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UPDATE 1-Trump, UK's Johnson discuss Brexit, economic issues in call
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed Brexit and a U.S.-Britain free trade deal during a phone call on Monday ahead of a Group of Seven summit in France this weekend. A spokesman for Johnson's office said the two leaders "discussed economic issues and our trading relationship, and the Prime Minister updated the President on Brexit.
Iranian tanker sought by US heading toward Greece
An Iranian supertanker with $130 million worth of light crude oil that the U.S. suspects is tied to a sanctioned organization left Gibraltar and was heading east into the Mediterranean Sea on Monday, with its next destination reported to be Greece. The Iran-flagged Adrian Darya 1, previously named Grace 1, set course for Kalamata, Greece, with an estimated arrival on Aug. 25, according to ship tracking service MarineTraffic. The vessel left Gibraltar late Sunday after having been detained for a month in the British overseas territory for allegedly attempting to breach European Union sanctions on Syria.
PRESS DIGEST- British Business - Aug 20
The following are the top stories on the business pages of British newspapers. - Boris Johnson has said he is "confident" that the European Union will back down over his demands for the Irish backstop to be scrapped. - UK ministers were accused of "concealing the facts" over a no-deal Brexit on Monday as business leaders expressed fury over leaked government documents that outlined the prospect of widespread disruption.
Johnson Makes Irish Border Pledge in Bid to Renegotiate Brexit
(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson made his first public attempt to renegotiate the Brexit deal by telling the European Union he wants to explore different ways to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, Johnson said he wants to replace the so-called backstop provision in the divorce agreement with a “legally binding commitment” not to build infrastructure or carry out checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland -- the U.K.’s new frontier with the EU -- as long as the bloc promises the same.The backstop, the most contentious part of the Brexit deal agreed between Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, and the 27 other EU governments in November, would keep the U.K. following EU customs and many other trading rules indefinitely unless it’s superseded by a trade agreement that removes the need for controls or checks along the Irish border. The EU has said it’s needed as a permanent guarantee and isn’t up for negotiation.Johnson said both sides must look at other ways to keep the border free of checks and wants a commitment “to put in place such arrangements as far as possible before the end of the transition period,” which could be as early as the end of 2020. A transition will only apply if the U.K. leaves with a deal.No SpecificsBut Johnson didn’t set out what the arrangements should be, and acknowledged there “will need to be a degree of confidence” about what would happen if they were not “fully in place” at the end of the transition period. That suggests he is prepared to replace the backstop with a different guarantee.What a No-Deal Brexit Would Mean for the Irish Border: QuickTakeJohnson made the removal of the backstop from the Brexit deal, which was not approved by the British Parliament, his key pledge on becoming prime minister last month. He’s repeatedly said that if the EU doesn’t comply, the U.K. will leave the bloc on Oct. 31 without a deal.“Time is very short,” Johnson said in his letter, which was published late Monday. “But the U.K. is ready to move quickly, and given the degree of common ground already, I hope that the EU will be ready to do likewise.”In many ways, Johnson’s position echoes May’s. She also wanted to avoid a hard border in Ireland, while having different regulations between the U.K. and EU, and wanted to find alternative “arrangements” to deliver this. She, too, was willing to offer a guarantee if those arrangements couldn’t be agreed.Deal HopesJohnson said earlier Monday that while he would prefer to negotiate Britain’s exit from the EU, he was determined to get the country out of the bloc, and was ready for any “bumps in the road.” His argument is that by talking up Britain’s readiness for a no-deal Brexit and willingness to go through with one, he’s more likely to persuade the EU to give ground.The prime minister travels to Berlin and Paris this week to discuss Brexit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. EU leaders were “showing a little bit of reluctance” to change their position, he said, but he was “confident” they’ll eventually shift and give him a deal.The main opposition Labour Party’s Brexit spokesman, Keir Starmer, said Johnson’s plan didn’t contain any solutions.“This letter confirms that Johnson has no negotiating strategy,” Starmer said on Twitter. “He suggests (unspecified) alternatives to the backstop. And if they don’t work: further (unspecified) alternatives to the backstop. Why didn’t anyone think of that before!”No-Deal RowWith Johnson showing no sign of backing down over his willingness to leave the EU without an agreement, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded the prime minister release the latest assessment of the impact of a no-deal Brexit, after the government said a leaked copy of its plans was no longer current.The Sunday Times newspaper reported that “Operation Yellowhammer,” the government’s plans for leaving the EU without a deal, warned of a three-month “meltdown” at ports, along with shortages of food and medicine. Michael Gove, the minister in charge of Brexit preparations, said on Sunday this was out-of-date information based on “worst-case planning.”“If the government wants to be believed that it doesn’t represent the real impact, it must publish its most recent assessments today in full,” Corbyn said in a statement. “Boris Johnson’s denials can’t be trusted, and will do nothing to give businesses or consumers any confidence that the dire state of affairs described in these documents aren’t right around the corner.”What ‘No-Deal Brexit’ Means and Why It’s a Big Risk: QuickTakeMeanwhile the government is about to launch a publicity blitz aimed at preparing the public for a no-deal Brexit, according to a government official.Whereas previous information campaigns were aimed at businesses -- with long technical briefings on how different sectors should prepare for the possibility that the U.K. leaves the European Union without a deal -- the new one will be more user-friendly, said the official, who asked not to be identified.EU citizens living in Britain are being urged to apply for settled status ahead of the Brexit deadline. But despite the government warning that free movement from the bloc will end on Oct. 31, the official said most changes are likely to be symbolic in the short term. The Home Office said in a blogpost that EU citizens still had until December 2020 to make their settlement applications.To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at firstname.lastname@example.org;Ian Wishart in Brussels at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at firstname.lastname@example.org, ;Robert Hutton at email@example.com, Stuart Biggs, Robert JamesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Brazil Considers Labeling Hezbollah as Terrorists in Pivot to U.S.
(Bloomberg) -- Brazil is considering designating Lebanese group Hezbollah a terrorist organization, as President Jair Bolsonaro increasingly aligns his government with the U.S. on foreign policy.Officials are reviewing their options to move forward with the idea, which is being discussed at the highest levels of government but doesn’t have across-the-board support, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter. It wouldn’t be easily implemented due to the particularities of Brazilian law, they added, requesting anonymity because the discussion isn’t public.The idea is part of Bolsonaro’s efforts to forge stronger ties with Donald Trump, with whom he also seeks a trade deal. It also fits into the world-view of Brazil’s right-wing president and his inner-circle. During last year’s presidential campaign, his son Eduardo, who may become the Brazilian ambassador to the U.S., already advocated a strong stance against Hezbollah, and Hamas.Yet the move could strain relations with Iran, a Hezbollah ally which imports $2.5 billion of Brazilian products per year, and displease Brazil’s influential Lebanese community. The government also worries it could make the country a target of terrorism, said one of the people. A decision could be announced before Bolsonaro visits in October the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, two countries strongly opposed to Hezbollah.Contacted by Bloomberg, Brazil’s foreign ministry said it doesn’t consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization and has no plans to change its status for now. The president’s office, the justice ministry and the federal police, responsible for enforcement of anti-terror laws, declined to comment.Currently, Brazil only considers as terrorists those groups already labeled as such by the UN Security Council, including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. It can bar the entry, arrest, and freeze assets of people suspected to be part of them.Growing PressureThe Brazilian leader is at the same time willing and under pressure from the U.S. to put Hezbollah on the terrorist list. In a November meeting with then President-elect Bolsonaro, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Trump expected to boost cooperation with Brazil on terrorism, be it against Hezbollah, Hamas or others.The temperature rose further last month when Argentina became the first Latin American nation to label Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shia Islamist group with an armed wing, as a terrorist organization. On Monday Paraguay announced its decision to follow suit. “Brazil has been under international pressure for many years to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group,” said Jorge Lasmar, a terrorism expert and professor of international relations at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais. “There can be serious consequences, for example creating friction with Iran and other countries with a relevant number of Shiites, such as Lebanon.”The U.S. has urged Latin American countries to denounce Hezbollah as part of its anti-Iran strategy. Argentina finally did so during the 25th anniversary of the bombing of a Jewish community center that killed 85 people. Argentina and the U.S. blame Hezbollah and Iran for the attack. Both deny the accusations. Brazil has recently recognized the group’s presence in South America.The U.S. government shares intelligence about Hezbollah with Brazil because its government is trusted and law enforcement agencies are good, Admiral Craig Faller, Commander of the U.S. Southern Command, told a small group of reporters in Rio de Janeiro on Monday.End of NeutralityBolsonaro and Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo have repeatedly vowed to break with Brazil’s decades-old tradition of multilateralism and neutrality that allowed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to keep trade and diplomatic relations with the U.S. and its enemies. Instead, Brazil is getting so close to the U.S. and its allies that Bolsonaro earlier this year promised to move the country’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, following on Trump’s footsteps. The pledge triggered intense criticism from Brazilian meat exporters who feared losing market in the Middle East, forcing the president to open only a trade bureau in Jerusalem, rather than an embassy.Brazil also followed the U.S. in recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as president of Venezuela. Eduardo Bolsonaro‘s nomination as ambassador to Washington has received Trump’s blessing but has yet to be approved by Brazil’s Senate.Among the obstacles to press ahead with the plan is the fact that Brazilian law is vague when defining terrorism. Currently, Brazil narrowly defines acts of terror but not terrorist organizations. It also completely ignores political motivation behind attacks. That means Congress’ may need to approve any specific measures against Hezbollah.“Brazil’s legal definition of terrorism is narrow; foreign and national concepts on this topic tend to clash,” said Rogerio Sanches Cunha, a legal scholar and expert in anti-terror Brazilian laws.Hezbollah, or the party of God in Arabic, is at the same time an armed group, a political party and a social organization. It sits in the Lebanese cabinet and has considerable geopolitical power. It is considered a terrorist group by many countries, including the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Germany sees Hezbollah’s military wing as terrorist but not its political and social branches. Russia and China don’t consider it as a terrorist group.(Updates with Paraguay’s decision to label Hezbollah a terrorist group)\--With assistance from David Biller and Bruce Douglas.To contact the reporter on this story: Samy Adghirni in Brasilia Newsroom at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at email@example.com, Walter BrandimarteFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Omar: Go to Israel, see 'cruel reality of the occupation'
Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib sharply criticized Israel on Monday for denying them entry to the Jewish state and called on fellow members of Congress to visit while they cannot. Omar, of Minnesota, suggested President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were suppressing the lawmakers' ability to carry out their oversight role. "I would encourage my colleagues to visit, meet with the people we were going to meet with, see the things we were going to see, hear the stories we were going to hear," Omar said at a news conference.
Airstrikes target Turkish convoy in Syria, raising tensions
Airstrikes targeted a Turkish army convoy inside a rebel-held part of northwestern Syria on Monday, killing three civilians and wounding 12 others, the Turkish Defense Ministry said. Syria said the Turkish convoy was carrying ammunition to rebels who have lost ground this month amid a government offensive to retake their last stronghold in the country. The incident ratcheted up tensions in the region, currently ground zero in the long-running Syrian civil war that has put Turkish, Russian, U.S. and Iranian interests at stake.
Macron, Putin see chance on Ukraine but clash on Syria
Bormes-les-Mimosas (France) (AFP) - French President Emmanuel Macron and Russia's Vladimir Putin on Monday agreed changes in Ukraine had bolstered the chances of peace in its east but clashed on Syria, as the Russian leader made a rare bilateral visit to a key EU power. Macron, who hosted Putin at his summer residence in southern France, made clear he wanted to keep contacts with Moscow alive on a range of issues even at a time of spiralling tensions with the West. The pair both expressed optimism that the arrival of Volodymyr Zelensky as Ukraine's president had improved the chances of ending the half-decade conflict during their meeting which lasted four-and-a-half hours.
Johnson tells EU he wants Brexit deal but without backstop
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote Monday to EU President Donald Tusk reaffirming his desire to conclude a Brexit deal as well as his opposition to the controversial "backstop" on Ireland. The so-called backstop is a mechanism that would keep the UK in EU customs arrangements to prevent a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. Brussels says the backstop is needed as a fallback option to preserve the integrity of European trade and avoid risking a return of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.
The Day Mountbatten Died, review: a powerful look at one of the darkest days of the Troubles
The recent YouGov poll which asked Conservative members what they would be prepared to sacrifice in order to achieve Brexit did not propose the ultimate option. Would they rather have Brexit than peace? The question loitered discreetly in the background for most of The Day Mountbatten Died (BBC Two), Sam Collyns’s powerful commemoration of one of the blackest days of the Troubles, when the IRA murdered British royalty and blew up 18 members of the Parachute regiment, while an innocent civilian was shot in error. “He would have been astonished,” said Lord Mountbatten’s biographer Philip Ziegler, exuding plummy English detachment, “that there were IRA members interested in his existence.” Their target styled himself Mountbatten of Burma; his granddaughter was named India, after the country whose partition he oversaw. But these grand imperial associations were no defence when the IRA’s South Armagh brigade snuck onto his unguarded fishing boat, moored in the village of Mullaghmore just south of the border, and planted the bomb that would kill him, his daughter’s mother-in-law, his grandson and a local teenage boy. The story of both atrocities was carefully stitched together from every perspective: witnesses, rescuers, those who survived and the relatives of those who didn’t, all in different ways were still scarred and bereaved. To observe a cultural neutrality, the voice-over was spoken by the Scottish actor Bill Paterson. Lord Mountbatten with his granddaughter Credit: BBC Remembering terror does funny things to people; India Hicks wore a brave smile and apologised for her tears as she recalled being packed off to Gordonstoun days after the state funeral, where that night in her dorm someone cracked the most appalling joke about her grandfather’s murder. “The mindset would have been operational,” explained Kieran Conway, who had been the IRA’s director of intelligence. “Kill them, without too much reflection.” He emitted a stab of laughter that mingled cold callousness with baffled regret. Conway confirmed that it was Martin McGuinness who signed off on all this carnage. Put in this clarifying context, the handshake in 2012 that the Queen offered to McGuinness became an ever more profound symbol of reconciliation. The 40th anniversary falls with the troubled border once more at the heart of geopolitics. “The problem with peace,” concluded the veteran Irish journalist Olivia O’Leary, “is you have to keep working at it.” Essential viewing for our leaders.
This Picture Could Mean Russia and America Have Entered into a New Arms Race
The U.S. military on Aug. 18, 2019 successfully tested a ground-launched, intermediate-range, nuclear-capable cruise missile.It’s exactly the kind of kind of missile that the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, or INF, had banned before the administration of U.S. president Donald Trump in early August 2019 formally withdrew from the treaty.With INF dead, the world’s nuclear balance is in flux. In the near term at least, it’s clear that the United States and Russia intend to deploy shorter-range nukes. It seems unlikely that a new treaty will halt these deployments.The flight test of America’s new “conventionally-configured, ground-launched cruise missile” took place at San Nicolas Island in California, the Pentagon announced.“The test missile exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers [310 miles] of flight,” the Defense Department stated. “Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform [the Defense Department's] development of future intermediate-range capabilities.”The missile appears to be a version of the Tomahawk cruise missile, which U.S. forces also deploy in sea- and air-launched versions.The U.S. military previously deployed a ground-launched Tomahawk from 1983 to 1991. The missile type boasted nuclear warhead and a 1,600-miles range. INF compelled the Americans and Russians respectively to withdraw 400 and 1,500 ground-launched nuclear missiles with a range between 310 and 3,400 miles.Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin doomed INF and heralded the return of quick-striking intermediate missiles.The first sign that the 1987 agreement was in trouble came in 2011, when the administration of then-U.S. president Barack Obama warned that new, intermediate-range nuclear-armed cruise missile—under development in Russia since 2008—could violate the terms of the treaty.The U.S. State Department in 2013 first raised the issue with the Kremlin. Later the same year, the White House formally announced that Russia was in violation of the treaty.The Americans were responsible for their own provocations. In 2015 the Pentagon began installing missile defenses in Romania. The non-nuclear SM-3 missile-interceptors are designed to hit ballistic missiles launched by Iran at the United States, and are not capable of stopping intermediate-range nukes launched from Europe.But the Russians viewed the SM-3s as a threat and cited them as an indication that the Americans were developing their own intermediate-range weapons. Sometime in 2017 the Russian military finally deployed its new intermediate-range missile, the SSC-8, at a site along Russia’s western frontier.Meanwhile, the Trump administration advanced plans for a host of new nukes, including smaller “tactical” atomic weapons that the White House might be more willing to use than larger, more powerful strategic weapons.The Trump administration also cited China as a rationale for canceling INF, as Beijing was never party to the 1987 treaty.Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review, released in early 2018, codified U.S. rearmament plans, effectively mirroring Russia’s own new atomic deployments. INF’s demise freed both countries to develop and field a class of weapons that for decades have been absent from Europe.“The new policies only increase the chances of blundering into a nuclear war,” commented Bruce Blair, a Princeton University nuclear scholar.The United States could negotiate a new treaty to replace INF, Trump said in his February 2019 state-of-the-union address. And that treaty could include China, Trump claimed.That's unlikely to happen, explained Gregory Kulacki, a nuclear expert with the Massachusetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists.The United States probably would have to agree to broad limitations on its own weaponry in order to bring China to the table. But the Trump administration consistently has wanted fewer, not more, restrictions on its weapons."Decades ago the United States entered into a treaty with Russia in which we agreed to limit and reduce our missile capabilities," Trump said in his speech. "While we followed the agreement to the letter, Russia repeatedly violated its terms. That is why I announced that the United States is officially withdrawing.""Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others," Trump added, "or perhaps we can't --- in which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far."The problem for China isn't nuclear weapons, rather non-nuclear ones. "China has a small number of nuclear-armed ground-based intermediate-range missiles that would fall under the original INF treaty limits," Kulacki wrote. "But it also has a much larger number of conventionally-armed missiles in this class that seem to be the major concern of U.S. advocates of withdrawing from the treaty."“Figuring out how to negotiate an expanded INF treaty that would require China to dismantle them would introduce a number of new and difficult issues to resolve, but it could also lead to some very productive conversations on how to build trust and preserve the peace in East Asia,” Kulacki added.“Sadly, I suspect U.S. advocates of killing the INF treaty have no intention to talk to China about joining it.”David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad.
The Latest: Omar calls on colleagues to visit Israel
Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is calling on other members of Congress to visit Israel while she and Rep. Rashida Tlaib cannot. Israel last week blocked the two Democratic House members from a planned trip to that country over their support for a Palestinian-led boycott movement. At a news conference in Minnesota, Omar says she and Tlaib are being prevented from carrying out their duties as members of Congress.
UPDATE 1-UK's Johnson to EU: Let's replace backstop with commitment to alternative arrangements
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk on Monday to propose replacing the Irish backstop with a commitment to put in place alternative arrangements by the end of a post-Brexit transition period. In the letter, published by his office, Johnson repeated his calls for the backstop - an insurance policy to avoid the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland - to be removed from the deal the EU reached with his predecessor Theresa May.
General accused of war abuses named Sri Lanka's army chief
Sri Lanka's president on Monday appointed a general accused of grave human rights abuses in the final stages of its long civil war as the country's new army chief, a move a top United Nations human rights official said is likely to impact contributions to U.N peacekeeping missions. The new commander, Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva, who was also promoted to the rank of lieutenant general, was in charge of the 58th Division which encircled the final stronghold of the Tamil Tiger rebels in the last stages of the civil war in 2009. Rights groups have accused the division of violating international human rights laws, including shelling a hospital.
UK PM Johnson discussed economic issues, Brexit in call with Trump -spokesman
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday ahead of a Group of Seven summit in France this weekend, Johnson's office said. "They discussed economic issues and our trading relationship, and the Prime Minister updated the President on Brexit.
Independence in the air in south Yemen after Aden clashes
Colourful flags emblazoned with a red star are being held aloft in Aden, reflecting the independence ambitions of southern Yemen after a separatist takeover of the city. Last week, fighters from the Security Belt Forces ousted unionist troops loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi from what was the capital of the formerly independent south. Both the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) and government forces have been fighting the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels in a years-long war that has pushed the country to the brink of famine.
Putin, Macron spar over 'yellow vest' protests
Bormes-les-Mimosas (France) (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday vowed to prevent the emergence of any mass demonstrations in Moscow like the "yellow vest" anti-government protests that erupted in France late last year. "We would not want such a thing to happen in the Russian capital," Putin said after talks with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at the Bregancon fortress on France's Mediterranean coast.
G7 must ban detergents that cause sea pollution, say French campaigners
Campaigners are lobbying G7 leaders who are to attend a summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz this week to ban detergents that cause marine pollution. Environmentalists say there is a “dead zone” in the Bay of Biscay off Biarritz, which they say is caused by a “chemical cocktail” of detergents discharged into the sea. Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, need only look out to sea when they are in Biarritz to realise the magnitude of the problem, campaigners say. The pollution is invisible when the sea is calm, but when it is choppy a brownish foam can be seen. Tons of the foam are often deposited on the beaches around Biarritz, a popular surfing destination with surfers because of the area’s high waves. Georges Cingal, head of a federation of conservation groups, said: “The G7 should decide to withdraw petrochemical detergents from sale, as has already been done for some plastics. It’s only common sense if they don’t want dead zones to spread in our oceans, which are not yet dying completely, but are gravely ill.” Basque activists of "No G7" hold banners reading "This is not your playground" Credit: AP Photo/Bob Edme France Nature Environnement (FNE), a campaign group, says petrochemical micropollutants present in domestic detergents are “almost never treated by purification plants and end up in the sea”. Environmentalists are concerned about the impact of the chemicals on marine life. “Dead zones are waters containing very little oxygen where marine fauna is rare,” an FNE spokesman said. “Back in 2008, more than 400 of these areas had already been identified worldwide, covering 245,000 square kilometres (94,595 sq miles).” Even small quantities of the micropollutants are toxic to living organisms, according to the French Environment Ministry. Campaigners say only environmentally friendly detergents should be allowed.
UPDATE 1-U.S. Senator Schumer says he would oppose any U.S.-UK trade deal imperiling Irish border
U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Monday he would oppose any post-Brexit trade deal between the United States and Britain if it undermined the Good Friday agreement, which helped end three decades of violence in Northern Ireland. The Good Friday pact also dismantled all physical border infrastructure between European Union member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of Britain, guaranteeing that people and goods on either side can move freely. This cannot be allowed to happen," Schumer wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
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