France: US Must Not Interfere in French Politics

France’s foreign minister Sunday urged U.S. President Donald Trump not to interfere in French politics, following Trump’s tweets on weeks of protests in Paris.

“We do not take domestic American politics into account and we want that to be reciprocated,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told LCI television.

“I say this to Donald Trump and the French president says it too: leave our nation be.”

Le Drian was responding to tweets sent out by the American president on Saturday

“Very sad day & night in Paris. Maybe it’s time to end the ridiculous and extremely expensive Paris Agreement and return money back to the people in the form of lower taxes?” Trumps wrote.

An earlier tweet from Trump insinuated that protesters in Paris sided with his decision to leave the Paris agreement — a landmark 2015 agreement between over one hundred countries to combat climate change.

“The Paris Agreement isn’t working out so well for Paris. Protests and riots all over France. People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment. Chanting “We Want Trump!” Love France.” he wrote.

Nearly 2,000 people were arrested Saturday across France in the latest round of “yellow-vest” protests.

Nationwide, the interior ministry says some 136,000 people rallied against France’s high-cost of living. Protesters also expressed their dismay with the presidency of Emmanuel Macron.

Protests were held in a number of cities besides Paris, including Marseilles, Bordeaux, Lyon and Toulouse.

On Saturday, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said violent outbreaks in Paris were “under control” despite ongoing disorderly acts he declared “totally unacceptable.”

France closed the Eiffel Tower and other tourist landmarks and mobilized tens of thousands of security forces for the fourth week of violent demonstrations.

Many shops in Paris were boarded up before Saturday’s protests to avoid being smashed or looted, and police cordoned off many of the city’s broad boulevards.

President Macron made an unannounced visit Friday night to a group of anti-riot security officers outside Paris to thank them for their work.

The protests erupted in November over a fuel tax increase, which was part of Macron’s plan to combat global warming.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe called for new talks Saturday with representatives of the “yellow vest” movement. He vowed the government would address their concerns over rising living costs.

“The president will speak, and will propose measures that will feed this dialogue,” Philippe said in a televised statement.

Since the unrest began in November, four people have been killed in protest-related accidents.

 

While Macron has since abandoned the fuel tax hike, protesters have made new demands to address other economic issues hurting workers, retirees and students.

Government officials are concerned the repeated weekly violence could weaken the economy and raise doubts about the government’s survival.

The “yellow vest” movement was named after the safety jackets French motorists are required to keep in their vehicles, which the protesters wear at demonstrations.

The weeks of protests have exposed intense resentment among non-city residents who feel that Macron, a former investment banker, is out of touch with struggling middle-class and blue-collar workers.

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UK’s May: ‘Uncharted Waters’ If Lawmakers Reject Brexit Deal

With a crucial parliamentary vote on Brexit looming, British Prime Minister Theresa May warned lawmakers Sunday that they could take Britain into “uncharted waters” and trigger a general election if they reject the divorce deal she struck with the European Union.

May is fighting to save her unpopular Brexit plan and her job ahead of a showdown in Parliament on Tuesday, when lawmakers are widely expected to vote down the deal she negotiated with Brussels. Her Downing Street office insisted that the vote will go ahead despite speculation that the government may be forced to delay it.

A defeat in the vote could see Britain crashing out of the EU on March 29, the date for Britain’s exit, with no deal in place – an outcome that could spell economic chaos.

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, May said rejecting her deal would “mean grave uncertainty for the nation with a very real risk of no Brexit or leaving the European Union with no deal.”

“When I say if this deal does not pass we would truly be in uncharted waters, I hope people understand this is what I genuinely believe and fear could happen,” she said.

May’s government does not have a majority in the House of Commons, and opposition parties – as well as many of May’s own Conservatives – have already said they will not back the divorce deal that May and EU leaders agreed on last month.

Pro-Brexit lawmakers say the deal keeps Britain bound too closely to the EU, while pro-EU politicians say it erects barriers between the U.K. and its biggest trading partner and leaves many details of the future relationship undecided.

The main sticking point is a “backstop” provision in the Brexit agreement that aims to guarantee an open border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland post-Brexit.

The temporary measure would keep Britain under EU customs rules, and is supposed to last until superseded by permanent new trade arrangements. But critics say it could leave Britain tied to the EU indefinitely, unable to strike new trade deals around the world.

Boris Johnson, May’s former foreign secretary and leading Brexiteer, argued Sunday that the Irish border issue should be postponed so it forms part of the talks on a future trade deal.

It’s unclear what would happen next if lawmakers vote down the deal.

May could return to Brussels seeking changes to the Brexit deal and bring it back to Parliament for another vote. But EU leaders have insisted the divorce agreement is final and not renegotiable.

However, while the 585-page withdrawal deal is set, the declaration on future relations between the EU and Britain is shorter and vaguer and may be open to amendment.

Meanwhile, pro-Brexit Conservative rebels who have long wanted to oust May can trigger a no-confidence vote if they amass enough support.

The Labour Party may also attempt to force a general election or seek to form a minority government.

“What we would urge (May) to do is either call a general election – because she wouldn’t have the confidence of Parliament to carry on as prime minister,” Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s business spokeswoman, told the BBC. “But alternatively, she could offer to renegotiate around a deal that would provide consensus in Parliament.”

Some have also floated the idea of a second referendum on the question of Britain’s EU membership but the government is firmly opposed to that.

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More Than Half the World’s Population is Using the Internet

The International Telecommunication Union reports that for the first time in history, half of the global population is using the internet. A new report finds by the end of the year, 3.9 billion people worldwide will be online.

The report finds access to and use of information and communication technologies around the world is trending upwards. It notes most internet users are in developed countries, with more than 80 percent of their populations online. But it says internet use is steadily growing in developing countries, increasing from 7.7 percent in 2005 to 45.3 percent this year.

The International Telecommunication Union says Africa is the region with the strongest growth, where the percentage of people using the internet has increased from just over two percent in 2005 to nearly 25 percent in 2018.

The lowest growth rates, it says, are in Europe and the Americas, with the lowest usage found in the Asia-Pacific region.

In addition to data on internet usage, newly released statistics show mobile access to basic telecommunication services is becoming more predominant. ITU Senior Statistician, Esperanza Magpantay says access to higher speed mobile and fixed broadband also is growing.

“So, there is almost 96 percent of the population who are now covered by mobile population signal of which 90 percent are covered by 3G access. So, this is a high figure, and this helps explain why we have this 51 percent of the population now using the internet,” she said.

With the growth in mobile broadband, Magpantay says there has been an upsurge in the number of people using the internet through their mobile devices.

The ITU says countries that are hooked into the digital economy do better in their overall economic well-being and competitiveness. Unfortunately, it says the cost of accessing telecommunication networks remains too high and unaffordable for many.

It says prices must be brought down to make the digital economy a reality for the half the world’s people who do not, as yet, use the internet.

 

 

 

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Військовий отримав поранення під час навчань у Львівській області – бригада

Український військовий отримав поранення в ногу під час навчань у Львівській області, повідомила 24 окрема механізована бригада імені короля Данила.

«Під час планових навчань на одному з полігонів Львівщини внаслідок недотримання заходів безпеки отримав поранення в ногу один із військовослужбовців бригади. Потерпілому одразу була надана фахова медична допомога військовими медиками та відправлено на лікування у один із шпиталів Львова. Життю військовослужбовця загрози немає, так як життєво важливих органів не пошкодженно», – заявили військові.

Через інцидент призначене службове розслідування.

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Щонайменше три людини постраждали в Маріуполі після того, як водій в’їхав у зупинку – поліція

Щонайменше три людини постраждали в Маріуполі Донецької області після того, як водій в’їхав у зупинку громадського транспорту, повідомила патрульна поліція Донецької області.

«За попередніми даними, водій не впорався з керуванням та вилетів за межі проїзної частини на зупинку «Драмтеатр», де були люди. Від наїзду постраждало щонайменше три особи, серед яких дитина», – розповіли в поліції.

У відомстві зазначили, що водієм виявився житель міста 1996 року народження, який неодноразово притягався до відповідальності за порушення правил дорожнього руху, у тому числі за керування транспортним засобом в стані сп’яніння.

За даними Міністерства охорони здоров’я України, наведеними у листопаді, на українських дорогах щодня гине вісім людей. За дев’ять місяців від початку 2018 року, за даними поліції, загинули 2266 людей.

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Paris Cleans Up After Latest Riot; Nearly 1,800 Arrested

Nearly 1,800 people were arrested Saturday across France in the latest round of “yellow vest” protests.

Nationwide, the Interior Ministry says some 136,000 people rallied against France’s high-cost of living. Protesters also expressed their dismay with the presidency of Emmanuel Macron.

Protests were mounted in a number of cities besides Paris, including Marseilles, Bordeaux, Lyon and Toulouse.

The ministry said Sunday 1,723 people were arrested nationwide, with 1,220 of them ordered held in custody.

Parisian police said they made 1,082 arrests Saturday, a sharp increase from last week’s 412 arrests.

Meanwhile, tourist destinations, including the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum, reopened and workers cleaned up broken glass Sunday. 

The man who unleashed the anger, President Emmanuel Macron, broke his silence to tweet his appreciation for the police overnight, but pressure mounted on him to propose new solutions to calm the anger dividing France.

On Saturday, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said violent outbreaks in Paris were “under control” despite ongoing disorderly acts he declared “totally unacceptable.”

French police supported by armored vehicles fired tear gas at yellow-vested protesters on the Champs Elysees.

Castaner estimated 10,000 demonstrators had taken to Parisian streets.

He said 135 people had been injured, including 17 police officers.

France closed the Eiffel Tower and other tourist landmarks and mobilized tens of thousands of security forces for the fourth week of violent demonstrations.

Many shops in Paris were boarded up before Saturday’s protests to avoid being smashed or looted, and police cordoned off many of the city’s broad boulevards.

Despite what Castaner said were “exceptional” security measures, protesters still smashed store windows and clashed with police.

More than 89,000 police were deployed nationwide, an increase from 65,000 last weekend.

Police in central Paris removed any materials from the streets that could be used as weapons or projectiles during the demonstrations, including street furniture at outdoor cafes.

Macron made an unannounced visit Friday night to a group of anti-riot security officers outside Paris to thank them for their work.

The protests erupted in November over a fuel tax increase, which was part of Macron’s plan to combat global warming.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe called for new talks Saturday with representatives of the “yellow vest” movement. He vowed the government would address their concerns over rising living costs.

“The president will speak, and will propose measures that will feed this dialogue,” Philippe said in a televised statement.

 

WATCH: Clashes and Hundreds Detained in France in ‘Yellow Vest’ Protests

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday that the Paris Agreement, a global effort to reduce global warming beginning in 2020, “isn’t working out so well for Paris” and that “People do not want to pay large sums of money … in order to protect the environment.”

Since the unrest began in November, four people have been killed in protest-related accidents.

While Macron has since abandoned the fuel tax hike, protesters have made new demands to address other economic issues hurting workers, retirees and students.

Government officials are concerned the repeated weekly violence could weaken the economy and raise doubts about the government’s survival.

Officials are also concerned about far-right, anarchist and anti-capitalist groups like Black Bloc that have attached themselves to the “yellow vest” movement.

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У Києві сьогодні очікують мокрий сніг, дощ та ожеледицю – мерія

У Києві 9 грудня очікують невеликий мокрий сніг, дощ та місцями ожеледицю на дорогах, повідомила Київська міська державна адміністрація з посиланням на Український гідрометцентр.

Загалом очікується хмарна погода, вітер південний, 5-10 метрів на секунду. Температура протягом доби – 1-3 градуси тепла.

Згідно з даними на сайті Укргідрометцентру в більшості регіонів країни очікується мокрий сніг, лише в південних областях прогнозують невеликий дощ. У Криму очікується мінлива хмарність.

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World Marks Anti-Corruption Day

Corruption costs the world economy $2.6 trillion each year, according to the United Nations, which is marking International Anti-Corruption Day on Sunday.

“Corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune,” the United Nations said.

The cost of $2.6 trillion represents more than 5 percent of global GDP.

The world body said that $1 trillion of the money stolen annually through corruption is in the form of bribes.

Patricia Moreira, the managing director of Transparency International, told VOA that about a quarter of the world’s population has paid a bribe when trying to access a public service over the past year, according to data from the Global Corruption Barometer.

Moreira said it is important to have such a day as International Anti-Corruption Day because it provides “a really tremendous opportunity to focus attention precisely on the challenge that is posed by corruption around the world.”

​Anti-corruption commitments

To mark the day, the United States called on all countries to implement their international anti-corruption commitments including through the U.N. Convention against Corruption.

In a statement Friday, the U.S. State Department said that corruption facilitates crime and terrorism, as well as undermines economic growth, the rule of law and democracy.

“Ultimately, it endangers our national security. That is why, as we look ahead to International Anticorruption Day on Dec. 9, we pledge to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide,” the statement said.

Moreira said that data about worldwide corruption can make the phenomena understandable but still not necessarily “close to our lives.” For that, we need to hear everyday stories about people impacted by corruption and understand that it “is about our daily lives,” she added.

She said those most impacted by corruption are “the most vulnerable people — so it’s usually women, it’s usually poor people, the most marginalized people in the world.”

The United Nations Development Program notes that in developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

What can be done to fight corruption?

The United Nations designated Dec. 9 as International Anti-Corruption Day in 2003, coinciding with the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption by the U.N. General Assembly.

The purpose of the day is to raise awareness about corruption and put pressure on governments to take action against it.

Tackling the issue

Moreira said to fight corruption effectively it must be tackled from different angles. For example, she said that while it is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption, governments must also have mechanisms to enforce that legislation. She said those who engage in corruption must be held accountable.

“Fighting corruption is about providing people with a more sustainable world, with a world where social justice is something more of our reality than what it has been until today,” she said.

Moreira said change must come from a joint effort from governments, public institutions, the private sector and civil society.

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges “to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide.”

It noted that the United States, through the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, helps partner nations “build transparent, accountable institutions and strengthen criminal justice systems that hold the corrupt accountable.”

Moreira said that it is important for the world to see that there are results to the fight against corruption.

“Then we are showing the world with specific examples that we can fight against corruption, [that] yes there are results. And if we work together, then it is something not just that we would wish for, but actually something that can be translated into specific results and changes to the world,” she said.

VOA’s Elizabeth Cherneff contributed to this report.

 

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Protesters March as UN Climate Talks Hit Fossil Fuel Snag

Thousands of people from around the world marched Saturday through the southern Polish city that’s hosting this year’s U.N. climate talks, demanding that their governments take tougher action to curb global warming.

Protesters included farmers from Latin America, environmentalists from Asia, students from the United States and families from Europe, many of whom said climate change is already affecting their lives.

“Climate change is the thing that frightens me the most,” said Michal Dabrowski from Warsaw, who brought his young daughter to the march. “I’m a father and it’s kind of crucial that she will have a decent life.”

Marchers gathered in one of Katowice’s main squares before setting off for the conference center where delegates from almost 200 countries are haggling over the fine print of the 2015 Paris accord to fight climate change.

Some protesters were dressed as endangered orangutans while others wore breathing masks to highlight the air pollution in Katowice, which lies at the heart of Poland’s coal mining region of Silesia.

A group wearing polar bear costumes was expelled from the march after suggesting that fossil fuels should be replaced by nuclear power, a technology that many environmentalists object to.

Chanting “Wake up! It’s time to save our home!” and holding banners including one reading “Make the planet great again,” protesters marched through Katowice accompanied by a heavy police presence that included officers on horseback.

The “March for Climate” passed largely peacefully, though three people were detained after a small scuffle with police, a Katowice police spokeswoman said.

Earlier Saturday, environmental groups had complained that some of their activists were being turned back at the Polish border or deported. One Belgian activist was allowed to enter the country after her country’s ambassador intervened with Polish authorities.

Poland has introduced temporary random identity checks ahead of the U.N. climate conference, arguing they were needed for security.

Inside the U.N. meeting, negotiators were concluding the first week of talks, which are focused on finalizing the Paris rulebook that determines how signatories to the 2015 deal record and report their greenhouse gas emissions.

In a recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said drastic action would be needed to achieve the Paris accord’s most ambitious target of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Illustrating the sensitivity of this message for some governments, major oil exporting countries including Saudi Arabia and Russia objected to “welcoming” the IPCC’s report. The issue is now one of several that will be left to government ministers, who begin arriving in Katowice on Monday to try to break remaining deadlocks.

Environmental groups want countries to send a strong signal that they’re ready for more ambitious action in the years ahead, but some protesters Saturday felt that governments alone would not do enough to fight climate change.

“I’ve had enough of just sitting and looking at politicians deciding things for us. It’s time for us to tell them what we want and to start a grassroots revolution,” said Anna Zalikowska.

Similar marches for the environment took place in France on Saturday, but those were overshadowed by a larger “yellow vest” protest in Paris staged by people angry over fuel tax increases.

The tax rise, now put on hold, was aimed at encouraging drivers to reduce their use of fossil fuels, a measure experts say is necessary to nudge consumers toward cleaner alternatives.

Resistance to the fuel tax is a blow to French President Emmanuel Macron, who sees himself as the guarantor of the Paris accord.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has announced he’s pulling the United States out of the agreement, claimed Saturday that “people do not want to pay large sums of money … in order to maybe protect the environment.”

Economists say the price of curbing climate change is actually far lower than the eventual cost of coping with the catastrophic famines, storms and sea level rises that will happen with a warming climate.

The Climate Action Network, an umbrella group for environmental organizations, on Saturday gave its Fossil of the Day award to the United States after Washington’s diplomats objected to linking human rights to climate change.

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Thousands Protest Serbian President’s Autocratic Rule

Thousands of people have marched in Serbia against the autocratic rule of President Aleksandar Vucic and his government.

An opposition alliance called Saturday’s protest after assailants recently beat up and seriously injured a leftist party leader and his associates in a southern Serbian city.

The opposition parties have blamed the incident on what they describe as an atmosphere of violence and intimidation imposed by Vucic’s populist ruling coalition.

Vucic is a former extreme nationalist who now says he wants Serbia to reform and join the European Union. But critics at home say Vucic has restricted democratic and media freedoms in the Balkan country.

The demonstration in Belgrade was dubbed “Stop to bloody shirts,” a reference to the recent beating of Borko Stefanovic, the leader of the Serbia’s Left party.

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Haunted by Colonial Past, Belgium’s Africa Museum Reopens After Revamp

Belgium’s Africa Museum reopened on Saturday after a five-year restoration to repackage its looted treasures with a critical view of the country’s brutal colonial past.

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo hailed a “historic moment” and said it would open “a new chapter” in Belgian-African relations.

The reopening of the former Royal Museum for Central Africa in the Tervuren Palace outside Brussels comes amid a renewed European debate about returning stolen artifacts.

Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to return 26 cultural artifacts to Benin “without delay,” a move likely to put pressure on other former colonial powers to return African artworks to their countries of origin.

Macron said the decision should not be seen as an isolated or symbolic case and proposed a conference in Paris next year to discuss an “exchange policy” for African treasures.

“Restitution should no longer be taboo,” De Croo said on Saturday adding, however, that any returns should be dependent on certain conservation conditions being met.

“It is clear that this implies a respectful attitude on the part of the African authorities with regard to this artistic heritage,” he said.

Before it closed for refurbishment in 2013, visitors to the Belgian museum were greeted by a statue uncritically depicting white European missionaries “bringing civilization to Congo.”

The museum’s research team insists the exhibits will now take a much more critical approach to the depredations of King Leopold II and his agents in Congo.   

With the help of multimedia displays and detailed captions, visitors will be encouraged to take a critical view and to see colonialism through African eyes.

The museum’s academic experts say there is no attempt to cover up the past, but rather to use the collection of 125,000 ethnographic objects more educationally.

Despite the new approach more in keeping with Belgium’s multicultural present, the revamp has not been without controversy.

Activists are demanding a proper memorial to seven Congolese who died in 1897 after being brought to Belgium as living exhibits. They are buried near the Tervuren estate.

Paula Polanco told AFP her group, Intal-Congo, wanted them to be recognized as “victims of a colonialist crime.”

Belgium’s current king, Philippe, meanwhile declined an invitation to the reopening.

The Belgian colonies, run as a private royal estate by Leopold II, covered lands now included in independent Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

These countries have suffered a turbulent modern history and for European experts, in DR Congo’s case at least, lack premises to properly house a national history collection.

Meanwhile, DR Congo’s President Joseph Kabila has now said he plans to formally request the return of art and records before his country’s own museum opens next year.

The activists doubt the museum’s sincerity and have urged it, in Polanco’s words, to form a committee to “objectively and materially” determine the origin of the works.  

For Guido Gryseels, the museum’s director general, the political backdrop is part of a broader Belgian conversation about race that goes beyond the rights and wrongs of the ownership of his museum’s exhibits.

“It’s not only our museum. It’s the overall Belgian society which is still very much a white society,” Gryseels said, insisting that everyone wants to see a more racially integrated future.

While France, Britain and the Netherlands, he said, saw large-scale arrivals from former colonies earlier, Belgium’s 250,000-strong African population came in the last 20 years.

And although the museum has been redesigned, statues and street names still honor Leopold, who personally enriched himself through the forced labor of the Congolese during a period in which an estimated half of the local population — up to 10 million people — were wiped out by overwork, violence and disease.

“Personally speaking, I think that indeed someone who is responsible for mass murder is not to be put literally upon a pedestal,” Bambi Ceuppens, doctor in anthropology at the Royal Museum for Central Africa, said.

Other statues should not be hidden, she argues, but used by the museum and educationalists as they explain Belgium and Congo’s intertwined histories.

And, by better understanding the past, Belgium may be better able to integrate Belgian-born Africans into a more diverse future.

“As recently as two months ago our prime minister gave a presentation here for all the top CEOs of Belgium and all the top ministers,” Gryseels said.

“And the whole audience here was full: 220 white people… Ten years from now the situation will be very different.”

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US, Western Diplomats See Political Motive Behind OPEC Oil Cut

Despite repeated calls by U.S. President Donald Trump for oil production to remain steady, the Saudi-led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, along with Russia and its allies, announced Friday they would cut their pumping of crude to reduce oil flows onto the global market by 1.2 million barrels of per day, a bigger-than-expected cut. 

 

OPEC officials say there was no political motive behind the decision, arguing an oil glut forced the move and that their decision was spurred by oversupply concerns and forecasts for lower demand next year — as well as a surge of shale oil production in the U.S. 

Price slide

 

Oil economists agree that a reduction is needed to stem a further slide in prices, which fell 30 percent in October, and OPEC’s decision was praised by many market analysts. 

 

Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas, told Bloomberg: “Given how much expectations were downplayed around the outcome of this meeting, this result comes as a welcome surprise. OPEC has given the oil market a rudder that appeared largely absent.” 

 

Oil prices surged following the announcement, with a barrel of Brent crude jumping nearly 6 percent, to $63.11.  

But with the U.S. Senate determined to punish Saudi Arabia for the killing in October of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and prominent critic of the Gulf kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, some Western diplomats and analysts aren’t so sure that the Saudi-led cut was without a political motive.  

 

They argue Riyadh’s determination to force through a larger-than-expected cut was partly a warning shot in line with thinly veiled threats by Saudi officials to jolt the global economy, if the U.S. moves to impose sanctions on the kingdom for Khashoggi’s brazen killing.  

 

Pledge on sanctions

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has vowed to sanction Saudi Arabia after a briefing by CIA Director Gina Haspel convinced them the Saudi crown prince ordered the killing, which took place Oct. 2 in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.  

 

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he wanted to “sanction the hell out of” the Saudi government. 

 

“A cut in production is one thing, but this was much larger than was forecast; and the Saudis had to go out of their way to persuade Moscow to agree,” a senior British diplomat said. 

 

Initially, the Kremlin refused to scale back its own output at the meeting in Vienna, and Russian envoy Alexander Novak had to rush back to Moscow for talks. On Friday, the Saudi and Russian envoys haggled in Vienna for two hours, consulting their governments by phone during the bargaining, OPEC officials said. 

 

Some analysts see the Russian agreement for the production cut as further evidence of the warming ties between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Saudi crown prince, who enthusiastically shared a high-five a hand slap at last week’s Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires. 

 

In the run-up to the meeting featuring the OPEC countries and a so-called Russia-led super cartel of 10 oil-producing countries, including Kazakhstan, analysts had forecast that a muddled middle course would be plotted, with Saudi Arabia likely to be more cautious about defying Trump while moving to bump up prices.  

 

On Wednesday, the U.S. leader tweeted he hoped OPEC would “be keeping oil flows as is, not restricted.” He added: “The World does not want to see, or need, higher oil prices!” 

 

In October as sanctions talk flared in Washington, Saudi officials warned that the Gulf kingdom could exploit its oil status to disrupt the global economy, if it wanted. The Saudi government threatened to retaliate against any punishment such as economic sanctions, outside political pressure or even “repeated false accusations” about the Khashoggi killing, although it walked back the threat subsequently following signs that the Trump administration had no appetite for imposing sanctions on the long-term U.S. ally.  

Saudi Arabia doesn’t wield the same level of power on the oil market — thanks in part to U.S. shale oil production — as it did in 1973, when it triggered an oil embargo against Western countries for supporting Israel. However, it still wields enormous influence, analysts say. The U.S. is the third-biggest destination for Saudi crude. OPEC accounts for about one-third of global crude production. 

 

If the U.S. Congress decides to impose sanctions, the Saudis could react by reducing oil exports further and force prices to rise to $100 a barrel, some market experts said. 

 

Exemptions for importers

U.S. officials said they had expected that OPEC would decide to cut production. They said that is why U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo granted exemptions last month for eight oil-importing countries to continue to buy oil from Tehran when announcing details of the reimposition of sanctions against Iran. 

 

This week, U.S. senators are due to take aim at the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen and will hold an unprecedented vote on ending U.S. support for the war. 

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