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Venezuelan Intelligence agents arrest Opp leader

CARACAS (Sputnik): The day before, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in the statement that the US would continue to use the full weight of US economic and diplomatic power to press for the “restoration of democracy in Venezuela.”

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó has reportedly been detained by the country’s intelligence agents, two days after he was declared the interim President of Venezuela by the disempowered National Assembly.

“Alert the world and the country that today # 13Ene a SEBIN command intercepted the President of the National Assembly of Venezuela @jguaido and we do not know his whereabouts,” a message on Guaidó’s official Twitter account reads.

Earlier this week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for the second presidential term for the period from 2019 until 2025. Maduro has faced criticism from a number of states after his re-election in May, with some countries claiming that the vote was illegitimate, something vehemently denied by Caracas.

Earlier in January, the Peruvian Foreign Ministry said following the meeting of the Lima Group foreign ministers that the union did not recognize the legitimacy of Maduro’s new presidential term that will begin on Jan-uary 10 and urged him to call a new presidential election.

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Trump furious over Dems ‘having fun’ amid Govt shutdown

WASHINGTON (Sputnik): The US government remains shut down, with many agencies and departments not working or working without pay after Congressional Democrats and the White House failed to reach agreement on a budget for 2019. This is the longest shutdown in American history.

US President Trump took to Twitter to slam the Democrats for refusing to discuss options that could end the ongoing government shutdown. He noted that while he is staying at the White House waiting for a continuation of negotiations, the Democrats are “are everywhere but Washington” and “having fun” while government employees are working without pay or are on furlough.

Trump further argued for the efficiency of the wall that he wants to build on the southern US border, stating that it would reduce the crime rate in the country and halt the influx of illegal narcotics. He noted that the Democrats could solve all these problems and end the government shutdown by simply agreeing to include $5.7 billion in funding for the wall in the 2019 budget.

The US government entered its longest shutdown in the country’s history on 21 December after the Senate failed to vote for the 2019 budget. The bill needed the support of several Democrats, who have refused to give their votes as long as funding for the construction of a wall on the southern border it is included. Trump has insisted on funding for the wall, stating that he wouldn’t sign a budget bill without the funding, even if it is passed by Congress.

The most recent meetings between the US president and Democratic leaders have failed to yield any results, as both sides are blaming each other for their unwillingness to cooperate. Trump called a meeting on 9 January a “waste of time” and warned Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer that there would be no deal without a border wall.

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Israeli PM admits attacking Iranian targets in Syria

JERUSALEM (Sputnik): According to the prime minister, Israel has attacked Iranian weapons depots at the Damascus International Airport in Syria.

On 12 January Israeli aircraft carried out multiple missile strikes on the suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus. The attack was repelled by the Syrian Air Defence and most of the missiles were shot down, while a warehouse near Damascus International Airport was damaged by the strikes. On Sunday morning Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Israeli Air Force had targeted Iranian targets in Syria.

“The Israel Defense Forces has attacked hundreds of Iranian and Hezbollah targets. Just in the past 36 hours, the air force attacked Iranian depots full of Iranian weapons in the Damascus International Airport,” Netanyahu said, speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting in his Jerusalem office, as cited by The Times of Israel.

He also added that “the recent attacks prove that we are as determined as every to act against Iran and Syria,” according to Haaretz.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said it had sent letters to the United Nations following an Israeli aerial attack near Damascus. Syria’s Foreign Ministry has demanded that the United Nations take immediate measures to prevent new Israeli attacks.

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EU may need rules to stop doctors emigrating: German minister

VIENNA (Reuters): The European Union should consider regulating to stop member states from poaching each other’s doctors and other professionals, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

Spahn, a conservative heavyweight among Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats who recently lost a contest to become the party’s leader, described a knock-on effect of countries attracting doctors from neighboring countries, as is the case with Switzerland taking in German physicians.

“I can understand them. Switzerland is a beautiful country. But what is clear is that there is a shortage of these professionals in Germany. And then Polish doctors work in our country, and in turn there is a shortage of them in Poland,” he told Swiss tabloid Blick am Sonntag.

“That cannot be right. We should therefore think about whether we need to create new regulations on the luring away of people with certain professions within the EU, and without fundamentally calling into question the freedom of movement within Europe,” he was quoted as saying.

Spahn added that there were currently such agreements within the World Health Organization that could serve as a model, but he did not spell out what those were or how they might be applied within the EU.

Asked if Germany might charge Switzerland, which is not an EU member state, for educating German doctors who then went to work there, he said: “No, that is not my plan.”

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Congo should recount presidential election vote: Southern African bloc

KINSHASA (Reuters): An influential African bloc urged Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday to recount the votes of its chaotic presidential election, raising pressure on Kinshasa to ensure the legitimacy of the next government and avert widespread violent unrest.

The Dec. 30 vote was supposed to mark Congo’s first uncontested democratic transfer of power in 59 years of restive independence, and the beginning of a new era after 18 years of chaotic rule by President Joseph Kabila.

But irregularities including faulty voting machines, poorly run polling stations and a halt in the vote for over a million people due to insecurity and an Ebola outbreak in the east, have overshadowed talk of democratic progress.

Sunday’s intervention by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which contains regional allies of Kinshasa like South Africa and Angola, could push Kabila to tackle the presidential runner-up’s accusations that the vote was rigged. Second-place finisher Martin Fayulu said that he in fact won by a landslide and that the official winner, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi, struck a deal with Kabila to be declared the victor. Tshisekedi and Kabila deny this.

Isolated post-election violence across the mineral-rich country of 80 million people that sprawls across central Africa has many fearing a return to the kind of civil war upheaval that has killed millions since the 1990s.

International pressure on Kabila has been building since the vote, in part because Congo’s influential Catholic Church said that tallies compiled by its 40,000-strong monitoring team show a different winner to those announced by the electoral commission, without saying who.

France, Belgium, the United States and Britain have all expressed concern about the vote.

But the SADC will hold greater sway in Congo. Its approval of the election’s results are critical for the legitimacy of president-elect Tshisekedi’s new government.

SADC previously said the election went “relatively well” despite some problems. But on Sunday it said it had taken note of the “strong doubts” cast on the poll by the Church.

“A recount would provide the necessary reassurance to both winners and losers,” an SADC statement said.

The Church’s bishops conference, known as CENCO, was not immediately available for comment on Sunday, nor were spokespeople for Kabila, Tshisekedi and Fayulu.

The 16-nation SADC also recommended a government of national unity including parties representing Kabila, Fayulu and Tshisekedi that could promote internal peace.

“SADC draws the attention of Congolese politicians to similar arrangements that were very successful in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya (that created the) necessary stability for durable peace,” the statement said.

The chances of this kind of unity in Congo appear slim for now. Fayulu, who is backed by bitter political rivals of Kabila, on Saturday filed an election complaint with the Constitutional Court to have the result overturned. He has called for a hand recount of the votes.

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Alps snow: Avalanche kills three skiers in Austria

LECH, Austria (BBC): Three men have been killed in an avalanche near the Austrian ski resort of Lech am Arlberg, local police say. A fourth person is missing.

The group came from southern Germany and were reported missing by one of their wives on Saturday night.

The dead men, aged 32, 36 and 57, were found at about 23:00 (22:00 GMT).

But the search for the fourth person, aged 28, had to be halted due to the ongoing avalanche risk.

Police in the western province of Vorarlberg said they were located through mobile phone tracking, near the Langer Zug slope – one of the steepest in the world.

It had been closed due to dangerous conditions.

The men were wearing touring skis, which are used to climb uphill slopes and ski off-piste.

The three victims bring the number of weather-related deaths in parts of Europe this month to at least 24, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Austria has seen record snowfall, with more forecast for the weekend. Soldiers, firefighters, and volunteers have been battling to clear cut-off roads and rooftops during breaks in the weather.

On Friday, troops airlifted 66 German students and teachers to safety, after they became stranded at the Kasberg ski station in Grünau.

The same day, the Red Cross helped drivers stuck on a motorway in the south German state of Bavaria, and a nine-year-old boy was killed near Munich when a tree collapsed under the weight of snow.

In Switzerland, an avalanche hit the restaurant of the Hotel Säntis in Schwägalp, injuring three people.

Local reports said the avalanche had been 300m (984ft) wide when it came down the nearby mountain pass.

A Nasa graphic tweeted by BBC Weather showed how the geography of Europe has shaped the snow’s progress.

“Little to no snow has fallen on the Italian side of the Alps,” meteorologist Matt Taylor noted. “The sheer scale of the Alps has blocked the snow-bearing clouds making it over.”

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Anger as Mnangagwa raises gas prices

Harare (AFP/APP): Zimbabweans reacted with outrage Sunday to a sharp rise in the price of fuel announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in a move to improve supplies as the country struggles with its worst gasoline shortages in a decade.

After years in international isolation, Zimbabwe’s economy has been in decline for more than a decade, with cash shortages, high unemployment and recently a scarcity of basic staples like bread and cooking oil.

In a televised address on Saturday, Mnangagwa said prices of petrol and diesel would more than double to tackle a shortfall caused by increased demand and “rampant” illegal trading.

The main labour alliance Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) said the government had demonstrated a lack of empathy for the already overburdened poor by introducing the more than 100 percent hike.

“Workers’ government has officially declared its anti-worker, anti-poor and anti-people ideological position by increasing fuel prices. Workers’ salaries have been reduced to nothing and our suffering elevated to another level,” it said.

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Nelson Chamisa said: “We have a national crisis which is descending into a humanitarian crisis. “We believe this crisis requires all hands on the deck. We will lead and stand ready to play a key role in finding a lasting solution.”

Evan Mawarire, a cleric and activist who led anti-government protests in 2016 that shut down major cities, said: “You have cornered us and you leave us no choice. It’s time to mobilise every person who truly loves Zimbabwe.”

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Pompeo to seek new answers from Saudis on Khashoggi

DOHA (AA): U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday Washington will seek to get new answers from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman regarding the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Speaking during a press conference with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani following the second US-Qatari Strategic Dialogue in Doha, Pompeo described Khashoggi’s murder as “unacceptable”.

Pompeo said the U.S. will continue to communicate with bin Salman to ensure bringing those responsible for Khashoggi’s murder to accountability.

Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, was murdered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October. The Saudi journalist had entered the diplomatic facility seeking documents that would have allowed him to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.

His body has yet to be found amid reports it was dismembered and chemically dissolved.

Riyadh has indicted 11 people over Khashoggi’s killing and is seeking the death penalty for five suspects. But critics have suggested the individuals are merely taking the fall for bin Salman’s operation after an unexpected international outcry.

Regarding the resignation of retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni as an envoy to resolve the Gulf Crisis, Pompeo asserted that the resignation will not reflect a change in Washington’s policy.

Pompeo said the U.S. will continue to exert efforts to resolve the Gulf crisis in the weeks and few months ahead.

Pompeo also hailed Qatari support for Washington’s anti-terrorism efforts.

Pompeo said the US and Qatar work together to settle many regional issues, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

Since the summer of 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have cut ties with Qatar and imposed “punitive measures” that Doha calls a “blockade”.

The Saudi-led axis accuses Qatar of supporting terrorism, which Doha denies.

Asked whether the dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia would affect dealing with Iran, Pompeo said the U.S. will keep doing efforts to preserve the unity of the Gulf countries in the upcoming weeks.

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Indian troops martyr two youth in occupied Kashmir

SRINAGAR (Web Desk): Indian troops in their fresh act of state terrorism martyred two youth in Kulgam district of occupied Kashmir, according to Kashmir Media Service.

The youth were killed during a cordon and search operation in Katapora village of Yaripora in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district. Their identities are yet to be ascertained.

Meanwhile, intense clashes erupted in the area as the youth took to streets to protest against the killings, pelting the forces with stones. The forces fired tear gas shells to disperse the protesters. Authorities have suspended the Internet service in twin districts of Islamabad and Kulgam.

Earlier, on Jan 9, a woman embraced martyrdom and another sustained injuries when Indian forces resorted to unprovoked firing in Shahkot sector across the Line of Control (LoC).

Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor in a twitter statement said, “Indian army continues nonprofessional conduct. Besides atrocities in IOK, violating ceasefire targeted civil population in Shahkot sector across LOC”.

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Yemeni military intelligence chief dies of wounds

ADEN (AA): Head of the Yemeni Military Intelligence, Major General Mohammed Saleh Tammah, on Sunday succumbed to wounds he sustained in a Houthi drone attack, according to local medical sources. 

Tammah died in hospital in the coastal city of Aden after failing to transfer him for medical treatment abroad, the sources said. 

On Thursday, four Yemeni soldiers were killed and 10 others – including top officers – injured in a drone attack that targeted a military parade in the southern Lahij province. 

Tammah and Fadl Hassan, commander of the army’s fourth military zone, were among those injured in the attack, which occurred at Lahij’s Anad Airbase. 

Yemeni Army Chief-of-Staff Abdullah al-Nakhei, his deputy and Lahij Governor Ahmad at-Turki were also “slightly injured” in Thursday’s attack. 

Spokesmen for the Houthi rebel group, which has controlled capital Sanaa since 2014, later claimed responsibility for the attack. 

Lahij’s Al-Anad Airbase is currently manned by Yemeni forces backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

Since 2015, Saudi Arabia and several of its Arab allies — including the UAE — have waged a massive military campaign against the Houthis, who had overrun much of Yemen one year earlier.