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Baghdad deaths, injuries to be investigated amid election dispute -Iraqi news agency

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November 6, 2021

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -An investigation has begun into the deaths and injuries of demonstrators and security forces after clashes in Baghdad on Friday, the Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported, citing Iraq’s Joint Operations Command.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered the formation of a committee to investigate following clashes between Iraqi security forces and supporters of parties that are disputing the results of a general election in October.

A Joint Operations Command statement did not mention the number of deaths and injuries.

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The statement added that “the negligent will be brought to legal accountability for their negligence and violation of the explicit orders of the commander in chief, which stressed that live bullets should not be fired under any circumstances,” INA reported.

Al-Kadhimi also ordered compensation for victims of the clashes and decided to personally supervise the progress of the investigation, INA said.

It was the first significant violent clash between government forces and supporters of the political parties, most of which have armed wings and are aligned with Iran, since those groups lost dozens of parliament seats after the Oct. 10 vote.

Police fired tear gas and live ammunition into the air as scores of the protesters threw stones and tried to advance towards Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign embassies, the security sources said.

Hospital sources said that more than 21 protesters were hurt mostly from smoke inhalation and nine policeman injured from being pelted by stones.

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The parties that made the biggest gains in Iraq’s October election include that of populist Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who publicly opposes Iranian interference in Iraqi politics and has called for all remaining Western troops to withdraw from the country.

The Iran-backed groups disputing the election result are also Shi’ite but follow an Iranian model of theocratic governance which the nationalist Sadr and many ordinary Iraqi Shi’ites reject.

As per al-Kadhimi’s orders, the investigation committee will include the security of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), a state-sanctioned umbrella organisation of mostly Shi’ite militias backed by Iran, INA said.

Iraq’s majority Shi’ites have dominated government since the U.S.-led overthrow of Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003. Sunnis and Iraqi Kurds, the next biggest religious and ethnic groups in Iraq, lead significant alliances in parliament.

The election result was seen as a rejection by voters of foreign influence, especially that of Iran.

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The parties disputing the result say there were irregularities in the voting process and vote counting, but have not provided compelling evidence for their claims.

(Reporting by John Davison, Baghdad newsroom, Additional reporting by Nayera Abdallah in Cairo, Editing by William Maclean and Grant McCool)

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Germany’s Free Democrats back coalition agreement

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December 5, 2021

BERLIN (Reuters) – Members of Germany’s pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) voted on Sunday by a large majority to back a coalition agreement with the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens, paving the way for the three-way alliance to form a new government next week.

The coalition, the first at federal level between the environmentalist Greens, the FDP and Olaf Scholz’s centre-left SPD, will end 16 years of conservative governments led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The SPD approved the agreement on Saturday and the Greens are due to announce the outcome of a member survey on the deal on Monday. The three parties hope the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, will vote Scholz in as chancellor on Wednesday.

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The “traffic light” alliance, named after the parties’respective colours, will usher in a new era of relations with Europe, and plans to speed up digitalisation of the continent’sbiggest economy and put a focus on fighting climate change.

(Reporting by Alexander Ratz; Writing by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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Gambian President Barrow on course for resounding election win

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December 5, 2021

By Bate Felix

BANJUL (Reuters) – Gambia’s incumbent president, Adama Barrow, was on course for a resounding election win on Sunday, partial results indicated, that could help to draw a line under recent political turmoil.

Saturday’s vote was the first in 27 years without disgraced former president Yahya Jammeh, who lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea after refusing to accept defeat to Barrow in 2016.

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Jammeh, whose 22-year rule over the tiny nation of 2.5 million people was characterised by killings and torture of political opponents, had tried to persuade supporters to vote for an opposition coalition in telephoned speeches that were relayed to campaign rallies.

But his lingering influence was not enough to dent Barrow’s showing. The president, who only needs to win more votes than the second-placed candidate, won 36 of the first 41 constituencies announced, taking 315,547 votes.

His nearest rival, political veteran Ousainou Darboe, had 133,177 votes, with four other candidates far behind.

Only 12 constituencies remained to be announced.

The election was seen as a test of Gambia’s democratic progress and its ability to leave the Jammeh era behind.

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Barrow’s first term was marked by the coronavirus pandemic, which damaged an economy that relies heavily on tourism, as well as exports of peanuts and fish.

(Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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S.Africans protest against Shell oil exploration in pristine coastal area

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December 5, 2021

By Siyabonga Sishi

PORT EDWARD, South Africa (Reuters) – South Africans took to their beaches on Sunday to protest against plans by Royal Dutch Shell to do seimsic oil exploration they say will threaten marine wildlife such as whales, dolphins, seals and penguins on a pristine coastal stretch.

A South African court on Friday struck down https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/shell-wins-court-case-start-seismic-surveys-offshore-south-africa-2021-12-03 an application brought by environmentalists to stop the oil major exploring in the eastern seaboard’s Wild Coast, rejecting as unproven their argument that it would cause “irreparable harm” to the marine environment, especially migrating hump-back whales.

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The Wild Coast is home of some of the country’s most undisturbed wildlife refuges, and it’s stunning coastal wildernesses are also a major tourist draw.

At least 1,000 demonstrators gathered on a beach near Port Edward, a Reuters TV correspondent saw.

“It’s just absolutely horrendous that they are even considering this. Look around you?” said demonstrator Kas Wilson, indicating an unspoilt stretch of beach. “It’s unacceptable and … we will stop it.”

Shell officials were not immediately available for comment, but the company said on Friday that its planned exploration has regulatory approval, and it will significantly contribute to South Africa’s energy security if resources are found.

But local people fear the seismic blasting conducted over 6,000 square kilometres will kill or scare away the fish they depend on to live.

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“I don’t want them to operate here because if they do we won’t be able to catch fish,” said 62-year-old free dive fisherwoman Toloza Mzobe, after pulling a wild lobster from the ground. “What are we going to eat?”

Environmentalists are urging Shell and other oil companies to stop prospecting for oil, arguing that the world has no chance of reaching net zero carbon by 2050 if existing oil deposits are burned, let alone if new ones are found.

Earlier this year, a Dutch court ordered Shell to reduce its planet warming carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels, a decision it plans to appeal.

South Africa’s environment ministry referred Reuters to a statement late last month that “the Minister responsible for environmental affairs is … not mandated to consider the application or to make a decision on the authorisation of the seismic survey.”

(Writing by Tim Cocks;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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