The US government declared that Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land are not necessarily illegal, in a dramatic break with decades of international law, US policy and the established position of most US allies. "Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace," said Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, in the latest instance of pandering to Israel.

Settlements are communities established by Israel on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war. They have long been a source of dispute between Israel and the international community, and the Palestinians. The European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the bloc's position was that "all settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace."

Sri Lanka's former wartime defence chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa won a presidential election that split the country along ethnic lines. Official results showed Rajapaksa, 70, took 52.25% of the vote. His rival Sajith Premadasa had already conceded. Rajapaksa was the clear victor in Sinhalese majority areas while Premadasa scored better in the Tamil-dominated north.

The election was Sri Lanka's first since the deadly Easter Sunday terror attacks in April that killed more than 250 people. As a result, national security was seen as a dominant issue ahead of the vote. The new president-elect positioned himself as a strong figure who can assure Sri Lankans' security. He and his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former president, spearheaded the defeat of separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, ending a decades-long war in which at least 100,000 people died.

Protesters in Hong Kong were trapped inside a university by police blocking exits after more than two days of clashes, abseil escapes and more than 1,000 arrests. As Dhaka Courier went to press this week, about 100 protesters were still trying to search for escape routes at the Polytechnic University after others managed to leave the besieged campus through a fire of police rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas.

The campus - which turned into a fiery battleground during the past week - was surrounded by police who were arresting any adults trying to leave on charges of rioting or possession of offensive weapons. Some were too scared to leave as a result, leaving them trapped inside.

The campus siege has been one of the most dramatic confrontations in the wider protest movement that has paralysed the city for more than five months.

Evo Morales, the exiled former president of Bolivia, said he should be allowed to return to his country and complete his final term in office. The 60-year-old, who was the longest standing leader in Latin America, made the comments in an interview with Al Jazeera in Mexico City, where he fled after resigning earlier this month in the wake of protests sparked by a dispute over last month's presidential election.

"I can't be outside of the country. I'm used to being with the people as a union leader, president, doing work," said Morales, who has accused his opponents of conspiring against his government. "I miss it (Bolivia) a lot. I'm looking for a legal way to go back and be with the people as they resist the dictatorship, the coup."

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