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German CDU top brass back Armin Laschet as chancellor candidate
Armin Laschet moved a step closer to becoming Angela Merkel’s successor on Monday when her Christian Democrat party (CDU) backed him as its preferred candidate for German chancellor in September’s elections. But the party stopped short of formally endorsing Mr Laschet and he still faces a challenge from Markus Söder, the popular and charismatic Bavarian regional leader. “Everyone wants a quick decision,” Mr Laschet told a press conference after CDU grandees declared unanimous support for him at a meeting of the party presidium. “The country’s problems are too pressing for us to waste time on internal party divisions”. But Mr Söder refused to back down, telling a rival press conference: “This is about the central leadership role in the hardest election campaign we have faced since 1998”. Months of behind the scenes rivalry between the two men finally broke into the open at the weekend when both declared they were ready to lead the CDU into September’s elections, when Germany will choose a successor to Mrs Merkel. Mr Laschet was elected party leader in January and would usually be the automatic choice, but a quirk of the German political system means parties name their candidate for chancellor separately, and the coronavirus pandemic has thrown the campaign into chaos.
‘Huge’ explosion rocks St. Vincent as volcano keeps erupting
La Soufriere volcano fired an enormous amount of ash and hot gas early Monday in the biggest explosive eruption yet since volcanic activity began on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent late last week, with officials worried about the lives of those who have refused to evacuate. Experts called it a “huge explosion” that generated pyroclastic flows down the volcano’s south and southwest flanks. “It’s destroying everything in its path,” Erouscilla Joseph, director of the University of the West Indies’ Seismic Research Center, told The Associated Press.
U.S. distances itself from explosion at Iranian nuclear site
The Biden administration says it had no role in the explosion on Sunday at an Iranian uranium enrichment facility. Iran has blamed Israel and vowed to take revenge.Why it matters: The administration is attempting to negotiate a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, with a second round of indirect talks set to start on Wednesday. The timing of the incident, along with several recent Israeli strikes on Iranian ships, could make Biden’s diplomatic challenge more difficult.Get market news worthy of your time with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free.What they’re saying: “We have seen reports of an incident at the Natanz enrichment facility in Iran. The United States had no involvement, and we have nothing to add to speculation about the causes,” a senior Biden administration official said.Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif blamed Israel for the explosion, which resulted in damage to centrifuges used to enrichment uranium. He said the incident would not affect the nuclear talks, but “we will take our revenge against the Zionists.”Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s atomic energy organization, denied a New York Times report that the explosion caused such severe damage that it will take 9 months to repair. Salehi said uranium enrichment continues and the damaged centrifuges will soon be replaced.Iranian media reported that the intelligence services were investigating the incident, and one arrest had already been made.Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met this morning in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Speaking alongside Austin, Netanyahu stressed that Iran was the gravest threat in the region and that Israel would never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.Austin stressed the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security but did not mention Iran. Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.
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