News in brief

European lawmakers urge Britain to stay in single market

London, January 7 (IANS): A group of European politicians (MEPs) released a letter on Saturday calling on Britain to remain a member of the single market. Their intervention comes as the man who launched Britain’s campaign to leave the European Union prepares to hold a face-to-face meeting on Monday with the chief Brexit negotiator in Brussels, Michel Barnier. Nigel Farage, who sits as an MEP, co-founded the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) over 20 years ago with the aim of campaigning for Britain to quit the bloc, reports Xinhua. The two men will meet on Monday at the European Commission headquarters after Farage requested a meeting. His call came after Barnier met a group of British pro-remain politicians from Westminster. The intensity of the war of words between leavers and remainers is expected to become heated in the coming months as crucial negotiations on a future trade deal between Britain and the EU gather pace.


Charlie Hebdo victims remembered

PARIS, January 7 (Reuters): French President Emmanuel Macron led a sombre tribute on Sunday to the 17 victims of attacks in Paris three years ago that marked the first of a wave of deadly Islamist assaults in France. During a three-day killing spree in January 2015, gunmen killed reporters and illustrators at satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, police officers and shoppers at a Jewish supermarket. Sunday’s commemoration started at the former premises of Charlie Hebdo, where two brothers armed with assault rifles shot and killed 11, including most of the notoriously irreverent publication’s cartoonists and writers. The names of the victims were read out before wreathes were laid in front of the office building, including one by Macron and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. Homage was then paid at the nearby site where a policeman was shot dead at point-blank range by one of the gunmen. A similar tribute was later held at the kosher store where a third gunman killed four people. The Charlie Hebdo attack was carried out by brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, who died in a police assault two days later. The perpetrator of the attack on the Jewish store, Amedy Coulibaly, also shot dead a policewoman in a separate incident. Coulbaly was also killed by police.


Unrest fomented by foreign enemies defeated: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard

DUBAI, January 7 (Reuters): Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Sunday the country’s people and security forces had defeated unrest fomented by foreign enemies — including the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia – and opposition groups, according to a statement on its Sepahnews website. “Iran’s revolutionary people along with tens of thousands of Basij forces, police and the Intelligence Ministry have broken down the chain (of unrest) created … by the United States, Britain, the Zionist regime (Israel), Saudi Arabia, the hypocrites (Mujahideen) and monarchists,” the statement said.


‘Islamabad to continue engagement with Washington’

Islamabad, Jan 7 (IANS): Pakistan Foreign Se­cre­tary Tehmina Janjua has said that the country will continue to have engagement, as far as possible, with the US because America is not only a global power but also has its presence in the region, and “for us its almost our neighbour”. Delivering a lecture on ‘Pakistan’s Foreign Policy Issues’ at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) in Karachi on Saturday, she said: “We need to continue to have a measured response to all the rhetoric coming out of the US,” reports Dawn news. Answering a question on Pakistan being put by the US on watch list for violation of religious freedom, Janjua said it had political reasons because right next door (in India) mob lynching of Muslims and minorities took place but no one took notice of it.


Malaysia’s opposition alliance names 92-year old Mahathir as PM candidate

KUALA LUMPUR, January 7 (Reuters): Malaysia’s opposition coalition on Sunday named 92-year old former premier Mahathir Mohamad as its prime ministerial candidate for a general election that must be called by August. With the country’s most popular opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in jail, Mahathir is seen as the biggest threat for Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is engulfed in a corruption scandal. Mahathir, who earned a reputation during his 22-year tenure as prime minister of being a no-nonsense authoritarian with little time for dissenters promoting liberal values, stands to become the world’s oldest leader if the opposition wins. A victory could also potentially pave the way for former Mahathir foe Anwar to become the prime minister.


Merkel optimistic at start of talks

BERLIN, January 7 (Reuters): German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday she was “optimistic” going into exploratory talks with the Social Democrats (SPD), whose leader Martin Schulz said his party would not draw any red lines at the start of discussions. Merkel’s conservative bloc and the SPD have scheduled five days of talks to see if they can find enough common ground to form a re-run of the ‘grand coalition’ that has governed Germany for the last four years. Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) – the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) – said he was going into the talks in “high spirits” and said the parties needed to come to an agreement.