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U.S Threatened Niger To Stop Doing Business With Russia & Iran – PM Says

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A crucial military relationship between the United States and its closest West African ally, Niger, ruptured this spring after a visiting U.S. official made threats during last-ditch negotiations over whether American troops based there would be allowed to remain, ultimately leading to US troops expulsion, according to the country’s prime minister.

In an exclusive interview, Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine put the blame for the breakdown squarely on the United States, accusing American officials of trying to dictate which countries Niger could partner with and failing to justify the U.S. troop presence, now scheduled to end in the coming months.

Niger has been central to efforts to contain a growing Islamist insurgency in West Africa.

The rift between the former allies has created an opportunity for Russia, which has moved quickly to deepen its relationship with Niger, dispatching troops to the capital, Niamey, last month to train the Nigerien military and supplying a new air defense system. Russian and U.S. troops now occupy opposite ends of an air base.

“The Americans stayed on our soil, doing nothing while the terrorists killed people and burned towns,” he told The Post. “It is not a sign of friendship to come on our soil but let the terrorists attack us.

We have seen what the United States will do to defend its allies, because we have seen Ukraine and Israel.”

Zeine also took offense at what he said was U.S. officials demanding that Niger not engage closely with Iran and Russia, two of Washington’s adversaries.

He claimed there was an ultimatum to have security with the U.S. or be close to Tehran and Moscow, while pursuing an Iranian deal for uranium would result in American sanctions. Zeine said Niger has not signed a deal for uranium.

“First, you have come here to threaten us in our country. That is unacceptable,” he told The Post. “And you have come here to tell us with whom we can have relationships, which is also unacceptable. And you have done it all with a condescending tone and a lack of respect.”

Niger fell to a military coup last year, which saw the placement of Zeine as prime minister after the ouster of the country’s former president, Mohamed Bazoum.

Since then, the nation has grown more hostile to western forces closer to U.S. adversaries, welcoming Russian military trainers this year and Iran’s president in a state visit.

Niger ordered France to withdraw troops before negotiating with the U.S. on a new agreement that ultimately culminated in the Pentagon announcing it would eventually withdraw all its forces last month after more than a decade in the country.

The coming withdrawal is another setback for the U.S. in the African Sahel region, which has experienced multiple coups in the past few years that have ultimately benefitted Russia.

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Saudi Arabia threatens pilgrims with severe penalties over visa violations

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The Saudi Arabian authorities have warned all pilgrims participating in this year’s Hajj against using invalid Hajj visa to enter the country.

In the warning issued by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, the Saudi Arabian Kingdom threatened to invoke severe penalties against any pilgrim or group found to have entered the country illegally.

The ministry of Interior stipulated a penalty of deportation and fine of 10,000 SR on anyone caught performing Hajj without the authorized Hajj permit.

The warning was contained in a letter received by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, through the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Abuja, disclosing the stand of the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars on the matter.

The Council, according to a statement released on Tuesday by the NAHCON’s Assistant Director of Public Affairs, Hajia Fatima Sanda Usara, issued a Fatwa (a legal ruling given by recognized religious authority) to the Muslim Ummah emphasizing the prohibition of performing Hajj without a permit.

“The Council in its Fatwa, urged pilgrims to adhere to rules and regulations, aimed at enabling Muslims to perform the Hajj in safety and tranquility,” the letter to the commission reads in part.

Usara, however, recalled that NAHCON had issued several warnings in the past against Nigerians falling into the bait of scammers making so many job offers for the pilgrimage season.

Similarly, the Saudi Ministry of Interior similarly advised persons against “becoming victims of the several fictitious companies and fake accounts on social media who claim to be agents/ authorities to facilitate Hajj using Umrah, tourism, work, family visit and other types of Visa at attractive rates.”

Assistant Director in charge of Tour Operators Unit, Ahmad Shira, has since shared contents of the message to all licensed Hajj and Umrah operators from the public and private sectors.

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World’s longest serving flight attendant who chose where she flew dies at 88 before retiring

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The world’s longest serving flight attendant, who served mid-flight lobster to the Kennedys and never retired, has died aged 88 after seven decades of service.

Bette Nash started her career in the air in 1957 when she was just 21 years old. She died in hospice care last week after a brief battle with breast cancer.

Her employer of 67 years, American Airlines, posted a touching tribute to her on X (formerly Twitter) mourning her death.

“We mourn the passing of Bette Nash who spent nearly seven decades warmly caring for our customers in the air….Bette inspired generations of flight attendants. Fly high Bette,” the airline’s post read.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union which represents airline staff in the United States, shared another tribute to her on Facebook. “Bette’s remarkable career spanned over six decades during which she touched countless lives with her warmth, dedication and unparalleled service,” its tribute read.

“Her passion for flying and her commitment to her passengers were truly inspiring. Bette’s legacy will forever be remembered in the aviation community and by all who had the privilege of knowing her.”

As America’s most senior flight attendant Betty was able to fly any route she desired – and the one she liked most was between Washington DC and Boston so she could get back to her home in Virginia to look after her son, who has Down Syndrome.

Bette held the Guinness World Record for the longest ever serving flight attendant which she was awarded in 2022. In 2017 she celebrated her 60th anniversary with the airline and reflected fondly on serving the Kennedy’s lobster and carved meats on platters during their flight to Boston.

“My job means the world to me,” she said at the time. “It’s truly been a joy.”

The Daily Mail reported at the time that she had no intentions of retiring, and was still strong enough to drag a sick or injured passenger out of their seat and into the aisle to start CPR. Bette told ABC affiliate WJLA the first few years of her career were not exactly easy.

“You had to be a certain height, you had to be a certain weight. It used to be horrible. You put on a few pounds and if you stayed that way they would take you off the payroll.”

In addition to the strict body restrictions, Bette said the airline used to check up on her at her home to ensure she wasn’t living with a man, as it was a requirement of the job to be single.

She began her lifelong career when tickets cost just $12 (£9) and the flight schedules were written on chalkboards every morning and afternoon.

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Over 2,000 people feared buried in Papua New Guinea landslide

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More than 2,000 people are feared buried in a Papua New Guinea landslide that destroyed a remote highland village, the government said yesterday , as it pleaded for international help in the rescue effort.

The once-bustling hillside community in Enga province was almost wiped out when a chunk of Mount Mungalo collapsed in the early hours of Friday morning, smothering scores of homes and the people sleeping inside them.

“The landslide buried more than 2,000 people alive and caused major destruction to buildings, food gardens and caused major impact on the economic lifeline of the country,” Papua New Guinea’s national disaster centre said in a letter to the United Nations obtained by AFP.

The main highway to the large Porgera gold mine was “completely blocked”, it told the UN resident coordinator’s office in the capital Port Moresby.

The landslip was continuing to “shift slowly, posing ongoing danger to both the rescue teams and survivors alike”, the disaster centre said.

The scale of the catastrophe required “immediate and collaborative actions from all players”, it added, including the army, and national and provincial responders.“The centre also called on the United Nations to inform Papua New Guinea’s development partners “and other international friends” of the crisis.“

 

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