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Islamic World News ( 8 Feb 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Ending ‘Turkish occupation’ of Cyprus is a priority: Greek PM

New Age Islam News Bureau

09 February 2021

 Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis gestures during a news conference. (File photo: Reuters)

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• Muslim countries should stand up to Islamophobia, says PM Imran Khan

• Taliban maintains close ties to Al-Qaeda, says Afghan foreign ministry

• Russia to host conference on counter-terrorism

• Turkish-backed militants cut power to 24 Syrian villages for more than a month: SANA

• Tehran is only months away from producing a nuclear weapon: US Secretary Blinken

• Nigeria, Cameroon cooperating in counter-terrorism

• PM Modi breaks down as he bids farewell to 'true friend' Azad, other RS members

• Chinese govt actively supports Islamic education in Xinjiang: scholar

 

Mideast

• Ending ‘Turkish occupation’ of Cyprus is a priority: Greek PM

• Erdogan’s main rival in Turkey 2018 election to launch party

• IRGC Commander Advises US New Gov’t Not to Repeat Trump’s Failed Policies towards Iran

• Turkey detains 39 more people over suspected affiliation to Gulen movement

• Hamas, Fatah hold Egyptian-brokered reconciliation talks in Cairo

• Being jabbed with COVID-19 vaccine makes you gay? An Iranian cleric thinks so

• DM: Iran’s Active Deterrence Doctrine to Kill in Bud Any Threats

• Deputy Minister: Iran, Russia to Cooperate in Production of Medicine, Vaccine

• Spokesman: Iran to Wait for US Implementation of All N. Deal Undertakings

• Iran, Russia Urge Removal of Trade Barriers

• Yemen’s Houthis in new push to capture Hadi’s last stronghold in north

• Yemeni criminal court tries six people for spying for Britain, acts of sabotage

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Pakistan

• Muslim countries should stand up to Islamophobia, says PM Imran Khan

• Al Qaeda founder Osama bin-Laden funded Nawaz Sharif government in Pakistan, claims PTI leader Farrukh Habib

• PTI allowed paid employees to receive funds, reveals document

• Army denies ‘backdoor contacts’ with opposition

• PM, not opposition, dragging army into politics, says Sherry Rehman

• Punjab, Balochistan to share banned militant outfits’ data

• Speaker to take action against three ‘rowdy’ MNAs

• Only JI can bring about real change: Sirajul Haq

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South Asia

• Taliban maintains close ties to Al-Qaeda, says Afghan foreign ministry

• Two security officials die in separate attacks

• ‘Taliban continue to resort to extreme violence’: Gen. Kenneth McKenzie

• US to stay in Afghanistan beyond May

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Europe

• Russia to host conference on counter-terrorism

• France: Muslims continue to protest Islamic charter

• Germany sees rise in Islamophobic crimes

• Judge spares UK's 'youngest terrorist' from harsh prison sentence

• UK reduces terror threat level from 'severe' to 'substantial' but warns attacks still ‘likely’

• Macron will send adviser to follow up on government formation in Lebanon

• EU’s Borrell, Chinese FM stress full implementation of Iran deal

• Spain welcomes election of Libya’s new interim gov’t

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Arab World

• Turkish-backed militants cut power to 24 Syrian villages for more than a month: SANA

• ISIS ambush kills 26 pro-regime fighters in east Syria, a war monitor says

• Saudi Crown Prince announces 4 new laws to reform Kingdom’s judicial institutions

• Saudi Arabia temporary shuts down 10 mosques after COVID-19 infections

• Iran’s militias pose a threat to Arab countries’ stability: Saudi Arabia’s FM

• Pope Francis hails dialogue ahead of meeting with Iraq cleric al-Sistani

• Egypt heads emergency Arab League meeting on Palestine with Arab FMs

• Pope Francis warns of the consequences of Lebanon’s economic collapse

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North America

• Tehran is only months away from producing a nuclear weapon: US Secretary Blinken

• US will maintain pressure on Iran-backed Houthis: State Department

• In Saddam strongholds that fought America, Iraqis fear a US departure

• Pentagon claims US troops ‘not guarding’ oil fields in Syria

• Biden administration ‘walking a tightrope’ on Iran: Expert

• US warns al-Hol camp run by YPG to breed more terror

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Africa

• Nigeria, Cameroon cooperating in counter-terrorism

• Five die in Tunisia from drinking poisonous bootleg brew

• Morocco underground factory flood kills at least 24: Media

• Sweden deploys military to battle extremists in Mali

• Algeria seeks French admission of colonial crimes

• Somalia: 4 peacekeepers injured as helicopter crashes

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India

• PM Modi breaks down as he bids farewell to 'true friend' Azad, other RS members

• ‘Muslim man can marry more than once without divorcing earlier wife, same does not apply to Muslim lady’

• MP minister bats for love jihad legislation in Bengal

• Allahabad HC Dismisses Plea Claiming Ownership of Land Allotted For Ayodhya Mosque

• Kerala woman arrested for killing her six-year-old son as a ‘sacrifice to Allah’

• I feel proud to be a Hindustani Muslim, says Ghulam Nabi Azad as he retires from Rajya Sabha

• PM Narendra Modi to hold talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Shehtoot dam on agenda

• As India-made vaccines arrive, Afghanistan vows to keep jabs safe from terrorists

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Southeast Asia

• Chinese govt actively supports Islamic education in Xinjiang: scholar

• Two Christians publicly flogged in Indonesia for drinking, gambling

• Singapore deports Malaysian arrested under ISA for supporting Islamic State; Singaporean wife given restriction order

• Peer pressure makes tudungs the norm in schools

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/ending-turkish-occupation-cyprus-priority/d/124261

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Ending ‘Turkish occupation’ of Cyprus is a priority: Greek PM

08 February ,2021

 Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis gestures during a news conference. (File photo: Reuters)

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Ending the “Turkish occupation” of Cyprus and finding a viable solution on the island is a top priority for the country’s foreign policy, said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during a joint press conference with Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades according to Greece’s national news agency.

“The two-state solution proposed by Turkey and the leader of the Turkish Cypriots is unfounded and rejected by the United Nations and the European Union, Turkey should know that the resumption of dialogue on the issue will only be within the framework of the federal union solution, which is the only viable solution,” PM Mitsotakis added.

The PM added that Greece is entering the exploratory talks to demarcate the maritime borders with sincere desire and without naivety, “which is a test of Turkey’s consistency with itself.”

Cypriot president added saying: “We want Turkey to prove its desire for a constructive dialogue through actions away from unilateral measures.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/02/08/Ending-Turkish-occupation-of-Cyprus-is-a-priority-Greek-PM

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Taliban maintains close ties to Al-Qaeda, says Afghan foreign ministry

By Mansoor

9th February 2021

Kabul: Despite the Taliban’s claim that it seeks to maintain peace in Afghanistan, the country’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday revealed that the terror outfit still maintains close ties to the terrorist outfit Pakistani Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

According to Khaama News, the ministry announced on Sunday in a released statement that the 27th report of the UN Security Council (UNSC) Watchdog Group on Al-Qaeda, ISIL, and its affiliated groups indicated the Taliban has continued its relations with Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

The statement read that the Taliban’s ties to Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and some other terrorist groups are still intact and that the killing of several al-Qaeda commanders, including Husam Abd al-Rauf, known as Abu Muhsen al-Masri, in Taliban-controlled areas is the evidence that backs these claims.

“The UN Security Council report also noted threats and coordination between the Pakistani Taliban, regional terrorist groups, and the Islamic Jihad group, a group of 100 militants that operate in Faryab and Kunduz provinces, in areas under the Taliban influence,” MoFA said in the statement.

Khaama News further reported that based on the findings, UN-Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team considers the situation in Afghanistan to be challenging and widely exposed to terrorism.

The Afghan Foreign Affairs Ministry also called on international partners to uphold the Republic’s rightful stand against the Taliban and push the group for a ceasefire and violence reduction. First Vice President, Amrullah Saleh said the Taliban did not abide by the Doha agreement, He added that from 5,500 Taliban released prisoners, 85 per cent has returned to the battlefield.

https://www.siasat.com/taliban-maintains-close-ties-to-al-qaeda-says-afghan-foreign-ministry-2086013/

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Russia to host conference on counter-terrorism

Elena Teslova

08.02.2021

MOSCOW

Russia plans to hold a conference on counter-terrorism this year with the participation of representatives from Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and Turkey, a government official said on Monday.

The conference is expected to be held in Moscow at the level of the heads of parliaments of these five countries, Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, said during a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf.

"Fight against terrorism and drug trafficking will be discussed. It is necessary to solve these problems through dialogue, development of common approaches and harmonization of legislation," he added.

Meanwhile, during the press conference Ghalibaf said he delivered to Volodin a message from Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/russia-to-host-conference-on-counter-terrorism/2137710

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Turkish-backed militants cut power to 24 Syrian villages for more than a month: SANA

08 February 2021

Turkish-backed militants have deprived several villages in Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakah of electricity for more than a month, as they continue to commit various crimes against local populations.

Syria's official news agency SANA quoted Director of Hasaka Electricity Department Anwar al-Okleh as saying on Monday that a total of 24 villages in the Tal Tamer region of the Kurdish-populated province have been suffering from persistent power outages for more than a month due to the Turkish-backed militants’ deliberate attacks on the electricity networks.

He also noted that the militants have stolen transformers and high voltage transmission lines, making it impossible to provide electricity to four villages in the southwestern countryside of Tal Tamer that are fed with electricity through the lines coming from the Mabruka electricity transformer station.

Mabruka power station is located within the areas occupied by the Turkish occupation mercenaries, and it cannot be currently fed with electricity from Tal Tamir station as this requires networks and towers, and they are not available currently, according to the official.

“The locals in 20 villages, which are fed with electricity through Zarkan/Mezri [power] line, have also been living without electricity since the 6th of last January, as a result of the assault launched by the Turkish occupation mercenaries on Tal Tamir power station and the high voltage transmission lines feeding it”, Okleh said, regarding the electricity situation in the northern countryside of Tal Tamer.

The Turkish-backed militants were deployed to northeastern Syria in October 2019 after Turkish military forces launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion in a declared attempt to push forces of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) away from border areas.

Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.

Turkey has since taken control of several areas in northern Syria in addition to other Kurdish-controlled areas.

The Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria says the Turkish offensive has killed hundreds of civilians, including dozens of children since it started.

There has also been a surge in abductions in the areas where the Turkish-backed militants are present, particularly in the key border town of Ra's al-Ayn.

The militants have also launched raids to occupy homes, steal agricultural machinery and power generators, and snatch other precious items.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other senior officials have said that the Damascus government will respond through all legitimate means available to the ongoing ground offensive by the Turkish forces and allied Takfiri militants in the northern part of the war-battered Arab country.

The Turkish military presence is viewed by the Syrian government as an attack against the Arab country’s sovereignty.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/08/644823/Syria-Turkey-militants-Hasakah-villages-electricity-power-outage

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Tehran is only months away from producing a nuclear weapon: US Secretary Blinken

08 February ,2021

Iran is closer than it has previously been to having the ability to produce material needed for a nuclear weapon, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Monday.

The top US diplomat criticized the decision by former President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, as the reason for Tehran’s increased capabilities to manufacture a nuclear weapon within three to four months.

“The agreement had pushed that [ability to make a nuclear weapon] past a year. According to public reports, now it’s down to three or four months and heading in the wrong direction,” Blinken said in one of his public interviews since becoming the secretary of state for President Joe Biden.

As for a new Iran deal, Blinken doubled down on repeated comments made by him and other Biden administration officials. “If Iran returns to compliance with its obligations under the nuclear agreement, we would do the same thing, and then we would work with our allies and partners to try to build a longer and stronger agreement,” Blinken said.

He added that Washington would also bring in some of “these other issues,” such as Iran’s ballistic missile programs and its proxies around the region.

But, Blinken said, the problem now was that Iran had lifted one restraint after another that he claimed were being held “in-check” by the JCPOA.

“We got out of the agreement and Iran started to lift the various restraints in the agreement. And the result is, they are closer than they’ve been to having the capacity on short order to produce material for a nuclear weapon.”

Despite reports suggesting the US is considering different ways of easing economic pressure and sanctions on Iran to lure them back to the negotiating table, Blinken suggested that Iran needed to come back into compliance first.

Saudi Arabia and the Yemen war

Blinken reiterated that Washington was “deeply committed” to the defense of Saudi Arabia and “aggression directed at it from the Houthis.”

Asked if Biden was looking to “substantially change” the US-Saudi relationship, Blinken did not directly answer and spoke about the war in the Yemen.

“Even as we are getting out of supporting the military campaign, we are leaning into playing a leading role and an active role in the diplomacy to try to actually end the war,” he said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/02/09/Iran-nuclear-deal-Tehran-is-only-months-away-from-producing-a-nuclear-weapon-Blinken-warns

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Nigeria, Cameroon cooperating in counter-terrorism

Olarewaju Kola  

08.02.2021

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria

The Nigerian military is currently working with forces from neighboring Cameroon to clear Boko Haram terrorists from the country’s volatile northeast region, the country’s new army chief said Monday.

"We are working in tandem with forces from Cameroon to annihilate Boko Haram," Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru told journalists during an operational visit to troops in northeast Borno State, the heartland of over a decade of terror attacks.

He said his visit, the first since his appointment as army chief on January 26, was to receive briefs from army commanders in the theatre of operations against terrorists.

He disclosed forces from Chad will also be brought into the operation. He said it was a new operational strategy to end terror attacks in the area.

Nigeria shares regional borders with Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/nigeria-cameroon-cooperating-in-counter-terrorism/2138074

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PM Modi breaks down as he bids farewell to 'true friend' Azad, other RS members

Feb 9, 2021

NEW DELHI: Bidding farewell to four outgoing members of Rajya Sabha (RS), Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday sang high praises for Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and broke down several times while reminiscing about his close association with him.

The Prime Minister bid farewell to Ghulam Nabi Azad, Nazir Ahmed Laway, Mohammad Fayaz and Shamsher Singh Manhas, all RS representatives of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, praising them for playing a pivotal role in the Upper House.

Azad passionate about his party, his country: PM Modi

In a rare scene, the Prime Minister was seen getting emotional while eulogising Azad’s traits. As his throat choked, the PM was forced to pause his speech. Only after drinking a few sips of water, he resumed speaking.

Modi said that he has known Azad since before he became J&K chief minister in 2005 and applauded Congress veteran's efforts in rescuing people from Gujarat who were stuck in Kashmir due to a terror attack.

"..he sounded as concerned as if those stuck were his own family members," said Modi.

I will never forget Shri Azad’s efforts and Shri Pranab Mukherjee’s efforts when people from Gujarat were stuck in… https://t.co/f6kRs3gxCs

— PMO India (@PMOIndia) 1612848017000

PM Modi further reminisced the time when he and Azad served as chief ministers and also spoke about Azad's passion for gardening.

I have known Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad for years. We were Chief Ministers together. We had interacted even before I bec… https://t.co/9Kkg0PACDi

— PMO India (@PMOIndia) 1612847853000

Addressing Azad as a "true friend", PM Modi said that the Congress leader has set high standards as a Member of Parliament (MP) and as the Leader of the Opposition.

"Power comes and goes but (only a few know) how to digest it...therefore like a friend, I respect him on the basis of the things he has done over these years," Modi said while wiping his tears and saluting Azad.

Modi said he believes that Azad's concern for his country won't let him sit and whatever responsibilities he takes in the future would be beneficial for the nation.

"At a personal level, I would request him to not believe that he is not in the House. My door is always open for all of you. I will always expect and value your inputs," he said.

"I will not let you become weak," the Prime Minister told Azad as he closed his comments.

Posts come, high office comes, power comes and how to handle these, one must learn from Ghulam Nabi Azad Ji. I woul… https://t.co/Bdquw5dw9Z

— PMO India (@PMOIndia) 1612848096000

Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad has set very high standards as MP and Opposition leader. His work will inspire generations of… https://t.co/bPujKFavKB

— PMO India (@PMOIndia) 1612847763000

Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad has distinguished himself in Parliament. He not only worries about his Party but also had sim… https://t.co/WyDgJri3E7

— PMO India (@PMOIndia) 1612847698000

Azad served as J&K chief minister between 2005 and 2008. He had resigned from the post following the withdrawal of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) support to the coalition government.

Azad is set to retire on February 15 and will demit the post of the Leader of Opposition in the Upper House. There have been speculations that Congress might re-elect Azad to RS from Kerala.

The PM had heaped praise on Azad a day before as well while replying to the motion of thanks to President's Address. The PM had also taken a jibe at Congress by referring to G-23, a group of 23 Congress leaders who have been vocal about the party's shortcomings.

On Monday, Azad had also urged the Prime Minister to restore J&K's statehood and had said that government's intention on the matter remains doubtful.

PM Modi bids farewell to Laway, Fayaz and Manhas

Bidding farewell to Nazir Ahmed Laway and Mohammad Fayaz, PM Modi said their passion for Jammu and Kashmir’s progress is noteworthy.

We bid farewell to Rajya Sabha MPs who have played a vital role in the proceedings of the Rajya Sabha. I recall my… https://t.co/RKGX2VsR7i

— PMO India (@PMOIndia) 1612847506000

Laway and Fayaz were elected to the Upper House on the ticket of People Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015.

PM Modi also praised Shamsher Singh Manhas for his attendance record in the Parliament and for participating in key decisions pertaining to J&K.

About Shri Shamsher Singh Manhas....where do I begin. I have worked with him for years. We have travelled on scoote… https://t.co/6DovdslMBe

— PMO India (@PMOIndia) 1612847598000

Manhas, one of BJP's influential leader in J&K and a key Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) functionary, has also served as party's state president in the Valley and was elected to the RS in 2015.

The terms of two PDP Rajya Sabha MPs - Laway and Fayaz - will end on February 10 and 15, respectively, while Azad's term ends on February 15 and Manhas' on February 10.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/ghulam-nabi-azad-is-a-true-friend-pm-modi-gets-emotional-as-he-bids-farewell-to-rajya-sabha-members/articleshow/80760684.cms

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Chinese govt actively supports Islamic education in Xinjiang: scholar

Feb 08, 2021

By Liu Xin

Editor's Note:

Over the decades, China has made great efforts to provide care to Muslim citizens and ensure their normal needs are met. However, some hostile forces in the West have used every means to smear China's efforts in protecting Muslims and kept making groundless accusations including accusing China of infringing on Muslims' religious freedom. What's the real situation of Muslims in China? What does the government do to protect and improve their life? How is the sinicization of Islam going? Global Times reporter Liu Xin (GT) interviewed Adiljan Haj Kerim (Adiljan), vice president of China Islamic Association, to find answers.

GT: Could you tell us about your experience of studying abroad? How does China educate imams currently?

Adiljan: After graduating from the No 14 Middle School in Urumqi, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, I was chosen to study abroad in March 1982. I was sent to the Al-Azhar University in Egypt to learn languages and religious knowledge. I graduated in June 1991 and then came back to work in the China Islamic Association in July in Beijing.

With the support of the government, 10 Islamic institutions have been established in many places across China, including in the Xinjiang region and in Lanzhou, provincial capital city of Gansu Province.

In recent years, the country has also organized compiling of religious textbooks, laying the foundation for religious teaching. The China Islamic Institute has set up training courses for imams from Xinjiang.

Since 2001, the National Religious Affairs Administration also organized training for interpreting religious classics, with more than 1,000 people from Xinjiang attending.

The education and training system for imams in the Xinjiang region has also been established. In September 2017, the nation put over 100 million yuan ($15.49 million) into building a new campus for the Xinjiang Islamic Institute and eight branches in Kashi, Hotan and other places in Xinjiang, which helped to educate more than 4,000 students and helped maintain Islam in the region.

GT: In recent years, some Western media reports have kept hyping China's policies to guide religions to fit into the socialist society. Does it aim to restrict Islam in China?

Adiljan: Guiding Islam to suit the socialist society is not to restrict or oppress the religion. It aims to use the socialist core values as guidance and to lead the religion to integrate into Chinese culture. It is also about helping religious groups to cultivate self-esteem and a positive attitude toward life.

Loving the country, loving the people, loving our religion is the honorable tradition of Islam in China. By promoting Islam's basic ideals, including peace, love for the country, friendship, equality, forgiveness and benevolence, it can play an important role in deepening love and unity among different ethnic groups and safeguarding stability.

GT: We have noticed that you have frequently communicated with foreign religious groups. What are their questions on Xinjiang? How do you introduce China's policies in Xinjiang to them?

Adiljan: China's Islamic circle has kept friendly relations with Arab and Islamic countries and Islamic organizations. In 2016, we held an international seminar in Urumqi, Xinjiang on Islamic ideals with representatives from Islamic countries attending. In recent years, Xinjiang has also welcomed many foreign groups, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and religious groups from Indonesia, Malaysia and Afghanistan.

They all thought that Xinjiang's religious groups and imams are enjoying freedom of religion and that the local government takes care of them. They also felt the ethnic unity and harmony among different groups as well as the Chinese government's attention and support to the region's development.

We also keep good ties with the Al-Azhar University and Muslim World League, and attend international seminars to introduce Islam in China and the situation of Muslims in China.

These extensive and regular exchanges with other Muslims globally help demonstrate the history and culture of Islam in China and the happy lives of Chinese Muslims as well as deepening mutual trust among these countries.

https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202102/1215316.shtml

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Mideast

 

Erdogan’s main rival in Turkey 2018 election to launch party

08 February ,2021

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top rival in Turkey’s 2018 election said on Monday he would quit the main opposition party and establish his own movement.

Muharrem Ince, a former Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP, picked up 30.6 percent of the vote in the last election behind Erdogan with 52.6 percent.

Ince was a combative force during the campaign, building up solid support despite Erdogan and his ruling party’s alliance partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), announcing the vote just months in advance.

Since then, Ince has stayed in the limelight and brandished his secular, nationalist credentials in a nationwide tour dubbed the “Motherland movement in 1,000 days” in 2020.

“I am taking a different path,” Ince told reporters in Ankara in front of an image of modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Ataturk was also the founder of the CHP, but some within the party have rebelled against its current leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

They include three former CHP MPs who resigned last month from the party, expressing their displeasure with its direction.

They are expected to join Ince’s new party, and he implied there could be others.

Ince promised to unveil the name and logo of his new party “soon.”

“We’re going to present an opportunity for Turkey, a way out, a choice. We’re going to create a free Turkey,” Ince said in a fiery performance.

He took aim at the CHP and its leadership, criticizing the party’s objections to Turkey’s actions in the region and its backing of Azerbaijan in its war with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Ince appeared to indicate he would run for the presidency again by insisting he would get “50 percent plus one” of the vote, which is the margin needed to become president in the first round.

The next presidential election is expected in June 2023.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/02/08/Erdogan-s-main-rival-in-Turkey-2018-election-to-launch-party

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IRGC Commander Advises US New Gov’t Not to Repeat Trump’s Failed Policies towards Iran

2021-February-8

“The conditions indicate that resistance has yielded results. Growing stronger is our definitive path because in today world we should either be strong or surrender and there is no third way,” General Salami said, addressing a ceremony to deliver 340 new speedboats to the IRGC Navy with the capability to fire different missiles and rockets and support diving operations in the Southern port city of Bandar Abbas on Monday.

“We tell the Americans that you have failed in the battlefield of pressure against the Iranian nation. Do not repeat the failed policies. The Iranian nation will not exchange its independence with (removal of sanctions); we have overcome the embargo and its consequences and defeated its architects; what (progress) you see today was achieved during the embargos era,” he added.

General Salami also referred to the normalization of ties between a number of Arab states and Israel, and said, “We tell them not to overspend in the friendship with the Zionists, this is an unhappy marriage that will put both of you on the precipice of fire. Muslims do not accept such behavior from their rulers.”

“Allowing the presence of Zionists on Islamic lands is nothing but enmity with the Muslims and Arabs,” he warned.

His comments came after Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said on Sunday that his country will not take steps to return to its nuclear deal undertakings unless it will be able to verify the US practical measures in removing the sanctions against Tehran.

"Iran has fulfilled all its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal, not the US and the three European countries ... If they want Iran to return to its commitments, the US must lift all sanctions first," Ayatollah Khamenei said, addressing the Iranian Army Air Force commanders and staff on the anniversary of the historical pledging allegiance of Air Force commanders with late Imam Khomeini on February 8, 1979.

He underlined that the side with the right to set conditions to return to the JCPOA undertakings is Iran since it abided by all its commitments, not the US or the 3 European countries which breached theirs, adding, “If they want Iran to return, the US should lift all sanctions. We'll verify and if it's done properly, we’ll return to our undertakings."

“This is the definite policy of the Islamic Republic and it is also agreed upon by the officials of the country and we will not return from this policy,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, stressing that no one in Iran listens to what the US and European officials say about preconditions for lifting sanctions.

He also underlined the US miscalculation in understanding the Iranian nation during the 1979 Revolution, and said, "Therefore, they failed. During the 2009 sedition, the Democrat president backed the sedition. Trump failed in his Maximum pressure policy too. They're still miscalculating."

"One of the first-rate fools in the Trump administration had said they would celebrate New Year 2019 in Tehran. He was thrown into history’s trash bin. His boss was also kicked into history’s trash can, while the Islamic Republic is standing strong," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

"One should know the US properly. Their recent incidents were a fiasco. Trump’s fall wasn't just the fall of an unfit president. It was the decline of the US power and social order. Speaking of US’s decline from within and the start of a post-US era are the words of some US experts, not ours," he added.

"The US is truly declining, and this has distressed and stunned some of their allies in the region. The Zionist officials’ nonsense (words) stems from their fear of the US domestic situation and they've realized this well. The world is watching US power decline internally and internationally," the Iranian Leader stressed.

"Some regimes' biggest mistake is that they want the US to bring them national security. They spend billions of dollars, are humiliated and in the end the US doesn't give them security when needed. Examples are what happened to US allies in Egypt, Tunisia, and Pahlavi in Iran," he said.

Iranian officials have several times underlined the need for Washington to lift all sanctions against the country before Tehran’s steps to reverse its modified nuclear deal undertakings.

Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf last Sunday blasted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent remarks, saying that Tehran is waiting for the Biden government’s practical measures to lift sanctions rather than speaking of preconditions.

“Mr. Biden's administration should clarify how it wants to fulfill its promise of removing sanctions in practice rather than setting preconditions for implementing its undertakings,” Qalibaf said, addressing an open session of the parliament in Tehran.

He described Blinken’s recent comments as “disappointing”, and said, “If the US believes in the nuclear deal, it should display its commitment to it in practice instead of setting preconditions.”

Qalibaf’s remarks came after Blinken in his recent remarks said, "With regard to Iran, President Biden has been very clear in saying that if Iran comes back to compliance with obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do the same thing."

"And then we would use that as a platform to build with our allies and partners what we call a longer and stronger agreement and to deal with others issues that are deeply problematic in the relationship with Iran," he added.

Qalibaf said that the Iranian people are so much smart not to enter a game which wants Iran to adopt practical measures vis a vis mere promises.

Also, last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani voiced pleasure with the end of Trump’s tenure, saying that the new administration in the White House should take the opportunity to implement all Washington’s nuclear deal undertakings.

“Today, thanks God, Trump's black page will be closed forever, and we say thanks God when any oppressor is overthrown,” Rouhani said, addressing a cabinet meeting in Tehran.

He added that during his 4-year tenure, Trump left no legacy but making the US society bipolar, adding that Washington DC has become a military garrison for the swearing-in ceremony of the new president and all these Armed Forces have come to establish security in this city, and this is one of the fruits of Trump's naive or authoritarian actions.

“We have never seen a president in the US who explicitly admits assassination of a major military commander (General Soleimani) in another guest country (Iraq) to make the official announcement that he had ordered the assassination. I mean, we really saw a stupid terrorist in history, and state terrorism was recorded in the forehead of the White House, and he did it,” Rouhani said.

He called on the new US administration to return to the international laws, undertakings and the UNSC resolutions, specially Resolution 2231, and said, “Of course, if they return to the law, our answer will be positive, and if they show their sincerity in action based on the law, the resolution that they voted for and the undertakings that they have signed, we will naturally fulfill all our undertakings too.”

Rouhani referred to Trump’s economic terrorism against Iran which even blocked the country’s purchase of medicine and vaccine, and said, “Thanks God, they have failed. Today, we see that despite all these pressures, our non-oil exports path is normalizing, and our oil exports are much better than the previous months, and our oil products export are moving in the right direction and this means complete failure of this policy.”

He said that Trump was not a politician but was a businessman and a tower builder, adding that the new US administration includes people who are familiar with political affairs.

“If they give a signature on their undertakings under the Resolution 2231, they will see a signature in Iran, and if they issue a decree, they will see a decree for it in Iran too, nothing more; if they fulfill their undertakings effectively, they will witness effective implementation of all undertakings by this side too. Today the ball is in the US and Washington’s court,” President Rouhani stressed.

He noted that Trump’s political life has ended and the nuclear deal is still alive, adding, “He made every attempt to destroy the nuclear deal but he failed, and the extremists in Israel and Saudi Arabia all sought this but failed, and the nuclear deal is alive and well today better than yesterday.”

Rouhani stressed that the maximum pressure policy has failed completely.

Also, last month, Iranian Envoy and Permanent Representative to the UN Majid Takht Ravanchi underlined that if Biden decides to return to the nuclear deal, Washington should comply with all its undertakings in exact accordance with the internationally-endorsed agreement.

“We make decision and take reciprocal action considering Biden's moves vis a vis the nuclear deal. We have repeatedly demanded the US to return to the nuclear deal and this return should be complete and without preconditions, that is to say, no issue related or unrelated to the nuclear deal should be put forward for discussion,” Takht Ravanchi said.

“It should only be clear that the US international undertakings cannot be half-fulfilled. If they claim to return to the nuclear deal, this return should be accompanied by the full implementation of their undertakings with no hesitation or controversy,” he added.

Takht Ravanchi stressed Iran’s clear position towards the nuclear deal, and said, “We live up to our undertakings.”

He referred to the parliament’s bill to take strategic measures to counter the US sanctions against Iran, and said, “There is a timetable in the parliament’s bill and we are moving in the same direction, so we (at the foreign ministry) are not entitled to specify the period for how long we will wait. In the first place, we make decisions based on national interests, and secondly, we should act on the basis of and within the framework of the parliamentary bill.”

His remarks came after Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi announced that the country is at present producing nearly half a kilo of uranium enriched to the 20% purity level, meantime, saying that Tehran’s steps to reduce nuclear deal undertakings after the West’s disloyalties can all be backtracked.

“Based on the latest news I have, they (the Iranian scientists at nuclear installations) are producing 20 grams (of 20% enriched uranium) every hour; meaning that practically, we are producing half a kilo every day,” Salehi said in an interview with the Persian-language Khamenei.ir website released last month.

“We produce and store this 20% (enriched uranium) and if they return to the nuclear deal, we will return to our undertakings too,” he added.

Asked about the recent bill approved by the parliament to adopt strategic measures to remove sanctions against Iran, Salehi said that the AEOI is required to implement it.

“It is a reality and both the government and the AEOI have declared that they do not have any technical problems with implementation of the parliament’s bill and we launched 20% enrichment within 24 hours,” he said.

Salehi also underlined the need for Washington to remove all sanctions against Iran, specially those which prevent the country’s oil sales and banking transactions.

Iranian legislators had in January praised the AEOI for restarting enrichment of uranium at 20-percent purity level, and called for the full implementation of the recent parliamentarian law to counter the illegal US sanctions against the country.

In a statement, 190 legislators expressed their support for the AEOI’s resumption of 20% uranium enrichment and urged the body to fully and precisely implement the law ratified as a counteractive move to the sanctions illegally imposed on the country, especially those by the United States.

The lawmakers said the parliament approved the ‘Strategic Counteractive Plan for Lifting Sanctions and Safeguarding Rights of Iranian People’ to highlight Iran’s legitimate right to use peaceful nuclear technology and the importance of lifting all cruel sanctions against the country.

The Iranian parliamentarians in a meeting on December 1, 2020 ratified the generalities of a bill to adopt strategic measures to remove sanctions against the country and defend the nation’s interests.

The lawmakers, in November, had given the green light to the single-urgency of the strategic motion, but the plan turned into a double-urgency on Sunday after the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh's car was targeted by an explosion and machinegun fire in Damavand's Absard 40 kilometers to the East of Tehran on Friday November 27, 2020.

Under the bill, the AEOI is required to start in two months after the approval of the present bill to produce at least 120 kg of 20%-enriched uranium annually at Fordow nuclear site and store it inside the country, increase the enrichment capacity and production of enriched uranium to at least 500 kg per month, start the installation of centrifuges, gas injection, enrichment, and storage of materials up to proper purity levels within 3 months, via at least 1000 IR-2m centrifuges in the underground part of Shahid Ahmadi Roshan facility in Natanz, transfer any enrichment, research, and development operations of IR-6 centrifuges to the nuclear site of Shahid Ali Mohammadi in Fordow, and start enrichment operation via at least 164 centrifuges and expand it to 1000 by the end of 20 March 2021 (end of the Iranian calendar year) and return the 40 megawatts Arak heavy water reactor to its pre-JCPOA condition by reviving the heart (calandria) of the reactor within 4 months from the date of the adoption of this law.

Also, the government is required to suspend the nuclear deal-based regulatory access beyond the Additional Protocol within 2 months after the adoption of the law based on the articles 36 and 37 of the nuclear deal.

Also, after 3 months from the adoption of this law, if Iran's banking relations in Europe and the amount of oil purchases by them from Iran is not back to normal and to satisfactory conditions, the government is required to stop the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol.

Meantime, if after 3 months from the adoption of the law, the nuclear deal parties return to fulfill their undertakings, the government is required to submit a proposal to the parliament for Iran's reciprocal action to return to the nuclear deal undertakings, the bill said.

Iran signed the JCPOA with six world states — namely the US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia, and China — in 2015.

Trump, a stern critic of the historic deal, unilaterally pulled Washington out of the JCPOA in May 2018, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism in an attempt to strangle the Iranian oil trade, but to no avail since its "so-called maximum pressure policy" has failed to push Tehran to the negotiating table.

In response to the US’ unilateral move, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments four times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

Tehran has particularly been disappointed with failure of the three European signatories to the JCPOA -- Britain, France and Germany -- to protect its business interests under the deal after the US' withdrawal.

On January 5, 2020, Iran took a final step in reducing its commitments, and said it would no longer observe any operational limitations on its nuclear industry, whether concerning the capacity and level of uranium enrichment, the volume of stockpiled uranium or research and development.

Meantime, Biden has recently said in a CNN article that he wants a renegotiation of the contents of the deal before he agrees to rejoin the agreement.

“I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal's provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern,” he wrote, mentioning that he wants changes to the contents of the nuclear deal and guarantees from Tehran that it would be open for compromise to strike multiple deals over its missile and regional powers as well as a number of other issues that have been the bones of contention between the two sides in the last four decades.

In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had stressed that the US has violated the nuclear deal and is in no position to ask for any conditions for its return to the JCPOA, adding that it's Tehran that has its own terms to allow the US back into the internationally endorsed agreement.

The foreign minister has reiterated time and again that Tehran would not change even a single word of the agreement, and cautioned the US that it needs to pay reparations for the damage it has inflicted on Iran through its retreat from the nuclear agreement and give enough insurances that it would not go for initiating the trigger mechanism again before it could get back to the deal.

In relevant remarks earlier this month, Spokesman for the AEOI Behrouz Kamalvandi said his country enjoys the capability to produce 120 kg of uranium with 20% purity in 8 months, that's 4 months faster than the one-year period required by a recent parliament approval.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991120000547/IRGC-Cmmander-Advises-US-New-Gv%E2%80%99-N-Repea-Trmp%E2%80%99s-Failed-Plicies-wards

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Turkey detains 39 more people over suspected affiliation to Gulen movement

08 February 2021

Turkish security forces have arrested dozens of people on suspicion of affiliation to a movement led by US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Ankara government accuses of having orchestrated the July 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Police sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said authorities in the northwestern Balikesir province issued arrest warrants for 54 people, including 36 on-duty soldiers as well as former and retired military officials, as part of an investigation led by the provincial prosecutors into the activities of the movement, branded by the Turkish government as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).

The sources added that anti-terror police raided the residences of the suspects in 38 provinces and have so far arrested 39 of them. Operations are underway to arrest the remaining suspects.

During the 2016 botched putsch, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had seized control of the country and the government of Erdogan was no more in charge. The attempt was, however, suppressed a few hours later.

Ankara has since accused Gulen of having orchestrated the coup. The opposition figure is also accused of being behind a long-running campaign to topple the government via infiltrating the country’s institutions, particularly the army, police and the judiciary.

Gulen has denounced the “despicable putsch” and reiterated that he had no role in it.

Turkish officials have frequently called on their US counterparts to extradite Gulen, but their demands have not been taken heed of.

Turkey ended the nationwide state of emergency, imposed since the coup, in July 2018, after seven three-month renewals.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of having links to Gulen and the failed coup. Many more, including military staff, civil servants and journalists, have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.

The international community and rights groups have been highly critical of the Turkish president over the massive dismissals and the crackdown.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/08/644813/Turkey-detains-39-more-suspects-over-affiliation-to-Gulen-movement

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Hamas, Fatah hold Egyptian-brokered reconciliation talks in Cairo

February 9, 2021

GAZA: Leaders of rival Palestinian factions began Egyptian-brokered reconciliation talks in Cairo on Monday to try to heal long-standing internal divisions, ahead of planned Palestinian elections later this year.

Egypt has tried in vain for 14 years to reconcile Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s nationalist Fatah faction and its bitter rival Hamas, the armed militant movement that opposes any negotiations with Israel.

No Palestinian elections have been held in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem for 15 years.

As well as Hamas and Fatah there are thought to be around a dozen other factions represented in the Cairo talks. Among those invited was Islamic Jihad, a militant group which boycotted the 1996 and 2006 elections and which, Palestinian sources said, is now considering whether to take part this year.

But such is the mistrust between the rivals that issues on the agenda include electoral basics such as how ballot stations will be guarded and how courts will adjudicate election disputes.

There is widespread scepticism that the elections will even happen.

Many Palestinians believe they are primarily an attempt by Abbas to show his democratic credentials to the new administration of President Joe Biden, with whom Abbas wants to reset relations after they reached a new low under President Donald Trump.

“There are equal chances for success and failure,” said Hani Al-Masri, a political analyst in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, who is taking part in the talks as an independent.

Abbas’s western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA), which has limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, plans to hold parliamentary elections on May 22 and a presidential vote on July 31.

There are 2.8 million eligible voters in Gaza and the West Bank, and more than 80 percent of them have so far been registered with the Central Election Commission. Palestinian voting age is 18 years old.

The last ballot in 2006 ended in a surprise win by Hamas in its first parliamentary elections. That set up a power struggle bet­ween Hamas, with its power base in Gaza, and Fatah in the West Bank.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1606309/hamas-fatah-hold-egyptian-brokered-reconciliation-talks-in-cairo

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DM: Iran’s Active Deterrence Doctrine to Kill in Bud Any Threats

2021-February-8

“Our doctrine is active deterrence, and we are watchful to suppress any threat against us,” General Hatami said on Monday.

He referred to the western officials’ allegations about Iran's interference in the region, and said, “They ask us why we are present in the region and they mean that we need to leave to let them start threats against us, while this region belongs to us and its security should be established by us and not those who have come from thousands of kilometers away.”

General Hatami underlined the home-grown defense and security power of Iran, saying that the country will not lose this power.

In relevant remarks earlier this month, General Hatami warned that the US and Israel are attempting to use the terrorist groups to boost their influence and attain goals in the region.

General Hamati made the remarks in India's Bangalore last Thursday, addressing a meeting of defense ministers of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

He called for a re-engineering of the world order based on "the emerging power elements and liberation from polarization."

General Hatami said that the tragic events of the last decade have proved to us that the prescribed patterns and models of the hegemonic powers have achieved nothing but violence, extremism, terrorism, killing, border disputes, war, insecurity, and destruction.

In an apparent reference to the previous Trump administration in the United States, he said that everyone could see that how the world can become more dangerous and on the verge of a pandemic of insecurity with the arrival of incompetent, arrogant, outlaw, and seditionist rulers in power, specially in the big and influential countries.

The Iranian minister further referred to the US unlawful and unilateral pullout from international agreements such as the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement, saying that the big powers cannot be trusted anymore.

He also pointed to the US assassination of Iran’s Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi PMU commander Abu Mahdi Muhandis in his remarks as well as more recently the top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, condemning the US state terrorism.

He also warned against the US and Israeli attempts to use terrorism as a tool to extend their influence in the region, expressing Iran’s readiness to share its experience in fighting terrorism to the countries of the region.

Elsewhere in his speech, he touched upon the geopolitical importance of Iran, expressing Iran’s willingness to play a more significant and active role in maintaining the security of the Indian Ocean region.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991120000735/DM-Iran%E2%80%99s-Acive-Deerrence-Dcrine-Kill-in-Bd-Any-Threas

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Deputy Minister: Iran, Russia to Cooperate in Production of Medicine, Vaccine

2021-February-8

“The two sides enjoy considerable capacities in the field of supplying drugs and different vaccines and given the cooperation that will be accelerated as of today, we will be able to meet many medical and drug needs of Iran,” Shanehsaz, who has traveled to Moscow, said.

“Iran enjoys many capacities in production of vaccine and we have used Russia’s know-how too to pave the ground for strengthening the pharmaceutical technology in addition to exports (of medicine),” he added.

Reports said on Sunday that Tehran and Moscow are due to cooperate on manufacturing coronavirus vaccine to finalize the mutual project for production of Sputnik V vaccine.

An Iranian delegation has arrived in Moscow on Sunday to finalize a joint cooperation agreement to make the Sputnik V vaccine between Iran and Russia.

Shanehsaz arrived in Moscow on Sunday to pursue the plan.

He is going to negotiate with Russian officials, including the Minister of Health, and will sign a joint cooperation agreement for producing the Sputnik V vaccine between Iran and the Russian Gamaleya Research Institute.

The first cargo of Russian COVID-19 vaccine "Sputnik V" was loaded by Iranian airline Mahan Air and delivered to the country last Thursday.

Iran’s Ambassador to Moscow Kazzerm Jalali said on Thursday that by the next two weeks, the second cargo and by February 28, the third cargo of Sputnik V will be delivered to Iran, adding that the process will continue every two weeks and every month.

Iran is in a parallel move trying to produce home-made vaccine to fight against coronavirus.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991120000567/Depy-Miniser-Iran-Rssia-Cperae-in-Prdcin-f-Medicine-Vaccine

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Spokesman: Iran to Wait for US Implementation of All N. Deal Undertakings

2021-February-8

“Iran has prepared the necessary atmosphere for the US and Europe to make up for the past and their violations,” Khatibzadeh told reporters in a press conference in Tehran on Monday.

“We do not prevent the US from growing wise and welcome the US ending of its bullying. We will wait for the other side’s return to all its undertakings and when they implement all their undertakings, we will choose the path to return to our undertakings,” he added.

“The US should revive its undertakings under the UNSC Resolution 2231,” Khatibzadeh underlined.

He also dismissed any need for a mediator for implementation of the nuclear deal, and said, “Europe and the current US administration should seriously distance themselves from the past and show that they are a creditable party to the UN Security Council because this trust has been completely distorted and we have observed their non-compliance, and if they want to continue the previous path, our response has been stated at the highest level by the Supreme Leader.”

“We do not attach importance to words. But the basis of our judgment and action is action. Its framework has been specified by the nuclear deal and the Resolution 2231. The US should return to the nuclear deal and its undertakings under Resolution 2231, and then, once it has returned to its commitments, it may sit at the negotiating table (within the framework of the G5+1),” Khatibzadeh said.

Asked about Iran’s next step in case of the US avoids removing the sanctions and returning to the nuclear deal, he said that based on the recent law approved by the parliament, the Iranian government will stop the UN nuclear watchdog’s supervision beyond the safeguards agreement, including the Additional Protocol to the NPT, on February 21.

The spokesman, meantime, said that Iran’s return to the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol will be possible if the US revives its the nuclear deal undertakings.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said on Sunday that his country will not take steps to return to its nuclear deal undertakings unless it will be able to verify the US practical measures in removing the sanctions against Tehran.

"Iran has fulfilled all its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal, not the US and the three European countries ... If they want Iran to return to its commitments, the US must lift all sanctions first," Ayatollah Khamenei said, addressing the Iranian Army Air Force commanders and staff on the anniversary of the historical pledging allegiance of Air Force commanders with late Imam Khomeini on February 8, 1979.

He underlined that the side with the right to set conditions to return to the JCPOA undertakings is Iran since it abided by all its commitments, not the US or the 3 European countries which breached theirs, adding, “If they want Iran to return, the US should lift all sanctions. We'll verify and if it's done properly, we’ll return to our undertakings."

“This is the definite policy of the Islamic Republic and it is also agreed upon by the officials of the country and we will not return from this policy,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, stressing that no one in Iran listens to what the US and European officials say about preconditions for lifting sanctions.

He also underlined the US miscalculation in understanding the Iranian nation during the 1979 Revolution, and said, "Therefore, they failed. During the 2009 sedition, the Democrat president backed the sedition. Trump failed in his Maximum pressure policy too. They're still miscalculating."

"One of the first-rate fools in the Trump administration had said they would celebrate New Year 2019 in Tehran. He was thrown into history’s trash bin. His boss was also kicked into history’s trash can, while the Islamic Republic is standing strong," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

"One should know the US properly. Their recent incidents were a fiasco. Trump’s fall wasn't just the fall of an unfit president. It was the decline of the US power and social order. Speaking of US’s decline from within and the start of a post-US era are the words of some US experts, not ours," he added.

"The US is truly declining, and this has distressed and stunned some of their allies in the region. The Zionist officials’ nonsense (words) stems from their fear of the US domestic situation and they've realized this well. The world is watching US power decline internally and internationally," the Iranian Leader stressed.

"Some regimes' biggest mistake is that they want the US to bring them national security. They spend billions of dollars, are humiliated and in the end the US doesn't give them security when needed. Examples are what happened to US allies in Egypt, Tunisia, and Pahlavi in Iran," he said.

Iranian officials have several times underlined the need for Washington to lift all sanctions against the country before Tehran’s steps to reverse its modified nuclear deal undertakings.

Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf last Sunday blasted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent remarks, saying that Tehran is waiting for the Biden government’s practical measures to lift sanctions rather than speaking of preconditions.

“Mr. Biden's administration should clarify how it wants to fulfill its promise of removing sanctions in practice rather than setting preconditions for implementing its undertakings,” Qalibaf said, addressing an open session of the parliament in Tehran.

He described Blinken’s recent comments as “disappointing”, and said, “If the US believes in the nuclear deal, it should display its commitment to it in practice instead of setting preconditions.”

Qalibaf’s remarks came after Blinken in his recent remarks said, "With regard to Iran, President Biden has been very clear in saying that if Iran comes back to compliance with obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do the same thing."

"And then we would use that as a platform to build with our allies and partners what we call a longer and stronger agreement and to deal with others issues that are deeply problematic in the relationship with Iran," he added.

Qalibaf said that the Iranian people are so much smart not to enter a game which wants Iran to adopt practical measures vis a vis mere promises.

Also, last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani voiced pleasure with the end of Trump’s tenure, saying that the new administration in the White House should take the opportunity to implement all Washington’s nuclear deal undertakings.

“Today, thanks God, Trump's black page will be closed forever, and we say thanks God when any oppressor is overthrown,” Rouhani said, addressing a cabinet meeting in Tehran.

He added that during his 4-year tenure, Trump left no legacy but making the US society bipolar, adding that Washington DC has become a military garrison for the swearing-in ceremony of the new president and all these Armed Forces have come to establish security in this city, and this is one of the fruits of Trump's naive or authoritarian actions.

“We have never seen a president in the US who explicitly admits assassination of a major military commander (General Soleimani) in another guest country (Iraq) to make the official announcement that he had ordered the assassination. I mean, we really saw a stupid terrorist in history, and state terrorism was recorded in the forehead of the White House, and he did it,” Rouhani said.

He called on the new US administration to return to the international laws, undertakings and the UNSC resolutions, specially Resolution 2231, and said, “Of course, if they return to the law, our answer will be positive, and if they show their sincerity in action based on the law, the resolution that they voted for and the undertakings that they have signed, we will naturally fulfill all our undertakings too.”

Rouhani referred to Trump’s economic terrorism against Iran which even blocked the country’s purchase of medicine and vaccine, and said, “Thanks God, they have failed. Today, we see that despite all these pressures, our non-oil exports path is normalizing, and our oil exports are much better than the previous months, and our oil products export are moving in the right direction and this means complete failure of this policy.”

He said that Trump was not a politician but was a businessman and a tower builder, adding that the new US administration includes people who are familiar with political affairs.

“If they give a signature on their undertakings under the Resolution 2231, they will see a signature in Iran, and if they issue a decree, they will see a decree for it in Iran too, nothing more; if they fulfill their undertakings effectively, they will witness effective implementation of all undertakings by this side too. Today the ball is in the US and Washington’s court,” President Rouhani stressed.

He noted that Trump’s political life has ended and the nuclear deal is still alive, adding, “He made every attempt to destroy the nuclear deal but he failed, and the extremists in Israel and Saudi Arabia all sought this but failed, and the nuclear deal is alive and well today better than yesterday.”

Rouhani stressed that the maximum pressure policy has failed completely.

Also, last month, Iranian Envoy and Permanent Representative to the UN Majid Takht Ravanchi underlined that if Biden decides to return to the nuclear deal, Washington should comply with all its undertakings in exact accordance with the internationally-endorsed agreement.

“We make decision and take reciprocal action considering Biden's moves vis a vis the nuclear deal. We have repeatedly demanded the US to return to the nuclear deal and this return should be complete and without preconditions, that is to say, no issue related or unrelated to the nuclear deal should be put forward for discussion,” Takht Ravanchi said.

“It should only be clear that the US international undertakings cannot be half-fulfilled. If they claim to return to the nuclear deal, this return should be accompanied by the full implementation of their undertakings with no hesitation or controversy,” he added.

Takht Ravanchi stressed Iran’s clear position towards the nuclear deal, and said, “We live up to our undertakings.”

He referred to the parliament’s bill to take strategic measures to counter the US sanctions against Iran, and said, “There is a timetable in the parliament’s bill and we are moving in the same direction, so we (at the foreign ministry) are not entitled to specify the period for how long we will wait. In the first place, we make decisions based on national interests, and secondly, we should act on the basis of and within the framework of the parliamentary bill.”

His remarks came after Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi announced that the country is at present producing nearly half a kilo of uranium enriched to the 20% purity level, meantime, saying that Tehran’s steps to reduce nuclear deal undertakings after the West’s disloyalties can all be backtracked.

“Based on the latest news I have, they (the Iranian scientists at nuclear installations) are producing 20 grams (of 20% enriched uranium) every hour; meaning that practically, we are producing half a kilo every day,” Salehi said in an interview with the Persian-language Khamenei.ir website released last month.

“We produce and store this 20% (enriched uranium) and if they return to the nuclear deal, we will return to our undertakings too,” he added.

Asked about the recent bill approved by the parliament to adopt strategic measures to remove sanctions against Iran, Salehi said that the AEOI is required to implement it.

“It is a reality and both the government and the AEOI have declared that they do not have any technical problems with implementation of the parliament’s bill and we launched 20% enrichment within 24 hours,” he said.

Salehi also underlined the need for Washington to remove all sanctions against Iran, specially those which prevent the country’s oil sales and banking transactions.

Iranian legislators had in January praised the AEOI for restarting enrichment of uranium at 20-percent purity level, and called for the full implementation of the recent parliamentarian law to counter the illegal US sanctions against the country.

In a statement, 190 legislators expressed their support for the AEOI’s resumption of 20% uranium enrichment and urged the body to fully and precisely implement the law ratified as a counteractive move to the sanctions illegally imposed on the country, especially those by the United States.

The lawmakers said the parliament approved the ‘Strategic Counteractive Plan for Lifting Sanctions and Safeguarding Rights of Iranian People’ to highlight Iran’s legitimate right to use peaceful nuclear technology and the importance of lifting all cruel sanctions against the country.

The Iranian parliamentarians in a meeting on December 1, 2020 ratified the generalities of a bill to adopt strategic measures to remove sanctions against the country and defend the nation’s interests.

The lawmakers, in November, had given the green light to the single-urgency of the strategic motion, but the plan turned into a double-urgency on Sunday after the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh's car was targeted by an explosion and machinegun fire in Damavand's Absard 40 kilometers to the East of Tehran on Friday November 27, 2020.

Under the bill, the AEOI is required to start in two months after the approval of the present bill to produce at least 120 kg of 20%-enriched uranium annually at Fordow nuclear site and store it inside the country, increase the enrichment capacity and production of enriched uranium to at least 500 kg per month, start the installation of centrifuges, gas injection, enrichment, and storage of materials up to proper purity levels within 3 months, via at least 1000 IR-2m centrifuges in the underground part of Shahid Ahmadi Roshan facility in Natanz, transfer any enrichment, research, and development operations of IR-6 centrifuges to the nuclear site of Shahid Ali Mohammadi in Fordow, and start enrichment operation via at least 164 centrifuges and expand it to 1000 by the end of 20 March 2021 (end of the Iranian calendar year) and return the 40 megawatts Arak heavy water reactor to its pre-JCPOA condition by reviving the heart (calandria) of the reactor within 4 months from the date of the adoption of this law.

Also, the government is required to suspend the nuclear deal-based regulatory access beyond the Additional Protocol within 2 months after the adoption of the law based on the articles 36 and 37 of the nuclear deal.

Also, after 3 months from the adoption of this law, if Iran's banking relations in Europe and the amount of oil purchases by them from Iran is not back to normal and to satisfactory conditions, the government is required to stop the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol.

Meantime, if after 3 months from the adoption of the law, the nuclear deal parties return to fulfill their undertakings, the government is required to submit a proposal to the parliament for Iran's reciprocal action to return to the nuclear deal undertakings, the bill said.

Iran signed the JCPOA with six world states — namely the US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia, and China — in 2015.

Trump, a stern critic of the historic deal, unilaterally pulled Washington out of the JCPOA in May 2018, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism in an attempt to strangle the Iranian oil trade, but to no avail since its "so-called maximum pressure policy" has failed to push Tehran to the negotiating table.

In response to the US’ unilateral move, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments four times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

Tehran has particularly been disappointed with failure of the three European signatories to the JCPOA -- Britain, France and Germany -- to protect its business interests under the deal after the US' withdrawal.

On January 5, 2020, Iran took a final step in reducing its commitments, and said it would no longer observe any operational limitations on its nuclear industry, whether concerning the capacity and level of uranium enrichment, the volume of stockpiled uranium or research and development.

Meantime, Biden has recently said in a CNN article that he wants a renegotiation of the contents of the deal before he agrees to rejoin the agreement.

“I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal's provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern,” he wrote, mentioning that he wants changes to the contents of the nuclear deal and guarantees from Tehran that it would be open for compromise to strike multiple deals over its missile and regional powers as well as a number of other issues that have been the bones of contention between the two sides in the last four decades.

In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had stressed that the US has violated the nuclear deal and is in no position to ask for any conditions for its return to the JCPOA, adding that it's Tehran that has its own terms to allow the US back into the internationally endorsed agreement.

The foreign minister has reiterated time and again that Tehran would not change even a single word of the agreement, and cautioned the US that it needs to pay reparations for the damage it has inflicted on Iran through its retreat from the nuclear agreement and give enough insurances that it would not go for initiating the trigger mechanism again before it could get back to the deal.

In relevant remarks earlier this month, Spokesman for the AEOI Behrouz Kamalvandi said his country enjoys the capability to produce 120 kg of uranium with 20% purity in 8 months, that's 4 months faster than the one-year period required by a recent parliament approval.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991120000400/Spkesman-Iran-Wai-fr-US-Implemenain-f-All-N-Deal-Underakings

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Iran, Russia Urge Removal of Trade Barriers

2021-February-8

Qalibaf made the remarks in a meeting of Iranian and Russia businessmen aiming at easing the removal of trade barriers.

Both sides discussed inadequate understanding about mutual capacities, Western sanctions, customs barriers, coronavirus outbreak and quality of products.  

Qalibaf underlined the need to lift transportation barriers, too.

Iran-Russia trade volume was $2b in 2020, $1,300,000,000 of which was related to Russian exports to Iran and the rest was for Iran’s exports to Russia.

Qalibaf arrived in Moscow at the invitation of Chairman of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin.

During the three-day trip, he is to hand the message of Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei to the Russian government, and meet his Russian counterparts in Duma and Federation Council as well as other economic, commercial, political, and security officials of Russia.

He is also slated to address foreign policy and international think tanks of Russia.

The chairman and the rapporteur of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, as well as heads of energy and agriculture commissions of the parliament are accompanying Qalibaf during his trip to Moscow.

Earlier on Monday, he had said his country and Russia enjoy broad common grounds for cooperation on regional and international fields.

Qalibaf made the remarks in a meeting with managers of Iranian institutions in Moscow, adding that Iran and Russia have close views for promotion of bilateral relations. 

“The Islamic Republic of Iran attaches great importance to relations with Russian Federation in various fields,” he noted.

The speaker referred to the Supreme Leader’s emphasis on bolstering bilateral relations with Russia, stressing that his visit is aimed at confidence-building to ensure that relations between two countries will not be affected by global developments.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991120000520/Iran-Rssia-Urge-Remval-f-Trade-Barriers

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Yemen’s Houthis in new push to capture Hadi’s last stronghold in north

08 February 2021

Fighters of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement have resumed an offensive to take control of the city of Ma’rib, the last northern stronghold of Saudi-sponsored militiamen loyal to the former pro-Saudi president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Clashes continued on Monday following weeks of relative calm in the strategic region, with dozens of casualties on both sides, AFP cited an unnamed source from Hadi’s militiamen as saying.

Fighting, the source said, took place about 10 kilometers west of Ma’rib, and at least 20 pro-Hadi militiamen were killed and 28 others were injured.

The source, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, also said at least three pro-Hadi militiamen had been killed and four wounded in a missile attack on their camp in Ma’rib on Sunday.

When Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the war on Yemen in March 2015, their objective was to bring Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, back to power and crush Ansarullah. The goal of the deadly campaign has not materialized.

Houthi fighters have been of significant help to the Yemeni army in defending the country against the invaders, leaving the coalition forces bogged down in Yemen.

More than 110,000 Yemenis have been killed since the onset of war.

At least 80 percent of the 28-million-strong population is reliant on aid to survive in what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The war has destroyed or closed half of Yemen’s hospitals and clinics, leaving the people helpless particularly at a time when they are in desperate need of medical supplies to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The former US administration, led by Donald Trump, designated the Houthi movement a “terrorist organization” on January 19, just one day before the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

The so-called designation drew much condemnation from rights groups.

Last week, Biden formally notified Congress that it would reverse Trump’s move against Houthis.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/08/644845/Yemen-Houthis-Marib

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Yemeni criminal court tries six people for spying for Britain, acts of sabotage

08 February 2021

A criminal court in Yemen has put on trial six people on charges of spying for the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) as well as perpetrating various acts of sabotage in the war-torn Arab country.

The Specialized First Instance Criminal Court in the capital Sana’a, presided over by Judge Mohammad Mofleh, on Monday found the defendants guilty of espionage in favor of the British intelligence service by recruiting and training people in a number of Yemeni provinces, the official Saba news agency reported.

The court added that the defendants, identified as Arafat Qassim Abdullah al-Hashedi, Ali Muhammad Abdullah al-Ja’mani, Bassem Ali Ali al-Kharouja, Salim Abdullah Yahya Hobeish, Ayman Mujahid Qaed Harish and Muhammad Sharaf Qaed Harish, were using advanced means of communication as well as sophisticated monitoring and tracking programs and applications in order to spy on the Yemeni territory and commit acts of sabotage.

Saba highlighted that the six defendants were active in Sana’a Municipality as well as the northern Yemeni provinces of ‘Amran, Sa’ada and al-Jawf, central province of Ma’rib as well as the southern provinces of al-Mahra and Hadramaut.

The British government has not reacted to the court hearing yet.

This is not the first time that Yemen accuses the UK of interfering in the Arab country.

Back in September 2020, the spokesman for Yemen's Houthi Ansarullah movement censured Britain's blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Arab country, after then British ambassador to Yemen Michael Aron accused Yemeni armed forces of fomenting clashes in the strategic central province of Ma’rib.

“As usual, the British ambassador tends to utter remarks and put out statements about the independent Republic of Yemen, not knowing the fact that the mercenaries and traitors whom he meets do not represent the nation. They solely think of money and are ready to sell the country and compromise its interests,” Mohammed Abdul-Salam said in a statement at the time.

He added that the Yemeni nation does not accept to be under the auspices of any party and firmly rejects interference in Yemen’s internal affairs, stressing that Aron’s remarks clearly indicated the failure of the Saudi-led aggression and the siege against Yemen.

Aron had tweeted two days earlier that he had spoken to pro-Hadi Ma'rib Governor Sultan al-Aradh, blaming Ansarullah fighters for the uptick in military activities in Ma’rib province.

He also urged the Houthis to take the role of UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths seriously.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the war on Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, back to power and crushing the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement.

According to the UN, 80 percent of Yemen’s 30 million people need some form of aid or protection. About 13.5 million Yemenis currently face acute food insecurity, UN data shows.

The popular Houthi Ansarullah movement, backed by the Yemeni armed forces and allied popular groups, has gone from strength to strength against the Saudi-led invaders, and successfully defended Yemen against the Saudi aggression, leaving Riyadh and its allies bogged down in the county.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/08/644846/Yemeni-court-tries-six-for-spying-for-Britain-acts-of-sabotage

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Pakistan

 

Al Qaeda founder Osama bin-Laden funded Nawaz Sharif government in Pakistan, claims PTI leader Farrukh Habib

Feb 09, 2021

ISLAMABAD: In a sensational claim that is likely to worsen problems for former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Parliamentary Secretary for Railways Farrukh Habib has claimed that that former slain al-Qaeda founder Osama bin-Laden had funded the PML-N government.

Habib had alleged that former PM Nawaz Sharif’s party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had conceded before the country’s Election Commission’s scrutiny committee that it had received funds from Al-Qaeda terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Habib had further claimed that Sharif had opened the gates for foreign interference in Pakistan’s electoral process by receiving funds from Osama bin-Laden - global terrorist - to topple the then former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s government.

Habib made these remarks while speaking to the reporters after hearings of foreign funding cases against the PML-N and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) last week.

The PTI leader Farrukh Habib claimed that PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party had failed to provide the details of their donors.  Habib also slammed the Islamic outfit Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl and alleged that its chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also received funds from Libya and Iraq.

It may be recalled that last week, Pakistan’s former envoy to the US, Abida Hussain, had claimed that al-Qaeda terrorist Osama bin Laden had supported and extended financial assistance to former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“Yes, he (Osama bin Laden) supported Mian Nawaz Sharif at one time. However, that is a complicated story. He (Osama) used to extend financial assistance (to Nawaz Sharif) him,” the former envoy had said.

Abida, who was also a former minister in Nawaz Sharif’s government, said that Osama was very popular and liked by everyone including the Americans but at a later stage, he was treated as a ‘stranger’.

Osama was killed in a midnight raid by the US Navy SEALs in Pakistan’s garrison town of Abbottabad in 2011. Pakistan, which had initially rejected allegations of giving safe haven for the Al-Qaeda terror chief, had to face massive embarrassment after he was killed by the US forces in Abbottabad, inside Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif, who was the Prime Minister of Pakistan for three non-consecutive terms, has been accused of receiving money from  Osama bin-Laden’s outfit in order to promote jihad in Kashmir and fund terror against India.

He served as prime minister from 1990-93, 1997-98, and 2013-17. The 70-year-old Nawaz is currently residing in London undergoing treatment. He was ousted from power in 2017 by the Supreme Court on corruption charges.

https://zeenews.india.com/world/al-qaeda-founder-osama-bin-laden-funded-nawaz-sharif-government-in-pakistan-claims-pti-leader-farrukh-habib-2340583.html

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PTI allowed paid employees to receive funds, reveals document

Iftikhar A. Khan

February 9, 2021

ISLAMABAD: In a significant development which is likely to have an impact on the PTI foreign funding case, a documented list has emerged of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf employees who were authorised to receive party donations from within and outside Pakistan.

The document, available with Dawn, reveals the names of employees. They included reportedly PTI’s telephone operator (Tahir Iqbal), computer operator (Muhammad Nauman Afzal), accountant (Mohammad Arshad) and PTI’s office helper (Mohammad Rafiq).

The decision to allow the PTI employees to collect the funds was taken at a meeting held on July 1, 2011. It was attended by Saifullah Niazi, the incumbent chief organiser and an aspirant of a PTI Senate ticket; Aamer Mahmud Kiani, present secretary general and former health minister who was removed from the federal cabinet; Dr Humayun Mohmand, who was recently appointed chairman of the board of directors of PIMS; Sardar Azhar Tariq Khan, the party’s former finance secretary and now Pakistan’s Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan; Colonel Yunus Ali Raza, and Tariq R. Sheikh.

PTI financial adviser says money received in private accounts ultimately went to party account

When contacted, PTI’s central finance secretary and financial adviser Siraj Ahmad confirmed that a ‘one-time’ authorisation had been given to the four employees by the party’s finance board, but claimed that the amount received from the United Arab Emirates through Western Union in their private accounts ultimately went to the party account.

“This was our internal letter for internal control over donation receipt from the UAE through Western Union. This was only one-time activity. The UAE laws do not allow transfer of funds directly to the party,” he said.

Siraj Ahmad said all the money transferred from the UAE had been in the PTI account and this was confirmed by an independent review carried out by auditor Ahsan and Ahsan. “The auditor properly checked the bank account of authorised persons and was satisfied that all transferred amount was ultimately deposited in the PTI account,” he added.

He said the auditor had been appointed by the party chairman to review the donation system for recommendation of the control system. “The finance board was in control of the funds received and proper reconciliation was carried out. No question of funds received by any person not recorded and audited,” he added.

Siraj Ahmad said the system of donation recording and management was very controlled and the finance board was directly supervising the whole mechanism. Answering a question, he said the amount received from the UAE was around Rs2 million.

PTI’s founding member and petitioner in the PTI foreign funding case Akbar S. Babar has been alleging that donations were illegally received in the front accounts of PTI employees through Hundi, particularly from the Middle East, and siphoned off by the senior party leadership through cheques with no trace or record. He has repeatedly asked the scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to investigate the private bank accounts of PTI employees which were illegally used as a front to collect donations.

The committee continues to keep the PTI records and bank statements secret despite ECP orders. The records include 23 PTI bank accounts provided to the ECP by scheduled banks on the instructions of the State Bank of Pakistan.

The scrutiny committee will meet on Tuesday (today) to decide whether to keep the PTI documents secret or not. The ECP has passed more than one order against secrecy of the PTI record.

When contacted, Akbar S. Babar said he had brought this issue to the notice of PTI chairman Imran Khan through a letter written on Sept 11, 2011, which was now part of the record of the ECP and Islamabad High Court. He said he had mentioned in the letter that there was evidence that the bank accounts of paid employees of the PTI central secretariat had been used as a front to collect donations from various sources.

Mr Babar claimed that millions of rupees had been deposited in these front accounts by the donors and the money was withdrawn after the paid PTI employees were made to sign cheques for cash payment. He said the deliberate concealment of funds received for the purpose of running the affairs of the party was a blatant breach of Article 4 of the Political Parties Rules 2002.

“Besides, such an illegal activity could lead to charges of money laundering against the PTI and its leadership. All this is happening with the alleged connivance of the senior PTI leadership running the affairs of the party’s central secretariat. I hope you [PTI chairman] would immediately initiate an inquiry and order a financial and performance audit of the PTI accounts by an internationally renowned firm of chartered accountants,” Mr Babar said in the letter.

He said that had Imran Khan taken serious notice and appropriate action to clean the party and hold the top leadership accountable, Pakistan would have been saved from a reckless leadership that has plunged society to new lows.

Answering a question, Mr Babar said fundraising in the Middle East was illegal and transfer of money through non-banking channels was another illegality which came under the ambit of money laundering. “This is a chain of illegalities,” he remarked. He said the funds received from the UAE had no trace and had not been mentioned in the record submitted by the PTI to the ECP.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1606271/pti-allowed-paid-employees-to-receive-funds-reveals-document

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Army denies ‘backdoor contacts’ with opposition

February 9, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Army on Monday rejected speculation about “backdoor contacts” with opposition politicians and cautioned against dragging the military into political squabbles.

Military spokesman Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, in comments on various private TV channels, said: “Army does not need backdoor contacts with anyone and is doing its job.”

The ISPR director general’s remarks come against the backdrop of renewed rumours about contacts between the opposition and the military.

The Pakistan Democratic Movement, a 10-party opposition alliance, plans to start its long march from March 26 to generate public pressure for dislodging the government. A lot of focus in the political arena is, meanwhile, also on the upcoming Senate elections and the mode of voting for the polls.

ISPR chief rejects as ‘false and fake’ reports about Iranian intelligence operation in Pakistani territory

Maj Gen Iftikhar challenged those behind the rumours to bring forth any proof about their claims. “Tell publicly who was contacted by whom and who spoke to whom instead of levelling allegations. There is no such thing going on,” he said. He said the army was too important an institution to be dragged into such controversies. “Please keep us out of it, this is not good for anyone,” he asserted.

He reiterated that the army had got nothing to do with politics and it should be left alone for the politicians.

The ISPR chief, while responding to a question, rejected as “false and fake” reports that Iran had conducted an intelligence operation in Pakistani territory to free its soldiers abducted in October 2018. The ‘fake news’ about the alleged Iranian operation began circulating after Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) claimed to have freed two guards from the captivity of terrorist group Jaishul Adl through a “successful operation” in southeastern Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan.

Turkey’s Anadolu agency first gave a spin to the news and reported that IRGC had claimed an operation in Pakistani territory. The news was then picked up by the Indian media.

Maj Gen Iftikhar said that “fake news has become India’s forte”. “The news regarding Iran is absolutely false. It could not have happened, it didn’t happen,” he emphasised. The spokesman regretted that India’s mainstream media too was becoming part of the fake news and was losing its credibility.

About Pakistan’s efforts to sensitise the international community about Indian attempts to malign it, he said those have been successful to a great extent.

Referring to various international reports, he said: “Our view has been accepted and is being taken seriously.” Maj Gen Iftikhar recalled that Pakistan had presented a dossier to the world to expose India’s sinister campaign to damage Pakistan’s reputation

https://www.dawn.com/news/1606272/army-denies-backdoor-contacts-with-opposition?preview

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PM, not opposition, dragging army into politics, says Sherry Rehman

Mohammad Hussain Khan

February 9, 2021

HYDERABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Sherry Rehman has said that opposition has not dragged army into politics but it is the “incompetent and selected prime minister” who has done this.

“When vacuum is left, such a situation is bound to arise,” she said while speaking to the media during her visit, along with other senior party leaders, to the venue of the public meeting of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) on Monday evening.

The event is scheduled to be held at Hatri bypass on Tuesday (today).

Senator Rehman claimed that this [Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf] government had destroyed all institutions, including PIA and PTDC, over the last two-and-a-half years.

“The opposition is committed to shake this government through all possible democratic and constitutional means,” she said, and noted that inflation, price hike and debt had risen while the parliament had been padlocked.

She alleged that members of the treasury benches resorted to hooliganism in the house. She said that an army of unelected advisers kept criticising opposition parties because they had nothing to deliver.

The senior PPP leader said that the prime minister had given a statement in Kotli which, according to her, was not in line with the country’s defined policy on India-held Kashmir.

She observed that it was only the opposition which was facing accountability. She said that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) could not do what it was doing in line with Supreme Court’s orders. Even international institutions had questioned NAB.

She said that the prime minister used to issue statements on foreign policy without any serious work prompting the foreign ministry to issue clarification the next day.

She said the PTI government was trying to do everything by hook or by crook because it was losing ground.

The senator alleged that Rs500m was being disbursed among ruling party’s parliamentarians like toffees.

MNA Naveed Qamar said that the PDM was picking up momentum because common man was fed up with the never-ending price hike. He said that the agitation would continue and long march to Islamabad would be held on March 26. “If it comes to staging a sit-in, it will also be held in order to oust this government,” he said.

PPP spokesman Faisal Karim Kundi accused the prime minister of indulging in horse-trading and urged the Election Commission of Pakistan to take notice of “the Rs500m bribe being paid to parliamentarians by Imran Khan”.

He argued that when [former prime minister] Shahid Khaqan Abbasi disbursed Rs50m to parliamentarians, the action was questioned “but this disbursement by the PTI government is considered to be halal”.

He said that the PTI government also violated the Constitution by including three sitting governors in its parliamentary board for Senate elections. “It’s a clear case of conflict of interests and PPP will question it before ECP,” he said.

PPP Sindh president Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, accompanying Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F) leader Maulana Taj Mohammad Nahiyoon, Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan leader Karamat Rajput and Comrade Taj Marri of the National Party, Saleem Tareen, also spoke to the media during a visit to the venue.

He said that the Tuesday public meeting “will be a historic event”.

In reply to a question, Mr Khuhro said that this government did not get five per cent random sampling on census done as promised and the census figures were not yet published. “These census figures are to be submitted in the Council of Common Interests (CCI) which would finally approve it,” he said.

He pointed out that fresh delimitations were also linked with census figures but it had not been done so far. He said that 2018 elections were held on the basis of previous delimitations. He said that NFC Award was also dependent on these census figures. He said that if census figures were not finalised, the NFC Award would also be affected. He said that this government did not take any step to finalise census figures in almost last three years.

Answering another question, he said that PPP did not defer any protest or option of PDM in this anti-government movement. He said that PPP was working within PDM for which it had made great efforts to unite opposition parties.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1606231/pm-not-opposition-dragging-army-into-politics-says-sherry-rehman

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Punjab, Balochistan to share banned militant outfits’ data

Asif Chaudhry

February 9, 2021

LAHORE: In a marathon meeting here on Monday the counter terrorism departments of Punjab and Balochistan agreed to share ‘secret data and intelligence’ of various banned militant organisations and networks operating in Punjab.

Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan, accompanied by the province’s Inspector General of Police Rai Tahir, visited the Punjab CTD headquarters here on Monday and held a meeting with its head, DIG Jawwad Qamar and other senior police officers.

During the meeting, both sides also agreed to impart training to the officers of the Balochistan CTD to make the province a safer place for its people as the department had busted various militant networks in Punjab where militancy was rampant some years back.

An official privy to the development told Dawn, CTD DIG Jawwad Qamar shared with the visiting delegation the ‘success story’ of the department in Punjab, particularly under Mr Rai.

He told Mr Kamal that Punjab had almost been cleared of local terrorist outfit.

“There has been no incident of sectarian terrorism in Punjab in the last four years,” he said, adding that in the year 2020 no suicide bombing was reported and it was a landmark after 13 years of militancy wave in Pakistan, particularly in Punjab.

“Punjab has reported a 14 times decrease in terrorism incidents in 2020 as compared to the figures of 2014”, Mr Jawaad told the meeting.

He said the Punjab CTD had so far arrested 2,000 hardcore militants in the last five years and of them 65 percent had been convicted by the anti-terrorism courts (ATCs).

He also briefed the Balochistan CM that the hate speech had been a prime source of sectarian violence and a big challenge for the Punjab CTD.

“We curbed hate speech by blocking 4,000 social media sites and pages through the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority”, Mr Qamar told the meeting.

He also briefed the Balochistan chief minister about the structure and functions of Punjab CTD.

The official said the CM appreciated achievements in controlling militancy and sectarianism in Punjab and resolved to strengthen the CTD in Balochistan on the same lines.

Meanwhile, the CM and Balochistan IGP also visited the mausoleum of national poet Allama Iqbal where Mr Kamal eulogised his poetry and vision.

“Iqbal’s vision can now lead us towards progress and prosperity and hard work and dedication is the need of hour to fulfill the great poet’s dream”, he said.

The gusts also visited the Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA) headquarters at Qurban Lines where Managing Director Rao Sardar Ali Khan and Chief Operating Officer Muhammad Kamran Khan briefed them about the various sections of the authority. The Quetta Safe City project team was also accompanying them.

The PSCA chief operating officer briefed them about the authority’s media centre, PUCAR 15, emergency 15 centre and also regarding provision of electronic data evidence and footage to various law enforcement agencies and police’s investigation wing.

Mr Kamal appreciated the technologies and practices in place, especially the Intelligent Traffic Management System and electronic challans.

“We are keen to sign an MoU with the PSCA for technical assistance to launch the same project in Quetta”, he said.

On the occasion, Rao Sardar pledged all possible support by the PSCA for Quetta safe city project.

IGP Rai Tahir also briefed to the Balochistan chief minister on the progress on Quetta Safe City project, saying it would be operational by the end of year.

Jam Kamal later recorded his remarks in the guest book about his visit to the PSCA which concluded with the presentation of souvenir shields to the Balochistan chief minister.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1606267/punjab-balochistan-to-share-banned-militant-outfits-data

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Speaker to take action against three ‘rowdy’ MNAs

Amir Wasim

February 9, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Taking notice of the hooliganism by the members during the National Assembly session on Feb 4, Speaker Asad Qaiser on Monday decided to issue letters to three MNAs, including the one belonging to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), seeking an explanation over the incident.

According to a handout issued by the National Assembly Secretariat, the speaker has decided to send letters to Syed Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Chaudhry Hamid Hameed of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Attaullah of the PTI.

The decision was taken after the speaker presided over a meeting attended by Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, the National Assembly secretary, adviser to the speaker on legal and constitutional affairs and other senior officers of the NA Secretariat to probe the incident.

At the onset, the speaker said the incident was “highly commendable”. He said that as the custodian of the National Assembly, he would take appropriate action to maintain the order in the House, and to regulate the proceedings in accordance with parliamentary practices and rules.

Says all members are under obligation to maintain decorum in the House

Mr Qaiser said all members belonging to the treasury or opposition benches were under obligation to obey the rules of the National Assembly and to maintain the decorum of the House in order to preserve its sanctity.

“The speaker after thorough examination of the record of proceedings and evidence showed his resolve to maintain the sanctity of the House at every cost without prejudice and pressure,” says the handout.

The NA Secretariat also released pictures of the opposition members protesting on the day. In one of the pictures, PPP’s Naveed Qamar has been shown making arguments with Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri in an aggressive manner and in the other picture, Hamid Hameed can be seen carrying a shoe in his hand and showing it towards the treasury benches.

The letters to the three members are being issued under Rule 21 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007, under which the speaker has the power to suspend the membership of a lawmaker for the whole session.

Rule 21 says: “The Speaker may, if he deems it necessary, name a member who disregards the authority of the Speaker or abuses these rules by consistently and willfully obstructing the business of the Assembly. (2) If a member is so named by the Speaker, he shall forthwith put the question that the member (naming him) be suspended from the service of the Assembly for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session: Provided that the Assembly may, at any time, on a motion made, resolve that such suspension be terminated.”

When contacted, PML-N MNA from Sargodha Hamid Hameed said that he had not so far received any letter or notice from the speaker, but he had come to know about it through media.

Mr Hameed said the opposition would not accept any inquiry under the speaker who had become “partisan”. “We would demand formation of a parliamentary committee to probe the incident.”

In reply to a question, the PML-N MNA said that during the protest he was showing the shoe to Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry who was allegedly making objectionable gestures towards them. He said he would ask the speaker and the parliamentary committee to see the complete video footage of the sitting before making any decision and putting responsibility on any one.

The NA had witnessed unprecedented scenes during the session on Feb 4 when members from both sides of the aisle created ruckus and kept on shouting, sloganeering, naming, thumping desks, whistling, scuffling and even abusing each other almost continuously during more than three-hour long sitting during an inconclusive debate on the controversial constitution amendment bill seeking open Senate vote.

For quite some time, the deputy speaker was even forced to run the assembly proceedings while sitting amid a ring of sergeants after a brawl among the lawmakers in front of his dais where the opposition members had gathered to lodge protest against the chair for running the House one-sidedly and not giving them the floor.

The House witnessed a scuffle between the treasury and opposition members when two PTI MNAs from Karachi, Attaullah and Faheem Khan, rushed to the protesting opposition members who had besieged the deputy speaker. PPP’s Syed Naveed Qamar, who is otherwise known for his politeness, was seen exchanging heated arguments with the deputy speaker when he gave the floor to Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umer after the two ministers had already spoken.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1606288

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Only JI can bring about real change: Sirajul Haq

February 9, 2021

MINGORA: Jamaat-e-Islami Chief Senator Sirajul Haq said on Monday that his party would continue its solo flight and would not become part of alliance of “self-interest seekers”.

Talking to media after Khatm-e-Bukhari Sharif at Sangota here, he said that the political parties of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Maryam Nawaz had ruled over the country turn by turn but failed to deliver.

He claimed that the JI was only party, which could bring about real change in Pakistan. If voted to power, he said, the JI would introduce the interest-free economy and a powerful and across the board accountability drive. He said that his party has a plan for unique system of governance that was why the Western countries and the US were against the JI.

The West has created hurdles in the way of religious parties so that they could not reach the corridors of power, he added. The incumbent government, he added, had proved worse than the previous governments of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan People’s Party and military dictators.

“It has destroyed the economy and damaged every institution in half of its tenure,” he believed. The JI, Sirajul Haq said, was the only party, which was acting as a real opposition and raising voice in the interest of the country and common man. He said all the political parties’ narratives were limited to the respective parties and their leaders.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/787339-only-ji-can-bring-about-real-change-sirajul-haq

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South Asia

 

Two security officials die in separate attacks

08 Feb 2021

Mohammad Javad Aman, the head of the people uprising section of the Parwan NDS, was killed in a magnetic mine explosion on Monday.

In another incident, Zabihullah Ghayur, an army commander, was killed in a skirmish with the Taliban.

Reports indicate the clashes occurred in Uruzgan province on Monday.

The fighting reportedly erupted between the Taliban and security forces Tarin Kot, capital of the province.

According to reports, the clashes happened when the security forces were reconstructing an outpost that was damaged from a blast a few days earlier.

This comes at a time when the Ministry of Defense stated, that at least 22 Taliban were killed and seven others were wounded in the Sherzad and Hesarak districts of eastern Nangarhar province.

In a special operation backed by air support, 22 Taliban were killed in Nangarhar province, MoD stated.

The statement said the Taliban had planted and placed 14 different types of mines and IEDs in the districts with an intention to hurt innocent people.ANDSF’s engineering unit discovered and defused all of the bombs.

https://www.khaama.com/two-security-officials-die-in-separate-attacks-34433/

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‘Taliban continue to resort to extreme violence’: Gen. Kenneth McKenzie

09 Feb 2021

Commander of the U.S Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie in conversation with the Middle East Institute said violence in Afghanistan remains high.

In his conversation, he said “The Taliban continue to resort to extreme violence and targeted killings across the country and frequent attacks on the Afghan forces. While they have mostly avoided attacks on US and coalition units, the level of violence is just simply too high and so that is an action that we look at” he added, “I know the administration is taking a close look at the way forward in accordance with the February 2020 peace agreement.”

Taliban needs to take action on some of the elements in the US-Taliban agreement, McKenzie said “we all agree that the best path is going to be a negotiated political settlement among the Afghans.”

“No one debates that essential point. However, you have to take a conditions-based approach,” he also said that both of the negotiating parties should “show that they are willing to make the concessions that are going to be necessary to find a political path forward.”

McKenzie expressed his concern over Taliban actions and added that the new policy is under review.

Following the review of the US-Taliban agreement by the Biden administration, Mckenzie said “ we will have a way forward” soon.

America’s strategic objectives are still intact to safeguard Afghanistan from terrorist attacks and prevent it from becoming a safe haven to Al-Qaeda or Daesh.

“Success towards this objective would best be achieved through a negotiated settlement between the Taliban and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” McKenzie revealed.

Currently, US troops in Afghanistan will “focus heavily on counterterrorism or CT operations while continuing to support the NATO-led Resolute Support mission”, he added.

As Afghan national defense and security forces led by Resolute Support mission “continues to place pressure on the Taliban and VEO groups (violent extremist organizations), challenges remain,” Gen. McKenzie said.

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-continue-to-resort-to-extreme-violence-gen-kenneth-mckenzie-334433/

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US to stay in Afghanistan beyond May

09 February 2021

Amin Alemi

It seems that the policy of new US administration toward US military presence in Afghanistan is not in favor of Taliban.

The militant group has in recent months stepped up its attacks and bombings across Afghanistan instead of honoring either the intra-afghan talks, or an already inked US-Taliban deal.

The rise in violence has now convinced US officials to review the matter of US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan. Recently, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby highlighted the importance US troops presence in Afghanistan due to rise in Taliban attacks.

The US has recently said it will keep its military forces in Afghanistan beyond May, citing the possible revival of some terrorist groups mainly Daesh in the war-torn country. That comes despite a US-Taliban deal signed in Doha last year calls for Washington to fully withdraw its remaining troops from Afghanistan.

While the Taliban warns both, the US and the Afghan government for the consequences of continuation of US military presence in Afghanistan, government officials here say, Afghan forces are fully ready to independently give a hard military response to Taliban. Kabul also welcomes Washington’s move saying, such attempt is in line with the shared interest of Kabul and Washington .

Analysts argue that nor fear of revival of terrorist groups, neither Afghanistan’s interests is behind Washington’s plan to stay in Afghanistan due to America’s policy toward Afghanistan at least over the past two decades . The US along with its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 under the guise of fighting terrorism and dismantling al-Qaeda.

The invasion which has turned into the longest war in US history removed the Taliban from power, but the militant group has never stopped its attacks, citing the foreign military presence as one of the main reasons behind its continued militancy. Over 2,400 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed in the war.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/09/644862/US-to-stay-in-Afghanistan-beyond-May

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Europe

 

France: Muslims continue to protest Islamic charter

Alaattin Dogru  

09.02.2021

PARIS

Muslim groups continuexd to rail against an Islamic charter in France that was prepared by the administration of President Emmanuel Macron and signed by federations that are members of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM). 

The lastest is the Islamic Council of the Savoie Region (CDCM) who said the government’s Charter of Principles of Islam in France was prepared without consulting Muslim authorities and associations in the region.

Citing that the Muslim community in the region was not satisfied with the regulation and objected to the text, the statement added that the regulation only targets Muslims.

Last month, three organizations of the CFCM unilaterally denounced the "Charter of Principles of Islam” that reaffirms the compatibility of the faith with France.

After weeks of internal disagreements, the CFCM, a national body of nine associations-- said it reached an agreement on the text of the charter "rejecting foreign interference, political Islam, and certain customary practices and on respecting gender equality." The agreement would pave the way for the formation of the National Council of Imams which will have powers to authorize the practice of imams.

The council will curb the entry of imams from Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, and 300 imams may be expelled, according to a report published by the France 24 news outlet.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/france-muslims-continue-to-protest-islamic-charter/2138209

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Germany sees rise in Islamophobic crimes

Ayhan Şimşek 

08.02.2021

BERLIN

Germany recorded more than 900 Islamophobic hate crimes in 2020, according to official figures announced Monday.

Nearly 80 mosques were attacked between January and December last year, and at least 48 people suffered injuries due to Islamophobic violence.

The Interior Ministry released the figures in response to a parliamentary question by the opposition Left Party.

The German police recorded 901 anti-Muslim hate crimes and attacks last year, up from 884 a year earlier, according to the latest figures. These included insults on social media, threatening letters, disruption of religious practice, physical assaults, and damage to property.

The number of people injured in Islamophobic violence rose from 34 in 2019 to 48 in 2020, according to the official figures. These attacks were mostly carried out by the neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists, according to the police.

Left Party lawmaker Ulla Jelpke told Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung daily that the numbers reported by the police were “only the tip of the iceberg.” She said the real figures were likely to be higher, as many victims do not file criminal complaints with the police.

A country of over 80 million people, Germany has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France. Among the country's nearly 4.7 million Muslims, 3 million are of Turkish origin.

The country has witnessed growing racism and Islamophobia in recent years, fueled by the propaganda of far-right groups and parties, which have attempted to stoke fear of Muslims and immigrants to win more votes.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/germany-sees-rise-in-islamophobic-crimes/2138073

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Judge spares UK's 'youngest terrorist' from harsh prison sentence

08 February 2021

In an unusual move, the Old Bailey has spared Britain’s youngest convicted terrorist from a lengthy jail sentence, even thought the defendant is committed to extreme far right ideologies and led a neo-Nazi cell online.

Instead, the defendant, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was given a 24-month youth rehabilitation order by Judge Mark Dennis QC at the Old Bailey on Monday (February 08).

The exceptionally light sentence will inevitably raise questions and fuel speculation about double standards, especially as young Muslims (who have been accused of association with radical groups) have received much harsher sentences under similar circumstances.

The defendant had pled guilty to 12 offenses, two of dissemination of terrorist documents and 10 of possession of terrorist material.

The boy was just 13 when he obtained instructions for explosives.

At the age of 14, the defendant, from south-east Cornwall, accumulated a “stash” of terrorist material and shared far-right extremist ideology in online chatrooms.

The material reportedly included bomb-making instructions, ingredients for napalm, how to make Molotov cocktails, build an AK47 assault rifle and engage in knife combat.

To make matters worse, the youth also commissioned a poster showing an atom bomb cloud over Parliament emblazoned with the slogan “Sterilize the cesspit that you call London”.

The aspiring terrorist was sufficiently committed to far-right ideology that by the summer of 2019 he had become the UK cell leader of the so-called FKD – Feuerkrieg Division – a neo-Nazi group which glorifies mass murderers, including the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik.

Despite the wealth of evidence against the defendant, the Judge decided against incarceration on the grounds of the self-confessed terrorist’s “guilty plea, expression of remorse” and most controversially of all his apparent susceptibility to the “influence of others”.

In passing sentence, Judge Dennis asserted that custody would “undo the work that is already under way to rehabilitate” the youth.

In conclusion, Judge Dennis described the youthful defendant as “vulnerable” with an “abnormal childhood”.

Skeptics will point out that such compassion and leniency is rarely (if ever) shown to young Muslims who are often hauled before British courts on terrorism-related charges.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/08/644851/UK-Far-Right-Terrorism-Lenient-Sentence-

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UK reduces terror threat level from 'severe' to 'substantial' but warns attacks still ‘likely’

08 February 2021

Home secretary, Priti Patel, has announced the reduction of the UK’s terrorism threat level from "severe" to "substantial", but has warned that attacks are still “likely”.

In a written statement to parliament on Monday (February 08), Patel said the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center (JTAC) had lowered the UK’s terror threat level due to “the significant reduction in the momentum of attacks in Europe since those seen between September and November” last year.

There are five terror threat levels in total including “Low”, “Moderate”, “Substantial”, “Severe”, and “Critical”, indicating escalatory levels of risk.

Despite the reduced threat level, the Home Secretary pleaded for help from ordinary people by saying that “the public should continue to remain vigilant and report any concerns to the police”.

"Terrorism remains one of the most direct and immediate risks to our national security", Patel added.

JTAC – which determines the terror threat level based on a wide range of intelligence and open source information – is based inside the headquarters of the Security Service (MI5) at Thames House in London.

JTAC staff is mostly made up of people from policing, counter-terrorism, security and broader governmental backgrounds. 

The terror threat level was moved up to “severe” from “substantial” last November following terrorist attacks in France and Austria.

The highest level, “critical”, was last reached in September 2017, following the Parsons Green train bombing.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/08/644841/UK-Terror-Threat-Level-Reduction-Priti-Patel-Attack-Still-Likely

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Macron will send adviser to follow up on government formation in Lebanon

08 February ,2021

French President Macron will send his adviser for Near Eastern affairs, Patrick Durel to Lebanon this weekend, and he will meet with several officials as he follows the Lebanese file on a daily basis, local Lebanese TV station MTV reported.

Lebanon has been facing an unprecedented economic and political crisis with the political parties in control failing to agree on a roadmap to resolve the crisis. French President Emanuel Macron proposed a resolution plan for the small nation, but it has not been adopted yet by politicians in office.

French sources told the station that the United Arab Emirates is a main partner in the French endeavors, which have been strengthened after a US mandate. The source added that Macron will visit Riyadh and Abu Dhabi in a few weeks, where he will attend the Lebanese file in his talks.

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has recently visited the UAE, France, and Egypt which showed that the government formation process may have been facilitated through regional powers.

French President Emmanuel Macron told Al Arabiya last month that he would pay a third visit to Lebanon, less than a year after he made two trips in an attempt to speed up the formation of a new government.

Macron, who took the lead on forming a roadmap for Lebanon to crawl out of its unprecedented economic crisis, told Al Arabiya that the French proposal was “still on the table” because there were “no other solutions available.”

Sources close to the French President recently told a Lebanese newspaper that Macron’s visit will happen once the French initiative has been adopted and when a new government is formed.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/02/09/Macron-will-send-adviser-to-follow-up-on-government-formation-in-Lebanon

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EU’s Borrell, Chinese FM stress full implementation of Iran deal

08 February 2021

The European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi have discussed the need for continued close international coordination on Iran.

In a videoconference call on Monday, the European High Representative praised China’s “positive role” in preserving the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), including on the implementation of the Arak Modernization Project.

The High Representative referred to Iran’s recent measures to expand its nuclear program beyond the limits of the JCPOA, and underlined the “urgency of pursuing diplomatic efforts to ensure full JCPOA implementation by all sides” in line with the Ministerial meeting of JCPOA participants on 21 December 2020.

The two sides stressed that there was scope for the EU, China and the US to join forces in dealing with key global challenges such as the Iran nuclear issue, among others.

The Monday talks were held a few days after the Iranian foreign minister said Josep Borrell can resolve the current standoff between Iran and the US in his capacity as the JCPOA coordinator.

Mohammad Javad Zarif made the remarks in an interview with CNN last Monday, when he was asked about the possible solution to ending a “Mexican standoff” between Tehran and Washington over the two sides’ return to compliance with the JCPOA, in which each of them says the other one must first deliver on its commitments.

“Clearly there can be a mechanism to basically either synchronize [Iran and US moves] or coordinate what can be done. The JCPOA has a built-in mechanism, which is the joint commission. The joint commission has a coordinator … who can sort of choreograph the actions needed to be taken by Iran and the US,” Zarif said.

A spokesman for Borrell said last Tuesday that the EU is pressing the Biden administration to lift the sanctions.

Borrell is “working extremely hard to get the JCPOA back on the rails,” said the spokesman, Peter Stano.

“We’re talking to the American administration to see if those sanctions could be lifted, to see if we can have full implementation of the JCPOA,” Stano added.

China had earlier called for an “unconditional” US return to the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and removal of the sanctions it restored against the Islamic Republic after unilaterally abandoning the UN-endorsed agreement.

“The Iranian nuclear issue is at a crucial juncture. The imperative at the moment is for all parties to accelerate implementation of the consensus reached at last December’s foreign ministers’ meeting, push for the unconditional return of the United States to the JCPOA as early as possible, resume compliance and the lifting of all relevant sanctions,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said during a press conference last Tuesday.

Wang said Iran should also return to full compliance with the JCPOA, adding that China is following the situation closely and maintaining close communication with all relevant sides.

“We support a step-by-step and reciprocal approach and will continue to work with relevant parties and the international community to bring the JCPOA back on track and promote the political settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue,” he remarked.

US to work on ‘stronger deal’ after returning to JCPOA: Blinken

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the US will only return to its commitments once Iran returns to compliance.

Speaking in a Monday evening interview with CNN, Blinken said the US will work with its allies to try to come up with a “longer, stronger agreement.”

He also expressed concern that Iran is closer than it has ever been to having the capacity to produce the raw material for a nuclear weapon.

Washington’s call for a “longer and stronger” agreement with Iran encompassing other issues irrelevant to Tehran’s nuclear program, including Iran’s national defense program and influential regional role, comes as Iran has, on numerous occasions, strongly rejected the idea of negotiations about other issues or a renegotiation of the JCPOA.

US weighing 'baby steps'to revive JCPOA

The United States is weighing a wide array of ideas on how to revive the Iranian nuclear deal, including an option where both sides would take small steps short of full compliance to buy time, said three sources familiar with the matter.

This option could entail Washington allowing Tehran to get economic benefits less valuable than the sanctions relief it received under the 2015 deal in return for Iran stopping, or perhaps reversing, its own breaches of the agreement, Reuters reports.

The sources stressed US President Joe Biden has yet to decide his policy. His stated position remains that Iran resume full compliance with the pact before the United States will.

“(They) are having a real think,” said one source familiar with the US review, saying ideas under consideration include a straight return to the 2015 nuclear deal and what he called “less for less” as an interim step.

Another source said if the Biden administration concluded it would take too long to negotiate a full return to the deal, it could adopt a more modest approach.

“Should (they) at least try to give Iran some sanctions relief and get Iran to agree to pause and maybe roll back some of its nuclear (steps)?” said this source.

Former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Iran’s nuclear deal in 2018. Under the deal, Tehran had agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

After the US then ramped up sanctions, Iran gradually and publicly abandoned the deal’s limits on its nuclear development. 

New President Joe Biden, who was vice president when the deal was signed during the Obama administration, has said he hopes to return the US to the deal. But new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the US will only return to the nuclear deal once Tehran honors its nuclear commitments.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/08/644856/China-EU-Iran-nuclear-deal

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Spain welcomes election of Libya’s new interim gov’t

Zehra Nur Duz  

08.02.2021

Spain has hailed the election of Libya's new interim leadership to govern the country until elections in December.

“The Government of Spain confirms its full disposition to continue collaborating in stepping up bilateral relations, in culminating the Libyan political process, and in constructing a stable and prosperous regional environment,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The statement thanked the UN for its mediation and particularly the Acting UN special envoy for Libya, Stephanie Williams.

On Friday, Libya’s rival political groups agreed to form an interim unity government after five days of talks in Switzerland. Mohammad Younes Menfi was elected to head the Presidency Council of an interim government and Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh as its prime minister. Mossa Al-Koni and Abdullah Hussein Al-Lafi were also voted on the three-man Presidency Council.

Libya has been torn by civil war since the ouster of ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Based in the capital Tripoli and currently led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, the Government of National Accord was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement. But efforts for a long-term political settlement have failed due to a military offensive by militias loyal to Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar.

Al-Sarraj’s internationally recognized government has been battling Haftar’s militias since April 2019 in a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/spain-welcomes-election-of-libya-s-new-interim-gov-t/2137398

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Arab World

 

ISIS ambush kills 26 pro-regime fighters in east Syria, a war monitor says

08 February ,2021

The ISIS terrorist group on Monday ambushed a regime convoy in eastern Syria, killing at least 26 fighters, a Britain-based war monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the early morning ambush in the province of Deir Ezzor came as the convoy combed the area for extremists.

“Violent clashes between the two sides led to large human losses,” it said, calling the toll from fighting the “largest since the start of the year.”

Last month, ISIS said it was behind a December 30 bus ambush in Deir Ezzor province, which killed at least 37 Syrian soldiers.

ISIS in 2014 overran large parts of Syria and Iraq and proclaimed a cross-border “caliphate” before multiple offensives in the two countries led to its territorial defeat.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/02/08/Terrorism-ISIS-ambush-kills-26-pro-regime-fighters-in-east-Syria-a-war-monitor-says

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Saudi Crown Prince announces 4 new laws to reform Kingdom’s judicial institutions

08 February ,2021

Ismaeel Naar

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced on Monday four new laws to reform the Kingdom’s judicial institutions and efforts toward improving the “legislative environment” in the Kingdom, according to an official announcement.

The four new laws include the Personal Status Law, the Civil Transactions Law, the Penal Code for Discretionary Sentences, and the Law of Evidence.

“The lack of clear legislation previously has led to a variation in legal provisions,” Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince said as he announced steps toward reforming the Kingdom’s legislative environment.

The Crown Prince said that in the past few years, the Kingdom of has taken serious steps towards developing its legislative environment.

“These steps include adopting new laws and reforming existing ones. They are meant to preserve rights, entrench the principles of justice, transparency, protect human rights and achieve comprehensive and sustainable development, which reinforces the global competitiveness of the Kingdom based on procedural and institutional references that are objective and clearly identified,” according to a statement released following his announcement.

The draft Personal Status Law which is being finalized, the Crown Prince said, is one of four draft laws that the relevant entities are currently preparing. He clarified that these draft laws will then be submitted to the Council of Ministers and its bodies for review and consideration, in accordance with the legislative process, and in preparation for submission to the Shura Council, pursuant to its law. These laws will then be promulgated pursuant to the legislative laws.

“The absence of applicable legislations has led to discrepancies in decisions and a lack of clarity in the principles governing facts and practices. That resulted in prolonged litigation not based on legal texts. In addition, the absence of a clear legal framework for private and business sectors has led to ambiguity with respect to obligations,” the Crown Prince said.

“This was painful for many individuals and families, especially women, permitting some to evade their responsibilities. This will not take place again once these laws are promulgated pursuant to legislative laws and procedures,” he added.

A draft law from several years ago that came to be known as “the Code of Judicial Decisions” was crafted, but careful review revealed it was insufficient in terms of meeting the society’s needs and expectations.

According to the reforms proposed on Monday, authorities decided to draft these four new laws, adopting in them the current legal and judicial international judicial practices and standards in a manner “that does not contradict Sharia principles” while taking into consideration the Kingdom’s commitments under international conventions and treaties.

The Crown Prince “noted that the process of developing the judicial system in the Kingdom is a continuous process, and that these laws will be announced consecutively this year.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/gulf/2021/02/08/Saudi-Vision-2030-Saudi-Crown-Prince-announces-reforms-to-improve-legislative-environment-

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Saudi Arabia temporary shuts down 10 mosques after COVID-19 infections

Ismaeel Naar

08 February ,2021

Saudi Arabia has temporarily shut down 10 mosques in a number of regions across the Kingdom following an outbreak of COVID-19 infections among worshipers and mosque employees, according to a ministerial statement.

Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance of Saudi Arabia also announced it was temporarily closing one mosque in Ad-Dilam district of Riyadh for sterilization after a number of employees were infected with the coronavirus.

The ministry indicated in a report issued on Monday that within two days, it began closing five mosques in Riyadh, three of them in Harimila district and one in each in aflaj and Ad-Dilam districts, and also closed a mosque in the al-Mandaq governorate in al-Baha, a mosque in Dammam in the Eastern Province, and three mosques in the northern border.

The Islamic affairs ministry indicated that the mosques would be closed sterilization operations lasting between 24 hours to 48 hours.

The Ministry called on the worshipers to take all the precautionary measures approved by the competent authorities, including wearing a facemask, bringing their own prayer rug, and practicing social distancing measures.

Saudi Arabia on Monday reported 356 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of cases to 370,634, according to the Ministry of Health.

Saudi Arabia's also temporarily suspended entry from 20 countries, which officially came into effect from 9:00 pm local time on Feb. 3, a move announced a day earlier in a bid to curb a jump in coronavirus infections.

The ban includes a list of 20 countries: Argentina, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, the United States of America, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Pakistan, Brazil, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Turkey, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Lebanon, Egypt, India, and Japan.

https://english.alarabiya.net/coronavirus/2021/02/08/Coronavirus-Saudi-Arabia-temporary-shuts-down-10-mosques-after-COVID-19-infections

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Iran’s militias pose a threat to Arab countries’ stability: Saudi Arabia’s FM

Tamara Abueish

08 February ,2021

Iran’s support for militias across the region pose a threat to the security and stability of Arab countries, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said on Monday, during an emergency Arab League meeting in Cairo.

“Iran’s nuclear activities and its ballistic missiles threaten regional stability,” the minister said, adding that he calls on the international community to put an end to Iran’s violations.

The Iranian regime – which backs the Houthis against the internationally-recognized Yemen government as well as other groups in Lebanon and Iraq – supplies its militias with missiles, drones, and even training.

The Houthis have intensified their attacks on Saudi Arabia in the past two days, and have launched more than four explosive-laden drones towards the Kingdom.

Prince Faisal condemned the Houthis’ attacks on civilian infrastructures and urged the group to halt its violations.

For his part, Yemeni foreign minister Mohammed Abdullah al-Hadhrami said that Iran has been encouraging the Houthis to destroy Yemen.

The group’s recent escaltion in Marib is evidence of their unwillingness to reach a peaceful solution, he added.

Speaking on the Israel-Palestine conflict, Prince Faisal reiterated Saudi Arabia’s support for a Palestinian state based on the borders of 1967.

The Arab League meeting, which was held in Egypt’s capital city Cairo, was focused on reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Arab unity.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/gulf/2021/02/08/Iran-s-militias-threaten-stability-security-of-Arab-countries-Saudi-Arabia-s-FM

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Pope Francis hails dialogue ahead of meeting with Iraq cleric al-Sistani

08 February ,2021

Pope Francis hailed the power of inter-religious dialogue on Monday as the Vatican confirmed he would meet Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani during his forthcoming trip to Iraq.

The March 5-8 visit – the first ever by a pope – will include stops in Baghdad, Najaf, Nasiriya, Erbil, Mosul and Qaraqosh, according to the official itinerary published by the Vatican.

On March 6, the pontiff is scheduled to make a “courtesy visit” to the 90-year-old al-Sistani in Najaf.

The pope had previously suggested his visit to Iraq might be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but on Monday, made clear his desire to go.

“I myself wish to resume my Apostolic Visits, beginning with that to Iraq,” he told ambassadors to the Holy See.

“These visits are an important sign of the solicitude of the Successor of Peter (the pope) for God’s People spread throughout the world and the dialogue of the Holy See with states,” he said.

“They also frequently provide an opportunity to promote, in a spirit of sharing and dialogue, good relations between the different religions.”

Inter-religious dialogue, he added, “can become an opportunity for religious leaders and the followers of different confessions, and can support the responsible efforts of political leaders to promote the common good.”

Last month, the patriarch of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church Louis Sako said the pope would have a private visit with al-Sistani, who is never seen in public and rarely accepts visitors.

Sako said then he hoped the two religious leaders would sign the document on “human fraternity for world peace,” an inter-religious text condemning extremism that Francis signed in 2019 with the leading Sunni cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar.

Iraq once counted more than 1.5 million Christians but today only an estimated 400,000 Christians remain after being ravaged by violence, most recently sectarian warfare that followed the 2003 US-led invasion and attacks by ISIS.

Francis plans to celebrate Masses at Baghdad in a cathedral that was the site of a 2010 bloody attack and in a stadium in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region, where many Christians have fled after being displaced by ISIS.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/02/08/Pope-Francis-hails-dialogue-ahead-of-meeting-with-Iraq-cleric-al-Sistani

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Egypt heads emergency Arab League meeting on Palestine with Arab FMs

08 February ,2021

Egypt on Monday will head an emergency Arab League meeting with Arab foreign ministers to discuss regional unity and protecting the rights of Palestinians.

The meeting will focus on reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and discussing the United States’ policies on Palestine.

The relationship between the US and Palestine strained under the Donald Trump administration after Washington approved Israel’s plans to annex large parts of occupied West Bank territories.

UN experts had stated then that the move is a “21st-century apartheid” vision. The annexation would be a “serious violation” of the United Nations charter and the Geneva Conventions, and would only intensify human rights violations in the West Bank, the experts said.

The emergency meeting is being held at Egypt and Jordan’s request, the Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab League Hossam Zaki said, adding that it will focus on the “fundamentals related to the Palestinian cause” and Arab unity.

Arab foreign ministers are also expected to discuss the positive results of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit held in Saudi Arabia’s al-Ula in December and its implications for the Middle East peace process.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/02/08/Palestinian-Israeli-conflict-Egypt-heads-emergency-Arab-League-meeting-on-Palestine-with-Arab-FMs-

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Pope Francis warns of the consequences of Lebanon’s economic collapse

08 February ,2021

Pope Francis warned of “the consequences of Lebanon’s economic collapse” as he called on Lebanese political and religious leaders to put aside their own interests and commit to achieving justice, Vatican News reported.

The Pope added that political and religious leaders in Lebanon should implement reforms, and act in a transparent manner and bear the results of their actions.

Lebanon has been facing an unprecedented economic and political crisis with the political parties in control failing to agree on a roadmap to resolve the crisis. French President Emanuel Macron proposed a resolution plan for the small nation, but it has not been adopted yet by politicians in office.

“I wish that Lebanon will witness a political commitment, nationally and internationally, that contributes to strengthening stability in a country facing the risk of losing its national identity and plunging into regional tensions and tensions,” the Pope added.

Pope Francis stressed that “weakening the Christian component in Lebanon threatens to destroy the internal balance.”

“I stress on the necessity for the Cedars nation to preserve its unique identity in order to ensure a pluralistic, tolerant and diverse Middle East, in which the Christian presence makes its contribution and is not limited to being a minority only,” the Pope added.

The Pope also highlighted “the importance of addressing the problems associated with the presence of the displaced Syrians and Palestinians.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/02/08/Lebanon-crisis-Pope-Francis-warns-of-the-consequences-of-Lebanon-s-economic-collapse

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North America

 

US will maintain pressure on Iran-backed Houthis: State Department

08 February ,2021

The United States will “keep up” pressure on the Iran-backed Houthi militia, the State Department said Monday, days after the Biden administration announced its intention to revoke the designation of the group as a terrorist organization.

“The Houthis are malign actors,” State Department Spokesman Ned Price told reporters, adding that their conduct was “reprehensible.”

“I think we will certainly keep up the pressure on the leadership” of the Houthis, Price said.

Price condemned the repeated rocket attacks against civilians in Saudi Arabia, as well as the kidnapping of US citizens.

The US official said Washington was committed to helping Riyadh defend its territory. Price said the US wanted to reduce tensions, while continuing to stand by Saudi Arabia.

Last week, the State Department informed Congress that it would reverse the Trump administration's decision, which designated the Houthis as a terrorist organization.

Humanitarian groups and the United Nations heavily criticized the Trump administration's designation, saying that it would further worsen the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. This was echoed by Biden, who said a priority of his was to end the war in Yemen.

Nevertheless, the Houthis continued firing rockets at Saudi Arabia, which has repeatedly voiced his willingness for a political solution to the yearslong war in neighboring Yemen.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/gulf/2021/02/09/US-will-maintain-pressure-on-Iran-backed-Houthis-State-Department

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In Saddam strongholds that fought America, Iraqis fear a US departure

08 February ,2021

Abu Arkan Ibrahim picked up a rifle and joined the Iraqi insurgency against US troops when they occupied his hometown of Fallujah in 2003. He was badly burned in the fighting. Now, he fears the departure of the Americans he once battled.

Over the past 17 years, the municipal employee has watched his city fall to the US, al Qaeda, ISIS and, most recently, Iraqi forces fighting alongside Iran-backed paramilitaries. Ibrahim said the presence of US troops in recent years helped suppress remaining ISIS militants and rein in the Iran-backed militias - mutual foes accused by Iraqi officials of attacking locals. The US troop drawdown is creating a security vacuum, Ibrahim said, making Fallujah more dangerous.

“I’d rather have the Americans here than the alternatives,” the 37-year old said.

Ibrahim’s assessment is shared by many security officials, former fighters and residents in north and west regions of the country that comprise up to a third of Iraqi territory, former insurgent strongholds once loyal to Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.

They say ISIS and the Iran-backed paramilitaries stand to gain most from Washington’s troop reduction. They point to an increase in attacks by ISIS, and fear the Iran-backed militias will use this violence to justify entrenching themselves.

Last month, the US completed a reduction of its forces in Iraq to 2,500 troops. That’s about half the level of less than a year ago.

Recent months have witnessed more than 25 deadly attacks that Iraqi officials attribute to ISIS militants. Last month, the group staged its biggest attack in years with a suicide bombing in the capital Baghdad that killed more than 30 people.

The US embassy in Baghdad declined to comment.

The US-led military coalition of 80 nations battling ISIS in Iraq said it carried out 10 strikes against militant targets in Iraq in December alone.

A coalition official said there were no plans to reverse the drawdown and said Iraqi forces were capable of handling the ongoing ISIS insurgency with current levels of coalition support.

Washington’s contingent is the largest in the coalition force, which includes 900 troops from other countries. Still, the US presence in Iraq is tiny compared to the 170,000 troops it stationed in the country after its invasion.

Parts of Iraq’s 300,000-strong military operate across the country’s western and northern areas. The paramilitaries number at least 100,000, with a significant portion in the north and west. Security officials and analysts estimate there are thousands of ISIS fighters.

One US official acknowledged the withdrawal over the past year has reduced American military capabilities in Iraq but stressed that US assistance has continued. “We’re still working hard to enable and support our Iraqi partners,” said the official, adding the Iraqis were already operating more independently.

The official conceded ISIS remains a determined enemy. “So it’s not a bloodless future,” the official said.

The administration of President Joe Biden has given no indication it intends to significantly reverse the drawdown started under predecessor Donald Trump. The Pentagon said the Biden administration is conducting a review of numbers and position of troops, including in Iraq.

An Iraqi government spokesman said the drawdown hasn’t affected its ability to contain ISIS. “There is ongoing coordination” with the US forces that remain, he said.

Most Iraqis oppose foreign influence. Some welcome the US withdrawal. But many, especially in Sunni regions, say they would choose a small American military presence over increased power for the pro-Iran militias.

Paramilitaries aligned with Iran say the ISIS insurgency against the Iraqi military requires them to stay in the Sunni-majority regions to fight the militants. They vow to drive foreign forces out of Iraq if Biden does not commit to a full withdrawal. The Iran-aligned paramilitaries deny involvement in any attacks or human-rights abuses.

ISIS fighters controlled nearly a third of Iraq between 2014 and 2017. They now occupy remote desert areas and mountain ranges. They regularly claim attacks that kill soldiers and Shiite militiamen in Iraq.

Emboldened ISIS

Fallujah and other major cities in Sunni regions once held by ISIS have begun to revive. Newly paved main roads run past busy shops and restaurants. But outside urban centers, buildings flattened in battle remain in ruins. Thousands of displaced families have not yet returned.

Accompanied by his young son, Ibrahim spoke at a crowded Fallujah intersection that in October saw the city’s first motorcycle bomb in two years. Iraqi officials blamed ISIS. There has been no claim or denial of responsibility from the group.

“In recent months, we’ve seen more Daesh attacks across all these areas,” said Salah al-Essawi, a Sunni paramilitary commander in the area, using an alternative term for ISIS. The attacks include an assault that killed two security personnel after the Fallujah bombing in October. Essawi and other Iraqi security officials attribute the killings to ISIS, which hasn’t commented.

Some Iraqi military officials say the rise in violence is due in large part to the reduced American presence.

An Iraqi army officer who works with the US-led coalition cited an example of the Iraqi military’s reliance on America: a recent airstrike that killed a top ISIS leader. It was a joint US-Iraqi effort, he said.

“Our troops were pursuing him, but would have struggled to find where he was hiding if not for the US air support,” the officer said. He said the coalition carries out fewer air strikes against ISIS targets than it used to.

The coalition official said US-led forces provided air support to Iraqi special forces for that operation. The Iraqi government spokesman said the operation was led by Iraqi forces.

Iran-aligned groups

Shiite paramilitaries say that as ISIS intensifies its insurgency, Iraqi forces need their help. The Iran-aligned groups are part of a Baghdad-run paramilitary umbrella that works alongside Iraqi security forces to police remote former ISIS areas.

“Many threats still exist and the duty of the factions is to deal with Daesh or any other foreign threat,” Nasr al-Shammari, a senior official in the Harakat al-Nujaba paramilitary, told Reuters weeks before Biden’s inauguration.

Shammari wants the US out, saying the presence of its troops fuels instability. Iraqis who want US forces to stay are a politically-motivated minority, he said.

Many residents of Fallujah and nearby towns fear being caught up in reprisals for the increasing ISIS attacks - both from Iraqi security forces and even more so from Shiite paramilitaries.

Ibrahim said he has been detained by both over the years on suspicion of links with al Qaeda and ISIS, which he denies.

Essawi, the Sunni paramilitary leader, said the Shiite militias have been emboldened by talk of the US drawdown. The Iran-aligned forces, Essawi said, have put their flags back up at some checkpoints they had planned to abandon.

“We hope Biden won’t leave us in their hands,” he said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/02/08/In-Saddam-strongholds-that-fought-America-Iraqis-fear-a-US-departure

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Pentagon claims US troops ‘not guarding’ oil fields in Syria

09 February 2021

A Pentagon spokesman has claimed that the American troops deployed to Syria are not protecting oil reserves in the Arab country, while admitting that an American firm is exploiting Syrian oil without authorization from Damascus.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told a news briefing on Monday that since an American firm had signed a deal with Kurdish militants in northern Syria last year to help exploit the country’s oil reserves, US troops were not involved.

Damascus has said the agreement — signed between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militant group and an American oil company named by media sources as Delta Crescent Energy LLC — is null and void, and that the parties involved are plundering Syria’s national resources.

Kirby said the US military personnel and contractors “are not authorized to provide assistance to any other private company, including its employees or agents seeking to develop oil resources in northeast Syria.”

However, in an apparent justification for the continuing presence of American forces near Syrian oil fields, Kirby said the only exception was when US troops in Syria were operating under existing authorizations to guard civilians.

Kirby said about 900 US service members were deployed to Syria to fight the remnants of the Daesh terrorist group. “It’s important to remember that our mission there remains to enable the enduring defeat of ISIS,” he said, using an alternative acronym for Daesh.

Several times during his presidency, Trump contradicted the account often offered by his advisers and US military officials that the US was fighting Daesh in Syria, saying explicitly that the American troops in the Arab country were there “only for the oil.”

In 2019, Trump decided to keep hundreds of US troops in Syria to “secure” the country’s oilfields despite a campaign promise to end US wars abroad.

The US-led coalition purportedly fighting Daesh has been conducting airstrikes and operations inside Syria since September 2014, without any authorization from the Damascus government or a United Nations (UN) mandate. Damascus has repeatedly condemned the attacks.

Kirby’s remarks come as Damascus has urged the administration of new US President Joe Biden to withdraw the American forces from Syria and stop the plundering of Syrian wealth.

“The new US administration must stop acts of aggression and occupation, plundering the wealth of my country, withdraw its occupying forces from it, and stop supporting separatist militias, illegal entities, and attempts to threaten Syria’s sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity,” Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari said during a virtual session of the UN Security Council on January 20.

Earlier this month, Syria’s permanent mission to the UN also said that the country was willing to consider reestablishing ties with the US if the Biden administration reversed the policies of its predecessors.

“The reason for the existing disputes with the United States of America is the policies of previous American administrations that include: interference in the Syrian internal affairs, occupation of territories in the Syrian Arab Republic, stealing its natural resources, and supporting separatist militias and armed terrorist entities in Syria,” the mission told Newsweek.

Syria needs to control its major oil deposits in order to address its energy needs and rebuild the country amid years of militancy and Western sanctions.

The Arab country has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011.

Syria is currently extracting oil at only 10 percent of its pre-war capacity.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/09/644870/Pentagon-claims-US-troops-not-guarding-oil-fields-in-Syria

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Biden administration ‘walking a tightrope’ on Iran: Expert

08 February 2021

An American political analyst believes that the Biden administration is “walking a tightrope” on Iran between competing corporate interests.

Bill Dores, a writer for Struggle/La Lucha and longtime antiwar activist, made the comments in an interview with Press TV on Monday.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has said Iran will retrace its nuclear countermeasures once the United States lifts its sanctions in a manner that could be verifiable by Tehran.

“Iran will return to its JCOPA obligations once the US fully lifts its sanctions in action and not in words or on paper, and once the sanction relief is verified by Iran,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, referring by abbreviation to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official name of the landmark nuclear agreement that Iran signed with the P5+1 group of states -- the US, the UK, France, Russia, and China plus Germany -- in Vienna in 2015.

Ayatollah Khamenei made the remarks in Tehran on Sunday during a meeting with commanders, pilots, and staff members of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF).

The meeting was held on the anniversary of a historic development that came days before the 1979 victory of Iran’s Islamic Revolution that deposed the former US-backed Pahlavi regime. The event saw Homafaran, Pahlavi's air force officers, breaking away from the monarchical regime and pledging allegiance to the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini.

Dores said the US has been waging “hybrid warfare” against Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

“This week marks 42 years since Iran’s great Islamic Revolution shook the entire world. The US military-financial state has been waging hybrid warfare against Iran ever since that day,” he stated.

“Before the tyrant Shah was overthrown, US and British corporations looted Iran for decades. Iran’s oil wealth enriched Wall Street bankers and arms merchants. US-armed soldiers and secret police gunned down thousands of people in the streets for protesting Shah’s rule,” he said.

“As soon as the Revolution took back Iran’s wealth for Iran, the United States provoked confrontation, seized Iran’s assets and imposed a blockade. For 42 years the US has attacked Iran with proxy wars, vicious economic sanctions, covert operations, assassinations and open acts of war,” he noted.

“Washington has no right to impose any conditions on Iran. There are no Iranian warships off the coast of the United States, no Iranian military bases in North America. Iran has not assassinated US generals or scientists or shot down US civilian airliners. Iran is not trying to strangle the US economy. Iran is not denying people in the United States access to medicine and health care in the midst of a pandemic. Rather the US government itself is doing that to people here because its priority is waging endless wars around the world,” he said.

“Iran has a right to sell its oil and gas. Iran has a right to trade with other nations and to develop its economy. Iran also has a right to defend itself and to help its neighbors defend themselves against terrorist attacks and against the illegal attacks by the US-armed Israeli state,” he said.

“The Biden administration is walking a tightrope between competing corporate interests. On one hand, there are US companies, like Boeing, and West European allies that would like access to Iran’s market. On the other, there are US energy interests that want to regain a stranglehold on the world’s oil and gas supply.  And bankers who want to keep Wall Street and the dollar at the center of the world economy. And arms companies that profit off endless war. The US war machine has murdered millions in pursuit of their twisted dreams,” he noted.

“So on one hand we see the new administration talk about de-escalating the monstrous war in Yemen and possibly rejoining the JCPOA. On the other, we see it demanding new conditions. We see it keeping troops in Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia. We see Israel bombing Syria and openly threatening to attack Iran. That would not be possible without the endless flow of US arms and dollars to the racist settler state,” he said.

“It is time for all this to end. In his foreign policy talk last Thursday, Biden said “every action we take abroad, we must take with the interest of American working families in mind.” Well, you can’t do that and serve the war profiteers and oil companies too. If the new regime in Washington is serious in that goal, it needs to lift all sanctions against Iran and other oppressed countries without conditions, get all its troops, war fleets, war plans and spies out of the region, stop exporting weapons of war and stop arming and funding the racist state of Israel,” said the analyst.

“Sanctions are war. Sanctions are aggression. Sanctions are murder. Ayatollah Seyyid Ali is absolutely right to demand that the US unconditionally end its siege on Iran and end this long and unjust war,” he concluded.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/08/644829/Biden-administration-is-%E2%80%98walking-a-tightrope%E2%80%99-on-Iran:-Expert

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US warns al-Hol camp run by YPG to breed more terror

Michael Hernandez 

08.02.2021

WASHINGTON

The dire humanitarian conditions at a northern Syrian detention facility used to house families of Daesh/ISIS fighters are so dire they risk becoming fertile ground for the terror group's next generation, the US warned on Monday, referring to a facility run by the SDF, a group dominated by the terrorist YPG/PKK.

Addressing a Washington-based think tank virtually, Central Command head Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said the conditions at al-Hol are at a breaking point, with about 62,000 people being held there, most of them women and children, amid "difficult, even dangerous conditions."

McKenzie warned that in the short-term the overcrowding makes the camp's detainees extremely vulnerable to a public health crisis, cautioning that an outbreak of cholera or COVID-19 could lead to "a massive loss of human life."

Some two-thirds of the camp's residents are under the age of 18, with over half less than 12 years old, and McKenzie warned that remaining in al-Hol risks their "systemic indoctrination to ISIS’ ideology."

"This is an alarming development with potentially generational implications, and to be clear: there is no military solution to this problem," he said at a joint Central Command conference with the Middle East Institute think tank.

"Unless the international community finds a way to repatriate, reintegrate into home communities and support locally grown reconciliation programs we will bear witness to the indoctrination of the next generation of ISIS as these children become radicalized," he added.

The camp is run by the US' main partner in Syria, the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The YPG is the Syrian wing of the PKK, a designated terror group in the US and Turkey which has taken some 40,000 lives, including women and children, and support for the group has been a major strain on Turkish-US ties.

The US has long urged nations to repatriate their nationals who are currently in al-Hol, but little progress has been made due to staunch opposition to their return among several countries.

On the wider fight against Daesh/ISIS, McKenzie said the terror group's territorial defeat did not mean the end to the threat it poses, saying it has "gone to ground" while it maintains committed to waging an insurgency in Iraq and Syria.

"ISIS is a learning and adaptable extremist organization still committed to its murderous vision," he said, noting a twin suicide bombing in Baghdad in January claimed by Daesh/ISIS. "We will need to maintain constant vigilance to defend against the threat of ISIS."

Turning to Pakistan, McKenzie said the country will play a "key role" in Afghanistan's future as peace talks continue between the government and the Taliban.

He added that military to military communication between the two countries is going very well.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-warns-al-hol-camp-run-by-ypg-to-breed-more-terror/2137869

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Africa

 

Five die in Tunisia from drinking poisonous bootleg brew

08 February ,2021

Five people died and 25 others were hospitalized in Tunisia after drinking a bootleg brew reportedly containing alcohol intended for perfumes, health officials and local media said Monday.

Abdelghani Chaabani, director of health of the central town of Kasserine, told AFP that 30 people from the same district had been rushed to hospital on Saturday evening.

“Samples have been taken and are being analyzed to confirm the cause of death,” said Dr Chaabani, referring to a “mixture” of alcoholic substances.

Five of the victims later died, while two others remain on life support. Eleven others have since been able to leave hospital, Chaabani said.

Police have launched an investigation into the poisoning.

Such homemade alcoholic drinks are common in poor and isolated districts of Tunisia, being cheaper and more accessible than beer.

Last May, six people died and 33 others fell sick after consuming a methanol derivative in Tunisia’s central Kairouan region.

In Kasserine, a farming area bordering Algeria, a fifth of people are without work and a third live in poverty, according to government statistics.

Tunisia’s already dire economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and stringent measures to rein in the spread of the virus.

The country has registered over 7,000 Covid-19 deaths.

A decade on since the 2011 revolution, many Tunisians are angered at the economic situation, the pitiful state of public services and the inability of the political class to deliver change.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/north-africa/2021/02/08/Five-die-in-Tunisia-from-drinking-poisonous-bootleg-brew

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Morocco underground factory flood kills at least 24: Media

08 February ,2021

At least 24 people died after heavy rain caused a flood in an illegal underground textile workshop in a private house in Morocco, the state news agency reported Monday.

Rescue workers recovered 24 bodies from the Tangiers property and rescued 10 survivors who were taken to hospital, the MAP agency said citing local authorities. A search of the premises was continuing.

Local media outlets indicated at least some of the victims may have been electrocuted as the incoming water interfered with power facilities, but there was no immediate confirmation of those reports.

Morocco has experienced heavy rains in recent weeks, after a long period of drought.

In early January, the inclement weather caused several dilapidated buildings to collapse in Casablanca, the country's economic capital, causing at least four deaths, according to local media.

Poorly maintained drainage systems often exacerbate flooding in cities.

Fifty people died in floods in 2014 caused by heavy rains in the south of Morocco.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/north-africa/2021/02/08/Morocco-underground-factory-flood-kills-at-least-24-Media

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Sweden deploys military to battle extremists in Mali

February 05, 2021

PARIS: Swedish soldiers have deployed in a new European special forces mission fighting extremists in Mali, French military sources said on Friday.

“The first operations have been carried out,” French military spokesman Frederic Barbry said of the Swedes, adding that they would stay in Mali until the end of the month.

The Swedish parliament approved the deployment of up to 150 soldiers to the so-called Takuba task force in June last year, with reinforcements of up to 100 others. The mandate expires on December 31 2021.

Backed by three US-made Black Hawk helicopters and a medical unit, the Swedes are being stationed in the Liptako region, a volatile zone close to Mali’s border with Niger and Burkina Faso.

Several extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) reputedly operate in the area.

The Swedish army, questioned by AFP, confirmed that it “already has personnel in the sector.”

Their arrival is a boost for France, which has 5,100 troops stationed in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad as part of efforts to stabilize the arid and poverty-wracked region.

Paris has been urging its European partners to share this burden.

The Swedish contingent will be joining soldiers from Estonia and the Czech Republic in the French-led elite force, whose goal is to train Malian soldiers and operate alongide them.

The Swedes will play a support role for all of Takuba, which currently comprises a French-Estonian unit at Gao and a French-Czech unit at Menaka, Col. Barbry said.

Sweden already contributes to a 13,000-strong UN peacekeeper force which has been deployed in Mali since July 2013 after extremists seized much of the north of the country the previous year.

Takuba is the latest international initiative for the Sahel pushed by France, following efforts to create a regional force composed of African soldiers known as the G5 Sahel.

The G5 Sahel has been dogged by funding and training problems and its top commander has expressed concern recently about the prospect of France reducing its footprint, which would affect the force’s logistics and airpower capabilities.

Fellow European powers Britain and Germany have both sent troops to take part in the UN’s MINUSMA peace-keeping force.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1804381/world

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Algeria seeks French admission of colonial crimes

Abderrazak Boulkemh 

08.02.2021

ALGIERS

France's escape from acknowledging its colonial crimes will not last long, the Algerian government said Monday.

“France's escape from recognizing its colonial crimes in Algeria cannot last long. A criminal usually does everything possible to avoid admitting his crimes,” Information Minister Ammar Belhimer said in a statement released by state-run daily El-Massa.

The minister also stressed that work and communication between Algeria and France will continue for more achievements, the most important of which is the moral achievement, which is the recognition of France's colonial crimes.

Belhimer's remarks were the first official reaction two weeks after France issued a report on colonization of Algeria from 1830 to 1962, which sparked widespread criticism in Algeria for ignoring “colonial crimes”.

On Jan. 20, French historian Benjamin Stora delivered a report on the colonial era of Algeria to French President Emmanuel Macron. The French media quoted the Elysee Palace as saying: “The report does not mean taking a step towards an apology to Algeria.”

The Algerian authorities and historians say this period witnessed murders of nearly 5 million people, as well as campaigns of displacement and plundering of wealth, as well as theft of thousands of documents and artifacts, some of them dating back to the Ottoman era (1515-1830).

French officials reiterated on several occasions the necessity of turning a new page in relations, but Algeria repeatedly demanded official recognition from Paris of the colonial crimes.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/algeria-seeks-french-admission-of-colonial-crimes/2137937

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Somalia: 4 peacekeepers injured as helicopter crashes

Mohammed Dhaysane

08.02.2021

MOGADISHU, Somalia

Four soldiers serving under the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) were wounded when their helicopter crashed in Somalia's lower Shabelle region, the mission said Monday.

The incident took place at a US military base at Balidogle airfield in lower Shabelle region, located 96 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

“A helicopter on a mission to support AMISOM troops crashed soon after take-off in Balidogle in the lower Shabelle region of Somalia on Friday. All four soldiers aboard the helicopter were rescued and are in a stable condition,” said a statement by the peacekeeping mission in the Horn of Africa country.

Lt. Col. Daniel Mugoro, a spokesman for the mission, told Anadolu Agency by phone an initial report suggested the helicopter crashed due to a mechanical fault, adding further investigation was underway.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/somalia-4-peacekeepers-injured-as-helicopter-crashes/2137715

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India

 

‘Muslim man can marry more than once without divorcing earlier wife, same does not apply to Muslim lady’

by Jagpreet Singh Sandhu

February 9, 2021

Holding the protection plea of a Muslim couple as not maintainable, the Punjab and Haryana High Court said, “A Muslim man may get married more than once without divorcing his earlier wife, but the same does not apply to a Muslim lady.”

The bench of Justice Alka Sarin, was hearing the plea of a Muslim couple, who had approached the high court seeking protection to their life and liberty.

The couple in the plea had stated that they are Muslims and adults. The plea said both petitioners have been in love with each other since many years and have performed nikah on January 19, 2021, as per nikahnama. However, the woman’s relatives are against the relationship. It was also submitted that this is the second marriage for both petitioners, who were earlier “forcefully married” (to different people), and the woman had filed a case against her earlier in-laws.

On a query put to the counsel regarding the couple’s marital status, it was stated that being Muslim, the petitioners can both contract a second marriage, and thus seek protection of life and liberty.

Justice Sarin after hearing the matter held, “Petitioner no.1 is a Muslim lady and who admittedly was married earlier. No details are forthcoming about when she was married earlier and to whom. Further, there is no averment as to whether she divorced her first husband either under the Muslim Personal Law or under the provisions of the Muslim Marriages Act, 1939. There is also no averment that her first marriage stands dissolved and thus her first marriage subsists in the eyes of law. The learned counsel has also not been able to show as to how this court can provide protection to the petitioners as a couple when petitioner no.1 has not legally divorced her earlier spouse. The petitioners have got married without petitioner no.1 obtaining a legally valid divorce from her first husband.”

“A Muslim man may get married more than once without divorcing his earlier wife, but the same does not apply to a Muslim lady. A Muslim lady has to divorce her first husband, either under the Muslim Personal Law or under the provisions of the Muslim Marriages Act, 1939, before contracting a second marriage. In fact, the alleged marriage itself between petitioner no.1 and petitioner no.2 would be illegal in as much as this marriage has been contracted without the petitioner no.1 being legally divorced,” held Justice Sarin.

The HC thus stated that the petitioners have approached this court for protection of their life and liberty to live as a couple, which cannot be considered in the facts and circumstances of the present case. However, as individuals, either of the petitioners, if they apprehend any threat to their life or liberty, would be entitled to approach the police for redressal of their apprehensions regarding threats to their life and liberty.

https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/muslim-man-marry-more-once-without-divorcing-earlier-wife-same-not-apply-muslim-lady-7180648/

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MP minister bats for love jihad legislation in Bengal

Feb 9, 2021

Kolkata/Bankura: If it comes to office, the Bengal BJP government will be requested to bring a law to prevent “love jihad” on the lines of the legislation put forward by the Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh governments. Madhya Pradesh’s home minister Narottam Mishra, who had earlier advocated laws to prevent religious conversion for marriage, on Monday said he would personally request the government in Bengal to implement that.

Mishra, addressing mediapersons in Bankura on Monday, said: “If BJP forms a government here, then I will personally request the chief minister to implement a law against love jihad in Bengal.”

In January this year, governor Anandiben Patel approved the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2020 making religious conversion for marriage a non-bailable offence.

Mishra, who had earlier said Bengal too needs a freedom of religion bill, said: “It has been implemented in MP and UP. I have said it earlier and I want to reiterate that.”

Bengal BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said they will ponder over it at the right time. “Love jihad has been coined by a Communist. We don’t have anything specific on the issue right now, we will cross the bridge when it comes,” he said.

“It is an issue that is troubling society. We have to see how to tackle it — whether through legislation or by any other means,” said Bengal BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu, adding, “There is no denying the fact the love jihad is a cause for serious concern in Bengal, especially in districts like South 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, Malda and parts of Nadia. The problem is even more grave here than in Uttar Pradesh.”

Trinamool Congress reacted sharply. “Mishra could get away with such a statement just because it is a democratic state and we believe in freedom of speech. How can any party determine what a person should eat or wear? No party can have a say in whom a person wants to marry. It seems BJP is strategically spreading a divide before polls to create tension and polarize people,” said TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh.

Kalidas Mukhopadhyay, Bankura district president of TMC, said Mishra should better focus on the law-and-order in his own state. “People are better in Bengal under CM Mamata Banerjee,” he said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/mp-minister-bats-for-love-jihad-legislation-in-bengal/articleshow/80757241.cms

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Allahabad HC Dismisses Plea Claiming Ownership of Land Allotted For Ayodhya Mosque

February 9, 2021

Lucknow: The Allahabad high court on Monday dismissed a petition filed against the allotment of land in Ayodhya’s Dhannipur village for the construction of a mosque, following the Supreme Court verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute.

Two Delhi-based sisters had moved the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court on February 3, 2021 claiming ownership of the five-acre land allotted to the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board for the mosque.

Appearing for the state, additional advocate general Ramesh Kumar Singh had opposed the plea, saying the plot numbers allotted for the mosque are different from those the petition is filed about.

On Monday, justices D.K. Upadhyay and Manish Kumar dismissed the plea after the petitioners’ lawyer, H.G.S. Parihar, sought to withdraw it. The bench also expressed concerns to Parihar about filing the petition in a cursory manner without ascertaining the facts.

Rani Kapoor, alias Rani Baluja, and Rama Rani Punjabi had said in the writ petition that their father Gyan Chandra Punjabi had come to India during partition in 1947 from Punjab and settled in Faizabad (now Ayodhya) district.

They claimed that their father was allotted 28-acre land in Dhannipur village by the Nazul Department for five years, which he continued to possess beyond that period. Later, his name was included in the revenue records, the petitioners had said.

However, his name was struck down from the records against which their father filed an appeal before the additional commissioner, Ayodhya, which was allowed, they claimed.

The petitioners further claimed that the consolidation officer again removed their father’s name from the records during consolidation proceedings.

Against the order of the consolidation officer, an appeal was preferred before the settlement officer of consolidation, Sadar, Ayodhya, but without considering the said petition, the authorities allotted five-acre of their 28-acre land to the Waqf Board for the construction of a mosque, they said.

The petitioners demanded that the authorities be restrained from transferring the land to the Sunni Waqf Board till the pendency of dispute before the settlement officer.

The state government has allotted five-acre land to the Sunni Waqf Board in Dhannipur village for construction of a mosque in compliance with the Supreme Court direction in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri mosque title suit.

https://thewire.in/law/allahabad-hc-dismisses-plea-claiming-ownership-of-land-allotted-for-ayodhya-mosque

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Kerala woman arrested for killing her six-year-old son as a ‘sacrifice to Allah’

February 9, 2021

A woman in Kerala’s Palakkad district on Sunday confessed to the police that she murdered her six-year-old son as a “sacrifice to Allah”, The News Minute reported. Officials said the accused identified as Shahida has been arrested, according to NDTV.

The emergency control room in Palakkad received a call from Shahida between 3 am and 4 am on Sunday, narrating the incident. When police officials reached her house, she was waiting for them at the gate. Officials said they found her son in the bathroom with his throat slit. Her husband Sulaiman and two other children were sleeping in the adjacent room and discovered the murder only after the police reached the house, reports said.

According to the first information report filed at the Palakkad South station, Shahida informed the police that she murdered her child as a “sacrifice to Allah” in order to please him. She has been booked under Section 302 (punishment for murder) of the Indian Penal Code and investigation in the case is underway.

“What is mentioned in the FIR is what the mother told the police control room,” Palakkad Superintendent of Police Viswanadh R told The News Minute. “Only after a thorough investigation can we conclude whether that was indeed the reason or whether there are other reasons.”

Shahida, who is pregnant with her fourth child, was a teacher at a nearby madrasa. Police officials at the crime scene told The News Minute that she suffered an injury on her hand. They said the inquiry in the matter would proceed without any preconceived notions.

Last month, a couple in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor district murdered their daughters, believing that both of them can be revived in a few hours due to spiritual powers. The women’s parents, Valleru Purushottam Naidu and Padmaja, are both highly-educated.

https://scroll.in/latest/986272/kerala-woman-arrested-for-killing-her-six-year-old-son-as-a-sacrifice-to-allah

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I feel proud to be a Hindustani Muslim, says Ghulam Nabi Azad as he retires from Rajya Sabha

Feb 9, 2021

NEW DELHI: The outgoing leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad on Tuesday said that he counts himself among those fortunate people who did not go to Pakistan and are proud to be a Hindustani Muslim.

"I have always felt that heaven is India. I was born after Independence. I am among those fortunate people who never went to Pakistan. When I read about circumstances in Pakistan, I feel proud to be a Hindustani Muslim," said the veteran Congress leader while delivering his farewell speech.

Recalling the terror attack that took place in Jammu & Kashmir during his chief ministership, Azad said, "I pray to God that militancy and terrorism end in this country."

The outgoing RS member whose term is coming to an end next week said that contrary to Muslim societies across the world which are infested with infighting, Indian Muslims have lived together and should continue to do so.

Azad started his farewell speech in the Upper House thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his colleagues in the Rajya Sabha for their appreciation and applause to his work.

"I have learned a lot from this Parliament. I was initiated as the party's general secretary during Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi's tenure," said Azad.

"I cannot forget how Indira ji used to tell us that she communicates with Atal ji and not the BJP," said Azad adding that the late former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee also became an inspiration for him.

"Later I learned from Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji how to be the leader of the opposition. He made it look easy," said Azad amidst applause from the RS.

"In my time as the leader of the opposition, I have tried to raise the issues of education, infrastructure and policies. I request my colleagues to debate on some days and then discuss on some days and ensure that laws are not stalled forever," he said.

Azad retires from Rajya Sabha on February 15 after being the leader of the opposition for over six years since June 8, 2014.

Rajya Sabha bids farewell to Azad

Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke down several times in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday while reminiscing about his close association with Azad.

Modi said the person who will replace Azad will have a tough task to match his contributions. "Azad is concerned about his party but more about the House and the country," he said.

Earlier, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu described Azad as a voice of sanity in public life over a few decades when he made valuable contributions while serving both in government and in opposition.

Naidu said Azad's retirement is particularly painful with the House having lost Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar said that Azad was the most experienced leader of the country and handled so many ministries. He also said that Azad raised the profile of the leader of the opposition in the House.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/i-feel-proud-to-be-a-hindustani-muslim-says-ghulam-nabi-azad-as-he-retires-from-rajya-sabha/articleshow/80764230.cms

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PM Narendra Modi to hold talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Shehtoot dam on agenda

Feb 9, 2021

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to discuss an agreement on the Shehtoot dam in India-Afghanistan summit-level talks to be held on Tuesday with the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, sources said.

Shehtoot dam will provide clean drinking water to two million citizens of Kabul and will also be used for irrigation.

The Shehtoot dam is to be constructed on the Kabul river basin, one of the five river basins of Afghanistan. Along with the Shehtoot dam, India has pledged to rebuild Afghanistan committing $80 million worth of projects. Around 150 projects have been announced by India in the conflict-ridden country.

Earlier in November 2020, Union minister for external affairs S Jaishankar had announced at the Geneva Donors Conference that India will be constructing the Shahtoot Dam on the Kabul river in Afghanistan and that the governments of the two nations have recently concluded an agreement for the same.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pm-narendra-modi-to-hold-talks-with-afghan-president-ashraf-ghani-shehtoot-dam-on-agenda/articleshow/80759347.cms

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As India-made vaccines arrive, Afghanistan vows to keep jabs safe from terrorists

Feb 9, 2021

NEW DELHI: As the India-made vaccines landed in Afghanistan on Sunday, Vice President of Afghanistan Amrullah Saleh tweeted: “thanks & gratitude to India for this timely assistance. Now it is our mission to keep the vaccination safe from Quetta Shura's suicide bombers, IED planters, ambushers & ill wishers.”

Saleh’s comments came a day after Afghan NSA Hamdullah Mohib declared Taliban to be the main hurdle for peace as a fresh wave of killings struck the country, even as peace talks remained stalled.

A new report by the UN Security Council’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team this week stated that contrary to expectations or even promises by the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Taliban remain very close in Afghanistan.

A matter of interest for India is the information that a former mid-level commander of the Haqqani Network, Shahab al-Muhajir, aka Sanaullah was in June 2020 appointed chief of the Al-Sadiq office of ISIL, which covers the “Khorasan” region, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Central Asian States. However, the report observes that following “setbacks” ISIL-K has suffered from “degraded combat capability, reduced support on the ground and insufficient funding.” It says that without “stable” support, the prospects of ISIL-K reviving its former offensive activity and holding territory appear “remote”.

But the Taliban and Al Qaeda remain joined at the hip, since Al Qaeda leaders are given “shelter and protection” by the Taliban. The killing of several Al-Qaida commanders in Taliban-controlled territory underscores how close the two groups are.

This is a significant challenge not only for India and Afghanistan but the US as well. The new Biden administration is currently weighing the merits of a complete troop pullout from Afghanistan by May 1. But the recent spate of violence, and the knowledge that the Taliban haven’t actually abided by their promises in the peace agreement will complicate the decision. In addition, several experts have pointed out that Afghanistan could descend into civil war once the US leaves. In fact, the UNSC report says that the stronger Taliban is, the stronger Al Qaeda would be. “Al-Qaida assesses that its future in Afghanistan depends upon its close ties to the Taliban, as well as the success of Taliban military operations in the country.”

An Afghanistan Study Group, a bipartisan group of experts has recommended that the US slow down its withdrawal while pushing for the realisation of the peace agreement in that country. In the midst of an Afghanistan policy review by the Biden administration, the report said, "withdrawing US troops irresponsibly would likely lead to a new civil war in Afghanistan, inviting the reconstitution of anti-US terrorist groups that could threaten our homeland and providing them with a narrative of victory against the world's most powerful country."

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/as-india-made-vaccines-arrive-afghanistan-vows-to-keep-jabs-safe-from-terrorists/articleshow/80757688.cms

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Southeast Asia

 

Two Christians publicly flogged in Indonesia for drinking, gambling

08 Feb 2021

BANDA ACEH, Feb 8 — Two Christian men were publicly flogged today in Indonesia’s ultra-conservative Aceh province for drinking alcohol and gambling, in a rare instance of non-Muslims facing a punishment frequently condemned by rights groups.

The caning comes less than two weeks after a male couple were flogged nearly 80 times each for having gay sex, which is outlawed under local Islamic law.

Today, the two accused received 40 lashes each from a masked sharia officer who beat their backs with a stick.

One of them, identified only as JF, said he chose flogging to avoid a criminal prosecution that could have seen him jailed up to six months.

“The Sharia police gave us options and we consciously decided to comply with the Islamic criminal code. No one forced me to choose it,” he told AFP.

Aceh is the only province in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country that imposes Islamic law.

Non-Muslims who have committed an offence that violates both national and religious laws can choose to be prosecuted under either system.

Flogging of non-Muslims is rare, however, with only a handful subjected to the punishment in recent years for crimes including gambling and selling alcohol.

The two Christians were among seven people publicly flogged in the province today.

The five others were Muslims who were whipped for adultery and drinking alcohol—both violations of religious law.

Human rights groups have slammed public caning as cruel, and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has called for it to end. — AFP

https://www.malaymail.com/news/world/2021/02/08/two-christians-publicly-flogged-in-indonesia-for-drinking-gambling/1948070

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Singapore deports Malaysian arrested under ISA for supporting Islamic State; Singaporean wife given restriction order

Tuesday, 09 Feb 2021

INGAPORE, Feb 9 — A 33-year-old man who worked as a cleaner in Singapore was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in July last year for supporting the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis).

Mohd Firdaus Kamal Intdzam, a Malaysian, also radicalised his wife, a Singaporean housewife and part-time religious teacher, so much so that she was willing to accompany him to Syria and planned to bring her two children along.

Ruqayyah Ramli, 34, was given a two-year restriction order — which curtails her movement and activities — under the ISA in August last year, the Internal Security Department said in a statement today.

Firdaus, who was repatriated to Malaysia in August last year after the ISD completed its investigations, believed that armed jihad was compulsory for able-bodied Muslim men. He therefore harboured the intention to travel to Syria with his family to fight alongside Isis.

“He aspired to die as a martyr in the battlefield, so as to receive divine rewards. He was also willing to carry out attacks against countries that he deemed to be oppressing Muslims, or which he perceived to be munafiq (hypocrite) for aligning themselves with the West,” ISD said.

Firdaus’ path to radicalisation began in 2016, when he turned to the internet to deepen his religious knowledge and encountered Isis propaganda. Through sustained exposure to such material, Firdaus was convinced by early 2018 that Isis was fighting for Islam and that its use of violence to create an Islamic caliphate was justified. He also regarded Isis’ leader and self-declared “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is now dead, as the true Islamic ruler.

ISD said he actively posted materials promoting Isis and armed jihad on social media. He also created an Isis flag in March last year, which he hung at home, to show his loyalty towards the group.

Investigations, however, did not reveal any indication that Firdaus had made specific plans to carry out attacks or acts of violence in Singapore.

ISD, in its investigations into Firdaus, worked closely with the Malaysian Special Branch, the intelligence agency of the Royal Malaysian Police. His Singapore work pass was cancelled, and he was deported to Malaysia and handed over to the branch in August last year.

Firdaus and Ruqayyah married in December 2018, and Firdaus began to influence Ruqayyah with his pro-Isis views. While Ruqayyah initially had doubts, she began to believe that Isis’ use of violence against perceived oppressors of Islam, including non-Muslims and Shi’ites, was justified.

Ruqayyah also supported Firdaus’ intentions to join Isis and take up arms in Syria.

“She believed that her role in the conflict zone would be to take care of the family through cooking and housework, and to assist other wounded Isis fighters,” ISD said.

Investigations into Ruqayyah did not turn up any indication that she had tried to spread her pro-Isis views to others. Her accreditation under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme, obtained in September 2017, has been suspended. She is also barred from teaching religious classes as part of the conditions of her restriction order.

She is undergoing religious counselling to steer her away from her radical path, ISD said. — TODAY

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2021/02/09/singapore-deports-malaysian-arrested-under-isa-for-supporting-isis-singapor/1948289

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Peer pressure makes tudungs the norm in schools

Jason Thomas

February 9, 202

PETALING JAYA: Schools in Malaysia have been prohibited from compelling students to wear the tudung for nearly three decades, but social pressure has made them wear it anyway.

Indonesia last week banned public schools from prescribing religious attire to its students in reaction to a public outcry after a school in the West Sumatran city of Padang made it mandatory for all female students, including non-Muslims, to wear the Muslim headscarf.

In Malaysia, the education ministry has had a no-coercion policy at least since 1992. Realities on the ground, however, do not reflect that.

Malaysian filmmaker Norhayati Kaprawi, whose 2011 documentary “Aku Siapa?” explored reasons why Muslim women and girls wear the tudung, told FMT those she interviewed for the film said they were pressured into wearing it or humiliated for not wearing it.

“This happens in schools, too,” she said.

“There are schools which create their own rules and regulations. The ministry does not take any action unless a parent lodges a complaint.”

A circular from education ministry director-general Asiah Abu Samah to state education department directors dated March 14, 1992 said the ministry “strictly prohibits” any pressure on female students to wear a tudung or telekung in school.

In 2012, deputy education minister Puad Zarkashi was quoted as reminding school principals they could “only encourage” female Muslim students to wear the headscarf.

“They can’t force female Muslim students to wear tudung,” he said in a press interview.

Speaking to FMT, Parent Action Group for Education honorary secretary Tunku Munawirah Putra said some girls were still subject to shaming from classmates or teachers for not donning the scarf in school.

Some had changed schools as a result, she said.

“It’s really not about the law. It’s more about stopping the ridicule and mental torment of those who face compulsion.

“I know of a friend’s daughter who refused to blend in and was subjected to torment by teachers. It’s too hard to fight this and easier to just leave,” she said.

Tunku Munawirah also told of a friend’s daughter whom a teacher stopped from attending a class because she did not wear a tudung.

The family has since moved to Canada.

Suhakam commissioner Madeline Berma said the issue affected more than just public school students.

Peer pressure and social expectations had also cemented the practice among older Muslim women in public universities, she said.

Berma is a former associate professor at a public university.

Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, Indonesia’s religious minister, has said fundamental liberties should not be compromised when addressing the issue. Reuters quoted him as saying that “there are no reasons” to infringe upon others’ freedom in the name of religious expression.

Norhayati said the dress code for Muslims in Malaysia was now increasingly based on standards set by conservative Muslims’ understanding of morality, adding that it was a “problem” for all Malaysians that this group had been able to impose its own understanding of the religion onto others.

She pointed to reports of non-Muslims being reprimanded, or not being allowed to enter certain government buildings, because of the way they dress.

Just as alarming for the filmmaker is her observation that many Muslim women and girls feel their faith being questioned if they do not wear the tudung in public.

“The issue of tudung is actually an issue of jurisprudence, but yet they make it an issue of faith,” she said.

“On issues of corruption and abuse of power, they somehow don’t find it reaching that level. But on the issue of tudung, suddenly it’s ‘either you are Muslim or not’.”

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2021/02/09/peer-pressure-makes-tudungs-the-norm-in-schools/?__cf_chl_jschl_tk__=3e0895edb2b27a1a9aac853dda19cc78d587e862-1612864452-0-AWt7IJ0nix8QodEVB3Kt5Y-cpljSOfZ62RDrs4sjwu_39jwJiFSJe39QitQ9AEVV37yasrA6RId-UrSXL1LPLfk5bKYulSBvUUqFN1gnsFCFX4TYFctI7UPdyWTdCLWniyTmxsinyyWcIK0Y_2YFQCl3uPuH6NkRjupNoq9N1EiTstEZBv1eVmlyklA-zto91Q1HEmNjf6BWuhxDZ5ZD-LSFd2DScWyoAcquEd3bbXuo0ICBn-5qaKEAZIaGjmECEQF4AlxbjQeuo30z-oN4G9_c5tvN5miDHCAknCh2T-QGFIKYi41YMQ1yA2TYICuqbn2kVreNwKlzG99u0_Bziu_eHX73-jv7wqkUzQZJwCtYy_ng5aIQdwDKfn8MUi9hfLwb6V0FcSxuxpXRFpfCMGDZQwxJ71-wkNCU4_Mhz9OLRfNrRfYtUaMsEg0gLaqnB3QYY2L8tnad0WfJ0pakTac

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