SPOKESMAN’S MORNING HEADLINES FOR WEDNESDAY, 23 AUGUST 2017

YEMEN: Yemeni security officials say the Saudi-led coalition has carried out airstrikes, hitting a small hotel near the capital of Sanaa and killing dozens of Shiite Houthi rebels and civilians. The officials say an estimated number of 60 have been killed in the strikes on Wednesday morning. It wasn’t immediately clear why the coalition jets targeted the hotel, which is located in Arhab, some 35 kilometers, or 22 miles, north of Sanaa. (AP)

Fighters loyal to the armed Houthi movement on Wednesday decried as “evil” the group’s main ally in Yemen’s civil war, ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, widening an unusual public rift as they fight a Saudi-led coalition for control of the country. (Reuters)

Iran, accused of supporting Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen, “is part of the problem, not the solution” when it comes to ending conflict in the war-torn nation, Foreign Minister Abdulmalik al-Mekhlafi said when asked if Tehran could contribute to a political solution in Yemen. (AFP)

ANGOLA: Angolans vote on Wednesday in an election marking the end of President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos’s 38-year reign, with his MPLA party set to retain power despite the economic crisis. Polls are due to open at 07:00, closing 11 hours later. (AFP)

About 9.3 million Angolans are registered to vote for the 220-member National Assembly, and the winning party – five are vying to lead the country – will then select the president. (Al Jazeera)

After 38 years, President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos is voluntarily stepping down as he will not be a candidate today at the presidential elections. However, he has still safeguarded his fortune and freedom: there is a bill on the table to assure him lifelong immunity from prosecution. Opinion polls predict a victory of João Lourenço, the candidate of the government party chosen by Dos Santos himself. (VRT NWS, Brussels)

TOGO: About seven opposition protesters were killed and several others wounded in Togo on Saturday when security forces opened fire with live bullets to quell anti-Gnassingbé demonstrations in the capital Lomé and four other cities in the tiny West African nation. The opposition party, Parti National Panafricain (PNP), which called for the protest, is demanding the country’s return to its 1992 Constitution that allowed multi-party democracy with a limited Presidential term of office. (MedAfrica)

Some Togolese nationals have been urged to migrate to Ghana following some political upheaval that have erupted in the country leading to the death of some 7 nationals and arrests of more than 2 dozen people. (Yen-Ghana)

NIGERIA: Boko Haram jihadists killed six men in a village in northeast Nigeria on Tuesday in what appeared to be a targeted reprisal attack, a militia fighting the group told AFP. (AFP)

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien said Tuesday he saw “the early warnings of genocide” during a recent visit to Central African Republic, which has faced sectarian fighting since 2013. (AP)

ZAMBIA: The Zambian government has described a potential move by one of the country’s biggest copper miners to cut over 4,700 workers as an act of blackmail. (Anadolu, Turkey)

MALAWI: The “global gag rule,” imposed by Donald Trump earlier this year, is detrimental to the fight against harmful sexual traditions in Malawi. To get rid of these traditions, such as the ceremonial sexual initiations of underage girls, access to healthcare for reproductive and sexual health must be expanded, says Thokozani Mbendera, executive director of the Family Planning Association of Malawi (Dagsavisen, Norway).

KENYA: The opposition has announced it will resist the ‘accept and move on’ mantra as it calls for a countrywide Thursday justice prayer vigil against vote theft. At the same time, it accused Jubilee Members of Parliament (MPs) and allied lawyers of intimidating Supreme Court judges by their comments against National Super Alliance (NASA’s) petition. ( The Star, Nairobi)

UGANDA: President Museveni has ordered for a review of the public service with a view of scrapping, downsizing and merging government agencies and Authorities in a move he says will deal with “wastage of meagre resources”. In a July 17 letter to the Vice President Edward Ssekanda, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda and selected cabinet ministers, Mr Museveni argued that there should only be two categories of public servants-policy makers and “money-makers” running the few government parastatals. ( Daily Monitor, Uganda)

AFRICA: A new report on Barack Obama’s main legacy project for Africa shows it is falling short of his original goal of bringing electricity to 20 million households in Kenya, Tanzania and four other countries by 2018. Mr Obama’s Power Africa initiative, announced in 2013, has so far helped connect only about half the projected number of households, according to the programme’s 2017 annual report published on Monday. ( Daily Nation, Nairobi)

SAUDI ARABIA: Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal stressed that there are no special Saudi conditions placed on Iran to resume its participation in Hajj, insisting there are just special conditions for the organization of Hajj for all pilgrims. He added that all pilgrims receive equal treatment as guests of God who should be served in the same way. (Arab News, KSA)

Saudi police arrested a 14-year-old boy who was filmed dancing a popular 90s hit song at an intersection in the Red Sea city of Jiddah, according to local media reports on Wednesday. The video, which went viral on social media ins the kingdom, shows the boy with head phones swaying his hips and arms to the song “Macarena,” and appears to be smiling and giggling throughout the dance. (AP)

EGYPT/US: The U.S. will not distribute $290 million in aid to Egypt over human rights concerns, a State Department official confirmed Tuesday. (Anadolu, Turkey) Egypt called off a scheduled meeting between its foreign minister and top U.S. presidential adviser Jared Kushner on Wednesday after the announcement. But President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi would meet the U.S. delegation led by Kushner later in the day, Sisi’s office said.  (Reuters)

IRAQ: Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuþoðlu stated on Aug. 23 in Baghdad that he will tell the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that its planned independence referendum is wrong and Ankara expects it to cancel the vote. (Hurriyet, Turkey) The United States and other Western nations fear the vote could ignite a new conflict with Baghdad and possibly neighboring countries, diverting attention from the ongoing war against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria. (Reuters)

IRAN: The US ambassador to the UN claims her upcoming talks in Vienna are aimed at “asking” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) if it plans to inspect Iranian military sites during its verification of Tehran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. (Prees TV, Iran) Government can show a stronger reaction to violation of nuclear deal by other sides, Secretary of the Expediency Council Mohsen Rezaei said. (IRNA)

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres believes the Iran nuclear deal is “one of the most important diplomatic achievements in our search for, for peace and stability,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday. “Everyone involved needs to do its utmost to protect and support that agreement,” Dujarric told reporters. (Reuters)

In an effort to purge extremist propaganda from its platform, YouTube has inadvertently removed thousands of videos that could be used to document atrocities in Syria, potentially jeopardizing future war crimes prosecutions, observers and rights advocates say. (NYT)

ISRAEL/PALESTINE:  The Palestinian Authority continues to be disillusioned about US efforts to revive the peace process and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, is now considering dissolving the body and renewing a Palestinian bid for full United Nations membership, Arabic media reported on Wednesday. (Times of Israel, Al Hayat) Senior Palestinian officials said that regardless of the outcome of this week’s Trump administration effort to jumpstart peace talks with Israel, the Palestinian Authority will nevertheless resume its campaign for recognition by international agencies and institutions and pursue claims against Israel at the International Criminal Court. (Media Line, US)

US President Donald Trump’s administration and Israel are urging the United Nations not to publish its blacklist of international companies operating in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, saying the move was “counterproductive” and would not advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Israeli sources said. (Ashraq Al-Awsat)

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca on Tuesday highlighted the need for recommitment to two-state solution in the Middle East. The recent crisis in Jerusalem has once again highlighted the unsustainability of the current situation, as well as “the need for a political horizon and clear recommitment by the international community and both parties to ending the occupation and realizing a two-State solution,” said Jenca while briefing the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East. (Xinhua)

ISRAEL/RUSSIA: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Russia on Wednesday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and give him top-secret intelligence on Iran’s military expansion in the region. (Times of Israel) Netanyahu will present to Putin Israel’s concerns that the cease-fire agreement now being formulated in southern Syria will perpetuate Iran and Hezbollah’s presence in Syria at the conclusion of its civil war. (Haaretz)

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN: At least five people were killed and 42 wounded when a suicide attacker detonated a car bomb near a police headquarters in Afghanistan’s Helmand province on Wednesday, officials said. The explosion struck a crowd of policemen and soldiers who had gathered to collect their pay in Helmand’s capital city, Lashkar Gah, provincial police chief Abdul Ghafar Safai said. (Reuters)

The Trump administration outlined new measures it is prepared to take to raise pressure on Pakistan to stop harboring extremist groups, including possible sanctions on government officials and cuts in aid. (WSJ)

No single power can deal with the Afghanistan issue. The Trump administration should promote effective cooperation between international forces. But Trump’s new strategy neither emphasizes international cooperation nor provides new thinking in facilitating national conciliation. It is worrying that the new strategy ignores the reality that the Trump administration may in the end not exit the Afghanistan war. (Global Times, China, ed)

Pakistan rejected on Wednesday U.S. criticism of its efforts to fight terrorism saying it should not be used as a scapegoat for the failure of the U.S. military to win the war in Afghanistan. Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif added his voice to a chorus of indignation in Pakistan over the U.S. criticism, reiterating Pakistan’s denial that it harbors militants. (Reuters)

CHINA: China’s first homegrown aircraft carrier is very likely to start its first sea trials in autumn, as its manufacturer announced that it will present key achievements as a tribute to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. (Global Times, China)

The “Made in China” label has long stood for cheap, inferior and low-end products. But today, such a perception no longer holds water. In recent years, product quality in China is quietly edging up as the country is seeking to shift its growth equation away from exports and investment toward consumption. (Xinhua)

After a record-breaking year for Chinese outbound M&A, Chinese investors are facing increasingly wary regulators in foreign governments—and a Chinese government determined to control where they put their money. (WSJ)

A powerful typhoon caused at least three deaths Wednesday in Macau, according to local authorities in the Chinese gambling enclave. (AP)

CHINA/JAPAN: At this very sensitive moment, when Chinese and Indian troops are engaged in a stand-off in the Doklam region, India is preparing to host Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in September, in an effort to seek support from Tokyo for its stand on regional issues.  However, India may be disappointed to see what Tokyo could offer, especially in the economic arena. At the very least, India cannot rely on Japan to save it from the economic sluggishness that will undermine its stamina in the stand-off with China. (Global Times, China, ed)

KOREAN PENINSULA: President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday reiterated his policy of Seoul taking the lead in resolving North Korean issues and stressed the roles of the foreign and unification ministries in the two-track approach to inter-Korean issues. (Korea Herald)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered the production of more solid-fuel rocket engines and warhead tips for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) during his inspection of a chemicals institute, the state media said Wednesday. (Yonhap). However, the report lacked the usual anti-U.S. rhetoric and followed U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s remarks in which he welcomed recent restraint by Pyongyang. (Anadolu, Turkey)

China’s unofficial push to punish Seoul for deploying a missile-defense system against North Korea is hitting hardest in places like Yancheng, where South Korean auto maker Kia Motors is the backbone of the local economy. (WSJ)

China demanded the United States immediately withdraw a package of sanctions on companies and individuals trading with North Korea on Wednesday, and said the decision by the Trump administration will damage Sino-U.S. ties. (Washington Post)

INDIA: A passenger express train derailed after hitting a truck in northern India on Wednesday, injuring 42 people, some critically, in the country’s fifth major rail accident in the past year. (Reuters)

MYANMAR: Former UN chief Kofi Annan on Wednesday submitted his final report on Rakhine state, where Rohingya Muslims have faced widespread abuses, to the government. (Anadolu, Turkey)

CAMBODIA: Cambodia ordered a U.S.-funded nonprofit organization to stop its activities and remove all foreign staff from the country on Wednesday, the latest sign of growing anti-American sentiment ahead of a general election next year. In a statement, the foreign ministry accused the National Democratic Institute (NDI) of operating in Cambodia without registering, and said its foreign staff had seven days to leave. (Reuters)

INDONESIA: Finance Minister Sri Mulyani has allocated a budget of Rp292.8 trillion to eradicate poverty and inequality in the draft 2018 state budget (RAPBN). The programs include social protection, food assistance, health care and education. (Tempo, Jakarta)

GERMANY/TURKEY: Ankara has refuted recent criticism by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who accused Turkey of “misusing” Interpol while commenting on the release of a Turkish-origin German citizen in Spain, saying the suspect was not sought for his journalistic work but for a fatal armed robbery in 1984. (Anadolu, Turkey)

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Aug. 21 that Berlin and the rest of Europe should support the “democratically minded” majority of Turks who do not back President Recep Tayyip Erdoðan, in a dramatic hardening of Germany’s position towards Ankara. (Hurriyet, Turkey)

EU/UK: Britain will outline its plans on Wednesday to escape the “direct jurisdiction” of the European Court of Justice after Brexit. In one of the most politically sensitive documents Britain has published this month to try to nudge negotiations with the EU forward, the government will show little compromise in what it calls a paper to “reinforce the message that after Brexit, the UK will take back control of its laws”. (Reuters)

ITALY: The arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants from Libya is threatening Italy’s “democratic fabric”, a senior Italian minister has warned. Marco Minniti, the interior minister, said that the 600,000 who had landed in Italy since 2014 amounted to an “epochal trend” that was pushing the country to the limits of its tolerance. Mr Minniti said that Europe should regard Libya’s southern border as its own and help Tripoli to improve security there or risk years more of unchecked migration. (Times, London)

THE NETHERLANDS: Environmentalists have gone to court to demand that the Dutch government take urgent action to improve air quality, arguing that authorities haven’t done enough to meet European Union-mandated targets. (AP)

FINLAND: Finnish police are uncertain whether they have the real identity of the main suspect detained on suspicion of killing two people in a stabbing last week, the lead investigator into Finland’s first suspected Islamist militant attack said on Wednesday. Eight other people were wounded in the knife attack in the south-western coastal city of Turku on Aug. 18. Finnish police have detained four men in connection with the Turku killings and an international arrest warrant has been issued for a fifth. (Reuters)

After the Turku attack in Finland, people with immigrant background tell how they are now experiencing threatening, heckling and even violence more than usually. For example, a young man with an immigrant background was stabbed and slightly injured, a teenage girl with Somalian background was assaulted and a barber with Kurdish background has been threatened to be killed twice after the attack in Turku. (Helsingin Sanomat, Helsinki)

UNITED STATES: President Trump called Tuesday for an end to the racial divisiveness roiling the country and blasted the news media for misreporting his reaction to the deadly violence at a white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Washington Times)

President Donald Trump spent much of last week hearing from friends, donors and aides that he needed to dial back some of his rhetoric in the wake of Charlottesville. He gave his response on Tuesday night in Phoenix, with an angry, meandering and frequently disingenuous 75-minute rally address designed to soothe his ego, rev up his base, and remind the naysayers in Washington and New York that he can still command love from his crowd. (Politico, US)

The high-ranking military officials have repeatedly won arguments inside the West Wing, publicly contradicted the president and even balked at implementing one of his most controversial policies. But some in both parties view them as safeguards for the nation in a time of turbulence. (Washington Post)

The relationship between President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks, and Mr. McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises. (NYT)

MEXICO: Mexico’s peso fell and emerging market stocks lost some traction on Wednesday, after U.S. President Donald Trump revived threats to build a border wall and terminate the NAFTA trade treaty. Suggesting that scrapping NAFTA might jumpstart current renegotiations, Trump said at a political rally in Arizona 150 miles (240 km) from the Mexican border: “I personally don’t think you can make a deal without a termination.” (Reuters)

VENEZUELA: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday his government is preparing measures against an eventual U.S. economic blockade.  “Venezuela is the center of a major global defamation campaign,” he said in a speech at the presidential palace for international media. (Anadolu, Turkey) He also called for Pope Francis’s support against a “military threat” from the United States, as international pressure mounts over the deadly political crisis Caracas is facing. (AFP) Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described the Vatican mediation as relevant in the conflict between the government and the opposition in Venezuela. (Prensa Latina, Cuba)

MIGRATION: A row has broken out over the role of charity rescue boats in the Mediterranean amid accusations that their presence is fuelling the flow of migrants setting off from Libya. The claim that the charities were “unintentionally” aiding people smugglers by rescuing migrants from the sea was first made by Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, earlier this year. It was leapt on by an Italian prosecutor in Sicily who went a step further, alleging direct collusion. (Times, London)

CYBER ATTACKS: Thirteen years of negotiations at the United Nations aimed at restricting cyberwarfare collapsed in June, it has emerged, due to an acrimonious dispute that pitted Russia, China and Cuba against western countries. The dispute among legal and military experts at the UN, along old cold war lines, has reinforced distrust at a time of mounting diplomatic tension over cyber-attacks, such as the 2016 hacking of the US Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) computers. (Guardian, London)