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EU divisions becoming like `civil war`, warns French President

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Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron warned that divisions between democracy and authoritarianism in Europe were becoming like a “civil war”.

Macron used an impassioned speech to the European Parliament, meeting in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, to urge the rest of the union not to become a “generation of sleepwalkers” lured by the siren song of nationalism.

The young French leader`s call to arms was a thinly veiled reference to states like Hungary, where populist PM Viktor Orban recently swept back to power, and the right-wing government of Poland which has repeatedly clashed with Brussels.

 

“There seems to be a sort of European civil war, where our differences and sometimes our national egotisms can seem more important than presenting a united face to the world,” the 40-year-old president said.

“There is a fascination with the illiberal and its growing all the time."Macron has become the pro-European poster-boy after his election victory over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen last year stemmed a tide of populism that culminated in Britains shock 2016 vote to leave the bloc.

But in a speech setting out his vision for sweeping EU reforms, Macron said he was concerned by the growing sense of “doubt” and divisions between eastern and western states.

“I dont want to belong to a generation of sleepwalkers, I dont want to belong to a generation that`s forgotten its own past,” he told MEPs in the eastern French city.

“I want to belong to a generation that will defend European sovereignty because we fought to obtain it. And I will not give in to any kind of fixation on authoritarianism.”Macron added that in the face of governments accused of cracking down on civil rights “our response is not authoritarian democracy, but the authority of democracy.”

His speech comes just days after the anti-immigration, eurosceptic Orban won a crushing re-election victory in Hungary. Orban regularly clashes with Brussels but is a “hero” for US President Donald Trump`s former strategist Steve Bannon.

Warsaw has meanwhile been locked in conflict with the EU over its controversial court reforms, while Italy has also raised concerns in other capitals after anti-establishment and anti-immigration parties surged in elections in March.
Macron`s words were welcomed by European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, who told parliament afterwards: “The true France is back.”

Juncker`s deputy Frans Timmermans said it was a “call to arms to all of us who believe in European values.”

The French president meanwhile launched into a spirited defence of his decision to launch air strikes alongside Britain and the United States against alleged regime chemical weapons sites in Syria.

“Three countries have intervened, and let me be quite frank, quite honest — this is for the honour of the international community,” said Macron, who earlier this week said he had persuaded Donald Trump to keep US troops in Syria.

“These strikes don`t necessarily resolve anything but I think they were important,” he said.But in terms of his European reforms, Macron has struggled to win support across Europe for all his proposals.


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International

Threats to US would mean Iran’s end, warns Trump

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Washington: US President Donald Trump has asked Iran “never to threaten” the US and warned Tehran that if it wants a fight, it would be “the official end” of the Islamic nation.

“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” Trump tweeted.

His tweets appeared to be a considerable shift in tone from the President’s brief remarks at the White House on May 16, when he responded “I hope not” after being asked whether the US and Iran were headed toward war, The Washington Post reported.

 

The White House has not officially responded to Trump’s tweets.

Trump issued his threat a few hours after the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said on Sunday that Iran does not fear a war but the US does, reports Efe news.

Salami said in a speech at a military ceremony broadcast on state-run Iranian TV that Tehran was not seeking war but did not fear it either, in contrast to the US, which is afraid of war and does not have the willpower to engage in one.

He also warned that the entire Middle East could become “a powder keg” for Washington.

Last week, the US decided to deploy to the Persian Gulf the amphibious assault ship USS Arlington, Patriot missiles, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and assorted warplanes, including bombers, after claiming that it had detected unspecified “indications” of Iranian plans to attack US forces in the Middle East.

In recent weeks, concern has been increasing that National Security Adviser John Bolton, a long-time hawk on Iran who was instrumental in instigating the invasion of Iraq under George W. Bush, might be working to edge the administration closer to some kind of military action against Tehran.

Last year, prior to bringing Bolton into the administration as one of his top advisers, Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal. More recently, Trump has tightened economic sanctions against the Tehran regime and his administration says it has built up the US military presence in the region.

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White House unveils 1st part of Middle East peace plan

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Washington: The White House has unveiled the first part of its Middle East peace proposal, which is being deemed as an economic “workshop” to encourage investing capital in the West Bank, Gaza, and the region, a senior administration official told CNN.

The White House announced on Sunday that the workshop will take place in Manama, Bahrain, on June 25 and 26, bringing together finance ministers with global and regional business leaders.

The effort is being headed by Jared Kushner, the senior White House adviser and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, who have spent years developing the proposal along with the much stickier political component, which officials said would be announced later in the year.

 

Kushner told CNN that “people are letting their grandfathers’ conflict destroy their children’s futures. This will present an exciting, realistic and viable pathway forward that does not currently exist”.

The senior administration official said that the plan will discuss four major components: infrastructure; industry; empowering and investing in people; and governance reforms “to make the area as investible as possible”.

The economic plan will also include a “combination of grant money, low interest loans and then also private capital”, the official said.

The workshop however, will avoid political issues such as whether the Palestinians will get their own state; the status of Jerusalem; measures Israel takes in the name of security; and what should happen with Palestinians and their descendants who fled or were expelled from Israel around the time of the state’s creation in 1948, he added.

Finance ministers, but not foreign ministers, will be invited along with delegations of business leaders.

However, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, told CNN that the plan was “futile”.

“Any economic plan without political horizons will lead nowhere… Palestinians will not accept any proposals which do not include a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

The decision on whether or not Palestinians would attend the workshop would be made by the leadership of Abbas, Abu Rudeineh said, adding that when a similar meeting was held in Washington in March 2018 to discuss ways of improving the economic and humanitarian situation facing Gazans, the Palestinians had chosen to stay away.

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Tourist bus near Egypt’s Gaza pyramids hit with bomb; injures 17

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Cairo: A roadside bomb hit a tourist bus near the Giza Pyramids, wounding at least 17 people including tourists, Egyptian officials said. The officials said the bus was travelling on a road close to the under-construction Grand Egyptian Museum, which is located adjacent to the Giza Pyramids but is not yet open to tourists.

The bus was carrying at least 25 people mostly from South Africa, officials added. The attack comes as Egypt’s vital tourism industry is showing signs of recovery after years in the doldrums because of the political turmoil and violence that followed a 2011 uprising that toppled former leader Hosni Mubarak.

The officials said security forces cordoned off the site of the explosion and the wounded were taken to a nearby hospital. The explosion damaged a windshield of another car, they said. Footage circulated online shows shattered windows of the bus.

 

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief media. Atif Moftah, general supervisor of the Grand Egyptian Museum, said the explosion did not cause any damage to the museum, in a statement issued by the antiquities ministry.

No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. It is the second to target foreign tourists near the famed pyramids in less than six months.

In December, a bus carrying 15 Vietnamese tourists was hit by a roadside bomb, killing at least three of them.

Egypt has battled Islamic militants for years in the Sinai Peninsula in an insurgency that has occasionally spilled over to the mainland, hitting minority Christians or tourists. The insurgency gained strength after the 2013 military overthrow of the country’s first freely elected president, an Islamist whose brief rule sparked mass protests.

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