PM Abadi says opposed to repeat of Iraq election

File photo showing Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi attends the election campaign, along with his supporters in Kirkuk, Iraq April 28, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 12 June 2018
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PM Abadi says opposed to repeat of Iraq election

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said on Tuesday he opposed any repeat of the May 12 parliamentary election, and warned that anyone who tried to sabotage the political process would be punished, after allegations of electoral fraud raised tensions.
Parliament has demanded a nationwide recount of votes, drawing calls for the election to be re-run. Abadi said only the Supreme Federal Court could decide whether to re-run the vote, which was won by Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr’s bloc.
“The matter is exclusively in the hands of the judiciary, not politicians. The government and parliament don’t have the power to cancel the election,” Abadi told a news conference.
On Monday, Sadr urged Iraqis to unite rather than squabble over a possible re-run of the election, in a message apparently meant to lower the political temperature after a ballot box storage depot caught fire.
Abadi called the fire a deliberate act and said the attorney general would bring charges against those who are trying to undermine the political process.
An Iraqi court ordered the arrest of four people accused of setting fire to the storage site, the judiciary said. Three of them were policemen and one an employee of the Independent High Elections Commission.
Abadi said a preliminary report had provided evidence of gasoline at multiple areas inside the storage site. It also showed that security cameras had been disabled and no locks had been broken, implying it was carried out by someone with access to the storage site.
Iraqi authorities said the ballot boxes had been rescued but the fire has fueled fears of violence.
Sadr, who once led violent campaigns against the US occupation that ended in 2011, has emerged as a nationalist opponent of powerful parties allied with neighboring Iran and as a champion of the poor.
He has warned that certain parties are trying to drag Iraq into a civil war, adding that he would not participate in one.
Abadi thanked Sadr for a disarmament initiative he floated after a weapons cache at his Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City exploded, killing 18 people, and said he hoped the cleric would stick to it.
“I welcome Sayed Moqtada’s announcement that his followers commit to not having weapons outside the framework of the state. We consider this good,” he said, adding that those responsible for the explosion would be brought to justice.
“What happened in Sadr City is very regrettable, it is a crime. Those responsible will receive their just punishment.”


US to merge Jerusalem consulate in to new embassy

Updated 4 min 29 sec ago
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US to merge Jerusalem consulate in to new embassy

WASHINGTON: The United States will merge the US Consulate General, which serves Palestinians, with its new embassy into a single diplomatic mission in Jerusalem, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday.
“This decision is driven by our global efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations,” Pompeo said in a statement. “It does not signal a change of US policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip.”
The consulate-general in Jerusalem is the top mission for Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem for their capital.
“We will continue to conduct a full range of reporting, outreach, and programming in the West Bank and Gaza as well as with Palestinians in Jerusalem through a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside US Embassy Jerusalem,” Pompeo said.
He said the Trump administration was committed to a peace effort between Israel and the Palestinians.
US President Donald Trump outraged the Arab world and stoked international concern by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December and moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest disputes between Israel and the Palestinians and Palestinian leaders accused Trump of sowing instability by overturning decades of US policy.
Palestinians, with broad international backing, seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they want to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector it captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed, as its “eternal and indivisible capital,” but that is not recognized internationally. The Trump administration has avoided that description, and noted that the city’s final borders should be decided by the parties.