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Saudi king names new heir to throne in government shakeup

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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Wednesday named his powerful interior minister as heir in a major shakeup that also saw the world’s longest-serving foreign minister replaced.

A royal decree removed Crown Prince Moqren bin Abdul Aziz bin Saud as next in line to the throne and replaced him with Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who headed a crackdown on Al-Qaeda in the oil-rich kingdom a decade ago.

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“We have decided to respond to his highness and what he had expressed about his desire to be relieved from the position of crown prince,” said a statement from the royal court, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

It added that Moqren, 69, was also relieved of his position as deputy prime minister in the world’s largest oil exporter, but insisted “he will always remain in high regard”.

The decree named “Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as crown prince” as well as deputy prime minister and said he will continue in his position of interior minister and head of the political and security council, a coordinating body.

A separate decree Wednesday said King Salman’s son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is in his early 30s, will be deputy crown prince.

He retains his position of defence minister, in which he has recently played a key role in a Saudi-led coalition conducting air strikes on Yemeni rebels.

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The dismissal of Moqren removes one of the few remaining high-level officials from the era of King Abdullah, who died on January 23 and was replaced by Salman, 79.

Moqren would have been the last son of the kingdom’s founder, Abdul Aziz bin Saud, to rule.

He was a confidant of the late Abdullah, who appointed him deputy crown prince behind then-crown prince Salman in March 2014, an unprecedented move.

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Moqren’s removal leaves bin Nayef as the first of the second generation, or grandsons of Abdul Aziz, in line to lead the conservative Islamic kingdom.

The appointment of bin Nayef, 55, further solidifies control of Salman’s Sudayri branch of the royal family. Their influence had waned under Abdullah.

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A Western diplomat said Moqren had really only a “protocol” position under King Salman, describing bin Salman as “the strong man in Saudi Arabia”.

– New foreign minister –

Under Salman, Saudi Arabia has adopted a more assertive foreign policy, leading the Arab-dominated coalition targeting Iran-backed rebels in neighbouring Yemen since late March.

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In another major change, Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, was appointed foreign minister, a royal decree said.

He replaces Prince Saud al-Faisal who “asked to be relieved from his duties due to his health condition,” said the decree carried by the SPA.

Prince Saud had held the post since 1975, making him the world’s longest-serving foreign minister.

Born in 1940, he was in the United States for back surgery when Salman acceded to the throne.

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The decree said Prince Saud has been appointed as an adviser and a special envoy of the king, as well as a supervisor on foreign affairs.

Jubeir came to attention answering reporters’ questions in the United States in defence of his country’s decision to participate in an aerial campaign in Yemen.

His appointment is a rarity as the position of foreign minister is usually held by a member of the ruling family.

Salman also named a new health minister in Wednesday’s reshuffle, the second major government shakeup since he took office.

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Pressured by US sanctions, Cuba struggles to pay its debts

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Foreign companies going unpaid, creditor countries told to be patient: as Cuba struggles under the weight of US sanctions it has also been struggling to pay its debts, raising serious concern among its partners.

Having negotiated a restructuring of its debt with 14 countries through the Paris Club of creditors in 2015, Cuba last year failed to make timely payments to six of them - Austria, Belgium, Britain, France, Japan and Spain.

The Caribbean nation was supposed to pay those countries "$32 to $33 million" of the total $82 million due in 2019, one diplomatic source said. Its failure to do so leaves it facing stiff interest payments of 9 percent.

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Feds say Michigan man threatened Ukraine whistleblower’s lawyer

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DETROIT — A small-town Michigan man has landed on the federal government’s radar, indicted for allegedly threatening a lawyer for the Ukraine whistleblower whose complaint triggered the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.Brittan Atkinson, 52, of Beaverton — a quaint vacation spot in rural Gladwin County — is accused of sending attorney Mark Zaid an email on Nov. 7 that read: “All traitors must die miserable deaths. Those that represent traitors shall meet the same fate,” according to an indictment unsealed Thursday.Atkinson allegedly sent the email one day after Trump held up a... (more…)

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‘He started singing:’ Bay Area couple found alive nine days after vanishing during hike

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — After mysteriously vanishing on Valentine’s Day from their rental cottage in the Inverness forest, a Palo Alto couple was miraculously found alive Saturday, rescued from a ravine deep in the woods near Shell Beach, where they had been lost for nine days, surviving only on a puddle of water.The disappearance of Carol Kiparsky, 77, and Ian Irwin, 72, from their cottage up the mountain from Chicken Ranch Beach, near Point Reyes Station, had baffled the hundreds of searchers who had scoured the area for days. Their family had given up hope.Then on Saturday morning, two searchers... (more…)

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