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13:29, 27 June 2017 Tuesday
19:26, 20 March 2017 Monday

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FBI investigating Russian links to 2016 US election
FBI investigating Russian links to 2016 US election

Inquiry includes nature of any links between individuals associated with Trump campaign and Russian government

World Bulletin / News Desk

The FBI is investigating Russia's interference in last year's U.S. presidential election, as well as any ties between Moscow and the Trump campaign, Director James Comey said on Monday.

"The FBI as part of our counterintelligence mission is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election," he told lawmakers while testifying on Capitol Hill. 

"That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts," he said.

The public confirmation of an ongoing classified FBI investigation is incredibly rare, but Comey said it was in the public interest to do so.

This investigation will include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed, Comey said, noting that further details in the public setting would be sparse due the nature of the inquiry.

Depending on its results, the probe could be a boon to either party.

Democrats have long called foul over Russia's confirmed influence on the campaign last year, while Republicans have sought to downplay the effects.

U.S. intelligence officials concluded in January that Russia sought to influence the election in favor of President Donald Trump in a campaign directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Trump has acknowledged the efforts, but has claimed they had "absolutely no effect" on the vote results.

The hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as well as Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta revealed unsavory details about how the supposedly neutral organization conspired to favor Clinton against populist Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.

Regular leaks of DNC and Clinton emails in the months leading up to the Nov. 8 poll cemented a popular narrative that the first female presidential nominee of a major party was not trustworthy.

Comey further said he has no information to substantiate Trump's allegations that former President Barack Obama had his "wires tapped" at Manhattan's Trump Tower.

"How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!" Trump said in a series of March 4 tweets, misspelling "tap".

"We have no information that supports them," Comey said, referring to Trump's tweets. 

"No individual in the United States can direct electronic surveillance of anyone," he added, noting that the process to do so would include approval from a judge.  

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Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland
Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said Monday he hopes to clinch a reunification deal laying out a new security blueprint for the divided island during a crunch summit in Switzerland this week. Anastasiades will attend United Nations-backed talks at the Alpine Crans-Montana ski resort Wednesday with "complete determination and goodwill... to achieve a desired solution", he said in a statement. He said he hopes to "abolish the anachronistic system of guarantees and intervention rights", with a deal providing for the withdrawal of the Turkish army. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece. Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. The so-called guarantor powers of Turkey, Britain and Greece retain the right to intervene militarily on the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are at odds over a new security blueprint, but their leaders are under pressure to reach an elusive peace deal. "I am going to Switzerland to participate in the Cyprus conference, with the sole aim and intent of solving the Cyprus problem," Anastasiades said. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is also set to attend the summit, which is expected to last at least 10 days. Greece, Turkey and Britain will send envoys along with an observer from the European Union. UN-led talks on the island hit a wall in late May after the sides failed to agree terms to advance toward a final summit. Unlocking the security question would allow Anastasiades and Akinci to make unprecedented concessions on core issues. But they have major differences on what a new security blueprint should look like. Anastasiades's internationally recognised government, backed by Athens, seeks an agreement to abolish intervention rights, with Turkish troops withdrawing from the island on a specific timeline. Turkish Cypriots and Ankara argue for some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north. Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory for the creation of a new federation. Much of the progress to date has been based on strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But that goodwill has appeared frayed in the build-up to their meeting in Switzerland. The Greek Cypriot presidential election next February has also complicated the landscape, as has the government's search for offshore oil and gas, which Ankara argues should be suspended until the negotiations have reached an outcome.