Asian Insider Dec 19: Iran's call at Mahathir's summit, Xi & Macau, Australia’s heatwave worsens

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.

Hi,

In today's bulletin: Iran calls for Muslim unity at summit spearheaded by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and snubbed by Riyadh, Chinese President Xi Jinping praises Macau's stability, temperatures hit a new high in Australia, hundreds of Indians defy police ban on protests over new citizenship law, Asian films pin their hopes on Oscars and more.

Reading this on the Web or know someone who might enjoy receiving Asian Insider? Our sign-up page is here.

IRAN CALLS FOR DEEPENING OF TIES AT MAHATHIR-HOSTED SUMMIT SNUBBED BY SAUDI ARABIA

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on Muslim countries to deepen financial and trade ties at an Islamic conference in Kuala Lumpur that has been snubbed by Saudi Arabia and raised speculation about whether it will be an alternative to the Jeddah-headquartered Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The Kuala Lumpur summit is backed by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who is keen to raise his country's standing in the Muslim world. While Iran and Qatar - which currently faces a Riyadh-led blockade - are participating, Pakistan has opted not to attend the meeting. According to the agenda, a discussion on the treatment of Uighurs in China could be taken up.

Read more:

Malaysia kicks off Islamic summit with PM Mahathir denying talk of new Islamic bloc

US hits Iran with new sanctions, hopes for prisoner dialogue

Mahathir says US sanctions on Iran are illegal

Qatar Emir to skip Riyadh summit, dampening hopes of thaw

MACAU A ROLE MODEL FOR 'ONE COUNTRY, TWO SYSTEMS', SAYS XI

Chinese President Xi Jinping held up Macau as a model for "one country, two systems" as he visited the territory to mark the 20th anniversary of its return to China. He will be there a bit longer and is expected to announce measures to improve Macau's gaming-dependent economy, including a yuan-denominated stock exchange. One question: could he be doing this to draw a comparison with Hong Kong?

Don't miss:

Macau to celebrate Chinese rule as Hong Kong seethes

China picks new leaders for Macau, replaces economy chief

China's State Council calls for Shenzhen integration with Hong Kong, Macau

NEW SOUTH WALES DECLARES EMERGENCY AS AUSTRALIA RECORDS HOTTEST DAY ON RECORD

Australia recorded its hottest day on Wednesday (Dec 18). Based on preliminary analysis, the national average maximum daytime temp was 41.9 deg C, exceeding the record set on Tuesday of 40.9 deg C, the Bureau of Meteorology said. With temperatures set to go even higher, officials are urging people to be prepared to alter their Christmas plans.

Read more:

Australia's bush fires take political toll

Australia has its hottest day on record, more sizzling days to come

Australia firefighters accidentally spread blaze ahead of heatwave

HUNDREDS IN INDIA DEFY BAN ON PROTESTS AS OUTRAGE OVER CITIZENSHIP LAW CONTINUES

Angry Indians took to the streets defying a ban on protests to express their outrage over a new citizenship law that makes religion a criteria for nationality. Many see the move as a bid by the ruling government to turn the country into a Hindu state, threatening the secular ideals of the country. Meanwhile, mobile calls and the Web were suspended in key areas of the capital city as protests showed no signs of ending.

Find out more:

New Delhi-Dhaka 'golden' ties rocked by India's contentious citizenship law

Religion-based Bill further polarises India

Coming tomorrow: Speaking Of Asia: Goodbye, India. Hello, Hindustan?

ASIAN MOVIES IN RACE FOR OSCARS

China's animation blockbuster Ne Zha, South Korean social satire Parasite and Singapore director Eric Khoo's Ramen Shop are in the running for a Best Movie Oscar, when awards are announced on Jan 13.

Read more:

Hit Chinese animation Ne Zha reclaims Asian storytelling from Hollywood

Social satire Parasite takes aim at both rich and poor

Eric Khoo's film at Berlin festival

IN OTHER NEWS

TRUMP'S IMPEACHMENT: US President Donald Trump's impeachment made headlines across the region and is being keenly followed for the impact it may have, if at all, on his re-election in 2020. Our US Correspondent Charissa Yong writes that attention now turns to the Senate trial and how it will be conducted.

1MDB KICKBACKS FOR NAJIB: The US Securities and Exchange Commission has named former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak as a recipient of kickbacks from bonds raised by former Goldman Sachs executive, Tim Leissner, for troubled state investment firm 1MDB, a report said.

INDONESIA'S NEW CAPITAL: Indonesian President Joko Widodo has said he has ordered his Cabinet to speed up a US$33 billion (S$44.76 billion) project to move the capital city from Jakarta to forested Borneo island, so that the new "Silicon Valley"-like city could be ready by 2023.

That's it for today. We'll be back with you tomorrow and thanks for reading.

- Shefali

Correction note: An earlier version of the item on Macau had some inaccuracies. This has been corrected. We are sorry for the error.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.