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Qatar plays down fears of rift with Arab states over "fake" criticism by emir

(reuters) -- "Qatar is always in favour of maintaining strong and brotherly relations with GCC ([persian] Gulf Cooperation Council)countries," Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told a new conference in the Qatari capital. "In Riyadh we had very positive discussions about the relationship between [persian] Gulf countries," he added, referring to talks in the Saudi capital. ...

Iran has built 3rd underground ballistic missile factory: official

(reuters) -- The development is likely to fuel tensions with the United States in a week when President Donald Trump, on his first foreign trip, has called Iran a sponsor of militant groups and a threat to countries across the Middle East. "Iran's third underground factory has been built by the Guards in recent years ... We will continue to further develop our missile capabilities forcefully," Fars quoted Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Guard´s airspace division, as saying. Since taking office in January, Trump has imposed new sanctions on Iran in response to its recent missile launches, putting Tehran "on notice". Iran has reacted defiantly. Newly re-elected President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday: "Iran does not need the permission of the United States to conduct missile tests". In 2015, Iranian state TV aired footage of under ...

Manchester attack arrests "significant," important items found – police

(reuters) -- Greater Manchester police are holding eight people in custody, having released a woman without charge on Thursday. "I want to reassure people that the arrests that we have made are significant, and initial searches of premises have revealed items that we believe are very important to the investigation," police chief Ian Hopkins told reporters. "These searches will take several days to complete." ...

Afghan plane forced to fly back after angry MPs miss flight

(AFP) -- The Kam Air flight was abruptly forced to fly back from central Bamiyan province earlier this week, triggering uproar and ridicule on social media with many accusing the lawmakers of abusing their powers. Five people, including airport security officials, have been arrested over the "illegal diversion", the interior ministry said Thursday. "When the two MPs arrived at Kabul airport, the plane was on the runway and ready to take off," Humayun Stanakzai, a director of civil aviation, told AFP. "The MPs got angry and called their men in Bamiyan. When the plane approached Bamiyan airport, their men were at the airport blocking the runway with rocks. The plane could not land and had to be diverted back to Kabul." The plane carrying 30 passengers had to be refuelled and took off again for Bamiyan with the two MPs on board. � ...

Mexico politician mocked for campaign hashtag ‘#campaignhashtag’

(theguardian) -- Few electoral teams, however, can hope to attain the inadvertent viral success achieved by a Mexican politician whose campaign has been given the dubious honour of being called “the worst in history” for his choice of hashtag. Javier Zapata, a gubernatorial candidate with the peripheral Social Encounter party, bought billboards in the Pacific Coast state of Nayarit emblazoned with his moustachioed face and the caption #hashtagcampaña – or “#campaignhashtag”. Social media across Latin America erupted with mockery at the apparent decision to use an advertisement with dummy text – and then again, when Zapata’s campaign insisted that there had been no error. “#Hashtagcampaña could be the sloppiness of an ignoramus or the ingenuity of an expert. We’ll never know,” wrote one Twitter user.   ...

Pope ‘terrific’, Saudi ‘spectacular’: Trump

(Reuters) -- Regaling EU officials in Brussels with his impressions so far of his first foreign tour, the U.S. president was in hyperbolic form on his seventh day of travels, which are partly aimed at reassuring allies that Washington is still a reliable partner under the former real estate developer and reality TV star. Asked by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as they began talks in front of a battery of cameras if he was tired, Trump, 70, said he had "covered a lot of countries, lot of leaders, some great leaders". Prompted by European Council President Donald Tusk, who called images of the Saudi visit "spectacular", Trump replied: "It was very spectacular. I don't think there was ever anything like that. I think that was beyond anything anyone's ever seen." During a reception with King Salman in Riyadh on Satur ...

OPEC and non-OPEC nations poised to extend output cuts

(AP) -- That's due to U.S. shale producers. With crude prices above $50 a barrel from lows of last year, they are increasingly moving back into the market. Their output already is partially offsetting the cuts, and even more U.S. companies are poised to return if prices rise further. The upshot is that the price of oil - and derived products like fuel -is unlikely to increase much in coming months, analysts say. That will be welcome news to consumers and energy-hungry businesses worldwide but could continue to strain the budgets of some of the more economically-troubled oil-producing nations, like Venezuela and Brazil. The latest reductions have been in effect since November, when the 13-country Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels a day. Non-OPEC countries led by Russia ch ...

NATO will join anti-ISIS coalition: Stoltenberg

(AFP) -- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would step up its fight against ISIS. "This will send a strong political message of NATO's commitment to the fight against terrorism," Stoltenberg said. He stressed this did not involve NATO taking on a combat role in the fight against ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. Trump came to Brussels on his first foreign trip as president to push NATO allies to take on a more active role, having dubbed the Cold War-era alliance "obsolete" for failing to focus on the threat from "Islamist terrorism" as he described. Arriving in the city Wednesday, Trump said Monday's deadly bomb attack in Manchester only showed how dangerous the threat was and that the fight against terror had to be won. All 28 allies have individually joined the anti-ISIS coalition of ...

Bahrain, Egypt block Al-Jazeera websites amid Qatar dispute

(AP) -- The alleged hack - and a purported fake news report that was published during it - have exposed real tensions still lingering in the [persian] Gulf between Qatar and other nations over the small gas-rich country's support of Islamist groups. While Qatar quickly denied the comments in the fake report attributed to ruling emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Saudi-owned satellite channels repeatedly aired them throughout the day Wednesday. The incident revived suspicions that exploded into the open three years ago, when several [persian] Gulf nations pulled their ambassadors from Qatar over similar worries about its politics. The alleged hack happened early on Wednesday morning and hours later, the website of the Qatar News Agency still was not accessible. The fake article quoted Sheikh Tamim as calling Iran an "Islamic powe ...

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