UK and France pile censure on Israel’s new settlement plan

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Britain and France condemned yesterday a plan by Israel to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying international confidence in its desire to make peace with the Palestinians was at risk.

Stung by a UN vote according de facto recognition to a Palestinian state, Israel on Friday said it would build thousands of new settler homes, including in a wedge zone between Jerusalem and the West Bank, known as E1, which Washington considers especially sensitive.

The United States, one of just eight countries to vote alongside Israel against the Palestinians at the UN General Assembly, said the latest expansion plan was counterproductive to any resumption of direct peace talks stalled for two years. France, which voted with the Palestinians, and Britain, which abstained, had tougher censure for Israel, which wants to keep all of Jerusalem and swathes of West Bank settlements under any future peace accord. Most powers view the settlements as illegal for taking in land captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

“If implemented, these plans would alter the situation on the ground on a scale that makes the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly difficult to achieve,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.

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Trump dumps controversial chief strategist Bannon in latest upheaval

WASHINGTON/HAGERSTOWN, Md., (Reuters) – President Donald Trump yesterday fired his chief strategist Steve Bannon in the latest White House shake-up, removing a far-right architect of his 2016 election victory and a driving force behind his nationalist and anti-globalization agenda.

India threatens Philip Morris with ‘punitive action’ over alleged violations

NEW DELHI,  (Reuters) – The Indian government has threatened Philip Morris International Inc with “punitive action” over the tobacco giant’s alleged violation of the country’s anti-smoking laws, according to a letter sent to the company by the federal health ministry.

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South Africa has granted Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity – source

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Spain hunts driver who killed 13 in Barcelona, says foils bomb plot

BARCELONA,  (Reuters) – Spain mounted a sweeping anti-terror operation yesterday after a suspected Islamist militant drove a van into crowds in Barcelona, killing 13 people before fleeing, in what police suspect was one of multiple planned attacks.

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