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Bahrain condemns Beirut hosting press conference for ‘hostile personnel’

Bahrain’s foreign ministry has denounced Lebanon for hosting a press conference for individuals it described as “hostile personnel” on terror lists with the purpose of “broadcasting and promoting abusive and malicious allegations against the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its deep regret and denunciation that the Lebanese capital Beirut hosted a press conference for hostile personnel designated on supporting and sponsoring terrorism lists, with the purpose of broadcasting and promoting abusive and malicious allegations against the Kingdom of Bahrain,” the ministry said in a statement.

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Bahrain’s foreign ministry said it had submitted a “strong formal protest” to the Lebanese government regarding the recent move.

The Ministry added that an official note verbale of protest was sent to the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States in this regard, containing the Kingdom of Bahrain's denunciation of this unfriendly step by the Lebanese side. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the Lebanese government to prevent such reprehensible practices that aim to offend the Kingdom of Bahrain, and are inconsistent with the most basic diplomatic norms and the brotherly relations between the two people,” the ministry added.

In October, Bahrain asked the Lebanese ambassador to its kingdom to leave within the next 48 hours, against the background of a series of unacceptable and offensive statements and stances issued by Lebanese officials recently.

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Audit underway after corruption scandals in Ukraine: Defense minister


Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Sunday that an audit of procurement contracts was underway after corruption scandals but declined to confirm reports that he could soon be forced to resign.

“We have started an internal audit” of all procurement contracts, Reznikov told reporters, but declined to say if he would stay on as defense minister.

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“It is one person — the commander-in-chief, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — who decides whether I will be defense minister or not,” he said.

“My specialization as a lawyer allows me to think optimistically that I will definitely find an interesting project for myself that will allow us not only to win the war, but also to punish the military and political leadership of the Russian Federation later,” he added.

The Ukrainska Pravda news website, citing unidentified sources, reported that Reznikov, 56, could next week be replaced by Kyrylo Budanov, the 37-year-old head of military intelligence.

Reznikov, who studied law, might be appointed justice minister, Ukrainska Pravda said.

One of the best-known faces of Ukraine’s war effort, Reznikov was appointed defense minister in November 2021 and has been overseeing the armed forces throughout Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24 last year.

He has also helped secure Western weapons to buttress Ukrainian forces.

But his ministry has lately been beset by corruption scandals, and defense officials were among a dozen figures forced to resign last month in the biggest political shakeup in Ukraine since the launch of Moscow’s assault.

Reznikov’s deputy Vyacheslav Shapovalov, who worked on providing logistical support for the army, resigned after the defense ministry was accused of signing food contracts at prices two to three times higher than current rates for basic foodstuffs.

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Russia’s Lavrov visits Baghdad to discuss bilateral relations, energy cooperation


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will arrive in Baghdad on Sunday to discuss boosting bilateral relations and energy cooper-ation, Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement.
Lavrov, who is leading a delegation that includes oil and gas companies’ representatives, is scheduled to meet his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein on Monday, Ahmed al-Sahhaf said in a statement.

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Sahhaf said the visit will focus on “strategic relations with Russia and to encourage investment opportunities, especially in relating to energy sectors.”
The Russian foreign minister will also meet on Monday Iraqi top officials, including Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani, Presi-dent Abdul Latif Rashid and parliament speaker, Sahhaf said.

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China’s power in Asia diminished by COVID-19 zero: Lowy Institute study


China’s standing in the Asia-Pacific has been damaged by its de-cision to stick with COVID-19 Zero for most of 2022, leaving the US to cement its position as the most influential power in the re-gion, according to an Australian research group.

The Sydney-based Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index for 2023 shows that China registered the greatest decline out of the 26 na-tions and territories in the report, while strong economic links and defense ties solidified the US as the leading power in the Asia-Pacific.

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The index measures power based on 133 indicators across eight core themes, assessing how much sway is held diplomatically, economically and militarily. Overall, the US was placed first, fol-lowed by China, Japan, India, and Russia.

Susannah Patton, project lead for the Asia Power Index at Lowy, said China’s score had dipped across almost every indicator, as the country’s connections with the rest of Asia declined “sharply during COVID-19 Zero.”
“We’ve heard about the economic impact of China’s border closures but this really shows us for the first time I think the strate-gic impact of the border closures,” she said.

China’s rankings on cultural influence and economic capability fell the most, due to Beijing shutting off its citizens and businesses from the world for much of the year. One area where it did see improvement was in its military capability, closing the gap with the US from 27 points in 2018 to 23 points in 2022. The report notes its extensive military drills around Taiwan.

Patton said almost all countries had seen a dip in their rankings in 2022, driven partly by the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, with only Australia and Indonesia bucking the trend in the top 10 powers in the Asia Pacific.

While the US ranking declined slightly overall, Patton said it had kept its top position thanks to the Biden administration’s diplomat-ic posture and the relatively strong American economy.

On the outlook for the year ahead, Patton said China’s rapid re-opening and diplomatic outreach to countries such as Australia could shape the next set of rankings, while the US will need to work to solidify its alliances with the Philippines and South Korea.

“China is going to be a much more formidable competitor to the United States over the next year,” she said.

Read more: China protests US downing of balloon, reserves right for any necessary reaction

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