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Coronavirus: Media to be barred from Trump election nomination

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The Republican National Convention said coronavirus guidelines meant attendance would be limited

The US Republican Party’s vote to nominate its presidential candidate this month will be held in private, without press in attendance.

A Republican National Convention spokeswoman gave coronavirus health guidelines as the reason, the Associated Press reports.

Delegates are due to gather in North Carolina to formally renominate President Donald Trump.

The 336 delegates will meet on 24 August in the city of Charlotte.

They will cast proxy votes for some 2,500 official delegates. Mr Trump is the party’s sole remaining nominee, and his renomination will officially launch his re-election bid.

The party was “working within the parameters set before us by state and local guidelines regarding the number of people who can attend events”, the spokeswoman said.

The decision marks a significant change for the convention, which historically has worked to draw media attention to spread party messaging to the public.

Mr Trump had switched the location of the convention to Jacksonville, Florida, after the Democratic governor of North Carolina insisted in May on limiting the crowd size at the convention, on the grounds of social distancing.

But Mr Trump later scrapped the Florida convention, blaming the state’s coronavirus “flare-up”.

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UN Council at Odds Over Peacekeeping Operation in Lebanon | World News

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By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council remains at odds over the way the U.N. peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon operates on the ground, with the United States backing Israel’s demands for major changes.

At a closed council meeting Tuesday on the mission known as UNIFIL, whose mandate is up for renewal at the end of the month, U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft stressed the need for a new mandate.

“The U.S. has long reiterated publicly and privately that the status quo in Lebanon is unacceptable,” Craft said in a statement to The Associated Press after the meeting. “Now is the time to empower UNIFIL, end the long complacency, and enable the mission to fully achieve what it was set out to accomplish.”

But Craft faces an uphill struggle because most of the council backs a continuation of the current UNIFIL mandate.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has written to the council calling for a 12-month renewal of UNIFIL’s mandate, stressing the importance of maintaining high troop strength.

UNIFIL was created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops after a 1978 invasion. The mission was expanded after a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah militants so that peacekeepers could deploy along the Lebanon-Israel border to help Lebanese troops extend their authority into their country’s south for the first time in decades.

Germany’s deputy U.N. ambassador Günter Sautter told the council in remarks circulated by the country’s U.N. mission that “recent tensions and the danger of escalation only underline the importance of UNIFIL presence on the ground.” He said “the new political reality” since last week’s devastating explosion at Beirut’s port made it “more important than ever.”

“UNIFIL’s mandate continues to be of utmost importance,” Sautter said. “It is clear that UNIFIL will not be able to do more with less. We therefore fully support UNIFIL in its current mandate and strength, and we hope that the council will once more show unanimous support to this important mission.”

Israel has repeatedly accused Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants of impeding the peacekeepers from carrying out their mandate.

Israel’s former ambassador Danny Danon said in May that Israel will insist that peacekeepers have access to all sites, that they have freedom of movement and that any time they are being blocked the U.N. Security Council must be immediately informed.

Craft said at that time that UNIFIL was being “prevented from fulfilling its mandate” and Hezbollah had “been able to arm itself and expand operations, putting the Lebanese people at risk.”

She said the Security Council “must either pursue serious change to empower UNIFIL or realign its staffing and resources with tasks it can actually accomplish.”

France is expected sometime this week to circulate a draft resolution to continue UNIFIL’s operations, and diplomats are predicting tough negotiations before the mandate expires on Aug. 31.

As of June 15, UNIFIL comprised 10,275 military personnel from 45 troop-contributing countries, 238 international civilian staff, and 580 national civilian staff.

Its Maritime Task Force comprised six vessels, two helicopters and 864 of the force’s military personnel. However, one vessel was damaged in last week’s deadly explosion and over 20 naval personnel were injured, two critically.

Jan Kubis, the United Nations special coordinator for Lebanon, and U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix briefed Tuesday’s virtual council meeting.

Kubis urged the rapid formation of a new government following Monday’s resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his Cabinet.

The U.N. quoted him as telling the council: “There are immediate humanitarian needs that need to be addressed and necessary reforms that need to be undertaken without any delay to restore the trust of the Lebanese people, and of the international community in Lebanon.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Bougainville’s Youth Pursue Break From Bloody Past at Presidential Vote | World News

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – Young people in the South Pacific islands of Bougainville are seizing the opportunity to help reshape the future of the autonomous region of Papua New Guinea as they head to the polls this month to elect a new leader.

The general election is the first since Bougainville voted overwhelmingly for independence from Papua New Guinea at the end of last year, and the winner will preside over negotiations on the terms of separation.

For Bougainville’s younger “lost generation”, who grew up either under or in the shadow of a bloody 10-year civil war, it gives them a chance to break from the past and elect a civilian president with no ties to the previous unrest.

Two decades after combatants snapped arrows to signal the end of hostilities, there is anger among the younger generation that there has been little economic progress for the resources rich region.

“It has been wasted on mere politics, and there’s nothing on the ground to show for it,” Pajomile Minaka, a 37-year-old law student, told Reuters by telephone.

“In terms of bringing sustainable economic development there is nothing. Young people like me believe the government has failed the people.”

Bougainville’s 250,000 strong population has a median age of just 20, a demographic that’s likely bad news for the ex-combatants among the open field of 25 candidates vying for the top political office.

Younger voters are likely to push for a fresh face, even though prominent figures from the conflict had the advantage of wide-spread name recognition, said Paul Barker, executive director of Port Moresby-based think tank the Institute of National Affairs.

“There is a strong element of the lost generation missing out and wanting change,” Barker told Reuters, ahead of two weeks of polling that begins on Wednesday for the five-yearly election.

Bougainville descended into a decade-long conflict in 1988, triggered by a dispute over how the profits from the lucrative Panguna gold and copper mine should be shared and the environmental damage it had caused. As many as 20,000 died during the fighting between the region’s rebel guerilla army and PNG forces, and Panguna was closed.

Last year’s non-binding independence poll was part of the peace process that ended the conflict, but competing claims over development rights to Panguna still hang over its future.

Bougainville Vice President Raymond Masono said Panguna should “play a major role in revitalising Bougainville’s economy.”

Younger voters, like Augustine Teboro, 30, said it was time to dispense with the “old view” that Bougainville’s future relied on re-opening Panguna when it should be making use of its physical and natural beauty by cultivating its tourism, agriculture and fisheries industries.

“Our hope is that this generation will transform our society and not be a generation that will make the same mistakes of the past,” said Teboro, who heads a Bougainville youth federation.

“We are looking for a civilian leader with integrity.”

With no formal political polling and a diverse list of candidates to replace long-serving president John Momis, the election is considered an open race.

Among the old guard candidates are former president and combatant James Tanis and government-backed candidate Thomas Raivet. Other candidates include Fidelis Semoso, who served in the national PNG parliament, lawyer Paul Nerau and businessman and former sports administrator Peter Tsiamalili Junior. There are also two female candidates, health care professional Ruby Mirinka and former Bougainville MP Magdalene Toroansi.

Polling is likely to be complicated by the first recorded case of COVID-19 in Bougainville, a 30-year-old man who returned from Port Moresby last week.

The coronavirus pandemic has also thrown a cloud over whether international observers will be able to attend. The United Nations said in a statement the Bougainville Electoral Commissioner had asked the PNG government to invite diplomatic missions in Port Moresby to observe the vote.

“This election will determine the future political status of this emerging nation,” Masono said. “The next government must consult with the national government on independence – nothing more, nothing less.”

(Reporting by Jonathan Barrett; editing by Jane Wardell)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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EU to review ties with Belarus, mulls action over crackdown | World News

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Maria Kolesnikova, a representative of Viktor Babariko, speaks at a news conference in Minsk, Belarus, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. “It’s very difficult to resist pressure when your family and all your inner circle have been taken hostages,” said Maria Kolesnikova, a top figure in Tsikhanouskaya’s campaign.

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