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  • Sri Lanka’s former defense chief Rajapaksa becomes country’s new leader

    Sri Lanka’s former wartime defense minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa is set to become the country’s new president, winning in an election held months after terrorist attacks plunged the country into political crisis.

    Rajapaksa and his brother, a former president of the island nation Mahinda, are credited with bringing an end to the country's quarter century-long civil war in 2009, when government troops defeated Tamil separatists.

    Seventy-year-old Rajapaksa, the candidate for the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party, got more than half of the votes, compared to roughly 42 percent in favor of his main rival Sajith Premadasa, who was supported by Tamil and Muslim minorities. 

    Also on rt.com Muslim Sri Lankan ministers resign in protest over terrorism accusations

    In his first comments, Rajapaksa promised to be a leader of all Sri Lankans, regardless of their ethnic and religious identities. “As we usher in a new journey for Sri Lanka, we must remember that all Sri Lankans are part of this journey. Let us rejoice peacefully, with dignity and discipline in the same manner in which we campaigned,” Rajapaksa tweeted.

    A series of bombings ripped through hotels and churches holding Easter services in Sri Lanka on April 21 this year, killing more than 250 people. Following the blasts, authorities declared a state of emergency and arrested over 100 people countrywide in counter-terrorist raids.

    The country’s president Maithripala Sirisena who faced criticism over the government's handling of an intelligence report warning of the terrorist threat prior to the attacks, decided not to run in the current election.

    A wave of anti-Muslim sentiment has swept the country in the wake of the attacks resulting in a number of mosques and Muslim shops targeted across the island. Another attack was reported on election day when unidentified gunmen fired on a convoy of some 100 buses carrying mostly Muslim voters near the northern town of Thanthirimale. Police said three buses were damaged but no one was injured as a result of the incident.

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  • Trump to stress US allies’ defense spending at NATO summit next month – White House

    President Donald Trump will try to convince US allies that they should increase defense spending, when he attends a meeting of NATO leaders next month in London, the White House said on Friday.

    Trump will attend the NATO meeting from December 2 to December 4, and will also stress NATO’s readiness to respond to terrorist threats and cyber-attacks that target infrastructure and telecommunications networks, his press secretary Stephanie Grisham said. The president and first lady Melania Trump will also attend a reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

    This week, Trump met at the White House with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. The US president has long pushed allies to reduce their reliance on the United States for security assistance.

    “We are making real progress,” Stoltenberg told AP. “Before allies were cutting defense budgets. Now, they are adding billions to their budgets and, by the end of next year, NATO allies in Europe and Canada will have added $100 billion or, actually, more than $100 billion to their defense spending” since 2016, he said.

  • Lebanese protesters angered by announced designation of new PM – report

    Protesters in Lebanon who have been demanding radical reform have reacted with anger to the reported designation of a new prime minister they regard as emblematic of a failed political system, AFP reported.

    Ex-finance minister Mohammad Safadi has agreed to be Lebanon’s next PM if he wins the support of its major parties and the process to name him should begin on Monday, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil told broadcaster MTV on Friday.

    Demonstrators in his hometown of Tripoli rejected Safadi, and reportedly gathered in front of one of his properties to protest the nomination. Second city Tripoli has been one of the main hubs of the month-old protest movement, with nightly rallies in its main squares.

    Outgoing PM Saad Hariri resigned on October 29, nearly two weeks into the unprecedented nationwide protests demanding the wholesale removal of a ruling elite seen as corrupt and incompetent.

  • Turkey sends 6,000 Syrians from Istanbul to temporary centers – governor

    Turkey has sent more than 6,000 Syrian migrants in Istanbul to temporary housing centers in other provinces since early July, the local governor’s office said on Friday. His statement came two weeks after a deadline for Syrians not registered in the city to leave.

    Authorities had given undocumented Syrians in Istanbul until October 30 to move to another province or face forced removal from the city. The Istanbul governor’s office said 6,416 unregistered Syrians were removed from Istanbul since July 12.

    Turkey hosts more than 3.6 million Syrians, the largest population of Syrians displaced by an eight-year civil war. The number of Syrians in Istanbul, a city of some 15 million, has swelled to more than half a million, Reuters said.

    Sentiment towards Syrian refugees in Turkey has soured in recent years. Ankara wants to settle part of them in a swathe of land it now controls in northeast Syria, as its offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia there continues.

  • Russia, Norway & Lithuania conduct exchange of spies

    Lithuania, Russia and Norway conducted an exchange of spies on Friday, the head of Lithuanian counter intelligence said. The three states each secured the return of several captured agents to their home countries, Reuters reported.

    Earlier in the day, Lithuania’s president pardoned two Russians jailed for espionage, and Moscow said it would reciprocate by releasing two Lithuanians. The moves paved the way for a three-way spy swap also involving Norway.

    Lithuanian media said last month that discussions were under way on exchanging two Russians jailed in Lithuania, two Lithuanians sentenced for spying in Russia and a Norwegian jailed in Russia for spying.

  • German MPs vote to enshrine climate protection in law

    Germany’s lower house of parliament on Friday voted to enshrine climate protection in law, setting specific targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its energy, transport and housing sectors.

    The aim is to ensure Germany, Europe’s largest economy, reaches its goal of cutting German greenhouse gas emissions to 55 percent of their 1990 level by 2030, Reuters said.

    Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Thursday the EU should increase its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions if it wants to lead in the fight against climate change.

    “Europe must lead, because only then other countries such as China or India will stay the course too,” the minister told diplomats and scientists in Berlin.