From Australia - News in Brief

Anthony Albanese calls for motion of condolence on Parliament's first sitting day

Rain brings fresh dangers for firies

Liberals-Nationals Ignore Massive Wildlife Crisis 

Iran admits military 'unintentionally' shot down Ukrainian passenger jet

US imposes new sanctions on Iran

Trump impeachment charges set for Senate

Serhan: We are keen on friendly relations with Japan

Congress votes for restricting president's powers on war with Iran

Pope lauds Kuwait Amir's in bolstering peace, dialogue worldwide

Anthony Albanese calls for motion of condolence on Parliament's first sitting day


(See translation in Arabic section)

Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has written to the prime minister urging him to put the unprecedented bushfire season on top of the agenda when Parliament resumes. The first sitting week is due to begin on February fourth, and Mr Albanese has said the only item on the agenda should be a “motion of condolence” to those affected by the ongoing bushfire disaster.

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Rain brings fresh dangers for firies

January 11, 2020

It never rains but it flash floods.

While wet weather means relief for exhausted firefighters in Victoria's East Gippsland through Friday night, the reprieve could mean fresh complications.

"It sounds bizarre in this situation when you have fire ... the problem with the flash flooding is that given the scale of the burn that is out there, you see massive run-off," said Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville..

"But it's also exceptionally dangerous for our firefighters and emergency service workers ... in the past we've seen deaths."

Jonathan Howe from the Bureau Of Meteorology said there had been rain through Victoria and NSW.

But it was only around 5-10mm in most areas, well below what is needed to end the bushfire crisis.

It was also patchy, with 18mm near Bairnsdale but only 2mm at Mallacoota.

Mr Howe said bushfire damage added to the risk of flooding when the rain comes.

"With the little bit of rainfall, it can make access to the fire sites more difficult for firefighters - it is a bit of a double-edged sword," he said.

"Especially with some heavy rainfall, a lot of the trees are gone and so the ground just isn't able to soak up the excess (water).

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Liberals-Nationals Ignore Massive Wildlife Crisis 

Labor is urging the Government to work with overstretched and fatigued animal welfare and rescue organisations to protect our native wildlife. The NSW Labor leader Jody MCKay and Shadow Minister for Environment and Heritage Kate Washington said in media release.

While the full impact of bushfires won’t be known for months, it’s expected that the bushfires sweeping across NSW have:

           Wiped out an estimated 800 million animals

           Reduced our koala population by a quarter

           Destroyed thousands of bee-hives

           Potentially caused the extinction of the long-footed potoroo

NSW Labor Leader, Jodi McKay said: “Wildlife rescue volunteers are working around the clock, going into bush fire-affected areas and rescuing our native wildlife. But they aren’t doing it with help from government.”

“In some instances these selfless people aren’t just saving native animals, they’re saving an entire Australian species.”

“Members of our community are generously donating to wildlife organisations to help with their efforts. But the Government can’t just abandon Australia’s native wildlife to the fires, and rely on the goodwill of volunteers, and charity of donors to fill a gap left by government.”

Ms McKay said that: “Wildlife in NSW is already dealing with a loss of water from the drought, now their habitat and food sources have been destroyed by fires. It will take time, but government has a role to play in coordinating the road to recovery.”

“There are experts ready and willing to help but there is a massive effort required by Government that must be strategic and resourced.”

Labor Shadow Minister for Environment, Kate Washington said “After weeks of unprecedented fires, these organisations are overstretched and fatigued - physically and psychologically.”

“I pay tribute to the selfless dedication displayed by wildlife carers as they try to manage the heartbreaking consequences of this crisis. But they need help from the government and they need it now’  

“While the full extent of the harm to NSW’s precious wildlife won’t be known for months, Gladys Berejiklian should start working with key wildlife organisations to make a difference today.

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Iran admits military 'unintentionally' shot down Ukrainian passenger jet


Iran has admitted its military 'unintentionally' shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing all 176 people on board. A military statement said "human error" is to blame for the crash. The Boeing 737 went down shortly after takeoff near Tehran, only hours after Iran launched a barrage of missiles at US. forces. Officials said the jet had flown close to a "sensitive military centre" and was mistaken for a "hostile target". Iran said the people responsible will be held accountable and has expressed its condolences to the victims families. Canada demanded a full investigation hours before the announcement, calling for transparency and justice. The US imposed a fresh round of hefty sanctions on Iran after the missile strikes.

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US imposes new sanctions on Iran


The United States has imposed hefty new sanctions on Iran following missile strikes on US military bases. The latest round of penalties targeted Tehran's metal and textile industries and eight senior officials including the head of the country's national security council. Tensions boiled over when America killed senior Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike. Soleimani had been blamed for hundreds of American deaths and was accused of actively plotting to attack diplomats and service personnel. Last month, US State Department officials said pressure on Iran will intensify this year as the country seeks to rein in Tehran's pursuit of nuclear infrastructure.

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Trump impeachment charges set for Senate

January 11, 2020

Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House will take steps next week to transmit the articles of impeachment against United States President Donald Trump, ending a three-week standoff but confronting the Senate with only the third trial in US history to remove a chief executive.

In a letter to her Democratic colleagues, Pelosi said Friday she was proud of their "courage and patriotism" and warned that senators now have a choice as they consider the charges of abuse and obstruction against the president.

"In an impeachment trial, every Senator takes an oath to do 'impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws,"' Pelosi wrote. "Every Senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the President or the Constitution."

The trial could begin next week. The Constitution gives the House the sole power to impeach a president, but the Senate the ability to render a verdict when it convenes as the Court of Impeachment.

Pelosi was particularly upbeat as she strode through the Capitol, despite the mounting pressure on her to quit delaying the trial. Her decision to end the showdown with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not fully bring closure to the question of whether the Senate will consider new witnesses, as some want, shifting pressure on senators to decide.

Trump swiftly signalled his intention of blocking any testimony from John Bolton, the brash former national security adviser who could be a wildcard witness in the trial. Bolton has said he would appear before the Senate if he received a subpoena.

At the same time, a key centrist GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, whose vote is among those most watched, announced she was in discussions with other Republicans on a strategy that would allow the Senate to hear new testimony.

While the rules of Senate trial remain unsettled, the outcome is not. Trump is widely expected to be acquitted of the charges that he abused power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, then obstructed Congress in its investigation. No president has ever been removed by the Senate.

"Ridiculous," Trump told Fox News' Laura Ingraham about the speaker's gambit. "Nancy Pelosi will go down as the least successful speaker of the House in the history of our nation," he said.

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Serhan: We are keen on friendly relations with Japan

10 Jan 2020

Lebanon - Caretaker Justice Minister, Albert Serhan, affirmed that "the Lebanese State is keen on friendly relations with Japan, and that the case of businessman Carlos Ghosn will not affect the existing cooperation, within the framework of bilateral relations."

Minister Serhan's remarks came during a series of chats with foreign media, where he indicated that "Ghosn was summoned by the State Prosecutor for interrogation, in reference to the international arrest warrant, that is, the red notice issued by the Interpol. It was the duty of the Lebanese judiciary to investigate this matter."  

Upon Interrogation, Ghosn was served a travel ban and his French passport was confiscated. "If the Japanese authorities did not initiate a recovery request within 40 days, the travel ban will be dropped," he explained.

On the charge of economic normalization with the Israeli enemy, Serhan pointed out that "this file has nothing to do with the charges filed by the Japanese judiciary. Lebanese laws criminalize dealings with the Israeli enemy. Ghosn was thus summoned by the State Prosecution, interrogated, and also banned from traveling."

"Ghosn’s wife Carole will be questioned by Lebanese prosecutors when authorities receive an Interpol notice," he added. "Carole will be subject to the same procedures that were followed for (Carlos) when the red notice was received from Interpol."

Serhan said he "discussed with the Japanese Ambassador (...) the existing bilateral relations and the keenness on friendship and cooperation ties," stressing that "the Lebanese judiciary will carry out its duty independently and transparently, as evidenced by what happened during the interrogation.

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Congress votes for restricting president's powers on war with Iran


WASHINGTON-- The US Congress has voted in favor of a resolution restricting President Donald Trump's powers to engage in a war with Iran stipulating that he must get approval of the house in advance.

Up to 224 members of the Congress, including three members of the Republican Party supported the resolution. A total of 194 others, including eight Democrats, voted against it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a statement shortly before the voting in the Democrats' dominated House of Representatives, said the Congress members have serious, urgent concerns about the Administration's decision to engage in hostilities against Iran and about its lack of strategy.

Pelosi stated, "The Administration must work with the Congress to advance an immediate, effective de-escalatory strategy which prevents further violence.

The House may also soon consider additional legislation on the floor to keep America safe." The resolution came against the backdrop of the recent killing of the top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in an American drone strike outside Baghdad airport. Iran retaliated by firing at least 12 missiles against military bases manned by US and Iraqi personnel in Iraq.

For her part, the Democratic legislator, Elissa Slotkin, said in a statement that the resolution she personally introduced was intended to make clear that, if the President "wants to take us to war, he must get authorization from Congress. This is simply what our Constitution requires." Meanwhile, Hogan Gidley, the White House deputy spokesperson, stated, "The president has the right and duty to protect this nation and our citizens from terrorism. That's what he continues to do, and the world is safer for it." Gidley added, "This House resolution tries to undermine the ability of the U.S. Armed Forces to prevent terrorist activity by Iran and its proxies, and attempts to hinder the President's authority to protect America and our interests in the region from the continued threats.

These Congressional actions are completely misguided. In fact, this ridiculous resolution is just another political move because, under well-established Supreme Court precedent, it's non-binding and lacks the force of law."

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Pope Francis with Kuwaiti Ambassador to Switzerland

Pope lauds Kuwait Amir's in bolstering peace, dialogue worldwide


VATICAN CITY-- Pope Francis on Thursday commended the role of His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in promoting peace and dialogue worldwide.

This came during Pope Francis reception of Kuwaiti Ambassador to Switzerland and non-resident Ambassador to the Vatican Bader Al-Tanaib during the annual New Year reception.

Ambassador Al-Tanaib was among other diplomats and ambassadors visiting the Vatican to meet the pope during the event.

Speaking to KUNA, the ambassador said he had conveyed special greetings from His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to the pope on New Year.

He indicated that Pope Francis appreciated His Highness the Amir's leading role and wisdom in establishing the values of constructive dialogue, and spearheading humanitarian action and coexistence for the sake of goodness, peace and stability.

The pope expressed best wishes for a prosperous and peaceful New Year to the leadership and people of Kuwait, he added.

During the event, Pope Francis called for spreading peace and goodwill throughout the world, and avoiding any action that would lead to hate and conflicts.

The pope also called on the international community to find means to end various global crises and focus on welfare and development to all mankind.

The Kuwaiti diplomat also wished the Kuwaiti leadership and people evermore progress and success during the New Year.


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