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Theresa May urges parliament to back her on Brexit

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London: Prime Minister Theresa May made an impassioned appeal to British lawmakers to support her on Wednesday after the European Union said it could only grant her request to delay Brexit for three months if parliament next week backed her plans for leaving.
May had earlier asked the EU to let Britain delay its departure date from March 29 to June 30, a question that leaders of the remaining 27 member states will discuss at a summit on Thursday.
European Council President Donald Tusk said it would be possible to grant Britain a short postponement if parliament next week backs May’s divorce agreement, which it has already voted down twice.
Should that happen, Tusk said no extraordinary EU summit would be needed next week before the current Brexit date. Otherwise, he said he might convene the leaders again.
“I believe that a short extension will be possible, but it will be conditional on a positive vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons,” Tusk told journalists.
He did not comment on the possibility – which he himself has suggested – that another option such as a longer delay might be offered to avoid a painful no-deal exit if May’s deal was voted down again.
May said British lawmakers had spent long enough saying what they did not want from Brexit, and that people were tired of their infighting, political games and arcane procedural rows.
“I passionately hope MPs (lawmakers) will find a way to back the deal I have negotiated with the EU,” May said in a televised address.
She said lawmakers had a choice: leave the EU with a deal, leave without a deal, or not leave at all.
“It is high time we made a decision,” May said, telling Britons: “I am on your side.”
Earlier, she had told a rowdy session of parliament that she could not countenance the prospect of a long delay – which could give time for notional alternative approaches to emerge, but would infuriate Brexit supporters in her own party.
“As prime minister, I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than the 30th of June,” she said.
May did not say when the next vote on her deal would happen.
If she cannot win over enough reluctant lawmakers next week, Britain faces the choice of requesting a longer delay or leaving the EU as planned on March 29 – without a deal to cushion the economic upheaval.
Some EU states, including Germany, had given a largely positive response to May’s well-flagged request.
But French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said May would need to make her case before EU leaders.
“Our position is to send the British a clear and simple message. As Theresa May has repeatedly said herself, there are only two options to get out of the EU: ratify the Withdrawal Agreement or exit without a deal,” he told the French parliament.
May’s initiative was the latest twist in more than two years of negotiations that have left British politics in chaos and her authority in tatters.
After the defeats in parliament opened up the possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal, May told parliament on Wednesday that she remained committed to leaving “in an orderly manner”.
Her announcement that she was asking for a three-month delay caused uproar in the chamber. The opposition Labour Party accused her of “blackmail, bullying and bribery” in her attempts to force her deal through, and one prominent Brexit supporter in her own Conservative Party said seeking a delay was “betraying the British people”.


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International

Sri Lanka bombings death toll rises to 359, 18 more suspects held overnight

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Colombo: Police say the death toll in the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka has risen to 359 and more suspects have been arrested.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara also said Wednesday morning that 18 suspects were arrested overnight, raising the total detained to 58.
The prime minister warned that several suspects armed with explosives were still at large.
Another top government official said the suicide bombings at the churches, hotels and other sites were carried out by Islamic fundamentalists in apparent retaliation for the New Zealand mosque massacre last month.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the Sri Lanka attacks and released images that purported to show the attackers. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that investigators were still determining the extent of the bombers’ foreign links.

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UN says over 250 killed, over 1,200 injured in Libya battle

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TRIPOLI: At least 264 people have been killed and over 1,200 wounded in weeks of fighting on the outskirts of Libya’s capital, the World Health Organisation said , as African leaders gathered in Cairo to discuss the crisis.
The agency called on Twitter for “a temporary cessation of hostilities, and for all parties to respect humanitarian law”.
Eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on the capital on April 4, as his self-styled Libyan National Army pledged “to purge the west of terrorists and mercenaries”.
Forces loyal to the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, launched a counter-attack at the weekend.
The fighting has since eased somewhat as both sides appeared to be preparing for the next phase of the battle.
Fighting in Tripoli’s southern suburbs has so far displaced at least 35,000 people, UN humanitarian coordinator for Libya Maria do Valle Ribeiro said on Monday.
“Displacement is continuing at an increasing rate every day,” she said, warning that the figures were a conservative estimate.
The two sides have reached a near stalemate since armed groups backing the GNA launched their counter-attack on Saturday.
An AFP team on the ground at the weekend confirmed that GNA-aligned fighters had pushed the frontline back several kilometres in the southern district of Ain-Zara, around a dozen kilometres south of the city centre.
Another frontline is a little further southwest, around the districts of al-Swani and Qasr ben-Ghachir, around 30 kilometres from Tripoli, on a key road between the capital and the old international airport.
Occasional bursts of gunfire — and heavier projectiles — have been audible, sometimes resonating in the city centre.
“It is calm on most fronts,” Mustafa al-Mejii, a spokesman for GNA forces, said.
“Orders were given to forces on the perimeter of Tripoli airport to consolidate their positions,” he said.
Haftar’s force said on its official Facebook page it had received “significant” reinforcements, particularly in the west.
Valle Ribeiro said civilians were being displaced every day, while some had been trapped by fire including “heavy artillery and… shelling in some densely populated parts of the city”.
“Any country that has leverage should be using that leverage to ensure that civilians can be protected,” she said.
African leaders were due to meet in Cairo at the behest of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to discuss the violence.

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Israel to name Golan settlement after Trump

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JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he plans to name a new settlement in the occupied Golan after US President Donald Trump in appreciation of his recognition of Israel’s claim of sovereignty there.
Netanyahu, who has been on a trip to the region with his family for the week-long Passover holiday, said in a video message that he would present a resolution to the government calling for a new settlement named after the US president.
“All Israelis were deeply moved when President Trump made his historic decision to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” he said.
Trump again broke with longstanding international consensus on March 25 when he recognised Israel’s claim of sovereignty over the part of the strategic plateau it seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.
The decision came only two weeks ahead of a tightly contested Israeli election, which saw Netanyahu win a fifth term in office.
Trump has shifted US policy sharply in Israel’s favour since taking office, most notably by recognising the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Israel annexed 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan it seized in 1981, a move never recognised by the international community.
Around 18,000 Syrians from the Druze sect — most of whom refuse to take Israeli citizenship — remain in the occupied Golan.
Some 20,000 Israeli settlers have moved there, spread over 33 settlements.

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