* Foreign

Any attack will receive a crushing response, says military chief at annual event

Fixing the damage: Work on at the Abqaiq processing facility in Saudi Arabia, which was attacked earlier this month.APAmr Nabil

Iran will pursue any aggressor, even it carries out a limited attack, and seek to destroy it, the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards said on Saturday, after attacks on Saudi oil sites which Riyadh and U.S. officials blamed on Tehran.

“Be careful, a limited aggression will not remain limited. We will pursue any aggressor,” the head of the Guards, Major General Hossein Salami, said in rem

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday approved sending American troops to bolster Saudi Arabia’s air and missile defences after the September 14 attack.

Iran denies involvement in the attack, which was claimed by Yemen’s Houthi movement, a group aligned with Iran and currently fighting a Saudi-led alliance in Yemen’s civil war.

‘Hunting Vultures’ show

Amirali Hajizadeh, who heads the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace branch, said any attacks on Iran would receive “a crushing response”, the official news agency IRNA reported.

Mr. Hajizadeh was speaking at a public exposition called ”Hunting Vultures”, where remains of drones downed in Iran and the Iranian air defence system which shot down a U.S. military drone in June were displayed. The exposition is part of annual events commemorating the start of the 1980-88 war with Iraq, which also includes air and naval displays in the Gulf and military parades on Sunday.

Iran’s Foreign Minister meanwhile denounced renewed U.S. sanctions against its central bank following the Saudi attacks as an attempt to deny ordinary Iranians access to food and medicine, and said the move was a sign of U.S. desperation.

The United States on Friday imposed more sanctions, targeting the Central Bank of Iran, which was already under U.S. sanctions, the National Development Fund of Iran — the country’s sovereign wealth fund — and an Iranian company that U.S. officials say is used to conceal financial transfers for Iranian military purchases.

‘Sign of U.S. desperation’

“This is a sign of U.S. desperation... When they repeatedly sanction the same institution, this means their attempt at bringing the Iranian nation to its knees under ‘maximum pressure’ has failed,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters in remarks shown on state television. “But this is dangerous and unacceptable as an attempt at blocking... the Iranian people’s access to food and medicine,” Mr. Zarif said, speaking after arriving in New York for the annual UN General Assembly next week.

Mr. Zarif said he would on Wednesday meet Foreign Ministers of the remaining signatories to the 2015 nuclear accord. “As we have said before, the United States can only attend if it returns to the (nuclear accord)... and ends its economic war against Iran,” Mr. Zarif said.

Saudi again blames Iran

In Riyadh, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir told reporters that the kingdom will wait for the results of an investigation before responding to last weekend’s attack on its oil facilities, for which it believes Iran is responsible.

“It was done with Iranian weapons, therefore we hold Iran accountable for this attack...” Mr. Jubeir told a news conference, declining to speculate about specific actions. “The kingdom will take the appropriate measures based on the results of the investigation, to ensure its security and stability.”

Riyadh has rejected a claim by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement that it carried out the strikes on two oil plants . “We are certain that the launch did not come from Yemen, it came from the north,” Jubeir said. “The investigations will prove that.”

The kingdom has already said the investigation so far shows that Iranian weapons were used and the attack originated from the north, and that it was working to pinpoint the exact launch location.

President asked Kiev to probe rival Biden’s son, say reports

An Iowa resident with a Joe Biden placard at the Indian Creek Nature Preserve.APCharlie Neibergall

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday vigorously rejected a whistleblower’s claim of wrongdoing, amid reports that he used a call with Ukraine’s President to pressure him to investigate the son of Mr. Trump’s Democratic rival Joe Biden.

The whistleblower’s secret complaint has triggered a tense showdown between Congress, whose Democratic leaders are demanding to review the complaint, and the executive branch, which has barred them from doing so. It has also raised concerns that Mr. Trump sought to strong-arm Ukraine into providing damaging information on the President’s possible 2020 challenger, which would represent dangerous foreign meddling in the U.S. election.

President’s ‘promise’

The Washington Post, citing two unnamed former U.S. officials, said the complaint stemmed from Mr. Trump’s communications with Ukraine, and a “promise” allegedly made by the President.

Mr. Trump slammed the “ridiculous” story, attacking the “partisan whistleblower,” despite admitting to not knowing the person’s identity. He insisted he had a “totally appropriate” conversation, without detailing with whom, or what was said, and instead suggested that Mr. Biden and his son should be investigated for their actions in Ukraine.

Mr. Biden responded forcefully, demanding that Mr. Trump immediately release the transcript of the call and saying the reports Mr. Trump sought to coerce his Ukrainian counterpart, if true, amounted to “clear-cut corruption.”

Suspicions have focussed on a July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponents have been probing that call in connection with allegations Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani tried to pressure the Ukrainian administration.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Zelensky about eight times on the call to investigate possible corruption involving Mr. Biden’s son Hunter, who worked with a Ukrainian natural gas company. When asked by reporters whether he discussed the Bidens with Mr. Zelensky, Mr. Trump said curtly: “It doesn’t matter what I discuss.” But he did not deny having done so.

Instead he urged media to “look into” Mr. Biden’s involvement in Ukraine, and his comments in early 2016 in which the former U.S. Vice-President said the Barack Obama administration would freeze $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees unless Kiev fired its top prosecutor.

Amid the swirling allegations, Mr. Giuliani told CNN on Thursday that “of course I did” ask Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden. Mr. Giuliani said he did not know whether Mr. Trump brought up Mr. Biden, but said he would have “every right” to do so.

Adding another layer to the controversy, congressional policymakers were concerned that the administration had been holding back military aid to Ukraine at the time. The aid was finally released last week.

Democratic lawmakers say a President conditioning foreign aid on providing dirt on a U.S. election rival would amount to grounds for impeachment. Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren called for Mr. Trump’s impeachment, and in a series of tweets criticised Congress for its repeated failure to start the process.

Social media giant said it had suspended 69,000 apps in connection with probe

Facebook said on Friday that it had suspended tens of thousands of apps for improperly sucking up users’ personal information and other transgressions, a tacit admission that the scale of its data privacy issues was far larger than it had previously acknowledged.

The social network said in a blogpost that an investigation it began in March 2018 — following revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a British consultancy, had retrieved and used people’s Facebook information without their permission — had resulted in the suspension of “tens of thousands” of apps that were associated with about 400 developers. That was far bigger than the last number that Facebook had disclosed, of 400 app suspensions in August 2018.

The extent of how many apps Facebook had cut off was revealed in court filings that were unsealed later on Friday by a state court in Boston, as part of an investigation by the Massachusetts Attorney General into the technology company.

Sharing of information

The documents showed that Facebook had suspended 69,000 apps. Of those, the majority were terminated because the developers did not cooperate with Facebook’s investigation; 10,000 were flagged for potentially misappropriating personal data from Facebook users.

The disclosures about app suspensions renew questions about whether people’s personal information on Facebook is secure, even after the company has been under fire for more than a year for its privacy practices.

Facebook apps can take on a variety of forms, from music apps like Spotify to games like Candy Crush. Some apps use Facebook simply so that people can log in to their service or product, which otherwise has nothing to do with the social network.

The common denominator is that these apps want access to information about Facebook members so that they can add new users.

The latest revelations follow a settlement that Facebook struck with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in July over privacy violations, in which the company agreed to pay a record $5 billion fine and to increase oversight into its data-handling practices.

Some critics claimed at the time that the FTC’s settlement did not go far enough in protecting consumers and the agency faced new calls to take a harder line on the social network.

“Facebook put up a neon sign that said ‘Free Private Data,’ and let app developers have their fill of Americans’ personal info,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Friday. “The FTC needs to hold Mark Zuckerberg personally responsible.” NY Times

Tom Watson had challenged party chief Jeremy Corbyn

Labour Party’s deputy leader Tom Watson.REUTERSToby Melville

The deputy leader of Britain’s Labour Party survived an attempt to oust him over Brexit on Saturday after party chief Jeremy Corbyn moved to defuse a row that threatened to overshadow the party’s bid to show it was ready for power.

Holding its annual party conference just weeks before Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised “do or die” to lead Britain out of the European Union (EU), Labour was keen to set out its agenda for government rather than put its Brexit divisions on display.

Move to abolish post

But a move by Corbyn ally Jon Lansman, founder of the left-wing grassroots movement Momentum, to propose a motion to abolish the deputy’s post because of disloyalty over Brexit threatened to derail those plans.

Deputy leader Tom Watson, who has often criticised Mr. Corbyn, described the attempt as “a drive-by shooting” after he challenged the Labour leader’s position on Brexit and suggested a second referendum should be held before any election.

A Labour source said Mr. Corbyn, who backs an election first, had intervened just as the party gathered for the annual conference in the seaside resort of Brighton.

“Jeremy Corbyn proposed that the motion not go to a vote and instead that there be a review of the position of deputy leader and other positions in support of the leader,” the source said.

The motion, which appeared to blindside Mr. Corbyn’s team, had provoked criticism from Labour figures, including London Mayor Sadiq Khan, as Britain heads towards a possible parliamentary election to unlock the Brexit impasse. “We must focus on fighting against Boris Johnson & his catastrophic no-deal Brexit, not each other,” Mr. Khan tweeted.

Labour said in a draft statement on Brexit that if the party won power, it would “get Brexit sorted one way or another within six months of coming to power”. The statement, yet to be agreed at the conference in the seaside resort of Brighton, sets out that a Labour government would “secure a sensible leave deal with the EU within three months, and within six months would put it before the people in a referendum alongside the option to remain.”

Canadian PM admits to hurting allies after ‘brownface’ exposé

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Winnipeg, Manitoba.APSean Kilpatrick

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged that he let down his supporters and all Canadians of colour by appearing years ago in brownface and blackface. Yet the scandal’s fallout may be limited in a country without the harsh and still-divisive racial history of the neighbouring U.S.

“I hurt people who in many cases consider me an ally,” Mr. Trudeau told a news conference on Friday. “I let a lot of people down.”

Mr. Trudeau, 47, is seeking a second term as Prime Minister in an October 21 election. His leading opponent, Andrew Scheer of the Conservative Party, has assailed him as “not fit to govern” because of the revelations. But key figures in the Prime Minister’s Liberal Party have stuck by him, including Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, who would be a favourite to replace Mr. Trudeau as Liberal leader if he loses the election.

Many minority Canadians, increasingly active in politics and government, seem ready to forgive Mr. Trudeau. “As I have gotten to know Justin, I know these photos do not represent the person he is now, and I know how much he regrets it,” Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said on Twitter.

According to recent census figures, Canada’s population is about 73% white, compared with 77% in the U.S. Many of the non-whites in Canada are from Asia. Only about 3.5% of the population is black.

In Mr. Trudeau’s multiethnic district of Montreal, some residents questioned about the scandal offered a collective shrug. “It was no big deal, it was a long time ago,” said Zahid Nassar, an immigrant from Pakistan. “When we’re young, we all do stupid things.”

“I have been forthright about the incidents that I remembered,” said Mr. Trudeau on Friday. “I did not realise at the time how much this hurt minority Canadians, racialised Canadians.”

Mr. Trudeau was later asked on whether his standing internationally will be damaged. “My focus is Canadians who face discrimination every day,” he replied. “I’m going to work very hard to demonstrate as an individual and as a leader I will continue to stand against intolerance and racism.”

Move comes as a setback for Taiwan

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.AFPANDREA VERDELLI

China and former Taiwan ally the Solomon Islands established diplomatic ties on Saturday in a sign of ’s growing influence in the Pacific. In a setback for self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as a province, this month won over two previous Taiwanese allies in the Pacific — the Solomon Islands and Kiribati.

The Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, told reporters in Beijing after signing diplomatic ties with the Solomon Islands that it was “neither reasonable nor sustainable” for them not to have formal ties. “This was a strategic decision, a transparent decision and a natural decision,” Mr. Wang said of the Solomon Island’s decision to desert Taiwan, standing next to Solomon Islands’ Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele in Beijing.

Mr. Wang added a warning for Taiwan, whose President Tsai Ing-wen is gearing up for re-election in January. “China must and will be reunified. Factually and legally, Taiwan island has been and will always remain an inalienable part of China’s territory. This status will not change, and is impossible to change,” he said.

Taiwan now with formal relations with just 15 countries, mostly small and poor nations in Latin America and the Pacific, including Nauru, Tuvalu and Palau.

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