The Commonwealth has secretly begun considering who might succeed the Queen as its head, the BBC has learned.
The issue is hugely sensitive because the role is not hereditary and will not pass automatically to the Prince of Wales on the Queen’s death.
The Commonwealth has set up a “high level group” to look at the way the international organisation is governed.
This group is meeting later, officially to review how the Commonwealth is run by its secretariat and governors.
However, senior sources added that the gathering in London would also consider what happens when the Queen, who turns 92 in April, dies.
One said: “I imagine the question of the succession, however distasteful it may naturally be, will come up.”
The agenda for the all-day summit, seen by the BBC, says there will be a discussion of “wider governance considerations” which insiders say is code for the succession.
The group is expected to report to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London in April, which is likely to be the last that the 91-year-old monarch will attend.
A second source said the issue of the succession is expected to be discussed by Commonwealth leaders on the margins of the summit, particularly when they meet without officials “on retreat” at Windsor Castle.
The Queen was proclaimed Head of the Commonwealth at her coronation when she was head of state in seven of its eight members.
It is not an hereditary position that will pass automatically to her son, who will be head of state in only 15 of the 53 member nations that now make up the Commonwealth.
Any decision about the future would have to be made by the Commonwealth heads of government at the time of the Queen’s death. But there is no formal process for choosing her successor.
While many Commonwealth figures presume there will be no realistic alternative to Prince Charles, there has in the past been talk of electing a ceremonial leader to improve the organisation’s democratic credentials.
One source said the issue to be decided was whether a one-off decision should be taken to appoint Prince Charles to the position, or whether a new process should be agreed to ensure that it is always the British monarch who automatically becomes head of the Commonwealth.
“There are various formulas being played with,” the source said. “Should it always be the heir to the throne or Prince Charles himself? Is it the person or the position?”
The high level group, which is made up of seven senior former ministers from the Commonwealth, will meet at the body’s London headquarters at Marlborough House.
The group, which has its own staff and budget, is independent of the Commonwealth Secretariat. It will look at how the secretariat is run and funded, how a new secretary general is chosen and the balance of power between the Commonwealth’s governors and executive committee.
According to documents seen by the BBC, the high level group will not just confine itself to bureaucratic changes. The agenda for the meeting says: “Discussions will take into consideration the issues raised in the first session and also the wider governance considerations of the Commonwealth.”
The Queen has been working in private to try to ensure that Prince Charles does succeed her, sending senior officials around the world to lobby Commonwealth leaders.
At the last CHOGM in Malta in 2015, the Queen told them that she could not “wish to have been better supported and represented in the Commonwealth than by the Prince of Wales who continues to give so much to it with great distinction”.
The Prince of Wales represented the Queen at the CHOGM in Sri Lanka in 2013. A whole section of his website is devoted to the Commonwealth, noting that he has visited 41 out of 53 countries and has been a “proud supporter” for more than four decades.
The high level group consists of:
- Chairman Anote Tong: Former president of Kiribati
- Lord Howell: Former British energy secretary
- Louise Frechette: Former United Nations deputy secretary general
- Robert Hill: Former Australian defence minister
- Dame Billie Miller: Former deputy prime minister of Barbados
- Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: Former Nigerian minister of finance
- George Vella: Former deputy prime minister of Malta
Body Of Beheaded Ghanaian Uncovered In Libya
The bodies of 21 Egyptian Christians including a Ghanaian killed by Islamic State in 2015 in Libya have been uncovered and returned to Egypt.
Members of IS beheaded the Christians in its former Libyan stronghold of Sirte.
The bodies were recovered in October after the area where they were buried was recaptured from the jihadist group, according to Reuters.
The Coptic Christians were beheaded on a beach in February 2015 wearing orange jumpsuits, according to a video posted by Islamic State.
Their bodies will be flown from the western city of Misrata to Egypt, a Libyan official said.
Islamic State took control of Sirte in 2015 and lost the city late last year to local forces backed by U.S. air strikes.
Jerusalem Embassy: US Officials To Attend Opening Ceremony
The US is to open its new embassy in Jerusalem – a move praised by Israel but condemned by Palestinians who are gathering for mass protests.
Top US officials will attend the event, including President Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner.
Donald Trump’s decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv has angered Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
Israel regards it as its “eternal and undivided” capital.
President Trump’s decision last year to recognise it as Israel’s capital broke with decades of US neutrality on the issue, and put it at odds with most of the international community.
A small interim embassy will start operating on Monday inside the existing US consulate building in Jerusalem.
A larger site will be found later when the rest of the embassy moves from Tel Aviv.
The opening ceremony was brought forward to coincide with the state of Israel’s 70th anniversary.
President Trump is expected to address those attending Monday’s event via video link.
Alongside Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who are both senior White House advisers, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will be at the ceremony.
The EU has voiced strong objections to the embassy move.
Zimbabwe VP Denies Bleaching His Skin
Zimbabwe’s Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga has denied he uses skin whitening creams, reports News 24.
According to the Chronicle newspaper, he made the denial after being mocked on social media – with some cruel users dubbing him “Bleachy Chiwenga” and “General Ambi”.
He took the opportunity to set the record straight at his sister’s funeral, Zimbabwe’s Herald newspaper adds.
A video shows him explaining it was not a skin whitening cream, but an illness which caused the patches.
“I had this skin sickness that affected my whole body from beneath my feet to my back and the journalists started saying I was using skin lightening creams, but that was not the case. I was sick,” he said.
He said treatment in South Africa failed to work – but herbs did.
“This is what had affected me, and had also affected my wife,” said Mr Chiwenga.
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