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Islamic World News ( 21 Aug 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Islamic State Terrorist - Abu Yusuf, arrested in Delhi, 15 Kg IED Seized, Had Prominent Personality as Target


New Age Islam News Bureau

22 August 2020

  

Bomb squad at the spot in Dhaula Kuan of Delhi from where the Islamic State terrorist was nabbed. (India Today)

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• Himachal Pradesh: Head of Chamba’s Muslim Family Is A Key to The Minjar Festival Which Begins with The Worship of Hindu Deities

• Turkey’s Cultural Wars at Full Gallop with Reconversion of Historic Church

• Female Students in Badakhshan Could Not Attend University Entrance Test Due To Taliban Threats

• U.S Looking Forward to Saudi Arabia And Israel Ties

• Saudi Arabia’s Price for Ties with Israel Is Palestinian State: Prince Turki

• In Race to Avoid FATF Blacklist, Pak Sanctions Over 80 Terrorists from Daesh, Al-Qaida, And Taliban

 

India

• Islamic State Terrorist, Abu Yusuf, arrested in Delhi, 15 Kg IED Seized, Had Prominent Personality as Target

• Himachal Pradesh: Head of Chamba’s Muslim Family Is A Key to The Minjar Festival Which Begins with The Worship of Hindu Deities

• Delhi Riots: Members of WhatsApp Group Created to Avenge Muslims Lost Individuality, Says Court

• Muharram: Online ‘Majlis’ At 7 Imambaras Allowed In Lucknow

• Babri Mosque Demolition Case: CBI Submits Written Arguments in Court

• UP Court Grants Bail to Two Tablighi Jamaat Members Who Hid in A Mosque After Delhi Meet

• BSF shoots down 5 intruders at India-Pakistan border in Punjab’s Tarn Taran

• UN needs to enhance sustained action against states sponsoring terror: TS Tirumurti

• Encounter breaks out between security forces, militants in J&K's Baramulla

• Terrorists release video of Baramulla attack

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Mideast

• Turkey’s Cultural Wars at Full Gallop with Reconversion of Historic Church

• Turkey Slams Greece Over Statement on The Conversion Of The Chora Museum To Mosque

• Deputy FM: Washington’s UNSC Move Legally Void

• FM Zarif, UN Chief Discuss Yemen, US' Snapback Claims over Phone

• US sanctions former head of Iran’s notorious Evin prison, 13 other Iranians

• Israel deal boosts Jordan’s security, closes ‘gate on annexation’: UAE Ambassador

• Turkey announces discovery of large natural gas reserve in Black Sea

• Iran responsible for Houthi attacks targeting Saudi Arabia: Speaker of Arab Parliament

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South Asia

• Female Students In Badakhshan Could Not Attend University Entrance Test Due To Taliban Threats

• Compliance with UN Curbs Against Afghan Taliban Ordered

• Bangladesh to Host Late-Stage Trial of China’s Sinovac COVID-19 Vaccine

• Fresh Afghan Violence Kills 34 Combatants, Civilians

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North America

• U.S Looking Forward to Saudi Arabia And Israel Ties

• Pompeo: US ready to block Russia, China from violating Iran sanctions

• Biden win won’t bring back US to great relations with Iran

• US imposes visa restrictions on 14 Iranians, including Evin Prison chief

• Syria constitution talks in Geneva an ‘important step’: UN envoy

• Trump Says U.S. Would Retaliate if Bounties on U.S. Troops Were True

• US says it will not seek death penalty against ISIS 'Beatles'

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Arab world

• Saudi Arabia’s Price for Ties with Israel Is Palestinian State: Prince Turki

• Several Arab Countries On Way To Relations With Israel: UAE Minister Gargash

• Lebanon Judge Issues New Arrest Warrants Over Beirut Explosion

• OIC condemns Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia

• US ‘outraged’ by assassinations of Iraqi activists

• Hezbollah will not give Israel, its sponsors opportunity to attack Lebanon: Top official

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Pakistan

• In Race to Avoid FATF Blacklist, Pak Sanctions Over 80 Terrorists from Daesh, Al-Qaida, And Taliban

• Xi Moots Idea of Community of Shared Future with Pakistan

• China, Pakistan Discuss Kashmir On Foreign Minister Level

• Pakistan, China vow to make CPEC hub of regional connectivity

• Courts will be moved to get Nawaz declared absconder: Rashid

• NAB summons Maulana Fazl’s brother for questioning

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Africa

• ‘Local Politics, Porous Borders Benefit Boko Haram’

• GCC states welcome Libya ceasefire agreement: WAM

• Nigerian army says 'in full control' of town where hostages taken

• Boko Haram Terrorists Overrun Military Base In Borno, Kill Five Soldiers, Injure Others

• Kenya: Crackdown on demo over 'theft' of COVID-19 funds

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Southeast Asia

• Child Sex Abuse Greatly Under-Reported in Malaysia, Claim Activists

• Umno President Confirms Muafakat Opening Doors To Bersatu

• 3 groups apply to be party in suit over vernacular schools

• Muhyiddin, Anwar, Najib cannot strengthen our sovereignty, says Dr M

• Malaysia to deport Bangladeshi migrant Rayhan Kabir

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New Zealand

• Christchurch Shooting: New Zealand Braces for Mosque Gunman's Sentencing

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Europe

• British-Australian Academic Being Held in Virus-Hit Iranian Jail ‘Without Enough Food, Water’

• Pope Francis calls Mozambique bishop after Islamist militants seize port city

• UN envoy expects no miracles but hopeful on Syria talks

• Sudanese man who drowned trying to reach UK named as Abdulfatah Hamdallah

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/islamic-state-terrorist-abu-yusuf/d/122693

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 Islamic State Terrorist, Abu Yusuf, arrested in Delhi, 15 Kg IED Seized, Had Prominent Personality as Target

Arvind Ojha

New Delhi, August 22, 2020

 

Bomb squad at the spot in Dhaula Kuan of Delhi from where the Islamic State terrorist was nabbed. (India Today)

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 An Islamic State terrorist has been arrested in Delhi after a brief exchange of fire in the heart of the city. Police also recovered IEDs and weapons from the arrested terrorist late on Friday night.

The Islamic State terrorist has been identified as Abu Yusuf, who had a prominent personality as his target in Delhi.

Around 15 kilograms of IED have been recovered from two pressure cookers during the arrest. A bomb disposal squad is at the spot in Dhaula Kuan to defuse the explosives.

Abu Yusuf was working with a few associates in Delhi who were helping him with logistical support. Police is now on the lookout for these associates. Abu Yusuf is a resident of Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh and police are also raiding his premises in the region.

A dog squad is also at spot to defuse the explosives.

Pramod Singh Kushwaha, Delhi Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), said, “One ISIS operative has been arrested with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) by our Special Cell after an exchange of fire at Dhaula Kuan.”

The firing took place between Karol Bagh and Dhaula Kuan area in New Delhi on Friday night.

Police sources have said the terror operative had a major attack planned in Delhi and had done recce of several places in the national capital.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/islamic-state-terrorist-arrested-in-delhi-ieds-seized-1713872-2020-08-22

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Himachal Pradesh: Head of Chamba’s Muslim Family Is A Key to The Minjar Festival Which Begins with The Worship of Hindu Deities

Aug 21, 2020

 

Head of Chamba's Mirza familyoffering first Minjar (golden tassel) to Hindu  deities to mark the beginning of international fame Munjar fair

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CHAMBA: Setting an example of communal harmony, tolerance, and coexistence, it’s the head of Chamba’s Mirza family that offers first Minjar (golden tassel) to Hindu deities to mark the beginning of international fame Minjar fair which is also called the king of all the fairs of Chamba , Himachal Pradesh.

Not only the head of Mirza family offers Minjar but all the family members collectively begins making Minjar at home at least two to three months ahead of the festival which is celebrated in the rainy season.

The weeklong celebration of Minjar culminated in the first week of August.

Head of Mirza family, a septuagenarian Aizaz Baig Mirza told TOI that Mirza family was divinely blessed to perform the sacred service which also exhibits a perfect blend of secular values and how the two communities draws closer not only culturally but also theologically during the present times.

During the inauguration of Minjar festival, Mirza accompanies other Hindu priests, local leaders and representatives of the district administration to first offer Minjar at Luxmi Narayan temple and then at the statue of Lord Raghunath in Pink Palace followed by other Hindu temples.

Explaining about Minjar, Aziz said that flower of maize, a staple diet of people of hills, or its shoot was called Minjar but nowadays it was also referred to the shoot of paddy. In earlier times, the people of Chamba would offer maize flower to the king Sahila Varman upon his return from war and with the passage of time offering Minjar flowers become a regular feature of celebrations.

About the history of Mirza family’s settlement in Chamba, he informed that in 17th century, the then king of Chamba Prithvi Singh had gone to Delhi on the invitation of Emperor Shahjahan where he participated in various events including horse racing, archery etc and stood victorious. Since the emperor had announced to fulfill any wish of the victorious person, so Prithvi Singh demanded to give Shaligram (idol of Lord Raghuvir), a shila (fossilized shell) believed to emit very high radiance and energy to bring positivity and tranquility to its worshippers which was also used as a weighing stone in the royal treasury of Shahjahan. “Since Shahjahan had announced to grant anything within his power, he, may be reluctantly, presented Shaligram to Prithvi Singh but commissioned my forefather Mirza Safi Baig , an an official of the royal court, to accompany Prithiv Singh’s caravan to Chamba", said Aizaz. The Shaligram was installed in the royal house as kuldevta of Chamba kings. With the passage of time, Prithvi Singh offered Mirza Safi Baig to settle in Chamba with his family which he accepted.

Aizaz informed that Shafi Baig knew zari and gota work also so he made a minjar using zari and offered to Prithvi Singh who was so much impressed that he announced that Shafi Baig would offer Minjar during the inauguration of Minjar fair to the Hindu deities and since then the head of Mirza family had been keeping up the tradition .

Aizaz’s son Anish Mirza Baig said that all the family members make the Minjar which were also sold in the market. “These Minjar ranges from Rs 10 to Rs 100 depending upon the thread used” said he adding that in earlier times the Minjar with gold thread was offered to the Hindu deities but now silk thread Minjar were offered. A stall named ‘Mirza Minjar’ was set up in the Chmaba ahead of the festival added he.

Stating that Ganga–Jamuni Tehzeeb (syncretic fusion of Hindu and Muslim cultural and religious elements) was still alive and offering of Minjar by head of a Muslim family was an glaring example of the same, Vinay Kumar Sharma, advisor , Brahmin Pratinidhi Sabha, Chamba said the Mirza family was a respected family in Chamba who were still continuing a tradition started centuries ago.

Jatinder Singh Varman, from the lineage of king Sahila Varman, founder of Chamba, informed that Minjar fair was a live example of Hindu Muslim friendship and unity and teaches us to respect the religious sentiments of people of other faith. There are many folksongs and legends related with Minjar fair and one the folk song eulogize king’s raid on Kabul and Kandhar (Afghanistan) and his participation in Minjar fair. Raja Sahila Varman had begun the Minjar fair , the folksong goes by

‘Raja tera desh Chamba Raviaan de Uaare ho,

Appu ta janda Sikandra di dhara,

Faujaan teri Kabul Kandhara,

Hathi Tere Jhulande chaugana,

‘Appu ta janda Minjaraan de mele,

Rani teri chamunda de dehre,

Faujaan teriaan sajjiaan chaugana

Raviaan de uaare ho..... Raja tera desh.................

(Your highness , your country is located on the banks of river Ravi, while you go to the expeditions in mountains of Sikandara, your army raids the Kabul and Kandhar (Afghanistan) and your elephants joyously stroll in Chogan (a green pasture in middle of Chamba town) , you participate in Minjar fair and your wife (queen) watch the fair from Chamunda temple and you army march in Chogan). eom

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/shimla/himachal-pradesh-head-of-chambas-muslim-family-is-a-key-to-the-minjar-festival-which-begins-with-the-worship-of-hindu-deities/articleshow/77673927.cms

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Turkey’s Cultural Wars at Full Gallop with Reconversion of Historic Church

MENEKSE TOKYAY

August 21, 2020

 

Turkey’s Cultural Wars at Full Gallop with Reconversion of Historic Church

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ANKARA: Just weeks after the first mass prayers were held in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul’s Church of St Savior in Chora (Kariye) Museum, another touristic hotspot, is to be opened for Muslim prayers, following a presidential decree that was published in the Official Gazette on Aug. 21.

Built as a monastery in the 6th century and turned into a church in Byzantine times in the 11th century, it became a mosque in the 16th century and was then converted into a museum in 1945.

However, this status was annulled last year when ownership of the building was transferred from the Education Ministry to the Directorate of Religious Affairs.

The country’s top administrative court, the Council of State, ruled that a mosque can only be used for its essential function and claimed that the earlier decision making the building a museum was unlawful.

So far, no date has been set for the first prayers, but the conversion has stirred widespread debate among Turkish nationals and international experts on heritage protection, drawing attention to the status of invaluable mosaics and frescoes that risk being covered up in the ancient building.

The Edirnekapi neighborhood of Istanbul, where the building is located, has 16 other mosques around Kariye Museum, sparking criticisms about the necessity of a move that further polarizes society.

Samim Akgonul, head of the Department of Turkish Studies at Strasbourg University, thinks that the transformation of former churches into mosques does not answer a need of Muslim prayer spaces in Turkey.

“These are symbolic and political actions and have nothing to do with religion. That is why the opening of Hagia Sophia as a mosque is somehow understandable,” he told Arab News.

Both Hagia Sophia and Chora Church are inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list as architectural masterpieces. Despite the restoration works in the building, Kariye Museum attracted about 100,000 tourists last year.

According to Akgonul, Hagia Sophia has always served as a demonstration of power.

“It demonstrated Byzantine Emperor Justinian’s power after the Nika revolt, Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II’s power after the conquest of Constantinople, the founder of Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s power after the foundation of the Republic and now Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s power after the transformation of the regime,” he said.

The status of Hagia Sophia has long been a matter of debate in the country to reach out to the conservative segments especially during election times.

However, Akgonul says that Kariye Museum is different, as it is a largely unknown church compared to Hagia Sophia.

“Its retransformation into a mosque was probably decided in December 2019 when the decision to change its museum status was taken but they waited until today so as not to provoke a reaction that could prevent Hagia Sophia’s transformation. If that is the case, we can say that it’s a deliberate action and not a coincidence,” he said.

He added: “It is a part of a strategic action to give pledges to the Islamic and nationalist electorate, saying: ‘We reconquer the city and the country after a pause.’ And, the sad thing is it works. Millions of people who never heard the name of Chora, and who will probably never go there, consider this as a reconquest. After Chora, there are very few places where one can see the Byzantine heritage in Turkey.”

UNESCO did not immediately react to the move.

Dr. Mine Yildirim, head of Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s Freedom of Belief Initiative in Turkey, thinks that a serious commitment to upholding freedom of religion or belief for all would require the authorities to take measures to reinstate places of worship such as synagogues, churches or dervish houses, that have lost their original function.

“We know that this is not happening, and there are many places under the guardianship of the General Directorate of Foundations that remain as museums, or are being used as libraries or other public buildings,” she told Arab News.

Yildirim also noted that although some churches and synagogues have been restored recently, their use by affiliated communities are subject to the permission of public authorities, and these buildings are not reinstated to their original function.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1722501/middle-east

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Female Students In Badakhshan Could Not Attend University Entrance Test Due To Taliban Threats

21 Aug 2020

 

Dozens of female students in Northern Badakhshan province were not given permission by the Taliban to attend the university entrance test.

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According to reports from the Northern Badakhshan province, dozens of female students in this province were not given permission by the Taliban to attend the university entrance test.

Local officials in Badakshan said that around 180 girls who have been graduated from school and intended to travel to another district for the university entrance test, the Taliban who controls the route did not permit them to join the exam.

Kambiz Qurbani, governor of Darwaz district appeared in a gathering where hundreds of female students and the elders from Maimai area of Darwaz came together to raise their voice against the Taliban not permitting girls to attend university entrance test.

“Due to Taliban threats and insecurity in the way to Shukai passing from Nusai where is controlled by the Taliban, dozens of female students are going to be deprived from higher education,” Kambiz Qurbani said.

“We request from the central government and President Ashraf Ghani to pay attention either in establishing an examination center in the Maimai area of Darwaz or to facilitate some helicopters for the female students to be transported from Maimai to Shukai for the entrance test,” Kambiz added.

This comes as the Taliban and an Afghan delegation are expected to meet soon in Doha to negotiate a power-sharing dealing and facilitating a national reconciliation in order to put an end to the prolonged war between the Afghan government and the Taliban group.

During the governance of Taliban, girls were not allowed to work or study outside their homes.

https://www.khaama.com/female-students-in-badakhshan-could-not-attend-university-entrance-test-due-to-taliban-threats-980987/

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U.S looking forward to Saudi Arabia and Israel ties

21 Aug 2020

The United States of America is looking for normalized diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel after the UAE signed an agreement with Israel.

Saudi Arabia says it will not follow UAE to establish diplomatic ties with Israel until it does not enter into a peace agreement with Palestinians.

“Peace must be achieved with the Palestinians” on the basis of international agreements as a pre-condition for any normalization of relations, Prince Faisal told reporters during a visit to Berlin on Wednesday.

The United States of America is working to broke between the Gulf states and Arabian countries to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

US President Donald Trump said he expected Saudi Arabia to join the agreement announced last week by Israel and the UAE to normalize diplomatic ties and forge a broad new relationship, Aljazeera reported.

“I do,” Trump replied on Wednesday when asked at a White House news conference if he expected Saudi Arabia to join.

UAE is the third country among the Arab nations to normalize ties after Egypt and Jordan.

This comes as some Islamic countries including Iran and Turkey have opposed the recent deal signed between the UAE and Israel.

https://www.khaama.com/the-u-s-looking-forward-to-saudi-arabia-and-israel-ties/

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Saudi Arabia’s price for ties with Israel is Palestinian state: Prince Turki

21 August 2020

Saudi Arabia’s price for normalizing relations with Israel is the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, said former Saudi Arabian ambassador to the US Prince Turki Al-Faisal on Friday.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced last week a historic agreement to normalize diplomatic ties, in exchange for Israel’s suspension of annexation of Palestinian lands.

The deal raised speculation that other US-backed Gulf Arab countries might follow. But Prince Turki said Saudi Arabia, the biggest Gulf Arab power which has traditionally guided policy towards Israel, expected a higher return from Israel.

“Any Arab state that is considering following the UAE should demand in return a price, and it should be an expensive price,” he wrote in the newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has set a price for concluding peace between Israel and the Arabs - it is the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as capital, as provided for by the initiative of the late King Abdullah.”

That 2002 Arab League plan offered Israel normalized ties in return for Israeli withdrawal from all territories - the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem - captured in the 1967 Middle East

war, and a Palestinian state there.

But Prince Turki also voiced understanding for the UAE’s decision, noting that Riyadh’s close ally had secured a key condition - a halt to Israeli annexation plans.

In the first Saudi reaction to the UAE-Israeli deal, Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan said on Wednesday Riyadh remained committed to the Arab peace initiative.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/21/Saudi-Arabia-s-price-for-ties-with-Israel-is-Palestinian-state-Prince-Turki.html

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In race to avoid FATF blacklist, Pak sanctions over 80 terrorists from Daesh, al-Qaida, and Taliban

Aug 21, 2020

ISLAMABAD: In a bid to avoid a demotion from the Financial Action Task Force's (FATF) grey list to the blacklist during the upcoming October plenary meeting, Pakistan on Friday imposed sanctions on more than 88 terrorists associated with different terrorist groups, including Daesh, al-Qaida, and Taliban, Pakistan media reported.

According to the details, the government has also seized the bank accounts and properties of the terrorists in the country. They have also been banned from traveling aboard, Ary News reported.

It is pertinent to mention here that the 88 terrorists were included in the terrorists' list issued by the United Nations a few days back.

In a statement, the Foreign Office had said: "The sanctions are being implemented by Pakistan in compliance with the relevant UNSC resolutions and we hope that other countries will also follow suit."

Earlier today, Prime Minister Imran Khan had chaired a meeting for reviewing the political, economic situation, and progress of the legislations related to the FATF action plan.

Pakistan is in the grey list since June 2018 and the government had been given a final warning in February to complete the remaining action points by June 2020. The FATF extended the June deadline to September due to the spread of coronavirus that disrupted the FATF plenary meetings.

Earlier this month, Pakistan submitted its initial draft report to the joint group of FATF, showing compliance of the remaining 13 points out of 27 action points pertaining to terror funding, ahead of the plenary meet scheduled for October, The News International reported on Tuesday.

Top official sources said that Pakistan would share its updated version of the progress report to the FATF review group in the first week of September. The first draft was sent to the FATF on August 6.

In July, Pakistan Financial Monitoring Unit director-general Lubna Farooq told the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance on Tuesday that the country is yet to comply with 13 conditions out of the 27-point Action Plan of the FATF including curbing terror financing, enforcement of the laws against the proscribed organizations and improving the legal systems.

The 13 conditions that remain unimplemented are related to curbing terror financing, enforcement of the laws against the proscribed organisations and improving the legal systems, Express Tribune reported.

Pakistan will have to demonstrate the effectiveness of sanctions including remedial actions to curb terrorist financing in the country; it will have to ensure improved effectiveness for terror financing of financial institutions with particular to banned outfits. It is yet to take action against illegal money or Value Transfer Services (MVTS) such as Hundi-Hawala.

Pakistan will have to place sanction regime against cash couriers. Pakistan will have to ensure logical conclusion from ongoing terror financing investigation of law enforcing agencies (LEAs) against banned outfits and proscribed persons. Pakistani authorities will have to ensure international cooperation based investigations and convictions against banned organisations and proscribed persons.

Seizure of properties of banned terror outfits and proscribed persons is another unfinished agenda. The conversion of madrassas to schools and health units into official formations is also needed to be demonstrated.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/in-race-to-avoid-fatf-blacklist-pak-sanctions-over-80-terrorists-from-daesh-al-qaida-and-taliban/articleshow/77680107.cms

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India

 

Delhi Riots: Members of WhatsApp Group Created to Avenge Muslims Lost Individuality, Says Court

Aug 21, 2020

NEW DELHI: Members of WhatsApp group created to avenge Muslims allegedly lost their individuality and started working with mob minds, said a Delhi court on Friday while taking cognisance of a chargesheet filed against nine persons in a case of alleged murder of a resident during the communal violence in north east Delhi in February. The court said some youths allegedly failed to perceive the "bottomless stupidity" of the propaganda to take revenge against the Muslims created the WhatsApp group 'Kattar Hindu Ekta'.

Chief metropolitan magistrate Purushottam Pathak took cognisance of the offences including rioting, unlawful assembly, murder and criminal conspiracy against nine persons in the alleged murder case of Hashim Ali.

The court directed all the accused -- Lokesh Kumar Solanki, Pankaj Sharma, Sumit Chaudhary, Ankit Chuadhary, Prince, Rishabh Chaudhary, Jatin Sharma, Vivek Panchal and Himanshu Thakur -- to be produced before it through video conferencing on August 28 for further hearing in the case.

"I am of the opinion that there is sufficient material on record to take cognisance of the offences alleged to have been committed by accused persons.

"I hereby take cognisance of the offence punishable under section 302 (murder), 144 (), 147 and 148 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 201 (destruction of evidence), 427 (mischief), 432 (mischief by causing inundation or obstruction to public drainage), 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance), 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code alleged to have been committed by accused ," the judge said in his order.

The court said from the statements of the witnesses and the charge sheet, it was prima facie revealed that there was a well hatched conspiracy amongst the accused persons.

"Same is also evident from the fact that in order to take revenge from Muslims some youths of that area who failed to perceive the bottomless stupidity of the propaganda, they as saviours of their community created a WhatsApp group. The groups members as discussed herein above lost their individuality and started working with mob mins.

"'Jai Sri Ram' and 'Har Har Mahadev' which are the sacred slogans and are attached to the victorious yelling, deadened their minds and paralysed their creative nature. They planned the manner of committing offence of rioting, murder and other offences and were instrumental for gathering of the unlawful assembly at Bhagirathi Vihar Nala Pulia on February 26 in conspiracy with each other having common intention and unlawful object," it said.

It added thereupon the mob allegedly turned rioters and in the process of rioting, they caused death of Ali by inflicting multiple injuries in a brutal manner and with a view to conceal the evidence all of them in furtherance of their common intention threw his dead body in the drain.

It said that it has been found that the common object of the unlawful assembly was not only to kill but also to destroy all evidence of that crime.

"Thus, all of those involved in the present case actively participated in connection with the carrying of the dead body or disposal of it by throwing it in the drain must have been actuated by the common object. There cannot be any doubt that the accused who killed Hashim Ali were certainly up to their neck in the conspiracy and were thus very active members of the unlawful assembly," the court said.

It, however, said in a case where a group of people conspired, thereafter assembled to take revenge and where the victims have been targeted on the basis of their religious identity, the relevant provisions of law attracting relevant offences should have been mentioned in the charge sheet.

"It is also clear that there were averments in respect of promoting enmity between different groups on the ground of religion and acting in a way that are prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony," it said in the order.

According to the chargesheet, the body of Ali was found on February 27 in a drain in the Gokulpuri area and injury marks were found on his face.

The chargesheet said all the accused persons were allegedly present at the spot on February 26 carrying stones, cudgel, sticks, swords and rion rods etc and were shouting slogans like 'Jai Sri Ram' and 'Har Har Mahadev'.

They were allegedly leading the mob and giving directions to their associates by calling each other by their names and were alleged to have been involved in killing of nine Muslims after checking their identity, police had said.

Public witnesses stated that a mob allegedly stopped two persons riding on the Apache Bike and after establishing their Muslim identity, they killed both the persons with stones, cudgel, sticks, swords and iron rods and thrown their bodies in the Nala (drain) along with the bike, the charge sheet said.

It said during the course of investigation, data of mobile phones of Sharma and Bhardwaj revealed that they were members of WhatsApp group namely "Kattar Hindu Ekta".

Further investigation of this group was carried out which revelaed that it was created on February 25 for allegedly taking revenge from Muslim community, the charge sheet said.

It further said they allegedly conspired to teach Muslims a lesson for attacking the Hindu's and equipped themselves with lathis, danda, sticks, swords and firearms and killed many innocent persons including Hashim Ali and his brother Aamir Khan.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/delhi-riots-members-of-whatsapp-group-created-to-avenge-muslims-lost-individuality-court/articleshow/77681966.cms

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Muharram: Online ‘Majlis’ At 7 Imambaras Allowed In Lucknow

Aug 22, 2020

Lucknow: After holding several rounds of talks, the district administration on Thursday night allowed the Shia community to hold 60-minute online ‘majlis’ (sermon narrating the tragedy of Karbala) at seven imambaras of the city.

The other concerns of the community and clerics regarding alleged pressure from police on small-time tazia-makers to not sell them and the absence of guidelines for ‘Ashura’, to be observed on August 30, remained unattended on Friday.

The order, signed by Lucknow police commissioner Sujeet Pandey, said the permission was only for 60-minute online majlis at seven imambaras which can be attended by a cleric and five other persons. Organisers will be held responsible if Covid-19 health and safety protocols are overlooked, it added.

The seven imambaras which have traditionally been holding sermons for several decades include Imambara Agha Baqar, Imambara Ghufranmaab, majlis at Shia College Nakkhas branch, Imambara Afzal Mahal, Imambara Nazim Sahab, Madrassa Nazmiya and Maqbara Saadat Ali Khan at Parivartan Chowk.

The order, based on the letter from additional chief secretary (home) Awanish Awasthi, said only the seven places of worship would hold online majlis and there should be no congregational programmes.

The permit categorically said there should be no communal statements and all rituals should be held within constitutional parameters.

This is not the first time that online majlis is being held in Lucknow. Till last year, along with physical congregation, the proceedings were streamed online for people who could not attend the meets due to various reasons.

The district administration has granted permission from the first of the Islamic month of Muharram (Friday) till the 10th of Muharram which is observed as Ashura.

Muharram is marked by mourning for Imam Husain (Prophet Muhammad’s grandson) and his 72 companions who were martyed at Karbala in 680 AD.

Clerics had earlier said since it was the month of mourning and not festivities, there should be special consideration on the part of district administration.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/muharram-online-majlis-at-7-imambaras-allowed-in-city/articleshow/77684637.cms

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Babri Mosque Demolition Case: CBI Submits Written Arguments in Court

21st August 2020

LUCKNOW: The CBI on Friday submitted its written arguments in connection with the Babri mosque demolition case in a special court here.

After taking it on record and supplying its copies to the counsel for the accused, special CBI judge S K Yadav asked the defense counsels to submit their written arguments in response to CBI's arguments by August 24.

The special CBI court will pronounce its judgment after submission of written arguments by defense counsels.

There are a total of 32 accused in the case including former deputy prime minister L K Advani, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh, BJP leaders M M Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiar and Sadhvi Ritambhara.

The special CBI court is trying its best to meet the August 31 deadline set by the Supreme Court to conclude the trial of the case.

The Babri mosque was demolished in December 1992 by 'kar sevaks' who claimed that it was built on the site of an ancient Ram temple in Ayodhya.

https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2020/aug/21/babri-mosque-demolition-case-cbi-submits-written-arguments-in-court-2186604.html

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UP Court Grants Bail to Two Tablighi Jamaat Members Who Hid in A Mosque After Delhi Meet

Jitendra Sarin |Edited by Abhinav Sahay

Aug 21, 2020

Two Tablighi Jamaat members, accused of hiding in a mosque in Uttar Pradesh’s Pryagraj from authorities and also of spreading the Covid-19 infection, have been granted bail by a local court on Friday.

Additional district judge Veerbhadra Singh allowed the bail applications of Ashraf from Kerala and Shahzan Ali from West Bengal after hearing their counsel.

A crackdown on Tablighi Jamaat members, who attended a mass religious gathering in Delhi earlier this year despite restrictions in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus, was carried out across the state and elsewhere in the country in March and April. Many of the attendees, who fanned out to different states, were found to be infected with the virus.

Earlier, on June 2, the local court here granted bail to Prof Mohammed Shahid, a suspended faculty member of the Allahabad University, and eight other Tablighi Jamaat members who are accused in the case.

Prof Shahid was arrested on April 21 on the charge of arranging a shelter for foreign and Indian Tablighi Jamaat members in the city and for not informing the police about their presence.

Shahid was a professor in the department of political science of Allahabad University. He had attended the Tablighi Jamaat meet in New Delhi along with many of the foreign members of the religious sect and had allegedly not disclosed this information to the police.

A first information report (FIR) was registered against Shahid and several others on April 1 under the Epidemic Diseases Act at Shivkuti police station of Prayagraj and he was arrested on April 21. Later, the university administration suspended him.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/up-court-grants-bail-to-two-tablighi-jamaat-members-who-hid-in-a-mosque-after-delhi-meet/story-W2AR4hC6NGAoEC4tzn2J5N.html

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BSF shoots down 5 intruders at India-Pakistan border in Punjab’s Tarn Taran

Aug 22, 2020

The Border Security Force (BSF) shot down five intruders, who were trying to cross over the Indian territory from Pakistan a village in Punjab’s Tarn Taran district, officials said on Saturday.

Personnel from BSF’s 103rd battalion have also recovered an AK-series rifle and a pistol from the site where these intruders were killed near Dal village of Bhikhiwind sub-division in the district, they added.

They observed suspicious movements across the fence on the other side of the border near the Dall border outpost around 5am. According to people familiar with the developments, two men at that point of time were trying to sneak into India.

They were challenged but continued their movement which prompted the troops to open fire. After the firing, a search operation was launched following which they found five dead bodies.

“The search operation is still going on. It is yet to be ascertained if those who were shot down are Pakistanis. An AK-series rifle and a rucksack have been recovered so far. We can tell about the motive of the accused once the operation is finished,” said a senior BSF official.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/bsf-shoots-down-5-intruders-at-india-pakistan-border-in-punjab-s-tarn-taran/story-UZWJ7bEZxuaG9CDv8hjuzL.html

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UN needs to enhance sustained action against states sponsoring terror: TS Tirumurti

Aug 22, 2020

UNITED NATIONS: Any country sponsoring terrorism should not be allowed to paint itself as a victim of terror, India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti has said, underlining that the global body must enhance sustained action against perpetrators and states that sponsor terror, especially cross-border terrorism, in a veiled reference to Pakistan.

The UN held a virtual commemoration of the 3rd International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism, a day established by the General Assembly to be marked annually on August 21 to honour and support the victims and survivors of terrorism and to promote and protect the full enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

"Let's not allow any State sponsoring terrorism paint itself as its victim. The UN needs to enhance sustained action against perpetrators of terror and against States sponsoring terror, especially cross-border terrorism," Tirumurti said in a tweet on Friday.

India's Permanent Mission to the UN tweeted that on this International Day, "we remember the victims of terror, and also remember that the perpetrators of terror continue to enjoy State patronage with impunity from across our border."

TS Trimurthy

Accompanying the Indian Mission's tweet was an over three-minute video on the devastating attacks carried out across India by Pakistan-based terrorist groups - the deadly 1993 Mumbai blasts, the 2001 Parliament attack, 2002 Akshardham Temple attack, 2008 Mumbai attacks, 2016 Uri attack and the 2019 Pulwama attack.

The video begins with the footage of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and has audio of the handlers from Pakistan providing instructions to the Lashkar-e- Taiba (LeT) terrorists carrying out the three-day attack on some of Mumbai's most prominent addresses, including the Taj Hotel.

The commemoration of the day included an interactive discussion with a panel of survivors of terror attacks and victims' associations on the impact of terrorism on their lives and how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the ability to honour and commemorate victims and survivors of terrorism.

Speaking at the virtual panel from India was Nidhi Chaphekar, survivor of the March 2016 bombing at Brussels airport and subway that killed 31 people and wounded 270. A photograph of Chaphekar, who was then a flight attendant with Jet Airways, had become one of the most haunting and impactful images of the terror attacks.

The photo showed Chaphekar sitting injured and anguished, her leg stretched across a bench at the Brussels airport, her bright yellow uniform ripped open, her hair turned grey with dust and soot from the blast.

"My name is Nidhi Chaphekar and I'm one of the survivors of the deadliest attack of terrorism that ever took place in the history of Belgium," she said at the panel.

Chaphekar said the blast had left her extensively injured and she is still bearing the consequences of it. "I fought between life and death," she said, adding that she was in an induced coma for 23 days.

Chaphekar said she sustained nearly 25 per cent burns, underwent dozens of surgeries, suffers from partial loss of hearing and still has multiple pieces of shrapnels in her body.

After the terror attack, Chaphekar said she felt dejected and thought it was the end of her life but slowly she learnt to fight her fears. "I stood more powerful, more courageous and more confident," she said, adding that she shares her story with other survivors to help them realise that they are not alone in this battle.

"By sharing our experiences, we are trying to encourage others to be more resilient, more powerful, more important," she said.

As people around the world fight against the coronavirus disease, she said, "I feel terrorism is a disease and it needs to be uprooted" and this is not only a responsibility of each country or the UN but it is a "moral responsibility" of each human being to contribute towards a peaceful world.

Underlining that everyone must acknowledge the lives of innocent people taken away during heinous terror attacks, she said, "We should rise, we should unite together against terrorism for the sake of humanity. Let's take the oath that our voices should be stronger and louder to unite humanity than the act of terrorism to divide us."

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the UN stands in solidarity with the families who have lost loved ones, the wounded survivors, and those whose lives have been forever changed by acts of terrorism.

"We commit to raising their voices and seeking truth and justice. We cannot undo the damage done, but we can defend their human rights and dignity. We have a duty to ensure they are always heard and never forgotten," he said.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, vital services for victims, such as criminal justice processes and psychological support, have been interrupted, delayed or ended while governments focus attention and resources on fighting the pandemic, he said.

Guterres stressed that victims should remind the international community every day of the importance of global counter-terrorism efforts.

"Let us put in place measures that uphold their rights to justice, protection, support and rehabilitation, so they can rebuild their lives. Let us do everything in our power to prevent terrorist attacks and demand that those responsible are held accountable."

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/un-needs-to-enhance-sustained-action-against-states-sponsoring-terror-ts-tirumurti/articleshow/77688187.cms

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Encounter breaks out between security forces, militants in J&K's Baramulla

Aug 22, 2020

SRINAGAR: An encounter broke out between security forces and militants in Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, police said.

Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Check-i-Saloosa area of Kreeri in north Kashmir's Baramulla district on Saturday morning after receiving specific information about the presence of militants there, a police officer said.

He said as the forces were conducting the searches in the area, militants fired upon them.

The security forces retaliated, ensuing an encounter, the officer said. The exchange of fire is going on and further details were awaited, he added.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/encounter-breaks-out-between-security-forces-militants-in-jks-baramulla/articleshow/77689323.cms

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Terrorists release video of Baramulla attack

Aug 21, 2020

SRINAGAR: A video of the August 18 terror attack at Kreeri in Baramulla district of J&K, showing terrorists firing on CRPF personnel during an ambush, has gone viral on social media since Thursday night. J&K Police was quick to term this an attempt to glamorize terrorism.

The attack on security forces at Kreeri had left two CRPF personnel and a policeman dead. Following the deadly attack, security forces targeted the terrorists and killed top Lashkar-e-Taiba commanders Sajad Ahmad alias Haider and Naseer-u-Din Lone, besides three other terrorists.

The video shows a volley of bullets being fired by terrorists towards the CRPF men.

To counter the propaganda, J&K Police on Friday took to Twitter and said that all the terrorists involved in the attack had been swiftly eliminated and this attempt (release of the video) was being made to glamorize terrorism in the Valley.

“By releasing video of attack, militants want to glamorize militancy. But they can’t. We replied by actions & killed 04 top commanders, Sajjad @ Haider & FT Taimur Khan @ Abu Usman (seen in said video/attack) & Naseer @ Sad bhai & FT Ali bhai @ Danish within 72 hours, the tweet ends,” police said in the tweet.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/terrorists-release-video-of-baramulla-attack/articleshow/77682026.cms

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Mideast

 

Turkey Slams Greece Over Statement On The Conversion Of The Chora Museum To Mosque

Burak Dağ  

22.08.2020

Turkey criticized Greece on Friday because of a statement by Athens on the conversion of the Chora Museum to mosque.  

"Chora mosque, like Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque and other cultural assets on our lands, belongs to Turkey and it is our property," Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement.

The comment came after Greek counterparts made a statement against the reopening of the sixth-century Chora Museum as a mosque in Istanbul. 

Aksoy said Turkey meticulously protects its cultural assets within the framework of the Turkish tradition of tolerance coming from its culture, history and rights and responsibilities arising from international conventions.

"We would like to underline that a change of status made in a world heritage site does not contradict the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage," said Aksoy.

He also said that Greece, which has turned Ottoman heritage mosques and masjids in its territory into churches, is the last country that should have something to say about respect of other religions.

Aksoy said Greece, which restricts human rights and freedom of the Turkish minority in its country with all kinds of repressive practices despite international agreements, has no right to lecture Turkey.

"Greece's efforts to create false agendas in the region with its historical complexes are doomed to failure.

"We invite Greece once again to make peace with its history and to provide the necessary facilities for Muslims to worship in their own country," Aksoy added.

The sixth-century Chora Museum, located in Istanbul's Fatih district on the historical peninsula, will reopen as a mosque for prayers, authorities said Friday.

A presidential decree published in the country's Official Gazette annulled a 1945 Cabinet decision making Chora, Kariye in Turkish, into a museum.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/turkey-slams-greece-over-statement-on-chore-mosque/1949627

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Deputy FM: Washington’s UNSC Move Legally Void

Aug 21, 2020

"US notification [on arms ban extension against Iran] is incapable of having legal effect. It is null and void," Araqchi wrote on his Twitter page.

"None of the remaining JCPOA participants considers the notification as effective. We trust the SC will not permit the US to abuse Res 2231 to achieve its stated objective of destroying that very resolution," he added.

In relevant remarks on Sunday, Iranian President's Chief of Staff Mahmoud Vaezi expressed confidence that Washington's bid to initiate the trigger mechanism under the nuclear deal will end up in another fiasco for the US similar to its recent failure at the UN Security Council.

“The international community once again opposed the US unilateral policies at the UNSC voting by supporting the maintenance of the nuclear deal,” Vaezi wrote on his twitter page on Sunday.

“The US continues its mistakes by pursuing the trigger mechanism; it will fail again with the same process that the recent resolution was rejected but with a stronger political and legal reasoning,” he added.

Vaezi said US President Donald Trump should learn that equations are different in the political and trade worlds, adding that if he does not change his past policies, he should wait for repeated failures.

US President Donald 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 United States' withdrawal.

On January 5, 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.

Now the US has stepped up attempts aimed at extending the UN arms ban on Iran that is set to expire as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which has been endorsed by Security Council Resolution 2231.

The US first sought to extend the Iran's arms embargo in a fresh UNSC resolution in contradiction to the contents of the Resolution 2231 in two attempts within a month, but failed.

The United Nations Security Council resoundingly rejected on Friday the second US bid to extend an arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire in October.

The resolution needed support from nine of 15 votes to pass. Eleven members abstained, including France, Germany and Britain, while the US and the Dominican Republic were the only “yes” votes.

The United States has become isolated over Iran at the Security Council following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the multilateral Iran nuclear deal 2018.

Iran had said that the US resolution would fail to gain the required support at the Security Council, pointing out that Washington has no legal right to invoke a snapback mechanism to reinstate sanctions against Tehran under the 2015 nuclear deal that the US unilaterally left in May 2018.

In relevant remarks on Sunday August 16, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said it is by no means justifiable for the US to use Dispute Resolution Mechanism with regard to UNSC Resolution 2231.

"US recourse to Dispute Resolution Mechanism in 2231 has NO LEG TO STAND ON," Zarif wrote on his Twitter page late Sunday.

"AmbJohnBolton has repeated today what he said on May 8, 2018, while National Security Advisor in the Trump administration," he noted, adding, "At least he is consistent—a trait notably absent in this US administration."

Zarif' tweet came in reaction to former US National Security Advisor John Bolton's article in Wall Street Journal where he criticized US' decision to trigger ‘snapback mechanism’ against Iran, saying, "The agreement [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]’s backers argue that Washington, having withdrawn from the deal, has no standing to invoke its provisions. They’re right. It’s too cute by half to say we’re in the nuclear deal for purposes we want but not for those we don’t."

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990531000237

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FM Zarif, UN Chief Discuss Yemen, US' Snapback Claims over Phone

Aug 21, 2020

During the phone talk on Thursday, Guterres presented a report on the latest efforts made by the UN to end the Yemen war, and called on the Islamic Republic of Iran to help settle certain environmental problems in Hudaydah port.

The Iranian foreign minister, in response, expressed Iran's preparedness to use its capacities in this regard.

Zarif, meantime, pointed to the United States' unlawful act, and highlighted the responsibility of the UN Security Council and the Secretary General in this regard.

"All parties to the JCPOA, the Security Council member states and international jurists all share the view that the US is no longer a party to the JCPOA, and Washington's move has no basis as per the Security Council Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA," the Iranian foreign minister said.

He warned that the US' move will have dangerous consequences for the international law, and will result in nothing but damaging international mechanisms and discrediting the Security Council.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran expects the Secretary General and the Security Council member states to fulfil their legal duties and counter the US administration's rogue behaviour," he noted.

Guterres, in turn, vowed to carefully consider the points made by the Iranian foreign minister.

US President Donald 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 United States' withdrawal.

On January 5, 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.

Now the US has stepped up attempts aimed at extending the UN arms ban on Iran that is set to expire as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which has been endorsed by Security Council Resolution 2231.

The US first sought to extend the Iran's arms embargo in a fresh UNSC resolution in contradiction to the contents of the Resolution 2231 in two attempts within a month, but failed.

The United Nations Security Council resoundingly rejected on Friday the second US bid to extend an arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire in October.

The resolution needed support from nine of 15 votes to pass. Eleven members abstained, including France, Germany and Britain, while the US and the Dominican Republic were the only “yes” votes.

The United States has become isolated over Iran at the Security Council following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the multilateral Iran nuclear deal 2018.

Iran had said that the US resolution would fail to gain the required support at the Security Council, pointing out that Washington has no legal right to invoke a snapback mechanism to reinstate sanctions against Tehran under the 2015 nuclear deal that the US unilaterally left in May 2018.

In relevant remarks on Sunday August 16, Zarif said it is by no means justifiable for the US to use Dispute Resolution Mechanism with regard to UNSC Resolution 2231.

"US recourse to Dispute Resolution Mechanism in 2231 has NO LEG TO STAND ON," Zarif wrote on his Twitter page late Sunday.

"AmbJohnBolton has repeated today what he said on May 8, 2018, while National Security Advisor in the Trump administration," he noted, adding, "At least he is consistent—a trait notably absent in this US administration."

Zarif' tweet came in reaction to former US National Security Advisor John Bolton's article in Wall Street Journal where he criticized US' decision to trigger ‘snapback mechanism’ against Iran, saying, "The agreement [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]’s backers argue that Washington, having withdrawn from the deal, has no standing to invoke its provisions. They’re right. It’s too cute by half to say we’re in the nuclear deal for purposes we want but not for those we don’t."

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990531000428

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US sanctions former head of Iran’s notorious Evin prison, 13 other Iranians

21 August 2020

The United States announced on Friday new sanctions on 14 Iranian individuals, including the former director of Iran’s notorious Evin prison.

The designations are the latest part of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, which has increased targeted sanctions on the Iranian regime since leaving the Obama-era nuclear deal in 2018.

Former director of Iran’s Evin prison, Hojatollah Khodaei Souri, was listed as one of the Iranians who will have their visas restricted.

Souri “oversaw an institution synonymous with torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” the State Department said in a statement. Souri is also a former Iranian parliament member.

Evin prison, located in northwestern Tehran, is notorious for cruel and prolonged torture, using methods such as threats of execution or rape, sleep deprivation, electroshock, and severe beatings.

The first prisoners entered Evin in 1971 under the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Now it is used as the primary detention center for the Iranian regime’s political dissidents.

“Evin Prison has been used to oppress peaceful Iranian protestors and journalists, as well as foreigners who are swept up and imprisoned to be held hostage to squeeze concessions out of their home governments,” the State Department said.

The thirteen other Iranians designated were individuals “involved in a brutal and intricately planned assassination carried out in Switzerland in 1990.”

“These 13 assassins, who posed as Iranian diplomats, were acting under the highest orders of their government to silence opposition and show that no one is safe from the Iranian regime, no matter where they live,” according to the State Department statement.

“The United States will not stand for the Iranian regime silencing its critics through violence and terror,” it added.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/21/US-sanctions-former-head-of-Iran-s-notorious-Evin-prison-13-other-Iranian-officials.html

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Israel deal boosts Jordan’s security, closes ‘gate on annexation’: UAE Ambassador

Emily Judd

21 August 2020

The UAE’s historic agreement with Israel has “closed the gate” on Israeli annexation of Palestinian land and will directly benefit Jordan, according to UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba.

The UAE’s treaty with Israel “bolsters Jordan’s stability and reaffirms its importance in future initiatives,” Al Otaiba wrote in an op-ed for Israeli news outlet Ynet.

Last week the UAE became the third Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel, following Jordan’s agreement in 1994 and Egypt’s in 1979.

Jordan’s King Abdullah warned in June that Israel’s plans to annex Palestinian territory, which the UAE agreement has since put on hold, would undermine regional stability.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said last week that the UAE-Israel deal would “move the region towards a just peace” - if Israel approached it as an incentive to end occupation of Palestinian land.

Annexation on hold

In exchange for the normalization of diplomatic ties with the UAE, Israel agreed to halt its plans to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Al Otaiba said the most immediate and significant outcome of the agreement is Israel’s decision to “suspend its annexation plans for Palestinian territory.”

The UAE and Israel “closed the gate on annexation” and “unlocked a gate toward a better future across the Middle East,” he said.

The agreement “maintains the viability of a two-state solution as endorsed by the Arab League and international community,” he added.

The Arab League has long advocated for the Arab Peace Initiative, first presented by then-Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud in 2002.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said Wednesday that the country remains committed to the Arab Peace Initiative, which asserts that Arab countries only normalize relations with Israel in return for Palestinian statehood and Israeli withdrawal from territory occupied since the 1967 war, such as East Jerusalem.

Moving forward

Normalization with Israel will “progress in phases,” according to Al Otaiba.

The most imminent plans include collaboration on health and water, discussions on air travel, and ministerial level visits.

“An exchange of Ambassadors and diplomatic missions will follow,” Al Otaiba said.

The op-ed comes after major developments in UAE-Israel relations this week. On Tuesday, UAE National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan received Yossi Cohen, head of Israel's foreign intelligence, the Mossad.

The two discussed bilateral cooperation in several fields, according to state news agency WAM.

On Monday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin invited Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Jerusalem.

The UAE confirmed on Sunday that a phone link had been set up with Israel, unblocking phone calls between the countries.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/08/21/Israel-deal-boosts-Jordan-s-security-closes-gate-on-annexation-UAE-Ambassador.html

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Turkey announces discovery of large natural gas reserve in Black Sea

21 August 2020

Turkey has announced the discovery of a large natural gas reserve off its Black Sea coast, which could ease the country’s dependence on energy imports.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the announcement on Friday. He had promised earlier this week to deliver “good news” that would herald “a new era” for Turkey.

Erdogan said the amount of the natural gas discovered was 320 billion cubic meters. He said it had been found by the country’s drilling ship Fatih.

“We have carried out nine deep-sea drillings in the Mediterranean and Black Sea through our Fatih and Yavuz ships so far. We have had the honor of giving our nation the good news that it has been waiting for,” he said. “There is no stopping and resting until we become a net exporter in energy.”

Erdogan expressed hope that the discovered gas would be made available for public use in 2023.

The Turkish drilling ship Fatih has been operating since late July in an exploration zone known as Tuna-1, about 100 nautical miles north of the Turkish coast in the western Black Sea.

If the gas reserves can be commercially extracted and confirmed as recoverable, they will help the country cut its dependence on energy imports, which last year totaled 41 billion dollars.

The discovery comes as Turkey is involved in a dispute over oil and gas exploration rights with Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. It has sailed seismic research vessels and escorting warships in waters disputed there. Greece has dispatched its own military vessels to the area.

Erdogan has vowed to continue the country’s energy exploration in the disputed waters despite warnings from the European Union (EU) and a military buildup by France.

Turkey had paused the research activities on a request from Germany but restarted them after a maritime agreement was signed between Greece and Egypt. Ankara described that agreement as “worthless” and an attempt to keep Turkey out of the region.

Earlier this month, Turkey also launched naval exercises off two Greek islands.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/08/21/632297/Turkey-discover-gas-reserve-Black-Sea-

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Iran responsible for Houthi attacks targeting Saudi Arabia: Speaker of Arab Parliament

August 22, 2020

DUBAI: The Iranian regime is responsible for terrorist attempts carried out by Houthis targeting Saudi Arabia, Speaker of the Arab Parliament Mishaal Al-Salami said.

Al-Salami condemned the Houthi militia’s firing of an armed drone and a ballistic missile towards the country, which were intercepted by the Arab Coalition on Thursday, state news agency Saba news reported.

He added that Iran aims to destroy the Arab world by providing Houthis with smart weapons, ballistic missiles, drones, as well as military advisors.

Al-Salami also blamed the international community for failing to take strict measures against the Iranian regime, making the country continue to turn “Yemeni territories into a launchpad to target its neighboring countries,” the report said.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1722861/middle-east

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South Asia

 

Compliance with UN curbs against Afghan Taliban ordered

22 Aug 2020

ISLAMABAD: The government has issued ‘a statutory notification’ ordering full compliance with the United Nations’ Security Council sanctions against Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network, according to the document that got public attention on Friday.

The SRO, as it is called in the official lingo, ordered enforcement of assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo on the Afghan insurgent group. It was notified by the Foreign Office on Tuesday (Aug 18).

Pakistan, which has always denied any links with Taliban, has in the past said that it is in full compliance with UNSC sanctions against the group.

Section 10 of the SRO explained the purpose of issuance of the new SRO which said “in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 2 of the United Nations’ (Security Council) Act, 1948, (XIV of 1948), the Federal Government is pleased to order that the Resolution 2255 (2015) be fully implemented” with respect to Taliban leaders and affiliated entities listed in the annexure attached to it.

It, therefore, called on “all persons” to fully apply the measures given in the order against the listed individuals and entities.

The SRO was issued ahead of the upcoming review of the progress Pakistan has made against terrorist financing and money laundering by the Financial Action Task Force, the global illicit-financing watchdog.

A number of laws have recently been passed by the parliament to meet the FATF requirements for Pakistan’s removal from the ‘grey list’ of countries whose financial systems are considered vulnerable to exploitation because of their weaknesses.

Foreign Office Spokesman Zahid Chaudhri, while responding to a query from Dawn, said: “The SRO issued by Pakistan on 18 August, 2020, only consolidates and documents the previously announced SROs as a procedural measure and does not reflect any change in the Sanctions List or sanction measures.”

He further said that the UN Security Council Taliban Sanctions Committee deals with the sanctions on the Taliban and entities and individuals associated with them.

“Upon any change by the Committee all states including Pakistan implement these Sanctions,” he said, adding that there had lately been no change in this regard.

A similar SRO was issued about Daesh and Al Qaeda ordering travel restrictions, arms embargo and freezing of the funds and other financial resources of individuals and entities associated with these groups, whose list has been attached with the SRO.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1575752/compliance-with-un-curbs-against-afghan-taliban-ordered

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Bangladesh to Host Late-Stage Trial of China’s Sinovac COVID-19 Vaccine

21/07/2020

Dhaka: Bangladesh’s state medical research agency has approved a third-phase trial of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd, as infections rise in the densely populated South Asian country.

Sinovac has been looking for volunteers outside China as the number of coronavirus cases there has dwindled, said a member of Bangladesh’s national technical advisory committee to tackle COVID-19.

The trial, to be conducted by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR-B), could begin next month.

“We have given ethical permission for the trial after reviewing the research protocol,” Mahmood Uz Jahan, director of the Bangladesh Medical Research Council (BMRC), told Reuters.

The trial will involve 4,200 volunteers, Jahan said.

“Half of them will get vaccinated,” he said.

The trial would be conducted in seven hospitals specialising in treating novel coronavirus infections in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, an ICDDR-B official said on the condition of anonymity.

A Sinovac representative told Reuters that it was waiting for official approval from Bangladesh.

A senior Bangladesh health ministry official, who declined to be identified, said there should not be any objection from the government as Bangladesh would “get priority” if they can successfully develop the vaccine.

Bangladesh had 204,525 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Sunday, with 2,618 deaths.

Sinovac said this month it was starting Phase III trials of its potential coronavirus vaccine in Brazil.

https://science.thewire.in/the-sciences/bangladesh-late-stage-trial-chinas-sinovac-covid-19-vaccine/

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Fresh Afghan Violence Kills 34 Combatants, Civilians

By Ayaz Gul

August 20, 2020

ISLAMABAD - Officials in Afghanistan say clashes between security forces and the Taliban insurgency, and a roadside bomb blast have killed about three dozen people, including civilians. 

Thursday’s deadly violence raged as U.S.-led efforts to push Afghan rivals to negotiate a political settlement to the country’s long war have slowed, if not halted, over the release of Taliban prisoners by Kabul. 

A local government spokesman in northeastern Takhar province told VOA insurgents staged a pre-dawn assault on security outposts in Khwaja Bahauddin district, killing14 Afghan forces and injuring four others.

Separately, the Taliban stormed several checkpoints in eastern Nangarhar province late Wednesday and killed at least six security personnel. 

A provincial government spokesman said the fighting in Khogyani district also inflicted “heavy casualties” on the assailants but he did not give further details. 

The Taliban in a statement claimed credit for the attack in Khogyani but did not discuss insurgent losses.

Elsewhere in Logar and Wardak provinces, army operations killed at least six Taliban rebels and injured many others, reported an Afghan group monitoring the ongoing violence in the country.

Meanwhile, an overnight mortar attack in northern Kunduz province and a roadside bomb blast in central Ghor province reportedly killed eight civilians, including three children. 

Official Afghan media quoted the Kunduz governor as blaming the Taliban for the rocket attack, though residents in the area accused Afghan forces of firing the mortar. The insurgents did not comment on the attack and there were no claims of responsibility for the roadside bombing.

Prisoners controversy 

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in nationally televised remarks Thursday again urged the Taliban to cease hostilities and join the peace talks, insisting his government had removed “all obstacles” to the peace process.

But Ghani would not say whether he intended to free the remaining 320 insurgent prisoners, a key Taliban condition for opening much hoped for peace negotiations.

The dialogue and the release of up to 5,000 insurgent inmates are part of a landmark agreement the U.S. sealed with the Taliban in February to end the nearly 19-year Afghan war. 

The government, which was not part of the deal, has freed all but 320 prisoners, citing security and other concerns. In exchange, the Taliban has released all promised 1,000 Afghan forces it was holding captive. 

Afghan officials have lately called for the insurgents to free more captured government soldiers. Critics see the new demand against the decision of a traditional Afghan public grand assembly of elders or Loya Jirga, that advised Ghani to free all Taliban prisoners.

The Afghan president, while addressing the assembly, also pledged he would immediately sign a decree to set free the inmates to clear the way for talks with the Taliban.

For its part, the U.S. military has begun drawing down troops in Afghanistan under the agreement that seeks a complete withdrawal of all American and NATO troops by July 2021 in return for the Taliban’s counterterrorism and political reconciliation assurances.

Laurel Miller, the program director at the International Crisis Group, has underscored the need for urgently launching the long-awaited intra-Afghan peace talks.

“It is crucial to recognize that the conditions for a peace deal are only going to worsen. They are not going to improve,” Miller warned while participating in an online event at the Brookings Institution on Wednesday.

“A U.S. departure from Afghanistan without a peace deal would likely result in a protracted and intensified civil war, in which many Afghans will suffer,” said Miller, a former U.S. envoy to Afghanistan.

President Donald Trump said in a television interview earlier this month that the U.S. military is largely out of Afghanistan and the number of troops will be reduced to below 5,000 by November from the current level of about 8,600 personnel. 

https://www.voanews.com/south-central-asia/fresh-afghan-violence-kills-34-combatants-civilians?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1459457_

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North America

 

Pompeo: US ready to block Russia, China from violating Iran sanctions

21 August 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that the United States is prepared to block Russia and China from any attempts to violate sanctions against Iran.

Pompeo made the remarks in an interview on Friday, a day after the US moved to restore the UN Security Council’s sanctions against Tehran.

The top US diplomat also said that Washington was disappointed that its allies did not support the American effort to push for a “snapback” of UN sanctions, including an arms embargo against the Islamic Republic.

On Thursday, Pompeo said Washington’s European allies were "siding with the Ayatollahs" after they said the US could not reimpose sanctions on Iran.

The United States' most prominent Western allies refused to fall into step with its push to snap back the United Nations sanctions against Iran.

The United Kingdom, France, and Germany said the US did not have the legal right to trigger "snapback" sanctions because it pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.

They said they could not support the US move, describing Washington’s action as incompatible with efforts to support the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Reuters reported.

The trio announced their position in a statement in response to an illegal US push to invoke the mechanism in the nuclear deal that would restore all of the UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic, whose related resolutions were annulled after the agreement was concluded.

Delivering the unilateral US approach its next blow was China’s UN mission that reminded that Washington had itself compromised all of its contractual rights under the nuclear deal.

Neither did a letter presented to the world body by Pompeo to trigger the snapback module qualify for the purpose it has been written for, the mission noted in a tweet.

Pompeo on Thursday said the United States will do everything it can to enforce United Nations sanctions on Iran if they are violated.

He told reporters at the United Nations it would be an "enormous mistake" not to extend the arms embargo on Iran.

Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign minister has said that the US administration’s attempt to snap back the UN Security Council’s sanctions against Tehran will result in nothing but another disgrace for US President Donald Trump.

“Last night Pompeo activated the mechanism of returning the annulled Security Council resolutions in his imaginations,” Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a post on his Instagram account on Friday.

However, he added, at the same time Iran, Russia, China, the European Union, Germany, France, and the UK described the Trump administration’s move as unlawful, futile, and null and voice in separate letters.

“Today, some other members of the Security Council will likely adopt similar stances, and the Trump administration will be isolated and disgraced globally once again,” Zarif said.

“The history of the Security Council does not remember any similar situation,” he noted, referring to an almost global consensus against Trump.

On Friday, the UN Security Council almost unanimously refused to support a US-sponsored draft resolution on extending the arms embargo against Iran, which is due to expire in October under the JCPOA.

During the 15-member Security Council vote, the US received support only from the Dominican Republic for its anti-Iran resolution, leaving it far short of the minimum nine "yes" votes required for adoption.

Russia and China, both veto-wielding powers and parties to the JCPOA, voted against the draft resolution and the remaining 11 Security Council members, including France, Germany and Britain, abstained.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/08/21/632294/Pompeo-US-ready-to-block-Russia,-China-from-violating-Iran-sanctions

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Biden win won’t bring back US to great relations with Iran

20 August 2020

By J. Michael Springmann

Hillary Clinton seems to have remarkable gaps in her memory, and an extraordinary attitude towards foreign policy. I mean, she herself is a self-confessed murderer, war criminal, human rights violator. She bragged about murdering Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, saying: ‘We Came, We Saw. He Died.’

Well, she and Barack Obama destroyed Libya. She and Barack Obama destroyed Syria, she and Barack Obama continued the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan and continued the pressure to destroy the Islamic Republic of Iran, and her claims that the election of Joe Biden will change things and bring back America to great relations with Iran and make sure that Iran doesn't engage in any nuclear weapons research is absolute nonsense.

She doesn't know what she's talking about. And she needs to look at reality and look at her own past remarks.

She is forgetting all about the major issue of American foreign policy. She seems to think that  good relations between Iran and China are bad. Anybody with any diplomatic skills or history or experience would know that diplomatic relations between states based on tact and common sense is a good thing and that we should have good relations with Iran, we should have good relations with China, the Chinese should have good relations with Russia and the Russians should have good relations with Syria and Brazil and Iran and so forth.

This business of you pick and you choose who you're going to support this week and oppose next week is absolutely nonsense. It is dangerous. It shows that you have a government that can't be trusted, and a government that really doesn't know what it's doing.

The US has guaranteed to support the apartheid entity of Israel, an illegitimate, artificial, and terrorist creation that has no right to exist.

It (the US) supports the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a murderous, warlike, authoritarian government made up of rich princes out for making more money than they possibly can spend. Yet, the United States supports these people, and, instead of internationalizing the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, lets the Saudis manage this so they can keep out anybody they don't like, such as the Iranians.

So I think that the United States is doing its very best to create an impossible situation for itself and the rest of the world. Any country that trusts what the United States does, any country that trusts the word of the United States, and any country that trusts the ability of the United States to protect them from anything is making a very dangerous decision.

I mean, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actions is not in Iran’s interest because the JCPOA puts unbelievable restrictions on Iran that it doesn't put on Israel, and it doesn’t put on the United Arab Emirates, for example, and if the United States were still in the JCPOA, yes, it could have pushed through the extension of sanctions and weapon sales as part of the agreement through the United Nations and push them far beyond October of this year.

‘JCPOA was a good deal for the US and Israel’

I think that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was a bad deal for Iran and a good deal for the United States and Israel. I think that the only advantage to being back in the JCPOA, the only advantage in continuing the JCPOA is that European countries and other firms, other countries would permit their firms to trade with Iran and provide Iran with much-needed equipment such as supplies and so on, including medical equipment.

So that's about it, but the only thing I could see as an advantage is that it permits Iran to trade with other countries. But I think if you drop the sanctions on Iran, like there are no sanctions on France, or no sanctions on Israel, and so forth, it would be a lot better for all the parties concerned.

J. Michael Springmann is an American political commentator, author and former US diplomat in Saudi Arabia. He is based in Washington. He recorded this article for Press TV website.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/08/20/632223/Biden-win-won%E2%80%99t-bring-back-US-to-great-relations-with-Iran

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US imposes visa restrictions on 14 Iranians, including Evin Prison chief

RAY HANANIA

August 21, 2020

CHICAGO: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday issued orders prohibiting 14 Iranian officials and their families from entering the country. The officials are accused of being involved in human-rights violations.

The ban applies to 13 unnamed persons implicated in a 1990 assassination attempt in Switzerland, he said, plus the director of Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, Hojatollah Khodaei Souri. Souri has overseen the torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of political prisoners, he added.

Pompeo would not specify whether the individuals were already in the country or had tried to enter, or whether they had participated in any recent incidents, but he said the action was linked to the commemoration on August 21 of the annual Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism.

“The US Department of State is announcing visa restrictions on 14 Iranian individuals for their involvement in gross violations of human rights on behalf of the Iranian regime, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror,” he said.

Pompeo declined to provide details of the “credible information” he said the State Department has about the 14 individuals but insisted they were engaged in “gross violations of human rights.”

“These actions send a message of support to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s many victims worldwide that we will promote accountability for those who spread terror and violence,” he said.

“The United States will continue to pressure Iran to treat its own people with dignity and respect. Iran conducts assassinations and terrorism abroad to spread its reign of terror well beyond its own borders.”

Pompeo said the 13 Iranians “posed as Iranian diplomats” and had acted “under the highest orders of their government to silence opposition” and intimidate expatriates who have criticized the regime in Tehran.

“No one is safe from the Iranian regime, no matter where they live,” he added. “The United States will not stand for the Iranian regime silencing its critics through violence and terror.”

Pompeo said the ban on Souri is related to his role in supervising a system of human-rights violations in Evin Prison, where government critics are locked up, tortured and even killed.

“Evin Prison has been used to oppress peaceful Iranian protesters and journalists, as well as foreigners who are swept up and imprisoned to be held hostage to squeeze concessions out of their home governments,” he said.

The US action will also limit the ability of the 14 Iranians to travel to countries that have immigration and visa agreements with the US.

The announcement of the travel restrictions follows President Donald Trump’s announcement he is seeking the restoration of all UN sanctions on Iran that were lifted as a result of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal. The demand was submitted by Pompeo on Thursday in letters delivered to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the president of the Security Council. If successful, sanctions could be restored within 30 days.

After council members failed last week to approve a US resolution to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire in October, Trump is attempting to trigger a “snapback” under the terms of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, from which the Trump administration withdrew in 2018.

This is a mechanism within the UN Security Council resolution that endorsed the deal, a resolution Pompeo describes as “one-sided” in favor of Iran, that allows any of the powers that signed the deal to submit a complaint to the Security Council if Iran fails to meet its obligations. If the concerns are not resolved, the UN sanctions that were in place before the agreement would be automatically restored, including an arms embargo.

While the Trump administration insists that it retains the right to initiate a snapback, even after withdrawing from the agreement, most other council members say it does not because it is no longer a party to the deal.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1722631/middle-east

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Syria constitution talks in Geneva an ‘important step’: UN envoy

August 22, 2020

GENEVA: A meeting in Geneva next week of Syrians tasked with amending their country’s constitution marks an important step and could help open the door to a broader political process, the UN envoy said on Friday.

Members of Syria’s Constitutional Committee will be meeting for the first time since last November, following delays brought on by the coronavirus crisis.

“Obviously, the fact that we will be meeting here in Geneva after nine months is an important step in the right direction,” Geir Pedersen told reporters in the Swiss city.

The full constitutional review committee is made up of 150 delegates divided equally three ways among President Bashar Assad’s regime, the opposition and civil society.

But next week’s meeting will only include about a third of them, with 15 members from each group taking part.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pedersen said that strict measures had been put in place to ensure everyone’s safety.

All delegates have been tested prior to departure, and will be tested again upon their arrival in Geneva over the weekend, he said.

He added that the week-long meeting would be held in a large UN hall to allow for proper distancing, and all participants would wear masks.

The Constitutional Committee was created in September last year and first convened a month later.

A planned second round of talks in late November ended after disagreement on the agenda prevented government and opposition negotiators from meeting.

Pedersen voiced hope that the delegates could next week get into “substantive discussion,” and stressed that the talks could serve as “a door-opener to a broader political process.”

But he acknowledged that “the Constitutional Committee in itself ... of course cannot solve the Syrian conflict.”

The UN has been striving for more than nine years to try to help find a political resolution to Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 380,000 people and has displaced more than 11 million Syrians from their homes.

Constitutional review is a central part of the UN’s peace plan for Syria, which was defined by Security Council resolution 2254, adopted in December 2015.

The resolution also calls for UN-supervised elections.

Pedersen on Friday stressed the urgent need to build confidence between the parties to move forward in the political process.

He insisted that progress on determining the fate of detainees, abductees and missing people on all sides “could be the one key important development that could help to build trust.”

Representatives from a range of countries involved in Syria’s complex conflict, including Russia, Iran, Turkey and the US, are expected to be in Geneva next week.

Pedersen said he would try to meet with them on the sidelines, but stressed that Syria’s constitutional review was being carried out by Syrians alone, “without any foreign interference.”

“No one expects that this meeting here next week will produce a miracle or a breakthrough,” he said.

“That is not what this is about. This is about the beginning, about a long and cumbersome process where we hopefully can start to see progress.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1722761/middle-east

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Trump Says U.S. Would Retaliate if Bounties on U.S. Troops Were True

By Reuters

Aug. 20, 2020

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday vowed to retaliate if other countries were found to have offered bounties for attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but he gave no indication whether his stance toward U.S. intelligence reports outlining the bounties had changed.

Reports about U.S. intelligence findings that Moscow paid the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan emerged in late June. Russia denied the reports, and Trump has made clear that he did not believe them.

CNN this month reported that U.S. intelligence had also indicated that Iran paid the Taliban bounties to target U.S. troops in Afghanistan as well. Reuters could not verify that story or vouch for its accuracy. Tehran on Tuesday said the report was false.

Trump, speaking at a White House event alongside the Iraqi prime minister, told reporters that if the reports were determined to be a fact, then "we would hit them so hard, your head would spin."

Democrats and other critics have accused Trump, a Republican who is seeking re-election in November who has long pushed warmer U.S. ties with Russia, of not taking intelligence information concerning soldiers' deaths seriously enough.

Iran’s foreign ministry Saeed Khatibzadeh on Tuesday said the reports that Tehran paid Taliban fighters to target U.S. forces and allies was "entirely false," adding that the United States "tries to hide its miscalculations in Afghanistan by resorting to propaganda," Iranian state TV reported.

U.S. officials have said the United States is looking into the matter, and have pointed to internal divisions over the intelligence. U.S. and European government sources familiar with intelligence reporting, meanwhile, have told Reuters fresh intelligence backed up the Russian bounty allegations.

Trump told Axios news outlet in late July that he did not raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their July 23 call.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington and Parisa Hafezi in Dubai; Writing by Susan Heavey and David Morgan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/08/20/world/asia/20reuters-usa-afghanistan-bounties.html?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1459457_

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US says it will not seek death penalty against ISIS 'Beatles'

The National

August 20, 2020

US Attorney General William Barr told Britain that two former ISIS militants accused of kidnapping and killing Americans would not face execution if tried in the US, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.

Mr Barr told British Interior Minister Priti Patel in a letter that the Justice Department would not pursue the death penalty against Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh.

The two were part of an ISIS cell called "The Beatles" and have since been stripped of British citizenship.

"If imposed" by a court, "the death penalty will not be carried out", Mr Barr said in the letter.

He made the pledge to gain access to British evidence against the two, who are being held in Iraq by the US military.

The UK, which has not moved to put the two on trial, does not have capital punishment and a British court prevented co-operation in the case if they were to face possible execution.

It is believed that intervention by the family of victim Kayla Mueller, a US activist who was kidnapped in Aleppo in 2013 and killed two years later, spurred Mr Barr's decision to make the compromise.

"If a prosecution is to go forward in the United States, our prosecutors should have the important evidence that we have requested from the United Kingdom available to them in their efforts to hold Kotey and Elsheikh responsible for their terrorist crimes," he wrote.

"We would hope and expect that, in light of this assurance, the evidence can and will now be provided promptly."

Kotey and Elsheikh were part of a four-member ISIS kidnapping gang called "The Beatles" because of their heavy British accents.

They were notorious for videotaping beheadings and allegedly killed US journalist James Foley eight years ago on Friday, and western aid workers.

The other members were Mohammed Emwazi, known as "Jihadi John", who was killed in an air strike in 2015, and Aine Davis, who has been jailed in Turkey.

thenational.ae/world/the-americas/us-says-it-will-not-seek-death-penalty-against-isis-beatles-1.1066002

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Arab world

 

Several Arab countries on way to relations with Israel: UAE Minister Gargash

20 August 2020

Several Arab countries are in different stages on the way to relations with Israel, said UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash on Thursday, exactly one week after the country’s historic agreement with Israel.

“There are several Arab countries that are on this scale in different stages,” said Gargash during a virtual talk with US think tank the Atlantic Council.

“The region does need a strategic breakthrough,” he added.

The UAE’s relationship with Israel going forward will be a “warm peace,” according to Gargash.

“This is going to be a warm peace. Because unlike Jordan or Egypt, we have not fought a war with Israel,” said Gargash.

Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, and with Jordan in 1994.

Gargash added that any UAE embassy in Israel “will be in Tel Aviv” - not Jerusalem. US President Donald Trump moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018, essentially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Israel considers all Jerusalem its undivided capital but the Palestinians see the eastern part, home to 360,000 Palestinians, as the capital of their future state.

Israel's suspension of annexation of Palestinian land, which was part of the agreement, was “critical in our thinking,” according to Gargash.

“The UAE saw an opportunity because we’ve always been urged…by the Palestinians to help us in stopping annexation...by linking it to the suspension of annexation, we came out with a good deal,” he said.

Gargash said the UAE is “very encouraged” by the bipartisan support for the agreement in the US. Republican President Donald Trump took an active role in the agreement and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has expressed his support.

“We expect our strategic relationship with the United States…will actually develop much further” following the deal, Gargash said.

This week has seen major developments in UAE-Israel relations. On Tuesday, UAE National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan received Yossi Cohen, head of Israel's foreign intelligence, the Mossad.

The two discussed bilateral cooperation in several fields, according to state news agency WAM.

On Monday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin invited Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Jerusalem.

Rivlin expressed the invitation in a letter, written in Arabic.

“I'm full of hope that this step will contribute to building and strengthening the mutual trust between us and the region's nations,” said Rivlin in the letter.

The UAE confirmed on Sunday that a phone link had been set up with Israel, unblocking phone calls between the countries.

UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi “inaugurated a phone link between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel following the historic Peace Accord,” said UAE Director of Strategic Communications at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hend Al Otaiba in a post on Twitter on Sunday.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/08/20/Several-Arab-countries-on-way-to-peace-with-Israel-UAE-Minister-Gargash.html

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Lebanon judge issues new arrest warrants over Beirut explosion

21 August 2020

A Lebanese judge leading investigations into Beirut’s port blast issued two new arrest warrants on Friday, a judicial source told AFP.

“The investigating judge, Fadi Sawan, continued his investigations... and today issued two arrest warrants,” the source said.

According to the official National News Agency, the subjects of the warrants are Beirut’s customs authority director, Hanna Fares, and Nayla al-Hajj, an engineer contracted for maintenance work at warehouse 12, where the explosion took place.

A huge stock of ammonium nitrate stored unsecured for years in the rundown warehouse at the Lebanese capital’s port exploded on August 4.

The blast caused severe damage across swathes of the city, killed at least 181 people and injured more than 6,500.

Lebanon has launched an investigation into the disaster, which many have blamed on official negligence and corruption.

So far arrest warrants have been issued for six of the 25 people currently facing lawsuits over the blast, including Beirut Port director-general Hassan Koraytem and customs director-general, Badri Daher.

While authorities have rebuffed widespread calls for an international probe, Lebanon’s investigation is being aided by foreign experts, including from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

France, which counted among the dead several of its citizens, has launched its own enquiry.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/21/Lebanon-judge-issues-new-arrest-warrants-over-Beirut-explosion.html

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OIC condemns Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia

August 22, 2020

RIYADH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Friday praised the Arab coalition’s vigilance in intercepting drones launched against Saudi Arabia by the Iran-backed Houthi militia.

Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, OIC secretary-general, said Houthi hostilities were hindering efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Yemen.

The OIC has repeatedly condemned the Houthi’s actions as well as those providing the militia with financing and weapons, he said.

The Arab coalition on Thursday said it had intercepted and downed an armed drone and a ballistic missile fired from Yemen toward Saudi Arabia.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1722751/saudi-arabia

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US ‘outraged’ by assassinations of Iraqi activists

Joseph Haboush

20 August 2020

The United States said Thursday that it was “outraged by the targeted assassinations” of activists and attacks on protesters in Iraq, one day after unknown gunmen assassinated Iraqi activist Dr. Reham Yacoub in central Basra.

Yacoub was one of four activists who were targeted and killed in Basra on Wednesday night while one other activist was assassinated in the capital Baghdad, according to Al Arabiya’s Baghdad correspondent Majid Hamid.

For all the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

“It is unconscionable that the perpetrators of these horrible acts continue to act with impunity,” a senior US official said in a statement.

A number of Iraqi protesters and activists have been killed, detained and beaten since anti-government protests started last October.

“We strongly support the right of Iraqis to assemble peacefully and express themselves,” US State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said, calling on the Iraqi government to hold accountable “the militias, thugs, and criminal gangs attacking Iraqis exercising their right to peaceful protest.”

Human rights monitors sounded the alarm over a recent spike in assassinations targeting civil rights activists in Iraq's south on Thursday.

“It seems that there is a well-programmed cleansing of activists who were influential in the last protest movement,” said Ali al-Bayati, spokesman for the semi-official Iraqi Independent High Commission for Human Rights.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/21/US-outraged-by-assassinations-of-Iraqi-activists.html

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Hezbollah will not give Israel, its sponsors opportunity to attack Lebanon: Top official

22 August 2020

Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem says the Lebanese resistance movement will neither allow Israel nor its sponsors the chance to launch an aggression against Lebanon, warning the Tel Aviv regime and its allies of a heavy price.

“We will neither give Israel nor anyone who recognizes it the opportunity to launch an attack without paying the price.  We will not capitulate to those who wish to rob us of our honor and victory… We want to protect Lebanon, its sovereignty and independence, whereas they [those who recognize Israel] do not care if Israel is still occupying our lands,” Sheikh Qassem said during a ceremony in the Lebanese capital Beirut late on Friday.

Sheikh Qassem dismissed allegations that this month’s vast explosion in Beirut that killed 178 people, injured more than 6,000 others and destroyed swathes of the city was caused by a blast from a deposit of Hezbollah arms, emphasizing that such absurd claims have failed to undermine the resistance movement’s prowess.

“All allegations that Hezbollah used to store weapons at the port, warehoused massive amounts of ammonium nitrate there, and knew about their presence before the vast explosion have been vehemently rejected,” he pointed out.

On August 18, Lebanon's President Michel Aoun dismissed as "impossible" suggestions that the August 4 catastrophic explosion was caused by a blast from a deposit of Hezbollah arms, but said all possibilities would be investigated.

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had previously denied accusations that his resistance movement had weaponry warehoused at the Beirut port.

He has said that the group would wait for results of the investigation, but said if it turns out to be an act of sabotage by Israel then the regime would "pay an equal price."

“Some political parties [in Lebanon] are advancing the hypothesis that Hezbollah was behind the Beirut blast, and are looking for pieces of evidence to corroborate such claims. Hezbollah will not resort to vile slanders in face of its opponents’ lies, and will not be influenced by such propaganda,” Sheikh Qassem highlighted.

He emphasized that Hezbollah resistance fighters are fully prepared to confront Israel’s acts of aggression and to liberate the Israeli-occupied territories.

Sheikh Qassem also underscored that Hezbollah supports a new Lebanese government that can reconstruct Beirut in the wake of the mega-blast, implement much-needed reforms and better embrace various political parties.

‘US, Persian Gulf kingdoms seek Hezbollah’s isolation’

There are reports that the United States and a number of Persian Gulf kingdoms are pushing for the formation of a now government in Lebanon that will not include Hezbollah.

“America and [Persian] Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, do not want to see Hezbollah’s participation in any government. Any government that includes Hezbollah’s representatives will not be able to attract financial aid which Lebanon badly needs to overcome its deepening economic crisis,” a senior unnamed source with Future Movement, led by former prime minister Saad Hariri, told Lebanon’s English-language daily newspaper The Daily Star on Thursday.

Hezbollah legislator Hasan Fadlallah said in an interview with Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network on Wednesday night that his group would not object to Hariri’s return to the premiership, but he insisted that the party must be represented in the next government.

He recalled that Hezbollah had urged Hariri not to resign last October under the pressure of anti-government demonstrations over corruption, poor public services and years of economic mismanagement.

Fadlallah said Hariri is a leading candidate to head the next government, adding that contacts are ongoing between Hezbollah and the head of the Future Movement.

He also reiterated Nasrallah’s demand for the formation of a national unity government or a government with the broadest representation of political factions.

“Chief among the tasks of the new government is rebuilding Beirut, dealing with the suffocating financial crisis and carrying out essential reforms,” Fadlallah highlighted.

Lebanon is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, with the Lebanese pound continuing to plummet against the US dollar after losing more than 80 percent of its value over the last weeks while sources of foreign currency have dried up.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab submitted the resignation of his government on August 10 in the face of mounting public outrage over the Beirut explosion.

President Aoun accepted the resignation, and asked the government to stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new cabinet was formed.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/08/22/632321/Hezbollah-will-not-give-Israel-its-sponsors-opportunity-to-attack-Lebanon

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Pakistan

 

Xi moots idea of community of shared future with Pakistan

22 Aug 2020

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday said his country was ready to work with Pakistan to deepen the building of “China-Pakistan Community of Shared Future” and to jointly promote cooperation among regional countries.

President Xi, in a letter to President Dr Arif Alvi, said both Pakistan and China were working to maintain the “momentum of peace and development in the region”.

He said that since the outbreak of Covid-19, the global fight against coronavirus had proved that mutual support, solidarity and cooperation were the only way to defeat the pandemic.

The Chinese president responded to a special letter of congratulations written by President Alvi on the second conference of the CPEC Political Parties Joint Consultation Mechanism which, he said, fully demonstrated the great importance and support he (Dr Alvi) rendered to China-Pakistan relations and CPEC.

President Xi, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said China and Pakistan were “good brothers” and partners, and had a “special friendship”.

Chinese leader underlines mutual cooperation for regional peace

He said as a landmark project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRl), CPEC was of great significance to the further development of the China-Pakistan All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership and the building of a closer China-Pakistan Community of Shared Future.

He said the political parties of China and Pakistan had carried out friendly consultations on a regular basis, which had consolidated political consensus between the two countries to vigorously promote the steady and long-term development of the CPEC and high-quality BRI cooperation.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1575746/xi-moots-idea-of-community-of-shared-future-with-pakistan

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China, Pakistan Discuss Kashmir On Foreign Minister Level

Aug 21, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Friday and held the second round of foreign ministers’ strategic dialogue between the two countries in the Chinese province of Hainan.

A joint statement issued after the dialogue said that the two sides exchanged views on the coronavirus pandemic, bilateral relations and international and regional issues of mutual interest.

During the dialogue, the Pakistani delegation briefed the Chinese side on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Chinese side reiterated that “the Kashmir issue is a dispute left over from history between India and Pakistan, which is an objective fact, and that the dispute should be resolved peacefully and properly through the UN Charter, relevant Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements”, the statement said. “China opposes any unilateral actions that complicate the situation,” the statement added.

Ahead of the meeting, Qureshi said that both countries had several important issues that needed to be discussed. “Pakistan, with the help of China, raised the issue of Kashmir three times at the UN Security Council in one year,” he said. “China had a standoff with India as well … which has not ended. Hence, you can see that Kashmir is important for both countries,” he added.

Both sides, according to the joint statement, reached consensus to collectively take measures to safeguard their common interests and promote peace, prosperity and development in the region.

The two sides, according to the statement, showed commitment for enhancing mutual strategic trust, strengthening cooperation, maintaining the momentum of high-level exchanges, further advancing the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), promoting bilateral relationship to a higher level and delivering greater benefits to both countries and the two peoples.

The statement further said that the China-Pakistan strategic partnership “remains unaffected by the vicissitudes of the regional and international developments and continues to move from strength to strength”.

Both sides vowed to continue to firmly advance the construction of China Pakistan Economic Corridor, ensure in-time completion of under-construction projects and focus on economic and social development.

A spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry said the Pakistan foreign minister’s visit is intended to help the two countries enhance strategic mutual trust, deepen practical cooperation and strengthen close coordination on international and regional affairs.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/china-pakistan-discuss-kashmir-other-issues/articleshow/77682030.cms

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Pakistan, China vow to make CPEC hub of regional connectivity

BY MIAN ABRAR

22 Aug 2020

ISLAMABAD: China and Pakistan on Friday agreed to firmly advance the construction of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), ensure in-time completion of the under-construction projects and to make the corridor a hub of regional connectivity.

The consensus was reached during the second round of China, Pakistan Foreign Ministers Strategic Dialogue held in Hainan, China.

Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi and China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and led their respective teams at the dialogue as the two sides exchanged views on Covid-19 pandemic, bilateral relations and international and regional issues of mutual interest, and reached consensus to collectively take measures to safeguard their common interests and promote peace, prosperity, and development in the region.

According to the joint communique issued following the meeting, the two sides agreed to focus on economic and social development, job creation and improvement of people’s livelihood, and further strengthen cooperation in special economic zones (SEZs), industrial relocation, science and technology, medical and health, human resources training, poverty alleviation, and agriculture etc., with the aim to continuously unleash the great potential of CPEC to make it a hub of regional connectivity.

Both sides agreed that Pakistan and China have stood in solidarity and worked together since the Covid-19 outbreak by timely sharing of experiences relating to the prevention and control of the virus, mutual support in providing medical materials, and have set an example for international community to jointly fight the pandemic. Both sides agreed to further strengthen cooperation in developing a vaccine to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic, and strive to promote establishment of Pakistan-China community of shared future and community of common health. Both sides emphasised that unity and cooperation are the most powerful weapon for the international community against the disease. Both sides opposed politicising the pandemic, labeling viruses; supported the World Health Organisation (WHO) to play a leading role in global public health governance, and called for the international community to increase the sense of a community of shared future and carry out effective joint prevention and control measures in order to mitigate the negative effects of Covid-19.

Both sides reiterated that the enduring Pakistan-China all-weather strategic cooperative partnership is beneficial to international and regional peace and stability, and serves the mutual security and development interests of both countries as well as of international community and regional countries.

Both sides were committed to firmly implementing the consensus reached between the two leaders, enhancing mutual strategic trust, strengthening all-round cooperation, maintaining momentum of high-level exchanges, further advancing construction of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), promoting bilateral relationship to a higher level, and delivering greater benefits to both countries and the two peoples.

The two sides agreed on continuing their firm support on issues concerning each other’s core national interests. The Chinese side reiterated that Pakistan and China are iron brothers and Pakistan remains China’s staunchest partner in the region and that China firmly supports Pakistan in safeguarding its territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence, independently choosing a development path based on its national conditions, striving for a better external security environment and playing a more constructive role on international and regional affairs.

The Pakistani side appreciated China for standing together with Pakistan in safeguarding its national security and sovereignty, and reaffirmed its firm support to China on affairs concerning China’s core interests and issues of major concern, such as those related to Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong.

Both sides underscored that CPEC has entered the new phase of high-quality development, and has played and will continue to play an important role in supporting Pakistan to overcome the impact of Covid-19 and achieve greater development.

Both sides expressed satisfaction on agreements reached on recent mega energy projects and look forward to convening the 10th JCC meeting at the earliest possible date to promote CPEC to make positive contributions to the high-quality construction of BRI.

Both sides reaffirmed the principle of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits in building CPEC, and welcomed the international community to join in the CPEC construction on the basis of consensus to achieve shared development.

Both sides expressed satisfaction over cooperation on regional and international issues at multilateral fora such as the United Nations (UN), Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and ASEAN Regional Forum, and agreed to deepen coordination and cooperation to safeguard mutual interests and uphold principles of fairness and justice. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and support for multilateralism, free trade and win-win cooperation, and opposition to unilateralism, protectionism and coercive practices.

The two sides underlined that a peaceful, stable, cooperative and prosperous South Asia was in common interest of all parties. Parties need to settle disputes and issues in the region through dialogue on the basis of equality and mutual respect. The Pakistani side briefed the Chinese side on the situation in Jammu & Kashmir, including its concerns, position and current urgent issues.

The Chinese side reiterated that the Kashmir issue is a dispute left over from history between India and Pakistan, which is an objective fact, and that the dispute should be resolved peacefully and properly through the UN Charter, relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and bilateral agreements. China opposes any unilateral actions that complicate the situation.

China and Pakistan agreed to strengthen cooperation on the Afghan issue and appreciated the efforts made by Afghan government and the Taliban to initiate the Intra-Afghan Negotiations. They emphasized the importance of an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive negotiated agreement for future political settlement in Afghanistan.

While reaffirming their commitment to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, both sides encouraged relevant parties in Afghanistan to seize this historic opportunity and commence the intra-Afghan Negotiations at the earliest leading to durable peace and stability in Afghanistan. China appreciated Pakistan’s positive contribution to the Afghan peace process and efforts for promoting peace and stability in region and beyond.

Both Pakistan and China reaffirmed the vitality of the time-tested and all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries which remains unaffected by the vicissitudes of the regional and international developments and continues to move from strength to strength.

PAK-SAUDI RELATIONS:

Earlier, dismissing speculations about rifts between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, FM Qureshi said that both countries enjoy very close relations.

In a statement on Friday, Qureshi, who was in China on an official visit, said that Pakistan’s relations with the Kingdom have invariably remained cordial and hoped that they will remain so in future as well.

“I think no one understands the depth of our relations with each other. We are each others’ necessity and support,” he further said. He hailed Riyadh’s categorical stance on Israel as historic, saying that the kingdom has not strayed from its historic position on the issue and that Pakistan holds the same view.

Qureshi said that Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa recently visited Riyadh where he held important meetings. He expressed the desire for future meetings to be held with Saudi Arabia on important issues, hoping that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia both fulfill the targets and expectations they have of each other.

About his visit to China, the foreign minister said that a lot of developments have taken place over the past one year that need to be discussed between the two countries.

“Pakistan, with the help of China, raised the issue of occupied Kashmir three times at the UN Security Council in one year,” he said. “China has a standoff with India as well on Indian Occupied Kashmir, which has not ended. Hence, you can see that Kashmir is important for both countries,” he added.

The minister said that Pakistan and China will also discuss the evolving situation in Afghanistan, as both the government and Taliban move closer towards a political settlement after the exchange of prisoners there.

Qureshi revealed that before the trip, he held detailed discussions with Prime Minister Imran Khan and General Bajwa. He said that people from the Foreign Office (FO) and those representing the General Headquarters (GHQ) are also accompanying him on the trip.

He said that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will also come under discussion during his visit and both countries have to discuss the time frame of certain schemes that are part of the project, which include Gwadar, and also deliberate on its targets.

He also said he will represent Pakistan at the second round of Pakistan-China Foreign Ministers’ strategic dialogue. He further said that Pakistan and China have brought under control coronavirus to a great extent, adding this is his first visit to the neighbouring country after a considerable decline in coronavirus cases.

Separately, in a statement on the occasion of International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism, the foreign minister expressed Pakistan’s unwavering commitment to fight the curse of terrorism.

“Resilient Pakistani nation has shown that the values of enlightenment, compassion and empathy that bind us together are much stronger than the forces of intolerance, hatred and violence,” he said.

Qureshi said that Pakistan has suffered the most from terrorism as it lost more than 70,000 lives and suffered economic losses of $120 billion. He said that thousands of Pakistan’s valiant soldiers and law enforcement personnel have laid down their lives in defending the motherland.

“I would like to thank and honour Pakistani citizens and families of martyrs of our law enforcement agencies and armed forces who have rendered immense sacrifices for the freedom, safety and security of Pakistan and its people,” Qureshi said, maintaining that the government and people of Pakistan will never forget their sacrifice. Despite these losses, he added, the country’s resolve to fight terrorism remains unwavering.

“As we commemorate this day, we must remember and venerate the victims of worst form of state terrorism by India against innocent people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” the foreign minister said.

Since 1990, he added, India’s occupation army has martyred over 100,000 Kashmiris, widowed over 22,000 women, orphaned around 108,000 children and raped more than 11,000 women.

He further said that the Indian state terrorism has intensified since 5th August military siege of eight million Kashmiris in the valley with extrajudicial killings and brutal use of force against peaceful protesters.

Qureshi called upon the international community to prosecute the Indian civil and military personnel involved in the state terrorism and serious crimes against humanity. He said that political leaders have been imprisoned whilst thirteen thousand Kashmiri youngsters have been subjected to abduction and torture.

The foreign minister said that on its part Pakistan is committed to showing the victims of terrorism that they are not alone and the international community stands in solidarity with them, wherever they are.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/08/21/pakistan-china-vow-to-make-cpec-hub-of-regional-connectivity/

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Courts will be moved to get Nawaz declared absconder: Rashid

Aamir Yasin

22 Aug 2020

RAWALPINDI: Federal Minister for Railways Shiekh Rashid Ahmed said on Friday that the government would bring former prime minister Nawaz Sharif back to the country and, to achieve this goal, approach courts to get him declared an absconder.

“The opposition leaders will have to face their corruption cases in accountability courts as Prime Minister Imran Khan will not give NRO to anyone,” he said while talking to journalists after inaugurating Government Postgraduate College for Women on Railway Station Road in Rawalpindi.

Mr Ahmed said that the opposition would not launch any movement against the government as all its leaders were facing corruption charges. “Maulana Fazlur Rehman wanted to have a written agreement with other opposition parties that they would not leave him alone if a movement was launched,” he said. “I informed Maulana Fazl that these parties would not become part of any movement.”

Says Maryam is creating problems for Shahbaz’s politics

Commenting on the recent clash between police and PML-N workers outside the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) office in Lahore, the minister said: “Stone pelting was not for NAB or police but on the politics of Shahbaz Sharif.”

He said that after creating problems for Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz was trapping Shahbaz Sharif. “He (Shahbaz Sharif) arranged his cards but Maryam Nawaz threw stone at his moves,” he said. He said Punjab Chief Minster Usman Buzdar would remain in place as the province’s chief executive and nothing would happen to him.

Responding to a question, he said the PTI government would complete its five-year term. He said the government was aware of inflation and unemployment and working to overcome these crises.

“To control the price hike of essential food items, the government has imported wheat and will also import sugar soon. All the conspiracies of mafias against the government will be foiled,” he said.

Mr Ahmed said solid steps were being taken to resolve basic issues like supply of clean drinking water and provision of standard education and improved healthcare facilities for which maximum resources were being utilised.

He said the PTI government was committed to improving the education system and extending the network of schools, colleges and other educational institutes. He said that the federal and provincial governments were working to establish more educational institutions in Rawalpindi.

Mr Ahmed said that he had ensured establishment of a number of schools, colleges and universities, particularly for middle class and women, in Rawalpindi. He announced that efforts would be made for the upgrade of Government Viqar-un-Nisa Postgraduate College to the status of university and it would be third women university in Rawalpindi. “Though it is difficult to establish another women’s university in Rawalpindi, I have started work on the new university,” he added.

He said that daughters of Rawalpindi were excellent in education and nobody could defeat them in this field.

He said that Prime Minister Khan and Chief Minister Buzdar were showing keen interest in bringing about a change in the education sector. He expressed the hope that Rawalpindi city would have a state-of-the-art “railway university” which would be the biggest university of its kind in the subcontinent.

The minister said the Main Line-1 (ML-1) project would reduce the traveling time between Rawalpindi and Karachi and generate job opportunities for 150,000 people. He said the Leh Expressway project would also be launched in Rawalpindi and Rawalpindi-Islamabad circular rail would also be launched on this route to facilitate the people of twin cities.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1575762/courts-will-be-moved-to-get-nawaz-declared-absconder-rashid

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NAB summons Maulana Fazl’s brother for questioning

22 Aug 2020

PESHAWAR: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Peshawar has issued a notice to Ziaur Rehman, a grade-19 officer and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s brother, to appear for questioning in graft cases on Aug 25.

The bureau has launched inquiries against him over his alleged involvement in illegal appointments and corruption in sale and purchase of government machinery during his appointment as Commissioner Afghan Refugees (CAR) KP.

He also faces allegations of accumulating assets beyond known sources of income.

Last month, the Sindh government had appointed Ziur Rehman the deputy commissioner of Karachi’s Central district, stirring controversy as opposition parties raised objections to his appointment and called for his removal at once.

Soon after, a blame game started between the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the federal government over how Fazl’s brother found himself at the disposal of the provincial government with the former blaming the latter for transferring him to Sindh.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/08/21/nab-summons-maulana-fazls-brother-for-questioning/

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Africa

 

‘Local politics, porous borders benefit Boko Haram’

Aurore Bonny  

21.08.2020

While many extremist terror groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS/Daesh have largely faded from the world scene, their African counterpart, Boko Haram continues to wreak havoc in Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Cameroon.

Founded in 2002, the group has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions from their homes, according to the Global Terrorism Index.

More intriguingly, while the West hunted down Al-Qaeda and ISIS/Daesh, there seems no such campaign against this dreaded terror group haunting Africa.

Over 3.4 million people have been displaced, including over 2.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northeastern Nigeria, over 684,000 IDPs in Cameroon, Chad and Niger and 294,000 refugees in the four countries, according to the UNHCR.

So far in 2020, the terror organization has struck nine times across Africa killing around 330 people.

On March 23, in a deadly attack in Boma, Chad, the group is believed to have killed 92 soldiers. On June 9, terrorists belonging to Boko Haram attacked Gubio village in Borno state, in northeastern Nigeria killing 81 civilians.

Tracing the activities of Boko Haram, Didier Badjeck, former military spokesperson of Cameroon told Anadolu Agency that the group has developed underground and networks and sleeper cells.

"The issue of Boko Haram's violence is continuing and looks some powers are behind, who want the conflict to continue. In addition to this, porous borders and economic decline in this particular area create a favorable environment for terrorism," he said.

He further said the issue of terrorism was asymmetrical, which cannot be defeated only by using security means. “It needs socio-economic responses and also as long as big countries are talking to other small countries scornfully, we will not be able to find real solutions to terrorism," Badjeck added.

Boko Haram launched a bloody insurgency in northeastern Nigeria in 2009, before expanding its attacks to neighboring Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, prompting a military response.

Terror group grows like octopus

A former Cameroonian military official alluded that the group gets quite active when elections are around in Nigeria.

"We notice that Boko Haram's operability intensity is variable according to the current political situation in Nigeria. Every time we get closer to the election there is an intensity. But when the elections are over these groups also live and just small raids are conducted here and there,” he said.

Denying that Boko Haram’s active presence was because of the retreat of Cameroonian defense forces, Badjeck, however, said there was a need to strengthen operational capabilities.

Praising the role of Cameroonian soldiers, Parfait Kari, the founder of the Cameroonian Association of Terrorism Victims (TVAC) said they have sanitized many areas form the terror group.

"Previously, it was impossible to travel peacefully in risk areas. Unfortunately, there are still some attacks especially since the terrorist group has become an octopus recruiting terrorists from other groups," he said.

Kari survived an attack by Boko Haram in 2014 but lost three of his colleagues in Waza, a city in the far north. He is disabled in his right hand because of a bullet. His organization wants people to understand that victims of terrorism are not victims of ordinary accidents.

According to Zambo Regis Gael, a Cameroonian humanitarian worker, the researcher on civilian responses to terrorist situations said the victims feel neglected because of negligible support from the state.

He regretted while there is policy to rehabilitate former terrorists and are trained in skills, through the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (CNDDR), there is no such effort for their victims.

"There is a sense that violent extremism is being rewarded with this program. The victims must also be considered. If we want a just society, we have to think about justice and equity policies," said Zambo.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/-local-politics-porous-borders-benefit-boko-haram-/1948673

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GCC states welcome Libya ceasefire agreement: WAM

22 August 2020

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has welcomed a ceasefire announcement in Libya, the UAE news agency WAM reported on Saturday.

For all the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

GCC Secretary General Nayef Falah Mubarak al-Hajraf called on all parties “to adhere to (this) constructive step, to urgently engage in political dialogue, and to work through mediation of the United Nations to reach a permanent and comprehensive solution to end the fighting and conflict in Libya,” WAM reported.

Libya's Tripoli based Government of National Accord (GNA) announced the ceasefire on Friday and the leader of a rival parliament in eastern Libya also appealed for a halt to hostilities.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/08/22/GCC-states-welcome-Libya-ceasefire-agreement-WAM.html

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Nigerian army says 'in full control' of town where hostages taken

20 Aug 2020

The Nigerian army on Thursday said it was in "full control" of a northeastern town where sources say hundreds of people had been taken hostage by rebels.

The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) fighters stormed the town Kukawa on Tuesday and seized hundreds of residents who had just returned after fleeing their homes about two years ago, according to local residents and militia sources.

"The terrorists on 18 August 2020 attacked troops' location in Kukawa town in Borno state where the attack was vehemently thwarted," defence spokesman John Enenche said in a statement.

"The situation in Kukawa is now calm with troops in full control," he said.

Kukawa's residents had returned to their homes on August 2 under military escort on the orders of the state government.

They had been living in camps in the regional capital Maiduguri, 180km (120 miles) away, where they fled following a bloody attack in November 2018.

"The attack by the terrorists was ... a deliberate attempt to reverse the milestone achievements recorded regarding IDPs [internally displaced people] in the areas of peacebuilding, reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement efforts by the government," Enenche said.

Three soldiers lost their lives, two were wounded while eight rebels were killed during the gun battle with the attackers, he added.

The decade-long conflict with the rebels in northeastern Nigeria has forced about two million people from their homes, mostly in the northern part of Borno.

Many have moved into squalid displacement camps in Maiduguri and rely on handouts from international charities.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/nigerian-army-full-control-town-hostages-200820132155915.html?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1459457_

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Boko Haram Terrorists Overrun Military Base In Borno, Kill Five Soldiers, Injure Others

AUG 20, 2020

Five Nigerian soldiers were killed on Tuesday following a gun battle in Gajibo area of Borno State with Boko Haram insurgents, security sources have told SaharaReporters.

The insurgents believed to be from the Islamic State West Africa Province attacked the military base in the town in about 15 gun trucks.

“Boko Haram during the week sacked the military base here in Gajibo, about five soldiers were killed and many injured. We saw the military evacuating their people both killed and wounded,” a resident told SaharaReporters.

The sources said several weapons and ammunition were stolen by the terrorists during the attack that lasted for three hours.

Boko Haram and its offshoot, ISWAP, have killed thousands and displaced millions in North-Eastern Nigeria.

The Nigerian Army has repeatedly claimed that the insurgency has been largely defeated and frequently underplays any losses.

In the past months, soldiers have been targeted by the insurgents, who lay ambush on their path.

http://saharareporters.com/2020/08/20/boko-haram-terrorists-overrun-military-base-borno-kill-five-soldiers-injure-others?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1459457_

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Kenya: Crackdown on demo over 'theft' of COVID-19 funds

Andrew Wasike  

21.08.2020

At least 12 people were arrested on Friday as police in Kenya’s capital cracked down on protests against alleged embezzlement of funds meant for COVID-19 response measures.

Authorities used tear gas to disperse protesters in Nairobi calling for action against public officials.

The demonstrations were sparked by an expose by local media on how a small section of people embezzled millions of dollars from the Health Ministry’s coffers.

Wanjeri Nderu, an activist who organized the protest, said Kenyans were outraged over the lack of transparency in the management of COVID-19 funds allocated to the Health Ministry and other government agencies.

He said corruption is hurting Kenya and the people want to see accountability.

“We took to the streets because to demand the arrest and prosecution of these thieves who have taken off with the COVID-19 funds and donations,” Nderu told Anadolu Agency.

“The government’s response is to fire tear gas at us and use brute force to disperse us. At least 12 of our activists have been arrested and they are at the central police station [in Nairobi].”

According to government records, Kenya has so far secured 223 billion Kenyan shillings (over $2 billion) from the international community for its fight against COVID-19.

However, the alleged theft of funds and equipment, including much needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), has led to shortages of finances and materials in various hospitals across Kenya.

Doctors strike as infections surge

The lack of money and resources was the main grievance of doctors and health workers who went on strike in Nairobi and other counties on Friday.

The protesting doctors want the government to clear their unpaid salaries and provide protective gear at hospitals.

The strike, health officials argue, will lead to a crisis in the capital and the rest of Kenya, where a surge in cases over recent days has taken the overall total to almost 32,000, including 532 fatalities.

However, Thuranira Kaugiria, secretary general of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists, and Dentists Union (KMPDU), in a statement urged doctors to stay away from work and to protect themselves at home.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/kenya-crackdown-on-demo-over-theft-of-covid-19-funds/1949336

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Southeast Asia

 

Child Sex Abuse Greatly Under-Reported in Malaysia, Claim Activists

Ainaa Aiman

August 22, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Two child rights activists claim that sexual violence against children occur far more frequently than indicated in official reports.

They did not give specific figures of their own, but Suriana Welfare Society chairman James Nayagam said he suspected that one in 10 children had faced abuse, and Dr Amar Singh, a paediatrician with more than 20 years of advocacy against child abuse, pointed to studies carried out in 1996, 2001 and 2011 showing that 8% to 26% of all children had suffered some form of abuse.

They were commenting on a recent report that police recorded 1,721 cases in the first six months of this year and a statement in the Dewan Rakyat that 813 cases were with the special court dealing with sexual crimes against children.

The statement was made by Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff.

Nayagam told FMT his suspicion was based on research he had carried out.

He said most cases of sexual abuse of children occurred behind closed doors and the recent lockdown caused him a lot of worry because it meant that victims were forced to stay at home with the perpetrators.

“The difficulty here is the cases do not get reported. It takes about four years before a case is reported as people tend to keep quiet for various reasons,” he said.

Nayagam said perpetrators within the family unit included boyfriends of single mothers and stepfathers.

“I have come across a case of a mother of two girls who has been abandoned by her husband. She can’t get work. She finds a boyfriend, who offers shelter but he fondles or rapes the children.

“She keeps quiet because where is she going to go if she gets kicked out?

“And then there are stepfathers who look at their stepdaughters as sexual objects. This very often happens in the east coast states.”

Nayagam said one problem was that conversations about sex were regarded as taboo and children were being taught to steer clear of the subject.

Another problem was that elders in the family tended to disbelieve children when they complained.

He also said enforcement agents were not sufficiently trained to deal with sexual abuse cases and there were often no follow-ups to reports due to a lack of manpower.

He said the under-reporting of cases rendered the child sex offenders’ registry meaningless.

The registry came into effect in April last year. Former deputy women, family and community development minister Hannah Yeoh said it would contain the names of about 3,000 reported offenders from 2017.

“You can have all the laws, but if it’s an invisible problem, then what are we going to do?” Nayagam said. “The only way is through better awareness and getting the children to speak up.”

Amar called for a differentiation between rape and sexual abuse with no penetration.

“A child may be raped but the vast majority are sexually abused,” he said. “Rape is usually limited in occurrence while child sexual abuse usually happens continually over a long duration.

“Classifying child sexual abuse as rape confuses the issue and limits the preventative measures.”

He said there was a need for an effective mechanism for children to use to inform reliable adults that they are victims of inappropriate touching or sexual activity or abuse.

“The current helpline (Talian Nur) is not meeting this need,” he said.

Amar recommended teaching children as young as three about appropriate and inappropriate touching on their bodies. This should be done at all nurseries, preschool facilities, children’s homes and day-care centres, he said.

Hartini Zainudin of the Yayasan Chow Kit crisis centre said there were still gaps in awareness of what sexual abuse entails.

“It is muddled when it comes to child marriage and rape, trafficking of children for prostitution, child pornography and in cases of incest,” she said.

She noted that international studies had found there was generally a lack of confidence in law enforcement and the judicial system to implement and provide protection to children.

Hartini said the culture in Malaysia was a hindrance to effective implementation of policies.

“We need sex education and a safe space for children to report sexual abuse,” she said. “And we need volunteers who will believe victims.”

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/08/22/child-sex-abuse-greatly-under-reported-claim-activists/

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Umno president confirms Muafakat opening doors to Bersatu

21 Aug 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 21 — Muafakat Nasional (MN) has decided to formally invite Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) to join the informal pact, Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced last night.

He said the pact’s steering committee has finalised the decision to make Bersatu’s entry official, after previously agreeing to this in principle.

“I and PAS president (Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang) will sign the invitation to Bersatu based on this meeting,” he said.

This would put the country’s three ruling Malay-based parties under a single umbrella.

The three parties were thought to be allied via Perikatan Nasional, another informal coalition, but Zahid announced last month that his party would not join this if it were to be registered.

However, Bersatu and PAS have also continued efforts to formalise the PN coalition.

MN is an accord between Umno and PAS based on their mutual cooperation on matters related to Islam and the Malay community ostensibly without sidelining other issues of national concern.

MN was meant to be formalised in May this year but this was preempted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/08/21/umno-president-confirms-muafakat-opening-doors-to-bersatu/1895761

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3 groups apply to be party in suit over vernacular schools

V Anbalagan

August 21, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Three language-based interest groups have filed an application to intervene in a suit filed by Ikatan Guru-Guru Muslim Malaysia in Kota Bharu on the existence of vernacular schools in Malaysia.

Lawyer T Gunaseelan, who is representing the Chinese Language Council, the Tamil Language Association and Confederation of Former Tamil School Pupils, said the application was filed early this week.

The three said in their application that they had a direct interest in the case and would be aggrieved parties should the plaintiff succeed in their action.

“The plaintiff will not suffer any prejudice should our application to intervene be allowed by the court,” they said in court documents sighted by FMT.

Chinese Language Council chairman Heng Hong Chai, Tamil Language Association chairman R Permalu and Confederation of Former Tamil School Pupils chairman M Kumaran have also affirmed the affidavit in support of their application.

Gunaseelan said he would also apply for the case in Kota Bharu to be transferred to Kuala Lumpur to be heard together with other similar actions filed here should the intervener application by his clients succeed.

The plaintiff, Mohd Azizee Hasan, who is Ikatan Guru-Guru Muslim Malaysia president, filed the suit on behalf of his organisation in February. He is challenging the constitutionality of Sections 17 and 28 of the Education Act.

The education minister and the government have been named as defendants.

Gabungan Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung and Majlis Pembangunan Pendidikan Islam Malaysia filed similar suits here in February.

Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) had filed a similar cause of action here in March.

Isma president Aminuddin Yahaya is seeking an order that the two provisions in the Education Act, which allow the use of Chinese and Tamil languages as the medium of instruction in vernacular schools, are against Article 152 of the Federal Constitution.

Article 152 states that Bahasa Melayu is the national language of Malaysia.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/08/21/3-groups-apply-to-be-party-in-suit-over-vernacular-schools/

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Muhyiddin, Anwar, Najib cannot strengthen our sovereignty, says Dr M

August 21, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad says neither Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim nor former premier Najib Razak is able to strengthen Malaysia’s sovereignty.

In a video interview with student Farid Aziz, Mahathir was asked who among the three he believed could strengthen the country’s sovereignty.

“None of them,” he said, in a quick-fire question-and-answer session.

He was also asked which ruling coalition was the strongest and fairest, between Barisan Nasional (BN), Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional.

To this, he replied: “BN in the early days.”

When asked to describe a good attribute of Anwar, Mahathir said he was ambitious, adding that his former deputy chose to join Umno as he knew he could not become prime minister if he was in PAS.

“That’s why he chose to join Umno, and I received him and promoted him to deputy prime minister. He was supposed to replace me when I resigned,” he said.

“But before that, incidents happened that led to him being brought to court, and that hindered him from becoming prime minister.”

Mahathir described Najib as a talented and capable leader but said the former prime minister’s way of gaining popularity among the people by giving out money was an “unsuitable idea” for a leader.

Mahathir also called on Malaysian youth to be more involved and aware of local developments, telling them that ignoring such matters would be irresponsible on their part.

“What happens in the country will have an effect on them later on. That’s why they have to care about what’s happening around them,” he said.

“Or else, they will be controlled by people who have their own agendas, which may not be good for the country.”

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/08/21/muhyiddin-anwar-najib-cannot-strengthen-our-sovereignty-says-dr-m/

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Malaysia to deport Bangladeshi migrant Rayhan Kabir

Syed Samiul Basher Anik

August 21st, 2020

He was arrested by immigration officers on July 24 following a two-week manhunt

Malaysian authorities are set to deport Bangladeshi migrant Rayhan Kabir, who was arrested after appearing in an Al Jazeera documentary.

He has been released and is set to leave Malaysia for Bangladesh, Shariful Islam, the head of Brac Migration Program, told Dhaka Tribune

The Malaysia Airlines flight is expected to arrive Dhaka sometime after 1am on Saturday, he said.

Rayhan was taken to Kuala Lumpur International Airport at about 9pm (Malaysian time) on Friday by immigration officers, reports Malaysian daily the Star.

Md Rayhan, 25, who was in handcuffs, waved and gave a thumbs-up sign to a group of media representatives before being taken to the immigration counter.

Sources said he would be taking a Malaysia Airlines flight to Dhaka at 11pm (Malaysian time).

On Wednesday, two lawyers representing Bangladeshi expatriate Md Rayhan Kabir said the country’s immigration has decided to deport Rayhan but will not press any charges against him.

Rayhan was featured in the Al Jazeera documentary ‘Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown’ that alleged the mistreatment of migrants by Malaysian authorities during the movement control order.

The documentary tackled the Malaysian government’s “military-style” raids on migrant communities under the pretext of coronavirus management.

The raids have seen migrants, including children and the elderly, rounded up and “handcuffed and chained together” for hours under the hot sun while they waited for their documents to be verified.

This included their experiences during a raid by authorities on Jalan Masjid India — a popular shopping street in downtown Kuala Lumpur — on May 1, which led to the arrest of several undocumented foreigners, which the Qatar-based news agency described as “racist and inhumane”.

The documentary raises allegations of mistreatment and persecution of foreigners at the height of Malaysia’s battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the same time, there are concerns that harsh punishments towards the media may limit press freedom and cover-up wrongdoings by the authorities.

Soon after the documentary made its way online, the concerned authorities shifted their focus onto Rayhan, who was seen criticizing the Malaysian government.

Rayhan told the news channel that he was forbidden from seeing his friends who were detained.

In the documentary, Rayhan showed footage on his phone of other migrants being herded down the street by government officials. He also shared how some migrant workers were arrested when their companies failed to renew their visas, calling the government measures a “clear act of racism”.

Rayhan’s work permit has since been revoked and the Malaysian immigration department said on Tuesday that he will be deported and blacklisted from entering Malaysia forever.

Rayhan was arrested by immigration officers on July 24 in Setapak following a two-week manhunt.

Malaysian police are also investigating Al Jazeera for sedition, in addition to the violation of several other Malaysian laws.

https://www.dhakatribune.com/world/east-asia/2020/08/21/rayhan-kabir-returning-home-from-malaysia-monday-night

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New Zealand

 

Christchurch shooting: New Zealand braces for mosque gunman's sentencing

Charlotte Graham-McLay in Wellington

22 Aug 2020

In a high security and physically distanced courtroom on Monday will begin an end, of sorts, to one of the darkest and most traumatic moments in New Zealand’s history: the day an Australian terrorist stormed two mosques in the city of Christchurch, killing dozens of worshipers at prayer.

The shooting survivors and families bereaved by the gunman, will face him in Christchurch high court – many for the first time – as he is sentenced for 51 murders, 40 counts of attempted murder, and a charge of engaging in a terrorist act on 15 March 2019, all of which he has admitted.

Brenton Tarrant, a self-professed white supremacist who broadcast part of the massacre live on Facebook, faces the possibility of being the first offender in New Zealand sentenced to life in prison without the chance of ever leaving jail. After electing to represent himself, the gunman will have the opportunity to speak in court during a hearing that could present questions for the judge, and reporters, about whether any views he promotes should be suppressed or censored.

The mosque attacks were the largest mass shooting in New Zealand’s history and the first act of terrorism in decades, prompting an outpouring of grief in the normally peaceful nation, and exhortations from many in the Muslim community for the country – and its leaders – to confront what they said had been a rising tide of white supremacist threats.

Tarrant’s abrupt guilty plea in March to all the charges he faced reversed an earlier decision to plead not guilty. It also subverted plans for a lengthy trial scheduled to begin in June that some of his victims welcomed, but many were dreading.

Instead, over four days next week, more than 60 of those wounded or bereaved in the attacks, and those who witnessed them, will read statements in court about the effect of the gunman’s actions on their lives. It will be the first time since Tarrant’s first judicial appearance – the day after the 2019 shooting – that he is present in person, rather than on a video link from jail in Auckland.

Among those making statements will be Aya al-Umari, whose brother Hussein al-Umari, 35, was killed trying to protect others at al Noor mosque. She would begin by speaking about her brother’s dreams and aspirations, she said, before explaining how the attack has affected her.

“There’s only one line that I plan to eyeball him in,” al-Umari said, referring to the gunman. “When I say that I used to talk to Hussein and vent to him, and I still have the urge to pick up the phone and call him ... but now that you’ve killed him you’ve actually made me turn to God and that’s made my faith in Islam even stronger.”

Justice Cameron Mander will then hear from the prosecution, and from Tarrant, about any factors they believe the presiding judge should take into account.

New Zealand’s courts issue an automatic life sentence for murder, but judges have always allowed for an offender to seek parole after a set number of years, which varies by case. No one has ever been sentenced to life without parole; the longest previous sentence was a minimum term of 30 years for a man who killed three people in 2001.

“If anything, this should be where [a sentence of life without parole] needs to be utilised,” al-Umari said.

Brenda Midson, a senior law lecturer at the University of Waikato, said the use of such a sentence must pass “a really high threshold” and take into account all factors surrounding the attacks including Tarrant’s age, the length of time he is likely to spend in jail, and his admission of the crimes – which usually results in a shorter prison term. The vulnerability of his victims as they worshipped during Friday prayers would also be considered.

Courts were reluctant to send people to jail without the chance of release, she said, and worked on the principle that “the least restrictive sentence that is necessary in all of the circumstances should be given.”

“But if there was ever a case [for that sentence], it would be this one,” she added.

The prospect of the gunman using his trial as a platform to promulgate his views has provoked anxiety among his victims; Justice Mander has suggested in a memo to news outlets ahead of the sentencing that he will, if needed, bar the reporting of “harmful material” or prevent the court process from being used for “ulterior purposes”.

The judge “can’t deny him the opportunity to speak, but he’ll pounce on him if it looks like he’s using it as an opportunity to grandstand,” Chris Gallavin, a law professor at Massey University, told the Guardian in July. He said the court would not allow Anders Behring Breivik’s hour-long statement at his 2012 trial after he killed 77 people in Norway – and would pause the hearing if it “got out of control”.

The hearing will also be the first time an official account of Tarrant’s actions is given publicly. The gunman had moved to New Zealand from Australia and amassed a cache of semi-automatic weapons before committing the attacks.

There will be an “increased and highly visible presence” of police officers in Christchurch during the hearing – particularly around the courthouse – said police spokesman John Price. The bolstered security will include vehicle barriers on the streets outside the court.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/22/christchurch-shooting-new-zealand-braces-for-mosque-gunmans-sentencing

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Europe

 

British-Australian academic being held in virus-hit Iranian jail ‘without enough food, water’

August 21, 2020

LONDON: A British-Australian academic being held in a notorious Iranian prison hit by a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak does not have enough food or water, a UK newspaper reported on Friday.

Cambridge-educated Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been locked up in Tehran for nearly two years after being arrested at the capital’s main airport in September 2018 on accusations of espionage, “despite speaking little to no Farsi,” said The Times article.

The lecturer in Islamic studies at the University of Melbourne, was recently transferred to Iran’s Qarchak jail, which has been branded by human rights groups as the worst prison in the country.

According to a report by human rights group Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, the jail is experiencing a severe COVID-19 outbreak, with infected and healthy prisoners still being mixed together.

The report also states that food portions have been heavily cut, forcing inmates to resort to their own means of purchasing food and water.

“If the reports are true, then it is extremely disappointing that the Australian government has told the public that Kylie is ‘well,’ yet has not managed to even secure her access to safe food and water,” said Dara Conduit, one of her colleagues.

“I call on (Australian) foreign minister (Marise) Payne to urgently investigate these reports, and to demand both in public and behind closed doors that Kylie’s conditions are improved. It (the Australian government) must hold Iran to account on this. Access to safe water is a human right.”

However, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said: “Australia’s ambassador to Iran made a consular visit to Dr. Moore-Gilbert in Qarchak prison on Aug. 2. Dr. Moore-Gilbert is well and has access to food, medical facilities, and books.

“We believe that the best chance of resolving Dr. Moore-Gilbert’s case lies through the diplomatic path and not through the media. Dr. Moore-Gilbert and her family have requested privacy.”

The total number of recorded cases of COVID-19 in Iran currently stands at 354,764, with 20,376 deaths and 305,866 recoveries.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1722591/world

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Pope Francis calls Mozambique bishop after Islamist militants seize port city

August 21, 2020

Pope Francis made an unexpected phone call this week to a bishop in northern Mozambique, where militants linked to the Islamic State have seized control of the port city of Mocimboa da Praia.

“Today … to my surprise and joy I received a call from His Holiness Pope Francis who comforted me greatly. He said that he … is following events in our province with great concern and that he has been praying for us. He also said to me that if there was anything else that he could do, we should not hesitate to ask him,” Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa wrote on a diocesan webpage.

Lisboa leads the Mozambique diocese of Pemba, located in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, a region that has experienced escalating extremist violence with multiple churches burnt, people beheaded, young girls kidnapped, and more than 200,000 people displaced by violence.

Pope Francis called the bishop on Aug. 19 after the Islamic State declared that it had taken two military bases near Cabo Delgado’s port city Mocimboa da Praia.

“I told him about the difficult situation in Mocimboa da Praia, which has been taken by insurgents, and that there has been no contact with the diocese for a week from two religious sisters from the Congregation of St. Joseph of Chambéry who were working there,” Lisboa said.

The bishop said that the pope was saddened by this news and promised to pray for this intention.

Mozambique’s defence minister said in a press conference on Mocimboa da Praia Aug. 13 that the Islamist militants had “attacked the town from the inside out, causing destruction, looting, and murder of defenceless citizens”.

Government troops have made attempts to recapture the port, which is also the logistics point for a multibillion-dollar natural gas project, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Bishop Lisboa said that Pope Francis encouraged him to contact Cardinal Michael Czerny, the under-secretary of the migrants and refugees section of the Vatican dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, for help with humanitarian assistance.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in attacks in northern Mozambique since 2017, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Some of these attacks have been claimed by the Islamic State, while others have been carried out by the homegrown Ahlu Sunna Wal extremist militant group, which has been kidnapping men and women.

During Holy Week this year, insurgents perpetrated attacks on seven towns and villages in Cabo Delgado province, burning down a church on Good Friday, and killing 52 young people who refused to join the terrorist group, Lisboa told Aid to the Church in Need.

The bishop noted in April that extremists had already burned five or six local chapels, as well as some mosques. He said that the historic Sacred Heart of Jesus mission in Nangolo was also attacked this year.

In June there were reports that insurgents had beheaded 15 people in a week. Yet the bishop said that the crisis in Mozambique has largely been met with “indifference” from the rest of the world.

“The world has no idea yet what is happening because of indifference,” Bishop Lisboa said in an interview with Portuguese media June 21.

“We do not yet have the solidarity that there should be,” he told LUSA news agency.

https://catholicherald.co.uk/pope-francis-calls-mozambique-bishop-after-islamist-militants-seize-port-city/

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UN envoy expects no miracles but hopeful on Syria talks

Peter Kenny  

21.08.2020

GENEVA

The UN Special Envoy for Syria said Friday he hopes the Syrian peace talks due to restart on Monday in Geneva lead to progress, but he cautioned against expectations of a "miracle or breakthrough."

"No one expects that this meeting here next week will produce a miracle or a breakthrough that's not what this is about," Geir Pedersen said at a briefing for journalists at the UN in Geneva in an answer to a question from Anadolu Agency.

"This is about the beginning of a long and cumbersome process where we hopefully can start to see progress and that this progress can also lead to progress in other areas that we need to implement when it comes to Security Council resolution 2254."

Ahmad Kuzbari will represent the Bashar al-Assad regime and Hadi al-Bahra will be there to speak for the opposition Syrian Negotiations Commission.

The talks are guided by UN Security Council Resolution 2254 for a negotiated settlement to end the civil war.

The resolution calls for the release of those detained and abducted, a nationwide cease-fire to end violent conflict, and a safe, calm and neutral environment that enables the safe, voluntary, and dignified return of refugees.

Pedersen said he briefed the Security Council on Wednesday about the damage of the nearly 10-year-long war.

"As I said to the Security Council, there has been untold tragedies during this period, and of course now, with what is happening in Lebanon with a tragic explosion, we also know that this has had a deep impact on Syrians.

"Many, many being killed and wounded and of course, it also has an impact on their livelihood, and many are being left homeless and even hungry."

The last round of talks on Syrian peace failed to start late last November due to failure to reach an agreement on the agenda.

Anadolu Agency asked Pedersen if this round could forestall such a likelihood.

"I think what we have learned now is to respect the agreement that has already been negotiated. You know, it was quite a process before we managed to agree on the terms of reference and the rules of procedure," said Pedersen.

"And that serves as the basis for the meetings that we are going to have," said Pedersen, adding he would "take nothing for granted."

"I am confident that we all have learned the lesson. When it comes to confidence-building measures, obviously the fact that we will be meeting here in Geneva, after nine months, is an important step in the right direction. But as I've said many times, it is not enough."

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, over 5 million civilians have become refugees. Turkey hosts 3.6 million of them, more than any country in the world.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/un-envoy-expects-no-miracles-but-hopeful-on-syria-talks/1949340

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Sudanese man who drowned trying to reach UK named as Abdulfatah Hamdallah

Jack Dutton

August 21, 2020

The Sudanese man who was found dead on a Calais beach this week after drowning in the English Channel trying to reach Britain has been named as Abdulfatah Hamdallah.

Reports on Wednesday stated that a 16-year-old boy drowned in the Channel before his body was found on Sangatte beach, near Calais, after a walker found his friend suffering from hypothermia on Tuesday night.

But it has since been confirmed that Hamdallah was born in 1992, making him 28, not 16.

The 28-year-old man, who is thought to be from the town of En-Nahud, around eight hours south of Sudan's capital, Khartoum, and which borders conflict-ridden Darfur and the Nuba Mountains, fled the country in 2014.

His relatives told The Guardian that he spent two years in Libya working as a car washer with his older brother before travelling to France via Italy.

Hamdallah, also known as Wajdi, slept rough in France for two months before making the perilous journey across the world’s busiest shipping lane.

He is understood to have recently had his asylum claim rejected in France, leading him to make the dangerous journey to Britain using shovels for oars.

It was also revealed that Hamdallah played football with other migrants in a field only 48 hours before he tried to cross the Channel.

One friend paid tribute to Hamdallah on Facebook.

“'There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, whoever is on the van, and remains the face of your Lord, the glory and dignity, has passed away to the mercy of Allah, my dear friend in the state of France Abdel Fattah, praise be to Allah. We ask God for mercy and forgiveness, Lord.”

British Home Secretary Priti Patel said the incident was an "upsetting and tragic loss of a young life".

"This horrendous incident serves as a brutal reminder of the abhorrent criminal gangs and people smugglers who exploit vulnerable people,” Ms Patel said.

"Working together we are determined to stop them."

Illegal immigrants have been crossing the Channel in record numbers this year, with more than 4,000 people making the perilous journey.

Britain and France announced a new joint task force to thwart illegal crossings last week. Dan O’Mahoney, the UK’s newly appointed Channel threat commander, is continuing talks in France this week.

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/sudanese-man-who-drowned-trying-to-reach-uk-named-as-abdulfatah-hamdallah-1.1066710

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