ITALY

Conte government wins second confidence vote

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s new pro-Europe government cleared a second key hurdle, winning a confidence vote Tuesday in the Senate, where his uneasy, left-leaning coalition commands a slim majority.

After easily clinching a first confidence vote Monday in the lower Chamber of Deputies, Conte successfully sought support in the Senate, drawing 169 votes in favor and 133 against. Five senators abstained, including at least one apiece from the two parties in the coalition: the populist Five Star Movement and the center-left Democrats.

The two parties have long been archrivals. But they banded together, along with a tiny left-wing party, to forge a coalition to shut out of power Matteo Salvini, the leader of the right-wing League party, which has been soaring in popularity.

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Salvini’s League now sits in opposition, after he pulled the plug on the previous coalition with Five Star, triggering a political crisis in a move that backfired and led to the creation of Conte’s new cabinet.

— Associated Press

THAILAND

Cabinet minister denies drug conviction report

A member of Thailand’s cabinet said Tuesday that a newspaper report that he was imprisoned in Australia for four years on a drug smuggling conviction was concocted by his political enemies and that he has no plans to resign.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao was responding to a report by the Sydney Morning Herald, based on court records and interviews, that he was arrested in 1993 and convicted of conspiracy to import heroin.

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Rumors of Thammanat’s arrest circulated in July before he was sworn into his post in Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government. He said then that he had been erroneously caught up in a police raid and sent to prison for eight months on a minor charge, then spent four years as a free man working in Australia.

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The Sydney Morning Herald report said Thammanat, then using the name Manat Bophlom, pleaded guilty in 1993 to involvement in trafficking seven pounds of heroin into Australia. Three alleged accomplices — two Australians and one Thai — also were charged.

The newspaper said evidence showed Thammanat played a major part in the operation.

Thammanat has been linked to several questionable affairs. After his return from Australia, he was arrested in connection with a killing and released following an acquittal after spending two years in jail. He was also associated with an army clique that allegedly acted as a sort of mafia in northern Thailand.

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Last year, he was connected with a bitcoin fraud case but was not accused of any crime.

— Associated Press

500 refugees trapped in Libya to be evacuated to Rwanda: Rwanda has agreed to take in 500 refugees and asylum seekers trapped in Libya under an agreement signed with the United Nations and the African Union. The deal comes after repeated allegations of dire conditions for migrants in Libya's detention centers. The United Nations says its own center for migrants and refugees in Tripoli is becoming dangerously overcrowded, as is its center for evacuees in Niger. Evacuation flights to Rwanda are expected to begin in the coming weeks.

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Venezuela begins military drills along border with Colombia: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has launched extended military exercises along the border with Colombia, drawing Washington's attention amid rising friction between the South American neighbors. Tensions spiked recently when Colombia and Venezuela accused each other of harboring hostile forces within their borders seeking to overthrow the neighboring government. Maduro has put troops on alert and summoned his defense council. This is at least the fourth time this year that he has ordered his troops deployed in exercises.

— From news services

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