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By Associated Press

FORT WORTH, Texas — Republicans in one of the most populous counties in Texas voted Thursday to keep a Muslim doctor as their party vice chairman following infighting over some members’ claims about his beliefs.

The executive committee of the Tarrant County Republican Party voted 139-49 to reject the effort to purge Shahid Shafi, a surgeon and City Council member in suburban Fort Worth.

“This vote reaffirms the commitment by a majority of Tarrant County Republicans to our core values and moral compass, a demonstration of our allegiance to the Texas Republican Party Platform and the Constitutions of the United States and Texas, which strictly prohibit religious and racial discrimination of any kind,” Tarrant County Republican Party Chair Darl Easton said in a written statement.

“While tonight’s vote brings an end to this unfortunate episode, it also demonstrates we are a party that respects the right of those who disagree on an issue to have a seat at the table and their voices heard,” according to the statement. “Religious liberty won tonight and while that makes a great day for the Republican Party of Tarrant County, that victory also serves notice that we have much work to do unifying our party.”

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported at least one precinct chair, Arlington Republican Dale Attebery, was said have to tossed his ID at the lecturn after the vote. Easton said he accepted that as Attebery’s resignation.

Shafi told reporters that his faith in Tarrant County Republicans had been reaffirmed.

“As we struggled through the last few months, it would have been easy for me to quit. But I stayed on to fight,” he said. “We were fighting for religious freedom … and today we have come out victorious.”

The Thursday vote result took a stand “against bigotry of all kinds,” he said. “Our union is a little more perfect today.”

A party precinct chairwoman, Dorrie O’Brien, had led the call to oust Shafi on claims that he may be more loyal to Islamic law or connected to a terrorist group. Shafi denied both claims and other Republicans have called them bigoted.

“Religious freedom is at the core of who we are as a nation and state,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement Wednesday, “and attacks on Dr. Shafi because of his faith are contrary to this guiding principle.”

Other top Republicans, such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Land Commissioner George P. Bush, also had condemned the effort to oust him.

Cruz tweeted at one point that discriminating against Shafi because of his religion was “wrong.” The First Amendment protects religious liberty for every faith, Cruz said on Twitter.

Former Tarrant County GOP leader William Busby earlier told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that some large corporate donors “don’t want to be associated with a party that’s going in the direction of excluding people based upon their religious beliefs.”

Shafi is one of two party vice chairmen and has worked for the party for about 10 years, including as a delegate to the state party convention. He’s serving a two-year term as vice chairman and his election in July drew one lone dissenting vote among the approximately 250 precinct chairmen who voted that day. That lone dissenter was O’Brien.

A handful of others have joined her in opposing Shafi. O’Brien did not respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press.

Her call to reconsider Shafi’s appointment gained traction with some party members after Tarrant County turned blue in the U.S. Senate race in November.

The State Republican Executive Committee in Austin responded to the move by passing a resolution recently that stressed Republican members across Texas have the “freedom to practice all faiths.”

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No deal Brexit NUCLEAR BUNKER set up beneath Whitehall by MOD – 3,500 troops on standby



GOVERNMENT officials have held an emergency Cobra meeting over Brexit and the Ministry of Defence has set up an armed forces command centre beneath Whitehall, as the UK ramps up preparations for no deal.

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U.S. says “door wide open” to more talks with North Korea



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By Josh Lederman

WASHINGTON — Senior Trump administration officials Thursday said “the door is wide open” to more talks with North Korea after last month’s high-level talks in Hanoi failed to reach a nuclear agreement.

The officials told reporters that President Trump remains “personally engaged” and also wants contacts to occur on the working level, although they wouldn’t disclose whether any such contacts have occurred since the summit between the president and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Officials said the U.S. is working to tighten pressure on North Korea to “unprecedented” levels by better enforcing sanctions and other economic measures against the North.

“This is a new approach,” one senior official said. “You’ve had piecemeal sanctions over the years.”

Tougher pressure, combined with Trump’s willingness to sit down with Kim to discuss North Korea’s future, will hopefully lead North Korea to decide to denuclearize, the officials say.

“We’ll give it some time,” said one official.

The officials said there’s no been change to Trump’s diplomatic approach and that any suggestion that the U.S. was open to a phased approach in which some sanctions would be lifted before denuclearization was a “misinterpretation.” But asked about Trump’s own comments in Hanoi that he didn’t want to box himself in on that issue, the officials said that they, too, didn’t want to box the president in.

The U.S. sees an increasing problem with illicit shipping by North Korea in violation of U.S. and U.N. sanction, including ship-to-ship transfers at sea, the disabling of automated ship identification systems, falsification of cargo documentation, and North Korean coal exports that have resumed in the Gulf of Tonkin.

On Thursday, the Treasury Department slapped sanctions on two shipping company for trying to evade North Korea sanctions. These are the first sanctions since Hanoi.

The Treasury today also issued a new advisory warning about these practices.

Additional companies are “at risk” and will be punished if caught, the officials said.

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Theresa May to QUIT? Growing number of Tory MPs tell leader to leave amid Brexit chaos



THERESA MAY has been told to resign by Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee of Tory MPs.

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