Poland’s president becomes the latest leader to visit Donald Trump as allies eye a possible return

Poland’s president becomes the latest leader to visit Donald Trump as allies eye a possible return
US President Donald Trump (R) and Poland's President Andrzej Duda meet in the White House in Washington, DC, on June 12, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 18 April 2024
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Poland’s president becomes the latest leader to visit Donald Trump as allies eye a possible return

Poland’s president becomes the latest leader to visit Donald Trump as allies eye a possible return
  • Andrzej Duda, who has long expressed admiration for Trump, is also a staunch supporter of Ukraine in its war against Russia
  • He has encouraged the US to provide more aid to Kyiv. That funding has been held up by Trump allies in Congress

NEW YORK: Former President Donald Trump met Wednesday in New York with Polish President Andrzej Duda, the latest in a series of meetings with foreign leaders as Europe braces for the possibility of a second Trump term.

The presumptive Republican nominee hosted Duda for dinner at Trump Tower, where the two were expected to discuss Ukraine, among other topics. Duda, who has long expressed admiration for Trump, is also a staunch supporter of Ukraine and has encouraged Washington to provide more aid to Kyiv amid Russian’s ongoing invasion. That funding has been held up by Trump allies in Congress.
As he arrived, Trump praised the Polish president, saying, “He’s done a fantastic job and he’s my friend.”
“We had four great years together,” Trump added. “We’re behind Poland all the way.”
US allies across the world were caught off guard by Trump’s surprise 2016 win, forcing them to scramble to build relationships with a president who often attacked longstanding treaties and alliances they valued. Setting up meetings with him during the 2024 campaign suggests they don’t want to be behind again.
Even as he goes on trial for one of the four criminal indictments against him, Trump and Democratic President Joe Biden are locked in a rematch that most observers expect will be exceedingly close in November.
“The polls are close,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, a Biden ally and a major voice in his party on foreign affairs. “If I were a foreign leader — and there’s a precedent attached to meeting with candidates who are nominated or on the path to being nominated — I’d probably do it too.”
Murphy noted that former President Barack Obama did a lengthy international tour and met with foreign leaders when he first ran for the White House. So did Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, who challenged Obama in 2012 and whose trip included a stop in Poland’s capital, Warsaw.
Duda’s visit comes a week after Trump met with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, another NATO member and key proponent of supporting Ukraine, at the former president’s Florida estate.
And last month, Trump hosted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, an autocrat who has maintained the closest relationship with Russia among European Union countries. Orban shared a montage of footage of the visit on his Instagram feed, with included an image of him and his staff meeting with Trump and the former president’s aides in a scene that looked like an official bilateral meeting.
Trump also met briefly in February with Javier Milei, the fiery, right-wing populist president of Argentina who ran a campaign inspired by Trump, complete with red “Make Argentina Great Again” hats. Milei gave Trump an excited hug backstage at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, according to video posted by a Trump campaign aide.
Biden administration officials have been careful not to weigh in publicly on foreign leaders’ meetings with Trump, who they acknowledge has a real chance of winning the race.
While some officials have privately expressed frustration with such meetings, they are mindful that any criticism would open the US to charges of hypocrisy because senior American officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meet frequently with foreign opposition figures at various forums in the United States and abroad.
Security and policy officials monitor the travel plans of foreign officials visiting the US, but generally don’t have a say in where they go or with whom they meet, according to an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss protocol.
Trump has been back in his hometown this week for the start of his criminal hush money trial, which has dramatically limited his ability to travel and campaign. While in town, aides have been planning a series of events that began Tuesday night when Trump, after court adjourned, stopped by a Harlem bodega where a man was killed to rail against crime and blast the district attorney who made him the first former president in US history to stand criminal trial.
Duda, a right-wing populist who once proposed naming a military base in his country “Fort Trump,” described the dinner earlier Wednesday as a private get-together between friends at Trump’s former residence while he is in town for meetings at the United Nations.
“I have been invited by Mr. Donald Trump to his private apartment,” Duda told reporters, saying it was “a normal practice when one country has good relations with another country” to want those relations to be as strong as “possible with the representatives of various sides of the political stage.”
He described a friendly relationship with Trump built over years of working together.
“We know each other as people. Like two, I can say in some way, friends,” said Duda, whose term ends in 2025.
Duda’s visit comes as House Republicans wrangle over a $95 billion foreign aid bill that would provide new funding to Ukraine, including money for the US military to replace depleting weapon supplies.
Many Trump allies in the House are fiercely opposed to aiding Ukraine, even as the country warns that it is struggling amid a fresh Russian offensive. Trump has said he might be open to aid in the form of a loan.
Like Cameron, Duda’s efforts to push the US to approve additional aid put him in common cause with Biden, who has struggled for six months to unlock additional congressional funding.
One area where Trump and Duda agree when it comes to the conflict are their efforts to push NATO members to increase their defense spending. Duda has called on fellow members of the alliance to raise their spending to 3 percent of gross domestic product as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine. That would represent a significant increase from the current commitment of 2 percent by 2024.
Trump, in a stunning break from past US precedent, has long been critical of the Western alliance and has threatened not to defend member nations that do not hit that spending goal. That threat strikes at the heart of the alliance’s Article 5, which states that any attack against one NATO member will be considered an attack against all.
In February, Trump went even further, recounting that he’d once told leaders that he would “encourage” Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to members that are — in his words — “delinquent.”
Duda suggested he intended to raise his proposal at the dinner.
“I have never talked with President Donald Trump about my proposal of raising the spending on defense of NATO countries from 2 percent to 3 percent of GDP, but I think that his approach to it will be positive,” he said.
The visit was met with mixed reaction in Poland, where fears of Russia run high and Duda’s friendly relationship with Trump has been a source of controversy.
Poland’s centrist Prime Minister Donald Tusk, a political opponent of Duda, was critical of the dinner but expressed hope that Duda would use it as an opportunity “to raise the issue of clearly siding with the Western world, democracy and Europe in this Ukrainian-Russian conflict.”
Duda, for his part, said he wasn’t worried since presidents regularly meet with various politicians during foreign trips.
“No, I am not worried because presidents meet with their colleagues, especially with those who had held presidential offices in their respective countries,” he said. “This is regular practice, there is nothing extraordinary here.”
 


Myanmar’s Rohingya in the crosshairs as fighting escalates in Rakhine

Myanmar’s Rohingya in the crosshairs as fighting escalates in Rakhine
Updated 3 sec ago
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Myanmar’s Rohingya in the crosshairs as fighting escalates in Rakhine

Myanmar’s Rohingya in the crosshairs as fighting escalates in Rakhine
  • Tens of thousands of Rohingya are estimated to have fled for safety toward neighboring Bangladesh since mid-May
NAYPVIDAW: Myanmar’s Muslim-minority Rohingya community is once again under threat of attacks and displacement as fighting between a powerful ethnic army and the country’s ruling junta escalates in the western state of Rakhine, according to UN and aid agencies.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya are estimated to have fled for safety toward neighboring Bangladesh since mid-May, which is reluctant to accept more refugees, and many of those remaining in Rakhine are in dire need of humanitarian aid.
The Arakan Army (AA) claimed control of Buthidaung town earlier in May following fighting during which the ethnic army was accused of singling out Rohingya community members. The AA denies the charges.
Reuters could not independently verify the claims, and a junta spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.
The AA is now bearing down on the border town of Maungdaw, also home to a large Rohingya population, that the Myanmar junta will likely attempt to hold, raising the spectre of more serious violence.
“We see clear and present risks of a serious expansion of violence as the battle for neighboring Maungdaw town has begun — where the military maintains outposts and where a large Rohingya community lives,” a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.
The Rohingya have faced decades of persecution and, after a 2017 crackdown by the military, nearly one million fled to Bangladesh, where many now live in crowded refugee camps.
Mohammed Taher, a Rohingya refugee in Bangladesh, said he had recently spoken to a friend in Maungdaw, who described the community living in fear.
“Many want to flee from Rakhine but Bangladesh is not opening its door for Rohingya,” Taher said.
Recent fighting has forced some 45,000 Rohingya to flee to an area along the Naf river on the border, according to a UN estimate.
“No Rohingya will be allowed to enter Bangladesh,” a senior Bangladesh border guard official told Reuters last week.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since a 2021 military coup, which spurred a grassroots armed resistance that is fighting the junta alongside long-established ethnic minority rebel groups.

’CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE’
The fighting in Rakhine broke out last November when a ceasefire between the AA and the junta collapsed, leading to a string of battlefield successes for the rebels.
“Faced with mounting losses in Rakhine, the regime has resorted to arming members of the Rohingya ethnic minority to counter the Arakan Army’s advance,” Morgan Michaels of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said in a May report.
“The AA has reacted with inflammatory rhetoric and violence directed at the Rohingya.”
Amid the renewed conflict, Rohingya civilians are “increasingly being caught in the middle,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its latest report last week.
The agency estimates that over 350,000 people are displaced across Rakhine after years of conflict, many of whom do not have access to basic services.
“We are witnessing a near total absence of humanitarian assistance for communities who rely on it,” medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said, adding that hospitals in Buthidaung and Maungdaw were closed.
The AA, which has a goal to form an autonomous state, has warned that more battles are coming, asking civilians in Buthidaung, Maungdaw, and Thandwe to dig bomb shelters or evacuate to safer areas.
The group, which has denied it has targeted the Rohingya, has also asked for international aid for some 200,000 internally displaced people that it says are sheltering in areas under its control in Buthidaung and Maungdaw.
“The situation is incredibly fraught and dangerous,” said Scot Marciel, a former USambassador to Myanmar.
“In some ways, this is an early test of whether a post-military-rule Rakhine State with significant autonomy can work.”

33 Muslims arrested for attacking 2 Christian men on allegations of desecrating Qur’an in Pakistan

33 Muslims arrested for attacking 2 Christian men on allegations of desecrating Qur’an in Pakistan
Updated 4 min 45 sec ago
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33 Muslims arrested for attacking 2 Christian men on allegations of desecrating Qur’an in Pakistan

33 Muslims arrested for attacking 2 Christian men on allegations of desecrating Qur’an in Pakistan
  • The blaze fully incinerated the factory and parts of the house
  • Blasphemy accusations are common in Pakistan and under the country’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or Islamic religious figures can be sentenced to death

LAHORE, Pakistan: Police in eastern Pakistan arrested dozens of Muslim men and charged them with attacking a Christian father and son on allegations of desecrating pages of Islam’s holy book, officials said Monday.
The mob went on a rampage Saturday after locals saw burnt pages of the Qur’an outside the two Christian men’s house and accused the son of being behind it, setting their house and shoemaking factory on fire in the city of Sargodha in Punjab province, said senior police officer Asad Ijaz Malhi. They also beat up the son.
Malhi said police forces rescued the two wounded men and transported them to a hospital where they were in stable condition, and that at least 33 men were arrested following multiple police raids. Authorities were chasing others who may be involved in the attack, he said.
The blaze fully incinerated the factory and parts of the house, residents and the police said.
Punjab police said in a statement it beefed up security at churches.
Blasphemy accusations are common in Pakistan and under the country’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or Islamic religious figures can be sentenced to death. While no one has been executed on such charges, often just an accusation can cause riots and incite mobs to violence, lynching and killings.
The latest violence, however, brought back memories of one of the worst attacks on Christians in Pakistan in August 2023, when thousands of people set churches and homes of Christians on fire in Jaranwala, a district in Punjab province.
Muslim residents at the time also claimed they saw two men desecrating the Qur’an.


Indian police arrest hospital boss after six babies die in fire

Indian police arrest hospital boss after six babies die in fire
Updated 6 min 19 sec ago
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Indian police arrest hospital boss after six babies die in fire

Indian police arrest hospital boss after six babies die in fire
  • Blaze broke out at the New Born Baby Care hospital in New Delhi’s Vivek Vihar area late Saturday evening
  • The narrow two-story hospital building was squeezed between a row of homes, without space on either side

NEW DELHI: Indian police said Monday they had arrested a doctor and the owner of an unlicensed hospital where six newborn babies died in a fire in a crowded ward without fire exits.
The blaze broke out at the New Born Baby Care hospital in New Delhi’s Vivek Vihar area late Saturday evening.
In the crucial first minutes, it was bystanders who spotted the fire and braved the blaze to rescue the newborns inside.
“We didn’t even name her... I never even held her in my arms,” Anjar Khan, whose 11-day-old daughter died in the blaze, was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times.
Vinod Sharma, who lost his day-old baby boy, blamed the hospital authorities for the tragedy.
“He had a problem with breathing. The doctor had said that he will be fine in a few days,” Sharma was quoted as saying by the Indian Express newspaper.
“We didn’t know that the hospital would kill him.”
Fires are common in India due to poor building practices, overcrowding and a lack of adherence to safety regulations.
The narrow two-story hospital building was squeezed between a row of homes, without space on either side, making it hard for fire engines to reach.
“We were trying to control the fire, but there was no way to enter the building and rescue the 12 babies who were trapped,” local fire officer Atul Garg told reporters.
Senior police officer Surendra Chaudhary told AFP that the hospital did “not have a fire exit system.”
Its license had expired in March and the owner had crammed into the ward more than twice the number of beds it previously had permission for.
“The hospital had permission for up to five beds but they had installed more than 10 beds,” he said.
“In view of all this, we have made the arrests.”
Five babies pulled out from the fire are still recovering in another hospital.
The blaze in the hospital on Saturday broke out just hours after a separate fire at an amusement park in India’s western state of Gujarat.
The toll from that fire rose to 28 on Monday, police said.
The blaze — which ripped through a center with a bowling alley and other games crowded with youngsters — was triggered by welding work on the ground floor, chief fire officer Ilesh Kher told reporters.
“The CCTV footage clearly shows that a spark from the welding work fell on a stack of corrugated cardboard sheets below, causing the fire,” Kher said.
“This spread very fast as the material was highly flammable.”
The corpses were so badly burned they have not been identified so far.
Police have charged seven people with culpable homicide in connection to that fire.
The two fires came as northern India was gripped by intense heat, with temperatures in Delhi hitting 46.8° Celsius on Saturday, according to the India Meteorological Department.


China to host Egypt’s El-Sisi, Arab leaders this week

China to host Egypt’s El-Sisi, Arab leaders this week
Updated 27 May 2024
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China to host Egypt’s El-Sisi, Arab leaders this week

China to host Egypt’s El-Sisi, Arab leaders this week
  • Speaking at a press conference in Beijing, Vice Foreign Minister Deng Li said President Xi Jinping would attend the forum and deliver a keynote address on Thursday

BEIJING: China will host Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as well as a number of other Arab leaders in Beijing this week, its foreign ministry said Monday.
The leaders will from Tuesday to Saturday “pay state visits to China and attend the opening ceremony of the 10th Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.
Also among the delegation will be Bahrain’s King Hamad, Tunisian President Kais Saied and the United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Speaking at a press conference in Beijing, Vice Foreign Minister Deng Li said President Xi Jinping would attend the forum and deliver a keynote address on Thursday.
Xi would also “hold talks with the four heads of state respectively to exchange views on bilateral relations and regional and international issues of common concern,” Deng said.
The forum would aim to deepen “consensus between China and Arab countries,” Deng said, and would be co-chaired by top diplomat Wang Yi and his Mauritanian counterpart.
They would also “issue a common voice between China and Arab countries on the Palestinian issue,” he said.
China has sought to build closer ties with Arab states in recent years, and last year brokered a detente between Tehran and its long-time foe Saudi Arabia.
During a tour of the Middle East in January, top diplomat Wang met El-Sisi in Cairo, saying relations had reached their “best level” in history, according to a foreign ministry readout.
And the meeting with Arab leaders in Beijing comes as China seeks to position itself as a mediator in the conflict between the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Israel.
Wang’s trip to Egypt saw the two countries release a joint statement on the conflict, expressing support for a “comprehensive, just and lasting settlement.”
China has historically been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and supportive of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
And Xi has called for an “international peace conference” to resolve the fighting.
Israel’s has has killed at least 35,984 people in Gaza since Oct. 7, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.


Cyclone Remal kills four, snaps power links to millions in India, Bangladesh

Cyclone Remal kills four, snaps power links to millions in India, Bangladesh
Updated 1 min 12 sec ago
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Cyclone Remal kills four, snaps power links to millions in India, Bangladesh

Cyclone Remal kills four, snaps power links to millions in India, Bangladesh
  • Fierce winds snap power lines, uproot poles and trees as cyclone Remal lashes coastlines of India, Bangladesh 
  • Bangladesh has moved nearly 800,000 people to storm shelters while India has safely relocated around 110,000

SATKHIRA, Bangladesh: Strong gales and heavy rain brought by cyclone Remal lashed the coastlines of India and Bangladesh on Monday, killing at least four people and cutting electricity supply to millions before losing intensity.

The year's first cyclone in the region is the latest of the frequent storms that have pounded the low-lying coasts of the South Asian neighbors in recent years, as climate change drives up surface temperatures at sea.

Fierce winds snapped power lines, uprooted poles and trees and snatched the roofs off some tin and thatched houses while the rain and high tides damaged some embankments and flooded coastal areas.

"We have had no electricity since night, my mobile battery will run out anytime," said Rahat Raja, a resident of Bangladesh's coastal district of Satkhira. "By Allah's grace, the cyclone was not as violent as we thought."

Nearly 3 million people in Bangladesh were without electricity, officials of its power ministry said.

Both nations moved nearly a million people to storm shelters, about 800,000 of them in Bangladesh, and roughly 110,000 in India, authorities said.

Two people were killed in Bangladesh as they headed to cyclone shelters at the 11th hour, said disaster management chief Mijanur Rahman.

"People are usually very reluctant to leave their livestock and homes to go to cyclone shelters," he said. "They wait until the last minute when it is often too late."

Authorities will need more time to gauge the full extent of losses, he added.

The storm, packing speeds of up to 135 kph (84 mph), crossed the area around Bangladesh's southern port of Mongla and the adjoining Sagar Islands in India's eastern state of West Bengal late on Sunday, Indian weather officials said.

It began making landfall in India at about 9 p.m., a process that ran for about five hours, weather officials added, before weakening into a cyclone during Monday morning.

Now it is expected to move northeast and weaken further, bringing more rain to states there, they added, as winds and rains eased.

One person was crushed to death by falling concrete in the state capital of Kolkata, authorities said, while a woman died when a mud home collapsed on the island of Mousuni in the Sundarbans delta.

High tides breached some protective river embankments in the area, home to some of the world's largest mangrove forests, which is shared by India and Bangladesh.

Rain flooded roads and disrupted travel in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, where authorities gearing for the storm set up nearly 8,000 cyclone shelters and drafted in 78,000 volunteers.

India's navy put ships, aircraft, divers and medical supplies on standby for rescue operations.

POWER SUPPLY HIT

Though early warnings and timely evacuation helped avert major casualties, the storm took a heavy toll of utilities in both countries.

Bangladesh shut down electricity supply to many areas in advance to avoid accidents, while many coastal towns were left in the dark as fallen trees and snapped electricity lines disrupted supply, power ministry officials said.

Reports of at least 356 uprooted electricity poles and damage to scores of transformers flowed in early during the storm's landfall in India, said Arup Biswas, the power minister in its state of West Bengal.

Kolkata resumed flights on Monday after more than 50 were cancelled on Sunday, when the storm forced suspension of operations, while suburban train services were also restored.

Rains brought by the storm flooded many streets, television images showed, with reports of wall collapses and at least 52 fallen trees, some of them blocking roads.

Bangladesh suspended operations in its ports of Mongla and nearby Chittagong.