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Nation & World briefs for Dec. 26, 2017


Monday, December 25, 2017
Guatemala to move embassy to Jerusalem

GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemala is to move its embassy to Jerusalem, President Jimmy Morales announced on Sunday, following in the controversial footsteps of U.S. President Donald Trump.

In a statement on Facebook, Morales said he had instructed his Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel to initiate the move and had informed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the decision.

The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution on Thursday asking the U.S. to reverse its recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Only nine countries voted against the move, while 128 countries were in favor.

Morales on Friday defended Guatemala’s decision to support the U.S., saying, “Although there were only nine of us in the whole world, we are completely certain and convinced that this is the correct route.”

On Sunday, he said Israel and Guatemala had had “excellent relations” since the Jewish state was founded.

Russian officials bar Navalny from running for president

MOSCOW — Russian election officials on Monday formally barred Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny from running for president, prompting calls from him for a boycott of next year’s vote.

The Central Election Commission decided unanimously that the anti-corruption crusader isn’t eligible to run.

Navalny is implicitly barred from running for office because of a conviction in a fraud case which has been viewed as political retribution. He could have run if he was given a special dispensation or if his conviction was cancelled.

Incumbent Vladimir Putin is set to easily win a fourth term in office in the March 18 election, with his approval ratings topping 80 percent.

Over the past year, Navalny has mounted a grassroots campaign which reached out to the most remote corners of Putin’s heartland.

Navalny, 41 is the most serious challenger that Putin has faced in all his years in power, and the court cases against him have been widely seen as a tool to keep him from running for office.

In a pre-recorded video message that was released minutes after the Election Commission handed down the decision, Navalny called on his supporters to boycott the vote.

“The procedure that we’re invited to take part is not an election,” he said. “Only Putin and the candidates he has hand-picked are taking part in it. Going to the polls right now is to vote for lies and corruption.”

No state dinner in Trump’s first year

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump couldn’t stop talking about the red carpets, military parades and fancy dinners that were lavished upon him during state visits on his recent tour of Asia. “Magnificent,” he declared at one point on the trip.

But Trump has yet to reciprocate, making him the first president in almost a century to close his first year in office without welcoming a visiting counterpart to the U.S. with similar trappings.

Trump spoke dismissively of state dinners as a candidate, when he panned President Barack Obama’s decision to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping with a 2015 state visit. Such visits are an important diplomatic tool that includes a showy arrival ceremony and an elaborate dinner at the White House.

“I would not be throwing (Xi) a dinner,” Trump said at the time. “I would get him a McDonald’s hamburger and say we’ve got to get down to work.”

Last month it was Xi’s turn to literally roll out the red carpet. The Chinese leader poured on the pageantry as he welcomed Trump to Beijing on what was billed as a “state visit, plus.” Trump also made state visits to South Korea and Vietnam.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there is no “singular reason” why Trump hasn’t extended a state visit invitation yet, but added that the administration hopes to schedule a visit early in 2018.

Sanders gave no hints about which of Trump’s foreign counterparts are being considered for the diplomatic honor.

A state visit typically is offered as a sign of friendship and to showcase strategic ties between countries that are important to each other, said Anita McBride, a veteran of three Republican administrations who last served as chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush.

“The White House is the world stage to elevate that,” she said. “These occasions really go a long way to solidify and strengthen relationships.”