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Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would prefer a new election to ruling with a minority after talks on forming a three-way coalition failed overnight, but Germany’s president told parties they owed it to voters to try

to form a government.

The major obstacle to a three-way deal was immigration, according to Merkel, who was forced into negotiations after bleeding support in the September 24 election to the far right in a backlash at her 2015 decision to let in over 1 million migrants.

The failure of exploratory coalition talks involving her conservative bloc, the liberal pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and environmentalist Greens raises the prospect of a new election and casts doubt about her future after 12 years in power.

Merkel, 63, said she was skeptical about ruling in a minority government, telling ARD television: “My point of view is that new elections would be the better path.”

Her plans did not include being chancellor in a minority government, she said after meeting President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Steinmeier said Germany was facing the worst governing crisis in the 68-year history of its post-World War Two democracy and pressed all parties in parliament “to serve our country” and try to form a government.

His remarks appeared aimed at the FDP and the Social Democrats (SPD), who on Monday ruled out renewing their “grand coalition” with the conservatives.

“Inside our country, but also outside, in particular in our European neighbourhood, there would be concern and a lack of understanding if politicians in the biggest and economically strongest country [in Europe] did not live up to their responsibilities,” read a statement from Steinmeier, a former foreign minister who has been thrust center-stage after taking on the usually largely ceremonial head of state role in March.

Steinmeier’s intervention suggests he regards a new election — desired by half of Germany’s voters according to a poll — as a last resort. The SPD has so far stuck to a pledge after heavy losses in the September election not to go back into a Merkel-led broad coalition of center-left and center-right.

Merkel urged the SPD to reconsider. “I would hope that they consider very intensively if they should take on the responsibility” of governing, she told broadcaster ZDF, adding she saw no reason to resign and her conservative bloc would enter any new election more unified than before.

“If new elections happened, then … we have to accept that. I’m afraid of nothing,” she said.

Business leaders also called for a swift return to talks. With German leadership seen as crucial for a European Union grappling with governance reform and Britain’s impending exit, FDP leader Christian Lindner’s announcement that he was pulling out spooked investors and sent the euro falling in the morning.

Both the euro and European shares later recovered from earlyselling, while German bond yields steadied near 1-1/2 week lows, as confidence about the outlook for the euro zone economy helped investors brush off worries about the risk of Germany going to the polls again soon.

Fear of far-right gains

Earlier, Merkel got the strong backing of her CDU leadership. Josef Joffe, publisher-editor of Germany weekly Die Zeit said she could rely on CDU support for now, but added: “I will not bet on her serving out her entire four-year term.”

The main parties fear another election so soon would let the far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party add to the 13 percent of votes it secured in September, when it entered parliament for the first time. Polls suggest a repeat election would return a similarly fragmented parliament.

A poll published on Monday showed a new election would bring roughly the same result as the September election, with the Greens set to see the biggest gains.

If Germans voted next Sunday, Merkel’s conservatives would get 31 percent, the SPD 21 percent, the Greens and the AfD both 12 percent, the FDP 10 percent and the Left party 9 percent, the Forsa survey for RTL television showed.

This compares with the election result of 32.9 percent for the conservatives, 20.5 percent for the SPD, 12.6 percent for AfD, 10.7 percent for FDP, 9.2 percent for the Left party and 8.9 percent for the Greens.

The failure of coalition talks is unprecedented in Germany’s post-war history, and was likened by newsmagazine Der Spiegel to the shock election of U.S. President Donald Trump or Britain’s referendum vote to leave the EU — moments when countries cast aside reputations for stability built up over decades.

Any outcome in Germany is, however, likely to be more consensus driven. “The problem is stagnation and immobility, not instability as in Italy,” said Joffe.

The unraveling of the German talks came as a surprise since the main sticking points – immigration and climate policy — were not seen as FDP signature issues.

Responding to criticism from the Greens, FDP vice chairman Wolfgang Kubicki said a tie-up would have been short-lived. “Nothing would be worse than to get into a relationship about which we know that it will end in a dirty divorce,” he said.

Even if the SPD or the FDP revisit their decisions, the price for either party to change its mind could be the departure of Merkel, who since 2005 has been a symbol of German stability, leading Europe through the euro zone crisis.

The inability to form a government caused disquiet elsewhere in Europe, not least because of the implications for the euro zone reforms championed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Germany’s political impasse could also complicate and potentially delay the Brexit negotiations — Britain has just over a year to strike a divorce deal with the EU ahead of an exit planned for March 29, 2019.

“It’s not in our interests that the process freezes up,” Macron told reporters in Paris, adding he had spoken with Merkel shortly after the failure of talks.

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A lawyer for Gen. Ratko Mladic said Monday it is not certain the former Bosnian Serb military commander will show up in a United Nations courtroom when judges deliver their verdicts in his long-running trial for allegedly masterminding atrocities during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.

 

Mladic’s attorneys have filed a flurry of recent motions to have the ailing 75-year-old’s health assessed before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia announces it decisions Wednesday.

 

He was tried on 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

 

Mladic’s trial is the last to end at the ground-breaking tribunal before it closes down by the end of the year. The court last year convicted his political master, former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, on near-identical charges and sentenced to 40 years. Karadzic has appealed.

 

Defendant may die

Defense attorney Dragan Ivetic said lawyers for the former military leader were not attempting to stall the case and have been trying for weeks to have Mladic’s health checked, fearing a court appearance might kill him.

 

“We’ve had a medical doctor that has said, actually based on his diagnosed condition, any form of stress, including a trial proceeding, may increase his chance of having a stroke, a heart attack or dying,” Ivetic told The Associated Press.

 

Judges at the court have so far rejected the lawyers’ requests for doctors to visit Mladic, who survived two strokes and a heart attack before he was arrested and imprisoned in 2011. The former general is under close medical supervision at the United Nations detention facility where he has been held since his arrest.

“General Mladic wants to be present because he believes that he is not guilty,” Ivetic said. “But I don’t know whether the medical circumstances allow him to be present…. That’s why I need a medical doctor to assist us all in finding that information out.”

 

Possible deja vu

The possibility of Mladic dying before the judges deliver their verdicts recalls former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 before judges could pass judgment in his trial. Milosevic was accused of fomenting violence across the Balkans as Yugoslavia crumbled.

 

Mladic is charged with overseeing atrocities including the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the eastern Bosnian municipality of Srebrenica, the deadly shelling and sniping of Sarajevo and purges of Muslims and Croats early in the war from towns and villages Serbs wanted to turn into part of a Greater Serbia.

 

His lawyers have urged the judges to acquit, arguing that he did not give orders for atrocities and was not even in Srebrenica during the 1995 massacre.

 

It remained unclear if Wednesday’s long-awaited public hearing for announcing the verdicts could go ahead if Mladic does not attend.

Survivors on edge

His absence would be a disappointment to survivors who traveled to The Hague on Monday to watch the culmination of the trial of the man they hold responsible for killing their loved ones.

One of them, Ramiza Burzic, who lost two sons during the Srebrenica massacre, said she is still hunting for the remains of her second son and blames Mladic.

 

“We have only found half of the body of my first son. He was not born without a head and arms,” Burzic said as she prepared to board a flight in Sarajevo. “Mladic was there, and he ordered mass graves to be dug and spread all over Bosnia. His intention was that a mother would never find the whole body of her son in those graves.”

 

Burzic said she expected judges to hand Mladic a life sentence, “so all of his progeny will know what he was doing and what kind of man he was.”

 

The U.N. tribunal has, in the past, convicted officers under Mladic’s command of involvement in the Srebrenica massacre and the deadly campaign of sniping and shelling in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.

 

If the court does convict Mladic, an appeal is inevitable.

 

“There are many things that give rise to a potential claim for unfair trial that troubled us during the work that we did and that might require additional filings or action,” Ivetic said.

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Bitcoin hit a new record high on Monday after smashing through the $8,000 level for the first time over the weekend, marking an almost 50 percent climb in just eight days.

The new high came after leading U.S. payments company Square Inc. said late last week that it had started allowing select customers to buy and sell bitcoins on its Cash app.

Bitcoin traded as high as $8,197.81 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange, up over 2 percent on the day and around 48 percent up since dipping to $5,555 on Nov. 12.

An eye-watering eightfold increase in the value of the volatile cryptocurrency since the start of the year has led to multiple warnings that the market is in a bubble, and institutional investors are broadly staying away.

Retail investors, however, as well as some hedge funds and family offices, are piling into the market. The “market cap” of all cryptocurrencies hit an all-time high of over $242 billion on Monday, according to trade website Coinmarketcap.

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One-third of the newest crop of Rhodes Scholars from the United States are African-Americans, the most ever elected in a U.S. Rhodes class.

Of the 100 Rhodes Scholars chosen worldwide for advanced study at Oxford in Britain each year, 32 come from the United States, and this time, 10 of those are African Americans. One of them is Simone Askew, the first black female student to head the Corps of Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy.

Other American scholars include a transgender man and students from U.S. colleges that had never had a student win a spot in the Rhodes program.

The Rhodes Scholar program is the most prestigious available to American students, but it had been criticized for excluding women and blacks until the 1970s.

The scholarship program was set up in 1902 by Cecil Rhodes, a wealthy British philanthropist for whom the nation of Rhodesia was named.  After a civil war removed Rhodesia’s white-minority government, that nation was renamed Zimbabwe.  

 

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Germany’s would-be coalition partners appeared to have reached an impasse over immigration policy as a self-imposed Sunday evening deadline for agreeing the outlines of a government program passed with no deal.

A deadline of 1700 GMT passed with no announcement being made, suggesting Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens had been unable to agree the painful compromises needed to wrap up talks, which appear set to continue.

The reluctant partners were forced to pursue the three-way tie-up, untested at national level, by voters who deserted the main parties of left and right in a September election, returning a highly fragmented parliament.

Failure could precipitate Germany’s worst political crisis in decades, since the Social Democrats (SPD) have already said they intend to go into opposition after coming second. Options include new elections or a minority government, unprecedented in the country’s post-war history.

“Everyone has to take a success back home,” said Julia Kloeckner, deputy chair of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), highlighting the difficulty of compromise. “People must ask themselves if they are prepared for this to fail over details.”

Strange bedfellows

The tie-up represents Merkel’s only realistic chance of securing a fourth term. But the FDP, freshly returned to parliament after four years in the wilderness, and the Greens, out of power for 12 years, are reluctant to put their hard-won return at risk by alienating their rank-and-file.

“The FDP is now waiting for the Greens and the conservatives to see how far they are prepared to go and if we can then look each other in the eye,” said Greens chairwoman Nicola Beer, suggesting it was now for the others to make concessions.

For Merkel’s own arch-conservative allies in Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU), the stakes are existential. The CSU fears that a failure to secure an immigration cap could fuel a far-right surge in a regional election next year, perhaps even unseating the CSU after 60 years in power.

While the FDP continues to demand tax cuts, the trickiest sticking point concerns immigration, where the CSU insists on capping new arrivals at 200,000 a year.

The cap is opposed by the Greens, who also want to preserve a rule allowing successful asylum seekers to bring family members to join them – though the CDU’s Kloeckner implored the Greens to acknowledge this as only a “subsidiary right”.

Failure to reach a deal could lead to a new election, something all the parties are anxious to avoid as they fear this could lead to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) making further gains after surging into parliament in September.

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The U.S. ambassador to Russia on Sunday attacked Moscow’s move toward forcing nine United States government-funded news operations to register as “foreign agents” as “a reach beyond” what the U.S. government did in requiring the Kremlin-funded RT television network to register as such in the United States.

Ambassador Jon Huntsman said the Russian reaction is not “reciprocal at all” and Moscow’s move toward regulation of the news agencies, if it is implemented, would make “it virtually impossible for them to operate” in Russia.

WATCH: Ambassador Jon Huntsman

He said the eight-decade-old Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) under which RT has registered as a foreign agent is aimed at promoting transparency, but does not restrict the television network’s operation in the United States.

Russia’s lower house of parliament approved amendments Wednesday to expand a 2012 law that targets non-governmental organizations, including foreign media. A declaration as a foreign agent would require foreign media to regularly disclose their objectives, full details of finances, funding sources and staffing.

Media outlets also may be required to disclose on their social platforms and internet sites visible in Russia that they are “foreign agents.” The amendments also would allow the extrajudicial blocking of websites the Kremlin considers undesirable.

The Russian Justice Ministry said Thursday it had notified the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and seven separate regional outlets active in Russia they could be affected.

“It isn’t at all similar to what we’re doing under FARA — it’s a reach beyond,” Huntsman said. “And, we just think the principles of free media, in any free society and democracy, are absolutely critical to our strength, health, and well-being. Freedom of speech is part of that. So, that’s why I care about the issue. That’s why we in the embassy care about the issue. And, it’s why we’re going to follow the work that is going on in the Duma and the legislation that is being drafted, very very carefully, because we’re concerned about it.”

The Justice Ministry said the new requirements in Russia were likely to become law “in the near future.”

VOA Director Amanda Bennett said last week that if Russia imposes the new restrictions, “We can’t say at this time what effect this will have on our news-gathering operations within Russia. All we can say is that Voice of America is, by law, an independent, unbiased, fact-based news organization, and we remain committed to those principles.”

RFE/RL President Tom Kent said until the legislation becomes law, “we do not know how the Ministry of Justice will use this law in the context of our work.”

 

Kent said unlike Sputnik and other Russian media operating in the United States, U.S. media outlets operating in Russia do not have access to cable television and radio frequencies.

“Russian media in the U.S. are distributing their programs on American cable television. Sputnik has its own radio frequency in Washington. This means that even at the moment there is no equality,” he said.

Serious blow to freedom

The speaker of Russia’s lower house, the Duma, said last week that foreign-funded media outlets that refused to register as foreign agents under the proposed legislation would be prohibited from operating in the country.

However, since the law’s language is so broad, it potentially could be used to target any foreign media group, especially if it is in conflict with the Kremlin. “We are watching carefully… to see whether it is passed and how it is implemented,” said Maria Olson, a spokeswoman at the U.S. embassy in Moscow.

The Russian amendments, which Amnesty International said would inflict a “serious blow” to media freedom in Russia if they become law, were approved in response to a U.S. accusation that RT executed a Russian-mandated influence campaign on U.S. citizens during the 2016 presidential election, a charge the media channel denies.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded in early 2017 that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed a campaign to undermine American democracy and help real estate mogul Donald Trump win the presidency. A criminal investigation of the interference is underway in the United States, as are numerous congressional probes.

The foreign registration amendments must next be approved by the Russian Senate and then signed into law by Putin.

RT, which is funded by the Kremlin to provide Russia’s perspective on global issues, confirmed last week it met the U.S. Justice Department’s deadline by registering as a foreign agent in the United States.

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Ukraine has summoned the Polish ambassador in Kyiv after Poland denied entry to a Ukrainian official in an escalation of a diplomatic spat over the two neighbors’ troubled past.

Poland’s decision to refused entry on Saturday to the head of Ukraine’s commemoration commission, Svyatoslav Sheremet, was in response to a ban imposed earlier this year by Kyiv on the exhumation of Poles killed in Ukraine during World War II, Polish state news agency PAP reported.

“The Ukrainian side has complained that Mr. Sheremet was not allowed into Poland,” Poland’s ambassador to Kyiv, Jan Pieklo, told PAP after the meeting with Ukrainian authorities.

“I have been also informed that this is a problem that concerns the restarting of exhumations because Sheremet is the person responsible for this,” Pieklo said, adding that both sides had agreed that the exhumations should be restarted.

In an apparent effort to mend ties, representatives of the Polish and Ukrainian presidents said on Friday that they “reconfirmed their commitment to strengthening the strategic partnership.”

“The parties agreed that the ban on the search and exhumation works in Ukraine should be lifted,” the statement published Friday said.

The denial of entry to Sheremet came after the Polish foreign minister said earlier in November that Poland would bar Ukrainians with “anti-Polish views.”

Poland last year passed a resolution that declared the World War II-era killing of about 100,000 Polish men, women and children by units in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) “genocide.”

Ukraine rejects that label, saying the killings were a result of bilateral hostilities.

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Saudi Arabia has summoned its ambassador in Germany home for consultations over comments by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel about the political crisis in Lebanon.

The Saudi foreign ministry said the government also handed Germany’s representative in Riyadh a protest note over what it said were “shameful” comments Gabriel made after a meeting with his Lebanese counterpart.

After a meeting in Berlin with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Gabriel told reporters that Europe “could not tolerate the adventurism that has spread there.” It was not clear from a Reuters television recording that the remark was targeted at Saudi Arabia.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned while in Saudi Arabia on Nov. 4.

“Such remarks provoke the surprise and disapproval of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which considers them as aimless and based on false information that would not help bring about stability in the region,” the Saudi ministry said.

The ministry later said on its Twitter account it had summoned the German ambassador in Riyadh and handed him “a protest memorandum over the shameful and unjustified remarks made by the German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.”

Hariri’s abrupt resignation has raised concern over Lebanon’s stability. He met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Saturday, several hours after he left Saudi Arabia.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said on Twitter Hariri had told him in a phone call from Paris he would be in Lebanon on Wednesday for Independence Day celebrations.

The German foreign ministry welcomed Hariri’s departure from Saudi Arabia for Paris and impending return to Lebanon.

“We are very concerned about regional stability and call on sides to reduce tensions,” the statement read. “We aim this message at all actors in the region.”

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