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US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken to visit Algeria, Morocco over ‘wheat matters’, others

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The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, will stop by in Algeria and Morocco today, Monday 28 March, after a “historic” meeting with Arab countries in Israel on Sunday.

US officials say two key issues two issues are on the agenda for the trip: quelling the Jewish state’s worries about a looming nuclear deal with Iran, and discussing the potential global wheat shortage caused by the Ukraine war that could deal a heavy blow to the import-dependent Middle East.

“We know this pain is keenly felt in the Middle East and North Africa, where most countries import at least half of their wheat,” much of it from Ukraine, State Department Acting Assistant Secretary Yael Lempert said ahead of the trip.

The war “will only continue to increase the price of basic staples like bread in the region, taking money from the pockets of the hardest working and most vulnerable families,” she said.

The Russia/Ukraine war has contributed to global food shortage with the two countries accounting for a significant amount of certain food supply globally, especially wheat. The effect of the situation has made Egypt’s Prime Minister, Mostafa Madbouly announce that the country will diversify its sources of wheat to avoid relying on what he described as “specific sources” for this product.

The Washington official’s visit to Morocco will involve talks over the disputed Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony that the Trump administration formally recognized as part of Morocco in exchange for Rabat normalizing relations with Israel in December 2020, as part of the ground-breaking Abraham Accords.

In Algeria, Blinken will see President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra.

Algeria is a leading supplier of natural gas to Europe, playing a crucial role after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month halted the opening of a new large natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.

Musings From Abroad

Two Liberian Maritime officials arrested for alleged rape in South Korea while on seminar

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Two top Liberian Maritime Authorities staff who were in South Korea for a seminar were on Saturday, arrested and detained by the Asian country’s police for allegedly raping two teenage girls.

The suspects identified as Moses Owen Browne and Daniel Tarr, were arrested at a hotel in the southeastern city of Busan after a friend of the victims reported the case to the police, the Busan police said in a statement.

Browne, Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and Tarr, a Director of the Department of Marine Environmental Protection at the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA), were in South Korea on a government mission to the IMO, which means they were representing the West African country at the programme.

According to a statement on the LiMA website condemning the incident, the officials were in South Korea attending the “International Maritime Organization (IMO) GHG SMART Practical Training and Study Visit” when this alleged incident occurred.

“LiMA unequivocally maintains a zero-tolerance stance on any types of sexual and gender-based offenses, and views these allegations of the conduct of its Officials as most egregious, having no place in any civilized society.

“Liberia Maritime Authority will fully cooperate with the Government of the Republic of South Korea in the investigation of this incident and vows to take appropriate actions, under national and international Law,” the statement read.

The South Korean police said it plans to seek formal arrest warrants for the two men which would allow them to hold the suspects in custody for up to 10 days before charging them to court.

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Musings From Abroad

Former China’s Justice Minister gets death sentence commuted to life imprisonment for bribery

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Former China’s Justice Minister, Fu Zhenghua, has been sentenced to life imprisonment after a higher court suspended an earlier death sentence passed on him for taking bribes and “bending the law”.

Zhenghua’s death sentence was commuted to a life imprisinment term by the Intermediate People’s Court in the city of Changchun on Thursday after a two-year reprieve.

According China state media, Zhenghua’s high-profile sentencing is part of a “sweeping anti-graft campaign which is coming three weeks before a key political meeting where President Xi Jinping is expected to secure an unprecedented third term.”

During the sentencing, the Intermediate People’s Court judge said the former Minister had abused his power while in a range of senior positions from 2005 to 2021.

“He is deprived of political rights for life and all personal property should be confiscated,” the judge said.

State prosecutors were able to establish that the 67-year-old Zhenghua had accepted bribes worth over 117 million yuan ($16.5 million) during a 16 year period he served in different capacities.

The State media reports that between 2014 and 2015, when he was head of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, Zhenghua hid evidence of suspected crimes committed by his brother, Fu Weihua, and failed to handle the case in accordance with the law.

“During his tenure as Beijing’s top cop, Fu is thought to have led the corruption investigation into Zhou Yongkang, the former security chief who was jailed in 2015 in one of the anti-graft campaign’s most high-profile cases.:

Zhenghua was a member of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission and the Minister of Justice before entering semi-retirement in May 2020.

He had also served as the Deputy Director of the Social and Legal Affairs Committee on the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) when anti-graft authorities launched an investigation into his dealings last October.

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