New Age Islam
Thu Oct 22 2020, 04:30 AM

Islamic World News ( 4 Feb 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

‘Love Jihad’ Not Defined Under Laws, No Case Reported: Government







• Catholic Religious Support Shaheen Bagh’s Women Protesters

• Imran Khan: Islamophobia Grew Because Muslim Leaders Failed To Explain Islam

• Taliban Accuse US of Stalling Afghan Peace Talks

• Leave Nur Sajat Alone, Prominent Turkish Scholar Tells Malaysian Authorities

• Saudi Arabia’s Council Of Ministers Expresses Support for Palestinian People

• Draft UNSC Resolution Rebukes Israel Annexation Plan

• 90% of Boko Haram Victims Are Muslims – Buhari

• Trump: I Am Not Looking To Kill Hundreds of Thousands of People in Afghanistan

• EU States in UNSC Call on Myanmar to Protect Its Rohingya Muslims

 

India

• ‘Love Jihad’ Not Defined Under Laws, No Case Reported: Government

• Catholic Religious Support Shaheen Bagh’s Women Protesters

• Govt Puts It On Record: No NRC Decision Yet

• Shaheen Bagh shooter an AAP worker: Police

• Reading the Muslim Mind Ahead Of the Delhi Assembly Election

• Pakistani Hindus coming to India in hope of getting citizenship

• Probe into violence at Jamia still on, at crucial stage: Centre to HC

• Shaheen Bagh protestors are fighting to save Constitution: Subhash Chopra

• PM Modi announces setting up of Ram temple trust in Ayodhya

• Former PDP MLA, trade unionist released from detention in Kashmir

• Pak army shells Shahpur, Kirni sectors in J&K's Poonch

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Pakistan

• Imran Khan: Islamophobia Grew Because Muslim Leaders Failed To Explain Islam

• Imran regrets skipping KL Summit over others’ ‘misconceptions’

• Maulana Fazlur Rehman decides to distance JUI-F from opposition parties

• PTI govt has failed to deliver: Abbasi

• Iran, Pakistan highlight necessity of unity in Islamic world

• Pakistan presses Malaysia button as Imran Khan fails to garner Saudi-UAE support on Kashmir

• OIC’s voice on Kashmir issue missing: Imran

• SHC restrains Jami from issuing defamatory statements against Hameed Haroon

• PPP to launch anti-govt movement in March, says Bilawal

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South Asia

• Taliban Accuse US of Stalling Afghan Peace Talks

• Rohingya Christian Family Kidnapped, Minor Converted

• Taliban say US has ‘harmed’ negotiations

• Myanmar Cuts off Internet In Violence-Hit States, Intercom Firm Says

• Nearly 29,000 Afghan civilians killed in past decade, report says

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Southeast Asia

• Leave Nur Sajat Alone, Prominent Turkish Scholar Tells Malaysian Authorities

• Shariah Court to Rule On Feb 25 If Maria Chin Is Guilty Of Contempt

• Malaysia and Pakistan leaders reaffirm close ties

• Ex-Gambian president influenced by Naik, commission told

• Ma'ruf Amin could just punch the clock, phone in and still be a great VP

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Arab World

• Saudi Arabia’s Council Of Ministers Expresses Support for Palestinian People

• Iraqi Protesters face off against Moqtada Al-Sadr’s Followers

• Saudi Arabia Calls for Just Solution to Palestinian Issue

• Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper suspends print edition over fiscal difficulties

• UN chief calls for end to hostilities between Turkey and Syria in Idlib

• Lebanese-American who worked for Israel charged with murder

• UN chief calls for end to fighting between Turkey, Syria in Idlib

• Top US commander for Middle East slips into Iraq for talks to salvage relations

• Battle for Syria’s Saraqib city opens route for final assault on Idlib

• Bloodied but determined, Lebanese protesters take stock

• NW Syria violence displaces 500,000 in two months: UN

• Greece to send Patriot missiles to Saudi Arabia

• Militant drone strike targets refinery, gas facilities in Syria’s Homs, causes damage

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Mideast

• Draft UNSC Resolution Rebukes Israel Annexation Plan

• UAE, Israel Officials Conspiring Against Iran at Secret White House Meeting

• EU rejects Trump’s anti-Palestine Mideast scheme, annexation

• Iran To Continue Support For Palestinian Govt. With Jerusalem Al-Quds as Capital: Zarif

• Iran should prepare to fill void left by US in the region: Former IRGC chief

• Khartoum’s position towards Palestinian issue will remain firm, says al-Burhan

• Turkey’s Erdogan says won’t allow Syria to gain ground in Idlib

• EU likely to avoid sending Iran nuclear case to UN, triggering new sanctions: Borrell

• Israeli warplanes launch new airstrikes on Gaza

• Iran to continue support for Palestinian govt. with Jerusalem al-Quds as capital: Zarif

• EU to unveil reforms in accession system to appease France

• Yemeni army kills Houthis in Al-Jawf province

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Africa

• 90% of Boko Haram Victims Are Muslims – Buhari

• Sudan casts doubt on early normalization with Israel

• Libya rivals show ‘genuine will’ to start negotiations: UN Envoy

• Morocco’s military takes delivery of 3 Israeli-made Heron reconnaissance drones: Report

• 2 killed, 20 homes torched in Boko Haram attack in Cameroon

• Israel's Netanyahu, Sudan's ruling council chief meet in Uganda, sparking Palestinian ire

• Uganda: Netanyahu urges stronger ties, embassy in J'lem

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North America

• Trump: I Am Not Looking To Kill Hundreds of Thousands of People in Afghanistan

• US Election 2020: At One Iowa Mosque, Almost All Caucus Votes Went To Bernie Sanders

• UN Envoy Hopes Libya Talks Will Stem Inflow Of Foreign Arms

• UAE, Israel officials conspiring against Iran at secret White House meeting

• ‘Kushner took a knife and put it in Netanyahu’s back,’ Israel’s Yesha Council manger

• US city appoints first Turkish-American police chief

• US, Israel, UAE officials secretly met on Iran: report

• Pompeo backs Turkey on troops' deaths by Syria regime

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Europe

• EU States in UNSC Call on Myanmar to Protect Its Rohingya Muslims

• Europe to Avoid Taking Iran Nuclear Dispute to UN, EU’s Top Diplomat Says

• 1st anniversary of Document on Human Fraternity

• Muslim Dad: I’d Rather Go to Jail than Allow My Son to Attend LGBT School Lessons

• At Muslim Hackathon, Techies Build Community and Tools To Access Islamic Learning

• 'Europe to face new refugee exodus if Turkey ignored'

• Denmark: 3 Iranians arrested for spying for Saudis

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/‘love-jihad’-not-defined-under-laws,-no-case-reported--government/d/120986

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‘Love jihad’ not defined under laws, no case reported: Government

Feb 5, 2020

NEW DELHI: The home ministry on Tuesday said the term ‘love jihad’ — popularly used to describe cases of allegedly forced inter-faith marriages — was not defined under existing laws and no such case had been reported by any central agencies.

In reply to a question by LS MP Behanan Benny asking if the government was aware of Kerala HC’s observation that there was no case of ‘love jihad’ in the state, junior home minister G Kishan Reddy referred to Article 25 of the Constitution, which provides for freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health.

“Various courts have upheld this view, including Kerala HC. The term ‘love jihad’ is not defined under extant laws. No such case of ‘love jihad’ has been reported by any of the central agencies. However, two cases from Kerala involving inter-faith marriages have been investigated by the National Investigation Agency,” he said.

The NIA had probed the case relating to inter-faith marriage of Kerala girl Hadiya, a Hindu who converted to Islam, to Shafin Jahan. It also probed a similar case of another Hindu girl from Kerala, Athira, who had alleged that she was being lured into embracing Islam.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/love-jihad-not-defined-under-laws-no-case-reported-government/articleshow/73946437.cms

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Catholic religious support Shaheen Bagh’s women protesters

February 4, 2020

New Delhi, Feb 4, 2020: A group of Catholic religious has expressed solidarity with the women protesters of Shaheen Bagh in the national capital.

Around 25 Catholic priests and nuns from Delhi led by Presentation Sister Anastasia Gill on February 2 spent a day with the women who are protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

“The Christian community rejects CAA as this piece of legislation that is against the spirit of the Constitution of India,” said Sister Gill while addressing thousands of women gathered at the south Delhi suburb for more than 50 days.

The nun, who is the Christian member of the Delhi Minorities Commission, said as “citizens of this great nation, Christians are in solidarity with the protesters as they defend the idea of India cherished by the father of our Nation Mahatma Gandhiji and Babasaheb Ambedkar.”

The Catholic religious sang with the protesters ‘Abide with me,” a favorite hymn of Mahatma Gandhi, and the popular hymn “Hum honge kaam yaab” (we will succeed), an anthem of many civil rights movements.

Following the passage of Citizenship Amendment Act in both the houses of parliament the women spontaneously and peacefully began to demonstrate at Shaheen Bagh from December 15. The women intensified their protest with the police brutality against the students of Jamia Millia Islamia.

Sister Gill later told Matters India that Shaheen Bagh has become a remarkable symbol of the widespread, spontaneous and a profound mass upsurge of people across India against what they say are anti-people laws.

This sit-in protest has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the country who came to express their solidarity. Earlier visitors included Father Susai Sebastian, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Delhi.

http://mattersindia.com/2020/02/catholic-religious-support-shaheen-baghs-women-protesters/

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Imran Khan: Islamophobia grew because Muslim leaders failed to explain Islam

04 Feb 2020

PETALING JAYA: The growth of Islamophobia is because Muslim leaders failed to combat anti-Muslim sentiments in the West by explaining the truth about Islam, says Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In his keynote address at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia here on Tuesday (Feb 4), he said the inability to remove Islam from the Western world's definition of terrorism made matters worse for the more than one billion Muslims worldwide.

He singled out key events such as the Iranian Revolution, the reaction of the Muslim world towards Salman Rushdie's controversial book, The Satanic Verses, and the 9/11 attacks as pivotal moments that saw Islamophobia growing in the West.

According to Imran, the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which resulted in the toppling of the monarchy there, saw Western countries fearing for the first time that Islam would go against their interests.

In addition, Islamophobia became worse in 1988 with the controversy over Rushdie's book which outraged Muslims due to its blasphemous content and earned the writer a death sentence from Iran.

"I consider that the biggest failure of Muslim leadership.

"They should have explained why it mattered so much. Westerners have a completely different attitude towards religion compared to the Muslim world.

"We needed to explain to them why it (the book) caused us so much pain. As a result (of this failure to explain), Islam was seen as intolerant by the Western world," said Imran.

He said in the wake of the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaeda against the United States on Sept 11,2001, Muslim leaders should have objected when the Western world called these attacks an act of Islamic terrorism.

"What do the terrorist acts have to do with us?

"Rather than saying Islam had nothing to do with it and delinking Islam from the attacks, the Muslim world, unfortunately, started using Western terminologies such as 'moderate Islam and radical Islam'.

"Islamophobia grew even more because Muslim countries did not stop and question this and say that Islam and terrorism had no linkage," he added.

He said nobody, for example, linked the Japanese kamikaze pilots during World War Two with religion nor was this the case when Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels assassinated India's former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

"No one linked religion to them but Islam and terrorism got connected," he said.

To combat Islamophobia and the rampant misconceptions about Islam, Khan said Pakistan, Malaysia and Turkey were planning to form their own media.

The idea to form a dedicated TV channel towards this end was first announced by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in December last year.

"There's a need to give people an idea of what the misconceptions are as well as what the real Islam is.

"There is also extremist propaganda luring young people towards extremist ideologies.

"Therefore, we hope to come out with a media that also gives our children and non-Muslims an understanding of what real Islam is," said Imran, who is currently in Malaysia for a working visit from Monday (Feb 3) to Tuesday (Feb 4).

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2020/02/04/imran-khan-islamophobia-grew-because-muslim-leaders-failed-to-explain-islam

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Taliban accuse US of stalling Afghan peace talks

February 05, 2020

KABUL: The Taliban lashed out at Washington on social media on Tuesday, accusing the US of holding up negotiations over a potential withdrawal deal that would see the Americans end their 18-year war in Afghanistan.

Washington and the Taliban are still wrangling over a possible deal that would see US troops begin to leave Afghanistan in return for security guarantees.

However, there appears to have been little progress in reaching a deal in recent weeks, prompting the insurgents to saddle blame on the White House and what they say are a growing list of demands by the Americans to pave the way for a deal.

The Taliban have the intention & capacity for a resolution, said spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a tweet.

“Negotiation process has been harmed by Trump’s tweet, numerous US demands & quarrel b/w US & Kabul officials. @SecPompeo should refrain from blame-shifting. Our stance is principled & concerted —unlike them,” he added.

The Taliban’s remarks came a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the insurgents must make “demonstrable evidence of their will and capacity to reduce violence” in order to reach an agreement during a meeting with Central Asian officials in Uzbekistan.

Taliban sources told AFP last month they had offered to initiate a brief ceasefire of seven to 10 days to help secure a deal, but there was no announcement of the details of the proposal by either party.

The tweet also came days after Zalmay Khalilzad — the US special envoy leading negotiations with the Taliban — launched a new round of shuttle diplomacy by travelling to both Pakistan and Afghanistan to brief officials on the status of the talks.

In recent weeks, the US has been largely quiet on the exact status of the negotiations, while the Taliban have insisted they are prepared to reduce fighting to move talks forward.

The US and Taliban had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead”, citing Taliban violence.

Talks were later restarted in December in Qatar, but paused again following an attack near the US-run Bagram military base in Afghanistan.

As talks have fluctuated, violent attacks in the country have raged, with the number of clashes jumping to record levels in the last quarter of 2019, according to a US government watchdog report released last week.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532514/taliban-accuse-us-of-stalling-afghan-peace-talks

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Leave Nur Sajat alone, prominent Turkish scholar tells Malaysian authorities

Abdar Rahman Koya

February 5, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: A prominent Turkish scholar advocating greater freedom in Muslim countries has urged religious authorities in Malaysia to apply the correct Islamic response to a transgender’s decision to change into female clothes during her recent umrah trip.

Mustafa Akyol said Nur Sajat, who sparked controversy and angry reactions from politicians and muftis after she posted a picture of her in the telekung (female prayer garb) at the Holy Mosque in Mecca, should not be made a target by the authorities.

“The fact that Nur Sajat went for umrah shows that she is devoted to her religion,” Akyol, a strong advocate of free speech in the Muslim world who has frequently criticised both the Islamists and secularists in his home country, told FMT.

“She also probably didn’t disturb any other fellow Muslims around her on holy ground. So, why not respect the way she identifies herself?”

Akyol said Muslims need to accommodate transgenders as part of the ummah.

The US-based author said in this context, the Shia corpus of Islamic jurisprudence appeared to be more practical in dealing with people who are caught in a conflict of gender identity.

“It is noteworthy that the Shia ulama have taken positive steps in this regard. That is why sex-change operations are not only legal but even encouraged in Iran,” he said.

Iran, a predominantly Shia nation, is the only Muslim country in the Middle East that gives trans citizens the right to have their gender identity.

In 1986, the leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatullah Khomeini, passed a landmark fatwa declaring gender-confirmation surgery and hormone-replacement therapy as religiously acceptable medical procedures.

Sajat, whose name on the Mykad is stated as Muhammad Sajad Kamaruzaman, is a prominent transgender entrepreuner who identifies as a woman. She sparked controversy after posting images of her wearing the telekung (female prayer attire) while in Mecca.

It prompted a strong response from Mujahid Yusof Rawa, the minister in charge of Islamic affairs, who warned Sajat of action upon her return.

The travel agency managing Sajat’s umrah tour has since removed her from the holy city.

Mujahid said Sajat had undermined the image of Islam as well as Malaysia’s ties with the Saudi government. Mujahid and Islamic bureacrats including muftis insisted that Sajat perform the umrah ritual as a male, as she was still officially a man.

But Akyol said society must come to terms with the transgender community.

“Such a group of people exist, not just today, but also throughout history, for reasons we don’t fully know.

“Some people are born with a conflict with their physical fitra and psychological fitra,” he said, using an Arabic term which means original disposition.

“In other words, they have a man’s body, but they feel like woman. Or vice versa.

“I think the right Islamic response to this fact is not discrimination or persecution, but rather compassion and help,” said Akyol, a staunch critic of religious bureacrats in Muslim countries.

Akyol said he was aware of issues arising from recognition for transgenders.

“If a transgender woman tries to use a women’s bath, for example, this may cause disturbance for other women, but such cases can be regulated,” he said.

“But there should be no problem in a transgender person being a full member of society – and also a good Muslim.”

Akyol urged authorities not to take action against Sajat.

“I believe Nur Sajat must be left alone, not demonised, targeted or banned from visiting the holy Ka’bah,” he added.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/05/leave-nur-sajat-alone-prominent-turkish-scholar-tells-malaysian-authorities/

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Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers expresses support for Palestinian people

4 February 2020

Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers, chaired by King Salman bin Abdulaziz, reaffirmed the Kingdom’s stance on the Palestinian cause and expressed its support of the Palestinian people, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Tuesday.

King Salman briefed the council on a recent telephone call he had with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in which he reiterated Saudi Arabia’s support.

The Minister of Media Turki bin Abdullah al-Shabanah told SPA that the cabinet noted the efforts made by the Kingdom in support of the people of Palestine, including the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

The cabinet also expressed its appreciation for the efforts of the United States’ to develop a peace plan between Israel and Palestine.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/04/Saudi-Arabia-s-Council-of-Ministers-expresses-support-for-Palestinian-people-.html

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Draft UNSC Resolution Rebukes Israel Annexation Plan

05 February 2020

A draft United Nations Security Council resolution condemns Israel’s plan to annex the settlements it has built illegally on occupied Palestinian territories in a rebuke of a US-devised scheme that endorses such land theft.

The draft, which was reported on by Reuters on Tuesday, has been drawn up by Palestinians and circulated to council members by Tunisia and Indonesia.

The resolution “stresses the illegality of the annexation of any part” of the occupied Palestinian territories and “condemns recent statements calling for annexation by Israel” of these territories.

Last Tuesday, US President Donald Trump unveiled the outlines of his so-called “deal of the century,” which features Israel’s annexation of the apartment blocks that it has propped up across the West Bank since occupying the Palestinian territory during a war in 1967.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built on the land since the occupation.

The deal also envisions the recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” — although Palestinians want the occupied holy city’s eastern part as the capital of their future state.

All previous foreign-mediated agreements between Palestinians and Israelis as well as repeated United Nations’ resolutions have mandated Tel Aviv to withdraw behind the 1967 borders.

All Palestinian factions have unanimously rejected Trump’s plan. Palestine stopped recognizing the US as a mediator in the Middle East process when Trump, in December 2017, recognized occupied Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital.”

Trump had announced the scheme — masterminded by his son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner among other key pro-Israeli figures — some two years ago, but had withheld its details.

The draft “strongly regrets” that the Trump plan “breaches international law” and UN resolutions.

The deal also “undermines the inalienable rights and national aspirations of the Palestinian people, including to self-determination and independence,” the draft says.

The resolution stresses the need for an acceleration of international and regional efforts to launch “credible negotiations on all final status issues in the Middle East peace process without exception.”

It is expected to be submitted to a vote at the Security Council on February 11, coinciding with a visit by Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.

However, Washington is almost certain to cast its veto against this resolution as usual.

The Palestinians, who have vowed to have their complaints heard at the UN, are next expected to take their objection to the UN General Assembly (UNGA), where Washington cannot strike down any approved resolutions.

Observers say a potential UNGA resolution would serve to reflect the overall international reception of the plot, which has mostly been negative.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also reasserted the world body’s firm stance against any potential annexation of the Palestinian lands in an indirect attack on the US scheme.

“Our position is very clear. We are the guardians of the UN resolutions and international law in relation to the Palestinian question,” he told a wide-ranging news conference at the UN’s headquarters in New York on Tuesday. “We are totally committed to the two-state solution,” based on the 1967 borders.

Also on Tuesday, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell rejected the annexation clause featured in Trump’s plan.

EU governments attach no legal status to the settlements built in the West Bank and Syria’s Golan Heights since Israel’s occupation of the lands, he said, repeating the bloc’s stance on the matter.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/05/617923/Palestine-United-Nations-Security-Council-resolution-Israel-annexation-United-States-Trump

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90% of Boko Haram Victims Are Muslims – Buhari

04 February 2020

Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said 90 per cent of all Boko Haram’s victims in the past years have been Muslims.

The insurgents began their heinous activities in 2009 after the killing of the leader Mohammed Yusuf. Global Terrorism Index indicates that the group since 2009, has killed tens of thousands and displaced 2.3 million.

President Buhari in an article published in Speaking Out, a guest opinion column for “Christianity Today”, said that the perception that members of the sect were always targeting Christians in Nigeria is not true.

According to him, the terrorists have targetted vulnerable Nigerians without discrimination.

“it is the reality that some 90 per cent of all Boko Haram’s victims have been Muslims,” Buhari said.

“They include a copycat abduction of over 100 Muslim schoolgirls, along with their single Christian classmate, shootings inside mosques; and the murder of two prominent imams.

“It is a simple fact that these now-failing terrorists have targeted the vulnerable, the religious, the non-religious, the young, and the old without discrimination, ” the President stressed.

The President assured that his government was committed to bringing an end to activities of insurgents.

Buhari warned individuals, organisations and groups seeking to divide the country through religion to have a rethink.

“There is no place in Nigeria for those who seek to divide us by religion, who compel others to change their faith forcibly or try to convince others that by so doing, they are doing good,” Buhari said.

“We may not, yet, be completely winning the battle for the truth. Christianity in Nigeria is not—as some seem intent on believing—contracting under pressure, but expanding and growing in numbers approaching half of our population today.”

President Buhari stated that the terrorists today only attempt to build invisible walls between the adherents of the two major religions in Nigeria.

“They have failed in their territorial ambitions, so now instead they seek to divide our state of mind, by prying us from one from another to set one religion seemingly implacably against the other,” Buhari said.

https://guardian.ng/news/90-of-boko-haram-victims-are-muslims-buhari/

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Trump: I am not looking to kill hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan

05 Feb 2020

The US President Donald Trump addressed Congress Tuesday night for his State of Union Speech.

In parts of his speech he addressed Afghanistan and praised the US military operations, peace talks and troops withdrawal.

In Afghanistan, the determination and valor of our warfighters has allowed us to make tremendous progress, and peace talks are underway, said President Trump.

I am not looking to kill hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan, many of them innocent. It is also not our function to serve other nations as a law enforcement agency. These are warfighters, the best in the world, and they either want to fight to win or not fight at all. We are working to finally end America’s longest war and bring our troops back home! said Donald Trump.

The speech footage shows that Nancy Pelosi, the Congress Speaker tore a copy of President Trump’s speech as he finished speaking.

President Donald Trump didn’t appear to notice as Pelosi, standing behind him in the gallery, ripped up the papers.

When asked after the event why she ripped up the speech, Pelosi told reporters it was “because it was a courteous thing to do considering the alternative. It was such a dirty speech.”

https://www.khaama.com/trump-i-am-not-looking-to-kill-hundreds-of-thousands-of-people-in-afghanistan-978908096/

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EU states in UNSC call on Myanmar to protect its Rohingya Muslims

05 February 2020

The European Union (EU) member states in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have urged Myanmar’s government to prosecute those involved in committing human rights violations against minority Rohingya Muslims in the country.

“Myanmar must address the root causes of its conflicts,” said a joint statement issued Tuesday by France, Germany, Estonia, and Belgium following a closed-door UNSC meeting.

They called on Myanmar to adhere to measures aimed at preventing genocide in the Southeast Asian country against its Muslim minority citizens as set forth by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The UN has already in the past said genocide has taken place against the Rohingya in Myanmar. And the ICJ last month ordered Myanmar to protect the minority Muslims.

The four European countries further called on Myanmar to take “credible action to bring to justice those responsible for human rights violations.”

“Myanmar must also create conditions for and facilitate a voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of the Rohingya to Myanmar,” they said, referring to the Rohingya refugees displaced by a military-led campaign of violence against the Muslims.

The statement was also signed by former Security Council member and EU state Poland, though it marked the first time the members of the block issued a joint UNSC statement without the United Kingdom, which exited the EU on Friday.

Britain, however, was among the countries that had requested the meeting on Myanmar, while China — an ally of Myanmar — opposed issuing a joint declaration by the entire council, according to a diplomatic source cited in an AFP report.

Nearly 740,000 Rohingya Muslims were forced to flee Myanmar’s Rakhine State to neighboring Bangladesh following a bloody military-led crackdown that started in 2016 and that the UN said was perpetrated with “genocidal intent.”

Thousands of Rohingya were also killed in the crackdown.

Widespread rape, arson, and murder against the Rohingya have been documented by rights groups and the UN.

While the majority of Myanmar’s Rohingya population have fled to Bangladesh, violence against the remaining Muslims has not finished. A leading global telecoms operator said on Tuesday that Myanmar had re-imposed an internet shutdown in the country’s western states of Rakhine and Chin amid new violence in the area.

Lawmakers in the regions affected by the internet shutdown said the outage could prevent aid from reaching Rohingya villages caught up in the fighting.

The purported re-imposition of the internet shutdown comes after two women, one pregnant, were killed and seven others injured in an alleged artillery attack on a Rohingya village in Rakhine on January 25.

Maung Kyaw Zan, a member of the national parliament for Buthidaung Township, told foreign press agencies that Kin Taung Village had been struck by unprovoked shelling from a nearby military battalion. The military denied pounding the village, blaming a Buddhist rebel group for the attack.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/05/617927/Myanmar-Rohingya-EU-states-Security-Council-protect

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India

 

Govt puts it on record: No NRC decision yet

by Deeptiman Tiwary

February 5, 2020

WITH PROTESTS against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and proposed National Register of Citizens marking two months next week, the government reiterated in Lok Sabha Tuesday that it has not taken any decision on a countrywide NRC.

It also moved to allay fears over personal data being collected for the pre-Census updation of the National Population Register (NPR) by making clear that no document will be collected during the exercise — and that providing Aadhaar number would be voluntary.

Replying to a written question on NRC, MoS (Home) Nityanand Rai said: “Till now, the government has not taken any decision to prepare the National Register of Indian Citizens at the national level.”

In another reply, this time on the NPR process, Rai said: “No document is to be collected during the updation of NPR…During the exercise of updation of National Population Register, no verification is done to find individuals whose citizenship is doubtful.”

Rai’s statement is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assurance after the passage of the CAA in Parliament that the government had not discussed the implementation of a nationwide NRC.

On December 22, 2019, Modi had said at the Ramlila Maidan: “Pehle yeh to dekh lijiye, NRC pe kuch hua bhi kya? Jhooth chalayi jaa rahi hai. Meri sarkar aane ke baad, 2014 se aaj tak, main yeh sachh 130 crore logon ke liye kehna chahta hu, kahin par bhi NRC shabd par koi charcha nahin hui hai. Koi baat nahin hui hai (First, see if anything has happened on NRC. Lies are being spread. From the time my government came to power in 2014 till today, I want to tell this truth to 130 crore people of this country, that there has been no discussion on NRC. No talk at all).”

Before this, Home Minister Amit Shah had said on multiple occasions that NRC would be implemented across the country. Even during the debate on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha on December 9, Shah said: “We will bring the NRC across the country. Not a single infiltrator will be spared.”

After Modi’s assurance at the Ramlila Maidan, however, Shah said there was no plan for a nationwide NRC yet.

Recently, President Ram Nath Kovind did not refer to the NRC in his address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the beginning of the Budget Session Friday. In his previous address, however, the President had said that the “government has decided to implement the process of National Register of Citizens on priority basis in areas affected by infiltration”.

Tuesday’s Question Hour had multiple questions on issues associated with CAA, NRC and NPR. Asked whether the government had made it mandatory to share details of passport, driving licence, Aadhaar and other documents in the NPR, Rai said: “The respondent has to provide the information for National Population Register (NPR) updation true to the best of his knowledge and belief. Aadhaar number is collected voluntarily.”

The passage of the CAA in Parliament on December 11 triggered protests and fears that it would lead to a nationwide implementation of the NRC. It led at least eight Opposition-ruled states to declare that they would not implement the CAA.

Many of these states have also opposed the NPR updation move, prompted by concerns that the central government would use the data collected to implement the NRC. The government is currently in discussion with states over the exercise.

The NPR is slated will be updated between April and September, 2020. The Census will be conducted from February 9-28, 2021.

Replying to another question on whether government would release illegal immigrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jain, Parsi and Buddhist communities held in detention centres, Rai said the CAA came into force on January 10, 2020, and the proceedings against these immigrants could abate only after grant of Indian citizenship.

Those covered by the Act can submit applications for citizenship after rules are notified by the central government, he said. “No specific instruction has been issued by the central government regarding release of migrants from detention centres after enacting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019,” Rai said.

Also, with Modi having earlier asserted that there were no detention centres for illegal immigrants anywhere in the country, the government told Parliament that the nomenclature of detention centres had been changed to “holding centres”.

To a question on the foreigners released from detention centres in Assam, Rai told Lok Sabha: “As per information available from government of Assam, the details of detenues released from the Holding Centre (erstwhile detention centre) are as follows…” He went on to list the six centres in Assam from where 761 foreigners had been released in the last three years.

In response to another question, Rai said: “As per information received from government of Assam, the state government has not constructed any detention camp in Assam exclusively to detain those who do not have documents proving their citizenship under the National Register of Citizens.”

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/caa-protests-govt-puts-it-on-record-no-nrc-decision-yet-6251317/

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Shaheen Bagh shooter an AAP worker: Police

Feb 5, 2020

NEW DELHI: Delhi Police claimed on Tuesday that the 29-year-old man, Kapil Baisla (alias Gurjar), who had fired in the air at the Shaheen Bagh protest site while shouting pro-Hindu slogans on Saturday evening is an Aam Aadmi Party worker. This was confirmed by DCP (crime branch) Rajesh Deo.

Baisla, who had been nabbed from the spot by the police, allegedly claimed during interrogation that he and his father, Gaje Singh, were members of AAP and had enrolled with the party in early 2019. The police claimed the crime branch had got deleted data from Baisla’s phone retrieved through forensic experts and found a series of photographs validating his alleged claims.

Father, brother say no AAP link

The police denied allegations that it had leaked the photographs. Sources claimed that the photographs had been sent to Kapil Baisla by a third person, who had clicked them at the event. These images were also shared on a WhatsApp group, which has dozens of members.

The photographs show AAP’s Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh putting the party cap on Baisla and the latter meeting AAP netas. It also had some pictures of Baisla posing with guns. The photographs are from 2019 and were saved on back-up. “Before reaching the spot, Baisla had logged off from WhatsApp and uninstalled it but he was asked to log back and the photographs were found saved in WhatsApp image folder,” said a source. Delhi Police’s SIT has now launched an investigation to establish if there was any kind of conspiracy. The Crime Branch has taken Baisla on a two-day remand and will interrogate him to find out if anyone had asked him to carry out the shooting. His father and brother are also expected to join the investigation. The police went to Baisla’s house but found the father missing. They had arrested his friend, Sarthak, on Tuesday for assisting him.

DCP (Crime) Rajesh Deo said Baisla had said he had joined AAP along with a dozen other people, including his father, in early 2019. Cops said they had found several tweets by AAP workers on May 4, 2019 announcing Baisla’s father Gaje Singh, then the district president of BSP, and Baisla joining the party in presence of senior AAP members.

However, Baisla’s father Singh and his brother, Sachin, who have gone missing, put out a video message from an undisclosed location, saying that they had nothing to do with AAP. “Every year during elections, a number of parties approach us and they make us wear their party cap or symbol as a mark of respect. We have nothing to do with AAP, this is being done to malign us. No one from our family has been with AAP,” said Sachin. Gaje said AAP netas had approached him during an election campaign and put their cap on him. “They had asked me to join, but I have nothing to do with the party. Even BJP had approached me but I refused them too,” he said.

Meanwhile, police have established the sequence of events before the shooting. Baisla and Sarthak took the DND to reach Maharani Bagh from east Delhi’s Dallupura. They travelled on Baisla’s KTM bike. After reaching Shaheen Bagh, Baisla gave his phone to Sarthak and asked him to hand it over to his family.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/shaheen-bagh-shooter-an-aap-worker-police/articleshow/73946333.cms

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Reading the Muslim Mind Ahead Of the Delhi Assembly Election

Feb 04, 2020

Ali Yasir

Atiqa Begum, 60, had never been to a protest. However, for the past two weeks, after finishing her household chores, she goes to a tent pitched about 500 metres from her house in Jafrabad where at least a hundred women have been staging a sit-in to protest the Citizenship Amendment Act. “It’s for my children and their children. Remaining silent is not an option anymore,” said Begum, who has been living in east Delhi’s Jafrabad, part of Seelampur Assembly constituency, for over three decades.

In Khureji, part of the Krishna Nagar constituency, a narrow alley has been covered by tent and turned into a 24x7 protest venue. In the evening, one can spot hundreds, in groups of 10-15, holding candles, playing recordings of patriotic speeches and songs, Shadab Hussain, a resident of the area, said.

Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party has targeted anti-CAA (Citizenship (Amendment) Act) protests and protesters, including those at Shaheen Bagh, where a sit-in has been going on for 52 days, there has been political mobilisation among Muslims across the city, including in Jafrabad and Khureji.

The big question on everyone’s minds is: who will they vote for?

Traditionally, Muslims in Delhi have voted for the Congress. However, in 2013, a majority of them shifted loyalty to the Aam Aadmi Party. The transition was complete in 2015, when the Congress failed to win even a single seat.This time, will they vote for the Congress, which is raising the CAA issue, or continue to back AAP, which has steered clear of getting into a confrontation with the BJP on the topic?

In 2015, AAP, with a 54.34% vote share, won 67 seats in the 70-member Delhi assembly; the BJP may have won only three seats, but it ended up with a 32.19% vote share. And the Congress, with a 9.65%vote share, won no seat. The prevailing opinion is that if the Congress improves its performance, it will be at the cost of AAP.

There are at least five assembly constituencies where Muslims can sway the results: Matia Mahal, Ballimaran, Chandni Chowk, Okhla and Seelampur. Besides, Muslims form a significant part of the population in Rithala, Shahdara, Seemapuri, Babarpur and Mustafabad constituencies.

The CAA fast-tracks citizenship for people belonging to non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan who entered India before December 31, 2014. The law has been challenged in the Supreme Court for being exclusionary and based on religion, and has resulted in widespread protests across India. In the north-eastern states, including Assam, there is fear that the law could legitimise outsiders and give them rights to scarce land and jobs. Many others, especially Muslims, are worried that the CAA will be implemented in tandem with the National Register of Citizens. One was implemented in Assam under the Supreme Court’s supervision, and excluded 1.9 million of the state’s residents, both Muslims and Hindus. Several BJP leaders, including the home minister, have said CAA will be implemented in tandem with NRC to drive out outsiders, with the former, presumably providing a way out to non-Muslims from the three countries. The government has since clarified that there are no immediate plans to implement NRC.

Senior journalist Masoom Moradabadi, founding editor of Khabardar Jadeed, an Urdu daily, says the fact that the AAP is not focusing much on CAA shows the coming of age of the party. “Yes, the AAP has not spoken much on CAA. But it shows a certain level of political maturity on their part. Despite being boxed into a corner by the BJP on the issue, the AAP has maintained a studied silence without openly opposing the ongoing anti-CAA protests. It is because they understand that during elections any stand can be interpreted in a different way by the opposition.”

He does not think this will make a difference to the Muslim vote . “As I see it, Muslims will back AAP again. You should understand that AAP appeals to the layman, the person whose religion is hunger. Such a person cannot be swayed by speeches loaded with communal slogans. What matters to such people is that they are getting free power and water, free health care, and good government schools in their vicinity,” he said.

In Babarpur, a seat held by senior AAP leader Gopal Rai, a small group is holding a protest against CAA. Mohd Shahid, 40, an entrepreneur and a resident, said Muslims in the area will support Rai solely because of the work done by his party in the past five years. “Although there are no big anti-CAA protests here like in other parts of the city, the communal narrative propagated by the BJP has led to some concerns among Muslims . There are civic problems but the conversations are still very much focused on zero power bills,” he said.

In neighbouring Seelampur, the nature of contest is a bit different. The Congress has fielded its heavyweight Chaudhary Mateen from the seat. A five-time MLA from the constituency, Mateen has a huge following in the area. Many there say there is a groundswell of support for Mateen. Local residents also point to the fact that Haji Ishraque, the sitting AAP MLA who has been denied a ticket, has extended support to Mateen, possibly helping his cause. Supporters of Mateen are raising the CAA issue although there are significant civic challenges in the area.

“Sanitation is pathetic in our area. Heaps of garbage are all around. Around the Seelampur main market, you can spot garbage in different corners, sometimes the water supply too is very bad. The AAP MLA didn’t do much work and, maybe, that is why he was not given ticket this time,” said Haji Akhlaque, a local resident.

In Khureji, several residents say objectionable speeches by some BJP leaders in recent days may help consolidate the Muslim vote. “The AAP MLA, SK Bagga, has done work in our area and the Muslims are likely to back him again. Our constituency, Krishna Nagar, has a mixed population with people from different faiths and social strata. But if there is one thing that we all want, it is peace. No businessperson, no professional, no student nor homemaker can survive without peace,” said Shadab Talat, 45, a local resident, who works with a private firm in Delhi.

Moradabadi doesn’t think there has been any such consolidation; nor does he believe Muslims vote as a block. “When it comes to elections, Muslims have traditionally voted for the candidate who talk about their welfare, safety and social harmony.” But he does admit that the speeches by some BJP leaders have put off Muslims. “The speeches by the BJP leaders belie their agenda of ‘sabka sath, sabka vikas and sabka vishwas’ (with everyone, for everyone’s progress, and with everyone’s trust). Such speeches are unprecedented in the history of Delhi elections.”

Qasim Khan, a member of the minority wing of the AAP, said the party is focusing on the real issues. A resident of Vishwakarma Nagar, part of Shahdara assembly constituency, Khan said AAP leaders have time and again articulated their views on CAA and NRC. “Our party spoke against the law in Parliament. So, why should somebody accuse us of being silent on the issue? Moreover, the AAP represents a new brand of politics, which talks about the issues of jobs, safety, amenities. The communal narrative only shows the frustration of the opposition.” .

In old Delhi, which boasts one of the largest chunks of the city’s Muslim population, street-corner conversations are dominated by the communal turn that the elections have taken.

Faisal Malik, a resident of Ballimaran, says it’s hard to predict whether this will consolidate the Muslim vote.

In 2015, Ballimaran, Matia Mahal and Chandni Chowk, all old Delhi constituencies, went to the AAP . The party has changed its candidates from Matia Mahal and Chandni Chowk. Shoaib Iqbal, a five-time MLA who recently joined the AAP, is contesting on the party’s ticket from the first; and from Chandni Chowk, the AAP has fielded Parlad Singh Sawhney, a former MLA and Congress veteran. The sitting AAP MLA Alka Lamba has joined the Congress and is now contesting on its ticket.

“This is where the Jan Sangh was founded. Eminent Muslim personalities such as Hakim Ajmal Khan presided over the reception committee of the Hindu Mahasabha. This is the real melting pot, the real Hindustan. We are Dilliwalas, it is not possible to divide us or scare us. We understand the motives behind the communal agenda of some parties. Yes, it is for votes but they won’t get our vote,” said Mohammad Maroof, 58, a resident of Fatehpuri.

In Jamia Nagar, Okhla, ground zero of anti-CAA protests, there is fear, determination and hope. Residents are angry over the recent shooting incidents, squarely blaming the police for giving what they claimed a free hand to anti-Muslim elements.

“They are coming and shooting at us. Their leaders are spewing venom and they are targeting us. It is a scary situation. The entire government has turned against one protest by women and children,” said Mohd Hasan, a resident of Jamia Nagar, who studies in Jamia Millia Islamia, referring to the Shaheen Bagh protests and recent instances where two men have been arrested for firing on protesters. One fired in the air while the other fired at a Jamia students’ protest march, injuring one .

Locals said they are determined to carry on with their protests and keep it peaceful despite grave provocations. “The idea is to provoke us into making one mistake and then use it as an excuse to stifle the voice of dissent. But it is not going to happen,” said Azhar Kafeel, 38, a resident of Okhla Vihar.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/reading-the-muslim-mind-ahead-of-the-delhi-polls/story-4jFA6ZpzTk93ZMjBf1aNnO.html

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Pakistani Hindus coming to India in hope of getting citizenship

Manjeet Sehgal

February 5, 2020

Hindus and Sikhs continue to flee Pakistan in the wake of the religious prosecution and forcible conversion of minority women to Islam in the neighbouring country.

In her twenties, Lali is part of the group of 50 Pakistani Hindus who left their homeland with the hope that they will get a chance to acquire Indian citizenship.

According to Lali, the minority Hindus are subject to extreme religious persecution in Pakistan being perpetrated by the majority orthodox Muslim community.

Her brother (not real) was among dozens of other Hindus who were killed in the recent past.

Uncertainty and tension were writ large on the face of this teenage Pakistani girl who repeatedly asked media no to reveal her identity while interacting with them at Attari border.

Lalli is visiting India for the second time. Recalling the earlier visit she said that her photograph and other information about her interaction with Indian media reached to the authorities in Pakistan. However, she refused to divulge more information about her previous visit to India.

When asked to comment on the plight of the minority Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan Lali replied: "Yes the condition is not favourable."

"The minority community people are facing a lot of problems and are also being denied passports" she added.

Those who came to India on Monday include women and small children who refused to speak to media, probably due to fear of Pakistani agencies.

A fifth standard student Kishore said that when he watched television news depicting the plight of minorities in Pakistan, he feared that this could happen to him also.

"We have come with limited belongings and are heading towards Haridwar. We do not want to go back and wish to settle here," said Kishore.

Most of the people who are part of this group said that they believe India to be their country and not Pakistan.

"Our forefathers could not migrate to India at the time of partition but now they want to live and settle in India, "said Shri Ram, part of the group.

The group is here on a 25-day visa and will be visiting Haridwar as a part of the holy visit. All of them left Amritsar on February 3 evening along with senior Akali Dal leader Majinder Singh Sirsa, who has assured them that Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Committee will raise their citizenship issue with Home Minister, Amit Shah.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/pakistani-hindus-come-to-india-caa-1643314-2020-02-05

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Probe into violence at Jamia still on, at crucial stage: Centre to HC

Feb 5, 2020

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Tuesday told Delhi high court that the probe into the incident of violence at Jamia Millia Islamia during the protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act is at a crucial stage.

Seeking more time before a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar, solicitor general Tushar Mehta said the investigation was still underway.

Taking note of the submission, the bench granted the Centre time till April 29 to file a reply even as senior advocates appearing for a section of students of Jamia sought immediate interim orders, underlining that 93 students and teachers filed complaints about the alleged attacks on them by police but no FIR has been filed against the cops till date.

Lawyers for the petitioners alleged that the government has not complied with the court order to file a response within four weeks of the last date of hearing on December 19 and should be asked to file on affidavit reasons for delay.

The bench, however, declined to pass any interim order and granted time till April 29 to the government to file a reply.

It had on December 19 asked the Centre, Delhi government and Delhi Police to respond to several PILs seeking setting up of a judicial commission to look into the violence at Jamia Millia Islamia protests against the CAA.

The court is hearing six petitions, moved by lawyers, students of JMI, residents of Okhla — where the university is located — and a Imam of a local mosque where among other prayers they have also sought medical treatment and compensation for the students. Besides, the petitions demand registration of FIRs against the erring police officers.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/probe-into-violence-at-jamia-still-on-at-crucial-stage-centre-to-hc/articleshow/73951184.cms

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Shaheen Bagh protestors are fighting to save Constitution: Subhash Chopra

05 Feb 2020

Congress Delhi chief Subhash Chopra questioned the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) over its alleged links with Shaheen Bagh shooter Kapil Gujjar and demanded strict action against people conspiring against Shaheen Bagh protestors. "Action should also be taken against the people who made him (Kapil Gujjar) join the party Atishi and Sanjay Singh that they conspired against a particular religion and tried to scare them," said Chopra while talking to ANI. "I bow down to protestors at Shaheen Bagh as they are fighting to save Constitution and democracy," he added.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/videos/city/delhi/shaheen-bagh-protestors-are-fighting-to-save-constitution-subhash-chopra/videoshow/73950309.cms

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PM Modi announces setting up of Ram temple trust in Ayodhya

Feb 5, 2020

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday announced the constitution of 'Shri Ram Janambhoomi Tirath Kshetra', which would oversee the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, nearly three months after the Supreme Court ruling in the decades-old case.

"The trust for the construction of Ram temple has been named Shri Ram Janambhoomi Teerth Shetra," PM Modi said in the Lok Sabha.

"UP has agreed to give five acres of land to Sunni Wakf Board as directed by Supreme Court in Ayodhya matter," the PM said.

"Let us all support construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya," the PM said.

In its verdict on November 9+ , the Supreme Court had paved the way for the construction of a Ram temple by a trust at the disputed site at Ayodhya, and directed the Centre to allot an alternative 5-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a new mosque at a "prominent" place in the holy town in Uttar Pradesh.

Ayodhya: Five-acre plot for mosque may be across river Saryu

The apex court had said the trust should be formed within three months for the construction of the temple at the site where many Hindus believe Lord Ram was born.

As per the Supreme Court judgment in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid matter, the central government has been directed to formulate a scheme with necessary provisions for the setting up of the trust with a board of trustees or any other appropriate body, the functioning of the trust, the powers of the trustees, transfer of land to the trust and all necessary, incidental and supplemental matters.

All matters concerning Ayodhya and related court judgements are being handled by a dedicated desk set up in the Union home ministry.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pm-modi-announces-setting-up-of-ram-temple-trust-in-ayodhya/articleshow/73952676.cms

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Former PDP MLA, trade unionist released from detention in Kashmir

Feb 4, 2020

SRINAGAR: J&K government on Tuesday released two more detainees — former PDP MLA Aijaz Ahmad Mir and trade unionist-cum-businessman Shakeel Ahmad Qalander — from detention in Kashmir after over six months.

The J&K administration has so far released over a dozen middle-level politicians of various regional parties and two trade unionists.

Earlier in December last year, authorities had released trade unionist Mubeen Shah on the directions of the Supreme Court.

Nine politicians were released from the MLA Hostel in Srinagar last month and four middle-level political functionaries were let off on Sunday (February 2).

Now with the release of Mir and Qalander, the number of politicians and trade unionists in detention has reduced to 25. These people have been in detention at the MLA Hostel since August 5 last year, when the Union government ended the special status of J&K and split the erstwhile state into two Union Territories.

Three former chief ministers — Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — and People’s Conference president Sajad Gani Lone are still in detention.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/former-pdp-mla-trade-unionist-released-from-detention-in-kashmir/articleshow/73943360.cms

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Pak army shells Shahpur, Kirni sectors in J&K's Poonch

Feb 4, 2020

JAMMU: The Pakistan army resorted to unprovoked firing and shelling along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district on Tuesday, a defence spokesman said.

The latest ceasefire violation comes a day after a 60-year-old man was killed and four people were injured in Pakistani shelling along the LoC in Tangdhar sector of Kupwara district.

"At about 4.30 pm, Pakistan initiated unprovoked ceasefire violation by firing of small arms and shelling with mortars along LoC in Shahpur and Kirni sectors in Poonch district. Indian Army is retaliating befittingly," the official said.

He added that there was no report of any casualty so far.

On February 2, the Pakistani army had targeted forward posts and villages in Balakot and Mendhar sectors of Poonch, damaging at least three houses.

Former minister Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari expressed grief over the death of Mohammed Saleem Awan in Pakistani shelling in Kupwara and appealed to the Centre to sanction funds for immediate construction of underground bunkers for inhabitants of border areas in Jammu and Kashmir.

"It is unfortunate that there is no let up in shelling even during winters, causing more worries to the civilian population living in border areas of Jammu and Kashmir," Bukhari said.

"People have suffered injuries and loss of property amid intense firing and mortar shelling. The Ministry of Home Affairs must ensure availability of sufficient funds to district administration for construction of additional bunkers in the left out areas," he added.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pak-army-shells-shahpur-kirni-sectors-in-jks-poonch/articleshow/73942462.cms

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Pakistan

 

Imran regrets skipping KL Summit over others’ ‘misconceptions’

February 4, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday expressed regret for missing the Kuala Lumpur Summit in December last year, saying there was a misconception among some countries that the conference would divide the Muslim Ummah.

Addressing a joint press conference with his Malaysian counterpart Dr Mahathir Mohamad, PM Imran said, “I want to say how sad I was that I couldn’t attend the conference in Kuala Lumpur in the middle of December.

“Unfortunately, our friends, who are very close to Pakistan as well, felt that somehow the conference was going to divide the Ummah. It was clearly a misconception because that was not the purpose of the conference as evident from when the conference took place.”

Imran had pulled out of the Kuala Lumpur Summit of some 20 Muslim countries reportedly due to pressure exerted by Saudi Arabia. At the time, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had confirmed that Riyadh and the UAE had concerns about the summit.

Addressing reporters, the premier said that he was “looking forward” to attending the conference because he felt that it is important that Muslim countries educate the West and other non-Muslim countries about Islam.

“All these misunderstandings, whether they are deliberate or whether they are by ignorance, […] it is important that we the Muslim countries, educate them about the real message of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

“I also felt that we need a media, which we are working on, some sort of a joint effort that not only projects this […] but also develop content for our young people about what really Islam is.”

Responding to a question about whether he would attend the KL Summit next year, Prime Minister Imran said: “Of course I would because now it is evident that the KL Summit was not to divide the ummah […] If anything it was to unite the ummah, so of course I would love to come.”

In response to another question, the premier said the decision not to attend the summit had not affected Pakistan’s relations with other Muslim nations.

LAUDS MALAYSIA FOR SUPPORT:

Imran thanked the Malaysian premier for standing by Pakistan on the Kashmir dispute and speaking against the injustices being perpetrated by the Indian forces in occupied Kashmir.

He said, unfortunately, a very radical and extremist government has taken over India which has put the Kashmiri people in an open prison. He expressed disappointment over the fact that India had also threatened Malaysia for supporting the Kashmir cause and had cut back on palm oil imports. He said that Pakistan will do its best to compensate for Malaysia’s loss by importing palm oil.

Talking about the trade relationship between the two countries, he said that given the close affinity between the people of Pakistan and Malaysia, there is a great scope for further improvement in trade and economic relations. “The idea is to develop a much closer relationship and also doing joint ventures in the defence sector,” he said.

MAHATHIR ACKNOWLEDGES PAKISTAN’S SUPPORT:

In his remarks, the Malaysian premier said that Pakistan and Malaysia have multifaceted relations and PM Imran’s visit reflects Pakistan’s commitment to enhance these relations. “We have set a stage for a new phase in this relationship and we will continue to foster and deepen relations with Pakistan,” he said.

He said that during his meeting with PM Imran, he discussed the current situation of the Muslim Ummah, including the Palestine issue. “We have agreed to increase collaborative efforts to uphold the true value of Islam and promote solidarity of the Muslim Ummah,” he said.

PM Mahathir said we also discussed the current situation in Muslim Ummah, including the Palestine situation. “We have agreed to increase the collaborative efforts to uphold the true values of Islam and promote the solidarity of Muslim Ummah,” he said.

PAKISTAN’S RELATIONSHIP WITH INDIA:

Earlier, PM Imran also addressed an event organised by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) of Malaysia.

During his address, he reiterated that Pakistan was meant to emulate the Riasat-e-Madina, the model of statecraft introduced by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), but had lost its way.

“We want far away from that ideal and if you ask me why Pakistan could not achieve its great God-given potential, it is because of this fact.

“Nations without visions eventually die,” he said, adding, “My vision is to go back to the reason why Pakistan was made.”

Responding to a question at the session, the prime minister recalled that one of his first actions after being elected into power was “extending a hand of friendship to India”.

“I said this for one reason, and that one reason is that the greatest number of poor people live in the Indian subcontinent. The best way we can reduce poverty is when the two countries start having a good relationship and start trading with each other,” he said.

“And I repeat, that the reason we kept getting rebuffed by India, again and again, was not for practical reasons. It was because India has been taken over by an extremist ideology and time will tell people who don’t understand. What is happening in India right now is terrible for Indians. It will divide India forever,” he added.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/04/imran-regrets-skipping-kl-summit-over-others-misconceptions/

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Maulana Fazlur Rehman decides to distance JUI-F from opposition parties

By Arhama Altaf

04th February, 2020

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Tuesday decided to distance his party from opposition parties alliance led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

Fazalur Rehman had issues with both PML-N and the PPP over their lack of support in Azadi March.

The decision comes after re-conciliatory politics from both the major political parties of the country.

The JUI-F chief has formed a new opposition parties alliance comprising six parties.

Parties including, JUI, National Party, Jamaat Ahl-e-Hadees, Pakhunkhuwa Mili Awam Party, Qaumi Watan Party and Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam Pakistan.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman has decided to launch another protest movement against the incumbent government.

However, the opposition alliance will hold a public gathering on February 23 in Karachi.

Full report at:

https://www.bolnews.com/pakistan/2020/02/maulana-fazlur-rehman-decides-to-distance-jui-f-from-opposition-parties/

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PTI govt has failed to deliver: Abbasi

Malik Asad

February 05, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said on Tuesday that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government had failed to deliver as prices of wheat flour, sugar and other essential items had increased manifold and gone beyond of the reach of the common man.

Talking to journalists while leaving the accountability court which extended his judicial remand to Feb 21 in the LNG terminal reference, the senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader said Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar must tell the nation as to who were plundering the money of Pakistani people. He alleged that the PTI government was minting Rs2 billion daily from the public.

Mr Abbasi ruled out any improvement in economic affairs of the country even if there was an in-house change. He said this was not the change for which the people had voted for the PTI.

Accountability court judge Mohammad Azam Khan, while extending the judicial remand of Mr Abbasi, exempted former managing director of the Pakistan State Oil Sheikh Imranul Haq from personal appearance.

Judicial remand of former premier in LNG terminal reference extended to Feb 21

The National Account­ability Bureau (NAB) has submitted a report on absconding of accused Sha­hid Islam in the LNG terminal case. According to the prosecution, he had escaped to a foreign country.

On Monday, the Islamabad High Court had admitted for hearing a bail petition of former premier Abbasi and issued notices to NAB.

The PML-N leader is seeking post-arrest bail in the LNG terminal case. The IHC has already granted bail to former finance minister Miftah Ismail and Imranul Haq.

Barrister Zafarullah Khan, the counsel for Mr Abbasi, argued before the high court that his client had held the portfolios of prime minister and minister for petroleum and natural resources, was a graduate of the University of California with a degree in engineering and had a post-graduate degree in engineering management from George Washington University in the United States.

He said Mr Abbasi had been detained at Adiala jail’s death cell for more than 197 days, but it did not lower his morale. The counsel requested the court to order live coverage of the court proceedings so that people could see the “political engineering” of NAB and the government.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532526

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Iran, Pakistan highlight necessity of unity in Islamic world

February 5, 2020

In a phone conversation on Monday, the officials said that unity and integrity in the world of Islam is essential to support Palestine.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced the general provisions of the plan at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side on January 28.

The White House claimed that the plan is the most serious, realistic, and detailed plan ever presented, one that could make Israelis, Palestinians, and the region safer and more prosperous.

“This Vision is just the first step and provides the basis for historic progress toward peace. The United States hopes this Vision will lead to direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” it added.

Politicians and analysts say that Trump is formally trying to give the Palestinian lands to Israel through his proposed plan.

Palestinian leaders, who were absent during the announcement and had rejected the proposal even before its release, denounced the plan as "a new Balfour Declaration" that heavily favored Israel and would deny them a viable independent state.

At their emergency meetings, both the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have rejected the deal of the century.

The 57-member OIC, which held its summit on Monday to discuss the plan in Saudi Arabia's Jeddah, said in a statement that it "calls on all member states not to engage with this plan or to cooperate with the U.S. administration in implementing it in any form".

The meeting of the body came two days after the Arab League  said, "It does not meet the minimum rights and aspirations of Palestinian people."

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called the U.S. proposal the “slap of the century”.

Sabah Zangeneh, former Iran’s representative at the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), has said that the so-called peace plan does not enjoy international support.

In an interview with IRNA published on Saturday, Zanganeh described the deal of century as “dangerous” which can throw international order into disarray.

Expressing concerns over the consequences of the plan, he said, “Apparently, this plan is supposed to boost economy in the region. However, in fact, it will cause challenges to regional economy.”

In a series of tweets, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif castigated the plan.

“The so-called ‘Vision for Peace’ is simply the dream project of a bankruptcy-ridden real estate developer,” Zarif said.

The foreign minister added the plan was a “nightmare for the region and the world and, hopefully, a wake-up call for all the Muslims who have been barking up the wrong tree.”

Zarif also said the plan is “sleepwalking into a catastrophe” and likened it to “highway to hell”.

The foreign minister also said Muslims must “wake up” to this plot as the United States has proven that it has never been an “honest broker” in mediation between the Palestinians and the Zionist regime of Israel.

Full report at:

https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/444852/Iran-Pakistan-highlight-necessity-of-unity-in-Islamic-world

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Pakistan presses Malaysia button as Imran Khan fails to garner Saudi-UAE support on Kashmir

FEB 04, 2020

Pakistan PM Imran Khan failing to garner Saudi Arabia and UAE support for his “narrative” on Kashmir has once again turned to Malaysia and launched a veiled attack on Riyadh and Abu Dhabi for neglecting 'Muslim cause'.

On a visit to Kuala Lumpur, two months after skipping the Islamic Summit, Imran on Tuesday thanked his host and Malaysian PM for the latter's consistent support on Kashmir. The Malaysian PM hoping to emerge as a leader of the Islamic World has been a vocal critic of India's moves on Kashmir and CAA. Imran also requires Malaysian support to deter against FATF blacklisting.

Speaking at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, Khan launched a veiled attack on Saudi Arabia and UAE. He said Muslim leaders did a disservice to Islam and were not able to explain to the West the difference between the religion of peace and terrorism. He also attributed Islamophobia to ignorance.

He regretted the failure of Muslim nations to educate the West on why blasphemy was a sensitive subject for Muslims.

Praising religious tolerance in Malaysia, Imran elaborated on the certain watershed moments in recent history, which in his opinion further fuelled Islamophobia across the world.

Earlier on Tuesday in another indirect jibe against Saudi Khan expressed his regret on being unable to attend the Kuala Lumpur Summit, held last year, pointing out that there was a misconception among some countries that the conference would divide the Ummah.

Addressing a press conference following talks with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya, Imran said, "I want to say how sad I was that I couldn't attend the conference in Kuala Lumpur in the middle of December.

"Unfortunately, our friends, who are very close to Pakistan as well, felt that somehow the conference was going to divide the ummah. It was clearly a misconception because that was not the purpose of the conference as evident from when the conference took place." This was a message for Saudi Arabia which had advised Khan from travelling to Kuala Lumpur Summit and also pulled up Mahathir for dividing Ummah.

At the time, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had confirmed that Riyadh and the UAE had concerns about the summit which incidentally was brainchild of Imran.

Speaking at the press conference, Mahathir said, "We agree on the need for regular discussions to strengthen trade relations by removing barriers in key areas."

Imran specifically thanked Malaysia for the way the country had spoken about the "situation" in Kashmir.

The two sides agreed for regular discussions to strengthen trade and investment relations by removing barriers in key areas. Both sides also expressed commitment to build stronger ties in the areas of defence, law enforcement, tourism and education.

According to the Pak Prime Minister's Office, Qureshi, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar,

Commerce Adviser Abdul Razak Dawood and Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood accompanied the prime minister.

Full report at:

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/pakistan-presses-malaysia-button-as-imran-khan-fails-to-garner-saudi-uae-support-on-kashmir/articleshow/73944025.cms

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OIC’s voice on Kashmir issue missing: Imran

February 05, 2020

KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan in his address on Tuesday at a Malaysian think-tank session on regional peace and security regretted that Muslim countries at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) could not come up with one voice against blatant human rights violations in India-held Kashmir.

“We don’t want the Muslim Ummah to come together to fight, but to protect the interests like any other community does. Despite being a population of 1.3 billion, Muslims [have] suffered all over the world, may it be in Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan,” said PM Khan while terming it a tale of disasters.

“The reason is that we have no voice and there is a total division amongst [us]. We can’t even come together as a whole on the OIC summit meeting on Kashmir,” the premier said while addressing the International Affairs Forum on Vision for Regional Peace and Security at the Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies on the last leg of his two-day visit to Malaysia.

He said the answer to the grave problem of ongoing persecution of Muslims was a collective and firm voice by the Islamic countries.

“The only solution is that Muslims must come together on something like what is happening in Myanmar and Kashmir, when someone is only being persecuted because of their religion,” he added.

He said no one in the western world could utter a single word against 12 million Jews because of them being a very cohesive, strong and influential community.

Mr Khan said it was fortunate that the recent conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran was over and expressed satisfaction that Pakistan played a part in reducing tensions between the two Muslim states.

The PM also praised his Malaysian counterpart Dr Mahathir Mohamad for taking an open stance on Kashmir despite threats by India to cut off import of palm oil. “A leader always has a belief system and an ideology, and that’s why we love and respect Mahathir,” he said.

The two premiers also told a joint presser following their one-on-one talks that they had discussed the palm oil trade. “I think Pakistan is quite ready to import more palm oil from Malaysia,” said the Malaysian prime minister before Mr Khan added, “That’s right, especially since we noticed that India threatened to cut Malaysia’s palm oil imports for supporting the Kashmir cause, Pakistan will do its best to compensate for that.”

Addressing the joint presser with his Malaysian counterpart in Putrajaya, PM Khan expressed regret for being unable to attend the Kuala Lumpur summit in December last year, explaining that there was a ‘misconception’ among some countries close to Pakistan that the conference would divide the Ummah.

Mr Khan said: “I want to say how sad I was that I couldn’t attend the conference in Kuala Lumpur in the middle of December. Unfortunately, our friends, who are very close to Pakistan as well, felt that somehow the conference was going to divide the Ummah. It was clearly a misconception because that was not the purpose of the conference as evident from when the conference took place.”

PM Khan had pulled out of the Kuala Lumpur summit attended by leaders of dozens of Muslim countries reportedly due to pressure exerted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. At the time, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had confirmed that Riyadh and the UAE had concerns about the summit.

Mr Khan told the media on Tuesday that he was “looking forward” to attending the conference because he felt that it was important that Muslim countries educate the West and other non-Muslim countries about Islam.

“All these misunderstandings, whether they are deliberate or whether they are by ignorance, [...] it is important that we the Muslim countries, educate them about the real message of our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

“I also felt that we need a media, which we are working on, some sort of a joint effort that not only projects this [...] but also develop content for our young people about what really Islam is,” the premier added.

He reiterated his regret for being unable to attend the conference.

Responding to a question about whether he would attend the KL summit next year, Mr Khan said: “Of course, I would, because now it is evident that the KL summit was not to divide the Ummah [...] If anything it was to unite the Ummah, so of course I would love to come.”

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532509/oics-voice-on-kashmir-issue-missing-imran

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SHC restrains Jami from issuing defamatory statements against Hameed Haroon

February 05, 2020

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court has restrained filmmaker Jamshed Mahmood, popularly known as Jami, from making any defamatory statement against Dawn Chief Executive Officer Hameed Haroon.

The single bench of the SHC headed by Justice Agha Faisal issued a notice to the defendant (Jami) for Feb 12 and ruled that, in the meanwhile, he was restrained from making any defamatory statement against the plaintiff.

Earlier, Mr Haroon through his lawyer filed a defamation suit in the SHC and submitted that the allegations levelled by Jami were baseless and unfounded, and sought a restraining order for the defendant.

The bench in its order said that the lawyer for plaintiff, Advocate Faisal Siddiqui, argued that the defendant undertook an insidious media campaign to allege that he was raped 13 years ago when he was presumably 34-year-old.

The lawyer maintained that it was prima facie apparent that no complaint in this regard was ever made to law enforcement agencies at the time or thereafter.

He further argued that protests were held against Mr Haroon and in support of Jami even when the latter did not directly blame the former for this alleged rape.

Mr Haroon also demanded damages of Rs1 billion from the defendant and the amount “to be disbursed to any charitable organisation or for any noble cause (including the freedom of the press) that the court deems appropriate and on such terms and conditions as the court determines”.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532518/shc-restrains-jami-from-issuing-defamatory-statements-against-hameed-haroon

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PPP to launch anti-govt movement in March, says Bilawal

February 4, 2020

KARACHI: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Tuesday announced that the party will launch a movement against the “anti-people” government’s economic policies.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of an urban forest in Lyari, Bilawal said that the current government’s economic policies are not in the people’s best interests and that the PPP would launch a protest movement against it next month.

“Imran Khan had promised to give the youth of this country 10 billion jobs, and had promised to construct five million houses. But in the duration this government has been in power, they have only taken from the people,” he said.

Bilawal added that the PPP had warned against the government’s economic policies as early as when they had introduced the budget. “This was not Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) budget, it was the budget of the (PT)IMF [International Monetary Fund],” he said.

Ever since this budget has been imposed on us, there has been an increase in inflation, unemployment, and poverty. The PPP maintains that the government did not keep the country’s interests or its productivity in mind when negotiating with the IMF, he stated.

“They did not negotiate the correct package for the country,” he reiterated, adding that the poor people in the country now had to pay for the government’s incompetence.

The PPP chairman urged the federal government to renegotiate their deal with the IMF so that a more people-friendly package can be introduced.

“Deals shouldn’t be made on people’s rights, or on the country’s stance,” Bilawal said.

He stated that the PPP government was the first to introduce the concept of safeguarding the economic interests of the people.

“The revolutionary Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), which was the country’s first social safety net, was initiated within a year to give money directly to the people.

They [PTI] have been in power for more than a year, and have not managed to introduce people-friendly policies. Instead, they are involved in conspiracies to eradicate the BISP.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/04/ppp-to-launch-anti-govt-movement-in-march-says-bilawal/

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South Asia

 

Rohingya Christian family kidnapped, minor converted

02/04/2020

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - A Christian family was kidnapped in the Kutupalong refugee camp in the Cox’s Bazar district, and an underage daughter was forced to marry and convert to Islam. Savel Islam Peter, one of the Rohingya Christian refugees attacked last week by Arsa militants (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) in the refugee camp, reveals this in an exclusive interview with AsiaNews. The kidnapping, he says, occurred the day after the attack on the camp on January 27th. The family, Saiful says, “was kidnapped for the faith. We are persecuted because we are Christians ”.

Saiful is a Protestant member of the Bethel Church Rohingya Christian Fellowship. He reports that the people kidnapped are: Taher, 55, his wife Kurshida, 32, and his daughters Mizan, 14, and Mariam, 8. Two days ago, he adds, "a Muslim neighbor told us that Mizan was forced to marry an Islamic extremist who lives near Nowkar camp, while there is no news of the rest of the family ".

He is hospitalized in a district mission hospital because of the injuries sustained during the attack. He was attacked because he filmed the homes of burning Christians on video. The police indicted him for filming the demolished houses. He said that "about 200 people from Arsa came to visit us carrying guns, knives, swords and iron bars".

At the moment, the families have been transferred to a UN camp. To those who question the presence of ARSA militants in the refugee camp, Saiful replies: "They really exist. We have encountered several in both the 2E and 2W camps. We have photos showing militant leaders carrying guns and knives. Many Rohingya Muslims detest them and I am sure they would be ready to testify that the members of ARSA are there. "

The Rohingya are an ethnic minority, mostly Islamic, who have lived in Myanmar for decades. At the outbreak of the violence in August 2017 between army soldiers and the Arsa armed group, at least 740 thousand people fled Burmese territory and camped in Bangladesh. Saiful highlights: "There is a hate speech that surrounds us, according to which for the Rohingya there is no other religion than the Islamic one. In reality, the Rohingyas were Hindus for a long time. "

On the attack on Christian families, the man says: " The Rohingya Christian women and children were beaten terribly. Many young girls were sexually harassed in the nights. During attack, attackers touch private part of women. Their married gold and earrings have snatched away, so many women got permanent damage in the ear of fingers. My elderly people and man have cut with swords on the shoulders, backs or in the arms " “We have videos that demonstrate everything - he continues - at least 400 people attacked us. They stole all our belongings from homes, destroyed the church, took computers, projectors and other material for a value of 200 thousand taka [2,130 euros, ed.] ”.

At least 1,500 Rohingya Christians live in Bangladesh, who have arrived in various migratory waves since 1991. The only church for them is located in Camp 2, block 1, of Kutupalong. All "are Christians from birth, and not converted to Christianity after arriving in Bangladesh, as one would like to believe". Saiful denounces that “as early as last May, between 10 and 13, the criminals had destroyed the church. They returned between January 25 and 27 and demolished the church and 25 houses again. "

“For years - Saiful notes - we have been asking to be recognized as Christians by the Muslim majority Rohingya. We hope that card. Patrick D’Rozario, head of the country's Catholic bishops, help us get the kidnapped back. In 2017, we learned that Pope Francis came to Bangladesh and met Rohingya refugees. However, no one invited us to that meeting."

http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Rohingya-Christian-family-kidnapped,-minor-converted-49208.html

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Taliban say US has ‘harmed’ negotiations

04 February 2020

The Afghan Taliban militant group says the United States has “harmed” negotiations that have been going on and off between the two sides.

In a post on Twitter on Tuesday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the militant group “has the intention & capacity for a resolution” that could see the US end its war on Afghanistan but that the US was hampering talks.

“Negotiation process has been harmed by Trump's tweet, numerous US demands & quarrel b/w US & Kabul officials. @SecPompeo should refrain from blame-shifting. Our stance in principled & concerted - unlike them,” he said. It was not clear what tweet the group was referring to.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded “demonstrable evidence” from the Taliban that they have the capacity to reduce violence before signing any deal to end America’s longest war.

Pompeo said that a deal was close but that the US and Taliban had been close before and failed because the militant group was unable to demonstrate that they were committed to reducing violence.

Taliban sources said last month they had offered to initiate a brief ceasefire of seven to 10 days to help secure a deal.

The US had been largely quiet on the exact status of the negotiations over the past few months. But US special representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul last week that there had been “no notable progress” in the talks with the Taliban.

In recent days, Khalilzad, who is leading negotiations with the Taliban, has launched a new round of shuttle diplomacy by travelling to Pakistan and Afghanistan to brief officials on the status of the talks.

Islamabad has helped facilitate the talks between the Afghan Taliban and Washington in Qatar. Pakistan was also one of only three countries to recognize a Taliban regime that the US attacked Afghanistan to topple in 2001.

The Taliban and the US had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019, when President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead.”

Talks restarted in Qatar later in December last year, but were suspended again following an attack near the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, which is run by the US.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/04/617888/Afghanistan-Taliban-US-negotiations-harmed

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Myanmar cuts off internet in violence-hit states, intercom firm says

04 February 2020

A leading global telecoms operator says Myanmar has imposed an internet shutdown in the country’s western states of Rakhine and Chin, amid renewed violence and a few months after it partially lifted that same restriction.

Myanmar’s Transport and Communications Ministry ordered mobile phone internet connections cut off again in four townships in Rakhine and one in Chin for three months, citing “security requirements and public interest,” Norwegian mobile operator Telenor Group said in a statement late Monday.

Internet connections had been restored in those same places in September last year after a months-long blackout amid peace talks seeking to end fighting between government forces and ethnic Buddhist rebels.

According to Telenor, four other townships remain under a blackout first imposed in June 2019.

But Tun Tun Nyi, a Myanmarese military spokesman, said the army was unaware of the blackout. “We don’t know and we haven’t heard about it,” he told Reuters on Tuesday.

The purported re-imposition of the internet shutdown comes after two women, one pregnant, were killed and seven others injured in an alleged artillery attack on a Rohingya village in Rakhine on January 25.

Maung Kyaw Zan, a member of the national parliament for Buthidaung Township, told Reuters that Kin Taung Village had been hit by shells fired from a nearby military battalion in the middle of the night, adding “There was no fighting, they just shot artillery to a village without a battle.”

The military denied shelling the village, and blamed the Arakan Army (AA), a Buddhist rebel group, for the attack, which occurred two days after the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Myanmar to protect the Rohingya minority.

“AA terrorists committed firing at Bengali villages with the use of heavy weapons and planting mines,” the statement said, using a term for Rohingya villages common among Myanmarese officials to denote that the Rohingya are not citizens of Myanmar.

More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Rakhine to neighboring Bangladesh following a military-led crackdown in 2016 that the UN has said was perpetrated with “genocidal intent.”

Myanmarese troops are currently engaged in fighting with Buddhist rebels in the western states of Rakhine and Chin.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/04/617849/Myanmar-Rakhine-Rohingya-internet-shutdown

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Nearly 29,000 Afghan civilians killed in past decade, report says

SAYED SALAHUDDIN

February 05, 2020

KABUL: Afghanistan’s warring sides were accused of failing to obey international law on Tuesday, after estimates showed that 28,979 civilians had lost their lives in the past decade due to the ongoing war in the country.

A report released by Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) shows that more than 80,000 casualties were reported among non-combatants in the past decade alone.

“Findings by AIHRC indicate that 86,823 civilians, including women and children, were harmed by the conflict between 2009-2019 (with 28,979 killed, and 57,844 injured),” the report said, adding that the high number of civilian casualties “indicate all sides’ failure to comply with international humanitarian law.”

Locked in more than four decades of war, involving both regional and international powers, Afghanistan has seen hundreds of thousands of its civilians killed, and several million leave to seek refuge elsewhere.

The AIHRC, however, says that there were fewer casualties among civilians in 2019 compared to the previous year.

Mohammad Nayeem Nazari, deputy head of AIHRC, said that 2,293 civilians were killed last year, urging the Taliban to allow members of the commission to travel to its controlled areas to investigate the actual number of civilian casualties.

Roadside bombs, suicide attacks, ground battles, rocket fire, airstrikes and night raids were the major causes of civilian deaths, the statement said.

“The Taliban is responsible for 71 percent of all civilian casualties in 2019. Daesh (Daesh) is responsible for five percent, while, Afghan and international forces are responsible for 14 percent of civilian casualties. The perpetrators of nine percent of civilian casualties are unknown,” excerpts from the statement said, adding that 485 civilians had been killed in air strikes by foreign forces last year alone.

Last week, US Central Command released a report saying that US war planes had dropped 7,423 bombs and ordinance in 2019 in Afghanistan, showing a drastic increase in the scale of attacks compared to any other period in recent years, and despite Washington’s continued talks with the Taliban to end the conflict.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1623131/world

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Southeast Asia

 

Shariah Court to rule on Feb 25 if Maria Chin is guilty of contempt

February 4, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah, who got into trouble for criticising the Shariah Court’s decision to jail the ex-wife of Naza Group chairman SM Faisal SM Nasimuddin, will know if she is in contempt on Feb 25.

The Shariah High Court today ordered her to file her defence in response to the businessman having obtained an ex-parte order that Maria’s statement last year had brought down the reputation of the religious court.

Judge Mohamed Fouzi Mokhtar then fixed Feb 25 to deliver his ruling.

Earlier today, Faisal’s lawyers Sulaiman Abdullah, Mohd Rafie Shafie and Akberdin Abdul Kader insisted that Fouzi deliver his verdict on whether Maria was in contempt.

They insisted that Maria should not be allowed to make any application until she purged her contempt charge.

In a Sept 5 statement, Maria had referred to Emilia Hanafi’s seven-day jail sentence and reportedly said that the shariah legal system was still discriminatory against Muslim women.

Lawyer Rosli Dahlan submitted today that the proceeding against his client was null and void as it was in breach of the Syariah Court Civil Procedure (Federal Territories) Act 1998 and the Rules of Court 2012.

Rosli, who was assisted by Nurul Hafidzah Hassan and Zeti Zulkifli, said the ex-parte order was defective and should be set aside.

An energetic exchange ensued between the judge and Rosli during submission. There was tension when the judge said he would cite Rosli for contempt. Rosli responded by saying he was merely defending his client from being unfairly treated.

Fouzi, however, dismissed Rosli’s application to set aside the contempt proceedings as he had no power to do so.

He also dismissed Rosli’s application to stay the proceedings pending appeal, saying he did not have the power to do so in this aspect too.

Fouzi then fixed the matter for decision on Feb 25 pending the filing of defence by Maria even though she said that the show cause order was improperly obtained.

On Oct 14, Fouzi had said Maria’s statement had brought down the reputation of the religious court.

Emilia was sentenced to seven days’jail on Sept 4 for unilaterally rescheduling visitation dates for her children to be with their father.

She is out on RM5,000 bail pending an appeal to the Shariah Court of Appeal.

The couple divorced in 2016, with Emilia maintaining full custody of their three children, Fawwaz, Faiz and Farhan, and Faisal given visitation rights.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/04/shariah-court-to-rule-on-feb-25-if-maria-chin-is-guilty-of-contempt/

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Malaysia and Pakistan leaders reaffirm close ties

February 05, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed gratitude for Malaysia’s support on the issue of Kashmir and reaffirmed his country’s commitment to fostering bilateral ties with the Southeast Asian country during an official visit on Tuesday.

Khan thanked  Mahathir Mohamad, for “standing with (Pakistan) and speaking about the injustice in Kashmir.”

“I want to specifically thank the prime minister — the way the prime minister spoke about what the people of Kashmir are going through right now. Unfortunately, a very radical and extreme government has taken over in India and has put the people of Kashmir in an open prison for six months,” he said during a joint press conference.

Mahathir was very critical of India’s military lockdown in Kashmir during a speech at the 74th UN General Assembly in New York on Sept. 27, and has defended his stance since then despite a backlash by New Delhi which threatened to cut palm oil imports from Malaysia.

Malaysia is one of the largest producers of palm oil in the world, while India is one of the largest consumers of global palm oil.

As a result, Malaysia is looking at exporting its palm oil to Pakistan. “We did talk about the sale of palm oil and Pakistan is quite ready to import more palm oil from Malaysia,” the 94-year-old Malaysian leader said on Tuesday.

The two-day visit is Khan’s second trip to Malaysia since assuming office in 2018.

Khan’s two-day visit included a talk at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) in Malaysia, where he shared his view on Islamophobia.

His visit also saw both countries reaffirming their bilateral partnership in the economy, defense, law enforcement, tourism and education.

These included reaffirming the 2007 Malaysia-Pakistan Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (MPCEPA) and witnessing the signing of the Treaty of Extradition to enhance security and transnational crime cooperation.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who accompanied Khan during the visit, and Malaysian Law Minister Liew Vui Keong signed the treaty

The two leaders exchanged views on the situation in Palestine, and the Rakhine state in Myanmar involving Rohingya Muslims. They  vowed to “collaborate more closely on the issues affecting Muslims.”

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1623136/world

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Ex-Gambian president influenced by Naik, commission told

February 5, 2020

PETALING JAYA: A member of a Christian community has told The Gambian Truth Commission that their former president Yahya Jammeh was influenced by Indian Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik on Islamic fundamentalism.

Philip Saine, who was testifying yesterday before the commission set up to investigate the Yahya era from 1994 to 2017, said Jammeh invited Naik to Gambia in 2014, “which was the beginning of the series of harassment meted out to Christians” in the country.

He said Naik claimed he understood the bible, which he quoted from “more than the Pope”.

“What was the purpose of Zakir Naik’s visit? What was his theme of preaching to the Gambian community here? Was it to come here and attack Christianity? It seems so,” he was quoted on foroyaa.gm. as saying.

Saine, who authored a book titled “Challenges of Gambian Churches During Yahya Jammeh’s Era”, said that in 2015, Jammeh declared Gambia an Islamic state, which shocked the people as the country had been a secular country.

He said soon after the declaration, Islamic elders, including the Supreme Islamic Council and the Banjul Muslim Elders, made a solidarity visit to the president to congratulate his move and to show their support.

“In fact, I would say Yahya became a disciple of Zakir Naik,” he was quoted as saying.

Saine said that before that, the Christians and Muslims had lived side by side harmoniously and “shared everything”.

“We shared the same schools, classes. We played football together. We shared the same bed together,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/05/ex-gambian-president-influenced-by-naik-commission-told/

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Ma'ruf Amin could just punch the clock, phone in and still be a great VP

M. Taufiqurrahman

February 5, 2020 

If during the first three months of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's second term, Vice President Ma'ruf Amin traveled no further than Japan, decided to call off his trip to Malaysia for the Kuala Lumpur Summit and spent most of his time sitting quietly next to the President during Cabinet meetings, that would not necessarily signal that he is an ineffectual "veep".

And if pundits and the media have all been crowing about Ma'ruf’s lackluster performance in his first 100 days on the job, then everyone has misjudged Ma'ruf's place in the Jokowi administration, if not completely misunderstood the role of the vice president as enshrined in the Constitution.

Truth be told, there's not much to the role for any vice president in any administration to begin with. The amended 1945 Constitution clearly stipulates that a vice president's only work is to help the President. (The Constitution was amended four times and the only stipulation left untouched was articles on the role and position of the vice president).

And if we can look past the vice president's legal position in the Constitution and consider only the political machination resulting in the appointment of Ma'ruf, the 79-year-old cleric's expiration date came soon after he was sworn into office.

When presidential candidate Jokowi decided to pick Ma'ruf as his running mate, there was a clear and present danger to the incumbent's prospect for being reelected: the surge of Islamists who could tip the balance in favor of his rival Prabowo Subianto. And the decision to pick Ma'ruf, a revered cleric from the country’s largest Islamic group Nahdlatul Ulama, was an effort to tilt the scales back.

Even during the political campaign, Ma'ruf's role was clear; he was the token figure to boost Jokowi's credential as a Muslim candidate, a strategy that has paid off well with Jokowi’s being reelected by a margin wider than what he secured in the 2014 election.

And if people continue to expect Ma'ruf to play a greater role in the Jokowi administration after only being Jokowi's handmaid during the political campaigning, it is simply because his predecessor, Jusuf Kalla, set a high bar for the vice presidential position.

Kalla's reputation as a can-do politician who gets the job done has indeed cast a long shadow. In the first term of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Kalla in fact played a crucial part in making key economic decisions to a point where he got to decide what type of fuel the country's poor got to use for cooking. The decision to phase out kerosene and shift to the much cheaper liquefied petroleum gas was Kalla's brainchild.

Such a crucial role has largely been curtailed in the first administration of President Jokowi, but he could play the role of a steady hand that could help steer the ship in case of an emergency.

But Kalla is an exception rather than a rule. Kalla has a wide political base that friends or foes should take into consideration. Not only did he represent the voting bloc from the eastern part of Indonesia, he continued to be a kingmaker within Golkar, the country's oldest political party.

No one before or after Kalla could come close to matching that feat. Yudhoyono's pick for vice president for his second term, Boediono, was a bookish university professor with no political background. He was a safe choice for a second-term president, but history would have little to write about him.

And if history can be our guide, even the best vice president with the most impressive pedigree did not stand a chance when dealing with an imperial president.

Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX was the reigning king of the Yogyakarta sultanate and a much-respected figure within civilian and military circles when he was appointed president Soeharto's first vice president in 1973. Yet he stood in silence when Soeharto took all the credit and made no effort to pay him respect when it was due.

It was reported that Soeharto required the presence of a third person in a private conversation, so that he could speak in Indonesian with the sultan rather than address him in high Javanese. In the end, Sri Sultan could no longer deal with the slight and resigned from his position in March 1978, citing poor health.

As for the sultan's predecessor, Mohammad Hatta, a figure looming large in the history books, he came from a different era, when political giants like Sukarno, Sjahrir, Soedirman and Tan Malaka operated on the scene as first among equals.

So, for now, Vice President Ma'ruf should just sit back and relax and enjoy his time on the job. After all, believing that he is only one heartbeat away from the presidency could be a terrifying thought. (United States president Lyndon Johnson, who took over from John F. Kennedy, was so petrified by the weight of the presidency that he decided not to run for reelection in 1968).

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2020/02/05/maruf-amin-could-just-punch-the-clock-phone-in-and-still-be-a-great-vp.html

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Arab World

 

Iraqi Protesters Face off against Moqtada Al-Sadr’s Followers

4 February 2020

Anti-government demonstrators faced off against followers of influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in protest squares across Iraq Tuesday, a day after one demonstrator was killed in a clash between the two sides.

Al-Sadr, an enigmatic militiaman-turned-politician, backed the anti-government rallies when they erupted in October but has split with other demonstrators over the nomination of Mohammad Allawi as prime minister.

The cleric endorsed Allawi while other protesters rejected him, saying he was too close to the ruling elite they had been demonstrating against for four months.

In the southern city of Diwaniyah on Tuesday, the rift escalated into a fistfight between young anti-regime demonstrators and Sadr backers, recognizable by their signature blue head caps, an AFP correspondent said.

Police intervened to separate the two camps but the young protesters broke into chants against al-Sadr, Iraqi authorities as well as Iran, accused by demonstrators of backing the government’s crackdown against them.

Also in Diwaniyah, security forces could be seen outside schools and government offices in an attempt to ensure they reopened fully after sit-ins had forced them to shut.

It came after the interior ministry late Monday said it had ordered reinforcements to schools, and a few students could be seen trickling in the following morning.

Hundreds of students refused to go back to class, however, marching through the main anti-government protest camp with Iraqi flags and a banner that read, “Protest March for Diwaniyah High Schools.”

In Nasiriyah, too, all schools had reopened after police deployed, according to the education directorate’s press chief Halim al-Hossayni.

But students took to the streets there as well to insist on keeping up their protests.

“We’re determined to pursue our peaceful movement in Habbubi square, because we want a homeland free of corruption and sectarian people,” said student Hamad Ali.

Tensions have been high in protest squares in recent days between youths furious at Allawi’s nomination and Sadrists.

On Monday, a demonstrator was stabbed to death and three others wounded after men in blue caps attacked an anti-regime rally, medics and security sources said.

Allawi, 65, was nominated on February 1 after two months of political stalemate over who would replace ex-premier Adel Abdul Mahdi, who resigned in December.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/04/Iraqi-protesters-face-off-against-cleric-s-followers.html

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Saudi Arabia calls for just solution to Palestinian issue

February 05, 2020

RIYADH: The Saudi Cabinet, chaired by King Salman, on Tuesday reaffirmed the Kingdom’s support for efforts to reach a just and comprehensive solution of the Palestinian-Israeli issue.

The Cabinet underscored Riyadh’s efforts to end the conflict, citing its proposal of the Arab peace initiative during the 2002 Arab League summit in Beirut as part of its pioneering role in helping the Palestinian people.

It also expressed its appreciation to the US administration for developing a comprehensive peace plan between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Saudi ministers called for a solution that guaranteed the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.

The king briefed the Cabinet on discussions he held on Monday with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and telephone conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

King Salman and Putin discussed coordination between Riyadh and Moscow to stabilize the oil market.

The Cabinet also reviewed the unanimous decision by Arab League foreign ministers at a meeting in Cairo on Saturday to address the US peace plan. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also met to address the proposal. Both organizations stressed the centrality of the Palestinian cause for the entire Arab and Muslim nation, and the need to commit to the peace process as a strategic choice to resolve the conflict. The settlement must be based on the two-state solution and be in line with international resolutions and Arab peace initiatives.

Following the session, Media Minister Turki Al-Shabanah said the Cabinet lauded the Kingdom’s contributions to the programs of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, and its role in promoting a culture of peace and tolerance.

The Cabinet praised Riyadh’s hosting of the Global Cybersecurity Forum.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1623106/saudi-arabia

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Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper suspends print edition over fiscal difficulties

04 February 2020

Lebanon’s only English-language newspaper, The Daily Star, has announced that it is suspending its print edition due to the financial challenges, nearly two months after staff members of the newspaper went on strike, saying salaries had gone unpaid for months.

“A drop to virtually no advertising revenue in the last quarter of 2019, as well as in January of this year, compounded the already dire financial situation that has ravaged Lebanese newspapers with the rise of digital media and years of dwindling spending on ads as a result of the years-old economic slowdown,” a statement issued by the Daily Star on Tuesday read.

It added, “The Daily Star apologizes to readers of its print edition and remains hopeful that it can ride out this storm until it passes, after which we hope to re-launch our paper version and return to newsstands as soon as possible.”

Several journalists have voiced their disappointment with the announcement, saying the measure leaves Lebanon with no traditional English-language printed daily newspaper.

“Sad news. The Star gave me incredible opportunities when I was starting out as a journalist. Hope it gets through this,” Finbar Anderson, who worked as a features writer for the paper, wrote in a post published on his Twitter page.

“The end of print for Lebanon's only English language print newspaper is a historical loss but sadly not surprising,” former employee and journalist Jacob Boswall said.

“In recent years it is no secret that the paper has come under significant financial pressure, leading to walk outs from frustrated staff members. Going online seems to be the only way to save The Daily Star’s reputation and name, which is well worth saving,” he added.

Back on December 5, 2019, More than a dozen reporters and editors at the Daily Star did not go to work. Some said they had not been paid in nearly six months despite working full-time.

“First it was a week, then two, then a month. Then suddenly we went for two or three months without anything,” Timour Azhari, a reporter at the English-language daily and one of those on strike said at the time.

“We've had promises saying the money is coming, we’re working on getting the money… but in the end, we have no money. So we've been pressuring, we've been holding meetings, we've been asking, sending emails. But generally we felt that our demands were not getting through,” he said.

The Daily Star published a blank edition in protest against Lebanon's political crisis and deteriorating economic conditions on August 8 last year.

The prominent daily appeared on newsstands with a black front page. “Lebanon" read the cover of the daily.

Each page bore a single phrase referring to one of the country's problems, including government deadlock, rising public debt, increasing sectarian rhetoric, pollution, unemployment and illegal weapons.

The back page had a photo of the cedar tree, which is the national emblem of Lebanon, with a caption reading: “Wake up before it's too late!”

The Daily Star was founded in 1952 and claims to be the first English-language newspaper in the Arab world. The paper said that its website and social media platforms will continue to publish.

Lebanon has been facing a very tough economic situation because of the failing policies of successive governments, which have led to the impoverishment of the people.

Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of endless political deadlocks and an economic crisis in recent years.

The country hosts 1.5 million Syrian refugees, and their presence is often blamed for putting pressure on the already struggling economy.

Unemployment stands at more than 20 percent, according to official figures.

The Lebanese Finance Ministry says the national debt is hovering around $85 billion, which accounts for more than 150 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/04/617869/Lebanon%E2%80%99s-Daily-Star-newspaper-suspends-print-edition-over-fiscal-difficulties

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UN chief calls for end to hostilities between Turkey and Syria in Idlib

February 04, 2020

UNITED NATIONS, United States: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Tuesday for an end to fighting between Turkey and Syria in Syria’s opposition-held province of Idlib on Tuesday.

Guterres told reporters it was an “extremely worrying” escalation in the conflict that the Turkish army and the Syrian army were now “bombing each other” in the restive northwest region.

“My strong appeal is for a cessation of hostilities,” he said.

“We don’t believe there is a military solution for the conflict in Syria. We have said time and time again that the solution is political,” Guterres added.

On Monday, the Turkish and Syrian armies engaged in their deadliest clashes since Ankara sent troops to Syria in 2016.

Regime shelling of Turkish positions in Idlib killed at least five Turkish soldiers and three civilians, Ankara said.

Retaliatory fire from Turkey killed at least 13 Syrian government troops, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The incident further tested the uneasy coordination between Russia and Turkey — the two main foreign brokers in the Syrian conflict.

Russian-backed Syrian government forces and militia have retaken dozens of villages in the last rebel enclave in recent weeks, pushing displaced populations ever closer to the Turkish border.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1622886/middle-east

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Lebanese-American who worked for Israel charged with murder

February 04, 2020

BEIRUT: A military investigative judge charged a Lebanese-American man with murder and torture of Lebanese citizens on Tuesday, crimes he allegedly committed during Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon, judicial officials said. The accusations could carry a death sentence.

Amer Fakhoury has confessed to working as a senior warden at Khiam Prison, which was run by an Israel-backed Lebanese militia. Fakhoury was detained after returning to his native Lebanon from the US in September. However, he’s undergoing cancer treatment, and it remains unclear if he’ll be able to stand trial.

The judge, Najat Abu Shakra, referred Fakhoury to a military court where he will be tried, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. No date was set for the tribunal.

The officials said Abu Shakra charged Fakhoury with “murder and attempted murder of prisoners inside Khiam Prison as well as kidnapping and torture.” The prison, run by the so-called South Lebanon Army, was abandoned after Israeli forces pulled out of southern Lebanon in 2000, ending an 18-year occupation.

Human rights groups have said in the past that Khiam Prison was a site of torture and detention without trial. Israel denies the allegations.

Lebanon and Israel have been officially at war since Israel’s creation in 1948. Lebanon bans it citizens from traveling to Israel or have contact with Israelis.

The judge dropped charges of dealing with and visiting Israel because two decades have passed since the incidents, making them outdated, the officials said.

The charges by the investigative judge were separate from a lawsuit against Fakhoury filed by former inmates at Khiam Prison. He’s being questioned in that case about alleged atrocities. The questioning was supposed to take place on Monday, but was postponed until Feb. 17 because Fakhoury is undergoing chemotherapy.

Fakhoury’s family said doctors have said his condition is life threatening. In addition to an infection and a bleeding disorder, doctors believe he’s developed an aggressive form of lymphoma.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1622876/middle-east

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UN chief calls for end to fighting between Turkey, Syria in Idlib

4 February 2020

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Tuesday for an end to fighting between Turkey and Syria in Syria’s opposition-held province of Idlib on Tuesday.

Guterres told reporters it was “extremely worrying” that the Turkish army and the Syrian army were now “bombing each other” in the restive northwest region.

“My strong appeal is for a cessation of hostilities,” he said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/04/UN-chief-calls-for-end-to-fighting-between-Turkey-Syria-in-Idlib-.html

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Top US commander for Middle East slips into Iraq for talks to salvage relations

4 February 2020

The top US commander for the Middle East slipped quietly into Iraq Tuesday, as the Trump administration works to salvage relations with Iraqi leaders and shut down the government’s push for an American troop withdrawal.

Marine Gen. Kenneth Frank McKenzie became the most senior US military official to visit since an American drone strike in Baghdad killed a top Iranian general, enraging the Iraqis.

McKenzie met with Iraq leaders in Baghdad and then went to see American troops at al-Assad air base, which was bombed by Iran last month in retaliation for the drone attack.

His visit comes amid heightened anti-American sentiment that has fueled violent protests, rocket attacks on the embassy and a vote by the Iraqi parliament pushing for withdrawal of US troops from the country. And it raises questions about whether the appearance of a high-profile US military commander could spur compromise, or simply inflame tensions and scuttle ongoing negotiations to put Patriot missile batteries in Iraq to better protect coalition forces.

Top US leaders have so far flatly dismissed Iraqi demands for US troops to leave, adopting what appears to be a wait-and-see attitude with the hope that the problems will pass.

Iraqis, however, were furious over the drone strike at Baghdad’s international airport on Jan. 3 that targeted and killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful general, but also struck down an Iraq general who was with him. The Iraqi, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU).

In response to what Iraqi leaders called a breach of sovereignty, Parliament passed a non-binding resolution urging US troop withdrawal.

But after Iran struck back on Jan. 8, launching ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases where American troops were stationed, the US doubled down and asked to bring the Patriot systems into the country.

There were no Patriots or other air defenses in Iraq capable of shooting down ballistic missiles at the time of the Iranian strike. No forces were killed, but at least 64 have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.

Thus far, the Iraqis have not approved the request.

“That is one of the matters we have to work on and work through” with the Baghdad government, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told a recent Pentagon news conference. He and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have made clear that they want Patriots in Iraq to better protect service members there.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/04/Top-US-general-McKenzie-slips-into-Iraq-for-talks-to-salvage-relations.html

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Battle for Syria’s Saraqib city opens route for final assault on Idlib

4 February 2020

Russian-backed Syrian regime forces have intensified their bombing campaign on Saraqib city, the last key opposition-controlled transit point in Idlib province, opening the way for a final showdown in the nine-year-old war, experts said.

The battle for Saraqib city and its surrounding highways has already triggered an exodus of civilians, and is key to the fate of the Syrian opposition as it clings onto its remaining territory in northwest Syria. The battle for the city also raises the prospect of a face-off between Turkey and Russia, who support opposing sides in the conflict.

“With every iteration of the war and battle lines drawn and redrawn … Idlib has continuously and increasingly appeared the last battle ground for the resistance’s last stand against the regime,” said Jessica Leyland, Senior Intelligence Analyst at AKE International.

Russia and Turkey, who have signed various agreements during the Syrian war, are being pushed into a position of conflict as Syrian airstrikes supported by Russia have killed Turkish troops sent by Ankara to support the opposition.

The Syrian war, which started with the regime’s deadly oppression of anti-government protests, has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced more than half the country’s population.

Latest clashes

On Sunday night, eight Turkish troops were killed in strikes by the Russian-backed Syrian regime, whose forces had surrounded several Turkish observation posts in the area around Saraqib.

The strikes came after Turkey sent three convoys of over 400 military vehicles into Syria and set up three new observation posts around Saraqib to support opposition groups there, following major advances by regime forces and their Russian allies to take the strategic city.

In retaliation for the killing of its soldiers, Turkish jets entered Syrian airspace and killed more than 13 regime troops in Hama, Latakia and Idlib, according to a war monitor.

Turkish and Syrian regime forces also exchanged fire around Saraqib, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, while the government forces bombed the so-called “demilitarization zone” in Idlib.

“These latest clashes are extremely significant. It can be seen that these battles pushing into Idlib and western Aleppo province were on the horizon in September 2018 – or even before – when the demilitarization zone agreement was struck,” said Leyland.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Syrian regime forces attacked Turkish troops because Ankara had not informed Moscow of its latest moves in Idlib. Ankara denied the claim, saying it had informed the Kremlin.

Why is Saraqib important?

Saraqib is a city in the southeast of the Idlib region covering an area of 170 square kilometers. Its residents revolted against the Syrian regime and the city changed hands many times between the Syrian regime, the opposition Free Syrian Army and other opposition factions and extremist groups.

It is strategically important because it is the intersection between two major highways connecting Aleppo with Latakia, known as the M4, and Aleppo with Hama, Homs and Damascus which is known as the M5.

If the Syrian regime captures Saraqib, it would be a major blow to the opposition because it would separate Idlib and its surroundings from the Aleppo region, where some of the towns are also under opposition control. The city also serves as a gateway to the major provincial city Idlib, the last remaining opposition stronghold after the Syrian regime captured Maaret al-Numan on January 28.

The map below shows Saraqib’s location and its connections to Syria’s major cities, all of which are now under Syrian regime control.

Before the 2011 revolution, the M5 highway was a major trade route that connected Turkey to the commercial hub of Aleppo to the capital Damascus and finally to Lebanon and Jordan.

The M4 leads to Latakia, which houses the Hmeimim Russian airbase, and therefore securing it is vital for the Syrian regime, which relies on Russian air power.

Turkey’s position

Turkey has been a key player in the Syrian war through its support for opposition groups and its establishment of a “safe zone” in the north of the country, where it says it will return the Syrian refugees who fled to its territory.

In Idlib, Turkey supports opposition groups including factions that fall under the Free Syrian Army.

Turkish forces have established three observation posts in less than a week around the city of Saraqib. Turkish observation posts, set up under a 2017 agreement with Russia and Iran, are meant to monitor violations of a ceasefire agreement that has been broken more often than kept.

Turkey sent the biggest military reinforcements yet to Syria in recent days, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The war monitor’s reports said the convoys included tanks, armored vehicles, troop carriers and military equipment.

However, former Syrian diplomat Bassam Barabandi told Al Arabiya English that “three of the Turkish observation posts are surrounded by the regime forces. In other words, even if Turkey sends reinforcements and observation forces near Saraqib, in theory, that doesn’t stop the regime from crossing the observation point and going through with it.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been keen to avoid a fresh wave of Syrian refugees arriving in Turkey. On Monday, Erdogan said that one million people were already fleeing the clashes toward the Turkish border.

Is this the end of Syrian opposition strongholds?

The battle for Saraqib could be the beginning of the final showdown for Syria as it would open the way for regime forces to advance on Idlib city.

Al-Assad’s forces have already captured Jawbas, Tell Mardikh, and al-Nerab, three towns located southwest of Saraqib, which triggered Turkey’s decision to send reinforcements.

The Idlib region is home to around three million people, half of whom were evacuated by regime forces from other parts of the country after they besieged cities controlled by the opposition and bombarded them with airstrikes.

“It’s common knowledge that the regime wanted to gather the armed opposition in one place and finish them off altogether. There wasn’t a directive, but it was common knowledge for us,” an officer in the Syrian regime forces told Al Arabiya English on condition of anonymity.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2020/02/04/Battle-for-Syria-s-Saraqib-city-opens-route-for-final-assault-on-Idlib.html

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Bloodied but determined, Lebanese protesters take stock

4 February 2020

At a Beirut hospital ward, five Lebanese protesters with bandaged eyes and faces huddled in a circle, their arms wrapped around each other, and they vowed to be back on the streets soon, despite their wounds from recent clashes with police.

“We are coming back,” said one of them, 20-year-old Charbel Francis.

Such resolve by some protesters signals that demands for sweeping government reforms won’t be squashed easily, even as security forces throw up cement barriers and resort to more violent means of crowd control, such as rubber bullets. But the recent descent into clashes after three months of peaceful protests has also triggered introspection and divisions among the demonstrators about their next moves.

More than 500 people, including over 100 security forces, have been injured in confrontations outside the parliament building in downtown Beirut last month.

Most of the injuries occurred on Jan. 18. For hours, protesters hurled stones, firecrackers and flares at police who responded by firing tear gas, water cannons and shooting rubber bullets. More than 150 people were injured that night, many of them struck in the head and eyes.

It was a shocking reversal for a popular uprising against a corrupt political class that started in mid-October and had been characterized by its striking peacefulness — particularly compared to the bloodbath in Iraq, where a similar uprising has resulted in the death of more than 500 protesters since October, most of them shot dead by security forces.

The violence in Lebanon has ebbed since then, particularly since a new government was formed on January 21 and protesters take stock. Although they reject the new Cabinet, some protesters believe it should be given a chance to enact urgent reforms to avoid complete collapse amid a crippling economic and financial crisis. Others have been discouraged and disgusted by the rioting and the violence.

As banks increase capital controls and the economic situation worsens, most agree it’s only a matter of time before the protests ignite again. For wounded protesters, their injuries have only increased their resolve.

Francis considers himself lucky. A tear gas canister hit him above his left eye at a protest last month, and he required 120 stitches. “One of the security forces looked me straight in the eye. He was 3 meters away, he pointed at my head and fired,” he said.

Lina Labake, his mother, was at the emergency room with him Wednesday for an appointment to remove his stitches. “May God forgive them. Would they allow this to happen to their kids?” she said, holding back tears.

Not everyone was as lucky. With him in the same ward were four other young men, each with an eye bandaged over, waiting for word if they would keep their sight.

One of them, 17-year-old Abdurrahman Abdul-Jabbar came to Beirut from his hometown in the Bekaa Valley with a couple of friends on January 18 unbeknownst to his parents. He was shot in the right eye by a rubber bullet.

Doctors gave him only a 10 percent chance of keeping vision in the eye. Even if he loses his sight, he hoped doctors don’t remove the eye — “I hope it stays as a decoration,” he said.

He said it’s worth losing his eye “for the nation” and was keen to return to the streets. The crumbling economy has hit him hard: he dropped out of school because his family couldn’t afford tuition, and the struggling restaurant where he worked fired him. “I’m trying to change something. I am asking to live with dignity,” he said.

Francis and his mother debated over whether he’d go back to protests, but she soon relented. Resigned, she forced a wry grin and nodded, “He will return.”

He patted her back and said, “It was a really tough scene for her, something no mother should witness. But she knows we have no other choice. We want electricity, clean water, to marry and live normal lives — is this too much to ask?”

Under a tent in the rain at the epicenter of the protests in downtown Beirut, Abboud sat in a plastic chair, a New York Yankees cap on his head and his arm in a sling.

The 22-year-old used to manage a snack shop in the northern Akkar district, but his salary plunged from $1,200 a month to $500. Despairing, he quit and came to Beirut to join the protests on October 17. As arrests and assaults by police grew in December, he became convinced the only way to be heard was through force.

On Jan. 18, he confronted police at a roadblock on a major highway linking Beirut with the south. At the front lines of clashes, he was shot twice in the leg by rubber bullets. Falling to the ground, he noticed a bomb rolling in his direction.

“I thought it was a tear gas bomb so I grabbed it to try and throw it back, but it was a sound bomb. It exploded in my hands and my finger flew off,” he said. “I didn’t feel anything but just grabbed my fallen thumb and held onto it.” He spoke on condition he be identified by first name only because he is sought by the police.

Just 10 minutes before he was hit, his girlfriend had sent him a WhatsApp message with a sad face emoji, writing, “Please take care of yourself. You don’t have to be there.” He disagrees, insisting that sacrifices need to be made for revolutions to succeed.

At the nearby “restaurant of the revolution” tent, Bilal Allaw apologized as he turned back a tray of macaroni that was served to him. “The painkillers I’m taking fill me up and make me want to vomit,” he said. A nose splint and a black eye marked his face.

Since the uprising broke out, Allaw has become a familiar face, known for his unmitigated temerity in confronting politicians and police. On October 17, he was one of the protesters who punched and kicked the car of the education minister as he passed through downtown Beirut.

The 25-year-old left his job as a chef in the coastal city of Byblos to join the movement. Now he sleeps in a tent downtown.

He has been injured four times in the past month.

“The first time, an officer slammed his helmet on my head. Three days later, they shot me with a rubber bullet in my leg. Then, I was hit with a rock,” he said. Just over a week ago, anti-riot police threw a rock at his face, breaking three bones in his nose and cheek.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/04/Bloodied-but-determined-Lebanese-protesters-take-stock.html

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NW Syria violence displaces 500,000 in two months: UN

4 February 2020

A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country’s last rebel enclave has displaced more than half a million people in two months, the United Nations said Tuesday.

“Since 1 December, some 520,000 people have been displaced from their homes, the vast majority -- 80 percent -- of them women and children,” David Swanson, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said.

The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian war nearly nine years ago.

“This latest displacement compounds an already dire humanitarian situation on the ground, when over 400,000 people were displaced from the end of April through the end of August, many of them multiple times,” Swanson said.

He said the UN was alarmed by the plight of more than three million people -- half of them displaced from their homes -- who live in Idlib province and surrounding areas.

Government troops and militia backed by Russian and other allied forces have in recent weeks ramped up the pressure on the last pocket still controlled by rebels and jihadists.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/04/NW-Syria-violence-displaces-500-000-in-two-months-UN.html

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Greece to send Patriot missiles to Saudi Arabia

4 February 2020

Greece will send some of its Patriot defense missiles to Saudi Arabia under a program involving the US, Britain and France, the government spokesman said Tuesday.

Athens will deploy the missiles at Saudi cost “to protect critical energy infrastructure,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters.

“The deployment contributes to energy security, promotes our country as a factor of regional stability and strengthens our ties to Saudi Arabia,” Petsas said, adding that talks on the move began in October.

He did not give a date for the deployment.

The US, Britain and France are part of the same initiative and Italy is likely to join, the spokesman said.

The announcement came as Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was on a Middle East tour for investment talks with the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He visited Riyadh on Monday and is in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

“As a defensive system, this constitutes no threat to other countries in the area,” Petsas said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/04/Greece-to-send-Patriot-missiles-to-Saudi-Arabia.html

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Militant drone strike targets refinery, gas facilities in Syria’s Homs, causes damage

04 February 2020

Syrian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Ghanem says foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants have launched a drone strike against a gas field and a number of energy facilities in the country’s central province of Homs, causing fire and material damage.

Ghanem in a statement carried by Syria’s official news agency SANA said unmanned aerial vehicles targeted al-Rayyan gas field, the Ebla gas plant, the South Central region gas factory and the Homs refinery early on Wednesday.

He added that maintenance workers embarked on fixing the damage after fire was extinguished.

The Ebla gas plant provides local power plants with approximately 2.5 million cubic meters of gas per day.

The refinery in Homs is one of Syria’s two main refineries, covering most domestic demand for diesel, heating fuel, gasoline and other products.

Back on December 21 last year, the Syrian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources announced in a statement that terrorists had targeted the oil refinery in Homs, located more than located 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of the capital Damascus, and the two gas facilities – one south of the city and one in the desert to its east.

The ministry added that several production units were damaged as a result.

Erdogan: Turkey will not allow Syrian govt. forces to advance in Idlib

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country’s military forces will not allow government troops to gain territory in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib.

He added that the attack on Turkish forces, which killed seven soldiers and a civilian on Sunday night, is a clear violation of the Sochi deal.

“Of course there will be costs of such actions for the (Syrian) regime. We have already said that we will do whatever is necessary from now on,” Erdogan told reporters on a flight back from Ukraine on Tuesday.

The Turkish president noted that Russia has been informed about the latest developments in Syria, and that Ankara cannot tolerate any more conflict in Idlib nor a new influx of refugee.

On Monday, Syria’s pro-government and Arabic-language daily al-Watan reported that Turkey had sent a convoy of armored vehicles to Syria’s Idlib province in order to block the advance of the Syrian army towards the town of Saraqib.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/04/617882/Militant-drone-strike-targets-refinery,-gas-facilities-in-Syria%E2%80%99s-Homs,-causes-damage

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Mideast

 

UAE, Israel officials conspiring against Iran at secret White House meeting

05 February 2020

The US, Israel and the UAE held a secret meeting at the White House to conspire against Iran, a report reveals.

According an Axios report on Tuesday, the secret meeting was held on December 17, 2019.

The sit-down, which involved a nonaggression pact between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, was referred to as an attempt to forge closer ties between the two.

The Israeli team was led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, and the UAE was represented by Yousef al-Otaiba, the country’s envoy to the US, who maintains close ties with Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

The American officials engaged in the process were national security adviser Robert O'Brien, his deputy, Victoria Coates, and US special envoy for Iran Brian Hook.

In a tweet on December 21, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed pointed to what he called “Islam’s reformation,” adding that, “an Arab-Israeli alliance is taking shape in the Middle East."

The tweet was responded by the Israeli premier a day later, urging Abu Dhabi to remain reticent over the matter for now.

“The UAE Foreign Minister, Abdullah bin Zayed, spoke about a new alliance in the Middle East: An Israeli-Arab alliance. … I can only say that this remark is the result of the ripening of many contacts and efforts, which at the moment, and I emphasize at the moment, would be best served by silence," Netanyahu said at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting.

The UAE-Israel alliance comes as no surprise in the wake of the Muslim country’s support for the US so-called “peace” initiative between Israel and Palestinians, dubbed “deal of the century.”

Rejected by Palestinians and the world’s Muslim population, the deal recognizes Jerusalem al-Quds as the “undivided capital” of the Zionist regime.

It also amounts to violation of the fundamental rights of the Palestinians by disregarding UN resolutions and international law.

Washington has previously voiced support for closer ties between its allies in West Asia, namely the Israeli regime, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

As a senior White House official put it, "while the United States would certainly welcome expanding relationships between our critical allies and partners in the Middle East, we’re not going to detail private diplomatic conversations, nor do we have anything to announce."

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/05/617915/UAE,-Israel-conspiring-against-Iran-in-secret-White-House-meeting

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EU rejects Trump’s anti-Palestine Mideast scheme, annexation

04 February 2020

The European Union’s top diplomat rejects the annexation clause featured in US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, which is widely viewed as a scheme aimed at sidestepping international law and legitimizing Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell made the remarks in a statement that he made from Brussels on Tuesday, a day after ending a short tour of the Middle East that had taken him to Jordan and Iran.

“The US initiative, as presented on 28 January, departs from these internationally agreed parameters,” Borrell said of Trump’s proposed plan resolving the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

EU governments attach no legal status to the settlements that have been built on the Palestinian territory of the West Bank and Syria’s Golan Heights since Israel’s occupation of the lands in 1967, he said, repeating the bloc’s stance on the matter.

Last Tuesday, Trump unveiled the outlines of his so-called ‘deal of the century,’ which envisioned the recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” — although Palestinians want the occupied holy city’s eastern part as the capital of their future state.

Trump also said that under the plan, Israel would be annexing the settlements that the Israeli regime has built in the West Bank since the occupation.

This is while all previous foreign-mediated agreements between the Palestinians and Israelis as well as repeated United Nations’ resolutions have mandated Tel Aviv to withdraw behind the 1967 borders.

Palestinians, who had already spurned the plot, repeated their opposition to it soon after Trump’s announcement.

Borrell further said, “Steps towards annexation, if implemented, could not pass unchallenged.”

“To build a just and lasting peace, the unresolved final status issues must be decided through direct negotiations between both parties,” Borrell said, noting the issues of the borders of a Palestinian state and the final status of Jerusalem al-Quds were among those still in dispute.

While in Jordan, the European official also said he did not think that the US initiative stood the chance to succeed.

“The experience over the past 50 years has shown that without agreement among all sides, no peace plan has the chance to succeed,” he said amid uniform Palestinian rejection of the scheme.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/04/617868/Palestine-European-Union-United-States-Trump-Israel-plan

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Iran to continue support for Palestinian govt. with Jerusalem al-Quds as capital: Zarif

04 February 2020

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the country will continue to support the formation of a Palestinian government with Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

Zarif made the remark during a telephone conversation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.

The top Iranian diplomat denounced the US President Donald Trump’s so-called deal of the century on Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said, “Iran will defend the Palestinian people’s rights to determine their fate and to form a Palestinian government with Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.”

Stressing that such plots were doomed to fail, Zarif hailed Abbas for his attempts to unite Palestinian political factions and vowed that Tehran would spare no effort to strengthen the resistance front.

Defying international outcry, Trump announced last Tuesday the general provisions of the plan at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side.

The scheme — which all Palestinian groups have unanimously rejected — largely meets Israel’s demands in the decades-old conflict, while creating a Palestinian state with limited control over its own security and borders.

It enshrines Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley, among other controversial terms.

Palestinian leaders, who severed all ties with Washington in late 2017 after Trump recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of the Israeli regime, immediately rejected the plan, with Abbas saying it “belongs to the dustbin of history.”

Thousands of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip poured out onto the street in immediate condemnation of the plan.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/04/617908/Iran-Mohammad-Javad-Zarif-Palestinian-government-Mahmoud-Abbas

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Iran should prepare to fill void left by US in the region: Former IRGC chief

5 February 2020

Iran should prepare to fill the void that will be left by the United States once it leaves the region, the Secretary of Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council and former chief of the IRGC, Mohsen Rezaei, said on Wednesday.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/05/Iran-should-prepare-to-fill-void-left-by-US-in-the-region-Former-IRGC-chief.html

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Khartoum’s position towards Palestinian issue will remain firm, says al-Burhan

5 February 2020

The head of Sudan’s sovereign council on Tuesday confirmed that he held a meeting with the Israeli prime minister in Uganda on Monday.

Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said in a statement the responsibility of discussing Sudanese-Israeli relations and developing them are the responsibility of concerned authorities, in an apparent reference to the cabinet.

Khartoum’s position towards the Palestinian issue and the right of Palestinians to set up their independent state “remained and will remain firm,” said Burhan.

Earlier on Monday, the Palestinian leadership condemned the meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sudanese leader al-Burhan, labelling it a “stab in the back.”

“This meeting is a stab in the back of the Palestinian people... at a time when the administration of (US) President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are trying to liquidate the Palestinian cause,” Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization said in a statement carried on official news agency WAFA.

Sudan’s cabinet said on Monday it had not been informed in advance about the Uganda meeting, news of which sparked protests in Khartoum.

Burhan is the most senior figure in the first phase of a power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilian parties in Sudan that began last August, following the overthrow of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir.

A joint meeting between the sovereign council and cabinet on Tuesday also agreed that any step related to relations with Israel should be discussed and approved by cabinet, sources who attended the meeting told Reuters.

Bilateral relations between Sudan and Israel have never been normalized, and doing so would likely raise hackles in Sudan and the wider Arab world, especially at a time when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promoting a US peace plan rejected by Palestinians.

But Sudan is also anxious to rebuild links with the outside world after decades of isolation under Bashir, and to be removed from a US list of countries considered state sponsors of terrorism.

Sudan’s cabinet on Tuesday discussed Burhan and Netanyahu’s meeting, which Israeli officials said lasted two hours in the city of Entebbe in central Uganda.

It also held consultations with leaders of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FCC), an alliance that fronted protests that toppled Omar al-Bashir last year, sources said.

FCC leaders also held discussions with the sovereign council, the sources added. The alliance in a statement accused Burhan of making “a major breach” of the country’s constitutional declaration.

Scores of protesters gathered outside the government headquarters on Tuesday, condemning Burhan’s meeting with Netanyahu, Reuters witnesses said.

“The betrayal that was represented in the meeting with the head of the Zionist entity, is a dagger in the heart of the Sudanese people,” said Tarek Babakr, one of the protesters.

The US terrorism listing has impeded badly needed international financial assistance and commercial activity in Sudan.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/05/Sudan-s-sovereign-council-head-Burhan-confirms-meeting-Israeli-PM-in-Uganda.html

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Turkey’s Erdogan says won’t allow Syria to gain ground in Idlib

4 February 2020

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey will not allow Syrian forces to gain ground in the last opposition stronghold of Idlib, in comments published Tuesday, a day after eight Turks died in regime fire.

“Syria is right now trying to buy time by driving those innocent and grieving people in Idlib toward our borders. We will not allow Syria the opportunity to gain ground there,” Erdogan said in quotes published by the Hurriyet newspaper and broadcaster NTV.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/04/Turkey-s-Erdogan-says-won-t-allow-Syria-to-gain-ground-in-Idlib-.html

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EU likely to avoid sending Iran nuclear case to UN, triggering new sanctions: Borrell

04 February 2020

The European Union will extend indefinitely the time limit to resolve disputes in a 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and major world powers to avoid having to go to the United Nations Security Council or triggering new sanctions, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says.

"We are all in agreement not to go directly to a strict time limit which would oblige us to go to the United Nations Security Council," Borrell told reporters during a visit to Tehran on Monday.

"Our will is not to start a process that ends the JCPOA, but that keeps it alive," he added in remarks, broadcast on Tuesday, referring to the nuclear deal by its formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

On January 14, the three European signatories to the Iran deal — France, Britain and Germany — formally triggered the dispute mechanism, which accuses Iran of violating the agreement and could lead to the restoration of the anti-Iran UN sanctions that had been lifted by the JCPOA.

Under the mechanism outlined in the deal, the EU would also inform the other parties — Russia and China as well as Iran itself. There would then be 15 days to resolve the differences through the JCPOA Joint Commission. If no settlement is reached through the commission, the foreign ministers of involved countries will then discuss them for another 15 days. In case of need, an advisory board will be formed to help foreign ministers.

However, there are some questions over when the 15-day period should start because Iran has not formally recognized the consultation process.

China and Russia have expressed misgivings about the Europeans' plan to trigger the mechanism.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on January 20 that if the three sides continue their unjustifiable conduct and move to send Iran’s nuclear case to the United Nations Security Council, Tehran would have the option of leaving the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The JCPOA, better known as the Iran deal, has been ratified in the form of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

But US President Donald Trump, a stern critic of the landmark 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.

Britain, France, and Germany, under Washington’s pressure, failed to protect Tehran’s business interests under the deal against the American bans.

This May, Iran began to gradually reduce its commitments under the JCPOA to both retaliate for Washington’s departure, and trigger the European trio to respect their obligations towards Tehran.

On January 5, Iran took a fifth 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.

In response to a question about Borrell's opinion about the activation of the dispute resolution mechanism, he said, "The activation of the dispute resolution mechanism foreseen in the framework of the JCPOA by the three European countries does not mean that these countries want to go to the Security Council in order to definitely cancel the nuclear deal."

He added that he has been talking with Berlin, London and Paris and they all insisted that "this is not a measure oriented to finish with the deal, but to try to keep it alive, to give time for negotiation."

Borrell noted that he had agreed with the three parties to "continuously postpone the dates and the time limits" foreseen in the JCPOA regulation.

"We can go, both sides, to the compliance of the requirements of the deal," the EU's top diplomat said.

He added that during talks in Tehran, Iranian authorities agreed to continue with the monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the country's nuclear activities.

In his Monday meeting with Borrell, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani once again reaffirmed the Islamic Republic's full commitment to the JCPOA, expressing Tehran's readiness to continue cooperation with the European Union to resolve issues surrounding the accord.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/04/617873/Borrell-JCPOA-mechanism-Security-Council-sanctions-EU

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Israeli warplanes launch new airstrikes on Gaza

05 February 2020

Israel’s warplanes have launched new airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip amid escalating tensions in the region over the US President Donald Trump’s so-called deal of the century on Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Media sources in Palestine said the airstrikes on Tuesday targeted a position belonging to the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement in the city of Rafah, south of the coastal enclave.

The warplanes also fired five missiles at Hamas positions in the city of Khan Yunis located in the southern besieged Gaza Strip.

Israel has carried out a number of airstrikes on Gaza in the past few days, with Palestinians having responded by launching several rockets into the occupied territories.

Tel Aviv claims the attacks are in retaliation for Hamas' alleged launch of "incendiary balloons" allegedly directed toward the occupied territories.

Gaza has been under Israeli siege since June 2007.

Since 2008, Israel has waged three wars against Gaza, where about two million Palestinians live under a 12-year Israeli blockade. Thousands of Gazans have been killed in each of these deadly wars

Tensions have escalated in the region since US President Donald Trump unveiled his so-called Middle East peace plan last Tuesday.

The scheme — which all Palestinian groups have unanimously rejected — largely meets Israel’s demands in the decades-old conflict, while creating a Palestinian state with limited control over its own security and borders.

It enshrines Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley, among other controversial terms.

Palestinian leaders, who severed all ties with Washington in late 2017 after Trump recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of the Israeli regime, immediately rejected the plan, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas saying it “belongs to the dustbin of history.”

Thousands of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip poured out onto the street in immediate condemnation of the plan.

Draft UN resolution censures Israeli annexation

Meanwhile, a draft UN Security Council resolution condemned on Tuesday an Israeli plan to annex its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank following the Trump’s proposed plan.

The resolution “stresses the illegality of the annexation of any part” of occupied Palestinian territories and “condemns recent statements calling for annexation by Israel” of these territories, according to the draft seen by Reuters.

The draft text, circulated to council members by Tunisia and Indonesia, would seemingly face a US veto.

Diplomats said negotiations on the text would likely begin later this week and the Palestinian president is expected to speak to the council next week about the plan, which would possibly coincide with a vote on the draft resolution.

Currently more than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/05/617916/Israel-warplanes-besieged-Gaza-Strip-Donald-Trump-deal-

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Iran to continue support for Palestinian govt. with Jerusalem al-Quds as capital: Zarif

04 February 2020

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the country will continue to support the formation of a Palestinian government with Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

Zarif made the remark during a telephone conversation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.

The top Iranian diplomat denounced the US President Donald Trump’s so-called deal of the century on Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said, “Iran will defend the Palestinian people’s rights to determine their fate and to form a Palestinian government with Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.”

Stressing that such plots were doomed to fail, Zarif hailed Abbas for his attempts to unite Palestinian political factions and vowed that Tehran would spare no effort to strengthen the resistance front.

Defying international outcry, Trump announced last Tuesday the general provisions of the plan at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side.

The scheme — which all Palestinian groups have unanimously rejected — largely meets Israel’s demands in the decades-old conflict, while creating a Palestinian state with limited control over its own security and borders.

It enshrines Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley, among other controversial terms.

Palestinian leaders, who severed all ties with Washington in late 2017 after Trump recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of the Israeli regime, immediately rejected the plan, with Abbas saying it “belongs to the dustbin of history.”

Thousands of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip poured out onto the street in immediate condemnation of the plan.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/04/617908/Iran-Mohammad-Javad-Zarif-Palestinian-government-Mahmoud-Abbas

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EU to unveil reforms in accession system to appease France

04 February 202

The European Commission is to propose changes to the European Union (EU)’s accession system to accommodate French concerns and end France’s opposition to the membership of certain new countries.

The plans, expected to be unveiled on Wednesday, are part of changes to the EU’s executive system that would grant the member states the power to pause the process of admitting new countries, or even force countries to restart entry talks in some policy areas from the beginning, as demanded earlier by France.

“Macron wants to be seen as the kingmaker and we can accommodate that, because the EU’s credibility is at stake,” said a senior EU official involved in the reform plans. “This is political and it’s personal, so let’s take out the drama.”

France halted the process of admitting Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia, and North Macedonia in October last year. With the new reforms, the European Commission hopes to grant France enough concessions to have it lift its opposition to the membership of those countries before a summit with the Balkan states in the Croatian capital of Zagreb this May.

The Commission’s proposals, according to Reuters, would however stop short of meeting a French demand that funds for new members be allocated out of money set aside for poor countries already in the EU.

EU officials have argued that such a move would jeopardize support for expansion among the existing poor members of the bloc.

In an interview with Reuters, an EU diplomat said it was still not clear whether France would be satisfied by the new proposals, stressing that, “With Macron, we have a 60% chance of success.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/04/617878/EU-accession-France-veto

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Yemeni army kills Houthis in Al-Jawf province

February 05, 2020

DUBAI: The Yemeni army killed 15 Houthi militants during clashes in Al-Jawf province, state news agency SPA reported on Wednesday.

“The national army foiled an attack carried out by the militia in Al-Jaroub front of Al-Matoon district which resulted to the death of 15 militants and wounds in others,” a military source said.

The coalition fighters also launched an air strike targeting a militia-owned vehicle, which killed and wounded others on board, the source added.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1623196/middle-east

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Africa

 

Sudan casts doubt on early normalization with Israel

4 February 2020

Sudan cast doubt on Tuesday on an early normalization of historically hostile ties with Israel, a day after Israeli officials said the two countries’ leaders had met and were working towards that goal.

Sudan’s cabinet on Tuesday discussed that meeting, which it said it had not yet been informed about. It also summoned leaders of the Forces for Freedom and Change, an alliance that fronted protests that toppled Omar al-Bashir last year, for consultations, FFC sources said.

Bilateral relations have never been normalized, and doing so would likely raise hackles in Sudan and the wider Arab world, especially at a time when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promoting a new US peace plan rejected by Palestinians.

But Sudan is also anxious to rebuild link with the outside world after decades of isolation under Bashir, and to be removed from a US list of countries considered state sponsors of terrorism.

Israeli officials said on Monday that Netanyahu had met Sudan sovereign council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan for two hours in Uganda.

Sudan’s government spokesman said officials were waiting for “clarifications” on Burhan’s return.

Burhan is the most senior figure in the first phase of a power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilian parties that began last August, following Bashir’s overthrow.

The US listing has impeded badly needed international financial assistance and commercial activity in Sudan.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanked Burhan by phone “for his leadership in normalizing ties with Israel,” his spokesperson said on Monday, and Washington has invited Burhan to visit later this year.

Yoav Gallant, an Israeli security cabinet member from Netanyahu’s Likud party, said in a Twitter post after the PM’s meeting with Burhan: “Country after country... want to draw close to Israel and improve ties. Israeli power is the key to success - not groveling.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/04/Sudan-casts-doubt-on-early-normalization-of-ties-with-Israel.html

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Libya rivals show ‘genuine will’ to start negotiations: UN Envoy

4 February 2020

Rival factions in Libya started talks in Geneva “on transforming a truce into a lasting ceasefire,” said UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame on Tuesday. He also said “there is a genuine will to start negotiating together.

The arms embargo had been violated by both sides and new mercenaries are still arriving in the country, according to Salame.

Military officers from rival factions in Libya's conflict began UN-led talks in Geneva on Monday aimed at securing a ceasefire after 10 months of fighting on the outskirts of the capital, Tripoli.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2020/02/04/Libya-rivals-show-genuine-will-to-start-negotiations-UN-Envoy.html

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Morocco’s military takes delivery of 3 Israeli-made Heron reconnaissance drones: Report

04 February 2020

The Moroccan military has reportedly received three Israeli-made and long-endurance Heron unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as the Northern African country maintains informal but close intelligence ties with the Tel Aviv regime.

The French website Intelligence Online reported that the drones, worth some $48 million, were sold to the Arab nation via France.

The report added that Morocco received the UAVs, manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries, via French defense company Dassualt, which markets Heron drones under the brand name “EADS Harfang” on January 26 – a long delay after their purchase back in 2014.

The website said Morocco took delivery of the drones after they were decommissioned from the French military, which used them for surveillance operations in Afghanistan.

The Moroccan military plans to deploy the UAVs to monitor terror groups in the southern part of the country and the Western Sahara area.

Back on February 19, 2019, Morocco’s Justice and Development Party condemned attempts by a number of Arab states and Persian Gulf kingdoms to normalize diplomatic relations with the Israeli regime.

“The people who normalize relations with the Zionist entity are dwarfs controlled by America and the Zionist entity. They cannot escape their destiny in the dustbin of history,” Naziha Maarij, a leader of the Islamic party, said in an exclusive interview with the Palestinian Arabic-language Shehab news agency at the time.

“The people of Morocco have a neighborhood in occupied [Jerusalem] al-Quds, which they will not abandon. It is a neighborhood that has included Moroccan religious scholars, mosques, and ancient history,” she added.

The Moroccan politician further noted, “Normalization with the usurping Israeli Occupation amounts to a haram (religiously forbidden) act, because it amounts to conspiracy against the fighters who have offered everything to guard our faith and our sanctities.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/04/617893/Morocco%E2%80%99s-military-takes-delivery-of-3-Israeli-made-Heron-reconnaissance-drones:-Report

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2 killed, 20 homes torched in Boko Haram attack in Cameroon

04 February 2020

Suspected Boko Haram terrorists attacked a village in northern Cameroon early Tuesday, torching homes and killing two civilians, just days before legislative and municipal elections, security sources said.

“Boko Haram made an incursion a little before 2:00 a.m. in Mozogo Village,” in the Extreme-Nord Province, “killing two people,” a police officer told AFP.

They torched about 20 homes and two motorbikes and stole another five motorcycles, the officer said.

An army officer confirmed the incident.

Security has been tightened in Cameroon ahead of Sunday's elections. Anglophone separatists are fighting government troops in western Cameroon while the north of the country has come under attack from Boko Haram.

Based in neighboring Nigeria, Boko Haram has stepped up attacks from bases hidden in the vast Lake Chad area, where the borders of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria converge.

Cameroon says the group has carried out nearly 13,000 attacks on its territory since 2014, with the loss of “several thousand” lives.

The violence has forced more than 250,000 people to flee their homes and triggered an influx of 60,000 people from Nigeria.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/04/617883/Cameroon-Boko-Haram-attack

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Israel's Netanyahu, Sudan's ruling council chief meet in Uganda, sparking Palestinian ire

04 February 2020

Israel says it has reached an agreement with Sudan to jointly work towards normalization of ties, after leaders of the two sides held a secret meeting in Uganda, drawing angry reactions from all Palestinian factions.

The meeting took place between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the chairman of Sudan’s ruling council, at the residence of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in the city of Entebbe on Monday.

It was only made public when Netanyahu claimed in a tweet, “We agreed to begin cooperation that will lead to the normalization of relations... History!”

Netanyahu’s office later released a statement, saying the premier believes Sudan "is moving in a new and positive direction,” and that he had expressed this point to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Burhan, it added, “is interested in helping his country go through a modernization process by removing it from isolation and placing it on the world map.”

Separately, a senior Israeli official was quoted by The Times of Israel as saying that the two-hour-long talks between Netanyahu and Burhan “serves as the beginning of a process of bilateral cooperation leading to normalization.”

However, Sudan’s information minister and government spokesman said he was not informed of the meeting and had received its news “through the media.”

“We, the members of the cabinet, were not notified or consulted about this meeting. We are waiting for the chief of the sovereign council to return and give clarification about this,” Faisal Mohamed Salih said in a statement.

A senior Sudanese military official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times of Israel that the Netanyahu-Burhan meeting had been orchestrated by the UAE and that only a “small circle” of top officials in Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt knew about it.

Burhan, he added, agreed to meet Netanyahu because officials thought it would help “accelerate” the process of being removed from the US terror list.

Reports coming out of Sudan indicate that news of the unannounced meeting has sparked public anger in the Arab country, which has been the scene of popular protests against the power grab by the military-controlled transitional government following the ouster of long-time president, Omar al-Bashir, in April 2019.

Several political factions and activist groups in the Muslim country — where anti-Israel sentiments run high — have also condemned the secret meeting, Iran’s IRNA news agency reported.

‘A stab in Palestine’s back’

The meeting infuriated main Palestinian factions in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, namely Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

Hazem Qassem, spokesman for the Hamas resistance movement, denounced the meeting between the Israeli prime minister and Sudan’s ruling council chief, saying it is “encouraging the (Israeli) occupation to carry on with its crimes and aggression against the Palestinian people.”

Moreover, Saeb Erekat, the PLO secretary general, condemned the Netanyahu-Burhan meeting as a “stab in the back.”

“This meeting is a stab in the back of the Palestinian people and a blatant departure from the Arab Peace Initiative at a time when the administration of [US] President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are trying to liquidate the Palestinian cause,” he said in a statement carried by WAFA news agency.

Additionally on Monday, Netanyahu held talks with Museveni and said in a news conference afterwards that Israel would open an embassy in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, if the African country established one in occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

“There are two things we very much want to achieve. One is direct flight from Israel to Uganda. And second … you open an embassy in Jerusalem (al-Quds), I’ll open an embassy in Kampala,” he said.

The Ugandan president responded by saying his government was “studying” the matter.

Erekat also criticized Uganda’s decision to consider opening a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem al-Quds, calling on the African Union members states to respect the decisions of its summits regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of international resolutions.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/04/617838/Israel-Sudan-Uganda-Benjamin-Netanyahu

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Uganda: Netanyahu urges stronger ties, embassy in J'lem

Abele Mariam

04.02.2020

ENTEBBE, Uganda

Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is coming back to Israel in a big way, the country’s prime minister said on a brief official visit to Uganda late Monday, also urging the country to controversially open an embassy in Jerusalem.

On his fifth visit to the East African country, Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s president, for supporting Israel’s efforts, saying: “Increasing our cooperation with African countries, that is something that is of great value to Israel.”

He said Israel and Uganda are cooperating in many fields such as agriculture, education, and innovation. “We are open to doing more, including in cyber,” he added.

There are two things they would like to achieve, said Netanyahu. “Direct flights from Israel to Uganda to enable our friendship to flourish and second, you open an embassy in Jerusalem, and I will open an embassy in Kampala.”

In response, Museveni said amid international controversy over embassies being located in Jerusalem, there is a part of the city that under a partition plan was in Israel, and Uganda is looking into that.

In 2018, after unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, triggering a world outcry, the U.S. relocated its embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but so far, Guatemala is the only other country to have an embassy in the holy city.

A controversial U.S. so-called peace plan announced last month refers to Jerusalem as “Israel’s undivided capital,” but Muslims worldwide have objected, saying East Jerusalem, now occupied by Israel, should serve as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

On possible flights, Museveni stated that Uganda would definitely work on it, but in the meantime: “I would invite [Israeli flag carrier] El Al to fly direct to Uganda from Israel. Even if it’s once a week it will be good enough.”

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/uganda-netanyahu-urges-stronger-ties-embassy-in-jlem/1723978

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North America

 

US Election 2020: At One Iowa Mosque, Almost All Caucus Votes Went To Bernie Sanders

4 February 2020

"Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar." The Muslim call for prayer, known as adhan, echoed through the Muslim Community Organization in Iowa as voters stood in a registration line outside the prayer hall, waiting to attend the Democratic Party's caucuses at the mosque.

Rows of worshippers, surrounded by campaign signs, performed evening prayer before the electoral process began late on Monday.

The Muslim Community Organization was one of five mosques in the Des Moines area to turn into a caucus site, as the Democratic Party kicked off its contest to pick the nominee who will try to unseat President Donald Trump in November.

"This is truly a historic moment for you as Muslims in Iowa and Muslims across the country," Ghazala Salam, president of the Muslim Caucus of America, told voters midway through the process.

"They're watching you. You're laying the path forward on how Muslims should be engaging in the political process in this country."

Near unanimous support for Sanders

In caucuses, participants vote publicly by standing - or sitting in the case of the mosque - in a designated area for the supporters of their favoured candidate. The procedure also involves convincing other caucus-goers to join one's group.

But there wasn't much wooing to be done at the Muslim Community Organization on Monday.

Almost all caucus-goers were supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders.

When the caucus chair asked Sanders' supporters to sit in an area to the left of the mihrab - a hollow section in the wall that points towards Mecca - every attendee moved towards that section.

The initial vote was: 115 for Sanders, two for Andrew Yang, two for Elizabeth Warren and one for Pete Buttigieg.

Without any other candidate meeting the 15 percent viability threshold, the realignment process - a second round of voting - did not mean much.

Still, Sanders consolidated his support in the final tally, winning 119 votes and picking up all nine delegates from the mosque in the process.

"When you look at Bernie Sanders [and] his leadership in stopping the war in Yemen and stopping the war in Iran and speaking for human rights around the world, it's resonating with communities across America," said Congressman Ro Khanna, who co-chairs Sanders' presidential campaign.

Khanna visited the mosque before the caucuses started and spoke to voters and snapped photos with them.

In an interview with Middle East Eye, he said Sanders is building a diverse coalition.

"He's gonna build the largest multiracial, multicultural coalition in the history of this country to usher in a new progressive era, and I'm so proud to see Muslim Americans, Jewish Americans, Hindu Americans, Christian Americans - all coming out for Bernie Sanders," the congressman said.

Imam Jaaphar Abdul Hamed, speaking in his personal capacity, delivered the speech to rally Sanders supporters ahead of the first county.

"Bernie Sanders is the best candidate for us… Bernie Sanders stands for the principles for justice not only in the United States, but everywhere," Abdul Hamed said.

'The justice aspect'

Several Muslim caucus-goers cited the emphasis on "justice" as the reason for their support for Sanders.

"The justice aspect" draws Muslim-Americans to Bernie Sanders, said Kalynn Strain, who volunteers at the mosque. "Islam teaches that all people are equal."

For his part, Shukran Sultan, a 30-year-old caucus-goer who backs Sanders, said "it feels amazing" to take part in the elections at the mosque.

"Right now, we need some change. We need a leader who can unite us, who can bring us all together, who can help us out," he said.

Another apparent factor behind the Muslim community's support for Sanders is that he courted their vote. Khanna and various state campaign officials visited the mosque on Sunday, while Sanders' volunteers stood around the caucus site to assist people.

Over two hours at the Muslim Community Organization, MEE only saw supporters and volunteers from the Sanders campaign.

Josh Rhoen, a Sanders volunteer from Georgia, said the senator does not only condemn Islamophobia, but he is committed to countering it.

"You've got to look at Bernie Sanders' life: he's never wavered when it comes to social justice issues. He's always been consistent," Rhoen said. "When you're judging a candidate, you have to look at their character and you have to look at their track record."

Salam, of the Muslim Caucus, also noted that it was remarkable for the diverse attendees of the mosque, which hail from Middle East, Africa and South Asia to unite behind a single candidate.

"Our issues are of economic justice. Immigration is important to our community. Health care is important to our community. Education is important to our community," she said.

"So when you look at all of these issues, Bernie is the one who speaks to the diversity of our community."

Salam told MEE that hosting caucuses at mosques improves the electoral process.

"This is laying a path of how inclusive the process should be," Salam said. "Communities should be made to feel comfortable and save in their own environment."

Tight race

Chaos ensued late on Monday as it became clear that the much-anticipated election results will not come out on a timely manner. The Iowa Democratic Party cited irregularities in reporting and quality control checks as the reason behind the delay.

The results are set to be finally released on Tuesday afternoon. But the hold up is expected to minimise the boost that the victor usually receives from winning the nation's first caucuses.

Buttigieg had claimed victory on Monday night without any official results reported. Sanders' campaign also released internal data showing the senator in the lead.

Arab and Muslim advocates in Iowa had stressed that in such a tight race, their votes may decide the winner.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/us-election-2020-muslim-caucus-goers-iowa-overwhelmingly-support-senator-bernie-sanders

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UN Envoy Hopes Libya Talks Will Stem Inflow Of Foreign Arms

4 February 2020

The UN’s special representative for Libya said he hopes cease-fire talks that began Tuesday between the country’s warring sides will result in a deal that will convince foreign powers to stop pouring in weapons.

Ghassan Salame, head of the United Nations support mission in Libya, lamented that an arms embargo has been “incessantly” violated since the fall of longtime autocrat Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. He said an international conference in Berlin last month sought to renew respect for it.

Cease-fire talks in Geneva focus on the military aspect of diplomatic efforts aimed at easing tensions in a country that has been roiled by instability for most of the last decade.

Salame said an “economic track” to the talks began in Tunis, Tunisia last month and is to resume in Cairo on Sunday. A political track is set to get under way in about two weeks, he said.

The weak UN-recognized administration holds the capital Tripoli and parts of the country’s west. Led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, it’s backed by Turkey and to a lesser degree Qatar and Italy.

On the other side of the civil war is General Khalifa Haftar, based in the country's east. His forces have been fighting to capture the capital for months and are backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt as well as France and Russia.

Sarraj and Hafter have each named five members of a military committee to represent them at the Geneva talks aimed at a more permanent cease-fire, in meetings that quietly got underway Monday.

Playing down expectations, Salame said such a meeting between high-ranking officers was unprecedented: “So don’t expect from one meeting yesterday afternoon to settle all these issues.”

Speaking in Arabic through a translator, he noted a “genuine will for both parties to sit together and start negotiations.”

“We started yesterday with a long list of points on our agenda, starting on an attempt to transform the truce into a more solid one less often violated by either side - but also to transform that truce into areas of agreement on a lasting cease-fire,” he said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2020/02/04/UN-envoy-hopes-Libya-talks-will-stem-inflow-of-foreign-arms.html

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UAE, Israel officials conspiring against Iran at secret White House meeting

05 February 2020

The US, Israel and the UAE held a secret meeting at the White House to conspire against Iran, a report reveals.

According an Axios report on Tuesday, the secret meeting was held on December 17, 2019.

The sit-down, which involved a nonaggression pact between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, was referred to as an attempt to forge closer ties between the two.

The Israeli team was led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, and the UAE was represented by Yousef al-Otaiba, the country’s envoy to the US, who maintains close ties with Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

The American officials engaged in the process were national security adviser Robert O'Brien, his deputy, Victoria Coates, and US special envoy for Iran Brian Hook.

In a tweet on December 21, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed pointed to what he called “Islam’s reformation,” adding that, “an Arab-Israeli alliance is taking shape in the Middle East."

The tweet was responded by the Israeli premier a day later, urging Abu Dhabi to remain reticent over the matter for now.

“The UAE Foreign Minister, Abdullah bin Zayed, spoke about a new alliance in the Middle East: An Israeli-Arab alliance. … I can only say that this remark is the result of the ripening of many contacts and efforts, which at the moment, and I emphasize at the moment, would be best served by silence," Netanyahu said at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting.

The UAE-Israel alliance comes as no surprise in the wake of the Muslim country’s support for the US so-called “peace” initiative between Israel and Palestinians, dubbed “deal of the century.”

Rejected by Palestinians and the world’s Muslim population, the deal recognizes Jerusalem al-Quds as the “undivided capital” of the Zionist regime.

It also amounts to violation of the fundamental rights of the Palestinians by disregarding UN resolutions and international law.

Washington has previously voiced support for closer ties between its allies in West Asia, namely the Israeli regime, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/05/617915/UAE,-Israel-conspiring-against-Iran-in-secret-White-House-meeting

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‘Kushner took a knife and put it in Netanyahu’s back,’ Israel’s Yesha Council manger

04 February 2020

The manager of municipal councils of Israel’s illegal settlements says Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of US President Donald Trump, has stabbed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the back.

David Elhayani told The Washington Post on Tuesday that Netanyahu’s supporters have grown increasingly frustrated after alleged pushback from the White House over plans to immediately annex the illegal settlements.

“Kushner took a knife and put it in Netanyahu’s back,” he said. “Kushner misled the prime minister. He misled everybody. He knew for a long time that Netanyahu wanted to declare sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea — he said it many times over the last year. Gentlemen just don’t act this way.”

Elhayani further claimed that the move by the White House senior advisor could cost Netanyahu the upcoming March 2 elections in Israel.

After Trump and Netanyahu unveiled the pro-Israeli “peace plan,” the latter told reporters that he intended to bring a vote on annexation before his cabinet within days.

US ambassador to Israel David Friedman also told reporters that, “if Israelis apply Israeli law to the settlements and territory allocated to Israel under the plan … then we will recognize Israeli sovereignty.”

Elhayani further complained that, “But something happened after that; they changed their minds!”

The so-called “deal of the century” amounts to violation of the fundamental rights of the Palestinians by disregarding UN resolutions and international law.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/04/617905/Kushner-stabbed-Netanyahu-in-the-back:-Israel%E2%80%99s-Yesha-Council

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US city appoints first Turkish-American police chief

Islam Dogru  

05.02.2020

NEW YORK

The city of Paterson in the U.S. state of New Jersey appointed its first Turkish-American and Muslim police chief Tuesday.

Ibrahim “Mike” Baycora was sworn in with his left hand on a copy of the Quran as Paterson’s 17th police chief during a ceremony at city hall. He has been serving at the city's police department for more than three decades.

The ceremony began with the national anthem and prayers and was attended by members of the Turkish community in New York and New Jersey, senior officials from Paterson’s local government and Baycora's family and relatives.

Baycora replaced Troy Oswald, who retired as of February.

Speaking at the ceremony, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said "Merhaba," "Hosgeldiniz" and "Nasılsın?" in the Turkish language, meaning ‘Hello,’ ‘Welcome’ and ‘How are you?’

Sayegh said Baycora "will be the first Turkish police chief in the history of the United States of America. He will be the first Muslim police chief in the city of Paterson."

The U.S. has made history, he added.

Baycora, for his part, said he was proud of his nationality and origin.

"As a kid from the east side of Paterson who grew up here attending school, Paterson has been my home for the better part of half a century," he said.

"Paterson has been in my blood my whole life, and now to be its police chief after a 32-year career -- what an honor."

Speaking to Anadolu Agency following the ceremony, Baycora said: "I am so happy, so blessed."

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-city-appoints-first-turkish-american-police-chief/1724546

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US, Israel, UAE officials secretly met on Iran: report

Servet Günerigök 

04.02.2020

WASHINGTON

Senior officials from the U.S., Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) held a "secret" meeting at the White House in December to discuss Iran, according to an American news website. 

The Dec. 17 meeting tackled coordination against Iran and "discussion of a UAE-Israel nonaggression pact," Axios reported, citing unnamed Israeli and U.S. officials.

The U.S. team included National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, his deputy Victoria Coates and Washington's special envoy for Iran Brian Hook.

The meeting included Meir Ben-Shabbat, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser and UAE's Ambassador to Washington Yousef Al Otaiba.

Otaiba is "a very close adviser" to UAE's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, according to Axios.

He was present while U.S. President Donald Trump announced the Israel-Palestine plan along with Netanyahu at the White House last week.

The report said Netanyahu has worked hard to boost a clandestine alliance with the UAE against Tehran, adding that the move happened at a U.S.-led conference in Warsaw, Poland.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-israel-uae-officials-secretly-met-on-iran-report/1724465

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Pompeo backs Turkey on troops' deaths by Syria regime

Servet Günerigök 

04.02.2020

WASHINGTON

U.S. Secretary of State on Tuesday offered condolences for Turkish troops martyred by Syrian regime shelling in Idlib and reiterated Washington's support amid clashes with regime forces. 

Mike Pompeo called the attack on Turkish observation posts by forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad regime a "grave escalation.

Secretary Pompeo

@SecPompeo

The U.S. stands by our @NATO Ally #Turkey in the aftermath of the mortar attack by Assad regime forces on Turkish observation posts. This is a grave escalation. The Assad regime, Russia, Iran, and Hizballah's ruthless actions are preventing the establishment of a ceasefire.

4,492

11:49 PM - Feb 4, 2020

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"We stand by our NATO Ally Turkey in the aftermath of the attack, which resulted in the death of multiple Turkish personnel serving at an observation post used for coordination and de-escalation, and fully support Turkey’s justified self-defense actions in response,” he said in a statement. "We send our condolences to the Government of Turkey on their deaths.”

Syrian regime shelling Monday left eight Turkish soldiers dead and several others wounded, according to defense ministry. In retaliation, Turkey struck more than 50 targets and killed 76 Syrian soldiers.

The top U.S. diplomat reiterated that Washington condemned assaults on Idlib residents by Assad and its allies.

"Brutal actions by the Assad regime, Russia, the Iranian regime, and Hizballah are directly preventing the establishment of a ceasefire in northern Syria," said Pompeo, as he called for an end to the attacks, access for humanitarian aid and peace in line with UNSCR 2254 -- a 2015 UN Security Council resolution that called for a cease-fire in Syria and a political settlement of the conflict.

"The United States will do all in its powers to block any reintegration of the Assad regime into the international community until it complies with all provisions of UNSCR 2254, including a nationwide ceasefire that incorporates Idlib," he concluded.

Idlib has been a stronghold of opposition and anti-government armed groups since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

It is currently home to 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces from throughout the war-weary country.

Turkey and Russia agreed in September 2018 to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited. The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire – including a fresh cease-fire Jan. 12 – launching frequent attacks inside the zone and killing at least 1,300 civilians since the agreement.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/pompeo-backs-turkey-on-troops-deaths-by-syria-regime/1724391

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Europe

 

Europe to avoid taking Iran nuclear dispute to UN, EU’s top diplomat says

4 February 2020

The European Union will extend indefinitely the time limit to resolve disputes in the Iran 2015 nuclear accord to avoid having to go to the UN Security Council or triggering new sanctions, the EU’s top diplomat said during a visit to Tehran.

Britain, France and Germany formally accused Iran on January 14 of violating the terms of the 2015 arms control agreement aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear programme. Violations could lead to the reimposing of UN sanctions lifted under the 2015 deal.

“We are in agreement not to go directly to a strict time limit which would oblige (us) to go to the Security Council,” the EU’s Josep Borrell told reporters during a visit to Tehran on Monday.

In his remarks, broadcast on Tuesday, he said: “The willingness is not to start a process that goes to the end of JCPOA, but to keep it alive,” referring to the Iran deal by its formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

After months of gradual steps to reduce compliance, Iran said on January 6 it would scrap limits on enriching uranium.

Borrell, who is chair of the Iran deal, was notified in January by Paris, London and Berlin that they had triggered the dispute mechanism, in theory starting a 15-day process to resolve issues with Iran.

However, there are some questions over when the 15-day period should start because Iran has not formally recognised the consultation process, officials have said.

China and Russia are also signatories to the deal signed in Vienna in 2015 and have expressed misgivings about the Europeans’ decision to trigger the mechanism.

All sides say they want to save the deal, which US President Donald Trump withdrew from in May 2018, reimposing economic sanctions on Iran.

Borrell said he had agreed with Berlin, London and Paris to “continuously postpone” the 15-day limit. However, he said progress depended on maintaining the presence of the UN atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in Iran to monitor its nuclear activities.

After meeting Borrell on Monday, President Hassan Rouhani was quoted as saying that Iran is ready to cooperate with the EU on issues related to the nuclear deal.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/04/Europe-to-avoid-taking-Iran-nuclear-dispute-to-UN-EU-s-top-diplomat-says.html

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1st anniversary of Document on Human Fraternity

By Amedeo Lomonaco and Linda Bordoni

February 4, 2020

The “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together", signed in Abu Dhabi a year ago by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb,  was widely hailed as a milestone, not only regarding relations between Christianity and Islam, but as a blue-print indicating the way to a culture of dialogue and collaboration between faiths.

It is an appeal to put an end to wars and condemns the scourges of terrorism and violence, especially those perpetrated by religious motivations. "Faith,” the preface reads, “leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved".

"It is a text that has been given honest and serious thought so as to be a joint declaration of good and heartfelt aspirations. It is a document that invites all persons who have faith in God and faith in human fraternity to unite and work together so that it may serve as a guide for future generations to advance a culture of mutual respect in the awareness of the great divine grace that makes all human beings brothers and sisters. “(Document on Human Fraternity)".

Promote tolerance and justice

The document asks everyone to commit themselves “to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace", putting an end to wars, environmental decay and moral and cultural decline, and to implement "an equitable distribution of natural resources - which only a rich minority benefit from, to the detriment of the majority of the peoples of the earth".

Protect family and life

The two leaders underscore the need to protect the family that "is the fundamental nucleus of society" and safeguard the gift of life: “We condemn all those practices that are a threat to life such as genocide, acts of terrorism, forced displacement, human organ trafficking, abortion and euthanasia. We likewise condemn the policies that promote these practices.”

Never kill in God’s name

Furthermore, they declare “that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood. These tragic realities are the consequence of a deviation from religious teachings. They result from a political manipulation of religions and from interpretations made by religious groups.”  This is why everyone is asked “to refrain from using the name of God to justify acts of murder, exile, terrorism and oppression." The Pope and the Grand Imam remember that “God, the Almighty, has no need to be defended by anyone and does not want His name to be used to terrorize people".

Religious freedom

The Document states that "Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom.” For this reason “the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept.”

No to discriminatory use of the term ‘minorities’

The Document states that "it is crucial to establish in our societies the concept of full citizenship and reject the discriminatory use of the term minorities which engenders feelings of isolation and inferiority.”

Recognize women's rights

It goes on to state that it is “an essential requirement to recognize the right of women to education and employment, and to recognize their freedom to exercise their own political rights ", in the effort to “free women from historical and social conditioning that runs contrary to the principles of their faith and dignity. It is also necessary to protect women from sexual exploitation (…). Accordingly, an end must be brought to all those inhuman and vulgar practices that denigrate the dignity of women. Efforts must be made to modify those laws that prevent women from fully enjoying their rights”.

Education in schools and universities

Another demand contained in the Document is that "this Document become the object of research and reflection in all schools, universities and institutes of formation” and a "sign of the closeness between East and West, between North and South".

Religions are bridges between peoples

The Document on Human Fraternity was signed at the conclusion of an Interreligious Meeting at the Founder’s Memorial in Abu Dhabi during Pope Francis’ Apostolic Visit to the United Arab Emirates  from 3 to 5 February 2019. During that meeting, the Pope said: “There is no alternative: we will either build the future together or there will not be a future. Religions, in particular, cannot renounce the urgent task of building bridges between peoples and cultures.  The time has come when religions should more actively exert themselves, with courage and audacity, and without pretence, to help the human family deepen the capacity for reconciliation, the vision of hope and the concrete paths of peace.”

The Pope’s Apostolic Journey to the UAE garnered worldwide attention. During the flight back to Rome, in his conversation with journalists on board the papal plane, Pope Francis stressed that the Document was born "from faith in God who is Father of all" and follows "the spirit of the Second Vatican Council". On the following day, during the weekly General Audience on 6 February 2019, the Pope exhorted everyone to read and to study the Abu Dhabi Document because, he said, it "gives much impetus to go forward in the dialogue on human brotherhood". Many observers have pointed out that it opens new horizons not only for dialogue between Christians and Muslims. The UAE Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdallah Ben Zayed Al Nahyan, for example, described the Pope's meeting with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar as marking a new phase in "relations between religions".

Establishment of a Higher Committee on Fraternity Document

In order to promote the ideals of tolerance and cooperation contained in the Document on Human Fraternity, a Committee was established on 20 August 2019 in Abu Dhabi. Its task is to develop a framework for the realization of the objectives contained in the Document, to prepare the necessary plans for its practical implementation and to follow its application at regional and international levels, also by organizing meetings with religious leaders, heads of international organizations and others in order to promote concerted action. One month after its establishment, the “Higher Committee” met for the first time in the Vatican at the Casa Santa Marta.  Pope Francis received its members on 11 September and expressed gratitude and encouragement for their work, urging them to be "artisans of fraternity".

World Day proposed by Pope and Grand Imam

Last December, a meeting between the members of the Higher Committee, led by Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and by Judge Muhammad Abd al-Salam, and the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, took place in New York. They brought him a message from Pope Francis and from the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar proposing the establishment of a World Day of Human Fraternity on 4 February. Guterres expressed his appreciation and availability for the initiative.

Conference in Abu Dhabi marks Document’s 1st anniversary

Full report at:

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-02/pope-grand-imam-document-human-fraternity-anniversary.html

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Muslim dad: I’d rather go to jail than allow my son to attend LGBT school lessons

Feb 4, 2020

BIRMINGHAM, England, February 4, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – A Muslim father in the United Kingdom says he is prepared to go to jail rather than withdraw his son from a controversial pro-LGBT sex education program.

Jabar Hussain, 51, is the first parent to face prosecution after keeping his son, Amin, out of school for months rather than allowing him to attend lessons that promoting homosexual and transgender ideology through the “No Outsiders” program.

The “No Outsiders” program received significant media coverage last year when Muslim parents in Birmingham protested against its use to teach their children. The program promotes LGBT lifestyles as normal, with the introduction to the book explaining that “to be a person who is gay or lesbian or transgender or bisexual is normal, acceptable and OK." Its author, Andrew Moffatt, led the annual homosexual “Pride” march in Birmingham last year.

At the height of the protests, hundreds of parents gathered outside the school, chanting and holding placards. Six hundred Muslim pupils between four and 11 years old were withdrawn from classes.

Some demonstrators reportedly even said they would rather leave the UK than allow their children to continue attending the school.

During one of those protests outside the school last year, Hussain told BirminghamLive, "We are not against anyone expressing their sexuality or being homosexual if that's what they want. We have no issue if Mr Moffat wants to put on a dress, or dance around like a ballet dancer, or put on a skirt, we have no issue. We have an issue with teaching that nonsense to our kids."

Hussain has stopped his son from attending the Parkfield Primary School in Birmingham since September 2019 but has kept him on the school register in hopes that he will eventually be able to return and complete his education there.

Hussain risks being fined for keeping his child out of school for an extended period and having a parenting order imposed. If he fails to pay the fine, he may be sentenced to a prison term of up to three months.

But Hussain told The Times, "If I have to go to court, I have to go to court. I would go to jail for this.”

Hussain is challenging the prosecution by Birmingham City Council, saying the lessons constitute a "safeguarding risk.” He has instructed lawyers to seek a judicial review if the council persists with the prosecution.

His lawyer, Paul Conrathe of Sinclairs Law, said, "This prosecution criminalizes him for not submitting to teaching in breach of his rights."

After last year’s protest, an adapted version of the “No Outsiders” program was introduced, entitled “No Outsiders for a Faith Community.” Moffat says the LGBT content has been retained and the lessons have not been “watered down.”

In a recent interview with i News, Moffatt said last year’s protests, rather than stopping the implementation of No Outsiders, had in fact given the program a  “national profile.” Moffatt claimed that the media attention resulted in other schools choosing to use it.

Hussain has said he is worried that the lessons will teach things that go against his religion, including "that some children are born in the wrong body.”

Full report at:

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/muslim-dad-id-rather-go-to-jail-than-allow-my-son-to-attend-lgbt-school-lessons

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At Muslim hackathon, techies build community and tools to access Islamic learning

February 4, 2020

Aysha Khan

LONDON (RNS) – Sohaib Saeed wouldn’t exactly call himself a tech person.

But the Scottish translator of Islamic texts has plenty of ideas for ways to put technology to work to benefit his community.

That’s why he drove close to 400 miles from Glasgow, Scotland, to be at last weekend’s hackathon at Makers Academy, a coding school in downtown London.

“My field is Islamic studies, so I’m not usually seen at hackathons,” said Saeed, head of research at the Bayyinah Institute, where he specializes in Quranic studies and exegesis. “But I came because I saw people interested in sincerely engaging with and advancing Islamic learning.”

The two-day Islamic Education in the 21st Century hackathon was led by Muslamic Makers and Deen Developers, two emerging London-based organizations hoping to connect Muslim technologists to put their skills to use for their community.

At this hackathon, participants hoped to create tools for their fellow British Muslims to close the gaps in access to traditional Islamic knowledge and learning.

“As working professionals we often fall into a routine: wake up, go to work, come back, relax, pray, sleep, do it all over again,” Ibrahim Javed, founder of Deen Developers and a software engineer at Deloitte, told the 50 participants. “But this event is a testament to the fact that if you put in a bit of time and utilize the skills you’ve gained, you can achieve something that can be of benefit for the ummah and the community.”

Among the apps being worked on at the hackathon were Khaldun, which encourages users to fall down the rabbit hole of Islamic history; To-Deed, which helps users track their behavior and compete with friends to develop better spiritual habits; IlmEvents, which curates local Islamic events; and Mosq, which connects users with local imams and Islamic scholars so they can ask private questions anonymously and can particularly serve women whose local mosques have no facilities for female worshippers.

At the hackathon, Saeed was part of a team working on an app called Quranoplex, which Saeed has been dreaming about developing for years.

He worked with a team of technologists — including specialists in app development, user experience design, machine learning and more — who brought his idea to life in the space of two days.

“The most common question I get asked all the time is, ‘What is the best Quran translation out there?’” he said. “Unfortunately there’s no answer to that question, because no one translation by itself can capture all the meanings of the Quran. So I advise people to find a few different ones and compare them.”

A better question, Saeed said, is how readers of English translations of the Quran can “find a guided approach to appreciating the diversity of meanings.”

His team’s answer was an app that allows users to explore different translations of the Quran in a streamlined, word-by-word approach. As users read a verse in its original Arabic, certain words and phrases will be underlined to indicate that translators have rendered them into English in multiple ways.

Users can then explore these varied translations, mixing and matching between existing translations for individual words to create a new, custom Quran translation.

Their prototype, built in two days, is not yet ready for release. But the demo Saeed’s team presented at the hackathon’s closing showcase is a far cry from the current best solution on offer: a handful of websites that display a verse’s different translations in clunky tables.

His teammate Shabana Ahmed said contributing to the effort was both personally and professionally satisfying.

“This is the first hackathon I have attended where I could contribute to a challenge close to my own faith and associated with some of my own personal interests,” Ahmed, who has worked as a user experience designer for over a decade, said. “...We bonded fairly quickly on a common belief that our efforts may contribute to a higher value, and that is rewarding and motivating.”

For Arfah Farooq, co-founder of Muslamic Makers, that’s the goal.

“We wanted to bring Muslims working in tech together to support each other in a space that’s not tailored around booze, where there are prayer provisions and things like that,” Farooq told Religion News Service. “If there was an organization like this when I started out, if there was a space where I knew I didn’t have to hide my religion and my identity, where I learned that I could demand my rights, that would have changed everything.”

Farooq, who works for the Government Digital Service, launched Muslamic Makers nearly four years ago alongside designer-developer Murtaza Abidi as a way to get more Muslims involved in technology in London. She said the event can help cultivate “creative confidence” among their community, especially among Muslim women in tech.

“If you don’t see people like yourself reflected in the industry, it really limits your ambitions,” Farooq said, noting that role models are particularly lacking among Muslim women in tech. Like many Muslim women in the field, Farooq said, she fell into the industry by accident. Through Muslamic Makers, she aims to help develop a streamlined pipeline that Muslim women can follow to enter the industry.

Of the 120 applications last weekend’s hackathon received, about a quarter were from women, mostly working in creative professions. Farooq made sure that each of the five teams organizers arranged included at least two women.

When organizers held their first networking event in early 2016, 50 people attended. Now, the group has hosted more than 22 events around London, with more than 1,000 attendees total. Major tech companies in the area have provided facilities for the sessions. Keeping up with the demand for events is nearly impossible, she said, noting that the group hopes to expand to northern England and the United States.

Both groups say their immediate goal is to work with hackathon participants to ensure that the projects make their way back into the broader Muslim community. To help launch and maintain the apps in the long-term, Deen Developers plans to leverage its community of London programmers, offer internships to local high school students and set up a coding bootcamp for orphans in Pakistan. Trainees will maintain the projects created during the hackathon.

Full report at:

https://religionnews.com/2020/02/04/at-muslim-hackathon-techies-build-community-and-tools-to-access-islamic-learning/

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'Europe to face new refugee exodus if Turkey ignored'

Sibel Morrow 

04.02.2020

Europe may face a massive refugee exodus if it ignores warnings by Ankara, Turkey’s ruling party spokesman said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a news conference in Ankara, Justice and Development (AK) Party spokesman Omer Celik warned of an impending humanitarian disaster in Syria's Idlib province.

“If Turkey’s warnings are not taken into consideration, we warn everyone that a refugee exodus will affect Europe to a large extent,” Celik said.

The ongoing attacks by the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria and its allies forced some 40,000 civilians to flee their homes in Idlib, a de-escalation zone in northwestern Syria, over the last two days.

The exodus gained momentum in the central areas of Idlib, Ariah, Jabal Zawiya and Saraqib regions due to intensified attacks, according to Syria's Response Coordination Group.

The attacks by the regime forces, Iran-backed terror groups and Russian strikes stand as the main reasons behind the exodus.

The majority of the displaced people arrived at the camps near Turkish border while some others took refuge in the areas cleared of terror elements following Turkey's military campaigns.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/europe-to-face-new-refugee-exodus-if-turkey-ignored/1724467

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Denmark: 3 Iranians arrested for spying for Saudis

Davut Colak 

04.02.2020

COPENHAGEN, Denmark

Three Iranian nationals accused of spying for Saudi Arabia were arrested in Denmark.

Finn Borch Andersen, head of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET), told a press conference on Monday that three Iranian citizens residing in Denmark were arrested for carrying out espionage activities on behalf of a Saudi intelligence service from 2012 to 2018.

He said the suspects are members of the separatist group Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA), which is regarded as a terrorist organization by Iran.

An ASMLA-affiliated group, Ahwaz National Resistance, took responsibility for the September 2018 attack on an Iranian military parade that killed 25 people.

Andersen said the suspects collected information about some individuals and companies in Denmark and passed on this information to Saudi Arabia.

He said a fourth suspect -- an Iranian intelligence service staff -- is still at large and operations are underway in Denmark and the Netherlands for his arrest.

The suspect is accused of spying against Denmark and believed to be involved in an assassination plot in Denmark.

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said on Twitter that he summoned Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to convey that espionage activities on Danish soil are completely unacceptable.

The same message was delivered in Riyadh by the Danish foreign service, he said.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/denmark-3-iranians-arrested-for-spying-for-saudis/1723857

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URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/‘love-jihad’-not-defined-under-laws,-no-case-reported--government/d/120986

 

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