Pompeo in Bahrain on first leg of tour of Gulf allies

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is greeted by Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa after arriving at Manama International Airport in Manama, Bahrain, Jan. 11, 2019. (Reuters)
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan arrive in Manama International Airport in Manama on January 11, 2019. (AFP)
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, second right, and his wife Susan, third right, pose for pictures with Assistant Foreign Minister for North and South American Affairs , Reda Habeeb Ibrahim Zaki, right, and Charge d'Affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Egypt, Tom Goldberger, left, before boarding the plane leaving Egypt as he departs for Manama, Bahrain at Cairo International Airport in Cairo, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (AP)
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Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, left, watches as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leaves at the Al-Qudaibiya Palace in Manama, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (AP)
Updated 11 January 2019

Pompeo in Bahrain on first leg of tour of Gulf allies

  • In Bahrain, Pompeo is due to have a working lunch with King Hamad
  • Bahrain, a key US ally in the Gulf, hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet

MANAMA: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Bahrain on Friday, the first leg of a tour of Gulf monarchies which Washington says are “critical” to confronting Iran and militants.
“These Gulf partnerships are critical to achieving shared regional objectives — defeating Daesh, countering radical Islamic terrorism, protecting global energy supplies and rolling back Iranian aggression,” a State Department spokesman said.
In Bahrain, Pompeo is due to have a working lunch with King Hamad, Crown Prince Salman and Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa, according to his official program.
Bahrain, a key US ally in the Gulf, hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet with around 7,800 US military personnel deployed in the country, as well as a British naval base.
It is one of the closest allies of regional power house Saudi Arabia and shares its hostility Iran.
“Bahrain is a staunch supporter of countering Iran’s malign efforts” in the region, the US spokesman said.
“Bahrain continues efforts to investigate and counter Iranian sanctions evasion and combat illicit maritime activity,” he added.
Pompeo’s visit is part of a whistlestop regional tour aimed at reassuring US allies after President Donald Trump’s shock decision to withdraw all US troops from Syria.
The US top diplomat flew in to Manama from Cairo and has already visited Amman, Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital of Irbil.
He will also visit the other five members of the Gulf Cooperation Council — the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
State Department officials have said Pompeo hopes his trip will strengthen the GCC.
The State Department has said that a “united Gulf Cooperation Council the backbone for regional peace, prosperity, security and stability” and key to countering Iran.
It said Pompeo would also work with regional leaders to advance a proposed Middle East Strategic Alliance — a NATO-style security pact.


Sudan to name ruling council after landmark signing

Updated 21 min 13 sec ago

Sudan to name ruling council after landmark signing

  • Rare scenes of jubilation filled the streets of Khartoum
  • Worldwide congratulations poured in after the signing, which revellers and officials alike hailed as the beginning of a “new Sudan”

KHARTOUM: Sudan was expected to form its sovereign council Sunday, the first step after the signing of a transitional constitution triggered unprecedented celebration in Khartoum.
Rare scenes of jubilation filled the streets of the capital on Saturday after generals and opposition leaders signed the documents that will govern Sudan’s three-year transition to civilian rule.
The ceremony in a hall by the Nile river was attended by several high-ranking foreign officials, the biggest such event in years to be held in the once-pariah state.
Worldwide congratulations poured in after the signing, which revellers and officials alike hailed as the beginning of a “new Sudan” after 30 years of rule by the now-detained Islamist general Omar Al-Bashir.
“I welcome this historic moment for Sudan. This agreement responds to the demands of the Sudanese people who have tirelessly called for change and a better future,” said Britain’s Minister for Africa Andrew Stephenson.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed his country would support the establishment of “a government that protects the rights of all Sudanese citizens and leads to free and fair elections.”
According to the green book of documents signed on Saturday, several key steps will be taken before embarking on the long and obstacle littered road to 2022 polls.
The ruling sovereign council is to be comprised of six civilians and five military nominees.
Opposition sources told AFP that five names had so far been chosen, including only one woman.
The body, which will replace the Transitional Military Council, will be headed by a general for the first 21 months, and a civilian for the last 18 months of the transitional period.
Abdalla Hamdok, a former UN economist who was on Thursday picked by the protest camp to be prime minister, is due to be formally appointed on Tuesday.
A cabinet is then to be formed before Sudan’s new institutions can tackle the main challenges that lie ahead, first among them measures to rescue a moribund economy.
Making the most of a new freedom acquired during eight months of protests — and clashes with men in uniform that left at least 250 dead — Sudanese families took to the streets for wild celebrations Saturday night.
Youths spilling out of honking cars drag-raced down the main Nile-side road deep into the night, while groups sang and danced — the same two words echoing across the entire city: “Madaniya, Madaniya.”
It loosely translates as “civilian rule” and one would be hard-pressed to find somebody on the streets of Khartoum publicly opposing that goal.
Some members of the opposition alliance that organized the protests however fear that the euphoria could be short-lived.
Deep distrust remains between the incoming sovereign council’s main players.
While the power-sharing compromise reached earlier this month was widely hailed as the best Sudan could hope for, some members of the protest camp feel it short-changed their revolution.
The omnipresence in the transition of General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo — a paramilitary commander who was one of the signatories of the documents on Saturday — is one of the main causes of unease.
His forces are blamed for the deadly repression of the protests and many suspect the man best known by his nickname ‘Hemeti’ is simply biding his time to pounce on power and nip democracy in the bud.
Sudanese analyst Abdel Latif Al-Buni stressed however that one of the most immediate perils facing the transition was a desire for vengeance.
“A spirit of revenge against the former regime is dangerous,” he said. “It will lead to a clash between the former regime and the new rulers.”
Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges for crimes committed in the Darfur region, faces trial on corruption charges but his fate remains unclear.