World News in Brief: February 12

Wednesday, 2020-02-12 14:35:44
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Lao macroeconomic growth is projected to improve moderately in 2020, with growth of 6.3 to 6.4 percent forecast by the Center for Macroeconomic Policy Research and Economic Restructuring under the National Institute for Economic Research, a Lao state-run think tank.

* Malaysia's gross domestic production (GDP) grew 4.3 percent year on year in 2019, the slowest pace in 10 years, as lower exports and private consumption weighed on the economy, according to Malaysian Central Bank’s statement released on Wednesday (February 12).

* Russia is open to dialogue with the United States, if its interests are taken into account and Washington stops interfering in its internal affairs, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Tuesday (February 11).

* US Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday called the Philippines' decision to end an over two-decade old military pact with America "unfortunate." Esper's remarks came hours after the Philippines said it had officially notified the United States about the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between Manila and Washington.

* At the UN Security Council, which met on Tuesday to discuss a newly released US Middle East peace plan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated the rejection of the US plan, calling it an "Israeli-American proposal."

* UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov on Tuesday called for reflection on ways to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations as a new US Middle East peace plan has been rejected by the Arab world.

* Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have held a telephone conversation discussing the ongoing US-Taliban talks.

* Singapore Airshow 2020, Asia's largest aerospace and defense exhibition, kicked off here Tuesday at the Changi Exhibition Centre, with lesser exhibitors this year due to the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus.

* The campaign for parliamentary elections in Mongolia will officially start on June 2, the country's General Election Commission (GEC) said Wednesday. The legislative elections are scheduled for June 24.

* With homes and business battered by the extreme weather on Australia's east coast, energy provider Ausgrid has asked for help from the military to clear debris and repair electricity.

* Brazil and Paraguay signed on Tuesday an agreement to boost trade of autos and auto parts between the two countries. The agreement was announced during the most recent Mercosur Summit held in December 2019. Brazil had signed similar agreements with both Argentina and Uruguay before. The four countries are the four founding members of Mercosur, or the Southern Common Market.

* US sanctions against Venezuela's state-owned airline Conviasa violate international law, said Jorge Alvarez, president of the Chamber of Venezuelan Air Transport Companies, on Tuesday. The US Treasury Department announced sanctions against Conviasa on Feb. 7, and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said his country will file a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice "for the damage caused by the unilateral sanctions."

* The flu and acute respiratory viral infections have claimed 26 lives, the Ukrainian Center for Public Health reported on Tuesday. On their official Facebook page, the health center said that 260,871 people, of which 68 percent were children under 17 years of age, were diagnosed with flu on Feb. 5-11.

* Italy's population continues to decline, with the latest figures showing that the country's birthrate is the lowest in the last 100 years. The Italian National Institute of Statistics (Istat) reported Tuesday that on Jan. 1 of this year the country's population was 60.317 million, around 116,000 less than a year earlier.

* The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Tuesday forecast Brent crude oil spot prices would average US$61 per barrel in 2020, compared with US$65 per barrel projected a month ago.