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Egypt’s Coptic Pope shuns US VP Mike Pence over Jerusalem

The Coptic Christian Pope has cancelled a meeting with the US vice president in Cairo, protesting against America's move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Palestinian leader Abbas also snubbed Mike Pence. In a statement released on Saturday, the Coptic Church said it "excused itself from hosting Mike Pence" when he visits Egypt, citing US President Donald Trump's decision "at an unsuitable time and without consideration for the feelings of millions of people." Egypt's Coptic Church said it would pray for "wisdom and to address all issues that impact peace for the people of the Middle East." The decision comes a day after Egypt's top Muslim cleric Ahmed al-Tayeb also refused to meet Pence. Egyptian Coptic Christians, the largest religious minority in the region, make up about 10 percent of the country's 93 million people. Solidarity from non-Muslim Arabs The Coptic Pope's refusal to host Pence is largely symbolic but significant because it demonstrates the Arab solidarity for Palestinians irrespective of religious affiliations. Trump's decision to move US embassy to Jerusalem has not only been criticized by Muslim countries; Germany, China and Russia are among scores of nations that have slammed the US president over the policy U-turn. The status of Jerusalem has been a key stumbling block during previous peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, in particular regarding the question of how to divide sovereignty and oversee holy sites. Read more: Jerusalem: Three things to know Intifadas: What you need to know While Israel regards Jerusalem as its capital, a majority of the international community rejects that claim, saying the city's status should be settled in peace talks with the Palestinians. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Saturday it would take several years before the US opens an embassy in Jerusalem. Anger against US Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas will also not participate in a planned meeting with Pence later this month. "There will be no meeting with the vice president of America in Palestine," Majdi al-Khaldi, a Palestinian diplomatic adviser, told AFP news agency. "The United States has crossed all the red lines with the Jerusalem decision," he added. Washington had warned Thursday that cancelling the meeting would be "counter-productive" for peace in the region, but Abbas has been under tremendous pressure to assert over the Jerusalem decision. Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of Abbas' Fatah party, said Pence was "not welcome in Palestine." Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urged protesters Saturday to remain calm over Trump's recognition of Jerusalem. "The fate of Jerusalem cannot be left to an occupying state that usurped Palestinian lands since 1967 with no regard to law and morality," Erdogan said, adding that reactions to the situation should be within democratic and legal scope. Protests and airstrikes Palestinian protests against Trump's announcement continued on Saturday also. On Friday, at least two people were killed and 760 were injured in clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank. Israeli airstrikes killed at least two people on Saturday after targeting military facilities in the Gaza Strip allegedly linked to the armed wing of the Islamist group Hamas. Militant groups operating in the Gaza Strip launched missiles into Israel on Friday amid mass protests and clashes against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital earlier this week. There have been Palestine solidarity rallies in many Muslim countries, including Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey. Read more: Palestinian youth fight to defend right to Jerusalem as capital The militant al Qaeda network urged its supporters the world over to target key interests of the US and its allies, in response to Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The Coptic Christian Pope has cancelled a meeting with the US vice president in Cairo, protesting against America’s move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Palestinian leader Abbas also snubbed Mike Pence. In a statement released on Saturday, the Coptic Church said it “excused itself from hosting Mike Pence” when he visits Egypt, citing US President Donald Trump’s decision “at ... Read More »

Pence visits DMZ border zone day after North Korea missile test

The US vice president has made a trip to an American base in South Korea close to the heavily fortified border with North Korea. He said the US "era of strategic patience" with Pyongyang was over. US Vice President Mike Pence continued his 10-day trip to Pacific nations Monday by visiting an American military base in South Korea just a few hundred meters south of the tense border with North Korea (DMZ). This is Pence's first trip to the Korean Peninsula since assuming office in January. Pence said it was "particularly humbling" to be at Camp Bonifas, a US-led UN command post, mentioning his father's military service during the Korean War. Pence emphasized the relationship between the US and South Korea. "The alliance between the United States Forces Korea and the forces of the Republic of Korea is historic," said Pence. "It is a testament to the unshakable bond between our people." "All options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country," Pence remarked. In regard to North Korea, Pence said: "There was a period of strategic patience but the era of strategic patience is over." Pence's visit comes amid high tension between the US and North Korea. Pence called North Korea's failed ballistic missile test a "provocation" before gathered US military personnel. The missile test occurred following a parade that celebrated the 105th birthday of the late first Korean President Kim Il Sung. "This morning's provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one of you face every day in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defense of America in this part of the world," said Pence. Pence is scheduled to visit the gateway to the DMZ and acting South Korean President Hwang Kyo-ahn on Monday. After South Korea, Pence is scheduled to travel to Japan, Indonesia and Australia during his 10-day trip. Trump, US allies on North Korea North Korea has launched short- and mid-range missiles in recent months. The country has also conducted five nuclear tests, including two in the previous year. North Korea's conducting nuclear tests is in defiance of UN resolutions on the country. US President Donald Trump has previously stated that if allies surrounding North Korea do not act to end North Korea's military program, the US will do it alone. China, North Korea's northern neighbor and sole political ally, previously spoke out against the missile tests. China banned the import of North Korean coal, Pyongyang's most important export, on February 26. Trump's national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, said China recognizes the severity of the situation, telling US media outlet ABC on Sunday "this situation just can't continue." Shinzo Abe, prime minister of fellow US ally Japan, demanded North Korea comply with UN resolutions and abandon developing nuclear missiles. "Japan will closely cooperate with the US and South Korea over North Korea and will call for China to take a bigger role," Abe told parliament.

The US vice president has made a trip to an American base in South Korea close to the heavily fortified border with North Korea. He said the US “era of strategic patience” with Pyongyang was over. US Vice President Mike Pence continued his 10-day trip to Pacific nations Monday by visiting an American military base in South Korea just a ... Read More »

Trump considering Petraeus for secretary of state post

The retired general is in contention for the secretary of state position after he and Donald Trump held lengthy talks on Monday. Petraeus will have to shrug off the 2012 scandal that forced him to resign as CIA director. Retired General David Petraeus entered the running to become secretary of state under President-elect Donald Trump, after the two held talks on Monday. Exiting Trump Tower in New York City, Petraeus said he and Trump spoke for an hour. He praised the President-elect for showing a "great grasp of a variety of the challenges that are out there." "Very good conversation and we'll see where it goes from here," Petraeus said. He did not respond to questions asking whether Trump had offered him a position in his administration. Petraeus led international forces in the US-led interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. After retiring as general, he served as CIA director in 2011-12 but was forced to resign after sharing highly classified information with his biographer, with whom he was having an affair. The scandal tarnished the four-star general's reputation. However, a source close to the transition team said this was unlikely to be obstacle to Trump offering him a government post. Trump tweeted shortly after the meeting: "Just met with General Petraeus-was very impressed!" A source advising the transition team on national security told news agency Reuters that: "Just based on his public statements, I think [Trump] sees Petraeus as a good man who made a mistake, who did a fraction of what other people have done and received a lot more punishment." Romney, Corker and Giuliani also in contention Trump is scheduled to hold talks with a number of other contenders for the top diplomat position in the coming days. On Tuesday, he is set to meet with Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Vice President-elect Mike Pence is believed to be favoring Romney for the secretary of state position, despite him being fiercely critical of Trump during the presidential campaign. He and Trump had already discussed a potential cabinet position during a lengthy meeting earlier this month. A source close to the transition team said that it appeared Trump had settled on appointing Romney for the top diplomat post. However, Petraeus' appearance at Trump Tower suggests the president-elect is still undecided on the position. Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway is believed to have warned Trump that appointing Romney would spark backlash among his supporters. Wrangling over the secretary of state post appears to have slowed announcements on other appointments in Trump's cabinet. Earlier reports suggested that retired General James Mattis was reportedly at the top of Trump's list for the defense secretary, while former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was tipped as the favored candidate to be homeland security secretary. Giuliani is also in the running for secretly of state role, although questions concerning his overseas business dealings appear to have given Trump pause. Trump also met on Monday with Frances Townsend, a national security aide during the George W. Bush administration. As he exited Trump Tower on Monday, Pence, who is spearheading the transition process, teased "a number of very important announcements tomorrow." Fresh investigation into Petraeus' affair Petraeus' appearance at Trump Tower coincided with news that the Defense Department was conducting a new leaks investigation into the extramarital affair that led to the former general's resignation as CIA Director. A US official said that the investigation concerned leaked information about Paula Broadwell, the woman with whom Patraeus had an affair and leaked information to, and the status of her security clearance at the time. Last year, Petraeus eventually pleaded guilty to felony charges of mishandling classified information he had provided to Broadwell. He was spared a prison sentence under a plea deal with the Justice Deaprtment. During the presidential campaign, Trump repeadetly lambasted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton over a federal investigation into her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state. He suggested that her actions her graver than Petraeus,' although prosecutors accuse the retired general of being fully aware the documents he shared Broadwell contained classified information. The FBI, meanwhile, has said it has found no evidence that Clinton or her aides intended to break the law.

The retired general is in contention for the secretary of state position after he and Donald Trump held lengthy talks on Monday. Petraeus will have to shrug off the 2012 scandal that forced him to resign as CIA director. Retired General David Petraeus entered the running to become secretary of state under President-elect Donald Trump, after the two held talks ... Read More »

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