Foreign

Russia denies culpability in alleged poisoning of dissident Navalny

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson on Thursday denied that the Russian state could have been culpable in the alleged poisoning of dissident Alexei Navalny.


Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied the allegation in comments carried by state news agency TASS.

He said, “We aren’t inclined to accept any accusations in this regard,”

“There is no reason to accuse the Russian state.”

Navalny has been one of Putin’s fiercest domestic critics over the past decade, having led several protests against the long-time Russian leader, whom he accuses of perpetuating widespread corruption.

Navalny is currently in a coma and is being treated in a Berlin hospital after being evacuated from the Russian city of Omsk two weeks ago.

German authorities say that toxicology tests have proven that Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-developed nerve agent Novichok.

Peskov demanded that Germany officially present its findings to Russia, saying: “So far we have received no information.”

“We are undoubtedly interested in determining the cause of what happened to the Berlin patient,” Peskov said.

Russia has previously dismissed calls to open a criminal case, with law enforcement and medical officials saying they have found no hard evidence of a poisoning.

The Russian hospital that initially treated Navalny has said his condition was most likely due to low blood sugar levels related to a metabolism problem.

Peskov has said that Russian authorities are ready to fully cooperate with Germany with regards to Navalny.

Germany has been looking to its allies to forge a joint response after it found “unequivocal” evidence of such a nerve agent attack on Navalny.

The head of the German parliament’s committee for foreign affairs, Norbert Roettgen, called on Wednesday for Europe to take a clear, tough, and unified line on the issue.

“Now we have again been brutally confronted with the inhuman reality of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s regime,” he told the ARD public broadcaster late on Wednesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He was speaking hours after the German government announced that Navalny had been the victim of an attack, citing the results of a toxicology test carried out by the Bundeswehr military that found traces of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group in Navalny’s system.

Navalny, 44, was flown to Berlin for treatment on Aug. 22, two days after he fell ill on a domestic flight in Russia.

He had been in Siberia to support opposition candidates in local elections.

German leader Angela Merkel has condemned the attack, saying it aimed “to silence him,” and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas summoned Russian ambassador Sergei Nechayev in protest, calling for a full and transparent investigation.

Merkel has said that there could be a joint response similar to the coordinated action taken following the 2018 Novichok poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Britain, when 30 Western allies expelled Russian diplomats.

Navalny is currently being treated at Berlin’s Charite hospital. In its most recent statement on his condition, released on Wednesday, the hospital said Navalny was still in serious condition, although his symptoms were improving.

EU member state Italy joined Western powers on Thursday in demanding Russia conduct a thorough investigation.

Russia must “clarify quickly and transparently (what is) responsible for the incident,” the Italian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It expressed “deep concern and indignation about the identification by the competent German authorities of a nerve agent as the cause of the poisoning.”

Similar calls expressing solidarity with Germany’s assessment and demanding an investigation in Russia have come from the EU Commission, the United States, Britain, France, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, and the Western military alliance NATO.

EU Commission spokesperson Peter Stano said it was a “cowardly attack or assassination attempt,” according to comments to reporters in Brussels.

Calling for an investigation, he said: “We were very clear … that we want to see those responsible to be brought to justice.”

He hinted at potential sanctions should the Russian authorities be behind the incident, but said it was too early to draw such a conclusion.

“It’s difficult to speak about punishment if you don’t have the (person) responsible at this stage,” he said.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

https://nnn.ng/russia-denies-culpability-in-alleged-poisoning-of-dissident-navalny/

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Why FG is investing massively in railways, seaports — Amaechi

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The Federal Government’s focus on railway and seaport development is a necessity to drive the nation’s economy, according to the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi.


Amaechi stated this at the virtual 15th Annual Kaleidoscope Global Business Conference hosted by the Consulate General of Nigeria in New York on Sunday.

“Many Nigerians have asked why the construction of railways.

“Eighty per cent of the cargoes we have in Nigeria are mostly imported, because the Nigerian economy is yet to generate enough production.

“However, the president is of the view that if we must produce, we must have infrastructure that enables that production, hence the focus on transportation, power and works,” he said.

The minister said although the railway project had started before the President Muhammadu Buhari, the nation’s seaports were not included in the design.

He stated that one of the first things the administration did was to rework the plan to link the rail network to seaports across the country.

“So, we started with the Apapa seaport. We are working there now and I believe by December, we should conclude the Lagos-Ibadan rail line extension into the port.

“We then added the Warri Seaport, the Calabar seaport and Tin Can Island. We are making sure that all of them include seaports,” Amaechi said.

According to him, contract for the 386km rail line from Kano to Maradi in the Republic of Niger will be awarded on Wednesday.

He added contract award for the 1,500km eastern rail line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri would follow on Sept. 30.

The minister highlighted other rail line projects in the country, including Abuja to Itakpe, and Itakpe to Warri, which he said had been completed

He said the Warri line would also be extended to the Warri seaport being developed by the federal government.

Amaechi also highlighted the government’s seaport digitalisation programme, which he said would be completed in 2021.

Mr Gurjit Singh, former Indian Ambassador to Germany, Indonesia and the African, described Nigeria as the giant of Africa.

Singh, who is the Chairman of the CII Task Force on Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, said the Nigerian rail sector had the potential to drive the nation’s development as was the case in India.

He urged Nigeria to take advantage of the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor initiative to access public private partnership funding for its infrastructure projects.

Organised by United States-based Kaleidoscope Business Project, the event brought together Nigerian state governors, ministers, business executives and prospective foreign investors.

The participants included Gov. Simon Lalong of Plateau, Douye Diri of Bayelsa, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, Samuel Ortom of Benue and AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara,

The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami, and the Minister of State for of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Uchechukwu Ogah, also participated.

They took turns to highlight the investment opportunities that abound in their respective states and sectors in addition to the invest facilitation and security measures in place.

Welcoming the participants, the Consul General of Nigeria in New York, Mr Benaoyagha Okoyen, said the conference was part of the government’s efforts to open more windows of business opportunities in Nigeria to the world.

“With the opportunities that abound in Nigeria, this Conference aims at identifying those investors that are able, willing and committed to long term direct investment into the Nigerian economy.

“And it goes without saying that those from the Nigerian side are as desirous to meet investors in order to establish mutually beneficial relationships.

“Let me emphasise the need for us to jointly work together to enhance NIgeria economic growth and industrialization on our shared values and sound principles of mutually beneficial partnership and on a win-win business matrix,” Okoyen said.

 

Edited By: Felix Ajide
Source: NAN

 

https://nnn.ng/why-fg-is-investing-massively-in-railways-seaports-amaechi/
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Nadal stunned by Schwartzman in Italian Open quarter-finals, Djokovic survives Koepfer

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Defending champion Rafa Nadal crashed out of the Italian Open with a stunning 6-2 7-5 defeat by Argentine Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals on Saturday.


The nine-times Rome champion, who had won all nine previous meetings against Schwartzman, struggled with his serve throughout the match.

He made a series of uncharacteristic unforced errors that proved to be his undoing.

The Italian Open was the Spaniard’s first tournament in over seven months and while he cruised through the previous two rounds, his rustiness showed from the outset against the 15th-ranked Schwartzman.

Nadal committed 30 unforced errors to Schwartzman’s 17 and had his serve broken five times.

“Losing that many serves, you can’t expect to win a match,” Nadal said. “So that’s something that I have to fix. I know how to do it.”

Nadal will now travel to Paris, where he will look to clinch a record-extending 13th French Open title.

Schwartzman will face Denis Shapovalov in the semi-finals after the Canadian defeated Grigor Dimitrov 6-2 3-6 6-2 for his 100th tour-level match win.

Earlier in the day, Novak Djokovic overcame a mid-match wobble against Dominik Koepfer before securing a 6-3 4-6 6-3 win over the unseeded German and a semi-final spot.

The top-ranked Serb had sailed through the previous two rounds, his first matches since being defaulted at the United States Open for hitting a line judge with a ball.

But he faced a potentially tricky test when Koepfer levelled the contest at one set apiece.

However, Djokovic regained his focus to close out the victory and stay on course for his 36th ATP Masters 1000 crown.

He takes on Casper Ruud for a place in the final after the Norwegian battled past fourth seed and local hope Matteo Berrettini 4-6 6-3 7-6(5) in their last-eight clash.

“Clay is definitely Casper’s preferred surface. This is where he feels most comfortable. It’s semi-finals and it’s anybody’s game,” said Djokovic, who will be targeting his 30th victory from 31 matches this year.

“I’ll do some homework and be ready for that one.”

In the women’s draw, 2018 French Open champion Simona Halep advanced to the semi-finals when her opponent Yulia Putintseva retired due to a lower back injury while trailing 6-2 2-0.

The top-seeded Romanian will now meet Spain’s ninth seed Garbine Muguruza, who survived an early scare against Victoria Azarenka to beat the United States Open runner-up 3-6 6-3 6-4.

Halep said: “Every time I played well against her (Muguruza), I was as much as possible aggressive.

“If I play my best game, and if I feel great physically on court, I have a big chance to win the match. But every time is different, because she’s playing so hard. You don’t really know what to expect. It’s tough.”

Two-times champion and fourth seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, who skipped the United States Open to prepare for the claycourt swing, was stunned by Czech Marketa Vondrousova 6-3 6-0.

Number 12 seed Vondrousova will face compatriot Karolina Pliskova in the semi-finals after the defending champion survived a mid-match scare to beat Belgium’s Elise Mertens 6-3 3-6 6-0.

(
Edited By: Olawale Alabi)
Source: NAN

 

 

https://nnn.ng/nadal-stunned-by-schwartzman-in-italian-open-quarter-finals-djokovic-survives-koepfer/
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United States initiates ‘snapback’ process to reimpose sanctions on Iran – Pompeo

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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
Source: NAN

https://nnn.ng/united-states-initiates-snapback-process-to-reimpose-sanctions-on-iran-pompeo/
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Spurs sign Bale on loan, Reguilon on permanent deal

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Tottenham Hotspur have signed winger Gareth Bale and left-back Sergio Reguilon from Spanish champions Real Madrid, the English Premier League (EPL) club announced in a statement on Saturday.


Bale returns to his former club on a one-year loan deal, with British media reporting that Spurs will pay 20 million pounds in wages and fees for the 31-year-old Wales forward.

Reguilon, who spent last season on loan at Sevilla, arrives for a reported fee of 30 million euros (35.51 million dollars).

Bale made more than 200 appearances for Spurs between 2007 and 2013, scoring 56 goals with 58 assists before his then world record move to Real Madrid for 100 million euros.

He won four UEFA Champions League trophies and two La Liga titles with Real Madrid.

But he has divided opinion amongst the club’s fanbase, with some supporters frustrated by a perceived lack of commitment from the Welshman and his poor injury record.

Bale was poised for a move to Chinese club Jiangsu Suning last year before the deal fell through.

He endured his worst season at Real Madrid in 2019/2020, scoring only three goals in all competitions, and barely featured in their run to the Liga title.

His growing rift with manager Zinedine Zidane intensified when he did not travel with the squad for a UEFA Champions League clash against Manchester City last season.

The signings of Bale and Reguilon follow the arrival at Spurs of Denmark midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Ireland defender Matt Doherty and former England goalkeeper Joe Hart.

(
Edited By: Olawale Alabi)
Source: NAN

 

https://nnn.ng/spurs-sign-bale-on-loan-reguilon-on-permanent-deal/
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