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Lebanon PM forced by Saudis to resign, says Hezbollah

Hezbollah, backed by Saudi regional rival Iran, says the decision "was forced" on Saad al-Hariri.

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The leader of Lebanon-based Shia group Hezbollah has said that Saudi Arabia forced the Lebanese prime minister to resign.

Saad al-Hariri stepped down in a televised broadcast from Saudi Arabia on Saturday, denouncing Hezbollah and its Iranian backers, and saying he feared for his life.

But the chief of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, said it was a Saudi decision “imposed” on him.

Saudi officials have denied this.

“It was not his intention, not his wish and not his decision to quit,” Sheikh Nasrallah said in a televised address.

He questioned whether Mr Hariri would be able to return from Saudi Arabia, but also called for calm, amid fears that violence could erupt in Lebanon.

‘No death plot’

Separately, despite Mr Hariri saying he feared assassination, the Lebanese army says it has not discovered any assassination plots in the country.

In addition to the army, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s General Security intelligence agency, has also said he has no information about any plots to kill politicians in Lebanon, Reuters news agency reports.

The Lebanese Internal Security Forces, meanwhile, have denied reports that they foiled a recent assassination attempt in Beirut, Lebanon’s capital.

However Saudi Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan has said Mr Hariri’s bodyguards had confirmed that there was an assassination plot against him.

He also denied in an interview with a Lebanese TV station that Saudi Arabia pushed Mr Hariri to resign.

New political crisis

As he resigned on Saturday, Mr Hariri blamed Iran for meddling in several countries, including Lebanon, and said he felt the climate was similar to that which “prevailed” before his father, former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, was killed by a bomb in 2005.

The attack was widely blamed on Hezbollah, which wields considerable power in Lebanon but denies it was involved.

Iran has denounced Mr Hariri’s assertions, with an adviser to the Supreme Leader accusing the US and Saudi Arabia of being behind the move.

The ex-PM is close to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s chief rival for regional influence.

Saudi princes held in ‘corruption’ purge

Correspondents say Mr Hariri’s sudden departure has plunged Lebanon into a new political crisis and raised fears that it may be at the forefront of the regional rivalry between Shia power Iran and Sunni stronghold Saudi Arabia.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Mr Hariri’s father, Rafik al-Hariri, was assassinated in 2005

Mr Hariri became prime minister in December 2016, after previously holding the position between 2009 and 2011.

He has made several recent visits to Saudi Arabia. His announcement on Saturday came a day after a meeting in Beirut with Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

After taking office last year, Mr Hariri promised a “new era for Lebanon” after two years of political deadlock.

The coalition government he led brought together almost all of the main political parties in Lebanon, including Hezbollah.

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Bad Guy Russia Emerges As Central Player In Western Diplomacy

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MUNICH – European and U.S. officials divided over U.S. President Donald Trump’s foreign policy found common cause this weekend in decrying what they say is Russia’s covert campaign to undermine Western democracies.

But despite the transatlantic show of anger at Russia during the Munich Security Conference, Western officials and diplomats also acknowledged an uncomfortable truth: that Russia is critical to resolving many of the world’s worst conflicts.

From eastern Ukraine to North Korea, Russia’s status as a nuclear power, its military intervention in Syria and its veto on the United Nations Security Council mean any diplomacy must ultimately involve Moscow, officials said.

“We can’t find a political solution without Russia,” Norwegian Defence Minister Frank Bakke Jensen told Reuters. “We need to reach a point where we can work to find a political solution, and they must be central to that.”

Publicly at least, Russia was the bad guy in Munich, roundly criticized for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign after the U.S. indictment of 13 Russians this week, and more broadly for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.

For the West, such unity of purpose marked a change after a year of Trump’s “America First” rhetoric, his inconsistent statements on NATO and the European Union, his decision to pull out of the Paris climate change accord and his move not to certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.

At the annual Munich event, a rare gathering of European and U.S. security officials that also attracts top Russian diplomats, American policymakers were visibly irritated with Moscow’s public denials of accusations of meddling.

“I am amazed that … the Russians come, they send someone, every year to basically refute the facts,” U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said of the Russian presence at the event.

But behind the scenes, diplomats said there was a different tone, as top officials including NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the gold-and-white paneled rooms of the Bayerischer Hof hotel.

“There is a diplomatic network that works,” said Russian senator Aleksey Pushkov, citing contacts to resolve the Syrian civil war including Moscow, Ankara, Washington and Tel Aviv. “It’s something that, if used efficiently, can prevent bigger confrontations.”

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel met several times with Lavrov, offering the prospect of easing economic sanctions imposed over Moscow’s role in eastern Ukraine and calling Russia an “indispensable” partner in global efforts to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the 2015 accord curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, said the West needed to “compartmentalize” issues with Moscow, so that diplomacy could achieve more.

“IN RUSSIA‘S HANDS”

Part of the challenge for the West is that international crises have been interlinked.

Russia is allied to Israel’s nemesis Iran in Syria while Moscow’s support for separatists in Ukraine draws NATO’s ire.

But NATO-ally Turkey is seeking to complete an arms deal to buy Russian air defenses. It has struck U.S-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria with Russia’s blessing.

In Asia, U.S. efforts to stop North Korea’s atomic weapons development rest partly on Moscow’s willingness to countenance a U.S. and European call for an oil embargo on Pyongyang, which it has so far rejected.

“A few years ago you could talk about distinct crises, but today, if you’re discussing one, you’re shaking all the others,” Norway’s Jensen said.

So as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu railed against Iran in Munich on Sunday, in New York, British, U.S. and French efforts to condemn Tehran at the United Nations immediately ran into Russian resistance, diplomats told Reuters.

And in Munich, while U.S. and European officials saw momentum for U.N. peacekeepers in eastern Ukraine to resolve the four-year-old conflict there, U.S. special envoy Kurt Volker conceded everything rested on Moscow.

“It’s in Russia’s hands,” Volker told a gathering of EU and U.S. officials, including Sweden’s defense chief, who offered his country’s troops for any such mission.

Nine years ago in Munich, then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden promised to “reset” relations with Russia, but few in the West appeared to realize the depth of Russia’s resentment over the break-up of the Soviet Union and NATO’s eastward expansion.

Now, with Western economic sanctions in place on Russia over its 2014 annexation of Crimea and its support for rebels in eastern Ukraine, East-West ties are at their lowest since the Cold War, with little chance of an improvement, diplomats said.

Reporting by Robin Emmott and Andrea Shalal;

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Who Is Don Davis, When Did The Arkansas Death Row Inmate Murder Jane Daniel And Has His Victim’s Daughter Susan Khani Spoken?

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KILLER Don Davis is well-known on death row in Arkansas, where he has been awaiting his execution for the past 26 years.

As his execution draws closer, we find out more about the murderer and his innocent victim.

Splash News A mugshot of Davis, who is now 55 and has spent nearly half of his life in prison

Who is Don Davis?

Don William Davis is one of the eight death row inmates currently set to be executed in April in Arkansas.

The executions have now all been approved by the Supreme Court, but the New York Times reports that the state is struggling to find enough people who want to watch the convicts to die.

The 55-year-old has been in jail since 1992.

When did the Arkansas death row inmate murder Jane Daniel?

Davis murdered Jane Martha Daniels at her home in Benton County, Arkansas, on October 12, 1990.

He was robbing her home when he took her life with a caliber Magnum revolver he had stolen earlier that day.

For the murder of the 62-year-old he was sentenced to death on March 6, 1992, and has been on death row ever since.

Murder victim Jane Daniel, who Davis killed as he robbed her home in 1990

Why has his execution been delayed and what else is he known for?

Davis was set to be executed in 2006, but won a stay because of a court challenge in Kentucky that claimed the lethal injection procedure was cruel and unusual.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the inmates.

Both Davis and fellow inmate Bruce Ward also avoided an execution last April, after claiming independent psychiatrists should have reviewed their files.

In a dramatic turn of events, Davis was even given his last meal of fried chicken and mashed potatoes before his execution was postponed.

In January 2018, the Supreme Court rules that neither of them crossed the threshold to gain assistance.

Back in 1995, Davis was among death row inmates caught when state police investigated a gang of killers on death row who managed to smuggle drugs, weapons, alcohol and tools into death row.

The tools included wire cutters, pliers and a hacksaw blade, and troopers also found a priest’s cassock and the white top to a karate uniform – all pointing to plans for a prison break.

What’s did his victim’s daughter Susan Khani say?

Police believe Jane Daniel gave Davis all the items he asked for before he took her life.

“It just bothers me horribly that…she must have been terrified and she didn’t deserve that at all,” said her husband Richard.

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Hungarys Orban Calls For Global Anti-migrant Alliance With Eye On 2018 Elections

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BUDAPEST – Hungarian leader Viktor Orban called on Sunday for a global alliance against migration as his right-wing populist Fidesz party began campaigning for an April 8 election in which it is expected to win a third consecutive landslide victory.

Popular at home but increasingly at odds politically and economically with mainstream European Union peers, Orban has thrived on external controversy, including repeated clashes with Brussels and lately the United Nations.

Those conflicts, mostly centered on migration since people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa flooded into Europe in 2015, have intensified as the elections approach and Orban poses as a savior of Europe’s Christian nations.

“Christianity is Europe’s last hope,” Orban told an audience of party faithful at the foot of the Royal Castle in Budapest. With mass immigration, especially from Africa, “our worst nightmares can come true. The West falls as it fails to see Europe being overrun.”

Orban is widely credited for reversing an economic slump in Hungary and controlling its public finances, culminating in a return to investment-grade for its debt, which was cut to ‘junk’ during the 2008 global economic crisis.

To achieve that and hold onto power the prime minister, 54, has used methods that critics have called authoritarian, and picked fights with EU partners, especially in the West. Eastern leaders, most notably in Poland, have followed his lead.

But migration dominates his agenda now.

Orban said on Sunday that Europe faces a critical fissure between nation states of the East and the West, which he called an “immigrant zone, a mixed population world that heads in a direction different from ours”.

As the West wants eastern Europe to follow its lead, an increasingly vicious struggle was likely, he said, alluding to a plan to redraw the European alliance advocated by the leaders of France and Germany.

“Absurd as it may sound the danger we face comes from the West, from politicians in Brussels, Berlin and Paris,” Orban said to loud applause. “Of course we will fight, and use ever stronger legal tools. The first is our ‘Stop Soros’ law.”

Orban has for years targeted Hungarian-born U.S. financier George Soros, whose philanthropy aims to bolster liberal and open-border values — anathema to Orban, an advocate of a loose group of strong nation states that reject multiculturalism.

The Hungarian leader has advocated “ethnic homogeneity” and compared Soros, a Jew, to a puppet master unleashing immigration onto Europe to undermine its cultural and economic integrity.

A defining moment of his premiership came in 2015, as the migrant crisis peaked: he built a double razor wire fence that became the symbol of anti-migrant sentiment in Europe.

Orban also said the Hungarian opposition had failed to heed the call of history when it opposed his toughness on migrants.

Voters have responded favorably and Orban is a clear leader of all polls.

POWERFUL ALLIES

Orban has conflated the issue of immigration with the image of Soros, 87, whose name was used in a tough anti-migrant bill sent to Parliament on Wednesday.

Soros, for his part, compared Orban unfavorably to both the Nazis and the Communists, saying his rule evoked dark tones from the 1930’s — when Hungary was allied with Nazi Germany — and was more oppressive than Cold War Soviet occupation.

Orban has tightened the screws on non-government organizations, particularly ones funded by Soros, and attempted to close a prominent Soros-founded university.

Attributing to Soros a recent United Nations plan on creating a global blueprint to handle the migration crisis, Orban said he anticipated that powerful allies would help him prevent the U.N. from greasing the wheels of migration.

“Soros has antagonized not only us but also England, President Trump and Israel too,” he said. “Everywhere he wants to get migration accepted. It won’t work. We are not alone and we will fight together … and we will succeed.”

In Europe, he cited as allies Hungary’s fellow Visegrad countries Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland, whose ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party is also often at loggerheads with the EU. He said a victory for Silvio Berlusconi’s party in Italy’s March 4 election would strengthen the nationalist fold.

“We don’t think the fight is hopeless, on the contrary, we are winning,” Orban said. “The V4 is firm, Croatia has come around, Austria has turned in the patriotic direction, and in Bavaria the CSU has created a resistance.”

Reporting by Marton Dunai;

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