* The US Commerce Department said it will begin accepting requests on March 19 for product exclusions from President Donald Trump’s new steel and aluminum import tariffs, but it could take up to 90 days for the agency to make determinations. * Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel has said that the European Union (EU) is now in a critical phase and Germany wanted to address major European issues quickly together with France. The European Council set for next week will be the first time to talk about the idea of EU’s future relations with Britain after the latter quits the bloc. * As many as 30,000 civilians evacuated from rebel-held areas in the Syrian capital Damascus’ Eastern Ghouta area on March 17, state news agency SANA reported. The mass evacuation took place through two crossings, one in the Hamouriyeh area and the other near the Water Resources facility in Harasta area in Eastern Ghouta. * The African Union (AU) has decided to deploy about 40 observers in Egypt for the presidential election scheduled for March 26-28 in the northern African nation. The deployment followed the invitation of the government and National Elections Commission of Egypt.