An Iraqi soldier stands next to a military vehicle at the entry of Zubair oilfield after a rocket struck the site of residential and operations headquarters of several oil companies at Burjesia area, in Basra, Iraq June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani
June 19, 2019
By Aref Mohammed and Ahmed Rasheed
BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) – A rocket hit a site in southern Iraq used by foreign oil companies on Wednesday, including U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil, wounding three people and threatening to further escalate U.S.-Iran tensions in the region.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack near Iraq’s southern city of Basra, the fourth time in a week that rockets have struck near U.S. installations.
Three previous attacks on or near military bases housing U.S. forces near Baghdad and Mosul caused no casualties or major damage. None of those incidents were claimed.
An Iraqi security source said it appeared that Iran-backed groups in southern Iraq were behind the Basra incident.
“According to our sources, the team (that launched the rocket) is made up of more than one group and were well trained in missile launching,” the security source said.
He said they had received a tip-off several days ago the U.S. consulate in Basra might be targeted but were taken by surprise when the rocket hit the oil site.
Abbas Maher, mayor of the nearby town of Zubair, said he believed Iran-backed groups had specifically targeted Exxon to “send a message” to the United States.
U.S.-Iranian hostility has risen since President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and other world powers in May last year.
Trump has since reimposed and extended U.S. sanctions on Iran, forcing states to boycott Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own. Tehran has threatened to abandon the nuclear pact unless other signatories act to rein in the United States.
The U.S. face-off with Iran reached a new pitch following attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf in May and June that Washington blames on Tehran. Iran denies any involvement.
While the long-time foes say they do not want war, the United States has reinforced its military presence in the region and analysts say violence could nonetheless escalate.
Some Western officials have said the recent attacks appear designed to show Iran could sow chaos if it wanted.
Iraqi officials fear their country, where powerful Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim militias operate in close proximity to some 5,200 U.S. troops, could become an arena for escalation.
The United States has pressed Iraq’s government to rein in Iran-backed paramilitary groups, a tall order for a cabinet that suffers from its own political divisions.
Iraq’s military said three people were wounded in Wednesday’s strike by a short-range Katyusha missile. It struck the Burjesia site, west of Basra, which is near the Zubair oilfield operated Italy’s Eni SpA.
Police said the rocket landed 100 meters from the part of the site used as a residence and operations center by Exxon. Some 21 Exxon staff were evacuated by plane to Dubai, a security source said.
Zubair mayor Maher said the rocket was fired from farmland around three to four kilometers (2 miles) from the site. A second rocket landed to the northwest of Burjesia, near a site of oil services company Oilserv, but did not explode, he said.
“We cannot separate this from regional developments, meaning the U.S.-Iranian conflict,” Maher said.
“These incidents have political objectives … it seems some sides did not like the return of Exxon staff.”
Exxon had evacuated its staff from Basra after a partial U.S. Baghdad embassy evacuation in May and staff had just begun to return.
Burjesia is also used as a headquarters by Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Eni., according to Iraqi oil officials.
The officials said operations including exports from southern Iraq were not affected.
A separate Iraqi oil official, who oversees foreign operations in the south, said the other foreign firms had no plans to evacuate and would operate as normal.
A Shell spokesman said its employees had “not been subject to the attack … and we continue normal operations in Iraq.”
Wednesday’s rocket strike fits into a pattern of attacks since May, when four tankers in the Gulf and two Saudi oil pumping stations were attacked.
They have been accompanied by a spate of incidents inside Shi’ite-dominated Iraq, which is allied both to the United States and fellow Shi’ite Muslim Iran.
The attacks in Iraq have caused less damage but have all taken place near U.S. military, diplomatic or civilian installations, raising suspicions they were part of a campaign.
A rocket landed near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad last month causing no damage or casualties. The United States had already evacuated hundreds of diplomatic staff from the embassy, citing unspecified threats from Iran.
Iran backs a number of Iraqi Shi’ite militias which have grown more powerful after helping defeat Islamic State.
Iraqi officials say that threats from Iran cited by Washington when it sent additional forces to the Middle East last month included the positioning by Iran-backed militias of rockets near U.S. forces.
Rockets hit on or near three separate military bases housing U.S. forces near Baghdad and in the northern city of Mosul in three separate attacks since Friday.
(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal in Dubai; Writing by John Davison; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Jon Boyle and Andrew Cawthorne)
Russian national Oleg Pulatov, one of the accused of downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, nearly five years after the crash that killed 298 passengers and crew, is seen in this handout photo released by Dutch Police and obtained by Reuters on June 19, 2019. Dutch Police/Handout via REUTERS
June 19, 2019
By Toby Sterling and Anthony Deutsch
NIEUWEGEIN, Netherlands (Reuters) – Three Russians and a Ukrainian will face murder charges for the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine which killed 298 people, in a trial to start in the Netherlands next March, an investigation team said on Wednesday.
The suspects are likely to be tried in absentia, however, as the Netherlands has said Russia has not cooperated with the investigation and is not expected to hand anyone over.
“These suspects are seen to have played an important role in the death of 298 innocent civilians”, said Dutch Chief Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke.
“Although they did not push the button themselves, we suspect them of close cooperation to get the (missile launcher) where it was, with the aim to shoot down an airplane.”
Dutch Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus said in a letter to parliament the Netherlands had taken unspecified “diplomatic steps” against Moscow for failing to fully comply with legal requests or providing incorrect information.
The Dutch-led international team tasked with assigning criminal responsibility for the plane’s destruction named the four suspects as Russians Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Igor Girkin, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko. It said international arrest warrants for the four had been issued.
Girkin, 48, a vocal and battle-hardened Russian nationalist, is believed to live in Moscow where he makes regular public appearances. He is a commentator on Russian and foreign affairs via his own website and YouTube channel.
“The rebels did not shoot down the Boeing,” Girkin told Reuters on Wednesday without elaborating.
Ukrainian authorities said they would try to detain Kharchenko, the suspect believed to be on their territory.
MH17 was shot out of the sky on July 17, 2014, over territory held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Everyone on board was killed.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “The Russian Federation must now cooperate fully with the prosecution and provide any assistance it requests.” There were 10 Britons on the flight.
Most of those on board were Dutch. The joint investigation team formed by Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine found that the plane was shot down by a Russian missile.
Last year Russian President Vladimir Putin called MH17’s downing a “terrible tragedy” but said Moscow was not to blame and there are other explanations for what happened.
The governments of the Netherlands and Australia have said they hold Russia legally responsible.
Asked if she expected the suspects to attend the trial, Silene Fredriksz, whose son Bryce was on the plane, said: “No, I don’t think so. But I don’t care. I just want the truth, and this is the truth.”
Moscow has said it does not trust the investigation.
“Russia was unable to take part in the investigation despite expressing an interest right from the start and trying to join it”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
The investigation team said Girkin was a former FSB security service colonel who served as minister of defense of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) in the summer of 2014.
It said Dubinsky was head of the military intelligence agency of DNR, while Pulatov was head of a second department of the DNR military intelligence agency. Kharchenko was head of a reconnaissance battalion for the second department, it said.
Prosecutors have said the missile system that brought down the plane came from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, based in the western Russian city of Kursk.
(Additional reporting by Bart Meijer in Amsterda, Maria Vasilyeva and Anastasia Teterevleva in Moscow; Editing Hugh Lawson and Janet Lawrence)
FILE PHOTO: European Council President Donald Tusk holds a news conference after a European Union leaders summit following the EU elections, in Brussels, Belgium May 28, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo
June 19, 2019
By Philip Blenkinsop and Belén Carreño
BRUSSELS/MADRID (Reuters) – European Council President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday that he was “cautiously optimistic” that EU leaders would agree names to hold the bloc’s top jobs when they meet in Brussels on Thursday.
Multiple diplomats and officials have told Reuters it may be too soon for a deal at the summit, which will be chaired by Tusk, citing disagreement between Berlin and Paris over a German candidate Manfred Weber’s bid to take over at the helm of the bloc’s executive Commission later this year.
“There are different views, different interests, but also a common will to finalize this process before the first session of the European Parliament,” Tusk said in an invitation letter to the 28 national leaders.
“I remain cautiously optimistic, as those I have spoken to have expressed determination to decide swiftly. I hope we can make it on Thursday.”
The new leaders will help set the EU’s course for the next five years as the bloc struggles with weak economies and a wave of euroskeptic sentiment at home, as well as facing external challenges from the United States to Russia to China.
Following an EU-wide election last month, the new European assembly is due to gather for the first time on July 2 and should then elect its new president for 2019-24.
That job is part of a package of the EU’s most senior leadership positions that come vacant soon.
They include replacements for European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the bloc’s chief diplomat Federica Mogherini, the head of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt Mario Draghi, and Tusk himself.
“I think that there is a chance of reaching an agreement at the summit,” said a senior EU diplomatic source. “At least, we are going to know which candidacies can fly and which couldn’t.”
Others have pointed out, however, that German Chancellor Angela Merkel could not drop Weber – who is a deputy head of her Bavarian sister party CSU – just yet.
Weber’s bid to lead the European Commission is firmly opposed by French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as the socialist Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez who is seeking to raise Madrid’s sway in the bloc.
WEBER’S LAST DANCE?
Should a deal prove elusive this week, Brussels sources said another leaders’ summit could take place on June 30 or July 1, or even in late August.
“There’s a strong desire to get things done quickly. I don’t see things going on beyond the summer,” another senior EU diplomat said on Wednesday.
The EU needs to balance out political affiliations, regional distribution and the candidate’s own profiles. The bloc is also seeking to let more women into its male-dominated leadership, with expectation that senior Commission roles would go to candidates such as Spain’s Economy Minister Nadia Calvino.
Beyond a firm majority – or, preferably, unanimity – among the 28 national leaders, any candidate to run the next European Commission must also be approved by the new European Parliament.
Despite voting to quit the bloc in 2016, Britain remains one of the 28 members and has members of the European Parliament until it finally leaves.
Political factions in the parliament are still discussing a coalition agreement and a pro-EU majority is in the works between the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), the socialists, the liberals and the greens.
The EPP, the parliament’s largest multi-country grouping, has so far stuck firmly with Weber. The socialists promote Dutchman Frans Timmermans, who currently is a deputy head at the Commission responsible for the rule of law.
The bloc’s current top competition official in Brussels, Denmark’s Margrethe Vestager, runs for the liberals. The group, which includes Macron’s allies, on Wednesday elected a former Romanian prime minister, Dacian Ciolos, as their new leader.
Brussels sources said Merkel’s condition for eventually dropping Weber could be demanding that no other candidate proposed by the European Parliament – Timmermans or Vestager – get to lead the Commission either. Other names in the running include the bloc’s Brexit negotiator and center-right Frenchman Michel Barnier, Belgium’s liberal caretaker Prime Minister Charles Michel, Bulgaria’s World Bank head, Kristalina Georgieva, or Lithuania’s outgoing President Dalia Grybauskaite.
GRAPHIC – EU top jobs race – https://tmsnrt.rs/2WSEMJU
(Additional reporting by Robin Emmott, Peter Maushagen and Sabine Siebold in Brussels, Giselda Vagnoni in Rome, Gederts Gelzis in Riga, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alison Williams)
Yuri Ganus, Director General of Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), speaks during a news conference in Moscow, Russia June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
June 19, 2019
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian anti-doping chief Yuri Ganus said on Wednesday that the country’s suspended athletics federation was not doing enough to stamp out doping culture and was falling short in its bid to be reinstated by global athletics governing body IAAF.
Russia’s athletics federation has been suspended since a 2015 report commissioned by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found evidence of mass doping in the sport. The IAAF decided to uphold Russia’s suspension earlier this month and will review its status in September.
“Enough with appearances. Over the last four years we have presented our athletics as being in a great state,” Ganus told a news conference. “We have serious grounds to say that the federation in its current condition cannot be reinstated.”
Ganus, who last month called for the dismissal of senior Russian athletics officials, said efforts to transform the culture in Russian athletics had so far fallen flat.
“We need to stop trying to demonstrate a (change) in culture,” he said. “A culture comes with daily work… in our relationship to athletes.”
Reuters reported this month that two coaches and one doctor banned for doping were still working with athletes, a situation that can expose athletes to anti-doping violations.
The IAAF task force overseeing Russia’s reinstatement said this month that Reuters’ findings called into question the federation’s ability to enforce doping bans and embrace a new anti-doping culture, which are conditions for its reinstatement.
Margarita Pakhnotskaya, deputy head of RUSADA, said on Wednesday the agency could not provide a timeline for its investigation into Reuters’ findings. The Russian sports ministry has said it would probe the findings by the end of the month.
Despite the ban, some Russian athletes – including two-time world champion high jumper Maria Lasitskene – have been cleared to compete internationally by the IAAF after demonstrating they train in a doping-free environment.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Christian Radnedge)
FILE PHOTO – Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah is seen during the Arab summit in Mecca, Saudi Arabia May 31, 2019. REUTERS/Hamad l Mohammed
June 19, 2019
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Kuwait’s ruling emir arrived on a state visit to Iraq on Wednesday and is expected to discuss escalating regional tensions after attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz.
Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah was met by Iraq’s president, oil minister and other senior Iraqi officials and will discuss bilateral ties and recent regional and international developments, Kuwait’s state news agency KUNA said.
The two OPEC member states transport most of their crude through the Strait of Hormuz, through which almost a fifth of the world’s oil passes, and near where six tankers have been attacked in the past month.
The United States and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of being behind the attacks, which Tehran denies. Kuwait has described the tanker attacks as a threat to international peace and security, without assigning blame.
(Reporting by Iraq Newsroom; Editing by Toby Chopra)
FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal/File Photo
June 19, 2019
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) – Evidence suggests Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman and other senior Saudi officials are liable for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a U.N. rights investigator said on Wednesday.
There was no immediate reaction from Riyadh which was sent the 100-page report in advance – but the kingdom has regularly denied accusations that the prince was involved.
Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, called for countries to widen sanctions to include the Crown Prince and his personal assets, until and unless he can prove he has no responsibility.
Khashoggi, a critic of the prince and a Washington Post columnist, was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2 where he was to receive papers ahead of his wedding.
His body was dismembered and removed from the building, the Saudi prosecutor has said, and his remains have not been found.
“It is the conclusion of the Special Rapporteur that Mr. Khashoggi has been the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law,” Callamard said in her report based on a six-month investigation.
Callamard went to Turkey earlier this year with a team of forensic and legal experts and said she received evidence from Turkish authorities.
“There is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including the Crown Prince’s”, she said.
“Indeed, this human rights inquiry has shown that there is sufficient credible evidence regarding the responsibility of the Crown Prince demanding further investigation,” she added, urging U.N. Secretary-General to establish an international probe.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
FILE PHOTO – A North Korean flag is seen on the top of its embassy in Beijing, China, February 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee
June 19, 2019
By Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea has provided its largest food and aid donation since 2008 to U.N. aid program in North Korea, officials said on Wednesday, amid warnings that millions of dollars more is needed to make up for food shortages.
South Korea followed through on a promise to donate $4.5 million to the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), and announced it was also providing 50,000 tonnes of rice for delivery to its northern neighbor.
North Korea has said it is facing droughts, and U.N. aid agencies have said food production fell “dramatically” last year, leaving more than 10 million North Koreans at risk.
“This is the largest donation from the Republic of Korea to WFP DPRK since 2008 and will support 1.5 to 2 million children, pregnant and nursing mothers,” WFP senior spokesman Herve Verhoosel said in a statement, referring to his agency’s operation in North Korea, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
More aid would be needed, however, to make up for the shortfalls, he said.
“WFP estimates that at least 300,000 metric tons of food, valued at $275 million, is needed to scale up humanitarian assistance in support of those people most affected by significant crop losses over successive seasons,” Verhoosel said.
North Korea is under strict international sanctions over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
While inter-Korean engagement spiked last year amid a push to resolve the nuclear standoff, Seoul’s efforts to engage with Pyongyang have been less successful after a second U.S.-North Korea summit ended with no agreement in February.
SANCTIONS A PROBLEM
South Korea would work with the WFP to get the aid as quickly as possible to the North Korean people who need, the South’s Unification Ministry, which handles relations with North Korea, said in a statement.
“The timing and scale of additional food assistance to North Korea will be determined in consideration of the outcome of the aid provision this time,” the ministry said.
According to South Korean officials the rice is worth 127 billion won ($108 million).
The government would aim to have the rice delivered before September, and officials were in touch with counterparts in North Korea, Unification minister Kim Yeon-chul told reporters.
South Korea’s Agriculture Ministry said the last time South Korea sent rice to North Korea was in 2010, when 5,000 tonnes were donated. The largest donation ever was in 2005 when South Korean sent 500,000 tonnes of rice.
Seoul also recently donated $3.5 million to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for humanitarian projects in North Korea.
Technically humanitarian aid is not blocked by the sanctions, but aid organizations said sanctions enforcement and a U.S. ban on its citizens traveling to North Korea had slowed and in some cases prevented aid from reaching the country.
Aid shipments have also been controversial because of fears that North Korea’s authoritarian government would divert the supplies or potentially profit off it.
Verhoosel said the WFP would require “high standards for access and monitoring” to be in place before distributing any aid.
In March, Russia donated more than 2,000 tonnes of wheat to the WFP’s North Korea program.
(Reporting by Josh Smith. Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin.; Editing by Robert Birsel)
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping meet business leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
June 19, 2019
BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Wednesday positive outcomes were possible in trade negotiations with the United States, after the presidents of the world’s two largest economies agreed to revive their troubled talks at a G20 meeting this month.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. China, which previously declined to say whether the two leaders would get together, confirmed the meeting.
The two countries are in the middle of a costly trade dispute that has put pressure on financial markets and damaged the global economy.
Talks to reach a broad deal broke down last month after U.S. officials accused China of backing away from agreed commitments. Interaction since then has been limited, and Trump has threatened to put more tariffs on Chinese products in an escalation that businesses in both countries want to avoid.
News that the negotiations were back on the agenda cheered China’s stock markets with the blue-chip CSI300 index ending 1.3% higher while the Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.0%.
Speaking at a daily news briefing, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said it was important to find a solution that was acceptable to both sides.
“I’m not getting ahead of myself, but communication over four decades shows it is possible to achieve positive outcomes,” he said.
Lu said he could not give an exact agenda for the meeting.
“The two leaders will talk about whatever they want,” he said. “A deal is not only in the interests of the two peoples but meets the aspirations of the whole world.”
In another possible sign of a pre-G20 thaw, China’s state television’s movie channel, which has in recent weeks broadcast old patriotic films about China’s heroics against the United States in the 1950-53 Korean War, on Wednesday showed a movie that put the United States in a far more positive light.
The channel showed 1999’s “Lover’s Grief over the Yellow River”, about a U.S. pilot in World War Two who was rescued by Communist guerrilla forces in China and falls in love with one of the young women fighters.
The overseas edition of the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said on its Weibo account the movie was “deeply moving”, and showed a picture of the lead Chinese actress and lead U.S. actor locked in an embrace.
“It’s better to fall in love than to fight,” the Beijing office of the Communist Youth League wrote approvingly of the movie on its Weibo account.
(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Additional reporting by Beijing newsroom and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Darren Schuettler)
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Austrian oil and gas group OMV is seen at a gas station in Vienna, Austria, October 30, 2018. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader/File Photo
June 19, 2019
(Corrects name of Borealis CEO to Alfred Stern (not Achim Stern) in paragraph 22 in June 18 story.)
By Kirsti Knolle
VIENNA (Reuters) – After years of largely banking on low-cost Russia for growth, OMV is shifting attention towards the Middle East as its chemist chief executive chases his vision of making the Austrian oil and gas group a major supplier of plastics.
OMV boss Rainer Seele has spent more than 4 billion euros ($4.5 billion) – 40% of the group’s M&A budget until 2025 – for oil and gas concessions in the region, a 15% stake in Abu Dhabi National Oil Co’s (ADNOC) refining business and a to-be-formed trading joint venture with ADNOC and Italy’s Eni.
“We want to have a fully integrated business model in Abu Dhabi – from the well via the refinery and the petrochemicals all the way to marketing and trade in international markets,” the chief of Austria’s second-largest listed company told shareholders last month.
OMV traditionally earns its money from producing, distributing and refining oil and gas in Europe. A focus on low-cost oil and gas fields in Russia – a source of investor concern due to U.S. and EU sanctions – helped the group get back on its feet financially in recent years and become one of the best cash-flow generators in the sector.
After fixing a price this month for the purchase of Siberian gas assets from Gazprom, OMV has largely achieved its Russian expansion plans.
The Russia-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, of which OMV is a financing partner, could face delays. However, OMV’s downside risks are limited to the 950 million euros it has committed, of which it has paid 644 million euros so far.
“This is already captured by its discounted valuation relative to its peers,” analysts at Berenberg said in a note.
Seele’s new, Middle East-focused strategy stems from a shift in the environment surrounding OMV’s business model, with challenges created by the politically promoted rise of renewable energy and increased use of electric vehicles.
Consultancy Wood Mackenzie forecasts that demand for oil in developed countries will revert to structural decline next year and drop by about 4 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2035. In contrast, it expects demand in developing economies, mainly in Asia, to increase by nearly 16 million bpd in the same period.
The rise in developing-country demand is seen largely driven by the petrochemicals industry, which uses oil to make the plastics needed for fertilisers, packaging, detergents and clothes, as well as for electric-car parts, solar panels and wind turbines.
This is where Seele gets excited. Refraining from expanding into renewables like BP and Royal Dutch Shell, the CEO plans to monetize his oil with the expected surge in demand for plastics and also jet fuel, especially in China.
For Seele, the new focus is a journey back to his roots. The 58-year-old German holds a PhD in chemistry and started his career as a chemical research scientist.
He has chosen the United Arab Emirates as a base from which to secure a big piece of the Asian petchem pie, aiming to maximize profit via the entire value chain.
“What I am always preaching is, hey guys, try to think integrated,” he told Reuters when asked why he did not simply buy into China. “I cannot come up with an integrated business model in Asia if I buy into a petchem unit there. It would be an isolated investment.”
The UAE, a strategic investor in OMV since 1994, has aggressive energy ambitions for the coming decade. It is cooperating with international groups including Shell, Germany’s Wintershall DEA and U.S. investment firms KKR and BlackRock to pioneer approaches and technologies.
Last year, the UAE launched a $132 billion capex program to become self-sufficient in gas by 2030 and establish itself as an exporter of petrochemical products. It plans to invest $45 billion alone into the Ruwais complex, which is located 240 km (150 miles) west of Abu Dhabi, to make it the largest integrated refinery/petrochemicals facility in the world.
CREATING A “BORDEAUX”
ADNOC Refining plans to spend $1.9 billion annually, according to its five-year business plan. As OMV holds 15%, its share would be 285 million euros per year.
A cost optimization of Ruwais operations will be followed by investments to enable the use of different feedstocks and the processing of heavier, more sour crude at the site, Seele said in explaining the plans for ADNOC Refining.
“We will create a Bordeaux,” said Seele, a connoisseur of red wine. “Right now we are only running with Cabernet Sauvignon in Abu Dhabi and we will add some Merlot.”
One challenge will be to export to Ruwais OMV’s European model of bundling refining and petrochemical production in integrated hubs.
“We are transferring our European refineries now from predominantly fuel refineries to jet fuel and petchem units,” Seele said. “That’s the transformation we have in mind (for Ruwais as well).”
To deliver on its goal, OMV is working closely with its subsidiary Borealis, which partly runs the Ruwais refinery via its Borouge joint venture with ADNOC. Seele and Alfred Stern, chief executive at Borealis, plan big.
Borouge hopes to give the final go-ahead for the construction of a fourth petrochemical complex at the site next year, Stern told Reuters. He did not disclose the cost of the new complex, but said it would be a “multi-billion” decision.
OMV’s purchases of a 20% stake in Abu Dhabi’s SARB and Umm Lulu offshore oil concessions and a 5% stake in the Ghasha offshore gas and condensate fields from ADNOC were crucial for growth as they secure access to cheap feedstock, Seele said.
OMV also plans to recycle used plastic and convert it into synthetic crude oil at the Abu Dhabi complex. It is testing the patented, so-called ReOil technology at home.
“What we see in the market is a clear signal. If we don’t find a solution to recycle plastics, our polymer business will be negatively impacted,” the CEO said with a view to investors, who want the industry to work harder against climate change.
“At the latest, in 2025 we would like to have a commercial plant.”
Analysts have praised OMV’s plans, saying major players in the oil and gas industry may envy the company for the deals with its financially strong shareholder ADNOC.
However, risks remain: The emirate’s gas fields have proved challenging to monetize in the past due to high operating costs and artificially low local prices for the fuel.
“New technologies and development plans can improve this, but the fields still remain relatively difficult,” said Robin Mills, chief executive at energy consultancy Qamar Energy in Dubai.
Another challenge is inadequate infrastructure. The pipeline network needs to be extended, Seele says, at the same time indicating a solution is under way. “If you identify a problem, solve it.”
($1 = 0.8897 euros)
(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Additional reporting by Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich; Editing by Dale Hudson and Jan Harvey)
FILE PHOTO: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at his official residence after an earthquake, in Tokyo, Japan June 18, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS
June 19, 2019
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday said he did not have the slightest idea of dissolving parliament’s lower house for a snap election.
He was speaking in parliament in reply to an opposition question. Speculation has swirled that Abe may call a poll for the lower chamber to coincide with an election for the upper house that must be held this summer.
(Writing by Linda Sieg)
Former head of European football association UEFA Michel Platini leaves a judicial police station where he was detained for questioning over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament, in Nanterre, France June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
June 19, 2019
PARIS (Reuters) – Michel Platini, the former head of European soccer association UEFA, was freed in the early hours of Wednesday after having questioned over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament to Qatar.
A Reuters photographer saw Platini leave a local police station, where he had been detained for questioning on Tuesday.
Platini’s lawyer, William Bourdon, said his client was innocent of all charges and that he had been questioned on “technical grounds.”
France’s national financial prosecutor’s office, which specializes in investigating economic crimes and corruption, has been leading a probe into the awarding of the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
It is looking into possible offences including private corruption, conspiracy and influence peddling.
Platini is one of France’s most famous sportsmen and soccer stars. He led France to victory in the 1984 European Championship and played in two World Cup semi-finals.
(Reporting by Arthur Connan, Gonzalo Fuentes and Emmanuel Jarry; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Mathieu Rosemain)
An Airbus A350-1000 performs during the 53rd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
June 19, 2019
PARIS (Reuters) – Airbus, reeling from the potential loss of a major customer for its best-selling A320neo as British Airways owner IAG placed a lifeline order for the grounded 737 MAX, prepared to hit back with more orders for its A321XLR on Wednesday.
The planemaker has been negotiating with U.S. airlines investor Bill Franke whose Indigo Partners has also been known to place orders for multiple airlines within its portfolio and could reel it in for the Paris Airshow, industry sources said.
Airbus declined to comment.
After weathering intense scrutiny over safety and its public image, Boeing won a vote of confidence on Tuesday as IAG signed a letter of intent to buy 200 of its 737 MAX jets that have been grounded since March after two deadly crashes.
The surprise order lifted the energy of a previously subdued Paris Airshow, where the talk had been of the possible end of the aerospace cycle, given the issues at both Boeing and Airbus as well as geopolitical and trade tensions around the world.
Australia’s Qantas Airways said on Tuesday it would order 10 Airbus new A321XLR jets and convert a further 26 from existing orders already on the Airbus books.
Airbus is also in talks with leasing company GECAS and has been trying to secure an eye-catching order for the A321XLR from American Airlines, though the world’s largest carrier does not typically make announcements at air shows.
Airbus is looking for up to 200 orders for the A321XLR, which is designed to open up new routes.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher, Eric M. Johnson, Jamie Freed, Editing by Alistair Smout)
FILE PHOTO: Japanese Vice Minster of Finance Masatsugu Asakawa, Finance Minister Taro Aso, and Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda hold a news conference after the G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ meeting at the IMF and World Bank’s 2019 Annual Spring Meetings, in Washington, April 12, 2019. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan
June 19, 2019
By Leika Kihara
TOKYO (Reuters) – Substantial discussions on trade, including reform of the World Trade Organization, will likely take place at a summit of Group of 20 major economies next week in Osaka, a senior Japanese finance ministry official said on Wednesday.
Japan, which chairs this year’s G20 gatherings, will take a neutral stance in the U.S.-China trade row and urge countries to resolve tensions with a multilateral framework, said Masatsugu Asakawa, vice finance minister for international affairs.
“With regard to differences (on trade) between the United States and China, Japan of course won’t take sides. We will also not take any steps that go against WTO rules,” said Asakawa, who oversaw the G20 finance leaders’ gathering earlier this month.
“Japan will continue to take a multilateral approach in promoting free trade,” he told a news conference.
China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies, are in the middle of a costly trade dispute that has pressured financial markets and damaged the world economy.
Markets are focused on whether U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping can narrow their differences when they sit down at the G20 summit.
The bitter trade war has forced the International Monetary Fund to cut its global growth forecast and overshadowed the G20 meetings that conclude with the Osaka summit on June 28-29.
At the finance leaders’ gathering, the G20 issued a communique warning that trade and geopolitical tensions have “intensified” and that policymakers stood ready to take further action against such risks.
“The macro-economic impact (of the trade tensions) is an issue of concern,” Asakawa said, conceding it took considerable time for G20 finance ministers and central bank heads to agree on their communique’s language on trade.
More “concrete” discussions on trade policy will take place at the G20 Osaka summit, he added.
The row over trade appeared to spread to currency policy when Trump criticized European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s dovish comments as aimed at weakening the euro to give the region’s exports an unfair trade advantage.
Asakawa rebuffed the view the Bank of Japan’s massive stimulus program could also provoke the ire of Trump.
He also said the G20 shared an understanding that members would accept any exchange-rate moves driven by ultra-easy monetary policies as long as the measures are not directly aimed at manipulating currencies.
“The BOJ’s ultra-easy policy is aimed at beating deflation, not at manipulating exchange rates. That’s understood widely among the G20 economies,” he said.
Fears of the widening fallout from the trade war have heightened market expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates this year. Draghi said on Tuesday the ECB will ease again if inflation fails to accelerate.
The dovish tone of other central banks have piled pressure on the BOJ, though many analysts expect it to keep policy steady at least at this week’s rate review.
(Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Chris Gallagher & Shri Navaratnam)
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi attends a news conference on the annual Global Trends report on forced displacement at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, June 17, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
June 19, 2019
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) – Developing countries, not rich Western nations, are bearing the brunt of the world’s refugee crisis and are hosting most of the record 70.8 million displaced people who have fled war and persecution, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
Half of the world’s forcibly displaced are children and the 2018 total is the highest in nearly 70 years, the U.N. refugee agency said in its annual flagship report, Global Trends.
But the global figure, which comprises 25.9 million refugees, 41.3 million people uprooted within their homelands, and 3.5 million asylum-seekers, is “conservative”, it said.
That is because it does not include most of the 4 million Venezuelans who have fled abroad since 2015 as they do not need visas or to lodge asylum claims to stay in most host countries. If the outflow continues, a total of 5 million Venezuelans could have left by year-end, it said.
“Certainly if the situation is not solved politically in Venezuela, with a political agreement, we will see a continuation of this exodus,” Filippo Grandi, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told a news briefing.
Venezuelans, arriving mainly in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, formed the second biggest flow abroad last year, after Syrians fleeing to Turkey following eight years of war, the report said.
“When you say Europe has a refugee emergency, or the United States, or Australia – no. Most of the refugees are in fact in the country next to where the war is, and unfortunately that means mostly in poor countries or in middle-income countries,” Grandi said.
“That’s where the crisis is, that’s need where we need to focus,” he told a news briefing.
More than two-thirds of the world’s refugees come from five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia, the report said.
U.S. President Donald Trump has made reducing illegal migration along the border with Mexico one of his signature policy pledges.
Central Americans reaching the United States after fleeing violence or persecution in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are entitled to request asylum, Grandi said.
The United States should give such people a fair hearing and not separate children from their parents, he said, adding that his agency stood ready to help U.S. authorities deal with the challenge.
With 254,300 asylum claims lodged in 2018, the United States is the world’s largest recipient of applications, the report said.
But Grandi said the United States has a huge backlog of 800,000 cases to be processed and that his agency was also helping Mexico to beef up its capacity to handle asylum-seekers.
Asked whether Trump’s policies had made the work of UNHCR more difficult, he said: “It’s not just in the United States, in Europe as well, and Australia.
“This is the crisis of solidarity that I have mentioned. It is identifying refugees and migrants with a problem instead of people that are fleeing from a problem,” he said.
In Europe, the issue has been heavily politicized, leaving some governments “terrified” to commit to take in people rescued at sea after fleeing Libya or other conflict zones, Grandi said.
“So the appeal I make, now that we are in a situation where European (Parliament) elections are behind us, is to stop this electoral agitation. The numbers arriving in Europe are frankly manageable,” he said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Gareth Jones)
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at his official residence after an earthquake, in Tokyo, Japan June 18, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. THIS IMAGE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY, AN UNPROCESSED VERSION HAS BEEN PROVIDED SEPARATELY.
June 19, 2019
TOKYO (Reuters) – A strong and shallow earthquake struck Japan’s northwest coast around Niigata prefecture on Tuesday, triggering a small tsunami, shaking buildings and cutting power to around 9,000 buildings.
The magnitude 6.4 quake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), lasted for as long as 20 seconds and damage included a landslide that struck a road, according to public broadcaster NHK. There were no initial reports of fatalities or fires.
Authorities lifted a 0.2-1.0 meter tsunami warning for the region after waves several centimeters high struck parts of the Niigata coast.
A tsunami of up to one meter could have caused some flooding and damage in low-lying coastal areas and river banks, though much of Japan’s coastline is guarded by sea walls.
“We will work closely with local authorities to provide any disaster measures including lifesaving and rescue operations and have instructed officials to provide information in a timely and accurate manner,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga – the top government spokesman – told a media briefing.
The quake struck at 10.22 p.m. local time (1322 GMT Thursday) at a depth of 12 kilometers (7.5 miles), the USGS said.
It measured 6.7 according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, and in some places was as high as a strong six on the agency’s seven-point “Shindo”, or Seismic Intensity Scale, which measures ground motion at specific points unlike magnitude which expresses the amount of energy released.
Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (Tepco) Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant was not affected by the quake, which hit 85 km ( 53 miles) northeast of the site. All of its seven reactors were already shut down, NHK said.
A Tepco spokesman said an initial inspection showed no damage to the plant, and inspectors would carry out more detailed checks.
The quake also temporarily halted express bullet train services in the region, with some roads also closed, according to NHK.
(Reporting by Tim Kelly, Elaine Lies, Linda Sieg, Takaya Yamaguchi and Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Catherine Evans and John Stonestreet)
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football – Women’s World Cup – Scotland Training – Allianz Riviera, Nice, France – June 8, 2019 Scotland manager Shelley Kerr during training REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo
June 19, 2019
(Reuters) – Scotland must “bring their A-game” to their final group stage match of the women’s World Cup against Argentina on Wednesday if they are to have any hope of reaching the last-16, coach Shelley Kerr has said.
World Cup debutants Scotland are bottom of Group D after defeats by Japan and England, but victory over Argentina in Paris could help guide them into the knockout rounds as one of the four best third-placed teams.
The stakes are as high for Argentina, who have one point so far and will be guaranteed a spot in the last-16 if they beat the Scots, and Kerr wants her players to take the game to their opponents.
“We have to be more attacking against Argentina and they will have to at some point as well,” she told a news conference on Tuesday.
“It’s something we’ve been good at throughout the campaign to get us here. And I’ve no doubt that our players are prepared well enough and (if they) bring their A-game, I’m sure it will be a positive result for us.”
With England and Japan both ranked in the world’s top 10, Kerr said 20th-ranked Scotland knew their chances of reaching the knockout rounds would rest on the game against Argentina, who are 17 places below them in the world rankings.
“Not in a negative way, but we probably planned to be in this position,” the 49-year-old added. “We were hopeful we’d have taken something from those first two games but realistic that it would probably come down to the Argentina game.”
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Jennings)
FILE PHOTO: Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp Chief Executive Masayoshi Son bows his head after his presentation at a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
June 19, 2019
By Sam Nussey
TOKYO (Reuters) – Most investors in SoftBank Group Corp’s $100 billion Vision Fund want to join the group’s forthcoming second fund, founder and Chief Executive Masayoshi Son said on Wednesday, adding discussions would begin soon.
The entrepreneur said in May a second fund would launch “soon”, with SoftBank likely to be the only investor initially.
Raising further funds is essential if Son is to extend his spending spree on late-stage startups around the world.
Investors in the first fund include the sovereign wealth funds of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, Apple Inc and Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd.
The Vision Fund will ramp up its employee numbers to 1,000 from 400 currently, Son said at the group’s annual general meeting.
The fund’s head, Rajeev Misra, said he sees investment rising to 100-150 companies, from around 80 at present.
Internet firms now dominate rankings of the world’s largest companies but have transformed just two industries, advertising and retail, which make up only a small part of the economy, Son told investors.
While SoftBank has invested in those industries in less mature markets – in, for instance, South Korea’s Coupang and Indonesia’s Tokopedia – its tech bets have been focused on startups looking to disrupt other industries like transport, insurance and healthcare.
Son also said he wants to be the conductor in an AI-driven technological revolution.
“The conductor doesn’t play anything but actually he plays everything,” Son said.
Shareholder responses at the meeting included a plea for Son to take care of his health, concern over the number of injuries at the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks baseball team, and from one father who said he had taken his son to SoftBank’s headquarters in the hopes of glimpsing the founder.
Outside the venue in Tokyo, Japan’s taxi lobby protested Son’s support for the ride-hailing industry, which remains strictly regulated domestically.
SoftBank portfolio companies including recently listed Uber Technologies Inc and China’s Didi Chuxing control 90% of the industry globally.
(Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Christopher Cushing)
FILE PHOTO: Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at the Istana in Singapore, June 7, 2019. REUTERS/Feline Lim
June 19, 2019
By Colin Packham
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will need to secure just three votes in the country’s upper house to pass legislation after election results on Wednesday showed his government picked up four additional Senate seats.
Morrison’s position will be tested when he seeks to pass his major re-election policy of A$158 billion in tax cuts when lawmakers return to parliament for the first time since the election — expected to be in the first week of July.
Morrison secured re-election in May when his coalition won a majority of seats in Australia’s lower house – a result he declared as a political miracle.
Confirming the final results for the Senate, the Australian Electoral Commission said Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition won 19 of the 40 seats contested.
These lawmakers will now sit alongside 16 government Senators who were not up for re-election this year, giving Morrison 35 of the 76-seats in Australia’s Senate.
The government previously held 31 seats, leaving them dependent on the support of independents to pass legislation.
While Morrison remains shy of an outright majority, several right-wing independents are expected to support the bulk of his legislation.
“The government has struggled for years to pass legislation. This Senate will be much friendlier, and the bulk of Morrison’s agenda will become law,” said Haydon Manning, a professor of political science at Flinders University, told Reuters.
The conservative government in April proposed A$158 billion in tax cuts over the next decade, primarily aimed at middle-income earners.
While Australia’s opposition Labor party has promised to support the tax cuts for the lower income earners, it has said it will oppose the third stage of the fiscal plan that delivers tax cuts that favor higher earners.
Morrison has said the tax cuts will not be split, setting the stage for a political fight amid calls for urgent fiscal stimulus to boost a flagging economy.
Australia’s central bank earlier this month cut interest rates for the first time in nearly three years, though it warned the economy needed additional support.
Should Morrison win enough support for his tax plan, about 10 million middle- and low-income earners – will receive up to A$1,080 ($742.72) per person.
Economists have estimated the tax breaks would inject about A$7.5 billion into the economy over 2019/20.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Michael Perry)
General view of a landscape of partially thawed Arctic permafrost near Mould Bay, Canada, in this handout photo released June 18, 2019. The image was captured in 2016 by researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks who were amazed to find the permafrost thawing 70 years faster than models predicted. Louise Farquharson/Handout via REUTERS
June 19, 2019
By Matthew Green
LONDON (Reuters) – Permafrost at outposts in the Canadian Arctic is thawing 70 years earlier than predicted, an expedition has discovered, in the latest sign that the global climate crisis is accelerating even faster than scientists had feared.
A team from the University of Alaska Fairbanks said they were astounded by how quickly a succession of unusually hot summers had destabilized the upper layers of giant subterranean ice blocks that had been frozen solid for millennia.
“What we saw was amazing,” Vladimir E. Romanovsky, a professor of geophysics at the university, told Reuters by telephone. “It’s an indication that the climate is now warmer than at any time in the last 5,000 or more years.”
With governments meeting in Bonn this week to try to ratchet up ambitions in United Nations climate negotiations, the team’s findings, published on June 10 in Geophysical Research Letters, offered a further sign of a growing climate emergency.
The paper was based on data Romanovsky and his colleagues had been analyzing since their last expedition to the area in 2016. The team used a modified propeller plane to visit exceptionally remote sites, including an abandoned Cold War-era radar base more than 300 km from the nearest human settlement.
Diving through a lucky break in the clouds, Romanovsky and his colleagues said they were confronted with a landscape that was unrecognizable from the pristine Arctic terrain they had encountered during initial visits a decade or so earlier.
The vista had dissolved into an undulating sea of hummocks – waist-high depressions and ponds known as thermokarst. Vegetation, once sparse, had begun to flourish in the shelter provided from the constant wind.
Torn between professional excitement and foreboding, Romanovsky said the scene had reminded him of the aftermath of a bombardment.
“It’s a canary in the coalmine,” said Louise Farquharson, a post-doctoral researcher and co-author of the study. “It’s very likely that this phenomenon is affecting a much more extensive region and that’s what we’re going to look at next.”
Scientists are concerned about the stability of permafrost because of the risk that rapid thawing could release vast quantities of heat-trapping gases, unleashing a feedback loop that would in turn fuel even faster temperature rises.
Even if current commitments to cut emissions under the 2015 Paris Agreement are implemented, the world is still far from averting the risk that these kinds of feedback loops will trigger runaway warming, according to models used by the U.N.-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
With scientists warning that sharply higher temperatures would devastate the global south and threaten the viability of industrial civilization in the northern hemisphere, campaigners said the new paper reinforced the imperative to cut emissions.
“Thawing permafrost is one of the tipping points for climate breakdown and it’s happening before our very eyes,” said Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International. “This premature thawing is another clear signal that we must decarbonize our economies, and immediately.”
(Reporting by Matthew Green; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference about the government’s decision on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
June 19, 2019
By David Ljunggren and Nia Williams
OTTAWA/CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – Canada on Tuesday approved as expected a hotly contested proposal to expand the western Canadian crude oil pipeline it bought last year, providing hope for a depressed energy industry but angering environmental groups.
Construction on the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline is scheduled to resume this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference. A senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said earlier that Ottawa expected legal challenges to the approval.
The project would triple Trans Mountain’s capacity to carry 890,000 barrels per day from Alberta’s oil sands to British Columbia’s Pacific coast, alleviate congestion on existing pipelines and diversify exports away from the United States.
Trudeau, who faces a tough fight in a national election scheduled for October, has been under pressure both from western Canadian politicians who accuse him of doing too little for the oil industry, and from environmental groups, which see the oil sands as a highly polluting source of crude production.
“This isn’t an either/or proposition. It is in Canada’s national interest to protect our environment and invest in tomorrow, while making sure people can feed their families today,” he said, adding he knew some people would be disappointed.
The Liberal government previously approved the expansion in 2016 but that decision was overturned last year after a court ruled the government had not adequately consulted indigenous groups.
The approval was widely expected as the government spent C$4.5 billion ($3.4 billion) to buy the 66-year-old pipeline from Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd last year to ensure that the expansion proceeded. Western Canada’s oil production has expanded faster than pipeline capacity, causing a glut of crude to build up.
Trudeau said the government would make a series of accommodations to indigenous concerns about the pipeline, including on protections of killer whale and fish habitats in British Columbia.
One group of indigenous activists in British Columbia, called Tiny House Warriors, vowed in a statement that the expansion would not be built on their territory.
“The Trudeau government does not have the right to put a pipeline through unceded Secwepemc land,” spokeswoman Kanahus Manuel said.
FURTHER OBSTACLES AHEAD
The government’s latest approval can be appealed through the courts. Trans Mountain also requires various permits and route approvals in British Columbia, where that province’s left-leaning New Democratic Party government opposes the project.
The B.C. government also plans to appeal a recent British Columbia Appeal Court ruling that the provincial government cannot restrict the flow of oil on pipelines that cross provincial boundaries.
British Columbia Premier John Horgan said his government was “disappointed” with the federal government’s decision but would not unduly withhold construction permits.
Mike Hurley, mayor of Burnaby, where the pipeline terminates in a tank farm near the Westridge Marine Terminal on Burrard Inlet, said his city was “absolutely against” the pipeline expansion.
“It brings too much extra risk into our community and we don’t believe the risk is worth the rewards. There’s risk of fire, explosion, chemical releases, a natural disaster for our First Nations people who use the inlet so much, and for business.”
Construction is expected to take 2-1/2 years, investment bank Tudor Pickering Holt & Co said. Assuming work on the expansion resumes this year, the expanded pipeline could be in service in early 2022.
“We will measure success not by today’s decision but by the beginning of actual construction and more importantly by the completion of the pipeline,” said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, a frequent critic of Trudeau. “This is now a test for Canada to demonstrate to the rest of the world we are a safe place in which to invest.”
The decision will help create billions in economic benefits across Canada as it allows Canadian oil to reach higher-paying international markets, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association said in a statement.
Eighty percent of the expanded pipeline’s total capacity has been contracted to companies including Suncor Energy Inc, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd and Exxon-owned Imperial Oil Ltd, according to a National Energy Board filing.
The Canadian government has long said it planned to sell the pipeline once most of the obstacles to its construction have been cleared. Numerous indigenous groups have said they are interested in investing in it.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Nia Williams in Calgary; Additional reporting by Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)
A man is reflected on an electronic board showing a graph analyzing recent change of Nikkei stock index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
June 19, 2019
By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian share markets jumped on Wednesday as investors dared to hope the Federal Reserve would follow the lead of the European Central Bank and open the door to future rate cuts at its policy meeting later in the day.
Indeed, ECB President Mario Draghi’s shock turnaround on easing fueled talk of a worldwide wave of central bank stimulus, firing up stocks, bonds and commodities.
Adding to the cheer was news U.S. President Donald Trump would meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit later this month, and that trade talks would restart after a recent lull.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan climbed 0.6% in early trade, adding to a 1% gain the day before.
Japan’s Nikkei rose 1.5% and South Korea 1.1%. E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 were a fraction firmer after a upbeat Wall Street session.
The Dow ended Tuesday with gains of 1.35%, while the S&P 500 rose 0.97% and the Nasdaq 1.39%. The S&P 500 has gained 6% so far this month to be 1% from the all-time high hit in early May.
All eyes are now upon the Fed which is scheduled to release a statement at 1800 GMT on Wednesday, followed by a press conference by Chairman Jerome Powell shortly after.
Yet the heightened anticipation also creates risks the Fed might fail to meet investors’ high expectations.
“Market expectations for a dovish shift are nearly universal, the only question seems to be the degree,” said Blake Gwinn, head of front-end rates at NatWest Markets.
Futures are almost fully priced for a quarter-point easing in July and imply more than 60 basis points of cuts by Christmas.
“Markets will be looking for validation of this pricing,” he added. “We think this represents a fairly high bar for the Fed to deliver a dovish surprise.”
BofA Merrill Lynch’s latest fund manager survey spoke volumes about the sea change in sentiment.
Allocation to global equities dropped 32 points to a net 21% underweight, the lowest since March 2009, while the bond allocation hit the highest since September 2011.
Interest rate expectations collapsed, while concerns about a trade war soared to be the top risk for investors, ahead of monetary policy impotence, U.S. politics and a slower China.
The shift was clear in bond markets where German yields hit record lows deep in negative territory, while Japanese yields sank to the lowest since august 2016 at -0.145%.
Yields on the U.S. 10-year note reached the lowest since September 2017 at 2.016%, a world away from the 3.25% top touched in November last year.
The fallout in currencies was significantly less, in large part because it was hard for one to gain when all the major central banks were under pressure to ease.
The euro did pull back a bit after Draghi’s comments, but at $1.1198 was still well within the recent trading range of $1.1106-$1.1347.
The dollar remained sidelined against the yen at 108.53, and a shade firmer on a basket of currencies at 97.628.
In commodity markets, the rate-cut buzz kept gold near 14-month highs at $1,346.62 per ounce.
Michael Hsueh, an analyst at Deutsche, noted the decisively dovish shift in central bank expectations was bullish for gold.
“This provides the desired backdrop – one in which investors are less likely to be concerned about the opportunity cost of holding a non-yielding asset, particularly versus the increasing stock of negative-yielding debt,” he said.
Reflation trades also supported oil prices, as did hopes for a thawing in the Sino-U.S. trade dispute. [O/R]
Brent crude futures bounced 40 cents to $62.54, while U.S. crude firmed 45 cents at $54.35 a barrel.
(Editing by Sam Holmes)
Cast members Ed Sheeran, Lily James and Himesh Patel attend the UK premiere of “Yesterday” in London, Britain, June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
June 18, 2019
By Emily G Roe
LONDON (Reuters) – Imagine a world where The Beatles never existed? That is what British director Danny Boyle asks audiences to believe in his new movie “Yesterday.”
The comedy, arriving in movie theaters next week, tells of struggling British musician Jack who wakes up after a traffic accident and finds himself in an alternate timeline where only he can remember the music of the 1960s band.
Boyle, who won an Oscar for the 2008 movie “Slumdog Millionaire,” said the band gave permission for their music to be used in the film despite it being a story where “they are literally erased from the consciousness of the world.”
“I think they (The Beatles) must have loved the idea – how quirky the idea was. It appeals to their sense of humor I think,” Boyle said on the red carpet in London on Tuesday.
“That is so typical of their sense of humor – and their bravery as well – because they are experimenters. So I think they like the fact that it’s a bit left field,” he added.
Boyle said Ringo Starr and the widow of George Harrison had seen the film and sent notes of support.
As for Paul McCartney, Boyle said: “I don’t think Paul has seen the movie, but he’s seen the trailer and he said ‘Oh that seems to work!’”
Boyle said he had also written to Yoko Ono, the widow of John Lennon.
The movie also features Grammy Award-winning British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, playing himself, as the person who helps Jack, played by British actor Himesh Patel, recreate some of the band’s most famous hits, sending his career soaring.
The movie, with a screenplay by “Love Actually” writer Richard Curtis, also features Lily James, Kate McKinnon and James Corden.
“Yesterday” starts its global rollout on June 26.
(Reporting by Reuters Television, editing by G Crosse)
An image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and China’s President Xi Jinping is displayed during a North Korean delegation’s visit in Beijing, China, in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 30, 2019. KCNA via REUTERS
June 18, 2019
SEOUL (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China supports North Korea’s “correct direction” in resolving the issue of the Korean peninsula politically, according to North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Wednesday.
In an front page Rodong Sinmun op-ed, Xi said that “we will actively contribute to peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region by strengthening communication and coordination with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” according to the newspaper. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is North Korea’s official name.
Xi is set to visit Pyongyang on Thursday and Friday, making him the first Chinese leader to visit in 14 years.
(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during a rally against U.S. President Donald Trump, in London, Britain, June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville
June 18, 2019
(Reuters) – British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn will back a move on Wednesday for Labour party to change its Brexit policy and support a second referendum in all circumstances, The Times reported, citing a senior Labour source.
Labour, which along with the Conservatives saw its support slump at the European elections as voters expressed their frustration over Brexit deadlock, is divided over whether to unequivocally support holding a second referendum.
Corbyn has so far only said the option of another Brexit vote should be kept on the table, along with a national election. The prospect poses a dilemma as many of the party’s supporters backed Brexit.
(Reporting by Ishita Chigilli Palli in Bengaluru; Editing by Chris Reese)
Soccer Football – Women’s World Cup – Group C – Italy v Brazil – Stade du Hainaut, Valenciennes, France – June 18, 2019 Brazil’s Debinha is fouled by Italy’s Elena Linari resulting in a penalty being awarded to Brazil REUTERS/Phil Noble
June 18, 2019
VALENCIENNES, France (Reuters) – Marta’s second-half penalty sent Brazil into the last 16 of the women’s World Cup with a 1-0 win against Italy on Tuesday that ensured they finished as one of the best third-placed sides.
Marta, the only player to score at five different World Cups, converted a spot kick in the 74th minute as Brazil finished third in Group C on six points, level with Italy, who top the group on goal difference.
It was Marta’s 17th World Cup goal, moving her ahead of Germany’s Miroslav Klose to become the outright top scorer in both the men’s and women’s game.
Australia beat Jamaica 4-1 to finish second in the group, also on six points, but ahead on goals scored of Brazil, who face a clash with either hosts France or Germany for a place in the quarter-finals.
“We were obviously targeting the first place in the group, but this is a World Cup after all. Now it doesn’t matter who will cross our path. We can’t choose it,” said Marta. “We have cleared a goal of ours: qualifying. Now it’s a matter to get ready and to try to go further.”
Italy coach Milena Bertolini told a new conference: “It’s hard to say it’s a nice defeat, however we are pleased to come through as group winners. It was very much unexpected as our goal was to just make it past the group phase.”
Italy looked physically superior, but it was Brazil who had the biggest early chance when Debinha flicked on a corner kick and forced Italy keeper Laura Giuliani to make a point-blank save.
Cristiana Girelli fired home after controlling superbly in the area, but the effort was disallowed for offside in the 29th minute.
Italy went close again in the 40th minute when Barbara Bonansea’s volley at the end of a quick counter-attack forced Brazil keeper Barbara to make a spectacular save.
Brazil threatened after the break, with Cristiane’s finely-taken free kick hitting the crossbar in the 52nd minute.
Brazil were eventually rewarded when they were awarded a penalty after Debinha was brought down by Elena Linari and Marta coolly converted the spot kick, wrongfooting Giuliani.
(Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)
Soccer Football – Women’s World Cup – Group C – Jamaica v Australia – Stade des Alpes, Grenoble, France – June 18, 2019 Australia’s Sam Kerr scores their fourth goal REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot
June 18, 2019
GRENOBLE, France (Reuters) – – Sam Kerr struck four times to send Australia through to the last 16 of the women’s World Cup with a 4-1 victory against Jamaica on Tuesday.
Kerr struck twice either side of the interval as Australia finished second in Group C. They pipped third-placed Brazil on goals scored to set up a meeting with Norway for a place in the quarter-finals.
Jamaica bagged their first goal of the tournament through Havana Solaun but finished bottom of the Group after three defeats.
Italy topped Group C on goal difference with six points despite a 1-0 defeat against Brazil.
Kerr scored her second goal of the tournament with a header after 11 minutes to put the Matildas in the driving seat on a stiflingly hot night at the Stade des Alves.
Kerr doubled the tally three minutes before the break with another header after being left unmarked in the area.
Halftime substitute Solaun reduced the arrears as she netted Jamaica’s first women’s World Cup goal after collecting a perfect through ball from Khadija Shaw in the 49th minute.
But Kerr became the first Australian to score a hat-trick in a senior World Cup with a clinical finish after a defensive blunder by the Jamaicans.
She added a fourth seven minutes from time and that final goal allowed them to leapfrog Brazil on goals scored in the standings.
(Writing by Julien Pretot, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
FILE PHOTO: The logo for Anadarko Petroleum corp. is displayed on a screen on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 30, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
June 18, 2019
By Sabina Zawadzki
LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. energy firm Anadarko Petroleum Corp on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for the construction of a $20 billion gas liquefaction and export terminal in Mozambique, the largest single LNG project approved in Africa.
The announcement, which occurred at an event in Mozambique, was widely expected after Anadarko last month flagged the decision date.
“As the world increasingly seeks cleaner forms of energy, the Anadarko-led Area 1 Mozambique LNG project is ideally located to meet growing demand, particularly in expanding Asian and European markets,” Chief Executive Officer Al Walker said in a statement http://pdf.reuters.com/htmlnews/htmlnews.asp?i=43059c3bf0e37541&u=urn:newsml:reuters.com:20190618:nPn4scVtza.
Anadarko has agreed to be taken over by Occidental Petroleum Corp. Once that deal goes ahead, Occidental has agreed to sell assets including the Mozambique LNG project to French oil major and large LNG trader Total SA. Officials at Total were not immediately available for comment.
Natural gas use is growing rapidly around the world as countries seek to meet rising energy demand and wean their industrial and power sectors off dirtier coal.
The project, which has committed long-term supplies to utilities, major LNG portfolio holders and state companies around the world, underscores the industry’s conviction that LNG demand will soar in years to come despite a slump in prices this year.
Low prices for the gas that is super-cooled for transportation prompted fears final investment decisions (FIDs) such as Anadarko’s would be delayed or scrapped. But the U.S. company gathered enough long-term buyers to underpin the financing of the project.
“Flexible commercial arrangements, including an innovative co-purchase agreement with Tokyo Gas and Centrica, have been instrumental in securing the project a roster of high-quality customers in a crowded LNG market,” said Frank Harris, head of LNG Consulting at Wood Mackenzie.
LNG prices slumped this year as a jump in supply from new terminals in the United States, Australia and Russia were not totally met by higher demand in Asia.
The trade is also nowhere near as developed as the market for crude oil, causing erratic price movements.
“At $20 billion, today’s FID is the largest sanction ever in sub-Saharan Africa oil and gas,” added Jon Lawrence, an analyst with Wood Mackenzie’s sub-Saharan Africa upstream team.
The project is also expected to be transformational for Mozambique, one of the poorest nations on earth beset by economic crisis, conflict stemming from a civil war and serious governance malaise, whose annual gross domestic product is just $13 billion.
The government of Mozambique said the project is expected to create more than 5,000 direct jobs and 45,000 indirect jobs.
With a 12.88 million tonne per year (mtpa) capacity, Mozambique LNG is one of the largest greenfield LNG facilities to have ever been approved. It involves building infrastructure to extract gas from a field offshore northern Mozambique, pump it onshore and liquefy it, ready for further export by LNG tankers.
On the African east coast, the liquefaction plant will be able to sell LNG to both the lucrative Asian market, home to 75%of global LNG demand, and to the flexible European market, which helps balance global LNG trade by soaking up excess supply.
Mozambique LNG joins other mega-projects approved in the past year such as Exxon Mobil Corp’s 16 mtpa U.S. Golden Pass plant and Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s 14 mtpa LNG Canada facility.
Still expected this year are approvals from Exxon for a 15.2 mtpa project also in Mozambique, and from Russia’s Novatek for its 19.8 mtpa Arctic LNG-2 plant.
Anadarko’s partners in the Mozambique LNG project are Mitsui, Mozambique state energy company ENH, Thailand’s PTT and Indian energy firms ONGC, Bharat Petroleum Resources and Oil India.
(Reporting by Sabina Zawadzki in London; additional reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York and Debroop Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Jan Harvey, Marguerita Choy and Arun Koyyur)
FILE PHOTO: Athletics – World Athletics Championships – women’s 100 metres final – London Stadium, London, Britain – August 6, 2017 – Elaine Thompson of Jamaica after the race. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
June 18, 2019
By Kayon Raynor
KINGSTON, Jamaica (Reuters) – As Jamaica prepares to select their world championship team, the exhilarating days of the nation’s male sprinters, led by Usain Bolt, dominating the world are gone, two of the Caribbean island’s top coaches say.
While the country’s female sprinters continue to excel, the men do not rank among the year’s best in either the 100 or 200 meters.
“It appears we are going through another one of those cycles,” coach Glen Mills, who guided Bolt to eight Olympic gold medals and 14 world championship medals between 2007 and 2017, told Reuters.
“I think that there is talent in the junior level that could develop, which could move us once again to the forefront,” said the optimistic Mills two days before the June 20-23 national championships which will help determine the Jamaican team for the Sept. 28-Oct. 6 world championships in Doha.
Stephen Francis, who brought two-times world 100m bronze medalist and former record holder Asafa Powell to global attention, blamed a variety of reasons for the recent decline.
“You find that a combination of bad coaching, bad environment, bad influences and a lack of discipline and all that kind of thing are responsible for the fall,” Francis said in an interview with Reuters.
“I stated a couple of years ago that there was going to be a problem with male sprinting in Jamaica.”
The saving grace has been the female sprinters led by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, a five times global champion at 100m, and Rio double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, the coaches believe.
“Our female program looks very lucrative with our top females over the years, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson and of course we have quite a large number of youngsters including Briana Williams (World under-20 double gold medalist) among others,” Mills said.
Francis added: “Shelly and Elaine are there, but you have others in the pipeline who one expects in two or three or four years will replace them.
“But not so for the men, I don’t know if anybody can say where the next good talent is coming from.”
Still there is optimism that Jamaica could win as many as 10 medals in Doha.
“I think we have at least three events where we have prospects on the male side… obviously the discus (2019 world leader (Fedrick Dacres), the sprint hurdles (Olympic and world champion Omar McLeod), maybe the 400m and maybe the long jump,” Francis said.
“On the female side, there are a whole lot of events where we have medal prospects.”
Fraser-Pryce and Thompson are among the year’s fastest in the 100, Janeek Brown and Danielle Williams in the 100m hurdles and the women’s 4x100m relay team.
(Editing by Gene Cherry and Toby Davis)
FILE PHOTO: Tennis – Australian Open – Second Round – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, January 16, 2019. Russia’s Maria Sharapova in action during the match against Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
June 18, 2019
By Martyn Herman
SANTA PONSA, Spain (Reuters) – After two weeks enjoying the delights of Mallorca it was time for business for Maria Sharapova on Tuesday as she launched her comeback from a six-month injury lay-off in style.
The Russian five-times Grand Slam champion struggled for rhythm initially on the low-bouncing grasscourt at the Mallorca Open but picked up the pace to beat Viktoria Kuzmova 7-6(8) 6-0.
It was a small step for the 32-year-old who will face reigning Wimbledon champion and top seed Angelique Kerber in a standout second-round match at the Santa Ponsa Tennis Club.
Kerber, who suffered an ankle injury during the claycourt season and lost in the first round at the French Open, beat Belgian qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure 7-5 4-6 6-2.
Former world number one Sharapova admitted there is still much to work on but was encouraged by her display in negotiating a tricky opening round — her first competitive match since the St Petersburg Open in January.
There were a few double faults in the first set but the right shoulder that has caused her so much trouble in the past and needed minor surgery in February appeared to hold up.
She saved two set points in the opener but allowed her opponent, ranked 39 places higher than her at 46, only six points in the second as a large crowd, which included tournament referee Toni Nadal, watched under a blazing sun.
It was the 2004 Wimbledon champion’s first win on grass for four years in only her second match on the surface in that time.
“It was nice to get a victory,” she told reporters.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been out there so it felt really good to go through a few things I’ve worked on and get the arm into action again. There’s a lot to work on but I had to start somewhere.”
Wildcard Sharapova said she felt “optimistic” about the shoulder that needed minor surgery in February and did not feel anything “too sharp” during the match.
With rain falling elsewhere in Europe, Mallorca appeared a wise choice as a starting point for a suspect shoulder but it was not all smooth for wildcard Sharapova against Kuzmova.
The Slovak broke to lead 6-5 in the first set as Sharapova served three double-faults. Sharapova broke back immediately to force a tiebreak but had to fend off a set point at 6-7 and another at 7-8 before sealing the set when Kuzmova missed a forehand.
A confident Sharapova romped through the second set.
Victoria Azerenka, the third former world number one in action on the day, was beaten 1-6 6-4 7-5 by Caroline Garcia.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)
Argentine politician Sergio Massa arrives for a meeting with presidential candidate Alberto Fernandez (not pictured), in Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian
June 18, 2019
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentine politician Sergio Massa, who recently pledged his support to the main opposition challengers to President Mauricio Macri, is in line to play a key role in the country’s Congress if his new allies win national elections later this year.
The former chief of staff said on Tuesday he would be the first on a list of candidates to lead the Chamber of Deputies, one of the country’s two houses of Congress, if Peronist hopeful Alberto Fernandez wins the presidency.
Massa, a centrist politician who had himself eyed a presidential run, struck an alliance last week with Fernandez and his unrelated running mate Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who served as president from 2007 to 2015.
The alliance – which had raised the question of what role Massa would take – is expected to widen the appeal of the Fernandez-Fernandez ticket to more moderate voters, particularly in the key province of Buenos Aires.
Argentina’s National Congress is comprised of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
“Beyond my personal interest, our biggest responsibility is to give Argentines the possibility to build a majority to have a new government,” Massa said during a seminar in Buenos Aires.
The Fernandez-Fernandez pairing will take on center-right leader Macri in elections in October. If no candidate wins 45% of votes in the first round of voting – or wins at least 40% with a 10 percentage point margin over the second-place finisher – the race will go to a runoff in November.
Macri, who has been hit hard in the polls by a painful economic recession and market volatility, will seek re-election with running mate Miguel Ángel Pichetto, another moderate Peronist.
(Reporting by Gabriel Burin; writing by Adam Jourdan; editing by Leslie Adler)
Rep. Mark Green Tuesday applauded President Donald Trump’s choice of Secretary of the Army Mark Esper as acting Secretary of Defense, following the president’s tweeted announcement.
“He’s a West Point classmate of mine, as is Secretary (Mike) Pompeo,” said the Tennessee Republican on Fox News’ “Outnumbered Overtime,” while admitting he doesn’t know the reasoning behind why Esper was tagged.
Trump said on Twitter that former Boeing executive Pat Shanahan, who was named as acting secretary earlier this year after the resignation of retired Gen. James Mattis.
Trump announced in May that he would be nominating Shanahan to fill the secretary’s spot. The president never made the nomination official, and he said in his tweet Tuesday that Shanahan withdrew to devote more time to his family.
Shanahan told The Washington Post, however, that he was withdrawing because he feared traumatizing his adult children over “dredging up” past incidents of domestic violence in his home, including in 2011, when his then-17-year-old son attacked his mother with a baseball bat and severely injured her.
Last week, NBC News reported that Trump was having second thoughts about formally nominating Shanahan and that he had been asking confidants while in Normandy about potential alternatives.
Green said that he believes Esper has done a “great job” as Secretary of the Army, a position he’s held since 2017.
“He gets what’s going on in the world, and he understands the DOD’s role,” said Green.
Green also responded to the decision to move more troops into Iran, noting that Iran has been trying to leverage Europe and China against the United States.
“That’s not going to work,” said Green. “The world will stick together, and especially if they start increasing the enrichment of uranium.”
Source: NewsMax Politics
FILE PHOTO: Boris Johnson, leadership candidate for Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister, leaves home in London, Britain, June 15, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
June 18, 2019
LONDON (Reuters) – Boris Johnson, the frontrunner to replace British Prime Minister Theresa May, won the most votes cast in the second round of voting for Conservative Party leader on Tuesday, with four other candidates also getting through.
Johnson, a former London mayor and foreign minister, won 126 votes, with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in second place on 46 votes and environment minister Michael Gove third with 41 votes.
The international development minister Rory Stewart was fourth on 37 votes and the interior minister Sajid Javid was fifth on 33 votes.
One candidate — former Brexit minister Dominic Raab — was eliminated after he failed to receive the required minimum of 33 votes.
Now the remaining candidates will face further votes to whittle down the contest to two, when Conservative members will decide who will become leader, and Britain’s next prime minister.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper. Editing by Andrew MacAskill)
FILE PHOTO: South African athlete Caster Semenya speaks with journalists after she raced for the first time after her ban due to elevated testosterone levels at a small meeting in Montreuil, near Paris, France, June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer – /File Photo
June 18, 2019
(Reuters) – Caster Semenya will get another chance at her favorite event, the 800 meters, when the South African competes in the June 30 Prefontaine Classic in California, her agent and meeting officials told Reuters on Tuesday.
The race will be the first at the distance for the double Olympic champion since the Swiss Federal Tribunal issued a stay of new IAAF regulations for XY chromosome athletes like Semenya with differences in sexual development (DSDs) who compete in events ranging from 400 meters to a mile.
“Caster’s representation requested that she be removed from the 3,000 meters (where she was originally entered) to the 800 meters and we are happy to comply,” meet director Tom Jordan said in a telephone interview.
“Indications are she will be going for a fast time,” said Jordan, who was busy lining up a competitive field for the race at Stanford University.
Semenya, unbeaten at the distance in 30 finals since 2015, has a personal best of 1:54.25, with the world record 1:53.28.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last month rejected her appeal against the rules, which mean middle distance female athletes with a high natural level of testosterone must take medication to reduce it.
Semenya has defiantly refused to take medication and appealed to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, which earlier this month said the South African will be able to run in the 800m without medication until her appeal is ruled on by the tribunal on June 25.
The ruling applied only to Semenya, the IAAF said.
“Nothing changes from our point of view,” an IAAF spokeswoman said on Tuesday when asked for comment on Semenya decision to run in the Diamond League race.
“The IAAF continues to comply with the Swiss Federal Tribunal’s order dated 31 May to suspend the DSD Regulations in as far as they apply to the appellant. It should be noted that the Diamond League meetings are not organized by the IAAF. Entry for any athlete into a Diamond League meeting is by invitation only from the meeting organizer.”
Semenya had wanted to run an 800 meters at Sunday’s Rabat Diamond League meeting. She at first was denied entry but officials later reversed their decision.
It came too late, Semenya said.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
FILE PHOTO: Jun 2, 2019; Paris, France: Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) hits the ball to Stan Wawrinka (not pictured) on day eight of the 2019 French Open at Stade Roland Garros. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
June 18, 2019
(Reuters) – Rain forced the cancellation of the second day’s play at the Queen’s Club Championships on Tuesday, with matches involving the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Juan Martin del Potro rescheduled for Wednesday.
As many as 10 singles matches and two doubles contests were set to be played on Tuesday but spells of rain led to a number of false starts before the organizers were forced to cancel the day’s play after 1700 local time (1600GMT).
Britain’s former world number one Andy Murray is scheduled to make his comeback on Wednesday, five months after what he has described as “life-changing” hip resurfacing surgery following his first round exit at the Australian Open.
The 32-year-old Scot will partner Spain’s Feliciano Lopez in the doubles competition.
The Queen’s Club tournament is a traditional warm-up event for the Wimbledon Championships which start on July 1.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)
The Orlando Sentinel’s editorial board has announced that the newspaper is “not endorsing” President Donald Trump despite its long history of endorsing Republican presidential candidates.
The newspaper made the announcement the same day Trump is set to officially announce his reelection campaign in Orlando. The Sentinel’s editorial board did not endorse any specific candidate, but noted that “there’s no point pretending we would ever recommend that readers vote for Trump.
“After 2½ years we’ve seen enough,” they write. “Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies.”
They add, “Trump’s successful assault on truth is the great casualty of this presidency, followed closely by his war on decency.
“Trump insults political opponents and national heroes alike with middle-school taunts. He demonstrates no capacity for empathy or remorse.”
They go on to accuse the president of having “diminished our standing in the world. He reneges on deals, attacks allies and embraces enemies,” singling out his praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The editorial board notes that if a Republican like Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah or Ohio Gov. John Kasich “successfully primaried the president, we would eagerly give them a look. Same if an independent candidate mounted a legitimate campaign.
“We’d even consider backing Trump if, say, he found the proverbial cure for cancer or — about as likely — changed the essence of who he is (he won’t).
“The nation must endure another 1½ years of Trump. But it needn’t suffer another four beyond that.”
Source: NewsMax Politics
FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal/File Photo
June 18, 2019
GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations extrajudicial executions investigator, Agnes Callamard, will to issue her report on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Wednesday, a statement said.
Callamard, who has led an international inquiry into Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, said after a visit to Turkey this year that the evidence pointed to a brutal crime “planned and perpetrated” by Saudi officials.
The CIA and some Western countries believe Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, ordered the killing, which Saudi officials deny.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
FILE PHOTO: Bombardier’s logo is seen on the building of the company’s service centre at Biggin Hill, Britain March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo
June 18, 2019
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s government will buy three new Bombardier jets this year, RND newspapers reported on Tuesday, adding that the deal would have a volume of 240 million euros ($268.51 million).
The finance ministry is willing to approve the on-top budget request by the defense ministry to unlock the funds, RND reported, citing a confidential document the finance ministry sent to the budget commission in the lower house of parliament.
Germany’s government fleet, transporting Angela Merkel and ministers around the world, has been grappling with a series of technical incidents and outages over the last months. It has decided to order three new Airbus A350-900 aircrafts in April.
(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Michael Nienaber)
Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is ramping up the rhetoric against the Trump administration’s work to stem mass migration, calling the centers where arrested illegals are being detained “concentration camps,” comparing it to the Holocaust.
“The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border,” AOC told her Instagram followers in a live video Monday night, as posted by the Washington Examiner. “And that is exactly what they are. They are concentration camps.”
AOC’s rhetoric was reiterated via Twitter on Tuesday morning:
“This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying. This is not hyperbole. It is the conclusion of expert analysis.”
AOC was linking to an Esquire opinion piece that compared the Trump administration’s stopping of asylum seekers at the border and housing them at U.S. centers to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, where they housed Jews during World War II before slaughtering them.
The Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. – when reached by the Examiner – sent an essay warning “Why Holocaust Analogies Are Dangerous.”
“It is all too easy to forget that there are many people still alive for whom the Holocaust is not ‘history,’ but their life story and that of their families,” Holocaust historian Edna Friedberg wrote. “These are not abstract tragedies on call to win an argument or an election. They carry the painful memories of the brutal murder of a cherished baby boy, the rape of a beloved sister, the parents arrested and never seen again. . . .
“Careless Holocaust analogies may demonize, demean, and intimidate their targets. But there is a cost for all of us because they distract from the real issues challenging our society, because they shut down productive, thoughtful discourse.
“At a time when our country needs dialogue more than ever, it is especially dangerous to exploit the memory of the Holocaust as a rhetorical cudgel. We owe the survivors more than that. And we owe ourselves more than that.”
Source: NewsMax Politics
FILE PHOTO: View of the house of District President of Kassel Walter Luebcke, who was found dead, is pictured in Wolfhagen-Istha near Kassel, Germany, June 3, 2019. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo
June 18, 2019
BERLIN (Reuters) – The murder of a prominent politician by a suspected right-wing radical is an assault on Germany’s democratic system and should serve as a wake-up call, the interior minister said on Tuesday, pledging to combat all forms of extremism.
The arrest of a right-winger over the shooting two weeks ago of Walter Luebcke, a regional ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel known for his pro-migrant views, shocked Germany and prompted calls for a more pro-active government response to anti-immigrant extremists.
“Right-wing extremism is a serious danger for our free society. We must fight it with all we can,” Horst Seehofer, a Bavarian who opposed the open-door migrant policy Merkel operated in 2015-16, told a news conference.
“The attack on a representative of our state is an alarm signal … combating extremism and terrorism of all kinds is a central matter for this government,” he said.
Germany is home to some 12,700 potentially violent far-right radicals, domestic intelligence agency BfV estimates, and a Civey poll showed 60 percent of Germans think the government is doing too little to oppose them.
Luebcke, the head of the district government in Kassel in the state of Hesse, was shot in the head at close range on the terrace of his home two weeks ago. A 45-year-old named by police as Stephan E. was arrested at the weekend after they found his DNA at the scene.
Investigators said he was a known right-wing radical in the 1980s and 1990s. He had been a member of a shooting club but did not have a gun license.
German media have reported that the suspect was a member of an armed branch of the banned ‘Blood and Honour’ European network of neo-Nazis, but Seehofer said it was unclear whether he was part of a group or a loose network of right-wing extremists.
Germany was shaken by the chance discovery in 2011 of a neo-Nazi cell, the National Socialist Underground whose members murdered eight Turks, a Greek man and a German policewoman from 2000 to 2007.
After fierce criticism of the intelligence agencies and police for underestimating the risk of far-right violence, reforms were introduced, such as closer coordination between agencies and regions.
BfV chief Thomas Haldenwang said much had changed. “But in view of the scale of the threat from the right, we are not in a position to say we have mastered (it),” he told reporters.
Last year, Germany was shaken by violent right-wing protests in the eastern town of Chemnitz after the killing of a Cuban-German citizen for which two immigrants were arrested. Soon after, the then head of the BfV was ousted after he was accused of harboring right-wing sympathies.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; editing by John Stonestreet)
FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attends a news conference with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez (not pictured) at Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing, China May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Florence Lo
June 18, 2019
By Ben Blanchard
BEIJING (Reuters) – The Chinese government’s top diplomat warned on Tuesday that the world should not open a “Pandora’s Box” in the Middle East, as he denounced U.S. pressure on Iran and called on it not to drop out of a landmark nuclear deal.
Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since last Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman.
The United States blamed Iran for the attacks, more than a year after President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Iran denied involvement in the tanker attacks and said on Monday it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the deal, which had sought to limit its nuclear capabilities.
Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced on the same day the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were defensive purposes, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.
Speaking in Beijing after meeting Syria’s foreign minister, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi said the United States should not use “extreme pressure” to resolve issues with Iran.
Wang told reporters that China was “of course, very concerned” about the situation in the Gulf and with Iran, and called on all sides to ease tension and not head towards a clash.
“We call on all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and not take any escalatory actions that irritate regional tensions, and not open a Pandora’s box,” Wang said.
“In particular, the U.S. side should alter its extreme pressure methods,” Wang said.
“Any unilateral behavior has no basis in international law. Not only will it not resolve the problem, it will only create an even greater crisis.”
Wang also said that the Iran nuclear deal was the only feasible way to resolve its nuclear issue, and he urged Iran to be prudent.
“We understand that relevant parties may have different concerns but first of all the comprehensive nuclear deal should be properly implemented,” he added. “We hope that Iran is cautious with its decision-making and not lightly abandon this agreement.”
At the same time, China hopes other parties respect Iran’s legitimate lawful rights and interests, Wang said.
China and Iran have close energy ties, and China has been angered by U.S. threats against countries and companies that violate U.S. sanctions by importing Iranian oil, including Chinese firms.
China has had to walk a fine line as it has also been cultivating relations with Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia, the Asian giant’s top oil supplier.
Iran’s foreign minister has visited China twice this year already. Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has also visited Beijing this year.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Writing by Se Young Lee and Michael Martina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy meet at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
June 18, 2019
BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was seen shaking when she met visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy earlier on Tuesday, said she had since drunk water and was feeling better.
Merkel looked as if she were struggling to stand up while she and Zelenskiy listened to national anthems during military honors upon his arrival.
“Since then I have drunk at least three glasses of water – I obviously needed that and so I’m doing very well now,” Merkel said during a joint news conference with Zelenskiy in Berlin.
(Reporting by Michelle Martin and Joseph Nasr; Editing by Madeline Chambers)
FILE PHOTO: UEFA President Michel Platini addresses a news conference after a UEFA meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, May 28, 2015. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich/File Photo
June 18, 2019
By Emmanuel Jarry
PARIS (Reuters) – Michel Platini, the former head of European football association UEFA, was detained for questioning by French police on Tuesday over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament to Qatar, a judicial source told Reuters.
Platini’s lawyer William Bourdon was not immediately available for comment. The detention of the former soccer star was first reported by French investigative website Mediapart.
France’s national financial prosecutor’s office (PNF), which specializes in investigating economic crimes and corruption, has been leading a probe into the awarding of the 2022 tournament to the Gulf emirate since 2016. It is looking into possible offences including private corruption, conspiracy and influence peddling.
The decision in December 2010 to award the World Cup to Qatar surprised many given the lack of potential local audiences for the games, the extremely hot summer weather, and the poor performance of the country’s national squad. It will be the first Arab state to host the competition.
Le Monde newspaper reported that prosecutors were particularly looking into a lunch hosted by France’s then president, Nicolas Sarkozy, nine days before the announcement that Qatar would host the cup. Platini and Qatar’s prime minister at the time, Sheikh Tamim Ben Hamad Al Thani, were guests at the lunch.
Two of Sarkozy’s aides at that time, Claude Gueant and Sophie Dion, were also questioned by police on Tuesday, judicial sources confirmed to Reuters. Dion remains detained with Platini, while Gueant has been released, the sources said.
(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry, Inti Landauro and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Luke Baker and Hugh Lawson)
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Air Forces in Europe Commander Tod D. Wolters speaks during NATO Baltic air policing mission takeover ceremony in Siauliai, Lithuania August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins
June 18, 2019
LE BOURGET, Paris (Reuters) – U.S. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar remain in contact about Ankara’s plans to buy a Russian air defence system, and may meet during NATO meetings in Brussels next week, NATO’s commander told Reuters.
U.S. General Tod Wolters said the military-to-military relationship between the United States and NATO remained “absolutely, positively solid,” despite Washington’s decision to cancel Turkey’s purchase of F-35 stealth fighters if it proceeds with its purchase of the Russian S-400 air defence system.
“We won’t co-locate those two assets, the S-400 and the F-35,” Wolters said at the Paris Airshow. “I know there’ll be follow on dialogue to work on … details between Minister Akar and Secretary Shanahan. As a matter of fact there may the opportunity to meet next week at the ministerials in NATO.”
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Potter)
PM hopeful Boris Johnson leaves his home in London, Britain, June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
June 18, 2019
By William Schomberg
LONDON (Reuters) – Boris Johnson got a further boost in his campaign to become Britain’s prime minister on Tuesday when a second former rival in the race backed him to lead the country out of its Brexit crisis.
Hours before the six contenders to replace Theresa May were due to be whittled down by the party’s lawmakers, Andrea Leadsom declared her support for Johnson, the clear favorite.
“He is the best placed to get us out of the EU at the end of October,” Leadsom, a former leader of the House of Commons who was eliminated from the leadership contest last week, told LBC radio. “Secondly, I do believe he is an election winner.”
On Monday, health minister Matt Hancock, who quit the race on Friday, also backed Johnson, despite their contrasting views on Brexit, saying he was almost certain to win the contest.
Johnson, a former London mayor and foreign minister, has given unequivocal statements that he will take Britain out of the European Union by Oct. 31 whether or not an agreement can be struck with the bloc to smooth the transition.
“We must leave the EU on October 31st, with or without a deal,” Johnson wrote again on Twitter on Tuesday.
Sterling fell to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar in nearly six months on Tuesday.
‘CONFRONTATION WITH EU’
“It looks like Boris Johnson is going to be the next prime minister unless there is a big surprise and that indicates a looming confrontation with the European Union,” said Lee Hardman, a FX strategist at MUFG in London.
Johnson was due to participate in a televised debate on Tuesday evening along with the candidates who survive the second round of voting.
Those who do not receive the backing of more than 33 of the 313 Conservative lawmakers will be eliminated. If all candidates have more than 32 votes, the one with the fewest is eliminated.
Johnson opted not to appear in a first debate on Sunday and stayed away from question-and-answer sessions in parliament that the other five candidates attended on Monday.
His rivals kept up their calls on Johnson to spell out his plans for Brexit in more detail.
“What I find alarming and I want to try to clarify as soon as possible, hopefully in these debates this evening, is that half the people in his campaign have got the impression that he intends to leave on Oct. 31 with no deal,” Rory Stewart, Britain’s aid minister, told BBC radio.
“And the other half seem to have got the impression that he’s going for the softest of soft Brexits. The only way that we are going to have stability in our government, or our party or our country, is if people trust us.”
Johnson’s rivals hope that during Tuesday’s debate he will commit more of the gaffes that have marked his career.
But, barring a major upset, he looks set to make the final two in the race, when mainly pro-Brexit Conservative Party members will cast the deciding votes in July.
Johnson’s willingness to contemplate a no-deal Brexit could set up a clash with parliament which has voted against such an outcome. Brussels has ruled out a re-negotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement, the divorce deal it reached with May last year.
Johnson won the support of 114 Conservative lawmakers in the first round of the leadership contest. The result of Tuesday’s second round of voting is due around 1700 GMT.
(Additional reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Janet Lawrence)