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Ukraine gets $1.5 bn in concessional loan from Canada

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Kiev, March 22 (IANS) Ukraine received a concessional loan from Canada worth 2 billion Canadian dollars ($1.5 billion), the Ukrainian Finance Ministry said.

The 10-year credit, which carries an annual interest rate of 1.5 per cent, was channeled to Ukraine’s state budget, Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.

The loan is subject to a 4.5-year grace period from the date of its disbursement.

The assistance comes under the third additional agreement with Canada, an extension of the main agreement signed on August 8, 2022.

Ukraine has received about 7 billion Canadian dollars from Canada since the start of the full-scale war with Russia in February 2022.

–IANS

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Tunisia's Saied reshuffles cabinet ahead of presidential election

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Cairo, May 26 (IANS/DPA) Tunisian President Kais Saied has reshuffled his cabinet, months before presidential elections in the north African country.

Saied appointed a new interior minister, secretary of state for national security and minister of social affairs, the state news agency TAP reported on Sunday. The Tunisian presidential office, cited in the report, did not give a reason for the new appointments.

Tunisia was the only country that emerged from the wave of uprisings known as the Arab Spring with a stable democracy.

However, Saied has systematically expanded his power since taking office in 2019. He has introduced a controversial new constitution, dissolved parliament and dismissed the prime minister.

A number of prominent critics of his regime, including judges and leading opposition politicians, have been arrested.

Amid further arrests this month alleged to be politically motivated, the human rights organization Amnesty International has denounced an “unprecedented repressive crackdown” on human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and migrants in the country.

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Demonstrators in Tunis recently demanded the release of activists and lawyers.

A date for this year’s presidential election has not yet been set but is expected in September or October. In view of government repression, however, there are significant doubts as to whether the election will be free and fair.

Despite Saied’s increasingly authoritarian leadership, the European Commission last year agreed to a controversial deal worth more than €1 billion ($1.1 billion) in aid for Tunis.

Around €67 million of the money was earmarked for controlling illegal migration. Tunisia is one of the main transit countries for refugees from Africa heading to Europe.

–IANS/DPA

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Top EU diplomat meets Palestinian premier, renews Gaza ceasefire call

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Brussels, May 26 (IANS/DPA) The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, reiterated calls for a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of Israeli hostages kidnapped by Hamas, following a meeting with the Palestinian Authority’s new prime minister in Brussels on Sunday.

“We must do everything in our power to reach an immediate end of the hostilities, to achieve the immediate release of all hostages, to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza,” said Borrell at a press conference.

Borrell was speaking at European Commission headquarters alongside Mohammad Mustafa, the recently appointed prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, which governs in the West Bank, and Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide.

The three met donors to the Palestinian Authority in Brussels on Sunday to discuss the newly-formed government in the West Bank, led by Mustafa.

Borrell also said allegations that Israel is committing “genocide” should be investigated.

Noting an ruling by the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday, which ordered Israel to stop its offensive in the Gazan city of Rafah, Borrell said: “This important international Court of Justice verdict also orders Israel to ensure access to any United Nations mandate investigating the allegations of genocide.”

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While he emphasized that he’s only calling them “allegations”, Borrell added, “they have to be investigated according with the ruling of the ICJ.”

Norway – which is not a member of the EU – announced on Wednesday that it will recognize the state of Palestine. The EU itself cannot do the same unless all of its 27 member states do so first.

Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 after elections the previous year led to fighting between Hamas and Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

–IANS/DPA

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8 killed as tornadoes leave trail of death and destruction in US

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Washington, May 26 (IANS) At least eight people were killed as tornadoes created havoc in the US states of Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, destroying buildings and a fuel station where scores of people were taking shelter and leaving thousands of people without power, reports said on Sunday.

Severe storms had formed over the states, where temperatures are running high, on Saturday night (local time), with Texas’ Cooke County, north of Dallas, among the worst-affected areas, the BBC reported.

Local Sheriff Ray Sappington told local media that at least five people had been killed, and the number was likely to grow.

Meanwhile, search and rescue operations were on and they were hopeful of finding survivors, he added.

Footage on local media showed a fuel station almost completely destroyed, with twisted metal and damaged vehicles.

In Oklahoma, two people were killed in Mayes County and six others were injured, the BBC reported, citing the local emergency management authority.

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One death was reported in Arkansas, as per US media reports.

The tornadoes also affected surface traffic, leaving lorries overturned and highways shut, while the power supply was snapped as poles were uprooted. Officials said that it could take days to restore services.

Parts of Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee were at risk of severe weather on Sunday, after the havoc in the Southern Plains, as per reports.

–IANS

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27 South Africans arrested for election-related crimes: Police

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Johannesburg, May 26 (IANS) A total of 27 people have been arrested in South Africa in the past week for various election-related crimes, a senior police official said on Sunday.

For the period from May 19 to May 25, 27 additional cases have been registered and are under investigation, with 17 of the cases reported in Limpopo Province, said Tebello Mosikili, deputy national commissioner of the South African Police Service, while briefing the media in Pretoria, the country’s administrative capital, about the police’s preparedness for the upcoming elections, Xinhua news agency reported.

The suspects were arrested for contravening the electoral act, attempted murder, vandalism and illegal removal of posters. The police are continuing tracing operations, roadblocks, stop-and-searches and patrols, said Mosikili. “We take this opportunity to call for political tolerance among voters and members of various parties.”

“We are now entering the second phase of our 2024 national and provincial elections operational plan. We therefore take this opportunity to caution responsible citizens, especially social media users, from spreading fake news. You are all urged to verify facts first before sharing any information, which often leads to unnecessary confusion and panic,” she said.

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Mosikili warned that they will arrest those inciting violence on social media platforms, as the intelligence communities and cybercrime units are closely monitoring online users.

South Africa is scheduled to hold national and local government elections on May 29.

–IANS

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Twelve people injured by turbulence on Doha to Dublin flight

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Dublin, May 26 (IANS/DPA) Six passengers and six crew members have been injured during turbulence on a flight from Doha to Ireland.

In a statement, Dublin Airport said the Qatar Airways flight landed safely as scheduled shortly before 1 pm (1200 GMT) on Sunday.

“Upon landing, the aircraft was met by emergency services, including Airport Police and our Fire and Rescue department, due to six passengers and six crew [12 total] on board reporting injuries after the aircraft experienced turbulence while airborne over Turkey,” the airport added.

“The Dublin Airport team continues to provide full assistance on the ground to passengers and airline staff.”

The incident comes a week after a British man died and scores were injured when a Singapore Airlines flight from London hit severe turbulence.

–IANS/DPA

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