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Niger ends military agreement with US, calls it ‘profoundly unfair’ | CNN

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Niger ends military agreement with US, calls it ‘profoundly unfair’ | CNN



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Niger’s military government announced that it has ended an accord with the US that allowed military personnel and civilian staff from the Department of Defense to operate in Niger – days after holding high-level talks with US diplomatic and military officials this week.

“The government of Niger, taking into account the aspirations and interests of its people, decides with full responsibility to denounce with immediate effect the agreement relating to the status of military personnel of the United States and civilian employees of the American Department of Defense in the territory of the Republic of Niger,” Niger military spokesman Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane said in a statement on national television announcing the change.

Abdramane added that the agreement between the two countries – signed in 2012, was imposed on Niger and had been in violation of the “constitutional and democratic rules” of the West African nation’s sovereignty.

“This agreement is not only profoundly unfair in its substance but it also does not meet the aspirations and interests of the Nigerien people,” he said.

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African Union suspends Niger over military coup

Niger was once a key regional partner for the US, but relations have deteriorated since the military junta claimed power in July 2023 in what the US formally designated as a coup.

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Since then, the US has withdrawn many of its 1,100 troops who were stationed in Niger.

Senior Pentagon officials believe that keeping a presence in Niger is vital to efforts to tackle terrorism in the region. In October, the Pentagon said it was still assessing how the change would impact approximately 1,000 US forces stationed in the country.

In a letter sent to Congress in December 2023, President Joe Biden noted that approximately 648 US military personnel remain deployed to Niger.

The announcement comes after a senior US delegation’s three-day visit to Niger this week.

Abdramane said that the US delegation was received out of “courtesy” and “did not respect diplomatic practices” by not providing information regarding the date of its arrival, the composition of the delegation and the purpose of the visit.

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During meetings, Nigerien and American officials discussed the military transition in Niger and military cooperation between the two countries, Abdramane said.

“The government of Niger regrets the desire of the American delegation to deny the Nigerien people the right to choose their partners and the types of partnerships capable of helping them truly fight against terrorists,” Abdramane said.

Abdramane said Niger “forcefully denounces the condescending attitude” of the US.

“This attitude is likely to undermine the quality of our centuries-old relations and undermine the trust between our two governments,” he said.

He also rejected what he said were allegations of a secret deal made between Niger, Russia, and Iran.

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CNN has reached out to the US Department of Defense for comment.

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Donald Trump trial opens with allegations he tried to ‘corrupt’ 2016 US election

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Donald Trump trial opens with allegations he tried to ‘corrupt’ 2016 US election

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Donald Trump attempted to “corrupt” the 2016 election when he directed his team to buy the silence of a porn actor who threatened to go public with claims of an extramarital affair, Manhattan prosecutors said during opening arguments in the first criminal trial against a former US president.

A lawyer for Trump, Todd Blanche, countered that his client was “cloaked in innocence” and had merely been trying to “protect his family, his reputation and his brand”. The 77-year-old former president was “not on the hook” for the way the payments were organised or recorded by his employees, with which he “had nothing to do”, Blanche added.

The competing narratives of the events that form the core of the “hush money” case against Trump came during the opening salvos of the first — and possibly only — criminal trial to proceed against the Republican nominee for president before November’s vote.

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As Trump sat feet away at the defence table in a cold Manhattan courtroom on Monday morning, silently glowering, the seven men and five women on the jury heard assistant district attorney Matthew Colangelo outline a “catch and kill” scheme allegedly orchestrated by the former president and his inner circle to buy the silence of porn actor Stormy Daniels.

Daniels had threatened to go to the press with her story of how she had a tryst with the then-reality television star in 2006, Colangelo said, a revelation that would have been all the more damaging to Trump’s campaign following the furore over the publication of an Access Hollywood tape, in which he was heard to be bragging about grabbing women’s genitals.

Trump went on to disguise the transactions behind the $130,000 payment, Colangelo added, because he “wanted to conceal his and others’ criminal conduct”. 

“This was a planned, co-ordinated, long-running conspiracy . . . to help Donald Trump get elected through illegal expenditures,” he said. “It was election fraud, pure and simple.”

Blanche said Trump was tackling a “sinister” attempt to embarrass him with false allegations, and had acted entirely lawfully in trying to suppress the story. “You will learn that companies do that all the time,” he told jurors, adding: “There is nothing wrong with trying to influence an election — it is called democracy.”

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The start of the six-week trial comes just over a year after Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg brought the first criminal charges against a former US president, indicting Trump on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

Like any criminal defendant, Trump must be in attendance every day, a requirement that he has complained will limit his campaigning ahead of November’s election. The court will break on Wednesdays if the case is proceeding on schedule, Judge Juan Merchan said last week.

Trump railed against the court and prosecutors on social media and once again denounced the case as a witch hunt on his way into the courtroom on Monday morning. “This is done as election interference, everybody knows it,” the presumptive 2024 Republican nominee for the White House told reporters. 

After opening arguments concluded, the court briefly heard from the prosecution’s first witness, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, who was allegedly involved in the “catch and kill” scheme by purchasing exclusive rights to anti-Trump stories — and then preventing them from being published.

Merchan adjourned early for the day due to the Passover Jewish holiday and to allow a juror to attend an emergency dental appointment.

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Last week, 12 jurors and six alternates were chosen from a pool of almost 200 New Yorkers from the borough of Manhattan, who were carefully vetted to ensure they did not harbour insurmountable bias towards Trump. All said they could be impartial in deciding the facts of the case, although some expressed distaste for his policies and persona.

The former president still faces criminal charges in three different courts over his alleged attempts to thwart the peaceful transition of power after the 2020 election, and over his retention of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago mansion in Florida. It is unclear when the other criminal cases will go to trial.

Trump also faces a number of civil proceedings, and is appealing against a nearly half-billion dollar civil fraud judgment awarded to the New York attorney-general earlier this year. A judge on Monday declined to heed a request by the attorney-general to invalidate the $175mn bond Trump had posted in that case, in a reprieve for the former president.

Another milestone in Trump’s legal travails will be reached later this week, when the US Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether he can claim presidential immunity for acts that he has been charged with that took place while he was in office. The outcome of that challenge has no bearing over the New York case, which has been brought under state rather than federal law.

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Patriots' Robert Kraft pulls support for Columbia University amid antisemitic violence

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Patriots' Robert Kraft pulls support for Columbia University amid antisemitic violence

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New England Patriots team owner Robert Kraft made it his mission to “stand up to Jewish hate” in the wake of the Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel and on Monday he went a step further.

Kraft announced he was pulling his support for Columbia University amid the antisemitic violence at the Ivy League school. He released a statement through his philanthropic organization, Foundation to Combat Antisemitism.

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Robert Kraft speaks during the Historic Roots of Black and Jewish Solidarity at 92NY on March 7, 2024, in New York City. (John Lamparski/Getty Images)

“It was through the full academic scholarship Columbia gave me that I was able to attend college and get my start in life and for that I have been tremendously grateful,” Kraft’s statement read. “However, the school I love so much – the one that welcomed me and provided me with so much opportunity – is no longer an institution I recognize.

“I am deeply saddened at the virulent hate that continues to grow on campus and throughout our country. I am no longer confident that Columbia can protect its students and staff and I am not comfortable supporting the university until corrective action is taken.

“It is my hope that Columbia and its leadership will stand up to this hate by ending these protests immediately and will work to earn back the respect and trust of many of us who have lost faith in the institution. It is my hope that in this difficult time, the Kraft Center at Columbia will serve as a source of security and safety for all Jewish students and faculty on campus who want to gather peacefully to practice their religions, to be together and to be welcomed.”

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Columbia University protestors

Protesters demonstrate near Columbia University on Feb. 2, 2024, in New York City. (Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Kraft’s foundation has been at the forefront of the fight against antisemitism – amplified further by the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks in Israel. The organization also had an ad during the Super Bowl.

LIVE UPDATES: ANTISEMITISM ON CAMPUS SURGES AS AGITATORS TAKE OVER

Students at Columbia University were told in an overnight statement that all classes will be held virtually on Monday as anti-Israel protesters have taken over the campus, its president announced.

Columbia University President Dr. Nemat “Minouche” Shafik said in a statement, posted in the early hours Monday morning, that she was “deeply saddened” by certain actions of agitators, who have formed an “encampment” on the campus and have riled students and faculty with anti-Jewish slogans and chants.

“I am deeply saddened by what is happening on our campus,” Shafik wrote. “Our bonds as a community have been severely tested in ways that will take a great deal of time and effort to reaffirm. Students across an array of communities have conveyed fears for their safety and we have announced additional actions we are taking to address security concerns. The decibel of our disagreements has only increased in recent days. These tensions have been exploited and amplified by individuals who are not affiliated with Columbia who have come to campus to pursue their own agendas.”

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New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft speaks to the press at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Jan. 11, 2024. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

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“We need a reset,” she added. “To deescalate the rancor and give us all a chance to consider next steps, I am announcing that all classes will be held virtually on Monday. Faculty and staff who can work remotely should do so; essential personnel should report to work according to university policy. Our preference is that students who do not live on campus will not come to campus.”

Fox News’ Lawrence Richard contributed to this report.

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Rishi Sunak admits Rwanda deportations delayed until summer

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Rishi Sunak admits Rwanda deportations delayed until summer

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Rishi Sunak has acknowledged that his showpiece policy to transport asylum seekers to Rwanda will miss his original spring deadline.

But as he stepped up his bid to win final parliamentary approval of the plan, the UK prime minister vowed flights would leave “every month” until they had deterred undocumented migration across the Channel.

“The first flights will leave in 10-12 weeks,” Sunak said at a Downing Street press conference on Monday, indicating that he did not expect the first deportation flights of asylum seekers to leave for Rwanda until July.

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He had previously promised that the flights would begin in the spring, months ahead of the general election expected in the second half of this year.

The UK prime minister added that commercial charter planes and hundreds of trained staff were ready to take asylum seekers to Africa.

In a reference to the small boats that have ferried thousands of irregular migrants across to the UK, Sunak said that flights would leave “every month” over the summer “until the boats have stopped”. He added that an airfield had been identified for the purpose.

Migration is a highly charged political issue and as of late March this year more than 4,600 people had crossed the Channel in small boats.

Sunak said he would force MPs to sit on Monday — possibly into the night — until a stand-off with the House of Lords over Rwanda legislation was settled.

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He blamed Labour for holding up the legislation and delaying the start of deportation flights. Government insiders had hoped the Rwanda bill, which declares the African nation “safe” in a bid to fend off judicial challenges, would complete its parliamentary passage last week.

While the government can push the bill through the House of Commons, it does not have a majority in the Lords — and this has resulted in a protracted period of parliamentary “ping pong”. Peers have repeatedly amended the bill, and MPs have then overturned the changes.

Last week, peers approved two fresh amendments. One stated that Rwanda cannot be deemed a safe country until it fully implements an independent monitoring committee for its asylum system, while another would exempt some refugees — including Afghans — that have served alongside UK armed forces from falling within the scope of the scheme.

Sunak said the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was the “systematic deterrent” the government needed. 

“The only way to stop the boats is to eliminate the incentive to come by making it clear that if you arrive here illegally, you will not be able to stay and this policy does exactly that,” he said.

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“And be in no doubt about the choice that the country will face later this year. The Labour party have no plans, they will have no treaty bill and no flights to Rwanda, they are resigned to the idea that you will never fully solve this problem.”

Sunak said the number of crossings had dropped by a third last year after an agreement with the Albanian government, which had hugely reduced illegal Albanian migration. 

But he admitted there had been a spike in the number of vulnerable Vietnamese migrants paying criminal gangs to enter the country. “Vietnamese arrivals have increased tenfold and accounted for almost all the increase in small boat numbers we have seen this year,” he said. 

“We can’t keep reacting to the changing tactics of these gangs. The truth is, we need innovative solutions to address what is a global migration crisis to disrupt the business model of people-smuggling gangs,” he said. “And that means a systematic deterrent.”

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