Multiple landslides triggered by torrential rain have killed at least nine people in Nepal since late Thursday, while 35 others remain missing, officials said on Friday.
Six people died when landslides buried a home in the Mahawai rural municipality of western Nepal at midnight (1815 GMT) on Thursday.
Nanda Bahadur Singh, mayor of the affected area, said that all six deceased were members of an extended family.
Meanwhile, rescuers have recovered three dead bodies, while the search is still under way for an estimated 35 others feared buried by landslides that swept through a village in central Nepal at around 6 am on Friday.
Hom Shrestha, Mayor of the affected Jugal rural municipality, said that most villagers were still asleep when the landslides damaged at least 37 homes.
“Five people recovered alive from debris have been airlifted to Kathmandu for treatment, while a search is under way to find others,” Shrestha said.
Since the beginning of the rains in June, monsoon-induced disasters have killed at least 200 people, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority (NDRRMA).
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)
Italy votes in referendum on downsizing parliament
Polls closed in Italy late on Sunday in the first of two days of voting on a constitutional referendum over the slimming down of parliament.
Voting is also on in local elections expected to favour the right-wing national opposition bloc.
Voting continues on Monday, with polls opening at 7 am (0500 GMT) and closing at 3 pm.
Results are expected later the same day.
Some 51.6 million people are eligible to vote in the referendum on reducing the number of lawmakers in Italy’s two chambers by roughly one third.
The Chamber of Deputies would go from 630 lawmakers to 400, and the Senate from 315 to 200.
By Sunday evening, voter turnout had reached 29.98 per cent in the four of the seven regions for which figures were available, according to the Interior Ministry.
In the referendum on the planned reduction of the parliament, 29.71 per cent of the 51.6 million eligible voters had cast their votes.
Observers have feared a low turnout amid concerns about people being infected with the coronavirus.
No minimum turnout is needed for the vote to be valid, amid expectations that the reform will be approved.
Elections are also taking place in seven regions and just under 1,000 cities, including Venice in the north and Reggio Calabria in the south.
The main national government parties – the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) – have been bracing for a poor showing.
The national opposition, led by Matteo Salvini of the far-right League, is expecting to win in at least three regions, including Veneto and Liguria in the north.
The PD is confident of victory only in Campania, the region around Naples, and is desperate to avoid defeat in Tuscany, a former leftist stronghold where a League candidate could achieve a historic win.
The M5S has no strong candidates, but is likely to console itself with a referendum win.
It considers reducing the size of parliament part of its quest to end perks and privileges for politicians.
Critics of the constitutional reform say it produces minimal cost savings and risks undermining the democratic system by weakening the authority of parliament.
In any case, a defeat for the government parties is unlikely to topple Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, as the PD and M5S have strong incentives to try to hold on to national power together.
One is the prospect of managing more than 200 billion euros (238 billion dollars) in loans and grants from the European Union due to arrive from 2021 as part of the bloc’s post-coronavirus recovery fund.
Another is the opportunity to influence the parliamentary election of the next Italian president, due in January 2022, and avoid snap national polls, which the PD and M5S would likely lose.
Pandemic-era restrictions were in place across all polling stations, many of which are located in school buildings.
Voters currently in self-isolation due to the coronavirus were permitted to vote from home on submitting an application on a one-off basis.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim
United States initiates ‘snapback’ process to reimpose sanctions on Iran – Pompeo
The United States has initiated the so-called snapback process to restore almost all previously lifted UN sanctions against Iran, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Saturday.
“Today, the United States welcomes the return of virtually all previously terminated UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror and anti-Semitism,” Pompeo said.
He said the snapback of previously terminated UN sanctions became effective at 8 pm Washington time (0000 GMT).
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif rejected the United States move, saying that the snapback mechanism and reimposed sanctions were invalid.
“This step is not supported by the UN Security Council because the United States is no longer in the nuclear agreement and accordingly no longer plays a role in UN resolution 2231,” Zarif said referring to the resolution in which the UNSC backed the Iran nuclear deal signed in Vienna in 2015.
The move by Washington was merely a “propaganda trick” ahead of the United States election, Zarif said on Iranian state television.
Washington’s plans to reimpose international sanctions on Iran have been met with overwhelming opposition from other countries.
Other members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), including key United States allies who are part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, have rejected Washington’s move and have vowed to ignore it.
Under the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Tehran limited its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief.
“Sanctions are being re-imposed on Iran pursuant to the snapback process under UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2231. On August 20, the United States notified the President of the Security Council of Iran’s significant non-performance of its JCPOA commitments,” Pompeo said in the Saturday statement.
“Virtually all @UN sanctions have returned on Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism and anti-Semitism.
“This includes a permanent extension of the arms embargo. This is great news for peace in the region!” Pompeo added on Twitter.
He later added that Washington would soon “announce a range of additional measures to strengthen enforcement of @UN sanctions on Iran.”
“Our maximum pressure campaign on the Iranian regime will continue until it stops spreading chaos, violence, and bloodshed,” he said.
United States special representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams had already signalled Washington’s determination to reimpose sanctions on Tehran earlier this week.
The United States launched a formal bid in August to revive the UN sanctions under the “snapback” mechanism included in the Iran deal.
Those sanctions include the indefinite extension of an arms embargo that would otherwise expire in October.
But few countries believe Washington’s move is legal, as United States President Donald Trump unilaterally exited the JCPOA in 2018.
Washington said it would provide more information this weekend and next week on how the United States intended to enforce the global sanctions.
“In the coming days, the United States will announce a range of additional measures to strengthen implementation of UN sanctions and hold violators accountable,” Pompeo said in Saturday’s statement.
“Our maximum pressure campaign on the Iranian regime will continue until Iran reaches a comprehensive agreement with us to rein in its proliferation threats and stops spreading chaos, violence, and bloodshed,” Pompeo asserted.
Trump is likely to address Iran in his speech next week to the UN General Assembly’s largely online meeting of world leaders.
The stand-off between the United States and other member states over the issue threatens a diplomatic crisis at the world body.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim
Oil rises after OPEC warn members to stick to quotas
Oil prices rose for a fourth day in a row on Friday, putting crude on track for a weekly gain of about 10 per cent, after Saudi Arabia pressed allies to stick to production quotas and banks, including Goldman Sachs, predicted a supply deficit.
Brent crude was up 18 cents at $43.48 a barrel by 0756 GMT while United States oil futures rose 17 cents to $41.14.
Both contracts are set for their strongest weekly gains since early June after Hurricane Sally cut United States production while OPEC and its allies laid out steps to address market weakness.
Goldman Sachs predicted the market would be in a deficit of three million barrels per day (bpd) by the fourth quarter and reiterated its target for Brent to reach $49 by the end of the year and $65 by the third quarter of 2021.
Swiss bank UBS also pointed to the possibility of undersupply in the oil market, forecasting Brent would rise to $45 a barrel in the fourth quarter and $55 by mid-2021.
Meanwhile, a tropical depression in the western part of the Gulf of Mexico could become a hurricane in the next few days, potentially threatening more United States oil facilities.
The Saudi Arabian energy minister said those who gamble on oil prices would be hurt “like hell”.
The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers in OPEC+ are cutting 7.7 million bpd of output and the group stressed at a meeting on Thursday that it would take action against members not complying with the deal.
In the Gulf of Mexico, United States offshore drillers and exporters began a clear-up on Thursday after Hurricane Sally weakened to a depression and started rebooting idle rigs following their closure for five days.
Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde
Oil jumps above $41 as storm hits United States output, inventories drop
Oil rose for a second day on Wednesday, gaining more than two per cent, as a hurricane closed United States offshore production and an industry report showed United States crude inventories unexpectedly decreased.
More than a quarter of United States offshore output was shut on Tuesday due to Hurricane Sally.
The American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday said crude inventories fell 9.5 million barrels, rather than increased as analysts expected.
Brent crude rose 86 cents or 2.1 per cent to $41.39 a barrel by 1012 GMT, while United States crude added 85 cents or 2.2 per cent to $39.13.
Both contracts rose by more than two per cent on Tuesday.
“Overnight, the APE provided a further injection of bullish impetus,’’ said Stephen Greenock of oil broker P.M.
“As much as a feel-good factor appears to have returned to the oil market, underlying fundamentals remain far from supportive.’’
The storm-related shutdowns may help reduce the stockpile, although refineries were also closed, cutting demand.
“Oil prices were lent further support by the APE and the weather,’’ said Commerzbank analyst, Eugene Weinberg.
“Despite an unfavourable fundamental and technical backdrop.’’
Oil prices collapsed to historic lows as the coronavirus crisis hit demand.
Prices have dropped in September, pressured by rising virus cases and concerns about demand.
The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and International Energy Agency have both cut their demand outlooks this week.
A panel of OPEC+ oil ministers meets to review the supply pact on Thursday and is unlikely to recommend further output curbs despite the price drop, sources told Reuters.
Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde