Striking conciliatory note, Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif seeks coalition government, Khan’s PTI rejects offer

Picture Caption: Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (C) and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) party, along with his younger brother and former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif (R) and his daughter Maryam Nawaz (L) speaks with supporters in Lahore on February 9, 2024, a day after Pakistan's national elections. (AFP)
Picture Caption: Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (C) and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) party, along with his younger brother and former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif (R) and his daughter Maryam Nawaz (L) speaks with supporters in Lahore on February 9, 2024, a day after Pakistan's national elections. (AFP)
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Updated 09 February 2024
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Striking conciliatory note, Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif seeks coalition government, Khan’s PTI rejects offer

Striking conciliatory note, Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif seeks coalition government, Khan’s PTI rejects offer
  • Independent candidates, most of whom are affiliated with ex-PM Imran Khan, are leading in Thursday’s elections
  • In speech in Lahore, Sharif admitted PML-N party did not have the seats to rule alone, would approach other parties

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of Imran Khan said on Friday it had “absolutely no interest” in an offer by prime ministerial hopeful Nawaz Sharif to form a coalition government after his party did not win enough seats to rule alone following general elections on Thursday.

Speaking to a charged crowd of a few thousand supporters from the balcony of his party office in the eastern city of Lahore, his political heartland, Sharif, a three-time former prime minister, struck a conciliatory note. Admitting that his party alone did not have the seats needed, he called on all parties, including independents, most of whom are backed by his archrival Khan, to come together and rule through a coalition set-up.

Thursday’s vote and Sharif’s announcement on Friday were the culmination of an especially contentious election season in which allegations of military meddling took center-stage, casting a shadow over a historic event that marked only the country’s third-ever democratic transition of power. The army, which has ruled for over three decades of Pakistan’s history since independence in 1947, strongly denies interfering in political affairs.

Ahead of the vote, Sharif was seen as a frontrunner in the election due to what was widely believed to be the backing of the army that had smoothed the way for his return to Pakistan after four years in self-imposed exile to lead his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in national polls. Both deny this. 

But as the results of the vote trickled in late into the evening on Friday, it was clear that the PML-N had only bagged 69 out of 241 seats counted so far from 265 total seats in the National Assembly, while independent candidates affiliated with Khan’s PTI had 96 wins. Behind them both was the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) with 52 seats, led by the rising star of national politics, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the son of assassinated former PM Benazir Bhutto. 

“We don't have that much majority to make government alone, so we ask the allied parties who have been successful in this election, we invite them that they participate with us and we make the government together,” Sharif said in his first address after the elections.

Appearing cordial, he said the PML-N respected the mandate of all parties.

“Whoever has got the mandate, we respect it with all our hearts, whether they are a party or an individual person, an independent candidate, and we invite them, that in order to take this wounded Pakistan out of difficulties, come and sit with us … It is important that all other parties sit down and together form one government.”

But a spokesperson for the PTI, Raoof Hassan, told Arab News, the party was “absolutely not interested” in Sharif’s offer of a coalition set-up:

“We are not going to form any alliance or coalition with them. They are not trustworthy people.”

“NO CLEAR WINNER”

With no party meeting the requirement of winning 133 seats, a simple majority, out of 265 National Assembly seats, the days ahead are likely to see political feuding and possible horse trading as the PML-N and the PPP - in their battle to hold sway over parliament where the most important decisions require a two-thirds majority - scramble to form alliances with independents and smaller parties. 

In his speech on Friday, Sharif said he had appointed his brother Shehbaz Sharif, also a former prime minister, to meet with leaders from other parties, including the PPP, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F, to discuss a coalition government. He did not name the PTI.

Though the temptation to jump Khan's ship and join another party forming the government will be high and could make the independents a political wild card in the coming days, PTI-backed candidates have repeatedly said they will not join the mainstream parties but return into the fold of Khan’s party once it wins back its bat symbol, of which it was stripped ahead of the elections.

The party had lost its symbol because the election commission said it did not hold intra-party elections, a legal requirement to run in polls as a party, forcing all its candidates to run as independents, each with a distinct symbol. 

PTI’s Hassan told reporters on Friday new intra-party elections would be held within a fortnight. 

“We don't expect this hop-chop sort of government to last very long,” PTI senior leader Zulfi Bukhari and close Khan aide told Arab News, speaking about a possible future coalition government led by the PML-N. 

“Whatever [government] they're going to form, there will be disputes and fights amongst each other … So, it's going to hold zero credibility with zero public support and meaning they won't be able to take any meaningful decisions for the betterment of the country.”

“KEY CHALLENGES”

Meanwhile, a delay in the full release of official election results even 24 hours after polling closed has led to widespread concerns about rigging and raised questions about the credibility of the vote. The government has ascribed the delay to the suspension of mobile phone services, imposed as a security measure ahead of Thursday's election, but opponents, especially the PTI, say it was done to manipulate counting. 

In the run-up to the polls, Khan’s PTI had complained of a widening crackdown against the party, including not being allowed to campaign freely. Khan himself was missing from Thursday’s vote as he has been in jail since August last year and is also disqualified from running for public office for ten years. 

The former premier, already jailed in one corruption case, was convicted in three back-to-back cases a week before the election and faces dozens of other legal challenges, including one case in which he is accused of ordering violent attacks on military installations on May 9, 2023, which could entail the death sentence. Khan says all the cases were politically motivated to sideline him and his party from elections.

Analysts have widely questioned the legitimacy of an election that Khan, arguably the country’s most popular politician, was not allowed to contest. And after the polls, they fear the absence of a clear winner could mean more uncertainty for a country where political temperatures have been excruciatingly high since Khan was ousted in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence in April 2022. 

The country has also been grappling for months with a seemingly intractable economic crisis that has left millions disillusioned. 

The Pakistani economy is currently beset by record high inflation, falling foreign exchange reserves, a depreciating currency, low consumer confidence and slow growth caused by tough reforms carried out to meet the conditions of a last-gasp $3 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved last year. 

One of the key challenges for any new government will be negotiating a new bailout programme with the IMF after the ongoing deal expires in three weeks. Another will be tackling rising militancy. 

The election season itself was particularly bloody, with several attacks on rallies, election offices and candidates in the last few weeks while 16 people were killed in violence on polling day itself.

But political analysts Tahir Naeem Malik urged calm and reconciliation between all political stakeholders.

“Election results necessitate political stakeholders to sit together and negotiate regarding the next set up,” he told Arab News. “It will be hard for the weak coalition government to initiate major economic reforms and fight the upsurge of militancy.”

But PML-N supporters outside Sharif’s Lahore office said they hoped he would be the “answer” to Pakistan’s problems, especially on the economic front. 

“I came here to see Nawaz Sharif with great happiness and excitement. God willing, Nawaz Sharif will come in government and he will give laptops to young people and make their future bright,” Mohibullah, who had traveled from the mountainous Gilgit region hundreds of miles away for a glimpse of his leader, told Arab News, as loud speakers blared PML-N anthems in the background and fireworks went off.

“All the young people who are leaving the country, god willing after Nawaz Sharif forms government, they won't leave and will make a bright future here.”

Supporter Samra Nazeer, who volunteers as a coordinator for the party's activities in Lahore, said she had personally observed in this election that "people love Nawaz Sharif."

"Just like his last three tenures [as PM] when Pakistan was prospering," she said, "for a fourth time also people have high hopes."

Additional reporting by Aamir Saeed in Islamabad

* This article originally appeared on Arab News Pakistan, click here to read it.


A party like no other? Asia’s richest man celebrates son’s prenuptials with a star-studded bash

A party like no other? Asia’s richest man celebrates son’s prenuptials with a star-studded bash
Updated 03 March 2024
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A party like no other? Asia’s richest man celebrates son’s prenuptials with a star-studded bash

A party like no other? Asia’s richest man celebrates son’s prenuptials with a star-studded bash
  • Tycoons from around the world, heads of state and celebrities arrived in Jamnagar for Anant Ambani’s big fat wedding
  • Ambani family has a tradition of throwing lavish and over-the-top parties while displaying family’s political and economic clout

NEW DELHI: What happens when the son of Asia’s richest man is about to get married?
His father throws a three-day prenuptial bash four months before the actual ceremony.
Tycoons from around the world, heads of state, as well as Hollywood and Bollywood stars descended on the small western Indian city of Jamnagar on Friday where billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani is kickstarting a big fat wedding celebration for his youngest son.

This handout photograph taken and released by Reliance on March 1, 2024, shows Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg (L) with his wife Priscilla Chan attending a three-day pre-wedding celebration hosted by billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani, for his son Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant in Jamnagar. (AFP)


The nearly 1,200-person guest list includes pop superstar Rihanna, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Sunder Picha, Ivanka Trump and Bollywood celebrity Shah Rukh Khan.
All eyes are on Anant Ambani, 28, and his long-time girlfriend Radhika Merchant, 29, who will tie the knot in July. Radhika is the daughter of Viren Merchant, CEO of Encore Healthcare Pvt. Ltd., and entrepreneur Shaila Merchant.
Such festivities keep up with the Ambani family’s tradition of lavish and over-the-top parties while displaying the Indian billionaire’s economic and political clout.

This handout photograph taken and released by Reliance on March 1, 2024, shows Ivanka Trump (2R), daughter of US' former president Donald Trump with husband Jared Kushner (L), a White House adviser under Trump attending a three-day pre-wedding celebration hosted by billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani (R), for his son Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant in Jamnagar. (AFP)


Here is everything you need to know about the family and the prenuptial bash that captivated the country.
WHO IS MUKESH AMBANI?
Mukesh Ambani, 66, is currently the world’s 10th richest man with a net worth of $115bn, according to Forbes. He is also the richest person in Asia.
His Reliance Industries is a massive conglomerate, reporting over $100 billion in annual revenue, with interests ranging from petrochemicals, and oil and gas to telecoms and retail.

This handout photograph taken and released by Reliance on March 1, 2024, shows director at Reliance's new energy business and Reliance Foundation Anant Ambani (R), son of billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani, with his fiancée Radhika Merchant addressing guests during their three-day pre-wedding celebration in Jamnagar. (AFP)


Under Ambani’s leadership, Reliance — founded by his father in 1966 — sparked a telecom price war with the launch of the 4G phone and broadband service Jio in 2016. Today, it has more than 420 million subscribers and offers 5G services. Earlier this week, Disney struck an $8.5bn deal to merge its India business with Ambani’s Reliance Industries, forming a new media giant.
The Ambani family owns, among other assets, a 27-story private apartment building, named Antila, worth $1 billion in Mumbai. It has three helipads, a 160-car garage, a private movie theater, a swimming pool, and a fitness center.
Ambani’s critics say his company has flourished mainly because of political connections during the Congress governments in the 1970s and 80s and subsequently under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule after 2014. They say “crony capitalism” in India has helped certain corporations, such as Ambani’s, thrive.
Mukesh Ambani, 66, has started passing the torch to his two sons and daughter. The oldest son, Akash Ambani, is now chairperson of Reliance Jio; his daughter, Isha, oversees retail; and the youngest, Anant — who will wed in July— has been inducted into the new energy business.
DO YOU WANT A PARTY LIKE NO OTHER? THE AMBANIS HAVE YOUR BACK
Extravagant parties are the Ambanis’ specialty.
In 2018, when his daughter married, Ambani made the headlines because of the grand celebrations, with pop sensation Beyoncé performing at the pre-wedding festivities. At the time, Former US Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were among those who rubbed shoulders with Indian celebrities and Bollywood stars in the western Indian city of Udaipur.

Indian businessman Mukesh Ambani (R) with wife Nita Ambani attends the wedding reception his daughter Isha Ambani (2nd R) who wedded Anand Piramal (R), son of Indian billionaire industrialist Ajay Piramal, in Mumbai on December 14, 2018. (AFP)


Later that year, the happy couple, Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal, officially celebrated their engagement overlooking the picturesque Lake Como in Italy. In December 2018, they got married at the Ambani residence in Mumbai.
WHAT IS SO FASCINATING ABOUT THE PRE-WEDDING SHINDIG?
The three-day pre-wedding bash offers a glimpse of the opulence expected at the July wedding.
The Ambanis are celebrating it at the family’s hometown of Jamnagar — a city of around 600,000 in a near-desert part of Gujarat state — where they also have the business’ main oil refinery.
Guests will don jungle-themed outfits to visit an animal rescue center run by the groom-to-be, Anant. Known as “Vantara,” or “Star Of The Forest,” the 3,000-acre (about 1,200-hectare) center houses abused, injured and endangered animals, particularly elephants.

This handout photograph taken and released by Reliance on March 1, 2024, shows Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan (C) with his wife and actress Kareena Kapoor Khan (2L) upon their arrival at Jamnagar Airport in Jamnagar, to attend a three-day pre-wedding celebration hosted by billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani, for his son Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant. (AFP)


The invitation also says guests will start each day with a new dress code, with mood boards and an army of hair stylists, makeup artists and Indian wear designers at their hotel to help them prepare.
There will also be traditional Hindu ceremonies in a temple complex.
The guests, many arriving by chartered planes, will be served 500 dishes created by around 100 chefs.
The guest list also includes Mohammed Bin Jassim al Thani, the prime minister of Qatar; Stephen Harper, former Canadian prime minister; and Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema.
On Wednesday, the Ambani family organized a community food service for 51,000 people living in nearby villages. 


Trump wins caucuses in Missouri and Idaho and sweeps Michigan GOP convention

Trump wins caucuses in Missouri and Idaho and sweeps Michigan GOP convention
Updated 03 March 2024
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Trump wins caucuses in Missouri and Idaho and sweeps Michigan GOP convention

Trump wins caucuses in Missouri and Idaho and sweeps Michigan GOP convention
  • Trump earned every delegate at stake on Saturday, bringing his count to 244 compared to 24 for former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley
  • March 5 is Super Tuesday, when 16 states will hold primaries, the largest day of voting of the year outside of the November election

COLUMBIA, Missouri: Former President Donald Trump continued his march toward the GOP nomination on Saturday, winning caucuses in Idaho and Missouri and sweeping the delegate haul at a party convention in Michigan.

Trump earned every delegate at stake on Saturday, bringing his count to 244 compared to 24 for former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. A candidate needs to secure 1,215 delegates to clinch the Republican nomination.
The next event on the Republican calendar is Sunday in the District of Columbia. Two days later is Super Tuesday, when 16 states will hold primaries on what will be the largest day of voting of the year outside of the November election. Trump is on track to lock up the nomination days later.
The steep odds facing Haley were on display in Columbia, Missouri, where Republicans gathered at a church to caucus.
Seth Christensen stood on stage and called on them to vote for Haley. He wasn’t well received.
Another caucusgoer shouted out from the audience: “Are you a Republican?”
An organizer quieted the crowd and Christensen finished his speech. Haley went on to win just 37 of the 263 Republicans in attendance in Boone County.
Here’s a look at Saturday’s contests:
MICHIGAN

Michigan Republicans at their convention in Grand Rapids began allocating 39 of the state’s 55 GOP presidential delegates. Trump won all 39 delegates allocated.
But a significant portion of the party’s grassroots force was skipping the gathering because of the lingering effects of a monthslong dispute over the party’s leadership.
Trump handily won Michigan’s primary this past Tuesday with 68 percent of the vote compared with Haley’s 27 percent.
Michigan Republicans were forced to split their delegate allocation into two parts after Democrats, who control the state government, moved Michigan into the early primary states, violating the national Republican Party’s rules.
MISSOURI
Voters lined up outside a church in Columbia, home to the University of Missouri, before the doors opened for the caucuses. Once they got inside, they heard appeals from supporters of the candidates.
“Every 100 days, we’re spending $1 trillion, with money going all over the world. Illegals are running across the border,” Tom Mendenall, an elector for Trump in 2016 and 2020, said to the crowd. He later added: “You know where Donald Trump stands on a lot of these issues.”
Christensen, a 31-year-old from Columbia who came to the caucus with his wife and three children age 7, 5, and 2, then urged Republicans to go in a new direction.
“I don’t need to hear about Mr. Trump’s dalliances with people of unsavory character, nor do my children,” Christensen said to the room. “And if we put that man in the office, that’s what we’re going to hear about all the time. And I’m through with it.”
Supporters quickly moved to one side of the room or the other, depending on whether they favored Trump or Haley. There was little discussion between caucusgoers after they chose a side.
This year was the first test of the new system, which is almost entirely run by volunteers on the Republican side.
The caucuses were organized after GOP Gov. Mike Parson signed a 2022 law that, among other things, canceled the planned March 12 presidential primary.
Lawmakers failed to reinstate the primary despite calls to do so by both state Republican and Democratic party leaders. Democrats will hold a party-run primary on March 23.
Trump prevailed twice under Missouri’s old presidential primary system.
IDAHO
Last year, Idaho lawmakers passed cost-cutting legislation that was intended to move all the state’s primaries to the same date in May. But the bill inadvertently eliminated the presidential primaries entirely.
The Republican-led Legislature considered holding a special session to reinstate the presidential primaries but failed to agree on a proposal in time, leaving both parties with presidential caucuses as the only option.
“I think there’s been a lot of confusion because most people don’t realize that our Legislature actually voted in a flawed bill,” said Jessie Bryant, who volunteered at a caucus site near downtown Boise. “So the caucus is really just the best-case scenario to actually get an opportunity to vote for a presidential candidate and nominate them for the GOP.”
One of those voters was John Graves, a fire protection engineer from Boise. He said the caucus was fast and easy, not much different from Idaho’s usual Republican primary. He anticipated the win would go to Trump.
“It’s a very conservative state, so I would think that Trump will probably carry it quite easily,” Graves said. “And I like that.”
The Democratic caucuses aren’t until May 23.
The last GOP caucuses in Idaho were in 2012, when about 40,000 of the state’s nearly 200,000 registered Republican voters showed up to select their preferred


Trump escalates his immigration rhetoric with baseless claim about Biden trying to overthrow the US

Trump escalates his immigration rhetoric with baseless claim about Biden trying to overthrow the US
Updated 03 March 2024
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Trump escalates his immigration rhetoric with baseless claim about Biden trying to overthrow the US

Trump escalates his immigration rhetoric with baseless claim about Biden trying to overthrow the US
  • “Biden’s conduct on our border is by any definition a conspiracy to overthrow the United States of America,” Trump said in a campaign rally
  • Trump conjured images of Biden turning “public schools into migrant camps” and “the USA into a crime-ridden, disease-ridden dumping ground, which is what they’re doing."

GREENSBORO, North Carolina: Former President Donald Trump on Saturday further escalated his immigration rhetoric and baselessly accused President Joe Biden of waging a “conspiracy to overthrow the United States of America” as he campaigned ahead of Super Tuesday’s primaries.

Trump has a long history of trying to turn attack lines back on his rivals in an attempt to diminish their impact. Biden has cast Trump as a threat to democracy, pointing to the former president’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Those efforts culminated in the attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as his supporters tried to halt the peaceful transition of power.
Trump, who has responded by calling Biden “the real threat to democracy” and alleged without proof that Biden is responsible for the indictments he faces, turned to Biden’s border policies on Saturday, charging that “every day Joe Biden is giving aid and comfort to foreign enemies of the United States.”
“Biden’s conduct on our border is by any definition a conspiracy to overthrow the United States of America,” he went on to say in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Biden and his accomplices want to collapse the American system, nullify the will of the actual American voters and establish a new base of power that gives them control for generations.”
Similar arguments have long been made by people who allege Democrats are promoting illegal immigration to weaken the power of white voters — part of a racist conspiracy, once confined to the far right, claiming there is an intentional push by the US liberal establishment to systematically diminish the influence of white people.
Trump leaned into the theory again at his rally later in Virginia, saying of the migrants: “They’re trying to sign them up to get them to vote in the next election.”
“Once again Trump is projecting in an attempt to distract the American people from the fact he killed the fairest and toughest border security bill in decades because he believed it would help his campaign. Sad,” Biden campaign spokesman Ammar Moussa said in a statement.
Trump’s rally came three days before Super Tuesday, with elections in 16 states, including North Carolina and Virginia, where Trump held a rally Saturday evening. The primaries will be the largest day of voting of the year ahead of November’s general election, which is shaping up as a likely rematch of 2020 between Trump and Biden.
Nikki Haley, Trump’s last major rival, also campaigned in North Carolina. Speaking to reporters after her event in Raleigh, about 80 miles away, the former UN ambassador demurred on her plans after Super Tuesday.
“We’re going to keep going and we’re going to keep pushing,” she said, arguing a majority of Americans don’t want either Biden or Trump as the nation’s leader.
Much of Trump’s speech in North Carolina focused on the slew of criminal charges he faces. While the former president has successfully harnessed his legal woes into a powerful rallying cry in the primaries, it is unclear how his message of grievance will resonate with the more moderate voters who will likely decide the general election.
“I stand before you today not only as your past and hopefully future president, but as a proud political dissident and a public enemy of a rogue regime,” Trump said, railing against what he called an “anti-Democratic machine.”
At both rallies, Trump played a recording of “Justice for All,” the version of the Star-Spangled Banner that he collaborated on with a group of defendants jailed over their alleged roles in the January 2021 insurrection, whom he refers to as “hostages.”
As he focuses on the general election, Trump has painted an apocalyptic vision of the country under Biden, particularly on the topic of immigration, which was the animating issue of his 2016 campaign and which he has once again seized on as the US has experienced a record influx of migrants at the border.
Trump and Biden both visited the US-Mexico border on Thursday to highlight their contrasting approaches to the issue.
On Saturday, Trump conjured images of Biden turning “public schools into migrant camps” and “the USA into a crime-ridden, disease-ridden dumping ground, which is what they’re doing.” He also spoke at length about the murder of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student whose alleged killer is a Venezuelan man who entered the US illegally and was allowed to stay to pursue his immigration case.
Studies have found native-born US residents are more likely to have been arrested for violent crimes than people in the country illegally, but Trump has seized on several high-profile incidents, including a recent video of a group of migrants brawling with police in Times Square.
“Not one more innocent American life should be lost to migrant crime,” Trump said.
Beyond their importance on Super Tuesday, North Carolina and Virginia are both states the Trump campaign is focused on for November.
Trump won North Carolina twice but watched his margin of victory shrink. Biden’s reelection campaign already has staff on the ground hoping to flip the state for the first time since 2008.
Virginia, meanwhile, had once been a swing state but for years has trended blue and Trump lost there twice. But a Trump campaign senior adviser told reporters Saturday that he believes “we could make Virginia competitive.”
In North Carolina, a festive atmosphere surrounded the Greensboro Coliseum Complex ahead of Trump’s rally. Supporters stood in a line that snaked through a web of metal barricades and extended hundreds of yards from the arena. License plates from North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee filled the parking lot, where Trump flags flew alongside US and Confederate flags on many vehicles.
“We just love Trump,” said, Mary Welborn, who lives in nearby Thomasville and expressed that she was frustrated by the criminal prosecutions and civil judgments against the former president. “The way he’s being treated is insane. No other president has been treated this way,” she said.
After the rally, several attendees praised Trump’s hard line on immigration.
“We look like fools around the world with the border just wide open,” said Samuel Welborn of Thomasville.
“My biggest concern is that my kids are not going to have the same country that I grew up in,” added his wife, Mary. “It’s just a different time.”
In Richmond, supporters started lining up Saturday morning for an evening rally at a downtown convention center. The entry lines stretched several blocks by mid-afternoon, and supporters booed as a vehicle with a Haley campaign ad circled the building.
David McDaniel of nearby Chester said the country had gone downhill since Trump left office and that he’d personally struggled.
McDaniel, who voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, said he had to shut down a construction business he owned due to rising costs for materials and gas.
“The fuel prices just ran us out,” said McDaniel, 32. “So we need Trump to get back in so we can open it back up.”


Zelensky calls for more Western air defense systems to ‘save lives’

Rescuers work at a site of an apartment building heavily damaged by a drone strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Odesa.
Rescuers work at a site of an apartment building heavily damaged by a drone strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Odesa.
Updated 02 March 2024
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Zelensky calls for more Western air defense systems to ‘save lives’

Rescuers work at a site of an apartment building heavily damaged by a drone strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Odesa.
  • Kyiv has admitted it is heavily outgunned and outnumbered, facing ammunition shortages

KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday urged the West to deliver more air defense systems after at least six people were killed in the latest Russian strikes.

Overnight aerial attacks claimed four lives in the southern port city of Odesa, including a three-year-old child, while shelling killed one person in the Kharkiv region near the Russian border and another in the southern frontline Kherson region, Ukrainian officials said.
“Russia continues to hit civilians,” Zelensky said in a post on social media.
“We need more air defenses from our partners. We need to strengthen the Ukrainian air shield to add more protection for our people from Russian terror. More air defence systems and more missiles for air defense systems saves lives,” he said.

FASTFACTS

● Overnight aerial attacks claimed four lives in the southern port city of Odesa, including a three-year-old child, while shelling killed one person in the Kharkiv region near the Russian border and another in the southern frontline Kherson region.

● Kyiv also appeared to have had launched its own overnight drone attack that damaged a residential building in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second city.

Ukraine is currently on the back foot in the two-year war as a crucial $60-billion aid package is held up in the United States Congress.
In Odesa, “a nine-story building was destroyed as a result of an attack by Russian terrorists,” Interior Minister Igor Klymenko said Saturday in a post on Telegram.
Footage shared from the scene showed several floors of a residential building collapsed and its facade ripped off.
In Kharkiv, a 76-year-old man was killed in a shelling attack shortly after midnight, regional governor Oleg Synegubov said.
And shelling in the frontline Kherson region on Saturday morning killed one more person, the provincial head said.
Ukraine’s air force said Russia had launched 17 Iranian “Shahed” drones overnight and fired three missiles.
It said it downed 14 of the drones, but falling debris caused damage to residential buildings in Odesa and Kharkiv.
Kyiv also appeared to have had launched its own overnight drone attack that damaged a residential building in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second city.
Videos on Russian social media showed what appeared to be a drone spiraling downwards into the building, triggering an explosion, blowing out windows and causing small fires.
The city’s National Guard division said its preliminary assumption was the damage was caused by a “falling drone.”
Ukrainian media reported the drone was shot down by Russia’s air defenses while targeting an oil depot less than a kilometer from the crash site.
Kyiv has hit several Russian oil facilities in recent months in what it has called fair retribution for Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s power grid.
The attacks come with Russia seeking to press its advantage on the battlefield.
Kyiv has admitted it is heavily outgunned and outnumbered, facing ammunition shortages amid aid delays.
Half of all promised Western ammunition arrives in the country late, the defense minister has said — in what he called critical delays that cost lives and territory.
Russian forces have pressed westwards following last month’s capture of Avdiivka, and have seized several small villages in recent days.
Visiting frontline military posts on Saturday, Ukraine’s new Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrsky said “the situation at the front remains difficult, but controlled.”

 


Russia says it destroyed two Ukrainian drones

Russia says it destroyed two Ukrainian drones
Updated 02 March 2024
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Russia says it destroyed two Ukrainian drones

Russia says it destroyed two Ukrainian drones
  • The Leningradv regional governor said “aerial targets” were hit over the waters and coastline of the Gulf of Finland in Lomonosov district
  • The defense ministry said Ukraine had attempted to carry out an attack “using aircraft-type UAVs” over Leningrad region

MOSCOW: Russia’s defense ministry said its air defenses destroyed a Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, over Leningrad region, which borders the Gulf of Finland, and a second one in Belgorod region on Saturday.
Alexander Drozdenko, the Leningrad regional governor, said “aerial targets” were hit over the waters and coastline of the Gulf of Finland in Lomonosov district, which includes Bronka, a port about 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of St. Petersburg.
“There are no casualties and no damage,” he said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
The defense ministry said Ukraine had attempted to carry out an attack “using aircraft-type UAVs” over Leningrad region, and separately, over Belgorod region.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, said two drones were shot down over two villages on Saturday but there were no reports of casualties or damage.
Russia’s state-run TASS news agency quoted aviation officials as saying operations at Pulkovo Airport at St. Petersburg were temporarily limited but that no flights were delayed.
TASS said movement of ships at Bronka was unaffected and that MarineTraffic data showed only one Turkish bulk carrier was docked at the port.