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Beirut scrambles to mend ties with Saudi Arabia after Riyadh expels Lebanese envoy & bans imports RT World News

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The Lebanese government is forming a special group to heal a rift in relations with Riyadh that saw Saudi Arabia giving 48 hours for Lebanons ambassador to leave and banning all Lebanese imports.

Riyadh has recalled its ambassador to Lebanon for consultations and gave the Lebanese envoy 48 hours to leave the kingdom on Friday. The move comes after Saudi Arabia and several other Gulf States were offended by comments from the Lebanese information minister, who criticized the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.

In previously televised comments that resurfaced on social media this week, former game show host-turned minister George Kordahi said that the Houthi militants in Yemen have been “defending themselves… against an external aggression.” His words triggered a scandal, as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain summoned Lebanese ambassadors over the minister’s words.



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Riyadh branded the minister’s remarks “offensive” and “insulting” as it accused him of “bias” in favor of the Houthis. The UAE said that his “disgraceful” comments “offended” the members of the Saudi-led coalition. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes the above-mentioned countries as well as Qatar and Oman, also condemned Kordahi’s remarks.

Kordahi rushed to declare that the statements were a personal opinion, adding that they were made before he took up the ministerial position. That apparently did not resolve the matter, as on Friday Riyadh banned all Lebanese imports.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Friday evening that he “regretted” the Saudi actions and called on “brotherly Arab leaders to work and help to overcome this crisis in order to preserve Arab cohesion.” He also called on Kordahi to make “the right” decision to preserve Lebanon’s national interests, although he did not elaborate on what exactly needs to be done.



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According to Reuters, Riyadh might be pressuring Beirut to force Kordahi’s resignation. Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib said on Friday that he was forming a group to resolve the diplomatic row while maintaining it was not a “crisis” and that all tensions could be eased through dialogue.

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s former PM Saad Hariri blamed Hezbollah for the current crisis, accusing political party and military group of professing “hostility towards the Arabs and the Arab Gulf states.” The Shiite movement praised Kordahi’s words in a statement on Thursday.

The Saudi state news agency SPA also attacked Hezbollah, saying on Friday that its influence “on the decision-making of the Lebanese state made Lebanon an arena for implementing projects for countries that don’t wish Lebanon and its people well.”

The Houthis – also known by their formal party title, Ansar Allah – seized the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in 2014 and ousted the Saudi-backed President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who came to power on a one-man ballot following the decades-long rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly accused the Houthis of being proxies of Iran and launched an air and ground war to restore Hadi to office in March 2015, with the aid of Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan and several other countries that have since withdrawn from the conflict.

According to United Nations data as of December 2020, the war has so far claimed more than 230,000 lives – the vast majority Yemenis – and resulted in a full-scale humanitarian catastrophe in what was already among the poorest nations in the Arab world. Casualty-counting throughout the conflict has been exceedingly difficult, however, as many health facilities that provide such data have been destroyed, with the New York Times reporting in 2017 that 65% of the country’s medical centers had been damaged in bombings.

Earlier this month, the UN children’s agency UNICEF said that some 10,000 Yemeni children were killed or injured since the start of the Saudi-led intervention, while UN orgs predicted that up to 400,000 Yemeni children under the age of five could starve to death by the end of the year thanks to deprivation fueled in large part by the war. The coalition has also been frequently criticized, including by the UN, for its indiscriminate airstrikes on civilian infrastructure, which often result in non-combatant casualties.



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Oil crashes as coronavirus strain threatens demand recovery | Oil and Gas News

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The emergence of the new strain represents the biggest threat to the recovery in global oil consumption.

Oil prices crashed more than 10% as a new coronavirus strain sparked fears that renewed lockdowns will threaten a global recovery in demand.

West Texas Intermediate crude tumbled below the $70-a-barrel level on Friday for the first time since late September, while the global benchmark price, Brent, slumped to less than $75.

The downward spiral in prices comes three days after a U.S.-led effort by top consuming nations to release stockpiled crude in an attempt to tame surging energy inflation. Next weeks OPEC+ meeting will now take on an even greater significance, as the producer group led by Saudi Arabia and Russia must decide whether to continue ratcheting up supply or pause the increases in response to the latest market volatility. OPEC+ is leaning towardabandoninga plan for a modest production hike scheduled for January when it meets on Dec. 1 to 2, according to delegates.

The identification of the new Covid variant has already prompted the U.S., the European Union and the U.K. to restrict air travel and triggered a selloff across financial markets, even as researchers have yet to determine whether its more transmissible or lethal than previous strains.

The development apparently wrong-footed many in the oil market who had been comforted by low inventory levels and demand that had rebounded to 2019 levels, said Rebecca Babin, senior energy trader at CIBC Private Wealth Management.

It was a lack of downside that had us continuing to think nothing bad could happen, she said. No one was thinking we could get a variant that were not familiar with and it could have meaningful impact.

The price plunge marks a dramatic change in market sentiment. Crude hit multiyear highs in recent months amid an energy crisis in Europe and China that had also sparked rallies in prices for coal and natural gas. Some traders and analysts predicted oil could reach $100 a barrel or more.

High gasoline retail prices prompted U.S. President Joe Biden to seek ways to ease the pressure on consumers, leading to Tuesdaysannouncementthat the U.S. will release 50 million barrels of crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, with China, Japan, India, South Korea and the U.K. also set to tap inventories. Still, oil rose on the day that the move was confirmed, suggesting traders had already priced in the new supply, or that they were underwhelmed by the supply response.

OPEC+ had warned previously it would reconsider a potential output increase if other nations went ahead with a reserve release. UBS Group AG said Friday that OPEC+ could choose to pause its current planned output hike of 400,000 barrels a day, or even cut production.

Prices

  • West Texas Intermediate for January fell $10.24, or 13.1%, from Wednesdays close to settle at $68.15 a barrel in New York. The decline was the largest since April 2020.
  • There was no settlement Thursday due to the Thanksgiving holiday and all transactions will be booked Friday
  • Brent for January settlement tumbled $9.50 to settle at $72.72 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange

Fridays oil selloff was likely exacerbated by a lack of trading activity during the U.S. holiday period, coming a day after Thanksgiving, and as the New York market closed early.

Its a sign the market got carried away from itself and that we still remain very vulnerable to Covid-19, said John Kilduff, founding partner at Again Capital LLC.

Aside from the headline prices, crude traders also watched several other notable shifts in the market. WTI crude futures closed below its 200-day and 100-day moving averages, signs of technical weakness. The extreme pressure on the U.S. benchmark meant its discount to Brent expanded, reaching the widest since May 2020.

The picture wasnt much brighter in oil-product markets, the part of the oil complex most directly affected by end-user demand.Dieselplunged, particularly in Asia, as the market began to price in a potential renewed hit to economic growth.

This is a huge overreaction in terms of the market, Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at consultant Energy Aspects Ltd. said in a Bloomberg Television interview. This is the market pricing in the worst possible scenarios.

Other key news:

Chinas ambiguity on whether it will join the U.S.-led coordinated release of oil reserves is aimed at a domestic audience to show Beijing isnt following Washington, according to government officials involved in the discussions.

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Even fully vaccinated, you’re anti-vax if you oppose mandates, Australian minister declares RT World News

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People who oppose Covid-19 vaccine mandates are anti-vaxxers, pure and simple, Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said during a heated press conference, noting more positive cases in his state were expected.

Gunner made it more than clear during a press conference in which he was asked if his hardline stance on vaccine mandates might have turned some away from getting the jab that anyone who wasn’t 100% for the state’s increasingly draconian vaccination mandates was a true “anti-vaxxer.” Even if they themselves had been vaccinated, he argued, Australians were either with the virus or with the mandates.

If you give a green light, give comfort to, support anybody who argues against the vaccine, you are an anti-vaxxer. Your personal vaccination status is utterly irrelevant,” Gunner declared.

The term ‘anti-vaxxer’, previously used to denote a parent who opposed vaccination for their children, has seen its meaning expanded during the Covid-19 pandemic to include anyone who opposes vaccination for themselves – and now, in the eyes of ardent vaccine supporters, anyone who opposes a mandate, whether or not they themselves have taken the shot.

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The politician whos used Covid to restrict peoples rights to an unprecedented level strikes again

The politician whos used Covid to restrict peoples rights to an unprecedented level strikes again

If you’re out there in any way, shape or form campaigning against the mandate, then you are absolutely anti-vax,” he continued, insisting the state’s vaccination mandate was “absolutely critical” to saving lives. “I will never back away from supporting vaccines, and anyone out there who comes for the mandate, you are anti-vax,” Gunner snarled.

A lockdown in the state’s town of Katherine was set to be extended until 6pm local time Wednesday night because with 1,300 test results still outstanding, the authorities were “still expecting more positive cases.” Two cases had been detected on Monday – a 67-year-old man and a 33-year-old mother said to be a “close contact of a confirmed case.” However, her child had repeatedly tested negative. 

Despite the paucity of cases, Gunner insisted it was “highly likely” there were other positive cases in the area, citing “continual positive traces” in the wastewater catchment area of the neighborhood, but allowed the nearby Robinson River area to move out of lockdown, giving residents the freedom to move around so long as they did not leave the neighborhood.

The minister insisted “enforcement, rather than encouragement” was the only way to get vaccination levels to the desired target.

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Go through, go, Lukashenko tells asylum seekers near EU border | News

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Belarusian leader makes first public appearance near the chaotic border since crisis broke out.

With no end in sight for the weeks-long crisis at the European Unions eastern frontier, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has told hopeful asylum seekers that his country would not stop them from attempting to cross into the bloc.

Addressing a group on Friday, his first public appearance at the border since the start of the crisis, Lukashenko met asylum seekers and refugees at a warehouse turned into a shelter and told them they were free to head west or go home as they chose.

An Iraqi teenager told Lukashenko she could not return home and hoped to continue on to Europe.

We wont only hope, Lukashenko answered. We will work together on your dream.

Lukashenko said no one would be coerced.

If you want to go westwards, we wont detain you, choke you, beat you, he said as hundreds applauded. Its up to you. Go through. Go.

He added, We wont in any circumstances detain you, tie your hands and load you on planes to send you home if you dont want that.

Belaruss President Alexander Lukashenko visits a centre for asylum seekers and refugees near the Bruzgi border point on the Belarus-Poland border [Maxim Guchek/Belta/AFP]

Thousands of refugees and asylum seekers are stuck between Belarus and Poland, in what the EU has said is a crisis Minsk engineered by distributing Belarusian visas in the Middle East, flying them in and pushing them across the border.

Lukashenko said it was the EU that deliberately provoked a humanitarian crisis that needed to be resolved.

On Friday, he told the asylum seekers he would not play politics with their fate.

Hybrid war

Poland and other EU nations have argued the crisis is part of a hybrid war Minsk is waging in retaliation for EU sanctions imposed in response to Lukashenkos crushing of protests against his disputed re-election last year and is designed to destabilise the bloc.

The EU has agreed on new sanctions in response to the border crisis, which diplomats in Brussels said should be approved and adopted in early December.

Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have deployed thousands of border guards, soldiers and police to seal the border and push back people attempting to cross over from Belarus.

On Friday, Lithuania said it could close its border crossings if more attempted to cross from Belarus in trucks.

Belarus has begun to fly some people home.

On Friday, two planes brought hundreds of Iraqis back from Belarus to Erbil, capital of Iraqs Kurdish autonomous region.

Two more flights were expected on November 26 and 27, the TASS news agency reported.

Warsaw has said the repatriation of refugees and asylum seekers marked a change of tactics rather than a genuine attempt at de-escalation and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, touring European capitals this week to rally support for a tough response, has raised the possibility of further sanctions if the crisis escalated.

Poland and Lithuania have continued to report crossing attempts by people who are increasingly desperate with the onset of winter conditions. Polish authorities also reported unrest at one of the detention centres set up for refugees and asylum seekers who made their way into the country.

The issue has exacerbated strife between Russia, which is Belaruss main backer, and the EU, whose ties have been at post-Cold War lows since Moscows annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who helped Lukashenko ride out mass street protests after last years election, has also supported Minsk in its most recent standoff with the EU.

Meanwhile, humanitarian fears are growing, with the reported deaths of at least a dozen refugees and asylum seekers in the past few weeks. The real number of casualties is widely understood to be higher.

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