US pullout from Syria risks boosting Russia, Iran influence: Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 February 2019
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US pullout from Syria risks boosting Russia, Iran influence: Merkel

MUNICH: German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Saturday that Washington's plan to swiftly pull its soldiers out of Syria risks allowing Russia and Iran to boost their role in the region.
Daesh group fighters have been boxed in to a scrap of land in the battle for their last remaining territory in northeastern Syria and their final defeat is expected imminently.
Once they are defeated, US forces are set to soon withdraw after President Donald Trump in December announced the pullout of around 2,000 troops.
But Washington is struggling to convince allies to stay on in Syria after it leaves and Merkel warned of the risks of leaving a vacuum in the region.
"Is it a good idea for the Americans to suddenly and quickly withdraw from Syria? Or will it once more strengthen the capacity of Iran and Russia to exert their influence?" Merkel said at the Munich Security Conference.
Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan on Friday pledged ongoing backing for the fight against Daesh -- but kept allies guessing as to how that would be achieved once US forces pull out, and won no solid pledges of support.
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said the US had told partners in the global anti-Daesh coalition that its soldiers would leave in "weeks rather than months".
The decision has stunned allies including France, which contributes artillery and about 1,200 forces in the region, including soldiers who train Iraqi troops.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian asked why the US would create a vacuum in Syria that could benefit its enemy Iran, calling the approach a "mystery".
A French government source told AFP it was "totally out of the question" to have French troops on the ground without US forces.


Algeria graft prosecutor refers two ex PMs to supreme court

Updated 26 May 2019
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Algeria graft prosecutor refers two ex PMs to supreme court

  • Former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal who served under President Abdelaziz Bouteflika were referred to the Supreme Court
  • Five other former ministers were also referred

ALGIERS: An Algerian prosecutor investigating graft allegations has referred two former prime ministers and five former ministers to the supreme court, Ennahar TV reported on Sunday citing a statement from the prosecution.
Mass protests have broken out in Algeria demanding the removal of the ruling elite and the prosecution of people demonstrators regard as corrupt. The seven politicians will be investigated by the court over alleged corruption cases, Ennahar said, without providing details.
They include former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal who served under President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who resigned on April 2 after coming under pressure from protesters and the army.
The list of the former ministers, who are under investigation, includes Amara Benyounes, Abdelakader Zaalane, Amar Ghoul, Karim Djoudi and Abdessalam Bouchouareb.
They were in charge of the sectors of trade, transport, public works, finance and industry respectively.
Their lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.
The army is now the most powerful institution after the departure of Bouteflika, who had ruled the North African country since 1999.
Army chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah has said major corruption cases would be pursued to try to appease the protests that started on Feb.22.
Bouteflika's youngest brother, Said, and two former intelligence chiefs have been placed in custody by a military judge over "harming the army's authority and plotting against state authority."
At least five prominent businessmen have also been detained pending trial over involvement in corruption cases.
Protesters also want the resignation of interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Beoui, who are considered as part of the ruling elite that has run the country since independence from France in 1962.