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Newsline: British embassy cat in Jordan appointed chief mouser

At the British embassy to Jordan, a former rescue cat is settling into his new position as chief mouser – as a traditional well established in the ministries of London goes global. “Lawrence of Abdoun” is a fluffy black-and-white tom who, according to his Twitter feed, reports directly to the Foreign Office’s Palmerston, a cat that delights his 57,000 followers with regular updates from the ministry in Whitehall via @DiploMog. Lawrence, named after T.E. Lawrence, a British military officer who fought alongside Arabs against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, has already gained 2,500 followers since being adopted from an animal shelter last month. Abdoun is the neighbourhood of Amaan where the embassy is located. “Apart from his mousing duties, he reaches out to followers on Twitter. What’s quite interesting is the British public are seeing the U.K embassy in Jordan in a different light,” said Deputy Ambassador Laura Dauban. Tweeting under the name @LawrenceDipCat, Lawrence has discovered the perils of social media, and has even been fat-shamed by trolls.



Newsline: Russian embassy in UK slams ‘unfounded accusations’ of alleged Brexit interference

The Russian embassy in the UK has responded to London’s accusations of Moscow’s alleged meddling in other states’ affairs. In a foreign policy speech on Monday, Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of aggressive policies “to sow discord in the West,” but a day later said that her accusations were not related to the UK. “We asked relevant universities… to send us the source materials,” the Russian embassy’s spokesperson said. “We absolutely do not accept unfounded accusations, which, by the way, lead to a loss of confidence in London also on the part of foreign partners.”


Newsline: US, British embassies in Zimbabwe instruct citizens to find shelter amid ‘political uncertainty’

The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe is instructing Americans to find “shelter in place until further notice,” due to ongoing “political uncertainty” throughout the night. Armed soldier and military vehicles were seen in the streets of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, and at least three explosions were heard on Wednesday morning, local time, according to the Associated Press. The embassy also said it will be closed to the public on Wednesday and employees have been told to remain home. “Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn into confrontational and escalate into violence,” the embassy said in a statement. “Avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place and exercise caution when in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.” The British Embassy also instructed citizens early Wednesday morning, local time, to remain inside “until the situation becomes clearer.” Members of Zimbabwe’s military and the president, Robert Mugabe, who has been president since 1980, are reportedly at odds and there are rumors of a coup attempt, including a takeover of a national broadcaster. A military spokesman claimed that they are taking action to “target criminals,” and added that this was not “a military takeover of government,” according to BBC.


Newsline: British embassy to return to Libya

British embassy was preparing to return to the Libyan capital Tripoli, said the British Ambassador to Libya. Peter Millett made the announcement during a meeting with the UN-backed Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Serraj in Tripoli. According to the media office of the Prime Minister, Millett said that the British embassy would soon return to Tripoli, after three years of closure due to the deterioration of security situation in Libya. The two sides also discussed mutual cooperation between Britain and Libya, as well as the recent security development in Libya.


Newsline: Former Panamanian Embassy in London Getting Second Calling as £75M Home

A London mansion opposite the Victoria and Albert Museum that served as the Panamanian Embassy and the home of ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn was released for sale Monday, with a price tag of £75 million (US$98.99 million). Amberwood House, in London’s swanky Knightsbridge neighborhood, served as the Panamanian Embassy between the early 1930s and late 1990s. It was the home of Fonteyn, a prima ballerina assoluta (a now rarely-used title awarded to the most notable of female ballet dancers) with the Royal Ballet, during the 1950s and 1960s, according to a news release, following her marriage to Dr. Roberto Emilio Arias in 1955, who became the Panamanian Ambassador that same year.


Newsline: China summons British ambassador to Beijing

Beijing summoned London’s ambassador in a tit-for-tat protest stemming from Hong Kong’s denial of entry to a British human rights activist. The Chinese government decried “a raft of incorrect comments” coming out of London in recent days, in signs of increasingly strained Sino-British ties. Benedict Rogers was refused entry to the city upon arrival at Hong Kong International Airport on October 11. He was then put on a plane to Thailand, where he had just come from, and returned to London. He is deputy chairman of the British Conservative Party’s human rights commission and has long campaigned for rights and freedoms in Asia. He said Chinese representatives in Britain had earlier indirectly warned him against travelling to the city, fearing he would visit jailed pro-democracy activists, although he denied having such intentions.


Newsline: UK Supreme Court deals state immunity blow in embassy row

Foreign nationals working at embassies and high commissions in the UK can bring employment claims, provided their complaint is based on EU law, the Supreme Court has ruled in a judgment that clarifies rules surrounding state immunity. In Benkharbouche v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the court ruled in favour of two former employees at the Sudan and Libyan embassies, upholding decisions by the Court of Appeal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal. The case centres on a claim brought by two Moroccan nationals, referred to in the judgment as Ms Jadah and Ms Benkharbouche. The women took the Sudanese and Libyan embassies to an employment tribunal after being dismissed. Part of their complaint centred on EU law while some was based on law in England and Wales. Both embassies responded to the complaints by claiming state immunity. Under the State Immunity Act 1978, a foreign state is immune from the jurisdiction of a UK court in claims based on the state’s employment of the claimant where the claimant (i) at the time of complaint is neither a UK national nor resident or (ii) if they work for the state’s diplomatic mission. The Employment Tribunal dismissed both claims, accepting the embassies’ arguments. However, on appeal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal accepted the claimants’ argument that the 1978 act was incompatible with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. The Court of Appeal upheld that judgment, prompting an appeal from the foreign secretary. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the employees clarifying that the claims that centred on EU law should be allowed to proceed. ‘EU law prevails over English law in the event of a conflict, so those sections of the 1978 act cannot bar the claims which are based on EU law,’ Lord Sumption’s lead judgment said.