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Turkish Parliament OKs Army’s Cross-border Operations in Iraq, Syria

Turkey’s main opposition united with the government Saturday to overwhelmingly pass a motion giving its military a mandate to carry out operations in neighboring Iraq and Syria.

The parliament met in an emergency session two days ahead of an independence referendum by Iraqi Kurds. Addressing parliament, Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli warned that the Kurdish referendum would bring very dangerous consequences, perhaps even clashes even in global terms.

“Pulling out just a brick from a structure based on very sensitive and fragile balances will sow the seeds for new hatred, enmity and clashes,” Canikli said.

He added that all options and methods were on the table regarding the independence vote and that Turkey would not hesitate to use them.

Ankara strongly opposes the referendum, fearing it could fuel secessionist demands within its own large restive Kurdish minority.

On Saturday, the head of the Iraqi armed forces met with his Turkish counterpart in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, for talks on the forthcoming referendum. Baghdad shares Ankara’s opposition to the vote.

Turkish armed forces carrying out drills on the Iraqi Kurdish border received new reinforcements. The army has been holding military exercises there for the past six days.

Turkish forces were also being beefed up on the Syrian border, with Ankara again warning it would not allow Syrian Kurds to create their own independent state.

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Turkish Parliament OKs Army’s Cross-border Operations in Iraq, Syria

Turkey’s main opposition united with the government Saturday to overwhelmingly pass a motion giving its military a mandate to carry out operations in neighboring Iraq and Syria.

The parliament met in an emergency session two days ahead of an independence referendum by Iraqi Kurds. Addressing parliament, Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli warned that the Kurdish referendum would bring very dangerous consequences, perhaps even clashes even in global terms.

“Pulling out just a brick from a structure based on very sensitive and fragile balances will sow the seeds for new hatred, enmity and clashes,” Canikli said.

He added that all options and methods were on the table regarding the independence vote and that Turkey would not hesitate to use them.

Ankara strongly opposes the referendum, fearing it could fuel secessionist demands within its own large restive Kurdish minority.

On Saturday, the head of the Iraqi armed forces met with his Turkish counterpart in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, for talks on the forthcoming referendum. Baghdad shares Ankara’s opposition to the vote.

Turkish armed forces carrying out drills on the Iraqi Kurdish border received new reinforcements. The army has been holding military exercises there for the past six days.

Turkish forces were also being beefed up on the Syrian border, with Ankara again warning it would not allow Syrian Kurds to create their own independent state.

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In Final Push, Merkel Seeks to Reach Undecided German Voters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her supporters to keep up the momentum in the final hours before Sunday’s national election, urging a last push to try to sway undecided voters.

Merkel is seeking a fourth term in office and her conservative bloc of the Christian Democratic Party and Bavarian-only Christian Social union has a healthy lead in the polls. Surveys in the last week show it leading with between 34 to 37 percent support, followed by the Social Democrats with 21 to 22 percent.

Still, the support has been gradually eroding over the past week. Merkel told supporters in Berlin on Saturday that they needed to keep up their efforts to sway undecided voters, saying “many make their decision in the final hours.”

After handing out coffee and chatting with the campaign workers in Berlin, Merkel headed north to her own riding, walking through the streets of the city of Stralsund shaking hands, posing for photos and signing autographs.

She also campaigned in the northern city of Greifswald and planned a stop as well on the island of Ruegen in the Baltic.

Her main challenger, Social Democrat Martin Schulz, was in western Germany at a rally in the city of Aachen.

At a rally Friday night in Berlin, Schulz urged Germans not to vote for the anti-migrant Alternative for Germany party, known by its German initials AfD, which appears assured of gaining seats in the national parliament for the first time. The nationalist party has 10 to 13 percent support in the polls.

Calling the AfD a “party of agitators” and “the enemies,” Schulz said his Social Democrats were the best option to fight them.

“We will defend democracy in Germany,” he said.

In addition to the AfD, the Greens, the Free Democratic Party and the Left Party were all poised to enter parliament with poll numbers between 8 and 11 percent.

With the numbers so close, several different coalition government combinations could be possible. Merkel on Friday night told supporters in Munich not to be complacent with her bloc’s lead.

“We don’t have a single vote to give away,” she said. “We can’t use any experiments – we need stability and security.”

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In Final Push, Merkel Seeks to Reach Undecided German Voters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her supporters to keep up the momentum in the final hours before Sunday’s national election, urging a last push to try to sway undecided voters.

Merkel is seeking a fourth term in office and her conservative bloc of the Christian Democratic Party and Bavarian-only Christian Social union has a healthy lead in the polls. Surveys in the last week show it leading with between 34 to 37 percent support, followed by the Social Democrats with 21 to 22 percent.

Still, the support has been gradually eroding over the past week. Merkel told supporters in Berlin on Saturday that they needed to keep up their efforts to sway undecided voters, saying “many make their decision in the final hours.”

After handing out coffee and chatting with the campaign workers in Berlin, Merkel headed north to her own riding, walking through the streets of the city of Stralsund shaking hands, posing for photos and signing autographs.

She also campaigned in the northern city of Greifswald and planned a stop as well on the island of Ruegen in the Baltic.

Her main challenger, Social Democrat Martin Schulz, was in western Germany at a rally in the city of Aachen.

At a rally Friday night in Berlin, Schulz urged Germans not to vote for the anti-migrant Alternative for Germany party, known by its German initials AfD, which appears assured of gaining seats in the national parliament for the first time. The nationalist party has 10 to 13 percent support in the polls.

Calling the AfD a “party of agitators” and “the enemies,” Schulz said his Social Democrats were the best option to fight them.

“We will defend democracy in Germany,” he said.

In addition to the AfD, the Greens, the Free Democratic Party and the Left Party were all poised to enter parliament with poll numbers between 8 and 11 percent.

With the numbers so close, several different coalition government combinations could be possible. Merkel on Friday night told supporters in Munich not to be complacent with her bloc’s lead.

“We don’t have a single vote to give away,” she said. “We can’t use any experiments – we need stability and security.”

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Students Occupy Barcelona University in Support of Secession

Spanish media report that several hundred students have spent the night inside a Barcelona university to protest the government’s efforts to stop a referendum over Catalonia’s secession from the country.

The protesters have said on social media that pro-independence politicians are expected to give talks at Barcelona University on Saturday.

Jordi Vives, a spokesman for the students, told Catalan public television: “We are showing that as students we have a part to play and that for now we are staying put.”

The remaining students were hold-outs from a group of about 2,000 that gathered in and around the university Friday. Several hundred occupied a central cloister near the offices of the dean and other university managers.

Spain’s Constitutional Court has suspended the Oct. 1 vote while judges assess its legality.

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Students Occupy Barcelona University in Support of Secession

Spanish media report that several hundred students have spent the night inside a Barcelona university to protest the government’s efforts to stop a referendum over Catalonia’s secession from the country.

The protesters have said on social media that pro-independence politicians are expected to give talks at Barcelona University on Saturday.

Jordi Vives, a spokesman for the students, told Catalan public television: “We are showing that as students we have a part to play and that for now we are staying put.”

The remaining students were hold-outs from a group of about 2,000 that gathered in and around the university Friday. Several hundred occupied a central cloister near the offices of the dean and other university managers.

Spain’s Constitutional Court has suspended the Oct. 1 vote while judges assess its legality.

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World Leaders Take Stock of Counterterror Fight

While Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs dominated headlines, countering terrorism and extremism took center stage at the U.N. General Assembly this week. Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and top officials from 24 countries highlighted progress made in the fight to defeat the Islamic State militant group in Iraq. VOA Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine has more from Washington.

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US Looks to Keep Arms Control Treaty With Russia

The United States sees value in the New START arms control treaty with Russia, despite Washington’s concerns about Moscow’s track record on arms control and other issues, senior U.S. officials said Friday.

The remarks by the Trump administration officials, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, suggest the treaty will remain in force and the door remains open to pursuing an extension of the accord, which is set to expire in 2021.

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty gives both countries until February 2018 to reduce their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550, the lowest level in decades. It also limits deployed land- and submarine-based missiles and nuclear-capable bombers.

Moscow seen as unreliable

Reuters has reported that President Donald Trump, in his first call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, criticized the New START treaty, saying it favored Moscow.

But one of the Trump administration officials said on Friday the United States was not looking to discard New START.

Senior U.S. officials, including U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have questioned Russia’s reliability on arms control, citing longstanding U.S. allegations that Russia has violated the Cold War-era Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Russia denies treaty violations and accuses the United States of them.

Working to improve relations

The accusations come amid a nosedive in U.S.-Russian relations.

U.S. intelligence agencies accuse Russia of meddling in the U.S. presidential election, which Moscow denies, and recent tit-for-tat exchanges between Washington and Moscow include moves to slash each others’ diplomatic presence.

The tensions have reached Syria, where the United States and Russia are backing different forces that are scrambling to claim what is left of Islamic State-held territory.

Russia warned the United States on Thursday it would target U.S.-backed militias in Syria if Russian troops again came under fire.

Still, a second senior Trump administration official said Friday the United States was seeking ways to improve communication with Moscow and build some degree of trust, which the official described as nonexistent.

Trump took office saying he wanted to improve ties strained since Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine, which led Washington to impose sanctions on Russia.

Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko met Trump on Thursday and said afterward that they had a shared vision of a “new level” of defense cooperation.

But the second senior Trump administration official said there had been no decision on whether to provide defensive arms to Ukraine, something Kiev has long wanted.

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Merkel Rides Out Migrant Crisis, Remains Favorite Ahead of German Election

Germans go to the polls Sunday in national elections that will decide whether Angela Merkel remains chancellor for a fourth consecutive term. As Henry Ridgwell reports, many wrote off Merkel’s chances as Germany struggled to cope with the 2015 migrant crisis, but she has weathered the storm, and polls point to a comfortable victory.

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Britain Expected to Propose a Two-Year Transition for After Brexit

British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to propose a two-year transition for the period after Britain’s formal departure from the European Union on March 29, 2019, the so-called Brexit.

May’s office released excerpts from a speech she will deliver Friday in Florence, Italy, emphasizing that both sides share “a profound sense of responsibility’’ to ensure that Brexit goes “smoothly and sensibly.”

On the eve of her speech, May met with Cabinet ministers for more than two hours to finalize Britain’s position.

Ministers have had tense discussions over crucial issues such as the amount Britain must pay to settle its financial commitments to the bloc and the status of EU citizens in Britain, among others.

The tensions exploded into public view last week when Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson outlined his own vision for life outside the European Union. He argued for a sharp break with the bloc, a stance that dismays moderates who fear this will wreck Britain’s relations with the world’s biggest trade bloc.

May’s speech comes before the fourth round of negotiations with the EU partners, which cannot move forward until the pending issues are resolved, although Britain wants to begin discussing future links, including trade and security cooperation.

While British media are reporting that May would offer to pay $24 billion during the transition period, the excerpts do not include a figure.