World News in Brief: December 22

Saturday, 2018-12-22 09:22:09
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The annual Central Economic Work Conference was held in Beijing from December 19-21, as Chinese leaders charted course for the economy in 2019, a key year for the country to achieve its goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020.

* Myanmar's National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) has pledged to continue to strive towards the participation of eight remaining non-ceasefire signatory ethnic armed organizations in political dialogue, while strengthening the ceasefire already achieved with 10 armed organizations.

* Cuba's economy is expected to expand 1.5 percent in 2019 after a 1.2-percent growth in 2018 which is below the government's previous forecast of 2 percent, said the country's economy minister on December 21.

* The 77th Mekong River joint patrol led by China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand concluded Friday (December 21) at Guanlei Port, Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture in southwest China's Yunnan Province.

* Japan's cabinet on December 21 approved a record-high JPY101.46 trillion (US$913 billion) budget plan for fiscal 2019, with soaring social security costs and military spending weighing on the country's already-fragile fiscal health.

* US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi on the phone Friday, underlining the US-Iraq partnership to defeat Islamic State (IS), the State Department said in a statement.

* Mexico's foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard said on December 21 his government would not deport people seeking asylum, a day after the country said it would accept some migrants returned from the United States while their asylum requests are being processed.

* Russia has asked a Swedish diplomat in Moscow to leave the country after Stockholm rejected two Russian applications for diplomatic visas, the Swedish foreign ministry said on December 21.

* The US Supreme Court on December 21 rejected a request from the Trump administration to begin enforcing a ban on asylum for immigrants who illegally cross the US-Mexico border.

* Russia proposes organizing a meeting between Fatah and Hamas next year and a meeting of Palestinian and Israeli leaders whenever the parties are ready, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday.

* The European Union formally agreed on December 21 to prolong its economic sanctions against Russia by six months until July 2019 on December 21, the European Council said.

* The Netherlands, joining other US allies, voiced disquiet on December 21 at the US decision to withdraw forces from Syria and said Washington's plan to reduce its military presence in Afghanistan was premature.

* The yellow vest protests in capital Lisbon and several other cities in Portugal ended with low turnout and three detentions on December 21.

* Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila stressed on December 21 that the Austrian chancellor's visit to Romania symbolically marked the handover of the presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) from the Austrian government to that of Romania.

* After three days' debate, a total of 61 Members of Parliament in Macedonia voted in favor and 15 against the 2019 budget on December 21. According to the new budget, the revenues for 2019 are projected at MKD 210.8 billion (about US$3.9 billion), whereas the expenditures amount to MKD228.5 billion.

* The Security Council on December 21 adopted a resolution to endorse the agreements reached by the government of Yemen and Houthi rebels in Sweden.

* Cyprus, Greece and Israel have decided to set up a multi-party military force to provide security for natural gas infrastructure, Cyprus' state television reported on December 21.

* The Spanish government led by the socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez approved on December 21 a 22.3-percent-increase of the country's minimum wage to €900 (US$1,023).

* Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will launch a massive military drill in southern parts of Iran on December 22, IRGC's Ground Force Commander, Mohammad Pakpour, said on December 21.

* Ukraine on December 21 received the first batch of multipurpose helicopters (Airbus H225 Super Puma) under a contract with France, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said.

* The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Friday that migrant deaths and disappearances in the Mediterranean region this year through December 19 reached 2,242, the world's highest.