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Iran Presidential Election: Record Turnout in Crucial Vote

illions of voters converged on the  polling stations Friday to decide the outcome of a fiercely contested
race between two competing visions. The choice was whether to hand pragmatic Hassan Rouhani a
stronger mandate to push through much-needed reforms, or give a chance to principlist Ebrahim Raeisi
who believes the incumbent and his aides have mismanaged  the economy. Rouhani, 68, is a staunch
supporter of broader international engagement and liberal economic reforms.

His four years in office is defined by the landmark July 2015 nuclear deal with the six world powers.
The agreement, among other things, is aimed at attracting foreign investment and high-tech to rebuild the
stagnant economy.

Rouhani has made a campaign promise to work toward the removal of "all the remaining (US) sanctions"
hampering economic ties with Europe and Asia.

The president faced stiff competition from Raeisi, 57, a long-serving member of the judiciary and current
custodian of Astan Qods Razavi, the huge conglomerate in charge of the holy shrine of Imam Reza
(PBUH), the eight Shia imam.

Although announcing that he will uphold the nuclear pact should he win, Raeisi has pointed to the
economic difficulties  as proof that Rouhani's diplomatic efforts have failed and has advocated an
"inward-looking" policy for reviving the sluggish economy.   

The cleric has also pledged to boost welfare benefits for the poor, create millions of jobs and fight
corruption.

  Long Queues

Weeks-long campaigns whipped up heated emotions and pushed public debates among the 56-million-
strong electorate in the country of 80 million.

Shortly after voting in high-stakes event began at 8 a.m. local time, unusually long queues formed outside
polling stations in mosques and schools around the capital and other major cities, IRNA reported.  

Across the country, over 71,000 election monitors were deployed at nearly 130,000 ballot boxes and
more than 300,000 police officers were stationed to ensure security of  63,000 polling places.
.............................................................................................................................................................................................

Trump accused of spilling sensitive secrets to Russia

Donald Trump's beleaguered White House was rocked Tuesday by a pair of explosive allegations -- that
he personally tried to quash an FBI investigation, and that he disclosed highly classified information to
top Russian officials.

The Republican billionaire's administration, now just barely four months old, was left reeling by the one-
two punch, which sparked instant outrage from Democrats demanding a full explanation.

Either claim on its own -- that he divulged top-secret information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov during an Oval Office meeting, or that he pressed FBI director James Comey to drop a probe into
ex-national security advisor Michael Flynn -- would plunge any White House into a serious crisis.

But the reports -- both rebutted by Trump's team -- add to a mounting perception of an administration in
a perpetual state of chaos.
As overwhelmed White House staff struggled to explain Trump's decision to tell Lavrov about a specific
Islamic State bomb threat gleaned by Israeli intelligence, the New York Times dropped another
bombshell.

The paper -- citing two people who read notes written by Comey -- reported that when Comey met
Trump the day after Flynn resigned, the president tried to halt any FBI investigation.

"I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go," Trump is accused of telling
Comey, according to a memo written by the former FBI chief, who was sacked last week.

"He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."

In a letter to acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, the Senate Oversight Committee demanded that all
memos and other documents or recordings relating to communications between Trump and Comey be
turned over by May 24.

"If true, these memoranda raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede
the FBI's investigation as it relates to Lieutenant General Flynn," wrote committee Chairman Jason
Chaffetz, a Republican.

- 'Absolute right' to share intel -

The White House quickly denied any suggestion that Trump was trying to obstruct justice -- a criminal
offence -- in his dealings with Comey.
.............................................................................................................................................................................................

TRUMP ANNOUNCES TRIP TO SAUDI ARABIA, ISRAEL, VATICAN

The Middle East is to play host to Donald Trump on his first official foreign visit.

In a speech in the Rose Garden at an event on religious liberty, Trump cast his trip as an effort to build
cooperation and support between Muslims, Christians and Jews for fighting terrorism.

When asked whether the trip would include discussions about moving the American embassy in Israel
from Tel Aviv to Israel, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders didn't provide
details. That had been on the schedule for months, leading to increasing speculation as to why the White
House hadn't made arrangements for a Vatican visit, an opportunity no president has missed since Harry
Truman.

This is the latest into a term that a president has waited to travel outside the country since Lyndon B.
Johnson in 1964.

Brushing aside the complexities of a decades-old conflict that has bedevilled successive USA leaders, Mr
Trump told Mr Abbas that together with the Israelis, they could bag "the toughest deal to make".

Even if nothing firm results from the trip, it's still a smart decision to launch Trump's foreign-policy
vision as involving faith, engagement, and tolerance.

Faggioli thinks that if pope and the president can find common ground, it might be found in Syria, which
he called "the biggest worldwide crisis for the Vatican today".

He expects the trip to produce "tangible results" in the fight against Islamic State, they added. "What this
trip will also do is reverse what had been a trend, I think, of America's disengagement from the world
and some of its biggest problems".

"The administration has released them and they're in the process now of working on the notification to
the U.S. Congress", Mr al-Jubeir said. The visit to Israel will reinforce that alliance, officials said. "It also
lays to rest the notion that America is anti-Muslim".

A United States president's first foreign trip often carries as much symbolic significance as substantive
meaning, and Trump is expected to use the trip to underline his priority of fighting Islamic extremism in
the form of Isis and others. But at each stop, Trump is hoping to demonstrate his faith in traditional
United States allies that his administration claims were slighted by the previous administration.
.............................................................................................................................................................................................

SOON, SAUDI ARABIA TO REMOVE ALL EXPATRIATE WORKERS FROM GOVT. JOBS

Riyadh: Saudi Government decided to get rid of all expatriate workers from all ministries and Govt.
Departments.

According to Dy. Minister, Abdullah Al-Melfi, Ministry of Civil Service instructed all ministries and
government departments to remove all expatriate workers before 2020.

According to the report published in Saudi Gazette, ministry informed that there are more than 70,000
expats working in the public sector.

In a meeting which was attended by senior officials from ministry and HR experts from different
ministries and other public sector, Abdullah Al-Melfi said that there will not be any expatriate workers in
the government after 2020.

The meeting which was held on Monday was focused on the Saudization plan by 2020. In the meeting,
various difficulties that can be faced in nationalization of Govt. jobs were also discussed. After meeting
workshop titled “Job nationalization” held.

Malfi further said that nationalization of government jobs is an important objective of the National
Transformation Program 2020 and the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
.............................................................................................................................................................................................

US, Saudi Arabia negotiating major arms deal

The United States is seeking to finalize arms deals worth tens of billions of dollars with Saudi Arabia
ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Riyadh later this month, Reuters reported Friday.

Trump is due to arrive in Saudi Arabia in late May as part of his first foreign trip since becoming US
president, after which he will visit Israel. He is also set to travel to the Vatican, as well as NATO and G7
summits in Brussels and Sicily.

The proposed weapons contracts are said to include the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile
system (THAAD), which costs $1 billion and was recently deployed by the US in South Korea to defend
against the threat of North Korean missiles.

Also being discussed as part of the package are the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and the M109 artillery piece,
as well as the Littoral Combat Ship, according to Reuters.

In addition, some $1 billion-worth of munitions are said to be part of the deal, including armor-piercing
warheads and laser-guided bombs.

A weapons deal of this magnitude would need the approval of Congress, which is legally required to
ensure that any potential weapons sales do not erode Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge.

Furthermore, a number of US lawmakers have previously objected to weapons deals with Saudi Arabia
over concerns of the kingdom’s involvement in Yemen’s civil war, although proponents say they are
necessary to act as a deterrent against Iran and to combat the Islamic State terror group.
.............................................................................................................................................................................................

Donald Trump meets Malcolm Turnbull in New York

Mr. Trump’s style has been described as the grab and pull. In the past, he has tended to yank people
toward him — Shinzo Abe of Japan, for example. In this case, though, he sits back and it’s Mr. Turnbull
who does the moving, reaching across the table between them.

Some political analysts said that may play into an argument in Australia that the country is too
subservient to the United States. The timing did not help: Mr. Trump delayed the meeting with Mr.
Turnbull by three hours to address a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the House of
Representatives.

“With the two of them, you can tell that Trump’s at home, obviously he’s sitting back and he’s quite
comfortable,” said David Alssema, a body language expert in Perth. “Malcolm Turnbull moved a fair bit
through the conversation — he’s on edge of the seat, he changed hands and positions and so on. It just
shows the comfortability factor is not so much there.”

Seeking Common Ground

Did the delay in holding the meeting make Mr. Turnbull nervous? It’s hard to tell from the video, but the
wait was widely seen in Australia as a snub — and Mr. Turnbull seemed eager to overcome any
awkwardness caused by it.

After Mr. Trump repeatedly remarked that it had been “a big day” because of the House vote, the
Australian prime minister chimed in: “I know the feeling. We have challenges with our Parliament, too.”

He went on to explain the Australian legislative process in more detail than Mr. Trump may have needed.

“He was very keen to find common ground and very keen to find personal chemistry with the president,”
said Stephen Loosley, chairman of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think tank in Canberra.
“Malcolm was laying it on with a trowel, to use the classic Australian saying for when you’re being
generous with your praise of someone.”

Mr. Loosley said it made sense for Mr. Turnbull to compliment Mr. Trump on a win on Capitol Hill, but
Tony Clark, a former Washington correspondent for the Australian Financial Review, disagreed, calling it
“a bit schoolboyish.”

“Congratulating Trump on the passage of the health care legislation through the House wouldn’t have sat
well with a lot of Australians,” he said.
.............................................................................................................................................................................................

Pakistan dismisses India’s ‘bilateral talks proposal’ on Kashmir

Pakistan’s foreign affairs office on Tuesday issued a statement “dismissing” India’s proposal to resolve
Kashmir issue bilaterally—between India and Pakistan. dawn.com reported.

Adviser to the Pakistan Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that New Delhi had “scuttled
all opportunities for meaningful dialogue” over the past two decades.

The statement comes in the wake of India’s rejection of the offer extended by Turkish President Recep
Tayyip Erdogan for multilateral resolution of Kashmir dispute.

“The Indian counter-proposal that it is ready for bilateral dialogue with Pakistan is no longer credible
because in the past two decades, India has scuttled all opportunities for a meaningful dialogue to resolve
the Kashmir issue in accordance with the UN Security Council’s relevant resolutions on Kashmir,” Dawn
quoted the statement.

Pakistan welcomed Erdogan’s offer and termed it as a move that will strengthen the dialogue process
among all the “stakeholders”.

Aziz said that Pakistan welcomes the statements and endeavours aimed at addressing human rights issues
in Kashmir and resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

Shortly before Erdogan’s two-day visit to India, the Turkish president had suggested that Pakistan and
India need to ‘strengthen multilateral dialogue’ in an attempt to find a solution to the Kashmir issue.

Ministry of External Affairs in India Spokesperson Gopal Baglay yesterday said that Kashmir issue had a
dimension of “cross border terrorism” while advocating for bilateral dialogue for resolution of dispute.

Pakistan’s foreign office rejected Baglay’s statement, saying: “India’s contention that Kashmir issue is,
primarily, an issue of cross-border terrorism, is a claim that no one in the world is prepared to accept
today.”

The Indian government has broken its own record of brutality in Kashmir, the statement said, adding that
over 100 Kashmiri protesters have been killed in Kashmir, Aziz said.
.............................................................................................................................................................................................

Trump orders Iran nuclear deal review despite compliance

Donald Trump has ordered a review of the Iran nuclear deal, even though it is complying with all its
commitments.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson revealed the review, on the Obama-era decision to lift sanctions on Iran,
in a letter to Congress.

He acknowledged the Iranians had met the terms of the 2015 deal, but raised concerns about the country
as a "state sponsor of terrorism".

Mr Trump has described the landmark agreement as the "worst deal ever".

However, his predecessor Barack Obama argued the deal, between Iran and six world powers including
China, Russia and the UK, was the best way to prevent Iran getting a nuclear weapon.


Sanctions were lifted after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) certified it had restricted its
sensitive nuclear activities.

Iran nuclear deal: Key details

In January - a year on from the deal coming into force - Mr Obama noted that, as promised, Iran had
reduced its uranium stockpile by 98%. It has also removed two thirds of its centrifuges, which can be
used in uranium enrichment.

But in a statement, Mr Tillerson said: "President Donald J. Trump has directed a National Security
Council-led interagency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that will evaluate whether
suspension of sanctions related to Iran.... is vital to the national security interests of the United States.

"It remains a leading state sponsor of terror, through many platforms and methods."
.............................................................................................................................................................................................

U.S. House may vote within days on tighter North Korea sanctions

The U.S. House of Representatives could vote as soon as next week on legislation to toughen sanctions
on North Korea by targeting its shipping industry and companies that do business with the reclusive
state, congressional aides said on Thursday.

The legislation, approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee last month, is intended to cut off
supplies of cash that help fund North Korea's nuclear program, and increase pressure to stop human
rights abuses such as the use of slave labor, the bill's sponsor, Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, said.

It also calls on President Donald Trump's administration to decide whether North Korea is a state
sponsor of terrorism.

Amid international concern over the escalation of North Korea's nuclear program, top Trump
administration officials held briefings on the issue on Wednesday for the entire U.S. Congress, busing the
100 senators to the White House and meeting with members of the 435-person House at the Capitol
complex.

As he left the House briefing, Royce said he expected the legislation to move quickly, as part of what he
hoped would be a strong international effort to use every method possible to pressure Pyongyang to curb
its nuclear ambitions.

"In particular, it will focus on financial institutions as well as what you might call 'slave labor.' These are
cases where the North Koreans send out work crews to do work, and instead of being paid, the money
comes back to the North Korean regime, and is spent on their nuclear program," Royce told reporters.

The Trump administration said it wanted to push North Korea into dismantling its nuclear and missile
programs through tougher international sanctions and diplomatic pressure, and remained open to
negotiations to bring that about.

Officials also said on Wednesday they wanted to return the country to the U.S. list of terrorism sponsors.

A spokesman for Royce declined to comment on when there might be a vote, referring questions to
House leadership, whose aides did not immediately respond to a request to confirm the timing.

Trump's secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is due to meet with the U.N. Security Council on Friday to
press for tougher international sanctions on North Korea.
.............................................................................................................................................................................................

Donald Trump to meet Malcolm Turnbull for first time next week on USS Intrepid in New York

The May 4 (US time) meeting on the Intrepid will be part of the 75th anniversary commemorations for
the Battle of the Coral Sea, in which US and Australian naval and air forces took on the Imperial Japanese
Navy.

"The President will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia," White
House press secretary Sean Spicer said.

"The President looks forward to meeting the Prime Minister and showcasing the enduring bonds, deep
friendship and close alliance the US has with Australia."

Mr Turnbull said he was "delighted" to be travelling to meet Mr Trump and declared it would be an
opportunity to "reaffirm our alliance and the United States' engagement with the Asia-Pacific".

"Australia and the United States share the values of democracy, the rule of law and a commitment to
peace, prosperity and security," Mr Turnbull said in a statement.

"Our forces continue to serve together in defence of those values in the Middle East where I have visited
our troops and discussed the future of the region with US commanders and Defence Secretary James
Mattis."

Mr Turnbull said he would also discuss the "serious threat from a reckless and dangerous regime in
North Korea" with Mr Trump.

Mr Turnbull's visit will come just days before the Federal Government is due to hand down its May 9
budget.

It means Mr Turnbull will not be in Australia for a number of days, as key details of the flagship
economic document are being finalised.

Joyce expects 'chemistry' from the meeting

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said he expected "chemistry" when Mr Turnbull and Mr Trump
met and said a meeting in person, rather than over the phone, would be valuable.

"I think there is something of chemistry when two people meet face-to-face, which is probably not
present over a phone call," Mr Joyce said.

"But the Americans, just like the Australians, know how important this relationship is between the United
States and Australia.

"The Prime Minister of Australia and the President of the United States have it in both their remits to have
a close working relationship and this is facilitated at its highest form by face-to-face, one-on-one
meetings."

The event will be hosted by the American-Australian Association, which is led by former US ambassador
to Australia John Berry.

The ABC understands Australian WWII veterans will be flown to New York for the event.
.............................................................................................................................................................................................

Indian visa-holders see hope in Trump review

When Gokul Gunasekaran was offered a full scholarship for a graduate programme in electrical
engineering at Stanford University, he saw it as the chance of a lifetime.

He had grown up in Chennai, India, and had a solid job offer with a large oil company after getting his
undergraduate degree. He came to America instead, got the Stanford degree and now works as an
engineer at a data science startup in Silicon Valley.

But for the past five years, he has been waiting for a green card that would give him full legal rights as a
permanent resident. In the meantime, he is in a holding pattern on an H-1B visa, which permits him to
live and work in the United States but does not allow him easily to switch jobs or start his own company.

"It was a no-brainer when I came to this country, but now I'm kind of regretting taking that
scholarship," said Gunasekaran, 29, who is also vice president with a non-profit group called
Immigration Voice that represents immigrants waiting for green cards.

Immigration Voice estimates there are some 1.5 million H-1B visa holders in the country waiting for
green cards, many of whom are from India and have been waiting for more than a decade.

Many of these immigrants welcomed President Donald Trump's executive order this week to the federal
departments overseeing the programme to review it, a move that may lead to H-1B visas being awarded
to the highest-paying, highest-skilled jobs rather than through a random lottery.

Their hope is that merit-based H-1Bs might then lead to merit-based green cards.

"I think less random is great," said Guru Hariharan, the CEO and founder of Boomerang Commerce, an e-
commerce startup. Hariharan, who was previously an executive at Amazon.com Inc and eBay Inc, spent
10 years waiting for his green card and started his own company as soon as he got it.

Green cards can be a path to naturalization and Hariharan expects to become a U.S. citizen soon.

H-1B visas are aimed at foreign nationals in occupations that generally require specialised knowledge,
such as science, engineering or computer programming. The U.S. government uses a lottery to award
65,000 such visas yearly and randomly distributes another 20,000 to graduate student workers.

'INDENTURED SERVANTS'

The H-1B and the green card system are technically separate, but many immigrants from India see them
as intimately connected.

The number of green cards that can go to people born in each country is capped at a few percent of the
total, without regard to how large or small the country's population is. There is a big backlog of Indian-
born people in the line, given the size of India's population - 1.3 billion - and the number of its natives in
the United States waiting for green cards.

That leaves many of those immigrants stuck on H-1B visas while they wait, which they say makes them
almost like "indentured servants," said Gaurav Mehta, an H-1B holder who works in the financial industry.

Mehta has a U.S.-born son, but he could be forced to take his family back to India at any time if he loses
his job and cannot find another quickly. "He's never been to my country," Mehta said of his son. "But
we'll have no choice if we have to go. Nobody likes to live in constant fear."

...................................................................................................................................................................................................
Indian visa-holders see hope in Trump review

When Gokul Gunasekaran was offered a full scholarship for a graduate programme in electrical
engineering at Stanford University, he saw it as the chance of a lifetime.

He had grown up in Chennai, India, and had a solid job offer with a large oil company after getting his
undergraduate degree. He came to America instead, got the Stanford degree and now works as an
engineer at a data science startup in Silicon Valley.

But for the past five years, he has been waiting for a green card that would give him full legal rights as a
permanent resident. In the meantime, he is in a holding pattern on an H-1B visa, which permits him to
live and work in the United States but does not allow him easily to switch jobs or start his own company.

"It was a no-brainer when I came to this country, but now I'm kind of regretting taking that
scholarship," said Gunasekaran, 29, who is also vice president with a non-profit group called
Immigration Voice that represents immigrants waiting for green cards.

Immigration Voice estimates there are some 1.5 million H-1B visa holders in the country waiting for
green cards, many of whom are from India and have been waiting for more than a decade.

Many of these immigrants welcomed President Donald Trump's executive order this week to the federal
departments overseeing the programme to review it, a move that may lead to H-1B visas being awarded
to the highest-paying, highest-skilled jobs rather than through a random lottery.

Their hope is that merit-based H-1Bs might then lead to merit-based green cards.

"I think less random is great," said Guru Hariharan, the CEO and founder of Boomerang Commerce, an e-
commerce startup. Hariharan, who was previously an executive at Amazon.com Inc and eBay Inc, spent
10 years waiting for his green card and started his own company as soon as he got it.

Green cards can be a path to naturalization and Hariharan expects to become a U.S. citizen soon.

H-1B visas are aimed at foreign nationals in occupations that generally require specialised knowledge,
such as science, engineering or computer programming. The U.S. government uses a lottery to award
65,000 such visas yearly and randomly distributes another 20,000 to graduate student workers.

'INDENTURED SERVANTS'

The H-1B and the green card system are technically separate, but many immigrants from India see them
as intimately connected.

The number of green cards that can go to people born in each country is capped at a few percent of the
total, without regard to how large or small the country's population is. There is a big backlog of Indian-
born people in the line, given the size of India's population - 1.3 billion - and the number of its natives in
the United States waiting for green cards.

That leaves many of those immigrants stuck on H-1B visas while they wait, which they say makes them
almost like "indentured servants," said Gaurav Mehta, an H-1B holder who works in the financial industry.

Mehta has a U.S.-born son, but he could be forced to take his family back to India at any time if he loses
his job and cannot find another quickly. "He's never been to my country," Mehta said of his son. "But
we'll have no choice if we have to go. Nobody likes to live in constant fear."

...................................................................................................................................................................................................
Judgement Day: Supreme Court announces Panama leaks verdict

Islamabad: Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday ruled there was insufficient evidence to order Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif's removal from office over corruption allegations levelled by the opposition and it
ordered further investigations.

A verdict to dismiss Sharif would have sparked turmoil at a time when Pakistan's civilian government
and powerful military have appeared to come to uneasy terms.

Pakistan's stock market jumped after the ruling. Sharif is seen as probusiness.

Two of five judges on the court bench recommended Sharif should step down but they were out voted.

The court ordered a joint investigation team to be formed to look into allegations around three of Sharif's
four children using offshore companies to buy properties in London.

Sharif and his children deny any wrongdoing.

The team has two months to complete its inquiry.

Analysts and opposition politicians said the ruling was a blow to Sharif's credibility and the inquiry's
findings could yet weaken the PM as he heads into a general election in 2018.


But for now, Sharif and his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, are celebrating. "We are ready for all
kinds of investigation," Sharif's defence minister, Khawaja Asif, told reporters.

The Supreme Court agreed last year to investigate the Sharif family's offshore wealth after opposition
lead- er Imran Khan threatened street protests following the leaking of the "Panama Papers" in 2015.

Khan called on Sharif to step down until the investigation was completed. "The PM should immediately
resign at least for the 60 days until JIT completes its work," Khan told reporters, referring to the joint
investigation team. "How can he continue as prime minister when he is being investigated? What moral
grounds does he have to continue in office?"

What leaked papers point to

Documents leaked from the Panamabased Mossack Fonseca law firm appeared to show that Sharif's
daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and
used them to buy properties in London.

The opposition accuses Sharif of failing to explain the source of offshore money and of lying to
parliament. Sharif, one of Pakistan's richest and most influential men, told parliament last year that his
family wealth was acquired legally in the decades before he entered politics.

The president of Supreme Court Bar Association said the ruling showed that none of the judges had
accepted the truthfulness of Sharif's speech to parliament.

...................................................................................................................................................................................................
Erdoğan clinches victory in Turkish constitutional referendum

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has achieved victory in a historic referendum on a
package of constitutional amendments that will grant him sweeping new powers.

Sadi Güven, the head of Turkey’s high electoral board (YSK), confirmed the passage of the referendum
on Sunday night, based on unofficial results.

The yes campaign won 1.25m more votes than the no campaign, with only about 600,000 votes still to
be counted, Güven told reporters in Ankara, meaning the expanded presidential powers had been
approved.

However, disparities persisted into Sunday evening, with the opposition saying not all ballots had been
counted and they would contest a third of the votes that had been cast.

Güven said the YSK had decided to consider unstamped ballots as valid unless they were proved to be
fraudulent, after a high number of complaints – including one from the ruling Justice and Development
party (AKP) – that its officials had failed to stamp some ballot papers.

The no campaign said the YSK’s last-minute decision raised questions about the validity of the vote. But
Güven said the decision was taken before results were entered into the system and that members of the
AKP and the main opposition were present at almost all polling stations and signed off on reports. He said
official results were expected in 11-12 days.

The result of the referendum sets the stage for a transformation of the upper echelons of the state and
changing the country from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential republic, arguably the most
important development in the country’s history since it was founded on the ashes of the Ottoman
Republic.

Erdoğan said he would immediately discuss reinstating the death penalty in talks with the prime minister
and the nationalist opposition leader, Devlet Bahçeli. The president said he would take the issue to
referendum if necessary.
................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
North Korea warns against U.S. 'hysteria' as it marks founder's birth

PYONGYANG/SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea displayed what appeared to be new long-range and
submarine-based missiles on the 105th birth anniversary of its founding father, Kim Il Sung, on
Saturday, as a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region.

Missiles appeared to be the main theme of the giant parade, with Kim's grandson, leader Kim Jong Un,
taking time to greet the commander of the Strategic Forces, the branch of the military that oversees the
missile arsenal.

A U.S. Navy attack on a Syrian airfield this month with Tomahawk missiles raised questions about U.S.
President Donald Trump's plans for reclusive North Korea, which has conducted several missile and
nuclear tests in defiance of U.N. sanctions, regularly threatening to destroy the United States.

Kim Jong Un, looking relaxed in a dark suit and laughing with aides, oversaw the festivities on the "Day
of the Sun" at Pyongyang's main Kim Il Sung Square.

Goose-stepping soldiers and marching bands filled the square, next to the Taedonggang River that flows
through Pyongyang, in the hazy spring sunshine, followed by tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and
other weapons.

Single-engine propeller-powered planes flew in a 105 formation overhead.

Unlike at some previous parades attended by Kim, there did not appear to be a senior Chinese official in
attendance. China is North Korea's lone major ally but has spoken out against its missile and nuclear tests
and has supported U.N. sanctions. China on Friday again called for talks to defuse the crisis.

Weapons analysts said they believed some of the missiles on display were new types of intercontinental
ballistic missiles (ICBM).

The North has said it has developed and would launch a missile that can strike the mainland United States
but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering all the necessary technology.

"EARLY DAYS"

North Korea showed two new kinds of ICBM enclosed in canister launchers mounted on the back of
trucks, suggesting Pyongyang was working towards a "new concept" of ICBM, said Melissa Hanham, a
senior research associate at the U.S.-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey,
California.

"However, North Korea has a habit of showing off new concepts in parades before they ever test or
launch them," Hanham said.

"It is still early days for these missile designs."

The Pukkuksong submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) were also on parade. It was the first time
North Korea had shown the missiles, which have a range of more than 1,000 km (600 miles), at a
military parade.

Displaying more than one of the missiles indicates North Korea is progressing with its plan to base a
missile on a submarine, which are hard to detect, said Joshua Pollack, editor of the Washington-based
Nonproliferation Review.

"It suggests a commitment to this programme," said Pollack. "Multiple SLBMs seems like a declaration
of intent to advance the programme."

North Korea, still technically at war with the South after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce but not a
treaty, has on occasion conducted missile or nuclear tests to coincide with big political events and often
threatens the United States, South Korea and Japan.

Choe Ryong Hae, a close aide to Kim Jong Un, addressed the packed square with a characteristically
bellicose warning to the United States.


Read more at http://www.thestar.com.my/news/world/2017/04/15/north-korea-warns-against-us-
hysteria-as-it-marks-founders-birth/#AtDS3sz3ek4oLEZs.99
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Trump slams Russia for backing 'evil' Assad

The Trump administration is driving home its case alleging possible Russian complicity in Syria’s poison
gas attack last week—and directly accusing Moscow of spreading disinformation to cover it up ahead of
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s meetings with the Russian foreign minister and other officials this
week.

“Russia’s allegations fit a pattern of deflecting blame from the regime and attempting to undermine the
credibility of its opponents,” one of three high-level White House officials said in a briefing to reporters
Tuesday. “Russia and Syria, in multiple instances in 2016, have blamed the opposition for chemical use
in attacks.”

The officials laid out in detail why they blame the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad for an alleged sarin
nerve agent attack that killed between 50 and 100 people on April 4 in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. The
officials shared newly declassified U.S. intelligence from satellites and intercepts that they say showed a
Syrian regime SU-22 fixed-wing aircraft dropped at least one sarin-laden weapon onto Khan Shaykun
"approximately 20 minutes before reports of the chemical attack began," according to an additional
statement following a briefing by the White House.

Turkish officials have said that autopsies of some victims have confirmed the nerve agent used was
sarin, a weapon of mass destruction that is not known to be in the hands of any organization in Syria
except the government, which had pledged in 2013 to destroy all of its stockpiles. The Russians had
offered themselves as guarantors of that pledge.

The officials spoke to reporters on condition they not be named in what appears to be a full-court press,
with the White House briefing followed later by diplomatic and military briefings, speaking to the
hardening attitude of the Trump White House toward Moscow.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said U.S intelligence still wasn’t certain the Russia knew ahead of
time that sarin was about to be used. But the officials said it was highly questionable that Russian military
advisors co-located with Syrian forces at the Shayrat Airfield, the point of origin for the deadly strike,
were unaware of the payload.

The Kremlin has sought to obfuscate the perpetrators of last week's gas attack, but Spicer roundly
dismissed the contention, which was floated even by some prominent Assad-friendly conspiracy
theorists in the United States, that anyone but the Syrian regime was behind it.

"I think that anybody who doubts that ... wouldn’t just be doubting the intelligence, but would be
doubting the entire international reporting crew that was there to document all of this," he told reporters.
"There have been doctors, intelligence communities, media ... It’s not a question of doubting [the U.S.
government position], it’s a question of doubting everyone but Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Russia."
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Syria war: US warns of 'more' after missile strikes

The US envoy to the UN has warned America may take further action after bombarding a Syrian air base
suspected of using chemical weapons.

Nikki Haley said her country would not stand by when chemical weapons were used, as it was in its
"vital interest" to stop their proliferation.

Syrian ally Russia accused the US of encouraging "terrorists" with its unilateral actions.

Moscow has promised to strengthen its ally Syria's anti-aircraft defences.

It is also closing down a hotline with the US designed to avoid collisions between their air forces over
Syria.

At least six people are reported to have been killed in the US missile strikes early on Friday. US officials
say the base was used to launch a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians on Tuesday.

According to Idlib's opposition-run health authority, 89 people, including 33 children and 18 women, died
in the suspected nerve agent attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Syria denies using nerve
gas.

Ms Haley told an emergency session of the UN Security Council that America had acted to ensure Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad would never use chemical weapons again.

"We are prepared to do more but we hope that will not be necessary," she said. "It is in our vital national
security interest to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons."
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