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Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 262.21 million

ABU DHABI, 1st December, 2021 (WAM/Reuters) — More than 262.21 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 5,468,697 have died, according to a Reuters tally on Wednesday.

Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in December 2019.

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Gulf states appeal to US on Israeli minister’s Palestinian comments


The Gulf Cooperation Council said Sunday it had written to Washington’s top diplomat condemning controversial comments from Israel’s finance minister in which he denied the existence of a Palestinian people.

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The GCC, in a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, called on Washington “to assume its responsibilities in responding to all measures and statements that target the Palestinian people”.

The letter from the six-member GCC’s foreign ministers also called on the US “to play its role in reaching a just, comprehensive and lasting solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel’s far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, speaking earlier this month, said that the Palestinians did not exist as a people, comments that sparked outrage among Arab nations.

The US State Department said they had found Smotrich’s comments “to not only be inaccurate but also deeply concerning and dangerous.”

Smotrich is part of veteran Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right government that took office in December.

The GCC ministers also denounced earlier remarks by Smotrich, calling for the Palestinian town of Huwara in the West Bank to be “wiped out” after two Israelis were shot dead there by an alleged Hamas militant in February, remarks he later walked back.

The GCC, whose foreign ministers met in Riyadh last week, includes the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which normalized relations with Israel under the US-crafted 2020 Abraham Accords, as well as Saudi Arabia, which has not.

Violence has intensified in the West Bank in recent months, which Israel has occupied since the Six-Day War of 1967.

On Tuesday, the State Department criticized a move by Israel’s parliament to annul part of a law banning Israelis from living in areas of the West Bank evacuated in 2005, calling it “provocative” and in direct contradiction of promises made to Washington at the time.

Blinken, appearing before a Senate committee, also reiterated previous US pushback on Smotrich’s comments about Palestinians, saying they do not reflect US values.

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UK politicians caught in sting for lucrative second jobs


A senior British minister on Sunday defended former cabinet colleagues after they were shown negotiating top-dollar rates to work on the side for a fake South Korean consultancy.

The sting operation by the anti-Brexit group Led By Donkeys, which targeted former finance minister Kwasi Kwarteng among others, exposed nothing illegal.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

But the issue of Conservative MPs taking lucrative second jobs with companies has been provoking fresh controversy as Britons endure the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades.

Kwarteng’s involvement in particular focussed anger, after he and short-lived prime minister Liz Truss triggered a crash on financial markets that drove up borrowing costs for millions last year.

He and former health secretary Matt Hancock were shown separately negotiating a daily rate of £10,000 ($12,000) to advise a sham consultancy purportedly based in Seoul that was set up by Led By Donkeys.

“On this occasion, I think it is pretty clear that things that were offered and considered were within the rules,” cabinet member Michael Gove told Sky News.

Gove said it was “absolutely vital that we know who is paying” MPs for second jobs, “and that is what the register (of MPs’ interests) is there for”.

“And ultimately, the really important thing is, is an MP delivering for their constituents, is a member of parliament doing everything they can to put public service first?”

Led By Donkeys showed a clip on social media in which Kwarteng said he “wouldn’t do anything less than for about 10,000 dollars a month.”

Prompted by a recruiter representing the fictious “Hanseong Consulting”, he switched the currency to pounds, which are worth more than dollars, and the rate to daily.

Hancock had already drawn controversy for taking an unauthorised break from his work as an MP to take part in a reality television show, in which he ate animal genitalia among other challenges.

He was forced to resign as health secretary for breaking his own pandemic rules on social distancing, when it was exposed that he was having an extra-marital affair with a senior advisor.

A spokesman said Hancock had “acted entirely properly and within the rules” regarding the apparent job offer from South Korea.
Kwarteng has yet to comment.

The sting threatens embarrassment for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who replaced Truss in October with a vow to restore “integrity, professionalism and accountability” after her term and that of her predecessor Boris Johnson.

Senior opposition Labour member Lucy Powell told Sky News that she was “pretty appalled and sickened,” reiterating her party’s call to ban MPs from holding second jobs.

🚨MPs FOR HIRE: a Led By Donkeys undercover investigation🚨
Watch the trailer… pic.twitter.com/TOPxuhmbr9

— Led By Donkeys (@ByDonkeys) March 25, 2023

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Burhan says Sudan’s army will be under leadership of civilian government


Sudan’s leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said on Sunday that the country’s army will be brought under the leadership of a new civilian government.

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Speaking before a session for security and army reforms in Khartoum Burhan said his country will build a military force that will not intervene in politics and will be trusted by the Sudanese people in building a modern and democratic state.

More than a year after the military took power in a coup, the military and its former civilian partners and other political forces have agreed on a framework to form a new transitional government and write a new constitution to be announced next month.

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Sudan paramilitary leader jostles for role ahead of civilian handover

UN slams deployment of South Sudan troops in disputed region

Sudanese protester killed as marches enter 17th month, despite talks

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