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Dhaka- Hollywood megastar Angelina Jolie on Tuesday said Myanmar must show “genuine commitment” to end violence against the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state and create conducive environment for their return to resolve the world’s worst refugee crisis. Over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have taken refuge in Bangladesh after fleeing from Rakhine state in neighbouring Myanmar to evade atrocities, which the UN called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, following the military clampdown in August 2017. Jolie, the special envoy for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), visited various refugee camps on the outskirts of Cox’s Bazar and spoke to Rohingyas and listened to their horrifying stories. “I urge the Myanmar authorities to show the genuine commitment needed to end the cycle of violence and displacement and improve the condition of all communities in Rakhine state including the Rohingya,” the special envoy of the UN Refugee Agency told reporters. The 43-year-old Hollywood actor arrived here yesterday and visited a refugee camp in Teknaf near the Myanmar border. Jolie said any government’s “test and measure” was reflected in its treatment to the most vulnerable people of the society and how “they (governments) treat those who stand up for the vulnerable and speak out for the atrocities committed against them”. “The people responsible for human rights violations (in Myanmar) must be held accountable for their action,” she said after visiting the world’s largest refugee settlement ahead of a new UN appeal to raise nearly USD one billion for the Rohingyas in Bangladesh. Describing Bangladesh as a “generous country with rich culture and history but with limited resources”, she said it must not be left to tackle the crisis alone. She urged the international community to continue to provide the humanitarian aid necessary to meet the needs of the refuges as well as support the local community who generously hosted the huge numbers of displaced Rohingyas. “I am humbled and proud to stand with you (Rohingyas) today, you have every right to living security, to be free to practice your religion and to coexist with people of other faiths and ethnicities, you have every right not to be stateless and the way you have been treated (in Myanmar) shames us all,” she said. The special UNHCR envoy will conclude her Bangladesh tour tomorrow when she is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen. During the meetings, Jolie was expected to discuss how the UN Refugee Agency could best support the current response led by the Bangladeshi government, along with the need for safe and sustainable solutions to their plights, an official said. The UN said it was set to launch of a new appeal for the humanitarian situation in Bangladesh - the 2019 Joint Response Plan - which seeks to raise some USD 920 million to continue meeting the basic needs of Rohingyas and the communities so generously hosting them. This is Jolie’s first visit to Bangladesh but she also met Rohingyas during a visit to Myanmar in July 2015 and in India in...
Feb 06 2019 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
Kabul- President Ashraf Ghani is being pushed to the sidelines as the Taliban ignores his overtures for peace and negotiates instead with his friends, and enemies, over the future of Afghanistan. From Doha to Moscow, the insurgents are meeting an array of envoys with competing interests in Afghanistan, from the United States eager to withdraw their troops to political leaders in Kabul jostling for power. Experts say regional powers-including US foes Iran and Russia-are angling for an audience with the Taliban, who are already outlining their vision for Islamic rule once foreign troops leave. The elephant in the room is Ghani, whose US-backed administration has not been invited to the table, despite a failed year-long effort to spark a dialogue with the Taliban. “The sad irony is that Afghanistan’s government is in danger of getting written out of the script of its own peace process,” analyst Michael Kugelman of the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, told AFP. Ghani’s allies in Washington insist Afghans should lead the peace process, and ostensibly the months-long push by the US to engage the Taliban has been aimed at convincing them to negotiate with the government in Kabul. Those efforts culminated in an unprecedented six days of talks between the US and the Taliban in Doha in January. The marathon negotiations ended with both sides touting “progress”-spurring Afghan fears the US could cut a deal with the militants to withdraw its forces before a lasting peace with Kabul is reached. “It’s a major snub because without the Americans, the government in Kabul cannot survive,” said Gilles Dorronsoro, a French researcher specialising in Afghanistan. A week later, the Taliban agreed to a rare sit-down in Russia with some of Ghani’s biggest political rivals. The talks in Moscow hosted by an Afghan diaspora group in Russia-which are separate from the US negotiations-start on Tuesday and would canvass the “end of occupation, enduring peace in homeland and establishment of an intra-Afghan Islamic system of governance”, the Taliban said. Frozen out for a second time, a furious Ghani vowed he would not be an idle spectator as his country’s future was debated abroad. “Even if I have one drop of blood in my body, I am not going to surrender to a temporary peace deal,” he railed in a speech on Sunday, as details of the Moscow conference broke. The frustration and sense of betrayal in Kabul is palpable. Amrullah Saleh, a Ghani ally, accused those Afghan leaders travelling to Moscow for the Taliban talks-including former president Hamid Karzai-of “begging to terrorists”. “A smile to the enemy is a blow to the national spirit,” Saleh said. The Taliban, who brutally ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, has always refused to break bread with Ghani and Kabul, who they view as US stooges. Instead, the insurgents are marching ahead with their diplomatic...
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Abu Dhabi- Pope Francis, the first leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics to visit the Arabian Peninsula, will attend an interfaith meeting in the UAE on Monday as part of his outreach to Muslims. The pontiff arrived in a modest black Kia at Abu Dhabi’s presidential palace, where he was welcomed with a lavish military parade. Officers fired 21 shots in the air, while jets flew overhead leaving white and yellow trails—the colours of the Vatican City flag. The pope’s highly publicised 48-hour visit to the United Arab Emirates will also include an open-air mass on Tuesday for 135,000 of the Muslim country’s million Catholic residents, set to be the largest public gathering in the country’s history. The pope was expected to raise the issue of Yemen, devastated by a war in which the UAE is a key player, in talks with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. Yemen is the scene of what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, triggered by the intervention of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their allies in a war between the government and Huthi rebels. More than 10 million Yemenis now risk imminent starvation. Sheikh Mohammed said on Monday that UAE rulers were “delighted” to meet the pontiff “in our homeland of tolerance”. “We discussed enhancing cooperation, consolidating dialogue, tolerance, human coexistence and important initiatives to achieve peace, stability and development for peoples and societies,” he tweeted. Pope Francis, who made history when he touched down in Abu Dhabi on Sunday night, said he came “as a brother, in order to write a page of dialogue together, and to travel paths of peace together”. To mark the occasion, the pontiff offered the crown prince a framed medallion of the meeting between St. Francis Assisi—the pope’s namesake—and the Sultan of Egypt Malek al-Kamel, in 1219. Sheikh Mohammed, in turn, offered a deed for the plot of land on which the first church in the UAE was built. The pope was set to meet with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb—imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s prestigious seat of learning—later Monday. Sheikh Ahmed greeted the pope personally with an embrace on Sunday night as the pontiff arrived in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi. The emirate’s crown prince was also at the airport to greet the pontiff, who has made strengthening ties between Christianity and Islam a cornerstone of his papacy. Hours before he flies back to Rome on Tuesday, the pope will lead a mass at a stadium in the capital. The UAE has dubbed 2019 its “year of tolerance”, but rights groups have criticised the country for its role in Yemen, where an estimated 10,000 people have been killed since the Saudi-led alliance including the UAE joined the government’s fight against the Huthis in 2015. Rights groups, which have slammed the UAE over its intolerance of dissent, have also urged the pope to raise the issue of Ahmed Mansoor, an Emirati activist serving a 10-year prison term. Before heading to the Gulf on Sunday, Pope Francis urged warring parties in Yemen to respect a truce agreement and allow deliveries of food aid. “The population is exhausted by the lengthy conflict and a great many children are suffering from hunger, but cannot access food depots,” he said. “The cry of these children and their parents rises up to God.” The UAE, which prides itself on its religious diversity in the Gulf, is a member of the US-led coalition battling the Islamic State group in both Syria and Iraq. The UAE has eight Catholic churches. Oman, Kuwait and Yemen each have four. Qatar and Bahrain have one each, while ultra-conservative Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia bans all non-Muslim places of...
Feb 05 2019 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
Washington- The US Department of Defence on Sunday announced they will send an additional 3,750 soldiers to the border with Mexico for three months, during which time they will build some 240 meters of fence and provide logistical support to the US Border Patrol agents. With this new deployment, the total number of soldiers on the border with Mexico will rise to 4,350, a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement, reports Efe. According to the spokesman, the military will have two main missions: to operate surveillance cameras in the states of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas until September 30, as well as raise 240 additional kilometres of concertina fences, a type of fence that may include barbed or razor wire. For now, the soldiers will be deployed for three months, but the Pentagon “will continue to evaluate the composition of the force required to meet the mission of protecting and securing the southern border,” the spokesman said. A US law from 1878 prohibits the use of soldiers for national security and public order tasks. Therefore, according to US authorities, the military cannot detain immigrants who cross the border illegally and its work is limited to assisting border agents in air operations and surveillance, as well as in mechanical work, such as repairing vehicles. The deployment of the new troops was approved on January 11 by acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan, although the number of troops was not known until now. The Pentagon approved the deployment of soldiers to the border with Mexico in late October, just before the November legislative elections, in which US President Donald Trump campaigned with the harshness of his immigration policies to win votes for the Republicans. However, in the elections the Democrats regained the House of Representatives, while the Republicans increased their lead in the Senate, where they already had the majority. Trump justifies his decision to send troops to the border because of what he himself has called an “invasion,” that is, groups of migrants from Central America who have begun travelling in “caravans” to cross more safely into Mexico and heading towards the US....
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Moscow- President Vladimir Putin on Saturday said Russia was suspending its participation in a key Cold War-era missile treaty in a mirror response to a US move the day before. Moscow and Washington have long accused the other of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces agreement, which was signed in 1987 and resolved a crisis over Soviet missiles. President Donald Trump last year announced plans to withdraw unless Russia fulfilled its obligations. “Our American partners have announced they are suspending their participation in the deal, and we are also suspending our participation,” Putin said of the agreement, following a US deadline for cooperation. Putin said during a televised meeting with foreign and defence ministers Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu that Russia would no longer initiate talks with the US on disarmament. “We will wait until our partners have matured enough to conduct an equal, meaningful dialogue with us on this important topic,” the president said. Brokered by US president Ronald Reagan with last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the treaty ended a superpower buildup of warheads that had frightened Europeans. It banned ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 km. The deal addressed Soviet nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles targeting Western capitals, but put no restrictions on other major military actors such as China. President Donald Trump said on Friday that Washington was starting a process to withdraw from the agreement in six months....
Feb 03 2019 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
Beijing- China’s ruling Communist Party is cracking down on its officials who are taking part in religious activities violating party’s ideology of adhering to atheism and secretly maintaining contacts with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who has been branded as “separatist” by Beijing. A video produced by the Tibetan provincial government has revealed cases in the region where local Communist Party of China (CPC) members violated the CPC regulations on religion, anti-separatism and anti-corruption, state-run Global Times reported on Saturday. So far, three officials have been expelled from the party and 10 others received warning, the report said. The Tibetan authority attaches great importance to the party discipline consistent with a nationwide campaign to strengthen the party management. It regulated 46 violations by local CPC members, including religious beliefs, according to the video produced by the publicity department of the regional commission for discipline inspection of Tibet and Tibet television. The video, part of a four-episode series featuring the region’s efforts on anti-corruption and regulating the party members, was aired from January 28 to 31 on Tibet television, the report said. Buddhism is a widely popular religion in Tibet, which is governed by the CPC ever since China took control of it in 1950. Despite his exile in India since 1959, the Dalai Lama remains the most revered religious figure in the Himalayan region. The CPC remains an atheist organisation. Thus, CPC members are banned from religious beliefs, because they can only believe in Marxism and believing in other religions means betrayal of their chosen belief and it will shake their belief in Marxism and separate them from the party, Xiong Kunxin, an ethnic studies professor at Tibet University in Lhasa, told the Global Times.
Feb 03 2019 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
Islamabad- China will provide USD 2.5 billion in loans to Pakistan to boost the foreign exchange reserves of its “all-weather ally”, a media report said on Saturday. Pakistan is nearly broke with the drying up of foreign cash reserves and mounting external debt. The country’s USD 8.12 billion reserves, which are below the minimum level that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) prescribe, are sufficient to cover only seven weeks of imports. Due to this, the WB and the Asian Development Bank are not providing loans for budget financing. “Beijing will place the USD 2.5 billion in deposits with the central bank,” a top Finance Ministry official here told The Express Tribune. With the anticipated USD 2.5 billion deposits, China’s contribution in this fiscal year alone would surge to USD 4.5 billion, the paper said. Pakistan has struggled to maintain reserves that are not currently sufficient to provide cover to even two months of imports despite receiving USD 4 billion in loans from two Middle-Eastern countries. In July, China deposited USD 2 billion with the State Bank of Pakistan. In the past five years, China has emerged as Pakistan’s single largest saviour in times of economic crisis. The money is coming as part of the government’s strategy to secure breathing space till the time its macroeconomic stabilisation measures take effect. After coming into power, Prime Minister Imran Khan visited China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to arrange emergency loans to avoid a looming default. Pakistan has secured USD 14.5 billion worth of commitments from these three countries that have helped largely bridged the external financing gap of the ongoing fiscal year. Before coming into power, Khan was critical of taking loans to run the country but due to extremely low level of foreign currency reserves and financing requirements standing above USD 25 billion, he sought loans from other countries. Saudi Arabia will provide a USD 6 billion financial assistance package, which included USD 3 billion in short term loans at an interest rate of 3.18 per cent. Riyadh has already disbursed USD 3 billion. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Tariq Bajwa on Thursday said the modalities for USD 3 billion oil on deferred payments were finalised this week and an agreement would be signed on February 16 during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The UAE has agreed to provide USD 3 billion in loans at an interest rate of around 3 per cent and has already disbursed USD 1 billion. A USD 3.2 billion worth of oil facility on deferred payment is being awaited. Pakistan has arranged these deposits for a term of one to three years but these are likely to be rolled over, in case Islamabad faces difficulties to return them, said the sources in the Finance Ministry. But despite USD 4 billion inflows from Riyadh and the UAE during the past two months, the gross official foreign currency reserves stayed at only USD 8.12 billion as of December 25, according the SBP governor. However, the SBP governor on Thursday said despite these measures, the current account deficit remained high, standing at USD 8 billion in six months. The overall foreign loans disbursements also remained low during first half of the fiscal year, standing at only USD 2.2 billion from July through December. The government on Thursday also launched Diaspora bonds at interest rates of 6.25 per cent for three years and 6.75 per cent for five years to arrange funds for balance of payments support. Finance Minister Asad Umar said he also gave a go ahead to launch two more financial instruments to meet external sector financing requirements. One instrument, likely to be Sukuk bonds (Islamic bonds), could be launched before June, according to the Finance Ministry officials.
Feb 02 2019 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
  Moscow- Russian President Vladimir Putin told a meeting with foreign and defence ministers on Saturday that Russia has suspended the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty following a similar decision by the United States, the Kremlin said. Putin also said that Russia will start working on creating new missiles, including supersonic ones, and told ministers not to initiate disarmament talks with Washington.
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