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LONDON, 23 September, 2020, (BBC): The UK has sent the US evidence on two British alleged Islamic State (IS) militants, clearing way for a trial.

Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh are accused of belonging to an IS cell dubbed "The Beatles", who were behind the killings of Western hostages.

It comes after Britain's High Court rejected the request by the mother of one of the suspects to block the transfer of information.

The men, in US military custody in Iraq, deny the charges.

The pair are alleged to have been members of an IS gang responsible for the death of hostages in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

The victims - who included American journalists and British aid workers - were beheaded and their deaths filmed and broadcast on social media.

What is behind Britain's IS duo decision?

Who were the Islamic State group 'Beatles' cell?

Where should the IS 'Beatles' be tried?

The US sought the UK's help in the case but until recently a legal fight over the use of the death penalty stymied co-operation.

Last month, the US made clear the two would not be executed if found guilty.

IS once controlled 88,000 sq km (34,000 sq miles) of territory stretching from western Syria to eastern Iraq. It imposed its brutal rule on almost eight million people.

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NEW YORK, 23 September 2020, (BBC): Tensions between the US and China came to the fore of the annual UN General Assembly in New York, with US President Donald Trump blaming China for the spread of coronavirus.

He called for China to be held "accountable" for the pandemic.

In his speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country had "no intention to enter a Cold War with any country".

Ties between the two world powers are strained on a number of fronts.

This year's summit at New York is largely being held virtually, with world leaders providing pre-recorded speeches.

The new format meant some of the geopolitical theatre normally on offer at the key UN meeting was absent. Each country was represented by a single delegate and there was little opportunity for one nation to rebut another.

But as often is the case for speeches to the assembly, President Trump used his address to tout his achievements and tear into a rival.

 China 'infected the world' - Trump

"We must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague on to the world - China," he said.

 "In the earliest days of the virus China locked down travel domestically, while allowing flights to leave China and infect the world. China condemned my travel ban on their country, even as they cancelled domestic flights and locked citizens in their homes," he added.

 President Trump, whose own record on coronavirus is under close scrutiny as the US heads towards elections, has frequently accused Beijing of covering up the virus, saying they could have stopped the disease spreading. China has called the attacks an unfounded distraction.

Tensions are high between the US and China on a number of other issues, including trade, technology, Hong Kong and China's treatment of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province.

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ANKARA, 23 September 2020, (TON): Turkey on Tuesday accused the European Union of “rewarding the aggressor” after the 27-nation bloc slapped sanctions on three transport companies for violating the UN arms embargo on Libya, including the Turkish shipping firm which operates a vessel that was at the center of a naval standoff in the Mediterranean Sea between Turkey and France.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement in a statement insisted the ship was providing aid to Libya’s UN.-recognized government at Tripoli  and accused the EU of ignoring countries and companies sending arms to the rival Libyan National Army, led by General Khalifa Hifter.

If we recall, on Monday, EU foreign ministers imposed sanctions on three companies including the Avrasya Shipping Company, which is based in Turkey for alleged violating the arms embargo in Libya. 

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NEW YORK, 23 September 2020, (TON): At the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said that "Kashmir conflict is still a burning issue".

Tayyip Erdogan said, "The Kashmir conflict, which is also key to the stability and peace of South Asia, is still a burning issue." Beside Erdogan, the former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammed also highlighted Jammu and Kashmir issue.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan  said, in order for the Kashmiri people to look at a safe future together with their Pakistani and Indian neighbors, it is imperative to solve the problem through dialogue and on the basis of justice and equity, not through clashes.

Last year too, at the UNGA 74th session Tayyip Erdogan criticized the international community for failing to pay attention to the Kashmir conflict.

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TRIPOLI, 22 September 2020, (TON): Turkish officials to head to Tripoli 'in the coming days' for talks after GNA head announces he plans to step down.

Spokesman of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin  said, “Turkey will continue its support Libya's United Nations recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) of  Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, despite his announcing last week that he planned to step down by the end of next month.”

Ibrahim Kalin said that bilateral agreements including a security pact and a maritime demarcation deal signed last year, would continue and Turkey would support   Government of National Accord.

Kalin said Turkish high level officials would travel to Tripoli in the coming days to discuss developments in the wake of Fayez al-Sarraj's announcement.

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BRUSSELS, 22 September 2020, (DW): The European Union has imposed sanctions on three firms for breaking a UN arms embargo on Libya. Two individuals were also sanctioned for involvement with supplying military equipment material to the country.

 EU foreign ministers on Monday agreed to sanctions against entities that violated the UN embargo on arms flowing into Libya. 

The measures target three companies — from Jordan, Kazakhstan, and Turkey — as well as two individuals for providing planes, ships and other logistics to funnel combat equipment into Libya.

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BAMAKO, 22 September 2020, (AFP): Former Malian defense minister and retired colonel Ba N'Daou was named interim President on Monday. He would oversee an 18 months transition period for new elections and returning Mali to civilian rule.

The leader of the Junta, Assimi Goita, was named vice president. The Junta has come under intense pressure from neighboring West African nations to return power to civilians after last month's coup that removed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Regional neighbors had demanded a civilian interim president but told the junta that they could tolerate a soldier as vice president.

N'Daou was once an aide-de-camp [a role akin to a personal assistant or secretary, usually to a high-ranking military or government official] to Mali's ex-dictator Moussa Traore, who died last week aged 83. The retired colonel was a defense minister under president Keita.

Goita made the announcement on state television channel ORTM. The junta intends to inaugurate its transitional government on Friday.

Mali was rocked by weeks of protests against Keita prior to his August ousting. But division between the opposition in the weeks following the coup lead to tense discussions for forming a transitional government.

The main point of opposition was who should take the top two positions. The junta wanted two military leaders as president and vice president. The opposition coalition M5-RFP movement has called for civilians to occupy the top two political offices. The coalition was key for mobilizing the protests leading up to the coup.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had demanded that Mali "immediately" appoint a civilian as president to lead the nation following the coup. ECOWAS has already placed sanctions on Mali and closed borders with the nation. The economic group had threatened more sanctions if civilians were not president and vice president.

ECOWAS did not immediately comment following the junta's appointments on Monday.

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GENEVA,  22 September 2020, (Washington Post): The World Health Organization provided details about the vaccine, its development and distribution. It urged more wealthy countries to join its vaccine agreement

As per the details, more than 150 countries, representing 64 percent of the world’s population, have agreed to participate in the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility or Covax, which aims to develop and distribute $2 billion in doses of a vaccine by the end of next year.

Still, a total of 156 countries have committed to joining the effort, which hopes to purchase 2 billion doses of vaccine by the end of 2021. Of participating countries, 64 are higher-income nations, whose participation is critical to ensuring the financial feasibility of the effort.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday, “Working together through the COVAX Facility is not charity, it’s in every country’s own best interests to control the pandemic and accelerate the global economic recovery.”

Tedros said the effort is at a critical point, with only $3 billion committed so far. Another $15 billion is needed immediately to ensure momentum continues.

The European Commission, representing 27 countries, along with the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Japan are among the countries supporting the pool.

Gavi CEO Seth Berkley said another 38 countries are in discussions with the COVAX Facility and may yet join the vaccine pool.

Later, as more vaccine becomes available, countries will receive enough supply to vaccinate a larger proportion of their populations. During the second phase, doses may be allocated with an eye to helping countries where transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is most active.

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TEHRAN, 22 September 2020, (TON): The Iranian government has requested the international community to join hands against United States unlawful action, after Washington announced unilateral measure and declared UN sanctions stand reinstated.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh again repeated his earlier statement, "We expect the international community and all the countries in the world to stand against these reckless actions by the regime in the White House and speak in one voice."  

Britain in the past isolated itself from the European Union (EU) and joined the pole of United States leaving France and Germany in another pole but the joint statement issued by the three nations indicate that there is a shift in the British policy towards Iran.  No doubt, all three countries seems determined to continue with the nuclear deal with Iran.

At UN General Assembly this week, a number of issues are likely to be discussed including US action of slapping UN sanctions on Iran, Indian occupation of disputed Jammu and Kashmir State, Palestine and Situation in the Middle East.

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WASHINGTON, 21 September 2020, (TON): Microsoft co-founder and global health philanthropist Bill Gates criticized the current state of the United States’ response to the Covid-19 pandemic on Sunday, including slow turnaround times for tests.

Gates told “Fox News Sunday” that the access to fast testing is still inadequate more than six months into the pandemic and that the U.S. was set up for a rough fall of virus cases. 

“Even today, people don’t get their results in 24 hours. It’s outrageous that we still have that,” Gates said.

The United States has suffered more than 6.7 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, resulting in nearly 200,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. That puts the country with a much higher rate of infection and death per capita than many other developed countries, including South Korea, Australia, Germany and Canada. 

The early stages of the pandemic were marked by a severe shortage of tests, though the amount of daily testing has improved significantly over time. Gates said that political and health leaders need to publicly admit that the current testing situation is inadequate and find ways to make the system more efficient, saying that “we can’t pretend that we get a good grade even today.”

“I do think we need to own up to the fact that we didn’t do a good job. Part of the reluctance I think to fix the testing system now is that nobody wants to admit that it’s still outrageous ... The U.S. has more of these machines, more of this capacity than other countries by a huge amount. And so partly the reimbursement system is creating a perverse incentive,” Gates said. 

On CNN’s “State of Union” Adm. Brett Giroir from the Department of Health and Human Services said that part of the reason testing had not reached 1 million per day as he has had predicted was because the rate of new cases had slowed, lowering the number of contact tracing tests required. He also said that the administration would soon distribute $150 million of 15-minute tests.

Cases and hospitalizations have spiked in several European countries in recent weeks, which some experts have linked to “panademic fatigue” as adherence to social distancing measures slips. Daily cases in Spain and France have surpassed the United States when adjusted for population.

The U.S. saw initial outbreaks on the West Coast and in northeastern states during the spring, with rolling outbreaks spreading across the country in the months since. Gates attributed that in part to the travel restrictions imposed by the Trump administration, which created a “rush” of American citizens and residents to return home at a time when the U.S. did not have proper testing or quarantine protocols.

“That’s led to us not just having a bad spring — we’ve had a pretty tough summer. And sadly, because of the seasonality, until we get these new tools the fall is looking to shape up as pretty tough as well,” he said. 

In a statement to CNBC, a White House spokesperson said President Trump has always put the well-being of the American people first and highlighted the administration’s efforts to help develop a vaccine.

Gates had for years warned about the dangers of a global health emergency like a pandemic, and the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation has spent billions on health and anti-poverty initiatives around the world. 

ADDIS ABABA, 21 September 2020, (Nation): Ethiopia announced Saturday it was charging leading opposition politicians Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba with crimes including terrorism and incitement to violence, a move that risks further inflaming tensions in the restive Oromia region.

The charges -- which could bring life imprisonment -- relate to violence that erupted after the shooting death in June of Hachalu Hundessa, a popular singer from the Oromo ethnic group who gave voice to Oromo feelings of political and economic marginalisation. In the days that followed Hachalu’s June 29 killing, up to 239 people died in inter-ethnic violence and clashes with soldiers and police that underscored security challenges facing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Jawar and Bekele were among more than 9,000 people caught up in subsequent mass arrests that have stoked criticism that Abiy is seizing on the unrest to silence political opponents and critics. The attorney general’s office announced charges against 24 suspects in a Facebook post Saturday.

Pakistan reports 633 coronavirus in one day

These include “trying to incite ethnic and religious based conflict to cause citizens to turn on their fellow citizens”.

Among the other suspects are several high-profile Abiy critics living abroad like prominent Oromo activist Tesgaye Regassa and former Abiy ally-turned-critic Berhanemeskel Abebe.

Jawar’s lawyer, Tuli Bayyisa, told AFP Saturday that he had not been informed of the charges but dismissed them as baseless. “It’s very astonishing. I’m 100 percent sure that, it might take years and years and years, but they will not prove these allegations if the law really works,” Tuli said.

The attorney general’s statement did not provide details about the charges, but Tuli said in Jawar’s case they seemed to concern a scuffle over Hachalu’s dead body that resulted in the death of a police officer.

“No single witness has consistently spoken about any crime... by either Mr Jawar or Mr Bekele,” he said. Jawar played a central role in anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power in 2018.

Dozens of Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa complex

Abiy is Ethiopia’s first Oromo leader, but he faces intense criticism from Oromo nationalists like Jawar who accuse him of being a poor advocate for their interests and behaving like a dictator.

Putting Jawar on trial risks fuelling violence in Addis Ababa and in Oromia, the country’s most populous region which surrounds the capital.

Last month security forces shot dead at least five people in a crackdown on demonstrations against Jawar’s detention triggered by reports he was not receiving proper medical care.

And last October scores were killed after Jawar accused security forces of trying to orchestrate an attack against him.

Jawar and Bekele, both members of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, are expected to appear in court Monday.

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MOSCOW, 21 September 2020, (AFP News Agency): Vil Mirzayanov's apology comes as another scientist who worked on programme denied Navalny was poisoned with Novichok.

A scientist involved in the secret Soviet programme to create the Novichok nerve agent has apologised to the Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny, who is recovering from poisoning in Berlin.

Vil Mirzayanov, a chemist who was the first to reveal Novichok's development, in an interview with Russia's TV Rain on Saturday evening said he wanted to apologise to Navalny after Germany said it found "unequivocal evidence" he was poisoned with Novichok.

Navalny described his severe symptoms after falling ill on a plane on August 20, including the inability to form words, saying he still struggled to pour a glass of water or use a phone.

"I offer my profound apologies to Navalny for the fact that I took part in this criminal business, developing this substance that he was poisoned with," said Mirzayanov, who now lives in the United States and wrote the first articles on Novichok's development in the early 1990s.

Germany has said laboratory tests in three countries have determined he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent, and Western governments have demanded an explanation from Russia.

Mirzayanov's apology comes as another scientist who worked on the programme has denied that Navalny could have been poisoned with Novichok.

Mirzayanov predicted that Navalny would eventually recover.

"Navalny will just have to be patient but in the end, he should be healthy," Mirzayanov said, predicting recovery would take "almost a year".

He suggested that Navalny most likely took in the poison orally, since he appears not to have contaminated others.

This counters a suggestion by another scientist who worked on Novichok, Vladimir Uglev, who told Proyekt investigative site that Navalny's survival suggested he had only skin contact.

Navalny's aides gathered discarded objects from his hotel room in the Siberian city of Tomsk and sent them to German experts who found Novichok on a water bottle.

Russian scientist Leonid Rink, who state media says worked on the programme to develop Novichok, poured scorn on Mirzayanov's comments on Sunday.

Speaking to the RIA Novosti news agency, Rink said Mirzayanov, while he worked at the same research centre, he was an "ordinary" chemist not directly involved in Novichok's creation.

"He has nothing to do with the creation of Novichok," Rink insisted, adding Mirzayanov could not know its "biological effects".

Rink argued that if Novichok had been used on Navalny,  the opposition leader would have died.

"He wouldn't have survived if it was Novichok," he said.

Russians vote in regional polls overshadowed by Navalny poisoning.  

 

 

 

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