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Qatar throws Turkey a lifeline as spat widens with US

ANKARA, Aug 15: Turkey has secured a $15 billion investment from Qatar that could bolster its economy amid a widening dispute with the United States.

The pledge was announced Wednesday after a meeting between Qatar's Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. Qatari state media said the money would go toward economic projects, investments and deposits.

The Turkish lira extended its gains against the US dollar to 6% following the announcement, which came on the same day that Turkey announced steep tariff hikes on American products including cars, alcohol and tobacco.

The move is a response to trade actions announced last week by the Trump administration. It doubles retaliatory tariffs on American cars to 120% and on alcoholic drinks to 140%, according to a notice published by the Turkish government.

Other US products covered by the tariffs include fruit, coal, makeup and rice.

Relations between Washington and Ankara have rapidly soured in recent weeks over Turkey's detention of the American pastor Andrew Brunson.

The Trump administration announced plans last week to double US tariffs imports of steel and aluminum from Turkey. On Wednesday, a Turkish court rejected a second appeal to release Brunson.

The political spat with Washington has added to pressure on the lira. Although the currency has strengthened in recent trading sessions, it is down more than 35% against the dollar this year.

Erdogan has accused the United States of stabbing Turkey in the back and on Tuesday called for a boycott of US electronics products.

In June, Turkey imposed a first wave of tariffs on US exports, worth a total of $1.8 billion, in retaliation for President Donald Trump's initial tariffs on steel and aluminum. The products targeted Wednesday are the same as in June.

The amount of products affected by the tariffs the two countries have imposed on one another are a relatively small part of the $19 billion of goods they traded last year, according to US data.

Qatar was among the handful of countries that analysts thought might lend Turkey a hand.

Erdogan spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, a conversation that included talk of deeper economic ties and mutually beneficial trade, according to Russian state media.

The diplomatic dispute with the United States is just one of the factors that have hammered the Turkish currency.

Investors have also been unnerved in recent weeks by a lack of action by the Turkish central bank, which shocked markets last month when it declined to hike interest rates in the face of rampant inflation.

Critics said the decision smacked of interference by Erdogan, who indicated during the recent presidential campaign that he wanted more control over central bank policy and described interest rates as "the mother and father of all evil."

Although Erdogan says he opposed interest rate hikes, he has not made a clear argument for why Turkey's central bank should keep rates low.

"There has been no sign whatsoever that the authorities are considering an orthodox response to the crisis, including tighter monetary and fiscal policy and measures to improve the central bank's credibility," said William Jackson, chief emerging markets economist at Capital Economics.

Jackson said the plunge in the lira was likely to push inflation above 20% and tip the Turkish economy into recession in the coming months. One dollar bought just seven lira at one point this week, compared with less than four at the start of the year.

"No matter how much money we make it finishes because the prices are going up. Fruit and vegetable prices are going up," said Sevim Pektas, a housewife, told CNN this week. "I do not understand how retired people or people earning minimum wage can afford their rent."

North, South Korea agree to hold third summit in Pyongyang in September

SEOUL, Aug 13: North and South Korea agreed Monday to hold a summit in Pyongyang in September after high-level talks in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula.

The two sides “agreed at the meeting to hold a South-North summit in Pyongyang in September as planned”, the joint statement said, without giving a precise date.

A trip by the South’s President Moon Jae-in to the North’s capital would be the first such visit for more than a decade, as the diplomatic thaw on and around the peninsula builds.

But despite the rapprochement, international sanctions against the North for its nuclear and missile programmes have kept economic cooperation between the two Koreas from taking off, while little progress has been made on the key issue of Pyongyang’s denuclearisation.

“The September summit can be viewed as North Korea’s strategy to find a breakthrough in its stalled talks with the US,” said Asan Institute of Policy Studies analyst Go Myong-hyun.

“For South Korea, President Moon wants to improve inter-Korean ties but that’s hard without progress in US-North Korea talks,” he said.

At the historic first summit between Moon and the North’s leader Kim Jong Un in Panmunjom in April they agreed the South’s president would visit Pyongyang during the autumn.

The first South Korean president to go to the North’s capital was Kim Dae-jung, who met the current leader’s father and predecessor Kim Jong Il in 2000 and later won the Nobel Peace Prize, in part for his efforts at inter-Korean reconciliation.

Pyongyang saw a second inter-Korean summit in 2007, when Roh Moo-hyun also met Kim Jong Il.

But relations subsequently soured as the North accelerated its pursuit of nuclear weapons and the South elected conservative governments.

Monday’s high-level talks, taking place on the northern side of the truce village in the Demilitarized Zone, were proposed by the North last week as it lashed out at Washington for pushing ahead with sanctions.

Afterwards the North’s chief delegate Ri Son Gwon said the meeting had gone well and the date for the summit was “ready”, but they had not announced it as “reporting would be more fun when reporters are curious”.

Earlier he used a proverb describing a very intimate friend to refer to inter-Korean ties, saying: “We have opened an era where we are advancing hand in hand rather than standing in each other’s way.”

South Korea’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, leading the delegation from Seoul, said in his opening statement it was important that the two Koreas keep “the same mind”, adding: “Any problem can be resolved with that mindset.”

The rapid rapprochement between the two neighbours began this year ahead of the Winter Olympics in the South and paved the way for a landmark meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June.

Cross-border exchanges between the two Koreas have significantly increased since then, with the neighbours planning to hold reunions for war-separated families next week for the first time in three years.

But although Trump touted his summit with Kim as a historic breakthrough, the nuclear-armed North has since criticised Washington for its “gangster-like” demands of complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament.

Meanwhile the US has urged the international community to maintain tough sanctions on the isolated regime -- Seoul has caught three South Korean firms importing coal and iron from the North last year in violation of the measures.

Experts say Moon could try to act as a mediator between the US and North Korea, having salvaged the Singapore meeting when Trump abruptly cancelled it.

“They are trying to send a message externally that the North-South dialogue momentum has been established and that it will be maintained regardless of the outcome of US-North Korea talks,” said analyst Go.

“Whether that is true is in doubt but they are trying to indirectly pressure the US, especially on sanctions, by showing an improvement in North-South ties and that peace has been established between them.”

Moon and Kim agreed at their summit in April to officially declare an end to the 1950-53 Korean War, which concluded with an armistice instead of a peace treaty, by the end of the year.

But Harry Harris, the US ambassador to South Korea, said Monday it was too soon for such a declaration, Yonhap reported.

“It’s too early for that even as we seek improvement in relations between the North and the South and between the North and the United States,” Harris said, adding the allies share the “same goal” of the “final, fully verified denuclearisation” of the peninsula.

No one can 'obliterate' Taiwan's existence: Prez Tsai

TAIPEI, Aug 13: Vowing that “no one can obliterate Taiwan’s existence,” President Tsai Ing-wen left on Sunday for the United States and two of Taipei’s remaining diplomatic allies, amid pressure from China to try to stamp out references to the island internationally.

China, which claims self-ruled and democratic Taiwan as its own, has stepped up a campaign against the island as it tries to assert Chinese sovereignty. Beijing has ordered foreign companies to label Taiwan as part of China on their websites and is excluding Taiwan from as many international forums as it can.

Also, China has also been whittling down the number of countries that recognize Taiwan - now just 18 - with Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic switching relations to Beijing this year.

Speaking before her flight to Los Angeles, where she was stopping en route to Belize and Paraguay, Tsai struck a defiant tone.

“In going abroad, the whole world can see Taiwan; they can see our country as well as our support for democracy and freedom,” Tsai said. “We only need to be firm so that no one can obliterate Taiwan’s existence.”

Tsai arrived in Los Angeles on Sunday and was scheduled to address a banquet for Taiwanese-Americans there on Sunday evening, then pay a visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library outside of Los Angeles on Monday, according to Phi Lin Chuang, a Taiwanese government spokeswoman.

China, which believes Tsai wants to push for Taiwan’s formal independence, has already complained to Washington about her U.S. stopovers, which include Houston on her way back.

The trip starts one day after Taiwan’s state-run refiner CPC Corp announced a deal valued at $25 billion to purchase liquefied natural gas from the United States over the next 25 years.

The deal was aimed at boosting trade relations with the United States by reducing its trade surplus and was also a sign of goodwill ahead of Tsai’s visit, said a person familiar with the government’s thinking.

Tsai, who says she wants to maintain the status quo with China, will also be looking to reaffirm Washington-Taipei ties and to shore up support ahead of local elections in Taiwan in November amid the escalating pressure from China.

During her U.S. stops, Tsai intends to meet Ed Royce, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, according to two people with knowledge of the plans.

She will also meet with business representatives to discuss how Taiwan could drum up investment and procurement with the United States, they said.

Washington has no formal ties with Taiwan but is the island’s strongest ally and sole foreign arms supplier.

Tsai’s U.S. stopovers come as China and the United States are engaged in a trade war, adding to Beijing’s irritation with Washington.

98 killed as quake strikes Indonesia’s Lombok, Bali islands

MATARAM, Aug 6: A powerful earthquake flattened houses and toppled bridges on the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok, killing at least 98 people and shaking neighbouring Bali, as authorities said today that rescuers still hadn’t reached some devastated areas and the death toll would climb.

It was the second deadly quake in a week to hit Lombok. A July 29 quake killed 16 people and damaged hundreds of houses, some of which collapsed in yesterday evening’s magnitude 7.0 temblor, killing those inside.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference that damage was “massive” in northern Lombok.

A powerful earthquake flattened houses and toppled bridges on the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok, killing at least 98 people and shaking neighbouring Bali, as authorities said today that rescuers still hadn’t reached some devastated areas and the death toll would climb.

It was the second deadly quake in a week to hit Lombok. A July 29 quake killed 16 people and damaged hundreds of houses, some of which collapsed in yesterday evening’s magnitude 7.0 temblor, killing those inside.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference that damage was “massive” in northern Lombok.

The quake, measured at magnitude 7.0 by Indonesian authorities and 6.9 by the US Geological Survey, struck at a shallow depth of 10.5 kilometres (6 miles) in the northern part of Lombok. Shallow quakes tend to cause more damage than deeper ones.

“We were sitting there having dinner at about 7 o’clock last night, we just felt a really big sort of shaking and the lights went off and everyone just ran,” Australian tourist Kim Liebelt said as he waited with other travellers for a flight out at Lombok’s international airport.

“And then the roof started falling down on us, rocks and rubble and then just everyone running to get away,” he said.

Videos showed screaming people running in panic from a shopping mall and a neighbourhood in Bali where parked vehicles swayed.

On Lombok, soldiers and other rescuers carried injured people on stretchers and carpets to evacuation centres. Many victims were treated outdoors because hospitals were damaged.

“People panicked and scattered on the streets, and buildings and houses that had been damaged by the previous earthquake had become more damaged and collapsed,” Nugroho said.

The quake triggered a tsunami warning, and frightened people poured out of their homes to move to higher ground, particularly in North Lombok and Mataram, the capital of West Nusa Tenggara province.

The warning was lifted later yesterday after only small waves were recorded.

On Gili Trawangan, one of three popular vacation islands near Lombok, thousands of tourists and local residents spent the night on a hill fearing a tsunami, said British visitor Saffron Amis.

“There was a lot of screaming and crying, particularly from the locals,” said Amis, from Brighton. “We spoke to a lot of them and they were panicking about their family in Lombok. It was just a lot of panic because no one knew what was happening.”

Thousands of people are now trying to get off the island, she said, describing the mood as both sombre and panicked.

Hundreds of people packed a sliver of brilliant white beach on the 16-square kilometre (6-square mile) island, shouting at rescue personnel trying to ensure an orderly evacuation, video and photos supplied by the local water police showed.

Nugroho said authorities had deployed three ships to evacuate people. Reports that seven Indonesian tourists died on the island have not been confirmed, he said.

Like Bali, Lombok is known for pristine beaches and mountains. Hotels and other buildings in both locations are not allowed to exceed the height of coconut trees.

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, in Lombok for a regional security meeting, said he and his delegation were eating dinner in their hotel’s 12th floor restaurant when the quake struck, plunging the building into darkness and throwing people to the floor.

“Mate, we were knocked certainly to the floor. It was the violence of the shaking of the building — was pretty dramatic,” he said in a radio interview. “Everyone’s a bit shaken, but all well, but people out in the villages or elsewhere haven’t been so lucky, unfortunately.”

The Bali and Lombok airports have remained open.

Model Chrissy Teigen, who was in Bali with singer-husband John Legend and their two children, live-tweeted the shaking.

“Bali. Trembling. So long,” Teigen tweeted to her 10.6 million followers.

Several hours later, she asked news organisations not to write more stories about her lively stream-of-consciousness tweets, suggesting media share information to help those who need it instead.

Venezuelan Prez Maduro survives assassination attack

CARACAS (Venezuela), Aug 5: Drones armed with explosives detonated near Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in an apparent assassination attempt that took place while he was delivering a speech to hundreds of soldiers being broadcast live on television, officials said.

Caught by surprise mid-speech, Maduro and his wife, Cilia Flores, looked up at the sky and winced after hearing the sound of an explosion pierce the air.

“This was an attempt to kill me,” he said later in an impassioned retelling of the events. “Today they attempted to assassinate me.”

Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said the incident took place shortly after 5:30 pm as Maduro was celebrating the National Guard’s 81st anniversary. The visibly shaken head of state said he saw a “flying device” that exploded before his eyes. He thought it might be a pyrotechnics display in honour of the event.

Within seconds, Maduro said he heard a second explosion and pandemonium ensued. Bodyguards escorted Maduro out of the event and television footage shows uniformed soldiers standing in formation quickly scattering from the scene.

He said the “far right” working in coordination with detractors in Bogota and Miami, including Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, were responsible. Some of the “material authors” of the apparent attack have been detained.

“The investigation will get to the bottom of this,” he said. “No matter who falls.”

Venezuela’s government routinely accuses opposition activists of plotting to attack and overthrow Maduro, a deeply unpopular leader who was recently elected to a new term in office in a vote decried by dozens of nations. Maduro has steadily moved to concentrate power as the nation reels from a crippling economic crisis.

 
Cosmetic Dentist New Delhi India

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