* Foreign

Iranian President promises to unveil a regional peace plan at this week’s high-level meetings at the UN

Military might: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and military officials at the “Sacred Defence Week” parade in Tehran. It marks the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980. AFP-

Iran’s President called on Sunday on Western powers to leave the security of the Persian Gulf to regional nations led by , criticising a new U.S.-led coalition patrolling the region’s waterways as nationwide parades showcased the Islamic Republic’s military arsenal.

President Hassan Rouhani separately promised to unveil a regional peace plan at this week’s upcoming high-level meetings at the United Nations, which comes amid heightened Mideast tensions following a series of attacks, including a missile-and-drone assault on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.

The U.S. alleges Iran carried out the September 14 attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, which caused oil prices to spike by the biggest percentage since the 1991 Gulf War. While Yemen’s Iranian-allied Houthi rebels claimed the assault, Saudi Arabia says it was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran.”

For its part, Iran denies being responsible and has warned any retaliatory attack targeting it will result in an “all-out war.” That’s as it has begun enriching uranium beyond the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from over a year earlier.

Mr. Rouhani spoke from a riser at the parade in Tehran, with uniformed officers from the country’s military and its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard beside him. The cleric later watched as goose-stepping soldiers carrying submachine guns and portable missile launchers drove past as part of “Holy Defense Week,” which marks the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980.

Mr. Rouhani said Iran was willing to “extend the hand of friendship and brotherhood” to Persian Gulf nations and was “even ready to forgive their past mistakes.”

“Those who want to link the region’s incidents to the Islamic Republic of Iran are lying like their past lies that have been revealed,” the President said. “If they are truthful and seek security in the region, they must not send weapons, fighter jets, bombs and dangerous arms to the region.” He added that the U.S. and Western nations should “distance” themselves from the region.

“Your presence has always been a calamity for this region and the farther you go from our region, the more security would come for our region,” he said.

Protesters deface Chinese flag

Police officers detaining an anti-government protester in Sha Tin, Hong Kong, on Sunday.REUTERSJORGE SILVA

Pro-democracy protesters clashed with riot police outside a mall on Sunday, with some activists vandalising a nearby subway station and defacing a Chinese flag, but plans to disrupt the airport did not materialise.

Police fired brief volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets in the northern town of Sha Tin late Sunday afternoon, capping a day which saw thousands rally peacefully inside a mall before the mood soured.

Authorities reduced rail and bus links to the city’s airport while police stepped up security checks in a successful bid to stop a crowd from massing at the bustling transport hub.

The airport — the world’s eighth busiest — has become a frequent target for demonstrators pushing for greater democratic rights and police accountability.

‘Stress test’

Online forums used by the largely leaderless movement had called for a “stress test” of the airport on Sunday, code for disrupting travel links or occupying buildings.

Instead thousands gathered inside a mall in the northern town of Sha Tin to sing protest songs and make origami cranes, the latest rally in what has now been 16 consecutive weekends of protests and clashes.

Many shops inside the complex shuttered but the unsanctioned rally remained civil for much of the afternoon.

“Even if we are very tired, we can’t give up on our rights,” a teacher at the rally, who have her surname as Ching, told AFP.

“If it (the movement) stretches to 100 days, 200 days or even 1,000 days and we still don’t get what we want, we will continue to come out.”

Tensions rose later in the afternoon.

Masked activists paraded a Chinese flag through the mall that had been torn down from a nearby government building. It was later thrown into a nearby river.

Groups of masked protesters then vandalised ticket machines in Sha Tin’s subway before riot police rushed in to close the station down.

Police snatch squads made multiple arrests.

Avigdor Lieberman says he will endorse neither Netanyahu nor Gantz

Ayman OdehMahmoud Illean

Israel’s Arab-dominated Joint List party moved on Sunday to back the centre-left bloc of Benny Gantz, who is challenging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing alliance, to form a new government.

With final results all but in, neither Mr. Gantz nor Mr. Netanyahu command a majority in 120-seat Parliament, so the Arab List’s decision to end its usual policy of withholding support for any candidate in the wake of elections could nudge President Reuven Rivlin to ask Mr. Gantz to form a government.

Mr. Rivlin, who began consulting with party leaders on Sunday to discuss who should lead the country after no clear victor emerged from Tuesday’s election, suggested Mr. Gantz and Mr. Netanyahu join forces.

No party drawn from the 21% Arab minority has ever been part of an Israeli government. But an increased turnout saw the Joint List win 13 seats, making it the third largest grouping.

This would provide an outlet to voice Arab complaints of discrimination in Israeli society and give a bigger platform to Arab parties.

“We want to bring an end to the era of Netanyahu, so we recommend that Benny Gantz be the one to form the next government,” party head Ayman Odeh said.

Joint List’s support does not mean it will sit in the governing coalition, but its backing gives Mr. Gantz’s centre-left bloc 57 seats, compared to Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc of 55.

Mr. Netanyahu denounced the Arab party support of Mr. Gantz.

Meanwhile, former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose party Yisrael Beitenu won eight seats, told Mr. Rivlin on Sunday he would not recommend either candidate. He could play a kingmaker’s role in shaping the final outcome.

OET enough for health care professionals

Doctors, nurses, dentists and mid-wives who wish to practice in the U.K. will no longer have to appear for English language tests like TOEFL and IELTS as the country will now accept scores of Occupational English Test (OET), which the candidates have to anyway clear for registering with the relevant health care regulator.

The OET is an international English language test that assesses the language communication skills of health care professionals, who seek to register and practise in an English-speaking environment.

The candidates had to earlier take OET to register with Nursing and Midwifery Council and the General Medical Council, which are the two health care boards in the U.K., as well as TOEFL or IELTS like exam to apply for visa.

“The U.K. Home Office has streamlined English language testing ensuring that doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives, who have already passed an English language test accepted by the relevant professional body, do not have to sit another test before entry to the U.K. on a Tier 2 visa,” said Sujata Stead, CEO, Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment, which conducts the OET.

The change will apply to all Tier 2 (General) visa applications submitted from October 1.

He pressed Zelensky for damaging information on his rival’s son

Joe BidenEric Gay

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday confirmed he did discuss former Vice-President Joe Biden and corruption allegations in a phone call with Ukraine’s leader, as Mr. Trump’s opponents called for his impeachment.

A whistleblower’s complaint sparked off accusations that Mr. Trump had sought to persuade President Volodymyr Zelensky to provide damaging information on Mr. Biden, Mr. Trump’s possible 2020 election challenger.

Mr. Trump confirmed that the conversation, held in July, had addressed alleged corruption involving Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, and he floated the possibility that a transcript could be released.

“We had a very great conversation, very straight, very honest conversation. I hope they can put it out,” Mr. Trump said, repeating that he had done nothing wrong.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Zelensky about eight times on the call to investigate possible corruption involving Mr. Hunter, who worked with a Ukrainian natural gas company while his father was Vice-President.

Mr. Biden said that Mr. Trump’s actions appeared “to be an overwhelming abuse of power.”

Influential congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, on Sunday said that his own reservations about impeachment were fading over Mr. Trump’s Ukraine call.

Devotion is an overwhelming experience felt in one’s inner being when the human soul longs to reach the Lotus feet of the Lord. The restless human mind is given to fear and all kinds of phobias when it is involved in worldly affairs. All this only makes one further rooted in the cycle of birth. Akrura exemplifies the truth that true devotion and jnana are complementary and not antithetical, pointed out Sri B. Damodhara Dikshitar in a discourse.

Kamsa entrusts Akrura with the mission of bringing Krishna and Balarama to Mathura. In all humility, Akrura understands that though he is worldly minded and engaged in the service of Kamsa, he is now most lucky and fortunate to be able to see Krishna in person. He sets forth to Gokula, with his mind fully engrossed in Krishna. Akrura ruminates on the greatness of the Lord and His incarnations that provide a chance for ordinary people to know about the Highest Truth. His mind revolves around his hopes and expectations about the Lord. He also wishes for the removal of all obstacles. So much takes place in his mind about the forthcoming meeting with Krishna. As he enters Gokula, he feels the vibrations of the place sanctified by the Lord’s presence. He sees the footprints of the Lord on the ground and he rolls on the sands to savour the divine contact with His Lotus feet. He is caught in the river of spiritual joy. Adi Sankara, the famous exponent of Advaita Siddhanta, extols bhakti as the state of mind that finds solace in God even as the rivers find their refuge in the ocean. He asserts that bhakti is the best path for emancipation of the human soul. The mind gets attracted to the Lord even as iron filings gets drawn to the magnet or when the creeper reaches out to the tree for support.

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