Johnson vs Hunt in final of race to be next British PM

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Jeremy Hunt, left, and Boris Johnson, right, are the final two contenders for leadership of the Conservative Party. (File/AP)
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Conservative MPs will decide on June 20 who will join Boris Johnson in the final two battling become Britain's next prime minister, with three contenders jostling for the second spot. (AFP)
Updated 20 June 2019

Johnson vs Hunt in final of race to be next British PM

  • The centre-right party's 160,000 grassroots members will now pick their new leader from the final two
  • Former London mayor Johnson topped the fifth ballot of MPs in the governing Conservative Party with 160 votes

LONDON: Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, once an opponent of leaving the European Union who has now promised to exit with a deal, are the final two in the race to replace Prime Minister Theresa May.
Despite a series of scandals in the past and criticism about his attention to detail, Johnson has dominated the race since May announced a month ago that she would step down after failing to get her Brexit deal ratified by parliament.
In a fifth and final ballot of Conservative lawmakers, which eliminated Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Johnson was again way out in front: he won 160 out of 313 votes against Hunt's 77. One ballot paper was rejected.
Johnson, 55, who served as London mayor for eight years, has cast himself as the only candidate who can deliver Brexit on Oct. 31 while fighting off the electoral threats of Nigel Farage's Brexit Party and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party.
Johnson has increased his share of the vote of Conservative lawmakers at each of the four ballots so far: 114 out of 313 votes in the first ballot on June 13, 126 on June 18, 143 on Wednesday, and 157 and 160 on Thursday.
Gove was third with 75. Interior minister Sajid Javid was knocked out in the fourth round earlier on Thursday.
Now around 160,000 Conservative Party grassroots members will vote on who will be their leader - and Britain's next prime minister - by the end of July.
Johnson has pledged to leave the European Union on Oct. 31 with or without a deal. The EU has said it will not renegotiate the divorce deal that May agreed last year and the British parliament has indicated it will block a no-deal exit.
He has not addressed how he will solve that riddle.


Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month

Updated 18 January 2020

Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month

  • Washington has for weeks been calling on the militants to reduce violence
  • The Taliban and the US had been negotiating the deal for a year

KABUL: The Taliban are aiming to reach a withdrawal agreement with the US by the end of January and are prepared to “scale down” military operations ahead of signing the deal, according to their chief spokesman.
The statement by Suhail Shaheen to Pakistani daily Dawn comes as the group and the US held discussions in Doha this week, after insurgent sources told AFP they had offered to initiate a brief cease-fire.
“We have agreed to scale down military operations in days leading up to the signing of the peace agreement with the United States,” Shaheen told Dawn in a report published Saturday.
He added that the Taliban were “optimistic” a deal with Washington could be signed before the end of the month and that the reduction in fighting across the country would also include the targeting of Afghan forces.
“It’s now a matter of days,” said the spokesman.
Washington has for weeks been calling on the militants to reduce violence, posing it as a condition for resuming formal negotiations on an agreement that would see US troops begin to leave the country in return for security guarantees, after a near two-decade fight.
The Taliban and the US had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead,” citing Taliban violence.
Talks were later restarted between the two sides in December in Qatar, but were paused again following an attack near the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, which is run by the US.
Any agreement with the Taliban is expected to have two main pillars — an American withdrawal from Afghanistan, and a commitment by the insurgents not to offer sanctuary to militants — and would ultimately have to be given final approval by Trump.
The Taliban’s relationship with Al-Qaeda was the main reason cited for the US invasion more than 18 years ago.
A deal would hopefully pave the way for intra-Afghan talks.
Many observers agree that the war can no longer be won militarily, and that the only route to a lasting peace in Afghanistan is for an agreement between the Taliban and the US-backed government in Kabul.
The Taliban have until now refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate regime, raising fears that fighting will continue regardless of any deal ironed out with the Americans.

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