David Miliband underlines his commitment to dialogue with Iran

David Miliband said he is convinced that dialogue with Iran is the best way to secure stability in the Middle East, as he speaks for the first time about claims he called off an SAS plan to assassinate Qassim Soleimani. 

In a tweet, the former Labour foreign secretary said: “I did and do strongly believe that diplomatic engagement with Iran is the only route to a stable Middle East.”

His comments came after the Telegraph told how the SAS had Soleimani, Iran’s military chief, in their “crosshairs” in 2007 after he was identified as the mastermind behind a campaign to target UK troops in the southern port of Basra.

The Telegraph revealed how Mr Miliband vetoed the operation, meaning Soleimani survived…

New Zealand rescuers unable to locate bodies as volcano death toll rises to 16

New Zealand recovery teams returned to the volcanic White Island on Sunday but were unable to locate two remaining bodies in their search, as the death toll from Monday’s eruption rose to 16, police said.

Authorities said eight police search and rescue staff were deployed for 75 minutes to an area in which their information suggested one body may remain.

“I can say we have found no further bodies in that area,“ Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Clement told a media conference on Sunday.

On Friday, six bodies were successfully retrieved from the island by a New Zealand military team and taken to the mainland for disaster victim identification.

Police said they remained committed to recovering the two bodies and that police and military divers were continuing to scour the waters around the island.

“Everyone went out there absolutely desperate to find bodies and return them to loved ones,“ Clement said.

On Saturday, divers faced contaminated waters and low visibility as they searched the sea surrounding the island.

The volcano, a popular destination for day-trippers, erupted on Monday, spewing ash, steam and gases over the island. Among the 47 people on the island at the time were Australian, U.S., German, Chinese, British and Malaysian tourists.

The death toll rose to 16 on Sunday as one more person died in an Australian hospital. That death is the first to occur in Australia following the eruption, where many of the victims were from and have been transferred.

The toll may rise further as more than two dozen people are still hospitalised across New Zealand and Australia, most with severe burn injuries.

Police on Saturday began formally releasing the names and nationalities of those killed, with 21-year-old Australian Krystal Browitt the first person identified.

On Sunday, police also released the names of New Zealander Tipene Maangi and Australians Zoe Hosking, Gavin Dallow and Anthony Langford.

There has been criticism that tourists were allowed on the island at all, given signs of increasing tremor activity in the days before the eruption.

A minute’s silence will be observed in New Zealand on Monday, December 16 at 2.11 p.m. local time (0111 GMT), exactly one week after the fatal eruption occurred. 

Malta’s prime minister denies immunity to prime suspect in journalist murder case

Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Friday the main suspect in the 2017 killing of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia would not be granted immunity to disclose what he knows about the case.

After an emergency cabinet meeting that dragged on for more than six hours through the night, Muscat told reporters the decision to deny an immunity request for suspect Yorgen Fenech followed the recommendations of the attorney general and police commissioner.

An intensifying probe into the murder of Caruana Galizia, who was blown up by a car bomb in October 2017, has destabilised Muscat’s government.

This week two ministers and chief of staff Keith Schembri have stepped down from their posts.

The death of Caruana Galizia – a popular journalist and blogger described as a "one-woman WikiLeaks" who exposed corruption in Malta – shocked the country and sparked protests for justice.

Matthew Caruana Galizia, son of murdered of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, confronts the police last night Credit: YARA NARDI/REUTERS

Muscat said he recused himself from the decision over Fenech, since the suspect under police interrogation had identified Schembri as the mastermind behind Caruana Galizia’s killing, according to sources.

"Yorgen Fenech asked for a pardon for the second time after making allegations about Keith Schembri so I did not want to shoulder the responsibility myself and called in the cabinet," Muscat told reporters, saying their decision was unanimous.

On Thursday evening, as Muscat and his ministers met behind closed doors, police said Schembri – who was arrested on Tuesday – had been released.

– Political fallout – Muscat has been heavily criticised over the government’s handling of the case, and on Tuesday vowed to resign if links were found between himself and the murder.

On Friday he said his government was "committed to investigate all allegations of illegalities."

"I want this case to be closed under my watch," said Muscat.

Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia poses outside the Libyan Embassy in Balzan Credit: Darrin Zammit Lupi/REUTERS

The political fallout of the investigation gathered momentum on Tuesday as Schembri resigned, as did tourism minister Konrad Mizzi, while economy minister Chris Cardona said he was "suspending himself".

Fenech, a tycoon whose business interests span the energy and tourism sectors, was arrested on his yacht last week after a middleman in the murder, Melvin Theuma, was offered a pardon to identify those involved.

On Thursday, Fenech filed a request in court to remove the chief investigator in the case, Keith Arnaud, alleging that he had been informing Schembri of details in the murder probe.

Fenech also alleged that Arnaud had a conflict of interest, having previously sought the chief of staff’s help in finding a job for his wife.

Forensic experts walk in a field after a powerful bomb blew up a car killing investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Bidnija Credit: Darrin Zammit Lupi/REUTERS

Caruana Galizia, who exposed cronyism and sleaze within the country’s political and business elite, had alleged that Schembri and Mizzi had been involved in corruption.

Leaked emails revealed in court appeared to show both politicians stood to receive payments from a Dubai company called 17 Black, owned by Fenech.

The family of Caruana Galizia has called for Muscat to resign, saying he has "blood on his hands" for protecting Schembri and Mizzi.

The European Parliament will send a mission to Malta, according to German Greens MEP Sven Giegold.

A new mission was warranted given "questions around the independence of the judicial system and severe allegations of corruption at the highest levels", said Giegold, who went to the Mediterranean island on a similar assignment after Caruana Galizia’s death, in a statement.