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Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Pakistani PM Shehbaz Sharif during a meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

Sputnik/Alexandr Demyanchuk/Pool via REUTERS

Russia and Pakistan might cut unprecedented oil deal

Cold War rivals Russia and Pakistan are negotiating an agreement for the Russians to start selling cheap oil to energy-starved Pakistan in March.

This will make Islamabad yet another Asian customer of Russian crude at a time when Moscow’s cash inflows are limited by a G7/EU oil cap and sanctions. Also, considering Pakistan is dead broke, payments might be made through a “friendly” country, presumably China – a power play for Beijing, whose yuan will be used for the transactions, giving the currency more sway as an alternative to the US dollar.

How is this deal going to affect American interests in the region? And why is Pakistan, which wants to balance its ties with Washington, giving business to the Russians perhaps through China?

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What We're Watching: Hariri throws in the towel, China calls for Pakistan blast probe, Poland hits EU over judiciary

Lebanon's PM-designate resigns: Things continue to deteriorate in crisis-ridden Lebanon. On Thursday, veteran politician and prime minister-designate Saad Hariri resigned eight months after being tapped to form a technocratic government after a series of crises and disasters, chief among them the devastating explosion at a Beirut port last August. Lebanon's Hezbollah-aligned President Michel Aoun refused to accept any of Hariri's proposals, because he said they did not reflect the country's sectarian power-sharing requirements. But Hariri pushed back, saying that Aoun wanted too many government spots for his allies. The Lebanese pound dipped to a new low after Hariri called it quits Thursday, reaching 21,000 to the US dollar. It's unclear who will step in now to form a government, a prerequisite to releasing billions of dollars in aid from former colonizer France and others. Meanwhile, the EU has said it'll impose sanctions on Lebanese officials if progress remains static.

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