Qld ‘s Isaac Dunmall wins Stawell Gift

Isaac Dunmall thought he had blown his shot at Stawell Gift glory when he trailed home last in the final two years ago.

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As it turned out, he got a second go on Monday and this time he grabbed it with both hands.

The 22-year-old Queenslander crashed to the turf after lunging desperately through the finishing gates, having just held off the challenge from fast-finishing Tjimarri Sanderson-Milera.

Running off a handicap of 6.75m, Dunmall clocked a winning time of 12.17 seconds, two hundredths of a second clear of Sanderson-Milera, with teenaged sprint star Jack Hale claiming third spot.

“I didn’t know the meaning of speechless until now – this is unbelievable,” said Dunmall.

“I got a good start and I kicked on really well.

“I saw Tjimarri coming towards me at the end of the last 20 and I was just like `hold on, hold on’.

“I wasn’t sure I’d won because I knew he was coming close.

“I honestly can’t put my feelings into words right now.

“I’ve wanted to win this race for so long, it means so much to me.”

It was in sharp contrast to the 2014 final at Central Park, when Dunmall was never a factor in a race won by another Queenslander, Luke Versace.

“I thought I’d blown my chance in that race,” said Dunmall.

“I thought `I’m gone, there’s no way known I’m going to win a Stawell Gift now’.

“Now to come back and actually do it – that’s insane.

“I was coming into this race feeling a lot more confident and a lot more energetic.”

Hale clocked the fastest semi-final time of 12.22 on Monday, but was seven hundredths of a second slower in the final.

The 17-year-old set a 100m personal best of 10.31 earlier this month in Perth.

Fifteen-year-old schoolgirl Talia Martin won the women’s Gift in 13.70 ahead of Tierra Exum – the sister of NBA star Dante Exum – and Sarah Blizzard.

Both Gift winners pocketed $40,000, although Martin was docked $2000 for showing rapid improvement.

She had been eliminated in the heats of the Ararat Gift only 12 days ago, a below-par performance she put down to the recent death of her aunt.

Olympian Lauren Wells claimed one of the most impressive victories of the day in the women’s 400m.

Wells spotted the frontmarkers a 40m headstart but was still able to reel in the field on the final straight.

Washington strikes as Northern Ireland set unbeaten record

The victory at Windsor Park meant manager Michael O’Neill eclipsed the achievement of Billy Bingham, whose Northern Ireland side twice went nine games undefeated in the 1980s.

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Man-of-the-match Washington struck after 41 minutes with his first international goal in his second appearance for the country to become the first Northern Ireland player to score on his home debut since George McCartney in 2001.

The Queens Park Rangers striker outmuscled Miral Samardzic and then barged Nejc Skubic out of the way before cutting inside Bostjan Cesar and firing a low shot past Jan Oblak.

Veteran keeper Roy Carroll, 38, preserved the home side’s lead when he saved Milivoje Novakovic’s penalty in the 66th minute after Jonny Evans had hauled Samardzic to the ground.

Asked about the unbeaten record, O’Neill said: “It’s lovely to achieve something like that. It’s for the squad — to go unbeaten for 10 games is a great achievement.”

The 23-year-old scorer Washington, who was at non-league St Ives Town only five years ago, qualifies for Northern Ireland through his grandmother but had never actually visited the country until he was called up for this month’s friendlies.

“He’s a raw striker. He’s come on the international stage and showed what he can do. He made a goal out of nothing and it’s a great night for him,” added O’Neill.

“It would be unfair to say if he’s on the flight to France. He’s done himself no harm at all, not only in the performance, but how he’s fitted in with the group. It looks like he’s going to be an asset to us.”

The Irish host Belarus and visit Slovakia in their last two friendlies before starting the Euro 2016 campaign against Poland and then facing Ukraine and world champions Germany.

Slovenia failed to qualify for the tournament in France after losing a qualifying playoff to Ukraine.

(Writing by Ken Ferris; Editing by Mark Trevelyan/Susan Fenton/Rex Gowar)

Govt can stop health insurance hike: Labor

A hike in health insurance premiums that could cause hundreds of thousands of Australians to drop their private cover doesn’t have to happen, the federal opposition says.

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From April 1 premiums will rise on average by more than 5 per cent, or around $200 a year for a family.

A Galaxy poll commissioned by comparison service iSelect suggests 71 per cent of those with private cover are planning to take some form of action, and 530,000 may drop their policy altogether.

Acting Labor leader Tanya Plibersek said when she was health minister, private health insurers put up “ambit claims” to her, but she sent them back to reconsider.

“That meant on average, under Labor, under both (fellow former health minister) Nicola Roxon and I, premium increases were below the averages that we’re seeing under Liberal governments,” Ms Plibersek told reporters in Sydney.

“The health minister does have the power to reject increases and the government needs to consider what happens to people who have private health insurance when it becomes unaffordable.”

The Galaxy survey of over 1000 Australians was commissioned after the federal government’s March 2 announcement that premiums would rise by an average 5.59 per cent.

The survey findings suggest 46 per cent of Australians intend to shop around to ensure the best deal, while seven per cent plan to switch provider.

iSelect spokeswoman Laura Crowden said couples and families with either hospital-only cover or extras-only cover indicated they were more likely to cancel their private health insurance altogether.

“It’s possible these households have already pared back their cover as premiums have risen in recent years, but this latest increase may be the tipping point that means they can simply no longer afford it,” she said.

Around 12 million Australians have private healthcare insurance, and a large portion of the policyholders are over the age of 50.

SBS chief Michael Ebeid awarded Queen’s Birthday honour

Mr Ebeid, who was appointed to lead the nation’s multicultural broadcaster in 2011, was one of more than a dozen honourees who have been recognised for their service to multicultural Australia.

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He was recognised as a Member of the Order of Australia (AO).

Moving to Australia with his family when he was still a toddler, the Egyptian-born Australian went on to study business, working for several high-profile companies.

He spent nine years with IBM in Australia and Asia, a decade with telecommunications giant Optus, and three years with the ABC before his appointment to lead SBS.

Mr Ebeid was honoured “for significant service to the broadcast media and multicultural affairs as an executive, innovator and business leader.”

The network boss said he was “incredibly honoured” and “very humbled” to have been among so many other outstanding Australians.

“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work closely with Australia’s multicultural communities and across multiple business sectors, to promote and celebrate Australia’s diversity,” he said.

With a background in data and technology, Mr Ebeid has overseen significant investment in the broadcaster’s streaming service, SBS On Demand, and has backed internal innovation programs and experimental digital projects.

During Mr Ebeid’s tenure at SBS, Australia has also become a regular participant in Eurovision, one of the network’s most high-profile broadcast events.

He has also overseen the network’s acquisition of National Indigenous Television, which was relaunched as a national free-to-air channel in 2012.

Michael Ebeid (right) at the relaunch of National Indigenous Television in Uluru, Wednesday, 12 December, 2012.Wayne Quilliam/AAP

Other prominent multicultural leaders recognised included Lebanese community leader Dr Jamal Rifi, Italian community leader Giuseppe Migliorino and Jewish community leader Graham Slade.

Indigenous art dealer and local government veteran Claude Ullin and Palace Cinema founder Antonio Zeccola were also made Members of the Order of Australia for their service to multicultural Australia.

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Algeria, Ghana win in Nations Cup qualifying, Egypt lose

Ghana, who have reached the semi-final stage at the last six tournaments, began in emphatic fashion with a 5-0 home victory over Ethiopia in Group F.

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Captain Asamoah Gyan put them ahead after 10 minutes before John Boye and Ebenezer Ofori made it 3-0 at half-time in Kumasi. Debutant Raphael Dwamena then scored two more after the break.

Algeria looked tentative in their first competitive outing under new Spanish coach Lucas Alcaraz but edged Togo 1-0 at home thanks to Sofiane Hanni, who lobbed home in the 24th minute after being set clear by Islam Slimani.

Also in Group D, Stephane Sessegnon scored an early goal for Benin, who held on for a 1-0 win over the Gambia in Cotonou.

In Group J, Egypt went down 1-0 in Tunisia where Taha Yassine Khenissi scored the only goal just after half-time of a match that kicked off at 11 P.M. because of the Ramadan fast.

Newly appointed Zimbabwe captain Knowledge Musona grabbed a hat-trick as they beat Liberia 3-0 in front of a boisterous crowd in their Group G match in Harare where the attendance was swelled by a decision to cut ticket prices to only $3.

Godfrey Sserunkuma scored seven minutes from time to hand Uganda a 1-0 win away in the Cape Verde Islands in a Group L game postponed by 24 hours when their scheduled flight from Dakar was delayed for eight hours by technical problems.

The Central African Republic led Rwanda 1-0 through Junior Gourrier’s goal just after half-time and after conceding the equaliser in added time grabbed the winner through Salif Keita just before the final whistle in Group H.

The next round of qualifiers for the finals in Cameroon will be played in March. There are 12 groups from which the winner qualifies along with the three best runners-up.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Norway mass killer Breivik changes his name, says lawyer

“I can confirm that he has changed his name, it’s official,” Oystein Storrvik told AFP, confirming reports by the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang (VG).

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Asked why Breivik had decided on the name change, Storrvik said: “I do not want to disclose the content of our discussions.”

In July 2011 Breivik, disguised as a police officer, tracked and gunned down 69 people, most of them teenagers, at a Labour Party youth camp on the island of Utoya, shortly after killing eight people in a bombing outside a government building in Oslo.

He has never expressed any remorse for committing the worst atrocity in Norway’s post-war history. He said he killed his victims because they embraced multiculturalism.

Anders Behring Breivik March 16, 2016. AAP

Before proceeding with the attacks, he circulated an ideological “manifesto” signed under the name Andrew Berwick.

A search in the Norwegian business register confirms that Breivik Geofarm, an agricultural firm created by Breivik to obtain fertilisers used to make a bomb, is now registered in the name of Fjotolf Hansen.

While Hansen is a very common surname in Norway, Fjotolf is rarely used, if ever. 

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The now 38-year-old inmate is serving a 21-year prison sentence that can be extended indefinitely.

Breivik has complained about his isolation from other inmates for safety reasons since his arrest in 2011, and sued the Norwegian state over his prison conditions. 

His lawyer said on Thursday that he would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights after exhausting all legal options in Norway where the Supreme Court refused to hear his case.

Tunisians protest for right not to fast during Ramadan

There is no law against eating or drinking in public during Ramadan, but every year the issue comes to the fore in the North African country.

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Tunisia’s constitution guarantees “freedom of belief and conscience”, but the state is also the “guardian of religion”.

Following a call by the “Mouch Bessif” (Arabic for “Not against our will”) group, protesters in central Tunis shouted that “Individual freedom is guaranteed by the constitution!”

One man openly smoking a cigarette – this is also deemed unacceptable during Ramadan daylight hours – held a placard in French that asked: “Why does it bother you if you fast and I eat?”

Demonstrators also protested against the arrest of people who were not fasting.

At the beginning of June, four men were sentenced to a month in jail for “public indecency” after eating outside during daylight.

“We’re protesting about lawsuits against non-fasters… Whoever wants to fast can fast, but whoever doesn’t want to shouldn’t have to,” demonstrator Karim Chair told AFP.

Tunisie : manifestation pour la liberté de manger en public durant le ramadan 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/I19yAkrMo8 #AFP pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/pGv8ubyapW

— Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) June 11, 2017

Since the 2011 revolution there have been calls for the right not to fast, but this was the first time such a demonstration has taken place in Tunisia.

“I fast but I came to join this protest and call with these people for respect for the freedom of belief and conscience,” said another demonstrator, Kamel Jalouli.

Most cafes and restaurants in Tunisia close during the day in Ramadan, and those that open do so discreetly.

As this year’s fasting month began, a media-oriented preacher went round cafes open during the day to record footage of clients and shame them in a move that was heavily criticised on social networks.

Tunisia Protest for Right NOT to fast during Ramadhan FOR #Freedom of Religion #Secular #Tunisia #Tunisie pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/oTgZ1PmdNb

— Bochra Tunisia (@sweetlovebo) June 11, 2017

France’s Macron headed for overwhelming parliamentary majority

Projections showed Macron widening his centrist revolution, with his Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move, REM) party and its ally MoDem tipped to win between 400 and 445 seats in the 577-member National Assembly in next Sunday’s second round.

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Such a share would give Macron one of the biggest parliamentary majorities for 60 years.

“France is back,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe declared triumphantly.

“For the past month, the president has shown confidence, willingness and daring in France and on the international stage,” Philippe said, calling the result a vindication of Macron’s “winning strategy”.

But the vote was marked by record low turnout of 49 percent, possibly reflecting fatalism among Macron’s opponents in the face of his seemingly unstoppable advance, experts said.

The right-wing Republicans – who had hoped to rebound from their humiliation in the presidential vote – were shown trailing in second with a predicted 70-130 seats while Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front (FN) was forecast to garner between one and 10 seats.

The FN’s result showed the party is struggling to rebound from Le Pen’s bruising defeat by Macron in the presidential run-off.

 

France’s President Emmanuel Macron shakes hand with people.AAP

The FN’s deputy leader Florian Philippot admitted to “disappointment” and called on voters to “mobilise massively” for the second round.

The worst losses, however, were for the Socialists of Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande, who are predicted to lose a staggering 200 seats.

The party’s chief Jean-Christophe Cambadelis and its failed presidential candidate Benoit Hamon both lost their seats.

Conceding that the party was facing “unprecedented” losses, Cambadelis appealed to voters to rally behind Macron’s rivals to avoid the president monopolising power.

Parliament risked having “no real oversight powers and no democratic debate worth speaking of,” he warned.

Former Republicans party leader Jean-Francois Cope said the results were “a disaster”.

“It’s the continuation of the real disaster that the presidential election was… we need to rebuild everything,” he told BFMTV.

Official final results released early Monday showed Macron’s one-year-old REM and MoDem winning 32.32 percent in the first round, ahead of the Republicans on 21.56 percent and the FN on 13.20 percent.

Few MPs were elected outright on Sunday.

If no candidate wins over 50 percent, the two top-placed contenders go into the second round — along with any other candidate who garners at least 12.5 percent of registered voters in the district.

France’s youngest-ever president at 39, Macron has gained praise for appointing a balanced cabinet that straddles the left-right divide and taking a leading role in Europe’s fight-back against US President Donald Trump on climate change.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Macron on a “great success” Sunday.

If the seat projections are confirmed next week, he will have a strong mandate to push through the ambitious labour, economic and social reforms he promised on the campaign trail.

Trudeau and Macron’s ‘G7 bromance

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New faces

Macron, who had never held elected office before becoming president, will also have succeeded in ushering in a younger and more diverse parliament with more women and ethnic minorities.

His party fielded political novices in around 200 constituencies.

They include Marie Sara, a retired bullfighter, who went through to a runoff against FN stalwart Gilbert Collard in southern France, and star mathematician Cedric Villani.

Macron is also trying to bring in an era of cleaner politics. His government’s first bill proposes to ban lawmakers from employing family members or performing consultancy work while in office.

The measures follow the scandal that destroyed the presidential bid of Republicans candidate Francois Fillon, who has been charged over payments to his wife and two of his children for suspected fake jobs as parliamentary assistants. Fillon denies the charges.

Macron’s party has largely avoided controversy but one of his ministers who is running for re-election in Brittany, Richard Ferrand, is being probed over a property deal involving his girlfriend.

FN falls short

Forecasts show Le Pen’s party will struggle to win the 15 seats it would need to form a parliamentary group and help shape the assembly’s agenda.

The radical-left France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party of Jean-Luc Melenchon who finished fourth in the presidential race also fell short of expectations. His camp was tipped to only take 10-23 seats. 

Macron has urged voters to back his reform proposals including an overhaul of the rigid rules governing the job market, blamed by many economists for holding back growth.

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New York to probe money shifted from Eric Trump charity to father’s company

The Eric Trump Foundation was founded in 2007 to raise money for St.

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Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, a nonprofit institution that cares for children with cancer and other serious diseases.

The foundation organized annual golf tournaments on a course owned by Eric’s father, the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County north of New York.

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In the event’s early years, the use of the course was donated by the Trump Organization, headed by the future president. 

Using the donated facilities allowed the foundation to send most of the funds raised to the hospital, Eric Trump told donors.  

But starting in 2010, the Trump Organization billed the foundation for use of the club, according to a Forbes magazine investigation.

While the cost of organizing the one-day tournament was at first less than $50,000, it soared in later years, reaching $322,000 in 2015, according to tax filings seen by the magazine’s reporters. 

Expenses at that level “defy any reasonable cost justification for a one-day golf tournament,” according to golf event experts cited in the article.

WATCH: The moment Donald Trump crashes a wedding in New Jersey

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It quoted two people directly involved in the matter as saying the person who commanded that the Trump Organization start billing hundreds of thousands of dollars was Donald Trump himself.

Forbes said Eric Trump told its reporters that the cost of running the tournament was around $100,000 — raising questions about the gap between that amount and the $322,000 listed in tax papers for 2015. 

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has opened an investigation to clarify matters, a spokesman told AFP on Sunday.

In late 2016, the young Trump ended his own direct involvement in the foundation, which he said would be restructured and renamed, under new leadership, in a move to avoid any conflict of interest after his father’s election as president.

The magazine did note that over the years Eric Trump’s foundation had done “a ton of good,” raising more than $11 million for the children’s hospital, mostly through the golf event.

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$1.8b social housing program for Qld

Queensland’s opposition has accused the Labor government of breaking an election promise not to sell assets after it announced it will open up land for community and social housing projects.

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A day before the state budget, the government revealed it will open up large tracts of land to developers and allocate $1.8 billion over 10 years to build 4522 social homes and 1034 affordable homes.

The plan is front-loaded, with around 600 houses a year to be built on sites across the state for the first five years.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Monday shared her personal history, of her grandparents and parents living in community housing before eventually owning their own home.

She said her government will partner with the private sector to develop state-owned land for the low cost housing.

“We are looking at partnering with the private sector where we have under-utilised land to build housing on that land,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“There’s many examples of where that has happened in the past.”

But Liberal National Party leader Tim Nicholls has accused the government of selling off assets.

“Land sales are absolutely asset sales and that’s a broken promise by Annastacia Palaszczuk,” he told reporters.

Mr Nicholls also pointed out Labor last year scrapped the Logan Housing Initiative, which would have seen 2600 homes built south of Brisbane.

The government will also change the means test required for community housing, to allow adult children living with their family to earn a wage without affecting their parents’ subsidised home.

Housing Minister Mick de Brenni says the means test will be dropped for people under 25, removing a disincentive to find work.

“This is the most significant initiative to breaking the cycle of inter-generational disadvantage that we’ve seen in Australia’s history,” Mr de Brenni said.

The social housing component of the package will focus on housing for victims of domestic violence, as well as seniors and people with a disability.

Social welfare group QCOSS, as well as the Housing Industry Association, both welcomed the government’s plan, saying it will deliver for the building and construction sector, as well as give people more options for housing.

Indian scientist, Lebanese professor and Italian migrant recognised in Queen’s birthday honours

Among those on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for 2017 are a Muslim-Lebanese professor who has helped strengthen rural and remote medical education, an Indian scientist who is developing drugs for cancer treatment and an Italian migrant who has built a culturally targeted aged-care program.

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Professor Mohamed Khadra, who has Lebanese heritage, was born in Ghana in West Africa and grew up in Sydney, has been named an Officer of the Order of Australia Medal for helping improve the numbers of doctors in rural Australia.

Professor Khadra’s medical background is in the field of urology as a surgeon, clinician and mentor, in rural and remote medical education. 

He says from a very young age he wanted to be a surgeon but his entry into the industry wasn’t in his chosen field. He began in dentistry before moving to medicine.

He went on to work with former Federal Health Minister Michael Wooldridge in Australia’s first rural clinical school – an initiative to grow the number of doctors in rural areas.

“What we found was that 70 per cent of doctors who trained in the bush actually ended up staying in the bush,” he said.

He says he’s humbled to make the Queen’s Birthday Honours list and hopes it will inspire other Muslim Australians.

“To be honoured and recognised by one’s country is a great thing indeed.  I hope that this award will inspire migrants, especially those of Muslim origin, to realise that this is a country of opportunity; it’s a country that rewards hard work and rewards loyalty.”

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Professor Rajiv Khanna received the Officer of the Order of Australia Medal for his work in medicine – specifically his contribution to the development of cellular immunotherapies.

He says he and his team are honoured to be recognised by those outside the scientific community.

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Professor Khanna has been working on a new cancer treatment alternative – a treatment he says is safer.

He believes his hard work shows how the Indian community values education.

“We tend to value education very highly in India. You go to any Indian parent, they all want their kids to become a doctor or an engineer or something,” he said.

“But in a terms of what it brings to the Australian community is that the highly educated Indian community… whether they’re in a medical area or an engineering area, they contribute hugely. And I’m part of that and I’m very proud of that heritage, to be from the Indian community.”

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Italian migrant Giuseppe Pino Migliorino has been named a Member of the Order of Australia for his work in the Italian community.

Mr Migliorino, who moved to Australia with his family when he was five, has helped build a bilingual school and a culturally targeted aged-care program.

Growing up, Mr Migliorino says he was ashamed of his Italian heritage and found it hard to balance the two cultures he was a part of.

“I find that a really interesting aspect in terms of my own upbringing, that my family sees me as someone who didn’t really necessarily comply with being Italian, yet I’ve become a great defender of Italian rights to cultural maintenance,” he said.

The bilingual school is something he says he’s proud to leave behind as his legacy, and he’s delighted that a majority of the students who attend the school don’t come from an Italian background. 

He says the aged-care program is framed around ageing with dignity for his community, who struggle with growing old in a country that is not their homeland. 

Mr Migliorino says the award isn’t just about his hard work but the hard work of those around him.

The Governor-General and Chancellor of the Order of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove, approved the awards and has expressed his congratulations to the winners.

Mr Cosgrove also says the community is very fortunate to have such outstanding people who dedicate themselves to improving the country.

Other notable mentions include Aboriginal actor Deborah Mailman, Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett, Muslim advocate Dr Jamal Rifi and SBS CEO and Managing Director Michael Ebeid.

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Qatar says Gulf citizens can stay despite crisis

Iran also announced it had sent tonnes of vegetables to Qatar, which has seen food imports threatened after its neighbours cut air, sea and land links with the country.

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Nearly a week after Saudi Arabia and several of its allies severed ties with Qatar in an unprecedented Gulf diplomatic crisis, there were no signs of the bitter dispute being resolved.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and others accused Qatar of supporting extremist groups, an assertion since backed by US President Donald Trump.

Qatar strongly rejects the allegations and says it is open to talks on ending the dispute, which also saw the three Gulf states order all Qataris out of their countries within 14 days.

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The crisis has raised major concerns of instability in the region, and on Sunday Kuwait’s foreign minister said his country would continue its mediation efforts.

Qatar said late Saturday it would not retaliate with similar measures.

State media reported Doha would “not take any measures against residents of Qatar who hold the nationalities of countries that severed diplomatic ties… on the back of hostile and tendentious campaigns against the country”.

 No gas interruption 

 This will come as a relief to the more than 11,000 people from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain living in Qatar.

Concerns have been raised for the impact of these measures on people in all the countries affected. 

“For potentially thousands of people across the Gulf, the effect of the steps imposed in the wake of this political dispute is suffering, heartbreak and fear,” Amnesty International has said.

Saudi Arabia said Sunday it was ordering “suitable measures” to help families with mixed citizenships, but provided few details.

Despite the unprecedented sanctions, Qatar says that its crucial exports of liquified natural gas have not been interrupted.

“Qatar Petroleum… is conducting business as usual throughout all its upstream, midstream and downstream businesses and operations, and in all activities across all of QP’s world-class facilities,” a statement read.

Gas has helped transform the tiny emirate into one of the world’s richest countries, fuelling its rise into a major regional player and helping fund huge infrastructure projects such as the 2022 football World Cup, which Qatar will host.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Sunday said he was confident the crisis posed no threat to the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar’s rivals have also accused Doha of being too close to the Sunni Arab Gulf states’ arch-rival Shiite-dominated Iran — claims that Doha has also denied.

Iranian officials said Sunday that tonnes of vegetables had been sent from Iran to Qatar since the measures were taken against it.

Iran Air spokesman Shahrokh Noushabadi said five aircraft carrying around 90 tonnes of vegetables each had been sent to Qatar in recent days.

“We will continue deliveries as long as there is demand,” Noushabadi added, without saying if these were commercial exports or aid.

Three ships loaded with 350 tonnes of fruit and vegetables were also set to leave Iran for Qatar, the Tasnim news agency reported.

 Mixed US signals 

 Moscow on Saturday joined other nations in calling for dialogue, after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Saudi Arabia and its allies to ease their “blockade” of Qatar.

Washington has sent mixed signals on the crisis, despite Qatar’s position as a key ally and host to the region’s largest US airbase.

While Tillerson and others have called for an easing of tensions, Trump on Friday said Qatar had “historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level”.

Kuwait, which has not joined its neighbours against Qatar, has led mediation efforts and on Sunday Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled Al-Sabah said that would continue.

“Kuwait stresses the need for the dispute to be resolved within the Gulf framework,” Sheikh Sabah said in a statement quoted by the KUNA news agency.

Qatar has expressed readiness “to understand the concerns of its brothers and respond to the efforts of the emir (of Kuwait) to strengthen peace and security,” he said.

In other diplomatic moves, the African Union chairman, Guinean President Alpha Conde whose country has close ties with Saudi Arabia, offered himself as a mediator.

Morocco said it was “concerned” by developments and was “willing to offer its good offices”, a foreign ministry statement said.

Cheers and chants as Trump gatecrashes New Jersey wedding

US President Donald Trump has made a surprise appearance at a wedding at the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey this weekend.

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He was greeted by guests with cheers and chants of “USA! USA! USA!”

Videos and images posted to social media showed Trump kissing the bride’s cheek, posing for photos with the bride and groom, and autographing ‘Make America Great Again’ hats.

“Everyone obviously got very excited, got out of their chairs and came to take pictures,” one guest told the Washington Post.

“The bride came running out, and he gave her a big hug and a kiss, so she was just ecstatic.”

President Trump regularly spends weekends away from Washington at his various hotels, clubs and golf courses.

Critics have accused the president of promoting his properties and wasting taxpayer money on his frequent trips out of Washington, with millions spent on extra security at each venue.

At one point, the New Jersey club had advertised that if the president was at the venue, he would likely drop in to say hello at weddings – a statement which has since been removed from advertising materials.

Trump poses with the elated bride.Laura Piatkowski / Instagram

On Sunday Trump hosted an $800,000 fundraiser for Republican Congressman Tom MacArthur at the New Jersey resort.

The lawmaker had floated a key ‘Trumpcare’ proposal credited with gathering enough votes in the House to pass legislation to repeal and replace elements of ‘Obamacare’.

At the wedding the happy couple posed for photos with the president free of charge – a night later, fundraiser attendees were asked to contribute $100,000 for the privilege. 

– with CNN

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