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Washington- The Trump administration signalled on Friday it was unlikely to meet a deadline to report to Congress on whether it intends to impose sanctions on those responsible for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, prompting an angry backlash on Capitol Hill. Republican and Democratic lawmakers triggered a provision of the Global Magnitsky human rights act in October, giving the administration 120 days until Feb. 8 to report on who was responsible for the death of Khashoggi and whether the United States would impose sanctions on that person or persons. Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote for The Washington Post, was killed at a Saudi consulate in Turkey in early October, sparking global outrage. In Saudi Arabia, 11 suspects have been indicted in the murder, and officials have rejected accusations that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing. Congressional aides said they had not received a report from the White House by early evening on Friday. Some said they still hoped to receive it by early next week, but the administration said President Donald Trump did not feel the need to send one. “The President maintains his discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when appropriate,” a senior administration official said in an emailed statement. “The US Government will continue to consult with Congress and work to hold accountable those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s killing.” Some lawmakers responded angrily and said they intended to punish whoever was responsible. “The administration’s refusal to deal with this issue and keep Congress informed underscores the need to get to the bottom of what is motivating the Trump foreign policy,” Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. The New York Times reported on Thursday that the Saudi crown prince had said a year before Khashoggi’s death that he would use “a bullet” on Khashoggi if he did not return home and end his criticism of the government. Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir told reporters on Friday the prince did not order Khashoggi’s killing but declined comment on the Times story. Al-Jubeir said he wanted Congress to let the Saudi legal process conclude before taking action on sanctions. “We are doing what we need to do in terms of acknowledging the mistake, investigating, charging and holding people accountable,” he said. Al-Jubeir said he believed some congressional criticism was “driven by politics.” ‘The law is clear’ Juan Pachon, a spokesman for Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said Trump was breaking the law by failing to send the report. “The law is clear,” Pachon said. “It requires a determination and report in response to the letter we sent with (former Foreign Relations Chairman Bob) Corker. The president has no discretion here. He’s either complying with the law or breaking it.” Members of Congress, including many of Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, have clamored for a strong response to Khashoggi’s murder as well as the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Ahead of the deadline, a group of Republican and Democratic senators on Thursday renewed their push to penalize Saudi Arabia, unveiling legislation to bar some arms sales and impose sanctions on those responsible for Khashoggi’s death. Trump has resisted such legislative efforts, viewing weapons sales as an important source of U.S. jobs and standing by the Saudi crown prince. He is also reluctant to disturb the strategic relationship with the kingdom, seen as an important regional...
Feb 10 2019 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
Washington- US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet for a second much-anticipated summit in Hanoi, as preparations kick into high gear for the peace talks. Trump announced the exact location on Twitter-only the country, Vietnam, was previously known-for the follow-on to the leaders’ summit in Singapore last year as he hailed “very productive” preparatory talks between diplomats from the two countries. “My representatives have just left North Korea after a very productive meeting and an agreed upon time and date for the second Summit with Kim Jong Un,” Trump said. “It will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27 & 28. I look forward to seeing Chairman Kim & advancing the cause of peace!” The US State Department said the special US envoy for North Korea will meet again with Pyongyang officials ahead of the Trump-Kim talks-hours after he returned to Seoul from talks in the North on the summit’s agenda. In a statement, the State Department said talks during Stephen Biegun’s three-day trip explored Trump and Kim’s “commitments of complete denuclearisation, transforming US-DPRK relations and building a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.” The State Department confirmed Biegun agreed to meet his North Korean counterpart Kim Hyok Chol again before the leaders’ talks. North Korea has yet to provide any official confirmation of the summit and Kim appeared to make no mention of it during a meeting earlier with the top brass of the Korean People’s Army. As reported by state media, the meeting focused on the need to modernise the military while maintaining party discipline in the ranks. Biegun is expected to share details of his Pyongyang meetings with his South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon and Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Saturday. Attention will focus on whether the US team have offered to lift some economic sanctions in return for Pyongyang taking concrete steps toward denuclearisation. Discussions on declaring an end to the 1950-53 Korean War could also have been on the table, with Biegun last week saying Trump was “ready to end this war.” The three-year conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas still technically at war, with the US keeping 28,500 troops in the South. At their landmark summit in Singapore last year, the mercurial US and North Korean leaders produced a vaguely worded document in which Kim pledged to work towards “the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” But progress has since stalled, with the two sides disagreeing over what that means. Experts say tangible progress on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons will be needed for the second summit if it is to avoid being dismissed as “reality TV.”
Feb 10 2019 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
Beijing- China insists that peaceful dialogue and political means are the “only way” toward enduring peace in Venezuela, the Foreign Ministry said, adding that it backs multinational efforts to reach such an outcome. Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying’s statement came in response to a question about a meeting Thursday of an “International Contact Group” led by Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez and attended by leaders of 14 countries, including Spain, Italy, Portugal and Sweden. China is a close ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, to whom it has lent billions to help shore up his embattled regime. Hua said China “believes that Venezuela’s affairs should be resolved by the Venezuelan people under the framework of its constitution and laws and through peaceful dialogue and political means. “This is the only way toward enduring peace in the country.” However, she added that “China supports the efforts by the international community to this end and hopes that all sides will continue to play a constructive role in the peaceful resolution of the Venezuela issue.” Late last month, the ministry issued a statement in Hua’s name saying China “opposes external intervention in Venezuela,” in a rebuke to calls in the US for military action to remove Maduro. Over the last decade, China has given Venezuela USD 65 billion in loans, cash and investment. Venezuela owes more than USD 20 billion. China’s only hope of being repaid appears to lie in Venezuela ramping up oil production, although low petroleum prices and the country’s crashing economy bode poorly for such a possibility. Two dozen nations, including the US and some of Latin America’s biggest countries, have recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president, while China and Russia are backing...
Feb 09 2019 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
Washington- President Donald Trump is “in very good health” and is expected to remain healthy for “the duration of his presidency and beyond”, his doctor declared on Friday following an annual medical checkup. Trump underwent a nearly four-hour annual physical test on Friday--his second periodic examination after becoming the US President in January 2017. “While the reports and recommendations are being finalised, I am happy to announce the President of the United States is in very good health and I anticipate will remain so for the duration of his Presidency and beyond,” Sean P Conley, a Navy officer who is the President’s physician and the current director of the White House medical unit, said in a statement. Conley released no details about what a team of 11 specialists had found in the course of a four-hour examination of Trump. The 72-year-old President is a teetotaller and does not smoke, but likes a sedate lifestyle. Trump, however, has said that he walks a lot in the White House complex. Trump loves fast food and had ordered burgers, french fries and pizza when he invited the college football champion Clemson Tigers to the White House last month. The White House did not release details of the exam at Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre and did not say whether more details would be released. Last year, after Trump’s first full examination as president, his then physician, Navy Rear Adm Ronny L Jackson, delivered a lengthy report in the White House briefing room. He said that Trump had “incredibly good genes”. Jackson said then that Trump had a perfect score on a cognitive test and “might live to be 200 years old” if he had a more healthful...
Feb 09 2019 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
Ottawa- Canadian diplomats who suffered from mysterious health complaints while they were posted to Cuba in 2017 are suing Ottawa for taking too long to evacuate them and provide them treatment, reports said on Wednesday. Fourteen people, including current and former diplomats and their families, are seeking Canadian dollars 28 million (USD 21 million) in damages from the federal government. All of them have been back in Canada for a year but still suffer from what has become known as “Havana syndrome,” a mystery illness with symptoms including strong migraines as well as visual and auditory disorders. According to CBC, which interviewed five of those affected, the first symptoms appeared in the spring of 2017 — but they say that Ottawa waited more than a year before helping everyone. Questioned on the subject on Wednesday while she was in Washington, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the safety of diplomats remained a top priority. “I am not going to comment on the specifics, but I do want to reiterate that I have met with some of these diplomats and, as I said to them, their health and safety needs to be our priority and they have my true sympathy and concern,” she said. On January 30, Canada announced it had reduced its staffing at the embassy to about half as a result of the unexplained symptoms. Canadian public broadcaster CBC said just eight officials would be left at the embassy....
Feb 08 2019 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
BRUSSELS/LONDON- The European Union on Thursday promised to work with Theresa May on “whether a way through can be found” to avoid the disruption of a no-deal Brexit after the British PM demanded changes to the divorce deal to get it through Parliament. May was in Brussels on Thursday to plead with EU leaders to change the Withdrawal Agreement she negotiated last year, after the British Parliament rejected it overwhelmingly in January. A cool handshake for the cameras with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker did little to conceal the tension, just 50 days before Britain could leave the European Union without measures in place to keep trade flowing freely. Neither spoke, with one reporter shouting to the retreating leaders: “Is this hell, prime minister?” EU summit chair Donald Tusk said on Wednesday that Brexit promoters deserved “a special place in hell”, a blunt display of frustration in Brussels that drew condemnation from many in UK. “President Juncker underlined that the EU27 will not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement,” the EU’s executive arm said after what it described as “robust but constructive” talks with May. But the two tasked their teams to work on “whether a way through can be found that would gain the broadest possible support in the UK Parliament and respect” the EU’s stance. They agreed to meet again before the end of the month. Parliament, which rejected May’s agreement by the biggest majority in modern British history, voted to renegotiate the deal, replacing a provision that some fear could keep British-ruled Northern Ireland under EU rules indefinitely. EU leaders have repeatedly said it would be impossible to replace the provision, known as the “backstop”, because it is required to ensure no hard border, once a focus for sectarian violence, between Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland. Unless Parliament approves a deal, Britain is on course to leave the EU on March 29 with no transition arrangement in place, a scenario that many businesses say would be catastrophic for the economy. Other options could include delaying Brexit, holding a new referendum or cancelling it altogether. The Bank of England said Britain faced its weakest economic growth in 10 years in 2019, blaming mounting Brexit uncertainty and the global slowdown. May will return to Parliament on February 14 for a debate on the Brexit negotiations when lawmakers could again try to wrest control of the process from her, but a vote on approving the Brexit deal is likely to come later in the month. Meanwhile, May vowed that she would reach a deal to ensure Britain leaves the European Union on schedule on March 29, after talks with EU leaders. ...
Feb 08 2019 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
Islamabad- In a rare rebuke to Pakistan's powerful military, the top court on Wednesday prohibited them from engaging in political activities and directed spy agencies like the ISI to operate within the law. Delivering a landmark verdict on the 2017 Faizabad sit-in by the hardline Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and other smaller groups, a two-member Supreme Court bench also ordered the government to act against those propagating "hatred, extremism and terrorism". "We direct the federal and provincial governments to monitor those advocating hate, extremism and terrorism and prosecute the perpetrators in accordance with the law," the bench comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mushir Alam ruled. The court directed all government agencies and departments, including those run by the army like spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), to operate within the limits defined by the law. The bench ordered that members of the Armed Forces were prohibited from engaging in any kind of political activity, which includes supporting a party, faction or individual. "The government of Pakistan through the Ministry of Defence and the respective Chiefs of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are directed to initiate action against the personnel under their command who are found to have violated their oath," the court said. Several experts were of the view that Prime Minister Imran Khan was supported by the country's powerful army in the last year's general election. Pakistan's powerful military has ruled the country through various coups for nearly half of the country's history since independence in 1947. The military plays an important role in the country's decision making. The apex court also outlawed religious edicts called fatwas that aimed to harm others. "A person issuing an edict or fatwa, which harms another or puts another in harm's way, must be criminally prosecuted under the Pakistan Penal Code, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and/or the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016," the court ruled. The court upheld that subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law, citizens have the right to form and to be members of political parties. They can also assemble for peaceful protest. It said the right to assemble and protest is circumscribed only to the extent that it infringes on the fundamental rights of others, including their right to free movement and to hold and enjoy property. The court ordered that those protesters who obstruct people's right to use roads and damage or destroy property must be proceeded against in accordance with the law and held accountable. It initiated suo motu proceedings on November 21, 2017 after TLP blocked a main highway leading to Islamabad. During the 20-day long protest in 2017, daily life in Islamabad was disrupted when protesters belonging to the TLP, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah, the Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat and the Pakistan Sunni Tehreek occupied the Faizabad Interchange which connects Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the busiest roads in the twin cities....
Feb 07 2019 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
 British Prime Minister Theresa May is preparing to delay the second parliament vote on her Brexit deal until the end of February, the Telegraph newspaper reported late on Wednesday. The Prime Minister's chief enforcer, or whip, indicated at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the vote would not be held next week as expected because May will not have renegotiated her deal in time, the report said, without citing its sources. Last month, British lawmakers rejected May's original deal that set out the terms by which Britain would exit the European Union. They voted to demand May seek changes to the treaty. But the EU has will make no new offer, European Council President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday. The vote on a new deal is now being planned for the week beginning February 25, just over a month before Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, according to the report. May is set to travel to Brussels on Thursday to tell EU leaders they must accept legally binding changes to the Irish border arrangements of the divorce deal or face the prospect of a disorderly no-deal Brexit. London and Brussels are arguing over whether the Brexit deal clinched in November can be changed, raising the possibility of a delay to Brexit, a last-minute deal or a no-deal exit. On Tuesday, the Telegraph reported that ministers had discussed delaying Brexit by eight weeks....
Feb 07 2019 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...