Allies rally to UK’s May amid leadership woes over Brexit

By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May won support for her beleaguered Brexit deal Friday from key politicians and business groups, but she remained besieged by internal party opponents determined to oust her.
In a tumultuous week, May finally clinched a divorce deal with the European Union — only for it to be savaged by the political opposition, her parliamentary allies and large chunks of her own Conservative Party. Two Cabinet ministers and a handful of junior government members resigned, and grumbles about her leadership erupted into a roar.
Friday brought some respite, as supportive Cabinet ministers rallied around her. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, a prominent pro-Brexit voice in Cabinet, threw May a lifeline by urging rebels to “take a rational and reasonable view of this.”
“Ultimately I hope that across Parliament we’ll recognize that a deal is better than no deal,” he said.
Britain’s Conservatives have been divided for decades over Britain’s membership in the EU, and the draft withdrawal agreement has infuriated the most strongly pro-Brexit members, who want the country to make a clean break with the bloc. They say the draft agreement, which calls for close trade ties between the U.K. and the EU, would leave Britain a vassal state, bound to rules it has no say in making.
The deal drove a group of disaffected Brexiteers to try to topple May by submitting letters saying they have lost confidence in her leadership. They are aiming for the magic number of 48 — the 15 percent of Conservative lawmakers needed to trigger a challenge to her leadership under party rules.
After a day of conflicting rumors about whether 48 letters had been sent, leading Brexiteer Steve Baker said, “I think we’re very close.”
He suggested the threshold might be reached “sometime next week.”
If May lost her job as party leader, she would also lose her position as prime minister. But winning a leadership vote could strengthen her position, because the rules say she can’t be challenged again for a year.
Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, one of May’s chief allies, predicted that “if it does come to a challenge, the prime minister will win handsomely.”
“I’ve seen no plausible alternative plan from any of those criticizing her or wanting to challenge her position,” Lidington said.
May got another piece of good news when Environment Secretary Michael Gove decided not to follow two Cabinet colleagues and quit over the divorce deal.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey quit Thursday, saying they could not support the agreement. Like them, Gove was a strong supporter of the “leave” campaign in Britain’s 2016 EU membership referendum.
Gove said Friday that he “absolutely” had confidence in May, adding that he would work with government colleagues to achieve “the best future for Britain.” But he did not answer when asked if he supported May’s Brexit deal.
May replaced Raab and McVey on Friday with two lawmakers with track records of loyalty. Former junior Health Minister Stephen Barclay replaced Raab as Brexit secretary, while ex-Interior Minister Amber Rudd was named to the work and pensions post.
But May’s Cabinet still contains tensions and potential fissures. Some pro-Brexit ministers, including House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, have not resigned but also have not publicly endorsed May’s deal.
May is determined to fight on, warning that abandoning her Brexit plan, with Britain’s withdrawal just over four months away on March 29, would plunge the country into “deep and grave uncertainty.”
She appealed directly to voters Friday by answering questions on a radio call-in show. It was not an easy ride. One caller said May should resign and let a more staunchly pro-Brexit politician take over; another compared her to Neville Chamberlain, the 1930s prime minister who tried in vain to appease Nazi Germany to avoid war.
May stood by her plan.
“For a lot of people who voted ‘leave,’ what they wanted to do was make sure that decisions on things like who can come into this country would be taken by us here in the U.K., and not by Brussels, and that’s exactly what the deal I’ve negotiated delivers,” she said.
Businesses, which fear the turmoil that could follow a disorderly Brexit, have largely welcomed the withdrawal deal. The Confederation of British Industry, a leading business lobby group, said the agreement represented “hard-won progress.”
In a statement, the group said the withdrawal agreement “opens a route to a good long-term trade deal.”
It warned that leaving the EU without a deal on trade and other relations — a path advocated by some Brexit supporters — “is not an acceptable option” and “would badly damage our economy by disrupting supply chains, causing shortages, and preventing vital services reaching people.”
Simon Kempton of the Police Federation, a union for police officers, said a “no-deal” Brexit could spark protests, and “it’s a real concern that those protests might escalate into disorder.”
“It’s 2018. It’s the year that people dial (emergency number) 999 because KFC ran out of chicken,” he told Sky News. “If that will happen, imagine what will happen if we start seeing food or medical supply shortages.”
EU leaders, who have called a Nov. 25 summit in Brussels to sign off on the draft agreement, were doing their best to refrain from commenting on Britain’s political chaos.
But they stressed that the U.K. should not hope to renegotiate the deal — it is a take-it-or-leave-it offer.
“This is a withdrawal agreement which took the best part of two years to negotiate involving 28 countries, all of whom have their own particular concerns and interests,” said Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. “If you start trying to amend it or unthink it, you might find that the whole thing unravels.”
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Associated Press writers Pan Pylas in London and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

North Korea deports American even as it boasts of new weapon

By HYUNG-JIN KIM and KIM TONG-HYUNG, Associated Press
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Friday said it will deport an American citizen it detained for illegal entrance, an apparent concession to the United States that came even as it announced the test of a newly developed but unspecified “ultramodern” weapon that will be seen as a pressuring tactic by Washington.
The two whiplash announcements, which seemed aimed at both appeasing and annoying Washington, suggest North Korea wants to keep alive dialogue with the United States even as it struggles to express its frustration at stalled nuclear diplomacy.
North Korea in the past has held arrested American citizens for an extended period before high-profile U.S. figures travelled to Pyongyang to secure their freedom. Last year, American university student Otto Warmbier died days after he was released in a coma from North Korea after 17 months in captivity.
On Friday, the Korean Central News Agency said American national Bruce Byron Lowrance was detained on Oct. 16 for illegally entering the country from China. It said he told investigators that he was under the “manipulation” of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. It was not clear if the North’s spelling of the man’s name was correct, and past reports from Pyongyang have contained incorrect spellings.
A short KCNA dispatch said North Korea decided to deport him but did not say why and when.
The North’s decision matches its general push for engagement and diplomacy with the United States this year after a string of weapons tests in 2017, and a furious U.S. response, had some fearing war on the Korean Peninsula.
In May, North Korea released three American detainees in a goodwill gesture weeks ahead of leader Kim Jong Un’s June 12 summit with President Donald Trump in Singapore. The three Americans returned home on a flight with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Weeks after the summit, North Korea returned the remains of dozens of presumed U.S. soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.
The United States, South Korea and others have previously accused North Korea of using foreign detainees to wrest diplomatic concessions.
Some foreigners have said after their release that their declarations of guilt had been coerced while in North Korean custody. Warmbier and other previous American detainees in the North were imprisoned over a variety of alleged crimes, including subversion, anti-state activities and spying.
The latest detained American is likely a man that South Korea deported last year, according to South Korean police.
In November 2017, a 58-year-old man from Louisiana was caught in South Korea after spending two nights in the woods in a civilian-restricted area near the border with North Korea. The name written in his passport was Lowrance Bruce Byron, said police officers at Gyeonggi Bukbu Provincial Police Agency.
Before his deportation, the man told interrogators that he “knows lots of people in the Trump administration so that he wants to work as a bridge between the United States and North Korea to help improve their ties worsened by Warmbier’s death,” said one of the police officers who investigated the man. He requested anonymity citing department rules.
The U.S. State Department said Friday it was “aware of reports of the release of a U.S. citizen who had been detained by the DPRK,” referring to the North by an acronym for its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The department said it appreciates North Korean cooperation with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which handles consular issues for Americans in North Korea as the U.S. doesn’t have a diplomatic presence there. “We have no further information to share due to privacy considerations,” the department added.
Earlier Friday, KCNA said Kim observed the successful test of an unspecified “newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon,” though it didn’t describe what the weapon was.
It didn’t appear to be a test of a nuclear device or a long-range missile with the potential to target the United States. A string of such tests last year pushed always uncomfortable ties on the peninsula to unusually high tension before the North turned to engagement and diplomacy.
Still, any mention of weapons testing could influence the direction of stalled diplomatic efforts spearheaded by Washington and aimed at ridding the North of its nuclear weapons.
Experts say the weapon test was likely an expression of anger by North Korea at U.S.-led international sanctions and ongoing small-scale military drills between South Korea and the United States. It’s the first publicly known field inspection of a weapons test by Kim since he observed the testing of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile in November of last year, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.
“It’s North Korea-style coercive diplomacy. North Korea is saying ‘If you don’t listen to us, you will face political burdens,'” said analyst Shin Beomchul of Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
Earlier this month, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry warned it could bring back its policy of bolstering its nuclear arsenal if it doesn’t receive sanctions relief.
Shin said the weapon North Korea tested could be a missile, artillery, an anti-air gun, a drone or other high-tech conventional weapons systems. Yang Wook, a Seoul-based military expert, said a “tactical weapon” in North Korea refers to “a weapon aimed at striking South Korea including U.S. military bases” there, so the North may have tested a short-range missile or a multiple rocket launch system.
Diplomacy has stalled since the Singapore summit, with Washington pushing for more action on nuclear disarmament and the North insisting that the U.S. first approve a peace declaration formally ending the Korean War and lift sanctions.
But Friday’s report from the North was noticeably less belligerent than past announcements of weapons tests, and didn’t focus on North Korean claims of U.S. and South Korean hostility. Yang said the latest North Korean test won’t completely break down nuclear diplomacy, though more questions would be raised about how sincere the North is about its commitment to denuclearization.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, attending a Southeast Asian summit in Singapore, cited the “great progress” made on North Korea but said more had to be done.
A year and a half ago, “nuclear tests were taking place, missiles were flying over Japan and there were threats and propagations against our nation and nations in the region,” Pence said. “Today, no more missiles are flying, no more nuclear tests, our hostages have come home, and North Korea has begun anew to return fallen American heroes from the Korean War to our soil. We made great progress but there’s more work to be done.”
Pence stressed that U.N. sanctions had to remain enforced.
The North said the test took place at the Academy of National Defense Science and that Kim couldn’t suppress his “passionate joy” at its success. He was described as “so excited to say that another great work was done by the defense scientists and munitions industrial workers to increase the defense capability of the country.”
Last year’s string of increasingly powerful weapons tests, many experts believe, put the North on the brink of a viable arsenal of nuclear-tipped missiles that can target anywhere in the mainland United States.
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Associated Press writer Foster Klug in Seoul, Annabelle Liang in Singapore and Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.

Netanyahu’s main coalition partner pushes for early election

By KARIN LAUB, Associated Press
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel moved closer to early elections Friday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main coalition partner, the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party, said it wants a vote “as soon as possible,” and will press for consultations on a date on Sunday.
The call for early elections came after a meeting Friday between Netanyahu and Education Minister and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett. The two men have been locked in a tense rivalry, with Bennett often criticizing Netanyahu from the right.
Bennett had demanded the post of defense minister, after the incumbent, Avigdor Lieberman, resigned earlier this week in protest over Netanyahu’s Gaza policies.
A senior Jewish Home official said it became clear after the Bennett-Netanyahu meeting that there “is a need to go to elections as soon as possible.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing the content of a closed meeting.
The official said leaders of coalition parties will meet Sunday to coordinate the date for early elections.
The apparent failure of the Netanyahu-Bennett meeting seemed to seal the coalition’s fate.
The departure of Lieberman and his Israel Beitenu party had left the coalition with a one-seat majority in the 120-member parliament. Without Bennett’s Jewish Home, Netanyahu’s coalition would lose its parliamentary majority.
The political crisis began with a botched Israeli undercover raid in Gaza on Sunday. The raid led to two days of intense cross-border fighting. Gaza’s Hamas rulers fired hundreds of rockets at southern Israel, while Israeli warplanes targeted scores of targets in Gaza.
After two days, Egypt brokered an informal truce between Israel and the Islamic militant Hamas. Netanyahu averted a war, but drew blistering criticism from ultra-nationalists.
Lieberman resigned in protest on Wednesday.
On Friday, he toured southern Israel and accused Netanyahu of being soft on terrorism. He said Netanyahu’s Gaza policy is strengthening Hamas.
Lieberman alleged that the truce will put southern Israel under a growing threat from Hamas, similar to the threat posed to northern Israel by Lebanon’s heavily armed Hezbollah militia.
“It’s impossible that after Hamas launches 500 rockets at the Israeli border communities. the heads of Hamas are actually getting immunity from the Israeli cabinet,” he told reporters.
“We are now feeding a monster” that will only grow if not stopped, he said. “Within a year we will have a twin brother of Hezbollah, with all the implications.”
But on Friday, Hamas kept border protests widely restrained.
Thousands of Palestinians participated in a Hamas-led rally along the perimeter fence dividing Gaza from Israel, with most crowds staying 300 meters from the fence.
However, Gaza’s Health Ministry said 40 Palestinians were wounded, 18 by live fire from Israeli forces. Witnesses said others were wounded in stone-throwing incidents at the usual five protest locations.
No tire burnings or attempts to breach the fence were reported. Such acts have often triggered lethal Israeli army fire. Since the near-weekly protests began in March, more than 170 Palestinians have been killed.
Hamas is pressing for an end to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade that beleaguered Gaza’s 2 million residents since the Islamic group took full power there in 2007.
Prior to the Israeli commando raid that went awry, Israel allowed Qatar to deliver $15 million as a first installment to help Hamas pay civil servants long overdue salaries. The move was seen as an attempt to defuse tension, but Lieberman also criticized it as yet another measure that will strengthen Hamas.
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Associated Press writer Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.

Migrants streaming into Tijuana, but now face long stay

By ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press
TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — About 2,000 Central American migrants had already reached the Mexican border city of Tijuana and another 1,200 from a second caravan set out from Mexico City toward the border Friday.
With shelters already full, authorities in Tijuana opened a gymnasium and gated sport complex for up to 1,000 migrants, with a potential to expand to 3,000.
But at least that many migrants were still on the road or trickling into the city aboard buses, and a third caravan was still waiting in Mexico City. Tijuana faced a potential influx of as many as 10,000 in all. The city’s privately run shelters are meant to have a capacity of 700.
With U.S. border inspectors processing only about 100 asylum claims a day at the main border crossing with San Diego, prospects grew that migrants would be stuck waiting in Tijuana for months. Concerns continued about what the Central Americans will do, or how they will support themselves in the meantime.
On Thursday, migrants napped on mattresses at the gymnasium in Tijuana while men played soccer and exchanged banter on a crowded, adjoining courtyard. A woman dabbed her crying, naked toddler with a moist cloth.
Francisco Rueda, the top deputy to Baja California state Gov. Francisco Vega de la Madrid, said “This is not a crisis,” but agreed that “this is an extraordinary situation.”
Rueda said the state has 7,000 jobs available for its “Central American migrant brothers” who obtain legal residence status in Mexico.
“Today in Baja California there is an employment opportunity for those who request it, but it order for this to happen, it has to regulate migrant status,” he said.
The thriving factories in the city of 1.6 million are always looking for workers, and several thousand Haitian migrants who were turned away at the U.S. border have found jobs and settled in Tijuana the last two years.
Police made their presence known in a city that is suffering an all-time-high homicide rate. A group of about 50 migrants, mostly women and children, walked through downtown streets Thursday from the city shelter to a breakfast hall under police escort.
As buses from western and central Mexico trickled in, some families camped inside the bus terminal and waited for word on where they could find a safe place to sleep.
Oscar Zapata, 31, reached the Tijuana bus station at 2 a.m. Thursday from Guadalajara with his wife and their three children, ages 4, 5 and 12, and headed to the breakfast hall, where migrants were served free beef and potatoes.
Back home in La Ceiba, Honduras, he sold pirated CDs and DVDs in the street and two gangs demanding “protection” money threatened to kidnap his daughter and force her into prostitution if he didn’t pay. When he heard about the caravan on the TV news last month, he didn’t think twice.
“It was the opportunity to get out,” Zapata said.
Zapata said he hopes to join a brother in Los Angeles but has not yet decided on his next move. Like many others, he plans to wait in Tijuana for others in the caravan to arrive and gather more information before seeking asylum in the United States.
Byron Jose Blandino, a 27-year-old bricklayer from Nicaragua who slept in the converted gymnasium, said he wanted to request asylum but not until he could speak with someone well-versed in U.S. law and asylum procedures.
“The first thing is to wait,” Blandino said. “I do not want to break the laws of any country. If I could enter in a peaceful manner, that would be good.
To claim asylum in San Diego, migrants enter their names in a tattered notebook held together by duct tape and managed by the migrants in a plaza outside the entry to the main border crossing. On Thursday, migrants who registered six weeks ago were getting their names called. The waiting list has grown to more than 3,000 names and stands to become much longer with the new arrivals.
Dozens of gay and transgender migrants in the caravan were already lining up Thursday to submit asylum claims, though it was unclear how soon they would be able to do so.
Rueda, the governor’s deputy, said that if all migrants from the caravan currently in Tijuana were to register to seek asylum in the U.S., they would likely have to wait four months at current processing rates. For that reason, the state has asked Mexican federal authorities to encourage people in other caravans to go to other border cities.
The caravan has fragmented somewhat in recent days in a final push to the border, with some migrants moving rapidly in buses and others falling behind.
On Thursday, hundreds were stranded for most of the day at a gas station in Navojoa, some 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) from Tijuana.
“We were dropped here at midnight … in the middle of nowhere, where supposedly some buses were going to come pick us up, but nothing,” Alejandra Grisel Rodriguez of Honduras told The Associated Press by phone. “We are without water, without food.”
After about 12 hours, seven buses began arriving to collect the migrants, Rodriguez said, but they quickly filled up.
“We would need at least 40 or 50,” she said.
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Associated Press writer Maria Verza in Culiacan, Mexico, contributed to this report.

WikiLeaks chief could see charges, US court filing suggests

By ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department inadvertently named Julian Assange in a court filing in an unrelated case, suggesting prosecutors have prepared charges against the WikiLeaks founder under seal.
Assange’s name appears twice in a recently-unsealed August court filing from a federal prosecutor in Virginia who was attempting to keep sealed a separate case involving a man accused of coercing a minor for sex.
In one sentence, the prosecutor wrote that the charges and arrest warrant “would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.”
In another sentence, the prosecutor said that “due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.”
Any charges against Assange could help illuminate whether Russia coordinated with the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 presidential election. It would also suggest that, after years of internal wrangling within the Justice Department, prosecutors have decided to take a more aggressive tact against the secret-sharing website.
It was not immediately clear why Assange’s name was included in the document, though Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the Eastern District of Virginia — which had been investigating Assange — said, “The court filing was made in error. That was not the intended name for this filing.”
The Washington Post reported late Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter, that Assange had indeed been charged. The Associated Press could not immediately confirm that.
It was not immediately clear what charges Assange, who has been holed up for years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, might face.
But recently ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year declared the arrest of Assange a priority. Special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating whether Trump campaign associates had advance knowledge of Democratic emails that were published by WikiLeaks in the weeks before the 2016 election and that U.S. authorities have said were hacked by Russia.
Barry Pollack, a lawyer for Assange, told the AP earlier this week that he had no information about possible charges against Assange.
In a new statement, he said, “The news that criminal charges have apparently been filed against Mr. Assange is even more troubling than the haphazard manner in which that information has been revealed. The government bringing criminal charges against someone for publishing truthful information is a dangerous path for a democracy to take.”
The filing was discovered by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, who posted it on Twitter hours after The Wall Street Journal reported that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Assange and said, “To be clear, seems Freudian, it’s for a different completely unrelated case, every other page is not related to him, EDVA just appears to have Assange on the mind when filing motions to seal and used his name.”
The case at issue concerns a defendant named Seitu Sulayman Kokayi, a 29-year-old teacher who has since been indicted in Virginia on charges of enticing a 15-year-old girl to commit sex acts and to produce child pornography.
The document, a motion filed in late August asking to keep Kokayi’s case secret, mentions Assange in two boilerplate sections, suggesting a copy-and-paste error or that his name was inadvertently left in a template used for the common filings. That document has since been unsealed.
There doesn’t appear to be any connection between Assange and Kokayi.
Assange, 47, has resided in the Ecuadorian Embassy for more than six years in a bid to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he was wanted to sex crimes, or to the United States, whose government he has repeatedly humbled with mass disclosures of classified information.
The Australian ex-hacker was once a welcome guest at the Embassy, which takes up part of the ground floor of a stucco-fronted apartment in London’s posh Knightsbridge neighborhood. But his relationship with his hosts has soured over the years amid reports of espionage, erratic behavior and diplomatic unease.
Any criminal charge is sure to further complicate the already tense relationship.
Ecuadorian officials say they have cut off the WikiLeaks founder’s high-speed internet access and will restore it only if he agrees to stop interfering in the affairs of Ecuador’s partners — such as the United States and Spain. He is allowed to use the embassy’s WiFi, though it is unclear if he doing so. Officials have also imposed a series of other restrictions on Assange’s activities and visitors and — notably — ordered him to clean after his cat.
Carlos Poveda, Assange’s lawyer in Ecuador, said he suspects the small South American nation’s government has been maneuvering to kick his client out of the embassy through the stricter new living requirements it recently imposed.
He said possible U.S. charges however are proof his client remains under threat and called on Ecuador’s government to uphold Assange’s asylum protections. He said Ecuador would be responsible if anything happened to Assange.
With shrinking options — an Ecuadorian lawsuit seeking to reverse the restrictions was recently turned down — WikiLeaks announced in September that former spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson, an Icelandic journalist who has long served as one of Assange’s lieutenants, would take over as editor-in-chief.
Hrafnsson did not immediately respond to calls and messages seeking comment.
WikiLeaks has attracted U.S. attention since 2010, when it published thousands of military and State Department documents from Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning. In a Twitter post early Friday, WikiLeaks said the “US case against WikiLeaks started in 2010” and expanded to include other disclosures, including by contractor Edward Snowden.
“The prosecutor on the order is not from Mr. Mueller’s team and WikiLeaks has never been contacted by anyone from his office,” WikiLeaks said.
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Associated Press writer Raphael Satter in Paris and Chad Day in Washington contributed to this report.
Link to court filing: http://apne.ws/Me9YxB9

EU divorce deal in peril after two UK Cabinet ministers quit

By JILL LAWLESS, RAPHAEL SATTER and RAF CASERT, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — Two British Cabinet ministers, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, resigned Thursday in opposition to the divorce deal struck by Prime Minister Theresa May with the EU — a major blow to her authority and her ability to get the deal through Parliament.
A defiant May insisted Brexit meant making “the right choices, not the easy ones” and urged lawmakers to support the deal “in the national interest.”
“The choice is clear,” May told the House of Commons. “We can choose to leave with no deal. We can risk no Brexit at all. Or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated — this deal.”
But the resignations, less than a day after the Cabinet collectively backed the draft divorce agreement, weakened May and emboldened her rivals within her Conservative Party.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leader of the party’s pro-Brexit wing, threatened to trigger a leadership challenge. He asked rhetorically in Parliament, “should I not write” to Graham Brady, who heads a committee governing Conservative leadership contests.
Under Conservative rules, a confidence vote in the leader is triggered if 15 percent of Conservative lawmakers — currently 48 — write a letter to Brady, head of the party’s so-called 1922 Committee of backbenchers.
Raab said in his resignation letter that “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”
“I cannot reconcile the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made.”
Raab is the second Brexit Secretary that May has lost — David Davis, who like Raab backed Brexit in the U.K.’s June 2016 referendum on its membership of the EU, quit in July of this year.
Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey followed Raab out the door. She said in a letter that it is “no good trying to pretend to (voters) that this deal honors the result of the referendum when it is obvious to everyone that it doesn’t.”
The departures — several junior ministers have also quit — are a further sign that many supporters of Brexit won’t back May in a vote in Parliament on the deal. That prompted a big fall in the value of the pound, which was trading 1.3 percent lower at $1.2829.
Pro-Brexit politicians say the agreement, which calls for close trade ties between the U.K. and the bloc, would leave Britain a vassal state, bound to EU rules that it has no say in making.
Before Parliament votes on the deal — the culmination of a year and a half of negotiations between the two sides — EU leaders have to give their backing. On Thursday, EU chief Donald Tusk called for a summit of leaders to take place on Nov. 25 so they can rubber-stamp the draft deal reached by officials earlier this week.
May has supporters in her party, and they argued Thursday that the alternatives — leaving the trading bloc without a deal or a second vote on Brexit — were not realistic options.
“‘No deal’ is not pretty,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Radio 4. “A second referendum would be divisive but not be decisive.”
But May’s chances of getting her deal through Parliament before the U.K. leaves the bloc on March 29 appeared to be shrinking. Her Conservative government doesn’t have enough lawmakers of its own to get a majority, and relies on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland, which says it will not back the deal.
The DUP leader in Parliament, Nigel Dodds, said the “choice is now clear: we stand up for the United Kingdom, the whole of the United Kingdom, the integrity of the United Kingdom, or we vote for a vassal state with the breakup of the United Kingdom, that is the choice.”
Opposition parties also signaled that they would vote against the agreement if it comes before them — most likely in December.
Main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said May should withdraw the “half-baked” Brexit deal. He said Parliament “cannot and will not accept a false choice between this deal and no deal.”
Ian Blackford, who heads the Scottish National Party in Parliament, said the deal was “dead on arrival” and urged May to stop the countdown clock to Britain’s exit, less than five months away.
“Do the right thing and we will work with you,” he said. “Stop the clock and go back to Brussels.”
Meanwhile in Brussels, Tusk heaped praise on the EU’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, who had “achieved the two most important objectives” for the bloc — limiting the damage caused by Britain’s impending departure and maintaining the interests of the other 27 countries that will remain in the EU after Brexit.
“As much as I am sad to see you leave, I will do everything to make this farewell the least painful possible for both for you and for us,” said Tusk, who in his role as European Council President chairs the meetings of leaders.
The deal requires the consent of the European Parliament as well as the British one. The parliament’s chief Brexit official, Guy Verhofstadt, welcomed the draft deal as “the best agreement we could obtain.” Verhofstadt predicted the EU Parliament could approve the deal at the start of next year, well in time of the March 29, 2019 exit.
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Casert contributed from Brussels.

Bangladesh scraps plan to start repatriating Rohingya

By JULHAS ALAM, Associated Press
COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — The head of Bangladesh’s refugee commission said plans to begin a voluntary repatriation of Rohingya Muslim refugees to their native Myanmar on Thursday were scrapped after officials were unable to find anyone who wanted to return.
The refugees “are not willing to go back now,” Refugee Commissioner Abul Kalam told The Associated Press, adding that officials “can’t force them to go” but will continue to try to “motivate them so it happens.”
The announcement came after about 1,000 Rohingya demonstrated at a camp in Bangladesh against returning to Myanmar, from where hundreds of thousands fled army-led violence last year.
At the Unchiprang camp, one of the sprawling refugee settlements near the city of Cox’s Bazar, another Bangladeshi refugee official had implored the Rohingya to return to their country over a loudspeaker.
“We have arranged everything for you, we have six buses here, we have trucks, we have food. We want to offer everything to you. If you agree to go, we’ll take you to the border, to the transit camp,” he said.
“We won’t go!” hundreds of voices, including children’s, chanted in reply.
Bangladesh authorities had attempted to begin the repatriation of more than 700,000 Rohingya, despite calls from United Nations officials and human rights groups to hold off. According to a U.N.-brokered deal with Bangladesh and Myanmar, the Rohingya cannot be forced to repatriate.
The countries had planned to send an initial group of 2,251 back from mid-November at a rate of 150 per day.
The huge exodus of Rohingya began in August last year after Myanmar security forces launched a brutal crackdown following attacks by an insurgent group on guard posts. The scale, organization and ferocity of the operation led to accusations from the international community, including the U.N., of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Most people in Buddhist-majority Myanmar do not accept that the Rohingya Muslims are a native ethnic group, viewing them as “Bengalis” who entered illegally from Bangladesh, even though generations of Rohingya have lived in Myanmar. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, as well as access to education and hospitals.
Despite assurances from Myanmar, human rights activists said Thursday the conditions were not yet safe for Rohingya refugees to go back.
“Nothing the Myanmar government has said or done suggests that the Rohingya will be safe upon return,” Human Rights Watch refugee rights director Bill Frelick said in a statement.
The group said 150 people from 30 families were to be transferred to a transit camp on Thursday, but the camp was empty except for security guards.
Bangladesh authorities have said they’ve worked with the U.N. refugee agency to compile lists of people willing to return to Myanmar.
At the Jamtoli refugee camp, 25-year-old Setara said she and her two children, age 4 and 7, were on a repatriation list, but her parents were not. She said she had never asked to return to Myanmar, and that she had sent her children to a school run by aid workers Thursday morning as usual.
“They killed my husband; now I live here with my parents,” said Setara, who only gave one name. “I don’t want to go back.”
She said that other refugees whose names have appeared on the Bangladesh government’s repatriation list had fled to other camps, hoping to disappear amid the crowded lanes of refugees, aid workers and Bangladeshi soldiers.
Negotiations for repatriation have been continuing for months, but plans last January to begin sending refugees back to Myanmar’s Rakhine state were called off amid concerns among aid workers and Rohingya that their return would be met with violence.
Foreign leaders, including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, have criticized Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader Aung San Suu Kyi this week on the sidelines of a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore for her handling of the Rohingya crisis.
But on Thursday, Pence said that U.S. officials were “encouraged to hear that” the repatriation process would begin.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country would continue working with international partners including the U.N. “to ensure that the Rohingya themselves are part of any decisions on their future.”
In addition to those who arrived in Bangladesh last year, about 200,000 other Rohingya had fled Myanmar during previous waves of violence and persecution.
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Associated Press reporters Annabelle Liang and Samuel McNeil in Singapore contributed to this report.

Saudi prosecutor seeks death penalty in Khashoggi’s killing

By AYA BATRAWY, Associated Press
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor announced Thursday he’s recommended the death penalty for five suspects charged with ordering and carrying out the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
The announcement by the kingdom’s top prosecutor, Saud al-Mojeb, appears aimed at distancing the killers and their operation from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose decision-making powers have placed in the center of global outcry over the killing. The announcement was published in a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.
The brutal death of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who had been critical of the crown prince, has shocked the world and led many analysts and officials to believe it could not have been carried out without the prince’s knowledge.
Turkey says an assassination squad was sent from Riyadh for the writer and insists the orders for the killing came from the highest levels of the Saudi government, but not King Salman.
After issuing the statement, the spokesman for al-Mojeb’s office, Shalan al-Shalan, told a rare press conference Thursday in Riyadh that Khashoggi’s killers had set in motion plans for the killing on Sept. 29 — three days before his slaying in Istanbul. He says the killers drugged and killed the writer inside the consulate, before dismembering the body and handing it over for disposal by an unidentified local collaborator.
Prosecutors said the highest-level official incriminated in connection with the killing is former deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri, who was fired as pressure from Turkey and the world mounted on Saudi Arabia.
Al-Assiri, a close confidant of Prince Mohammed, is facing charges that include ordering Khashoggi’s forced return to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi prosectuors said al-Assiri deemed Khashoggi a threat because of his work as a writer and because he was allegedly backed by groups and countries that are hostile to Saudi Arabia.
However, it appears al-Mojeb has stopped short of accusing al-Assiri of ordering the killing itself — further distancing the killers from the crown prince’s inner circle.
Khashoggi had been living in self-imposed exile abroad for nearly a year before he was killed by Saudi agents at the consulate on Oct. 2. In his writing, he was especially critical of the crown prince, who’d been leading a wide-reaching crackdown on activists and critics inside the kingdom since last year.
The kingdom also confirmed Turkish claims that a 15-man hit squad was sent to Turkey, and that these agents killed Khashoggi.
The writer’s body has not been found. Khashoggi had gone to the consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage. His Turkish fiancee waited outside and first raised the alarm about his disappearance.
The prosecutor said 21 people are now in custody, with 11 indicted and referred to trial.
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This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of the first name of the top Saudi prosecutor and to say that he did not hold the press conference but his spokesman.

US, China rivalry challenging entwined Asia-Pacific region

By ANNABELLE LIANG and ELAINE KURTENBACH, Associated Press
SINGAPORE (AP) — The rivalry between the U.S. and China in the Asia-Pacific is proving “awkward” for Southeast Asian nations that do not want to have to choose between their friends, Singapore’s prime minister said Thursday as he wrapped up a regional summit.
“It’s easiest not to take sides when everybody else is on the same side. But if you are friends with two countries which are on different sides, then sometimes it is possible to get along with both, sometimes it’s more awkward if you try to get along with both,” Lee Hsien Loong said when asked about the competition between the U.S. and China in the region at a news conference.
Lee, who hosted the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said countries whose economies and strategic interests are deeply entwined with both powers would prefer not to have to decide, “but the circumstances may come where ASEAN may have to choose one or the other. I hope it does not happen soon.”
The comments appeared intended to send a message to the U.S., represented this week by Vice President Mike Pence in place of President Donald Trump, and to China, whose growing influence across the region is abundantly clear at such international gatherings.
Trade tensions between the U.S. and China over Beijing’s technology policy and other market access issues have added to strains within the region, especially since Trump took office in early 2017. The two sides have imposed tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s products in a standoff that has shown no sign of easing.
Lee also remarked on Trump’s “America First” deal-oriented diplomacy, saying it was a departure from the past, when “they were generous, they opened their markets, they made investments, they provided regional security, and in the indirect benefits of a prospering region, the U.S. prospered along.”
“But now they say ‘no, that’s not good enough. I want every deal to come,’ and that will mean a different kind of relationship and we will have to get used to it if the U.S. decides that this is the direction which they would go in the long term,” Lee said.
In comments to the gathering earlier in the day, Pence stressed the American commitment to the region, where he said there was no room for “empire or aggression.”
In a veiled swipe at China’s growing influence and military expansion in the South China Sea, he said that “Our vision for the Indo-Pacific excludes no nation. It only requires that every nation treat their neighbors with respect, they respect the sovereignty of all nations and the international rules of order.”
The ASEAN meetings focus on enhanced trade and security in a region of more than 630 million people. They ended with commitments to work toward a regional free trade agreement and enhance cybersecurity, counter-terrorism efforts, e-commerce, disaster preparedness and environment protection.
Many of the same leaders will head to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Papua New Guinea, where many of the same issues will be on the agenda.
While in Singapore, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang sought to reassure China’s neighbors over its expanding reach, both economic and military, across the region and urged fellow Asian leaders to help reassure world markets roiled by trade tensions.
Southeast Asian countries and others in the region share China’s consternation over the Trump administration’s rejection of multilateral trade regimes and the global trade system that have helped them modernize and enrich their economies. Many of the leaders attending the meetings in Singapore have emphasized the need to fight protectionism and safeguard the rules that help govern global trade.
The region needs to “take concrete action to uphold the rules-based free trade regime and to send a message — a positive message — to the market to provide stable, predictable and law-based conditions for the market,” Li said.
Security issues, in particular managing conflict in the South China Sea, were another major focus of the meetings. The sea is a potential flashpoint, and a huge concern for the U.S. and other countries that rely on the right of passage for shipping.
China is pitted against its smaller neighbors in multiple disputes in the sea over coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves.
ASEAN leaders said they discussed the need for restraint in the area.
“We all agreed on ways and means not to increase tensions in the South China Sea. And that means not bringing in warships and allowing for freedom of navigation,” Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed told reporters. “Small patrol boats are needed to deal with piracy, mainly, but big warships may cause incidents and that will lead to tension.”
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has relaxed his country’s stance on Chinese claims to islands also claimed by Manila, said it also was crucial that the countries involved finish work on a “code of conduct” to help prevent misunderstandings that could lead to conflict.
“China is there. That is the reality,” he told reporters before joining the day’s meetings. “Strong military activity will prompt a response from China. I do not mind everybody going to war, but except that the Philippines is just beside those islands. If there is shooting there my country will be the first to suffer.”
The sessions Thursday followed scores of bilateral meetings among the leaders.
While the gathering was typically focused on cooperation and goodwill, concerns over Myanmar’s treatment of its ethnic Rohingya Muslims flared with unusually sharp, public comments both by Pence and Mahathir to the country’s leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled from western Myanmar’s Rakhine state to escape killings and destruction of their homes by the country’s military and vigilantes, drawing widespread condemnation and international accusations of genocide against Myanmar.
Asked if Suu Kyi had agreed to his direct request that she pardon two Reuters’ journalists imprisoned in Myanmar, Pence replied, “We did not get a clear answer on that.” He said Suu Kyi had given some details on the appeals process and judicial handling of their cases.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Its annual summit includes meetings with various other nations.
Next year’s summit is planned in Thailand, whose capital Bangkok was the site of the 1967 meeting that created ASEAN.

Migrants fill Tijuana shelters, more on way to US border

By ELLIOT SPAGAT and MARIA VERZA, Associated Press
TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — The first members of a caravan of Central Americans to reach the U.S. border slept in overcrowded shelters and in tents with a view of armed U.S. Border Patrol agents, with many saying they will wait for other migrants to join them before making their next moves.
Hundreds of migrants have arrived by bus in Tijuana since Tuesday, occupying the little space still available in the city’s shelters and spilling onto an oceanfront plaza sandwiched between an old bullring and a border fence topped with recently installed concertina wire.
Some men climbed up on the fence to take a look at the other side Wednesday. Women and young children sleeping in tents on the plaza could see Border Patrol agents carrying machine guns in camouflage gear with San Diego’s skyline in the distance.
The Juventud 2000 shelter squeezed in 15 women and their children, bringing occupancy to nearly 200, or double its regular capacity. Others were turned away. Several dozen migrants, mostly single men, spent the night at a beach that is cut by the towering border wall of metal bars
The first arrivals generally received a warm welcome despite Tijuana’s shelter system to house migrants being at capacity. Migrants lined up for food while doctors checked those fighting colds and other ailments.
Some migrants said they would seek asylum at a U.S. border crossing, while others said they might attempt to elude U.S. authorities by crossing illegally or perhaps settle in Tijuana. But all of about a dozen people interviewed Wednesday said they would first wait for others from the migrant caravan to arrive and gather more information.
“We have to see what we’re offered, just so they don’t send us back to our country,” said Jairon Sorto, a 22-year-old Honduran who arrived by bus Wednesday.
Sorto said he would consider staying in Tijuana if he could get asylum from Mexico. He said he refused to consider Mexico’s offer of asylum in the southern part of the country because it was too close to Honduras and he felt unsafe from his country’s gangs.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, meanwhile, visited U.S. troops posted at the border in Texas and said the deployment of military personnel ordered by President Donald Trump provides good training for war, despite criticism that the effort is a waste of taxpayer money and a political stunt. Most of the troops are in Texas, more than 1,500 miles from where the caravan is arriving.
On Wednesday, there was no evidence of caravan members at Tijuana’s main border crossing to San Diego, where asylum seekers gather every morning. The San Ysidro port of entry, the busiest crossing on the U.S.-Mexico border, processes only about 100 asylum claims a day, resulting in waits of five weeks even before migrants in the caravan began to arrive.
The first wave of migrants in the caravan, which became a central theme of the recent U.S. election, began arriving in Tijuana in recent days, and their numbers have grown each day. The bulk of the main caravan appeared to still be about 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) from the border, but has recently been moving hundreds of miles a day by hitching rides on trucks and buses.
Mexico has offered refuge, asylum and work visas to the migrants, and its government said Monday that 2,697 temporary visas had been issued to individuals and families to cover them during the 45-day application process for more permanent status. Some 533 migrants had requested a voluntary return to their countries, the government said.
The Central Americans in the caravan are the latest migrants to arrive in Tijuana with the hope of crossing into the United States. Tijuana shelters in 2016 housed Haitians who came by the thousands after making their way from Brazil with plans to get to the U.S. Since then, several thousand Haitians have remained in Tijuana, finding work. Some have married local residents and enrolled in local universities.
Claudia Coello, a 43-year-old Honduran, said she was exhausted after four days of hitchhiking and bus rides from Mexico City with her two sons, two daughters-in-law and 1-year-old grandson. As she watched her daughter-in-law and grandson lying inside a donated tent, she said she would wait for caravan leaders to explain her options.
A few people pitched tents at the Tijuana beach plaza while most, like Henry Salinas, 30, of Honduras, planned to sleep there in the open. Saying he intended to wait for thousands more in the caravan to arrive, Salinas said he hoped to jump the border fence in a large group at the same time, overwhelming Border Patrol agents.
“It’s going to be all against one, one against all. All of Central America against one, and one against Central America. … All against Trump, and Trump against all,” he said.
On Wednesday, buses and trucks carried some migrants into the state of Sinaloa along the Gulf of California and farther northward into the border state of Sonora. The Rev. Miguel Angel Soto, director of the Casa de Migrante in the Sinaloa capital of Culiacan, said about 2,000 migrants had arrived in that area.
Small groups were also reported in the northern cities of Saltillo and Monterrey, in the region near Texas.
About 1,300 migrants in a second caravan were resting at a Mexico City stadium where the first group stayed several days last week. By early Wednesday, an additional 1,100 migrants from a third and last caravan also arrived at the stadium.
Like most of those in the third caravan, migrant Javier Pineda is from El Salvador, and hopes to reach the United States. Referring to the first group nearing the end of the journey, Pineda said, “if they could do it, there is no reason why we can’t.”
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Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat reported in Tijuana, Mexico, and AP writer Maria Verza reported from Escuinapa, Mexico.