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Sudanese talks make progress, source says, as international pressure grows

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November 5, 2021

CAIRO (Reuters) -Talks between Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and the leaders of an Oct. 25 military coup are making progress, a source close to Hamdok said on Thursday as the United States and United Nations pressed for a solution.

A second source said Sudan could set up a new 14-member sovereign council soon in a first step by the military towards forming new transitional institutions.

In the latest sign of increasing international pressure, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on Thursday and urged him to restore constitutional order and the transitional process.

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In a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday, Burhan agreed on the need to accelerate the formation of a government, Burhan’s office said.

“The two parties agreed on the need to maintain the path of the democratic transition, the need to complete the structures of the transitional government and to speed up the formation of the government,” his office said.

The U.S. State Department said Blinken in the call urged Burhan to immediately release all political figures detained since the coup and “return to a dialogue that returns Prime Minister Hamdok to office and restores civilian-led governance in Sudan.”

The United Nations has been trying to mediate an end to the political crisis that followed the coup in which top civilian politicians were detained and Hamdok was placed under house arrest.

The U.N. special envoy for Sudan, special representative Volker Perthes, said talks had yielded the outline of a potential deal on a return to power-sharing, including the ousted premier’s reinstatement.

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But he urged an agreement in “days not weeks” before both sides’ positions harden.

Hamdok has demanded the release of all detainees and the reversal of the coup as conditions for any further negotiations with the military.

The country’s highest authority, the joint civilian-military Sovereign Council, had been dissolved by Burhan along with the civilian-led cabinet.

Burhan, who says he is committed to a transition to democracy and elections, said after the coup that a new Sovereign Council and cabinet would be appointed.

Late on Thursday, state TV said Burhan had ordered the release of four civilian members of Hamdok’s cabinet who had been detained.

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The four ministers were Hamza Baloul, Ali Jiddo, Hashim Hasabalrasoul and Yousef Adam, it added. Other ministers and officials not released were facing criminal cases, said the person close to the negotiations.

Several of the officials still detained had engaged in a war of words with the military in the weeks leading up to the coup.

Neighbourhood resistance committees, which have led protests since the coup and held demonstrations on Thursday, reject negotiations and have demanded that the military exit politics.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which led the 2019 protests that brought down Omar al-Bashir, called late on Thursday for two days of general strikes on Sunday and Monday in protest against military rule.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz and Mahmoud Mourad; writing by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Howard Goller)

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Russian court remands mine director, inspectors in custody after deadly accident

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A court in Siberia on Saturday remanded five people in custody for two months to face charges related to a mining accident that killed more than 50 people this week.

Three managers of the Listvyazhnaya mine, including its director, were ordered to remain in custody until late January for flouting industrial safety standards, a spokesperson for the regional prosecutor’s office said.

The court also ordered two safety inspectors, who had issued a certificate for the mine this month but had not actually checked the facility, to remain in custody until late January.

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The accident, which regional authorities say was likely caused by a methane explosion, claimed the lives of 51 people, including five rescuers who were sent to bring out dozens of men stuck deep underground.

The health ministry said on Saturday that 60 people were being treated in hospital for injuries sustained at the mine, TASS news agency reported.

The accident at the mine, located some 3,500 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow in the Kemerovo region, was Russia’s worst since 2010 when explosions killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same region.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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Russia spy chief says Ukraine invasion plan ‘malicious’ U.S. propaganda

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine and suggestions to the contrary are malicious U.S. propaganda, Moscow’s foreign intelligence chief said on Saturday.

U.S., NATO and Ukrainian officials have raised the alarm in recent weeks over what they say are unusual Russian troop movements near the border with Ukraine, suggesting that Moscow may be poised to launch an attack.

Russia has repeatedly said it is free to move its troops on its own territory and that such movements should not be a cause for concern.

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“I need to reassure everyone. Nothing like this is going to happen,” Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, said in an interview broadcast on state television, referring to comments on Russia’s alleged invasion plans.

“Everything that is happening around this topic right now is of course malicious propaganda by the U.S. State Department.”

Naryshkin spoke a day after the State Department’s top U.S. diplomat for European affairs said all options were on the table in how to respond to Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine’s border and that NATO would decide on the next move after consultations next week.

While U.S. officials have voiced concerns about a possible Russian attack on Ukraine, Moscow has accused Washington, Kyiv and NATO of provocative and irresponsible behaviour near its borders.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Spanish police march in Madrid to protest against ‘Gag Law’ reform

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November 27, 2021

By Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo

MADRID (Reuters) – Thousands of Spanish police officers marched through Madrid on Saturday to protest against a proposed reform of a security law which they say will hamper their ability to do their work.

Politicians from Spain’s three main conservative parties joined police officers in the protest against proposed changes to the 2015 Citizens Security Law, which critics say violates the right to protest and limits free expression.

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Dubbed the “Gag Law” by those who oppose it, the legislation allows authorities to fine media organisations for distributing unauthorised images of police, strictly limits demonstrations and imposes heavy fines for offenders.

Spain’s leftist government has proposed reforms including no longer classifying the taking of photographs or making of recordings of police at demonstrations as a serious offence.

Under the changes, police will also have to use less harmful materials at protests after a number of people were seriously injured by rubber bullets fired by officers.

The time that suspects who are arrested at protests can be held in custody will be cut from six hours to two and fines will be proportional to how much offenders earn.

“They should either leave the current law as it is or make it better for the police and for the citizens,” Civil Guard officer Vanessa Gonzalez told Reuters.

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Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros, of the far-right Vox party, said: “There is strong opposition against (the reform) of this law. It is against our police and we will not let it happen.”

However, Isa Serra, spokeswoman for the far-left Unidas Podemos party, said at a rally in Cantabria in northern Spain that the law had done a “lot of damage to Spanish democracy”.

Organisers said 150,000 people took part in the Madrid demonstration but the government put the figure at 20,000.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley, Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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