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Not looking for war with Iran: Trump

Tehran warns conflict in the Gulf could spread uncontrollably and threaten the lives of U.S. troops

Up in arms: Activists protesting against the Iranian regimeoutside the White House in Washington. AP

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday he was not seeking war with Tehran after a senior Iranian military commander warned any conflict in the Gulf region could spread uncontrollably and threaten the lives of U.S. troops.

Tensions remain high between longtime foes Iran and the United States after Mr. Trump said on Friday that he called off a military strike to retaliate for Iran’s downing of an unmanned U.S. drone out of concern it would have been a disproportionate response.

“I’m not looking for war,” Mr. Trump said on NBC’s Meet the Press programme.

‘Ready for deal’

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeated to reporters on Sunday that Washington was prepared to negotiate with Tehran with no preconditions.

“They know precisely where to find us,” said Mr. Pompeo, who is traveling to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to “ensure we’re strategically aligned” with those countries, which are regional rivals of Iran.

Mr. Trump has said he will impose further sanctions on Iran beginning on Monday, but has also indicated that he would be prepared to seek a deal to bolster its flagging economy, an apparent move to defuse tensions. “I think they want to negotiate. And I think they want to make a deal. And my deal is nuclear. Look, they’re not going to have a nuclear weapon,” he added.

Iran played down the impact of any new U.S. sanctions. They were “just propaganda, as all sanctions... have been imposed and there are no more sanctions left,” state-run news agency IRIB quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying.

Last year Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from a 2015 accord between Iran and world powers that curbed Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing sanctions. Relations in the region have worsened significantly since then.

Diplomatic efforts are under way to ease tensions between the two nations. Andrew Murrison, Britain’s Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, said on Sunday that he had “open, frank and constructive” talks with Iranian government representatives in Tehran.

“I reiterated the U.K.’s assessment that Iran almost certainly bears responsibility for recent attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman,” and called for such activity to stop, Mr. Murrison said.

60-day deadline

A senior advisor to Iran’s top authority Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran may scale back compliance with its nuclear deal soon unless European countries shield it from U.S. sanctions through a trade mechanism.

“If Europeans don’t take measures within the 60-day deadline, we will take new steps,” the semi-official ISNA news agency quoted the official, Kamal Kharazi, as saying. Tehran announced a deadline of 60 days in May.

Iran has said it would respond firmly to any threat and warned on Sunday of the risks of a military confrontation. “If a conflict breaks out in the region, no country would be able to manage its scope and timing,” Major General Gholamali Rashid said, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. “The American government must act responsibly to protect the lives of American troops by avoiding misconduct in the region.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused the Americans of stoking tensions in the Gulf through what Iran has called the violation of its airspace by the U.S. military drone, Fars reported.

Washington said the aircraft was targeted in international air space in “an unprovoked attack”.

A hawk in Trump’s administration, national security adviser John Bolton, sought to maintain military pressure on Iran. “Neither Iran nor any other hostile actor should mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness. No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East,” Mr. Bolton said during a visit to Israel.

Ethiopia Army chief killed in failed regional coup

Situation is currently under full control by the Federal Government, says PM

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.AFP

Ethiopia’s Army Chief of Staff and the head of the northern State of Amhara were killed in two separate but related attacks when a General tried to seize control of Amhara in an attempted coup, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said in a statement on Sunday.

Amhara State President Ambachew Mekonnen and his adviser were shot dead and the State’s Attorney General was wounded in the regional capital of Bahir Dar on Saturday evening.

In another attack, Ethiopia’s Army Chief of Staff Seare Mekonnen and a retired General were shot dead in Seare’s home in Addis Ababa by his bodyguard.

Mr. Abiy’s office named Amhara State Security head General Asamnew Tsige as responsible for the foiled coup, without giving details of his whereabouts. General Asamnew was released from prison last year after receiving an amnesty for a similar coup attempt, according to media reports.

Mr. Abiy took office just over a year ago and embarked on unprecedented reforms in Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country and one of its fastest-growing economies.

But the premier’s shake-up of the military and intelligence services has earned him powerful enemies, while his government is struggling to rein in powerful figures in Ethiopia’s myriad ethnic groups fighting the federal government and each other for greater influence and resources.

The shooting in Bahir Dar occurred when the State President — an ally of Mr. Abiy — was holding a meeting to decide on how to put a stop to the open recruitment of ethnic Amhara militias by General Asamnew.

“The situation in the Amhara region is under full control by the Federal Government in colloboration with the regional government,” Mr. Abiy said in a statement.

Brigadier General Tefera Mamo, head of special forces in Amhara, told state television that “most of the people who attempted the coup have been arrested, although there are a few still at large.”

Trump says re-election will be easier if he is impeached

‘FBI probe into 2016 campaign was illegal’

Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that his chances of retaining the White House in 2020 would be strengthened if Democratic lawmakers start impeachment proceedings against him.

Asked on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ whether he thought impeachment was good politics for him, Mr. Trump replied, “I think I win the election easier.”

The President repeated his long-standing allegation that the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into his 2016 campaign was illegal. “I was spied on. What they did to me was illegal. It was illegal on the other side. I did nothing wrong,” he said.

“So impeachment’s a very unfair thing because nothing that I did was wrong. And if you look at the Mueller report, there was no collusion. This was all about collusion.”

The Democrats are split over whether Mr. Trump should be impeached after the Mueller Report into Russian interference in the 2016 election outlined numerous contacts between his campaign and Russians, as well as evidence that the President tried on several occasions to stymie the investigation.

While many of the candidates for the Democratic nomination are pro-impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has argued that it would be a risky move without an “ironclad” case and bipartisan support.

Mr. Trump said Ms. Pelosi was staving off the growing impeachment calls because she agreed with his assessment that it would harm their prospects in 2020. “I think she feels that I will win much easier,” Mr. Trump said. “I mean, I’ve been told that by many people.”

Saudi launches residency scheme to boost revenue

Aimed at luring wealthy expatriates

Permanent and renewable residency schemes being offered.Faisal Nasser

Saudi Arabia on Sunday launched a new special residency scheme aimed at luring wealthy expats as the petro-state seeks to boost non-oil revenue.

The scheme offers a permanent residency for 800,000 riyals ($213,000) and a one-year renewable residency costing 100,000 riyals ($27,000), according to the online portal for registrations.

The scheme will allow expats to do business without a Saudi sponsor, buy property and sponsor visas for relatives, the website said.

Analysts say the programme will largely benefit wealthy Arabs who have lived in Saudi Arabia for years without permanent residency or MNCs seeking to do long-term business .

The move appears to be aimed at boosting non-oil revenue as the kingdom seeks to diversify its economy.

Though it was approved by the Saudi Cabinet last month, the portal began accepting applications on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia is currently home to some 10 million overseas workers.

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