Two-state solution in the air, but Trump still confident of Middle East peace

US President Trump has vowed to “do whatever is necessary” to reach peace between Israelis and Palestinians. After meeting Palestinian leader Abbas, Trump said peace is “maybe not as difficult as people have thought.”

Watch video00:38

Trump sees ‘good chance’ for Mideast peace

After a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, US President Donald Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he’d “love to be a mediator, an arbitrator or a facilitator” between Israel and the Palestinians in a bid to achieve a Middle East peace agreement.

The US president said he believes, “We will get it done.” But he also conceded that a deal “cannot be imposed by the United States or any other nation.”

Watch video02:35

Will Trump move embassy to Jerusalem?

“It’s … something that I think is frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years,” he said at the beginning of a lunch with Abbas and senior US and Palestinian leaders.

No new strategy

In doing so, Trump committed his administration to helping to resolve the decades-old conflict, something his three direct predecessors have failed to achieve. But at the same time, he didn’t offer any new strategy about how peace could be achieved.

Questions have been raised about Trump’s choice of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who entered the White House with no government experience, to oversee Middle East peace efforts, along with Trump’s longtime business lawyer, Jason Greenblatt, as on-the-ground envoy.

Abbas spoke through an interpreter and was equally positive, saying: “We are coming into a new opportunity a new horizon that would enable us to bring about peace.”

Washington Jared Kushner (Getty Images/AFP/N. Kamm)Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is to over Middle East peace efforts on behalf of the US administration

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But he added that peace with Israel must be “based on the vision of two states” based on the 1967 borders with the Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, and renewed his call for Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land.

Abbas said he hoped the US could be “true partners” to bring about a historic settlement.

Confusing signals

But Trump’s commitment was met with skepticism in diplomatic quarters, coming just two months after he broke with the longstanding US policy of advocating a two-state solution, and vowed to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, breaking with US policies that have lasted decades.

That move would likely spark Palestinian fury and is privately seen by many in the Israel and US security establishments as needlessly inflammatory.

On Tuesday, US Vice President Mike Pence said that “serious consideration” was still being given to the embassy move.

Plans are being made for Trump to visit Netanyahu in Jerusalem later this month, and possibly meet Abbas in the West Bank, the Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday. It said US and Israeli officials have declined to confirm the trip.

Watch video02:37

Blackouts in Gaza look set to worsen

mm/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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France’s Macron, Le Pen face off in final TV showdown

Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has accused her centrist rival of being the “candidate of the elite.” But Emmanuel Macron hit back in a TV debate, insisting his challenger offered no new policies.

Frankreich Wahl TV-Debatte - Marine Le Pen & Emmanuel Macron (Getty Images/AFP/E. Feferberg)

The two rivals for the second round of France’s presidential election launched personal insults and attacked each other’s manifestos on Wednesday evening as they faced off in the final TV debate ahead of Sunday’s vote.

During the high-stakes duel, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen hit out at her centrist opponent Emmanuel Macron’s record as a former economy minister, accusing him of playing a key role in selling off several of France’s state-led companies.

“That’s what you do best, break up companies and do M&A (mergers and acquisitions),” Le Pen told her contender, insisting he had acted against the interests of France.

Instead, Le Pen promised to create a sovereign wealth fund to prevent what she said were foreign “vultures” from taking over French companies.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

3 thoughts after 75 minutes of : 1. @EmmanuelMacron well prepared, 2. Moderators can go home, 3. @MLP_officiel “defends France”

‘Le liar’

In response, Macron accused the National Front candidate of misleading voters about his record, of having no experience in economic issues and no workable ideas.

“Your strategy is to tell lots of lies, you don’t propose anything,” he responded, adding, “You play with fear,” in reference to her party’s anti-immigration stance.

Macron repeated his vow to lower taxes for workers, and allow self-employed people – who are currently excluded from France’s generous unemployment scheme – to benefit, if they go bankrupt.

Le Pen stuck to her main campaign message, telling an estimated 20 million viewers: “I’m the candidate of the people, who protects our jobs, our security, from external competition and from the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.” She insisted Macron was the “candidate of the elite.”

Infografik Frankreich: Mit diesen Forderungen treten die Kanditaten an Englisch

From EU to eurozone

Le Pen said that central banks and businesses could decide whether they wanted to continue to use the euro for payments, but French citizens would have the franc in their wallets. She said it would resemble the system used before the introduction of euro banknotes.

Vous proposez de sortir de l’euro : c’est un projet mortifère et dangereux.

But Macron hit back saying the euro before the introduction of banknotes was used as a reference currency, but payments had been made in national currencies.

The former economy minister said that if France left the eurozone, French citizens would lose up to one-third of their savings since the franc would have to be devalued upon the re-introduction of France’s former national currency. Macron added that it would in effect make France less competitive since countries such as Germany would still be using the euro.

Former banker Macron hit out at what he said was Le Pen’s negative picture of France’s future in a globalized world, saying that voters don’t want her “spirit of defeatism.” He promised instead to create investment opportunities that would create jobs.

The centrist candidate has promised to carry out sweeping reforms of France’s public services, while Le Pen has threatened to pull France out of the euro and hold a referendum on its future membership of the European Union.

Frankreich Wahl TV-Debatte - Marine Le Pen & Emmanuel Macron (Getty Images/AFP/E. Feferberg)Wednesday’s crucial pre-election TV debate was watched by an estimated 20 million people

The two contenders even argued over France’s contribution to the EU, with Le Pen saying France would save 9 billion euros ($9.8 billion) if it left the bloc, while Macron insisted France’s net annual contribution was actually 6 billion euros.

He warned that, like Britain, France may face a divorce bill of 60-80 billion euros if voters decided to withdraw their membership of the EU.

Wednesday’s debate was the two rivals’ final face-to-face encounter before Sunday’s second round vote to pick a replacement for Socialist President Francois Hollande, who is not seeking a second term.

Macron still leads polls

Macron has maintained a 20 percentage point lead over far-right candidate Le Pen, but some analysts believe he may not automatically receive votes from supporters of some of the losing candidates from the first round election.

Many supporters of leftist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon have vowed to abstain or spoil their ballot.

Since the first round vote on April 23, Le Pen has attempted to soften her image to broaden her appeal to undecided voters. She also temporarily stepped down as leader of the National Front but is still backed by her former party.

Le Pen reaching the run-off has echoes of her father Jean-Marie Le Pen’s surprise first round victory in 2002, which pitted him against center-right incumbent Jacques Chirac.

His daughter is likely to win more than the almost 18 percent support he picked up after Chirac refused to face the then National Front leader in a live TV debate.

A Cevipof poll published on the website of Le Monde on Wednesday saw Macron getting 59 percent of votes in the run-off versus 41 percent for Le Pen.

ls,mm/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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With US & North Korea saber-rattling, Japan moving to remilitarize

With US & North Korea saber-rattling, Japan moving to remilitarize
If the US tries to attack North Korea and Japan joins in, the Koreans would retaliate against American bases in South Korea and Japan. Japanese PM Abe is playing on people’s fears to push for remilitarization, Asia specialist Tim Beal told RT.

Japan’s pacifist constitution turns 70 on May, 3. Days before the anniversary Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the country’s leading law needs a change.

The proposed revisions would see an end to the limits on taking part in international conflicts and using troops only for self-defense.

There was a significant move in 2014 when the PM wanted to allow the military to use force in cooperation with other countries. Two years ago, the parliament approved troops fighting outside of Japan.

RT: Abe promises reforms to amend the constitution’s pacifist text. What do you think these reforms could be?

Tim Beal: Abe has been trying to amend the constitution for a long time both by changing the constitution and by reinterpreting it. The basic thrust of this is the remilitarization of Japan and restoring Japan to be what they call ‘a normal country’ after the defeat in WWII. This is a continuing effort by Abe which is reaching a pretty tense point at the moment.

RT: Considering the protests in the country, do you think he will succeed with those reforms?

TB: There is a lot of pacifist feeling in Japan, a lot of opposition to remilitarization. There are memories of what the military period did to Japan 70 years ago. Not merely the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the firebombing of Tokyo and other cities. The two million or so Japanese who had to flee back to Japan from the colonies, and so forth. This is a very sad and distressing history, and lots of Japanese are aware of that. The problem is that the Japanese government is very adamant and keen to remilitarize and it is using all sorts of arguments and techniques and forms of persuasion, especially in relation to North Korea and also in respect of China to scare the Japanese people into thinking that remilitarization is going to make them more secure. In fact, it will make them less secure. But people don’t necessarily see it that way.

READ MORE: ‘North Korea’s true crime? It’s not completely dominated by the US’

RT: Is Abe using the fear of the Japanese people toward the Korean aggression to reach his goals? Do you think Japan should become more militarized considering North Korean efforts with nuclear weapons?

TB: No, this is all a pretext. What is happening is that the Americans have been contemplating for a long time how to destroy, if you like, North Korea, how to possibly disarm it, how to take it over. This situation has become a difficult point partly because of Trump, partly because North Korea’s program of developing a nuclear deterrent is reaching a stage where they can in a few years’ time retaliate against the US if they are attacked. If that happens, then it is going to be very difficult for the American government to attack North Korea. At the moment, it is still on the edge because although there will be lots of people killed in North Korea, South Korea, millions of people, perhaps, and in Japan, as Senator Graham said, “It will happen there, it won’t happen in the US.” So, at the moment an attack on North Korea doesn’t pose a huge amount of danger to the US, but it would in the future. If the US is going to achieve its aim of disarming North Korea and taking it over, in a sense, they have to do it fairly soon. They can’t hang around and wait. That is the problem at the moment. Japan, following its defeat in WWII, hosts the main American base in East Asia. This is aimed at China, but in the event of an attack on North Korea, the Koreans would retaliate, of course, against the American bases in South Korea and in Japan. So, Japan is in the firing line there. Abe is playing on these fears to push for the remilitarization.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Battle with Brussels: Theresa May accuses EU of trying to influence general election (VIDEO)

In her toughest words yet, Prime Minister Theresa May has accused European officials of trying to influence the result of Britain’s general election with threats of harsh Brexit terms.

Speaking outside Downing Street on Wednesday, May adopted a tough tone, saying eurocrats do not want the talks to succeed and for Britain to “prosper” after Brexit. She also suggested that Britain’s negotiating position has been misrepresented in the European press.

“In the past few days we have seen just how tough these talks are likely to be. Britain’s negotiating position in Europe has been misrepresented in the continental press.

“The European commission’s negotiating stance has hardened. Threats against Britain have been issued by European politicians and officials. All of these acts have been deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election that will take place on June 8.”

She added: “The events of the last few days have shown that whatever our wishes and however reasonable the positions of Europe’s other leaders, there are some in Brussels who do not want these talks to succeed and who do not want Britain to prosper.”

She appeared to be referring to leaks in a German newspaper about her now infamous dinner meeting at Downing Street last week with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

According to Frankfurter Allgemeine, May and Juncker “clashed” over a number issues, with the eurocrat quoted as saying he was “10 times more skeptical than I was before.”

May initially dismissed the leaks as Brussels gossip, though reportedly said she could be a “bloody difficult woman.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said May is playing “games with Brexit in the hope of winning advantage for the Tories.”

“By winding up the public confrontation with Brussels, the Prime Minister wants to wrap the Conservative party in the Union Jack and distract attention from her government’s economic failure and rundown of our public services.

“But Brexit is too important to be used as a political game in this election.

“These are vital negotiations for every person in Britain and for the future of our country. But Theresa May is putting party interest ahead of the national interest.”

He added: “Only Labour can be trusted to negotiate a Brexit deal that puts jobs and living standards first. Labour will negotiate a Brexit for the many not the few.”

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has accused May of poisoning the atmosphere of the Brexit talks and called her speech “deeply irresponsible.”

Apologies for failing to thread those last tweets – here they are in one place.

Despite her defiant words outside Downing Street on Wednesday, May also insisted: “Britain means no harm to our friends and allies. We want a deep and special partnership with the EU, and we want the EU to succeed.”

I’ve always been ready for the possibility of nuclear war. I just never thought it would be with Belgium.

Britain’s economic future now a pawn in @theresa_may election game playing. Gross stuff

In a statement issued following a meeting the Queen to mark the dissolution of parliament, May said the winner of the election would face “one overriding task” – getting the “best possible deal” for the UK.

Beyond her unexpected verbal attack on unnamed figures in Brussels, May also used the opportunity to hit out at her political opponents in Britain.

“While there is enormous opportunity for Britain as we leave the European Union, if we do not get this right, the consequences will be serious.

“And they will be felt by ordinary, working people across the country. This Brexit negotiation is central to everything. If we don’t get the negotiation right, your economic security and prosperity will be put at risk and the opportunities you seek for your families will simply not happen.

“If we don’t get the negotiation right, if we let the bureaucrats of Brussels run over us, we will lose the chance to build a fairer society with real opportunity for all.”

She added that voters face a “very simple” choice on June 8 between her and a “coalition of chaos” led by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“With me you will get a strong and stable leadership … or you will get Jeremy Corbyn with a hung parliament and a coalition of chaos.”

Her comments come after the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said talks would not be concluded “quickly and painlessly.”

Unveiling his first detailed vision of how talks with the UK will take shape in Brussels, Michel Barnier set down a series of tough EU demands on citizens’ rights and a hefty financial settlement he says is just about settling accounts.

He said Britain would have to honor its financial commitments and hinted that would entail paying for a number of EU programs, citing the example of aid pledges Brussels has made to Ukraine. He insisted the “divorce bill” was not a punishment for the UK leaving.

Barnier’s demands on the rights of citizens – which cover Europeans currently living in the UK but also those who have done so in the past and will in the future – are likely to cause serious issues for Prime Minister Theresa May, who has pledged to end freedom of movement.

Relations between the two sides have soured over the past few days.

On Tuesday, Guy Verhofstadt, the EU’s lead Brexit negotiator, trolled May on Twitter over her “strong and stable” leadership.

5 years and billions of dollars needed to rebuild Mosul, officials say

5 years and billions of dollars needed to rebuild Mosul, officials say

  • © Muhammad Hamed
  • Reuters
3 May 2017 | 18:17 GMT

The occupation by Islamic State and the battle to oust the extremists have reduced much of Mosul to rubble. A five-year plan to get the war-torn city back on its feet has been drawn up, but finding the money is proving to be a problem.

The airport, the train station and the university are among the many buildings in Iraq’s once-proud, second-biggest city that lie in ruins. Over 100,000 precious manuscripts from the university were looted or destroyed by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) who considered them blasphemous, according to activists.

In November 2016, the Iraqi government announced plans to start rebuilding Mosul after the city’s liberation from the militants. Local officials are currently surveying the damage in liberated eastern Mosul.

“After Mosul is fully liberated, we need a working plan to restore things to the way they were before 2014 when Islamic State took over,” Noureldin Qablan, deputy chairman of the Nineveh provincial council, told Reuters.

Qablan said that he and a group of 33 other Nineveh councilors have already started planning Mosul’s reconstruction, which will be carried out in phases. The first six months will focus on bringing back power, security and running water, which will be following by a two-year rebuilding process.

The plan also includes a two-year reconciliation process and a 30-month drive aimed at attracting outside investment.

But all this will cost billions of dollars, which the Iraqi government is unlikely to be able to afford. Even repairing houses at a cost of around $5,000 apiece will stretch the budget.

“Honestly, we are not getting enough support. What has been allocated to Nineveh in 2017 was 52 billion Iraqi dinars ($44.5 million), which is a very small sum for a province this size,” Qablan told Reuters.

“In 2013, we were allocated 738 billion dinars, yet after all this destruction we get just 52. It is very hard to reach our goals with this sum, so we are counting on foreign grants.”

The Nineveh council hopes to attract international aid from organizations such as the United Nations. Italy is already helping to rebuild a hospital.

And the threat from IS remains.

Iraqi troops, backed by US-led coalition airstrikes and Shia and Kurdish militias, have liberated the whole eastern side of Mosul in a six-month offensive that began in October. But securing the west of the city, in particular the northwest and the Old City, where the militants are currently holed up, has been proving a problem as firmly-entrenched militants have put up fierce resistance through booby traps, sniper fire and mortar shells filled with toxic gas.

IS militants are still holding out in the historic Grand al-Nuri Mosque, where leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi first declared his so-called caliphate in 2014.

Hundreds of civilians are being killed as the confrontation between IS and Iraqi forces intensifies, and the UN has warned of a possible “humanitarian catastrophe” if the siege conditions continue.

Iran attempted missile launch from submarine, US officials say

Iran attempted to launch a cruise missile from a submarine in the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday but the test failed, two U.S. officials told Fox News.

An Iranian Yono-class “midget” submarine conducted the missile launch. North Korea and Iran are the only two countries in the world that operate this type of submarine.

In February, Iran claimed to have successfully tested a submarine-launched missile. It was not immediately clear if Tuesday’s test was the first time Iran had attempted to launch a missile underwater from a submarine.

This incident comes on the heels of other recent provocations from Iran.

In April, the U.S. Navy’s guided-missile destoryer fired a warning flare after an Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessel came within 1,000 meters of the USS Mahan.

The USS Mahan “made several attempts to contact the Iranian vessel by bridge-to-bridge radio, issuing warning messages and twice sounding the internationally recognized danger signal of five short blasts with the ship’s whistle, as well as deploying a flare to determine the Iranian vessel’s intentions.”

Iranian officials announced late last month that the country’s defense budget had increased by 145 percent under President Hassan Rouhani and that its military is moving forward with a massive restructuring effort aimed at making it a “forward moving force,” according to reports in the BBC.

Iran’s official IRNA news agency also announced recently that the country has become self-sufficient in producing the amount of gas that it requires on a daily basis.

North Korea in 2015 conducted a successful ballistic missile test from a submarine for the first time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

Billerica auto auction crash: At least 3 dead, 9 injured after SUV hits crowd

Raw video: Aerials of the aftermath following incident at LynnWay Auto Auction in Billerica
NOW PLAYINGCar plows into crowd at Massachusetts auto auction

At least three people were killed and nine others were injured Wednesday when an SUV that was being shown to prospective buyers at a Massachusetts auto auction suddenly accelerated and crashed into bystanders.

The crash happened around 10:30 a.m. at LynnWay Auto Auction in Billerica, about 20 miles northwest of Boston, Fox 25 reported.

One man and two women were killed in the crash, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said at a news conference. Nine people were hurt, including two with life-threatening injuries, she said. The driver wasn’t hospitalized, she said.

Investigators said an auction employee in his 70s was behind the wheel of the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee when it apparently lurched out of control.

Witnesses say elderly man behind wheel of Jeep that slammed into group of people…was taken away in ambulance. Injuries & fatalities

Ryan said the preliminary investigation suggests the incident was a “tragic accident,” though she stressed the probe is ongoing.

Massachusetts State Police investigators are working to reconstruct the accident, which happened while several hundred people were in the building.

Ryan did not release the name of the driver, a man in his 70’s who she said is an employee at LynnWay Auto. Only employees, Ryan said, are permitted to drive vehicles at auto actions on site. The driver was not hospitalized after the incident.

Witnesses told Fox 25 the driver had a medical emergency and shot through the building, only stopping when the Jeep crashed through a cement wall.

“He went through the door, went through the lane of people, and then through the building,” one witness told the station. “He was going fast, he was going really fast,” said the witness.

Another described the scene as a “war zone,” with many people left bloodied

Employee Woody Tuttle told WCVB-TV he heard tires screeching and saw the vehicle strike several people.

Tuttle told the station: “(The driver) avoided the cars and went on to hit the people who were standing between the cars.”

Car dealer Fredrick Kyazze said he and a colleague had just moved out of the path of the SUV minutes before it tore through the building.

“We heard a bang from where we just came from,” Kyazze said. “I thought probably the building collapsed or something like that. Then we ran back to see what was going on and … we just saw people lying on the floor.”

Emergency personnel were quick to respond to the scene because four police officers and a firefighter are routinely stationed at the auction site because of the large crowds it draws every Wednesday, Billerica Police Chief Daniel Rosa said. Ambulances from several surrounding towns responded.

Images from TV helicopters showed a vehicle covered in debris. Medics wheeled people out of the building on gurneys.

In 2015, an SUV driven by an elderly man hurtled through an auto auction in the Boston suburb of Framingham, striking other cars, patrons and a cinder block wall and injuring eight people. No charges were filed.

Fox News’ Cristina Corbin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click for more from Fox25Boston.com

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