Qatar, UAE clash over alleged airspace violation

DOHA:  Gulf rivals Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) traded accusations yesterday over a complaint by Doha that an Emirati fighter jet had violated its airspace.

Qatar, which has faced a boycott by Arab states including the UAE since last June, said it had lodged a protest at the United Nations about the violation which allegedly took place on December 21.

The Qatari foreign ministry said on its Twitter account that it informed the UN secretary general and the president of the Security Council that the UAE jet “flew over the exclusive economic zone of Qatar” for one minute.

The ministry said that “the UAE plane entered the airspace of the State of Qatar without prior knowledge or approval of the competent Qatari authorities.” —Agencies

Suspected Daesh bomber surrenders at Libyan checkpoint: official

TRIPOLI: A suspected Daesh militant driving a car laden with explosives surrendered to Libyan security forces at a checkpoint yesterday rather than go ahead with an attack in the city of Misrata, a security official said.

The Misratan counter-terrorism official, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said he had surrendered at a checkpoint near Abu Grain town, but it was not immediately clear why he had handed himself in.

Abu Grain is about 100 km (60 miles) south of Misrata and 140 km west of Sirte, a city that Daesh controlled until they were driven out by a Misratan-led military campaign in 2016.“The suspect handed himself in to the security forces early morning on Thursday,” the official told Reuters. “The car bomb is now being dismantled by explosives experts.”

Since Daesh’s defeat in Sirte, Libyan and Western security officials say militants have been trying to regroup in desert areas to the south, where they were targeted last year by several US air strikes. —Agencies

Melbourne police find body of famous Australian artist

By SJA Jafri

MELBOURNE: A well known Australian artist’s body was found in a bathtub by one of her sons yesterday.

Antonia Tatchell, 43, was discovered at a house on Albert St in Brunswick after police were called to the scene yesterday. A neighbour said he often heard “yelling and screaming” at the home.

“We are comfortable at this stage that whatever has happened doesn’t pose any threat to the wider community,” Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Colbert told reporters at the scene.

“We are speaking to neighbours, doorknocking the area, making a lot of inquiries to try to ascertain what in fact may have gone on if anything has gone on.”

Police are treating her death as suspicious and will await the results of a post mortem examination. Tatchell was a finalist for a prestigious art award in 2011.

Air strikes in north Yemen kill at least 14: witnesses, rebels

SANAA: Saudi-led coalition air strikes on a marketplace and house in rebel-held northern Yemen have left at least 14 people dead, witnesses and a rebel-run news agency said yesterday.

An eyewitness in the northern province of Saada told AFP that 12 people had been killed in strikes on the marketplace on Wednesday evening, including women. The rebel-run news agency Saba gave the same toll and accused the coalition of using cluster bombs in that attack in Kataf city.

In the Baqim district of Saada province, two people were killed in a Saudi-led air strike on a house, another witness said.

Saba gave the same toll and said that separate strikes on a house near the Saudi border had left another two people dead although there was no independent confirmation.

Saada is a stronghold of the Houthis who continue to hold large swathes of territory in the north including the capital Sanaa. —AFP

Popularity of ‘Fire and Fury’ foretells Trump’s end, says North Korea

SEOUL: North Korea has found good material to attack US President Donald Trump: Michael Wolff’s bombshell new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”

The book paints Trump as a leader who doesn’t understand the weight of his office and whose competence is questioned by aides. Trump and other White House aides have blasted it as inaccurate trash. But it was the top-selling book in the US last week, and its numbers are likely to grow far higher.

Yesterday, the North’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper, run by its ruling Workers’ Party, carried an article about the book’s subject matter, how Trump reacted and why it is selling so well.

Its sales reflect “rapidly surging anti-Trump sentiments in the international community,” the article said. “The anti-Trump book is sweeping all over the world so Trump is being massively humiliated worldwide.”

The book’s popularity “foretells Trump’s political demise,” the article said. —Agencies

3 moderate earthquakes rattle Iran

TEHRAN: A series of moderate earthquakes shook Iran yesterday but there were no immediate reports of victims or damage. The strongest of the three quakes, measuring magnitude 5.6, hit the western province of Kermanshah near the border with Iraq at 10:29 am (0659 GMT), according to the Iranian seismology centre.

It was followed by a 5.4-magnitude tremor in the same region. Earlier in the morning, a 5.1-magnitude quake had rattled Kerman province in southern Iran.

Iranian state television said emergency teams had been deployed in the affected areas but reported no casualties or damage.

Iran sits atop several fault lines and has been hit by a series of earthquakes in recent weeks. On November 12, a 7.3-magnitude quake killed 620 people in Kermanshah and eight in Iraq. —Agencies

Trump likely to extend sanctions relief for Iran

WASHINGTON:  US President Donald Trump is expected this week to extend relief from economic sanctions to Iran as part of the nuclear deal, citing progress in amending US legislation that governs Washington’s participation in the landmark accord, according to US officials and others familiar with the administration’s deliberations.

But Trump is likely to pair his decision to renew the concessions to Tehran with new, targeted sanctions on Iranian businesses and people, the six people briefed on the matter said. The restrictions could hit some firms and individuals whose sanctions were scrapped under the 2015 nuclear agreement, a decision that could test Tehran’s willingness to abide by its side of the bargain.

The individuals two administration officials, two congressional aides and two outside experts who consult with the government weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity. They cautioned that Trump could still reject the recommendation from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R McMaster and that no final decision had been made.

They said heated discussions were going on within the administration and with key Republican lawmakers.

The State Department and White House didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump must decide by Friday to extend the nuclear-related sanctions relief for Iran’s central bank or re-impose the restrictions that President Barack Obama suspended two years ago. —Agencies

Mystery hero jumps into Melbourne River to save girl

By SJA Jafri

MELBOURNE: A heroic mystery man has jumped into the Yarra River to save a young woman.

The 21-year-old dived into Melbourne’s notoriously dirty waterway on Tuesday night after an 18-year-old woman was seen toppling into the river from the King Street Bridge in Southbank. After witnessing the woman’s plunge, the quick-thinking man threw himself in to rescue her.

The woman was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital for assessment while the man was uninjured.

Salman reaffirms Saudi support for independent Palestinian state

RIYADH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia  yesterday made a telephone call to President Mahmoud Abbas of the State of Palestine, to discuss the Palestinian cause.

According to the Saudi Press Agency, SPA, King Salman reaffirmed the Kingdom’s firm position on the Palestinian cause and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques also highlighted the importance of continuing efforts to find a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian issue in accordance with relevant international resolutions.—Agencies

Two Pakistanis killed in Riyadh old building collapse: Saudi media

DUBAI: Two Pakistani workers were killed and another three were injured after part of an old building in a Riyadh hospital collapsed yesterday, according to a Saudi newspaper.

The incident, at old lab buildings of King Saud Medical Complex, occurred when the workers were dismantling the building, the English-language Saudi Gazette reported.

The old and unused parts of the building are being dismantled as part of renovation and expansion of the hospital complex by the ministry of health, it said. The demolition work began recently at the site.

All the workers dismantling the building are Pakistani nationals, the paper quoted sources as saying. —Agencies