged. Macron is said to have personally contacted Trump.
G-7 leaders shared the view Saturday that Iran should not possess nuclear weapons, but differed in their approach to finding a solution. With U.S.-Iran tensions escalating, France, which has expressed hope the nuclear agreement will survive, has apparently been trying to mediate between Washington and Tehran, foreign affairs experts say. Zarif was already in France, having met with Macron in Paris on Friday.
HONG KONG, August 25 -- Protesters left the northern district of Tsuen Wan, where police had earlier deployed two water cannon, at first during dispersal operations, regrouping in the working class district of Sham Shui Po on Sunday night.
Amid heavy rain, scores of protesters with umbrellas shouting "hak seh wui", or "triads", at riot police gathered to disperse the crowd. Earlier, police deployed two vehicles equipped with water cannons on the streets of Tsuen Wan, a town in the New Territories area close to the Chinese border. The vehicles slowly cruised down streets and directed their water cannons at makeshift barricades as police cleared roads after protesters retreated southward, and most had dispersed by about 7.30pm (local time). This came as multiple rounds of tear gas were fired to clear protesters, following an approved protest march earlier in the day. But as protesters dispersed, a splinter group targeted several shops in Yi Pei Square in Tsuen Wan, the site of clashes between pro-democracy protesters and government supporters, trashing several shops including a restaurant and a mahjong parlour. Shortly after 8pm, at least three officers drew their service revolvers on a group of protesters who had attacked them, resulting in a standoff at a nearby building with reporters unhappy that a gun had been pointed at them. Riot police were brought to reinforce the officers. A uniformed officer had fired a warning shot during the encounter, a senior police officer told journalists at the scene but did not go into further details citing the need for further investigation.
Earlier in the day, groups of demonstrators occupied the streets in Tsuen Wan with barricades made of dismantled roadside fences, bamboo poles, water-filled barriers, traffic cones and dustbins near Tsuen Wan Park, the official end point of the march that started at Kwai Chung Sports Ground. One water-cannon vehicle was used to clear the barricades on Tai Ho Road, which was not occupied by protesters, according to local TV footage. In a statement, police said the situation in Tsuen Wan had escalated, with protesters hurling bricks and aiming strong laser beams at officers. The police appealed to people in the area to leave immediately.
HONG KONG, August 25 -- Hong Kong police on Sunday said they arrested 29 people after clashes overnight, in which volleys of tear gas were fired to break up anti-government protests and as the Asian financial hub braced for further demonstrations in the day.
Aged between 17 and 52, the suspects - 19 men and 10 women - were arrested for offences including the possession of offensive weapons and assault of police officers, police said in a statement. Those arrested included the organiser of Saturday's march, Mr Ventus Lau, public broadcaster RTHK reported. The force also strongly condemned protesters for "breaching public peace" on Saturday. On Sunday, transport to the city's international airport appeared normal, despite protesters' plans for a day-long "stress test" of transport in the aviation hub. Another protest was planned for Sunday in the working class district of Tsuen Wan, while demonstrators also plan a city-wide strike and class boycotts at universities in coming weeks. Hong Kong's metro operator MTR said on Sunday that a number of stations on the Tsuen Wan line would be closed from 1.30pm, RTHK reported. The Kwai Fong and Tsuen Wan stations on the Tsuen Wan line as well as the Tsuen Wan West station on the West Rail line would be temporarily closed.
Activists on Saturday threw petrol bombs and bricks in the gritty industrial area of Kwun Tong, a densely populated area of the Chinese territory on the east of the Kowloon peninsula. Four MTR subway stations were closed due to the protests. Police used tear gas after some protesters threw Molotov cocktails and bricks and others tore up "smart" lamp posts equipped with surveillance cameras. Others had set up roadblocks with bamboo scaffolding. It was the first use of tear gas in more than a week after a series of mostly peaceful demonstrations in the former British colony. Strongly condemning the "vandalistic and violent acts of radical protesters" on Saturday, the Hong Kong government said in a statement that the police would strictly follow up on all the illegal acts. It also appealed to the protesters to stop the violence so that order can be restored in society as soon as possible.
FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY
The protests, which started over a now-suspended extradition Bill and have evolved into demands for greater democracy, have roiled Hong Kong for three months. Demonstrators' demands include an independent inquiry into what they describe as police brutality, a full withdrawal of the extradition Bill, and universal suffrage. The wider calls for democracy have plunged the city into an unprecedented crisis posing a direct challenge for Communist Party leaders in Beijing. Demonstrators say they are fighting the erosion of the "one country, two systems" arrangement that enshrines a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong since it was handed back from British to Chinese rule in 1997.