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ERBIL, September 18, 2018 (News Wires) - Shi’ite militia leader Hadi al-Amiri, one of the most powerful figures in Iraq, withdrew his candidacy for prime minister on Tuesday, putting the country one step closer to forming a government after months of political stagnation.

Amiri heads the Fatih Alliance, an electoral bloc which came in second in May’s inconclusive national election. His coalition has been vying to build the largest bloc which would form the government, with him as prime minister.

“I would like to announce to the dear Iraqi people the withdrawal of my candidacy for prime minister, to open the way for serious dialogue to elect a prime minister and his government according to the vision of the Supreme religious authority,” he said in a news conference.

Amiri’s Fatih alliance was composed of political groups tied to Iran-backed Shi’ite militias who helped government forces dislodge Islamic State militants from the third of Iraq they seized four years ago. His Badr Organisation controls the interior ministry.

Amiri’s Alliance has been in advanced talks with Shi’ite religious leaders Moqtada al-Sadr to form a new alliance in recent days.

Sadr, whose Saeroon bloc scored a stunning victory in the May 12 parliamentary, portrays himself as a fierce nationalist opposed to both US and Iranian interference in Iraq. He had formed an alliance with incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi since June, which looked set to falter.

CAIRO, Sept 16 , 2018(MENA) - Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli on Sunday inspected the under construction residential project of "Rawdat El Sayeda Zeinab", formerly known as Tel el-Akareb, as part of the state's major plan to revamp the slum areas.

Madbouli asked the company, responsible for the implementation of the project, to finish it as soon as possible especially that the company has received all its financial dues. 

In statements during his tour, the premier said the project represents a civilised residential model that shows the state's interest in revamping the slum areas and providing a decent life to residents of unsafe areas.

The premier was accompanied by Cairo Governor Khaled Abdel Aal, Deputy Housing Minister Essam e- Gazar and Director of the National Fund for Development of Slum Areas Khaled Sediq. 

Rawdat Al-Sayeda, formerly Tel el-Akareb, covers an area of about 7.5 feddans (1 feddan = 1.038 acres). It had been a slum area before the government demolished its houses to replace them with residential buildings as part of the state initiative to develop slums. 

El- Gazar said at least 85 percent of the project has been accomplished. The project costs LE350 million, he said, adding that some residential units of the project have been rented by the government to temporarily provide housing for families of Tel el-Akareb till the whole project is finalised.

TUNIS, Sept 14, 2018 (News Wires) - Tunisia will impose no new taxes on individuals and firms under the 2019 budget but will continue to reform a costly subsidies system, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said on Friday.

The country has struggled to fulfill donors' demands to reform its economy and cut its budget deficit amid turmoil since the ousting of president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

Unwilling to cut a bloated public service due to resistance from labour unions, the government has raised taxes several times, prompting riots for weeks in January.

"To boost growth and to make companies more competitive we will not impose new taxes on companies or individuals," Chahed said in a speech. But he added that the government would continue to overhaul the subsidies system which is straining public finances.

Tunisia raised fuel prices this month by about 4 percent, the fourth increase this year.

The cost of fuel subsidies this year will rise from an expected 1.5 billion dinars ($542 million) to 4.3 billion dinars due to the rise in world oil prices, officials have said.

The IMF has been pressing Tunisia to trim its budget deficit and increase fuel and electricity bills.

Chahed, who is fighting for survival as some in his Nidaa Tounes party and labour unions have tried to oust him, vowed to go ahead with unpopular decisions.

 

ROME, September 12, 2018 (News Wires) - Conditions in Libya are too unstable to hold elections, Prime Minister Fayez Seraj was cited as saying on Wednesday, casting doubts on a French-led push for a vote in December which aims to end years of turmoil and unify the North African country.

French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a conference in May where rival Libyan factions agreed to work with the United Nations for a national election by Dec. 10.

Libya splintered following the 2011 NATO-backed revolt that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, and since 2014 has been divided between competing political and military groups based in Tripoli and the east.

“You can not vote with instability in the streets ... it is necessary that everyone accepts the result of the ballot. We need shared rules,” Seraj, who leads the UN-brokered transitional government based in Tripoli, said in an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

Armed groups have vowed to resume hostilities if talks to be hosted by UN Special Envoy Ghassan Salame do not result in a lasting settlement.

Seraj has close relations with Italy.

His main rival, military commander Khalifa Haftar, is aligned with a government based in the east and is seen as closer to France.

Seraj also said factions would need to agree on a constitution before any vote is held.

“We had talked about elections in Paris, but the constitutional document, which is ready but not approved, must first be voted on,” Seraj said.

“Unfortunately, the parliament of Tobruk has not yet examined it. Without the constitution, how can one go to a national vote?”

ATHENS, August 27, 2018 (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is poised to announce a cabinet reshuffle this week to freshen up a government lagging in the polls as the effects of painful bailouts still bite a year before a national election.

A meeting of senior figures in his leftist Syriza party later on Monday to launch a process for the selection of a new secretary is likely to pave the way for the reshuffle, which will not be wide-ranging, sources say.

The government needed to “renew itself before the next election”, a government source told Reuters.

Greece holds parliamentary elections every four years, with the next expected by October 2019 at the latest.

Based on the latest three opinion polls conducted by Greek media, Syriza is trailing the main opposition New Democracy conservatives by between 5.3 and 11.6 percentage points.

Tsipras was elected in 2015 promising to end years of austerity for Greece, imposed by international creditors. But he was forced to reverse course by the prospect of the country being kicked out of the euro zone and pursue deeper reforms under a third international bailout.

Austerity and political turmoil followed as the economy shrank by a quarter, pushing a third of the population into poverty and forcing the migration of thousands abroad.

The country emerged from that bailout programme last week. Greece has received 288 billion euros in financial aid since 2010, making it the biggest bailout in history.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, who steered the country’s exit from the third bailout, was likely to remain in his post, sources said.

Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, instrumental in brokering an accord ending years of dispute with Macedonia over its name, was also expected to stay on board.

Panos Skourletis, a Syriza stalwart who is presently interior minister, was widely speculated to be moving to a senior role within the party and out of the cabinet.

“Changes would make the party more effective and grounded, while the reshuffle should deliver a government ready for battle,” another government source said.

WELLINGTON, August 16, 2018 (Reuters) - Pacific island nations are holding talks which could lead to a coordinated request that China forgive mounting debts in the region amid concerns Beijing may start seizing strategic assets, Tonga's Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva said on Thursday.

Tonga, one of eight island nations in the South Pacific carrying significant debt to China, is due to start repaying loans next month after borrowing heavily in the aftermath of deadly riots in 2006 that destroyed large parts of its capital.

China's possession of a Sri Lankan port as Colombo struggled with a spiralling debt crisis meant asset seizures could not be ruled out, Pohiva told Reuters in a phone interview from Tonga.

"If it happens in Sri Lanka, it can happen in the Pacific - so it is entirely an option for China to consider," said Pohiva, who did not identify any specific assets at risk of being seized.

"If we fail to meet the requirements and conditions set out in the agreement ... we have to pay the cost for our failure to meet the conditions."

China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. It has previously said there was no evidence China was responsible for creating unsustainable debt and that it retained good relations with Tonga.

In April, media reports suggested China wanted to establish a military base in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu after funding a wharf big enough to handle warships. Both China and Vanuatu denied the reports.

Pohiva, who came to power after the bulk of Tonga's $115 million debt to China was accumulated, said the region should negotiate as one.

"It is no longer an issue for individual countries because there are small countries who borrowed from China and we have problems with that and the option is to collectively work together to find a way out."

Regional leaders are due to gather at a Pacific Islands Forum early next month in the island nation of Nauru where Pohiva said they will progress plans to ask for their debt to be forgiven.

China, which has a status as a 'dialogue partner' in the grouping, has sent an envoy to the event since 2007.

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