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Islamic World News (19 Feb 2020 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Saudi Arabia to Execute Dozen Shia Minor Dissidents amid Major Crackdown







• Indian Diaspora Protest outside Pakistan High Commission in London over Forced Conversion of Hindu Pakistani

• Kartarpur Corridor's Opening Practical Proof of Pakistan's Desire For Peace, Says UN Chief

• UN Chief Concerned About Discrimination against Muslims in India

• Commonwealth Foundation: Peaceful Malaysia the Ideal Platform For Discussions On Women, Peace And Security

• Iran’s Khamenei Says Voting in Parliament Elections Is a Religious Duty

• Taliban Strongly Reacts To Re-Election of Ghani as the President of Afghanistan

• Libya’s GNA Halts Participation in Geneva Talks

• Muslim Voting Guide Grant Was 'Weird': Deputy Minister

 

Arab World

• Saudi Arabia to Execute Dozen Shia Minor Dissidents amid Major Crackdown

• Islamic counter-terrorism coalition chief outlines strategy in HQ tour

• #StopHuntingUs: Twitter users highlight violence against Iraqi protesters

• Russia, Turkey remain committed to reducing Syria tensions

• Explosion kills two in Syria’s Qamishli: Monitor

• UN rights official denounces attacks, deaths in northwest Syria bombings

• Lebanon’s Tripoli holds day of rage after protester Ahmad Tawfiq dies

• Lebanon PM will meet IMF delegation amid deeping economic struggles

• Saudi Arabia urges Germany to lift arms export ban despite continuing war on Yemen

• Syrian army makes gains in Idlib, opposition blames Turkey

• Iraqi prime minister-designate faces pressure on Cabinet choices

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India

• Indian Diaspora Protest outside Pakistan High Commission in London over Forced Conversion of Hindu Pakistani

• Does a voter ID mean you are a citizen? It’s unclear

• 80 Lakh Foreigners, Jihadis in Assam NRC, NGO Tells SC

• NIA Files Charge Sheet against 11 Terrorists of Bangladesh-Based JMB Group

• India issues fresh travel advisory asking citizens to not visit 5 provinces in Iraq

• Most of APPGK are either Pakistani or PoK heritage, not one PIO among them, all are anti-India

• Jamia charge sheet filed, Sharjeel Imam being probed

• Three terrorists killed in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama

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Pakistan

• Kartarpur Corridor's Opening Practical Proof of Pakistan's Desire For Peace, Says UN Chief

• Jemima Goldsmith Tweets Poster Showing Bushra Bibi Doing Black Magic

• FATF Sub-Group Recommends Keeping Pak in ‘Grey List’

• Mystery gas leak death toll doubles amid blame game

• Imran blamed for ‘overshadowing’ Erdogan’s statement on Kashmir

• Strike observed in Quetta to mourn suicide blast victims

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Europe

• UN Chief Concerned About Discrimination against Muslims in India

• France Unveils Restriction on Foreign Imams To Curb ‘Separatism’

• London Mayor Sadiq Khan pushes for ‘associate’ EU citizenship

• Jewish lawyer’s fight in defence of a British Pakistani Muslim

• Emmanuel Macron launches campaign against political Islam

• Russia, Turkey agree to adhere to treaties on Syria

• Russia, Italy to hold consultations on Libya

• German arsonist jailed over mosque attack

• Sweden calls for pressure on Syrian regime over Idlib

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Southeast Asia

• Commonwealth Foundation: Peaceful Malaysia the Ideal Platform For Discussions On Women, Peace And Security

• Jakarta to stop 'terrorist virus', no repatriation for jihadis

• Religious ministry denies protests against Riau Islands church renovation related to intolerance

• 'Bin Abdullah' case: What the Federal Court's minority rulings said

• Religious authorities were looking for Joshua, says witness

• Muftis cannot enforce minimum age for marriage, say Islamic authorities

• Unemployed JB man who allegedly stepped on Quran to undergo mental evaluation

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Mideast

• Iran’s Khamenei Says Voting in Parliament Elections Is a Religious Duty

• Israeli PM Netanyahu’s Trial To Start March 17: Ministry

• Pakistani Senate adopts resolution against Trump’s Palestine plot

• Iran's proposal: A national referendum in territory of Palestine

• Is Abbas the key to Israeli annexation of West Bank lands?

• Coalition: Will not tolerate attempts to undermine security in Yemen’ al-Mahra

• Zarif’s meeting with US congressmen part of Iran’s general diplomacy: Foreign Ministry spox

• Turkey says Greece cannot deny Muslim Turkish minority

• Israeli military says will create command to combat Iran threats

• Israel eases restrictions on Gaza Strip following ‘relative calm’

• Iran jails eight climate activists for spying for, cooperation with US

• Iran releases detained German prisoner, sets trial for French scholars

• UN: Houthis interfering in relief operations in Yemen

• Riyadh provided Jaish ul-Adl terrorists with weapons, equipment: IRGC cmdr.

• Secretary of Iran’s Guardian Council calls for ‘healthy, lawful’ elections

• Israel plans 9,000 new settler units in East Jerusalem al-Quds: Watchdog

• US threatens to suspend Yemen aid operations over Houthi interference

• Houthi militias bury dozens of fighters

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South Asia

• Taliban Strongly Reacts To Re-Election of Ghani as the President of Afghanistan

• Ghani becomes Afghanistan’s president for the second time

• Abdullah does not accept the election result, claims victory

• Afghan state telecom companies reduce data price by 20-30%

• Iran supplying Taliban with missiles, says Afghan security official

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Africa

• Libya’s GNA Halts Participation in Geneva Talks

• Turkish drone downed in Ain Zara, south of Libya’s Tripoli

• Turkish ship carrying weapons targeted by LNA in Tripoli port

• Security Council resolution reinforces Berlin peace process for Libya: UN envoy

• Libya's UN-backed govt suspends Geneva talks after Haftar port attack

• Haftar forces kill 3 civilians in attack on Libyan port

• Somali army kills 12 Al-Shabaab militants

• Gallant Nigerian soldiers rewarded for historic successes against Boko Haram

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North America

• Muslim Voting Guide Grant Was 'Weird': Deputy Minister

• Someone should talk to Iran, US senator says amid Trump anti-Iran approach

• US neocons, Zionist lobby losing war in Syria: Commentator

• Pompeo says Ethiopia-Egypt dam dispute could take months to resolve

• Trump: Erdogan trying to avoid tragedy in Syria’s Idlib

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/saudi-arabia-to-execute-dozen-shia-minor-dissidents-amid-major-crackdown/d/121103

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Saudi Arabia to Execute Dozen Shia Minor Dissidents amid Major Crackdown

18 February 2020

Saudi authorities will execute a dozen imprisoned minor dissidents from the oil-rich and Shia-populated Eastern Province, amid a crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against pro-democracy campaigners, Muslim preachers and intellectuals in the kingdom.

Lebanon-based Arabic-language al-Ahed news website, citing sources from the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR), reported that the Qatif residents are facing death penalty at various levels of litigation.

Among the detainees already on the death row is Muhammad Issam al-Faraj, born in 2002, who faced charges before reaching the age of ten.

A local source, requesting not to be named, told al-Ahed that judgment is issued by one authority and there is no room for self-defense or the appointment of a lawyer.

The source added that the defendants have no knowledge whatsoever about when and how the hearings were conducted and what were involved. The defendants should only submit to the court order, and their families will not be informed until after they have been executed.

Those executed are buried alone and their families are not allowed to bid farewell or receive their loved ones’ wills.

Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the region.

The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime, with government forces increasing security measures across the province.

Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.

In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of Riyadh. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif, Eastern Province, in 2012.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/18/618962/Saudi-Arabia-moving-to-execute-dozen-of-minor-Shia-dissidents-amid-major-crackdown

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Indian Diaspora Protest outside Pakistan High Commission in London over Forced Conversion of Hindu Pakistani

Feb 18, 2020

LONDON: Dozens of British Indians braved heavy rain and strong winds to take part in two protests against Pakistan outside its mission building in London on Sunday and Monday.

Nearly 50 people turned up on Sunday afternoon outside the Pakistan High Commission in London in the midst of Storm Dennis, which battered the UK with torrential rain, whilst, on Monday evening, 120 PIOs gathered outside the building holding placards saying “Stop child abuse in Pakistan” and waved the tricolour.

They raised slogans like “Down with Pakistan” and “We want justice for … … (name withheld).

They were seeking justice for the minor Hindu girl, aged 15-16, living in Jacobabad, Pakistan, who was abducted on January 15th, converted to Islam, and forcibly married to an older Muslim man, who has already divorced two wives and has four children.

The Hindu girl has now been forcibly sent to a children protection centre following a court order and is facing a legal case for offending Islam, which could lead to death penalty.

Protesters were calling for her release and for her to be returned to her parents, for a ban on conversion of Hindu minors in Pakistan, and also to demonstrate support for the CAA.

“Pakistan officials came out and videoed and took photos of us and watched the whole thing,” a spokesperson for the organiser, British Indian Voice, told TOI.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/indian-diaspora-protest-outside-pakistan-high-commission-in-london-over-forced-conversion-of-hindu-pakistani/articleshow/74198229.cms

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Kartarpur Corridor's opening practical proof of Pakistan's desire for peace, says UN chief

Feb 18, 2020

LAHORE: UN chief Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said the opening of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor is a practical example of Pakistan's desire for peace and inter-faith harmony, as he visited the revered Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev.

The Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbhandhik Committee and Evacuee Trust Property Board officials received the UN Secretary General at Kartarpur Sahib, some 125kms from Lahore. A Sikh boy presented him a bouquet.

Guterres was also briefed about the Kartarpur Corridor pact between Pakistan and India. He was told that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan took this initiative to facilitate the Sikh community of India and elsewhere to visit the shrine.

The corridor links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan's Kartarpur - the final resting place of Sikh faith's founder Guru Nanak Dev - to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India's Gurdaspur district.

Wearing an orange scarf, Guterres visited different parts of the Gurdwara. He was served with traditional food in lunch along with Sikhs and Pakistani officials.

Strict security measures were taken during the visit.

Indian Sikhs in good number were also present at Kartarpur Sahib.

Talking to media persons, the UN Secretary General said the Kartarpur Corridor is a practical example of Pakistan's desire for peace and inter-faith harmony, Radio Pakistan reported.

He said the opening of the corridor is a good step and it will promote tolerance and interfaith harmony.

The UN chief appreciated the facilities being provided to Sikh pilgrims at the complex.

Talking to the state television after his visit, Guterres said: "This is a very emotional moment... and I cannot be here without having a very strong feeling. It is wonderful to see interfaith dialogue. It is wonderful to see in the same shrine today Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, maybe Hindus -- all worshipping in harmony and in peace".

He further said this is the best symbol that "we can give for a world in peace and for a world in which there is a mutual respect and there is the acceptance of what is different — recognising that diversity is a blessing, is a richness, not a threat.

"When we see so many parts of the world fighting in the name of religion, it's necessary to say that religions unite us for peace and the best symbol is this shrine".

Later in the day, he visited Badshahi Masjid and had dinner at Hazuri Bagh area outside the Lahore Fort.

"I've been to Amritsar, today I'm here, to pay tribute to the contribution of the Sikh community all over the world for our planet. I'm a Christian but I feel very much at home when I am in a Sikh shrine and where I can pray to God here together with the Sikh community," he said.

Khan inaugurated the Kartarpur Corridor on November 9, 2019 in connection with the 550 birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the corridor from the Indian side on the same day by flagging off the first batch of over 500 Indian pilgrims, including former premier Manmohan Singh and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan is located across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine. It was established by the Sikh Guru in 1522. The first Gurdwara, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, was built here, where Guru Nanak Dev is said to have died.

Earlier in the day, Guterres addressed students at the Lahore University of Management Sciences and urged them to focus on new technologies. He termed climate change as the major issue the world is facing today. He also inaugurated a polio campaign.

Pakistan is one of the three countries where polio is still endemic.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/kartarpur-corridors-opening-practical-proof-of-pakistans-desire-for-peace-says-un-chief/articleshow/74198058.cms

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UN chief concerned about discrimination against Muslims in India

Meher Bokhari

February 19, 2020

ISLAMABAD: United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said he is concerned that “there is a risk of statelessness” for the two million people, mostly of Muslim origin excluded by the divisive Citizenship Amendment Act passed by the Indian parliament.

When asked if he was personally concerned about the rising discrimination against minorities in India, Mr Guterres exclaimed, “Of course!” as it is pertinent that whenever nationality laws are changed, efforts are taken to avoid statelessness and to ensure that every citizen of the world is also a citizen of a country.

In an exclusive interview to Dawn News, the UN chief was asked about reports in the international media, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and recent fact-finding reports on Kashmir released in New Delhi, regarding torture, sexual abuse and incarceration of children as young as seven by the Indian military.

He said all these reports, including two by the UN High Commissioner, played an important role in “clarifying exactly what is happening” in Kashmir and “it is essential that these reports are taken seriously”.

Acknowledges current structure of the world body hampering very objective of its creation — conflict resolution

When asked by this scribe why the UN has failed to constitute a high-powered inquiry commission to go to the Indian occupied valley and investigate the atrocities committed there, the secretary general said: “Only the governing bodies of the UN or the Security Council can make that decision, but these reports are credible, relevant and very important.”

He was eager to acknowledge that the current structure of the UN and veto power to only its five permanent member states were hampering the ability of the UN to deliver the very objective it was created for — conflict resolution. The rules-based system that came post-World War II was a result of a cohesion amongst western countries which is rapidly dissipating yet the top bureaucrat thought the UN was not threatened as much as it was challenged by this new reality.

In order to ensure increased efficacy of the UN, he felt the body had to be reformed to be made “more democratic, more open and more effective” and to be more representative of the multilateral world we live in today.

“We lived in a bipolar world, the rules were relatively clear. Today it is no longer bipolar, not yet multipolar, it is a kind of a chaotic world. Power relations are unclear so we see situations of conflict to which many spoilers can do whatever they want because there is no way to create a minimum of order,” he added.

The world moderator felt that we live in a moment of paradoxes; “on one hand, we need global responses to global problems, we need multilateral governance more than ever, yet we live in a chaotic world in which it is difficult to make things move forward. It is a challenge to which we must respond by reforming the UN”.

Responding to the alleged ineffectuality of the UN by saying that he “does not rule the world” and that it was vital that countries “respect UN Security Council resolutions”, Mr Guterres implored that “all I have is my words. People all over the world are unhappy with the way political establishments are working and with the way that globalisation has left so many people behind”.

When asked about the position of the United Nations regarding the Palestinian question, the UN secretary general responded that “our position has not changed”, asserting that he remained committed to the two-state solution, with “two states living side by side”. He said he believed that these states should have “borders based on the borders of 1967” and that “west Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel and that east Jerusalem should be the capital of Palestine”, reaffirming that “this is our line and our line has not changed”.

Mr Guterres also affirmed that the UN stood ready to facilitate a dialogue between Israel and Palestine “based on international law and principles”. When asked about the UN contingency plans with regard to a greater refugee influx in Pakistan and delay in Afghan refugees’ repatriation if the Afghan peace process falls through, and the withdrawal of US troops leaves a dangerous power vacuum leading to resurgence in the Afghan civil conflict, the world moderator said that “we don’t have a contingency plan”. He stressed that “there is an opportunity for peace” and that “Pakistan is playing a very important and positive role”. He proclaimed that “we must do everything for peace in Afghanistan to be established”, and called for a massive investment in Afghanistan to support and rebuild the beleaguered and war-torn country. Whether we would be able to see UN lead solutions to ongoing international conflicts in our lifetime, the secretary general was neither optimistic nor pessimistic, rather determined to do all in that is in his power to get the UN resolutions implemented.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1535354/un-chief-concerned-about-discrimination-against-muslims-in-india

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Commonwealth Foundation: Peaceful Malaysia the ideal platform for discussions on women, peace and security

18 Feb 2020

BY OPALYN MOK

GEORGE TOWN, Feb 18 — The Commonwealth Foundation picked Malaysia as the venue for women from all over the world to converge and discuss an advocacy map for peace-building because of the country’s advocacy for peace solutions and its peaceful society.

The foundation’s programme manager Reineira Arguello Sanjuan said Malaysia has remained peaceful for many years and had even acted as a mediator for peaceful negotiations in the region.

“So, we felt that it would be good for conversations on peace to be in a country that has built and maintained peace for so many years,” she said.

The three-day roundtable session themed “2020 — Designing an advocacy roadmap” is attended by women from countries such as Sri Lanka, Kenya, Uganda, Papua New Guinea, East Africa, Iran, Pakistan, Northern Ireland and Sierra Leone.

“The main aim of this roundtable is to bring civic voices together to learn from one another and to constructively engage in government processes,” Sanjuan said.

She stressed that it was not about criticising institutions and governments but a platform for women to discuss, come up with proposals and bring about constructive changes.

“It is also about fostering channels of inclusion, working with intersectionality and learning from each other to be involved in the processes of transformation,” she said.

She said the Commonwealth Foundation is an inter-governmental organisation that is committed to Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG 16) which is to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.

She said women’s groups have a different perspective on how transformative change should look like and how peace should be defined.

“They have messages on how different processes can be put in place with specific recommendations to the United Nations and the world so the foundation can broker their messages to the decision makers,” she said.

In one of the sharing sessions today, a participant, Helen Kezie-Nwoha from Uganda, said it was not safe for women to leave their homes in conflict-riddled countries.

She said sometimes peacekeeping efforts were not successful especially when women continue to be pawns and victims of violence in warring countries.

“Women are raped with peacekeepers nearby and they did not stop it. We have to look at this, don’t we need to change the way they are going about peacekeeping?” she asked.

She said peacekeeping resolutions should be focused on addressing issues such as discrimination, exclusivity and attacks on a woman’s dignity and inequality.

She also spoke about trauma among women in war-torn countries.

“We need to address the trauma in conflict before we are able to aim for transformative change,” she said.

Later, Susan Owiro-Chege from Kenya and Shreen Saroor from Sri Lanka both shared how women in their respective countries try to engage in peacekeeping efforts.

Owiro-Chege said they started with small women’s group discussions in churches and by emphasising to the women that they must work together as one unit.

She said another way was trying to reach out to the spouses of the people in power as there is very minimal female representation in government.

Meanwhile, Saroor talked about how Muslim women started a movement to amend a law that had failed to protect Muslim women in the country.

She said under the law, women’s rights were not protected and even babies can be married off.

She said this was why Muslim women were at the forefront of fighting against laws that failed to protect women and children.

“We have been fighting to change this, young women are now aware of this and want to change this... it is all over social media in Sri Lanka,” she said.

Despite this, Saroor said it remained an uphill battle for them to have the respective laws changed to protect women’s rights in Sri Lanka.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/02/18/commonwealth-foundation-peaceful-malaysia-the-ideal-platform-for-discussion/1838633

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Iran’s Khamenei says voting in parliament elections is a religious duty

18 February 2020

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei told Iranians voting in the parliament election on Friday is a religious duty, according to media reports, days before the vote seen as a referendum on the clerical establishment’s popularity.

He also said in a Twitter post that a high turnout in a parliamentary election will display unity in Iran against “enemies”.

“America will fail to create divisions between the authorities and Iranians ... a high turnout will display our unity against the enemies,” Khamenei tweeted.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/18/Iran-s-Khamenei-calls-for-high-turnout-in-parliamentary-election.html

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Taliban strongly reacts to re-election of Ghani as the President of Afghanistan

18 Feb 2020

The Taliban group strongly reacted to re-election of Ashraf Ghani as the President of Afghanistan, calling the election process as ‘fake and unlawful’.

The group in a statement said “Holding elections and announcing oneself a president under occupation shall never remedy the problems of our Muslim Afghan nation just as it has failed to do so over the past nineteen years.”

Calling the re-election of Ghani as ‘unlawful’ and having no legal basis, the group further added that the announcement declaring Ghani as President ‘is also in conflict with the contents of the ongoing peace process while keeping in mind the current sensitive circumstances of the Afghan issue.’

The group also warned that it will continue to its fight until the occupation is brought to an end.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced the final election results late on Tuesday, declaring Ashraf Ghani as the President of Afghanistan.

According to IEC, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani secured 50.64% of votes while Abdullah Abdullah and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar received 39.53% and 3.85% of the votes respectively.

The total turnout for Afghanistan’s 2019 presidential election was 1,823,948 which makes less than 5% of Afghanistan’s population if the whole population is assumed 40 million.

Ghani wins the election securing less than 2.5% of the nation’s votes.

Meanwhile, Abdullah Abdullah rejected the election results as he claimed victory in the elections, vowing that he would soon establish an inclusive government.

Speaking during a press conference late on Tuesday evening, Abdullah asked his supporters to stand against injustice and fraudulent votes.

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-strongly-reacts-to-re-election-of-ghani-as-the-president-of-afghanistan-04463/

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Libya’s GNA halts participation in Geneva talks

19 February 2020

Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Fayez al-Sarraj announced late Tuesday it would halt its participation in talks aimed at brokering a lasting ceasefire between warring sides in the conflict.

“We are announcing the suspension of our participation in the military talks taking place in Geneva until firm positions are adopted against the aggressor (Khalifa Haftar) and his violations” of the truce, the Government of National Accord based in the capital Tripoli said in a press release.

Five senior officers from the GNA and five appointed by the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Haftar, were taking part in the talks hosted by the United Nations’ Libya envoy Ghassan Salame.

On Tuesday, a barrage of rocket fire hit a port in the capital, the target of a months-long operation by eastern military commander Haftar to oust the unity government.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the strikes.

It was the latest violation of a tenuous truce that came into effect in January, which supports the unity government.

“It is clear the objective of the systematic bombardments of the residential areas, the airport and the port, in addition to the total blockage of the oil installations, is to provoke crises for the citizens in all the aspects of their life,” the GNA statement said.

It added that Haftar’s forces, who made rapid advances at the beginning of the offensive last April but stalled on the edges of the capital, were “trying in vain” to destabilize the state, having failed to seize power.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2020/02/19/Libya-s-GNA-halts-participation-in-Geneva-talks.html

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Muslim voting guide grant was 'weird': deputy minister

February 18, 2020

The deputy minister of industry in an internal email described use of a taxpayer-funded research project to publish a 2019 Muslim voting guide as “weird,” in documents obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter.

The guide criticized opposition MPs for activities that “foment the kind of fear and moral panic that leads to violence and hate.”

“In the event we did pay for this, I’m just wondering if in fact we have any policies at the councils about paying for this stuff that is overtly political in the sense of paying for stuff that, for example, purports to guide people in how they should vote?” wrote Deputy Minister Simon Kennedy.

“It would seem weird that such a guide would be something we would subsidize no matter what one may or may not think about the content.”

The voting guide was published Oct. 18 by the Canadian Islamophobia Industry Research Project at Wilfrid Laurier University. The department said it was unaware of the guide until notified by B’nai Brith Canada on Oct. 24.

However in their successful application for $24,923 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, researchers said they intended to “create profiles of key public, media and political figures as well as organizations who produce and distribute Islamophobic ideologies and propaganda,” according to Blacklock’s Reporter.

“The Islamophobia industry is comprised of media outlets, political figures, academics, think tanks, far-right groups and ideologues, and the donors who fund their campaign,” read the grant application.

“These individuals, groups and institutions comprise a network that supports and engages in activities that demonize and marginalize Islam and Muslims in Canada.”

The Muslim voting guide gave Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer and People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier “fail” marks on immigration, refugees and Islamophobia, while Liberal and New Democratic leaders were given passing grades.

Scheer’s well-documented association with controversial far-right and Islamophobic public figures makes him complicit,” said the guide. “Bernier indicates little concern for the plight of oppressed people.”

Protests prompted an urgent call from the minister’s office, according to Access To Information records.

“Yikes,” emailed one Humanities Research Council staffer. “Let’s treat this confidentially,” replied Brent Herbert-Copley, executive vice-president of the council.

Dr. Natalie Brender, senior advisor to the council president, cited Twitter posts critical of the subsidy.

“Many dozens of tweets about this now from all sides so (we) can see why the prime minister’s office is worked up,” wrote Dr. Brender.

The council, in one staff email, insisted grants were “managed at arm’s length from government,” a claim disputed by Dr. Brender.

“The arm’s length phrasing concerns me because the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council does report to the Minister even if we are not a government department per se, and I doubt any of the critics of this issue will be mollified by that distinction.”

The council at the time promised to investigate the voting guide.

https://torontosun.com/news/national/muslim-voting-guide-grant-was-weird-deputy

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Arab World

 

Islamic counter-terrorism coalition chief outlines strategy in HQ tour

MOHAMMED AL-SULAMI

February 18, 2020

RIYADH: The Secretary-General of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) Maj. Gen. Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Moghedi discussed the alliance’s strategy in fighting global terrorism in a meeting with Saudi media professionals on Tuesday.

Speaking at the IMCTC’s headquarters in Riyadh on Tuesday, he said the coalition had more than 35 initiatives to fight terrorism in many areas, including intelligence, humanitarian aid and training, which aim to support member states.

The coalition also works to combat the financing of terrorism and to lay out studies, plans and the exchange of information between the IMCTC and supportive countries in order to locate and isolate sources of terrorism.

The IMCTC also works to combat terrorism in the field militarily, and provides information and training for member states that suffer from attacks by militants.

Al-Moghedi said that the Coalition, which includes 41 Muslim countries, has received significant international support by signing agreements with supportive countries such as the US, UK and France, in addition to more than 20 international organizations.

He also gave a tour of the IMCTC’s headquarters to the media, included the center for coalition members’ representatives, including the offices of Mauritania and Palestine.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1629821/saudi-arabia

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#StopHuntingUs: Twitter users highlight violence against Iraqi protesters

18 February 2020

The damage caused by unidentified men shooting protesters with “hunting rifles” in Iraq has come under the spotlight online, as activists use the hashtag #StopHuntingUs and share graphic photos to draw attention to their wounds.

There have been “credible allegations” of “unidentified armed groups” injuring at least 50 people between February 14 and 16 using “hunting guns” in various areas in Iraq, including the capital Baghdad, according to United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). Iraq is home to a number of armed militias, including many within the framework of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units, which have attacked protesters for months.

Twitter user Zena shared a photo of a protester who was injured in the attacks.

“A young Iraqi protester, wounded from a buckshot intended for bird hunting by anti-riot police near Al Khilani square in Baghdad,” she said in the tweet.

Zena🇮🇶🌺

@Zena38707935

a young iraqi protester, wounded from a buckshot intended for bird hunting

by Anti-riot police near Al khilani square in baghdad.#StopHuntingUs  #StopHuntingUs

View image on Twitter

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11:32 PM - Feb 17, 2020

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Ali Albakri shared the same photo as Zena along with another two photos. One shows men in masks hiding behind a wall with one holding a rifle. The other shows a man looking at his wounds.

Albakri included a cry for help from human rights organizations.

“Can you see us? Do you see how we are killed?” Albakri asked in the tweet. “They used all means of killing against unarmed demonstrators in Iraq and now they are starting to hunt us one by one with hunting rifles. Please save our people from this killer machines. #StopHuntingUs”

Ali💫

@Albakriali93

To the Human Rights Organization Can you see us? Do you see how we are killed? They used all means of killing against unarmed demonstrators in Iraq and now they are starting to hunt us one by one with hunting rifles. Please save our people from this killer machines #StopHuntingUs

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

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2:22 AM - Feb 18, 2020

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Another Twitter user named Nicolas said the unidentified men are Iranian militias.

“The #Iran militias killing #Iraqi protesters for months using all kinds of weapons,” he said. “There are no words [that] can describe how savage they are.”

Nicolas 🇮🇶

@NicolasRBMK

The #Iran militias killing #Iraqi protesters for months using all kinds of weapons, there are no words can describe how Savage they are.#StopHuntingUs #iraqirevolution #iraqiprotests @IntlCrimCourt @SecPompeo @realDonaldTrump

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UNAMI released a statement on Monday condemning the attacks.

“The continued pattern of the use of excessive forces, with ambiguously identified armed groups and unclear loyalties, is a grave security concern that must be tackled urgently and decisively,” said UN Representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert in the statement. “Peaceful protesters should be protected at all times.”

Almost 550 Iraqis have been killed in protests since they erupted across the country in October, according to the Iraqi Human Rights Commission.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2020/02/18/-StopHuntingUs-Twitter-users-shed-light-on-Iraqi-protesters-being-hunted-.html

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Russia, Turkey remain committed to reducing Syria tensions

18 February 2020

Russia and Turkey on Tuesday reiterated their commitment to existing agreements on Syria’s Idlib which seek to reduce tensions in the region, the Russian Foreign Ministry said after a meeting in Moscow.

The ministry statement did not mention Turkey’s demand for Syrian government forces to pull back from the region, but said Idlib’s long-term security could only be achieved through Syria’s sovereignty and territorial independence.

In a related development, Turkey’s Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Tuesday that Ankara will deploy more troops to

Syria’s Idlib region.

“We will continue the deployment and fortification of troops in the area to ensure the safety of the region (Idlib) and the civilians there,” Kalin told reporters in Ankara.

On Sunday, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad said his government was determined to win back all Syrian territories, as state media reported significant advances against the last opposition-held enclaves in the country’s northwest.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/18/Russia-Turkey-remain-committed-to-reducing-Syria-tensions.html

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Explosion kills two in Syria’s Qamishli: Monitor

18 February 2020

A woman and a young were killed in an explosion that rocked the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The cause of the explosion, which occured in a factory for collecting scrap and plastic, is yet to be determined, the monitor said.

Police blocked roads around the area following the explosion.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/18/Explosion-kills-two-women-in-Syria-s-Qamishli-Monitor-.html

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UN rights official denounces attacks, deaths in northwest Syria bombings

18 February 2020

Nearly 300 civilians have been killed in attacks this year in northwest Syria, 93 percent of them caused by strikes by the Syrian government and its ally Russia, the top United Nations human rights official said on Tuesday.

In a statement expressing “horror at the scale of the humanitarian crisis”, Michelle Bachelet denounced direct hits on or near camps of displaced civilians, as well as on medical and education facilities, including two hospitals on Monday. She has previously said such acts could be war crimes.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/18/UN-Human-Rights-expresses-shock-at-scale-of-tragedy-in-northwest-Syria.html

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Lebanon’s Tripoli holds day of rage after protester Ahmad Tawfiq dies

18 February 2020

Lebanon’s second city of Tripoli held a “day of rage” on Tuesday after a protester who was reportedly shot by the guards of an MP died on Monday night.

Al Arabiya English

@AlArabiya_Eng

The Lebanese city of Tripoli holds a “day of rage” in response to the reported shooting of a protester by guards of a member of parliament, who died Monday night.https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/18/Lebanon-s-Tripoli-prepares-for-day-of-rage-after-protester-Ahmad-Tawfiq-dies.html …

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Ahmad Tawfiq was reportedly shot in the stomach three months ago in Tripoli, according to Lebanese journalists online.

Kareem Chehayeb | كريم

@chehayebk

Protestor Ahmad Tawfik succumbs to his wounds today, following 3 months of surgeries and medical treatment. He was shot in the stomach at a protest in late October in #Tripoli.

His father called on the Army to investigate the incident.#Lebanon#LebanonProtests#لبنان

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Lebanese protesters online called for a day of rage in Tripoli, with users sharing photos of Tawfiq and commemorating him. Arabic hashtags of Tawfiq's name and day of rage were spreading across Twitter on Tuesday morning.

Luna Safwan - لونا صفوان

@LunaSafwan

Protester Ahmad Tawfik passed away today, 3 months after being shot in Tripoli, allegedly by guards of former MP Misbah Ahdab. He died due to wounds he had sustained. Meanwhile protestors in #Tripoli are calling for roadblocks tomorrow "Day of rage".#Lebanon #LebanonProtests

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Tawfiq’s funeral took place in Talhaya, in the northern Lebanese province of Akkar close to Tripoli, on Tuesday, reported Lebanon’s official National News Agency (NNA). According to the NNA, a speech at the funeral called for “a transparent investigation clarifying the circumstances of the incident.”

Lebanon has been rocked by anti-government protests since October. Nationwide demonstrations have criticized the whole political establishment for corruption, nepotism, and a worsening economic crisis.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/18/Lebanon-s-Tripoli-prepares-for-day-of-rage-after-protester-Ahmad-Tawfiq-dies.html

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Lebanon PM will meet IMF delegation amid deeping economic struggles

18 February 2020

A delegation from the International Monetary Fund is due to meet Lebanon’s prime minister Tuesday as the debt-ridden country seeks assistance to rescue its moribund economy.

Lebanon has the world’s third-highest debt to GDP ratio and has been sliding towards default in recent months, with tight capital controls and a currency devaluation already hitting purchasing power.

“Prime Minister Hassan Diab meets at 4 pm (1400 GMT) with a delegation from the International Monetary Fund,” the state NNA news agency reported.

Diab’s government won parliament’s confidence only last week and the state immediately requested the Fund’s advice on tackling the economic crisis.

Lebanon is expected to decide whether to pay $1.2 billion in Eurobonds that reach maturity on March 9 or to default on its debt.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/business/economy/2020/02/18/Lebanon-PM-will-meet-IMF-delegation-amid-deeping-economic-struggles.html

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Saudi Arabia urges Germany to lift arms export ban despite continuing war on Yemen

18 February 2020

Saudi Arabia, which is in the midst of a bloody war on Yemen, has urged Germany to lift its ban on arms exports to the kingdom.

In an interview with German news agency DPA on Monday, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud claimed that the Riyadh regime needed the German weapons to “defend ourselves.”

“We hope Germany understands that we need the means to defend ourselves,” he said, pointing to attacks on two major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia last year, which Riyadh and the United States blamed on Iran without evidence but which the Yemeni forces took responsibility for.

Iran rejected the accusations of involvement and said the attacks were legitimate acts of self-defense by Yemen, which has been under incessant Saudi strikes since 2015.

The Saudi foreign minister claimed that Germany’s decision not to approve arms exports to Saudi Arabia despite the continued threat of such attacks did not conform “to the framework of good relations” between Riyadh and Berlin.

The Saudi official’s remarks come six weeks before the German government is due to decide whether to extend the ban once more beyond its current expiration date of March 31, 2020.

The ban was effectively enforced following the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in late 2018. It has been extended twice.

German ruling coalition partner calls for extension of arms ban

Meanwhile, a high-ranking member of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), which is part of the ruling coalition, said Monday that Berlin’s ban on weapons exports to Saudi Arabia had to be extended until at least the end of the year due to the continuing war on Yemen.

“Without a fundamental shift by Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war — one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the world — there cannot and must not be any arms exports,” Gabriela Heinrich, the deputy chair of the SPD’s parliamentary group, told DPA. “From the point of view of the SPD parliamentary group, the moratorium must thus be extended at least until the end of the year.”

The ban restricts not only the deliveries of fully assembled products, but also of components used by weapon companies in other European nations. This has prompted outrage mostly in France and Britain, which have heavily relied on German high-tech components for producing and assembling fighter jets and warships for Saudi Arabia.

In an attempt to alleviate its partners’ concerns, Berlin has agreed to extend export licenses that had already been granted for nine months, provided that the companies undertook not to deliver any finished weapon systems to Saudi Arabia until the end of the year.

The government of Chancellor Angela Merkel also called on France and Britain to ensure that their weapon system deliveries to Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates — another main belligerent in the Yemen war — would not be used in the Yemen conflict, either.

The two Arab regimes and their regional allies in the Middle East have been waging the deadly war on Yemen since March 2015, using weapons and intelligence supplied by Western countries, most notably the United States, France, Britain, and Canada.

The German government has come under pressure from many conservatives at home to end the ban on Saudi Arabia. The critics argue that a continued ban could jeopardize projects such as the development of a Franco-German combat jet and other arms deals.

The arms ban, however, has been praised by human rights advocates, who have said it has had more effect than expected.

Many other countries, however, have decided to maintain profitable arms deals with Riyadh, despite the outrage over both the Khashoggi murder and the many civilian casualties in Yemen.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/18/618933/Saudi-Arabia-Germany-arms-export-ban-Yemen

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Syrian army makes gains in Idlib, opposition blames Turkey

Khaled al-Khateb

February 19, 2020

ALEPPO, Syria — The Russian-backed Syrian regime forces and their loyal militias regained full control of the strategic M5 highway, connecting Aleppo to Hama, Homs and Damascus. The Syrian government forces have been also rapidly advancing toward the towns of the western Aleppo countryside, which has come under heavy airstrikes since the beginning of February, and made new gains Feb. 16.

The Syrian regime and Russian warplanes and helicopters have caused horrific massacres against civilians, according to reports. Large groups of displaced Syrians from the targeted areas have been swelling near the Syrian-Turkish border.

The Turkish-backed opposition groups are trying to regroup and regain control over their areas. On Feb. 11, the opposition downed a Syrian regime helicopter, killing the pilot, and was able to retake the town of Sheikh Dames, in Maaret al-Numan some 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Idlib city.

However, it appears that the Syrian opposition groups will not be able to stop the advance of the regime forces except through a ground attack with presumed support from Turkey. The balance of power has been greatly tipped in favor of the Syrian regime in the latest battles, given its sophisticated weapons and air support. The opposition, on the other hand, lacks capabilities, arms and ammunition.

Ankara condemned the attacks and threatened to retaliate but does not seem to have taken a clear decision to provide the opposition factions with substantial military support, although five Turkish soldiers were killed Feb. 10 in a Syrian airstrike on a Turkish army location north of Idlib.

Earlier, 13 Turkish soldiers were injured in a Feb. 2 airstrike on a Turkish location in the village of Tarnaba, in eastern Idlib.

The Turkish army, however, continues to send military reinforcements into Idlib, including soldiers, armored vehicles and tanks. Meanwhile, on Feb. 10, officials from the Russian and Turkish defense and foreign ministries and Turkish intelligence, as well as Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin and Kremlin special envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentiev, held talks in Ankara to discuss the situation in Idlib. A previous round of talks was also held in the Turkish capital Feb. 8 between Russia and Turkey.

The opposition forces, upset about the turn of events, deemed the Turkish observation posts set up for de-escalation to be ineffective as they did not stop the ground advance of the regime. This was especially true after the regime forces on Feb. 7 captured the city of Saraqeb, which sits at the intersection of the M4 and M5 highways.

The regime was able to take over Saraqeb despite the existence of four Turkish military points on the outskirts of the city; however, they were completely surrounded by the regime forces.

Yahya Mayo, the media coordinator of the Syrian National Army (SNA) of the Free Syrian Army, told Al-Monitor, “The poor reactions of the Turkish army toward the advance of the regime forces in Idlib encourage the latter to keep progressing, disregarding the Turkish posts, which were ineffective in stopping them. When we were being bombarded [within the de-escalation zones], the Turkish response was limited.”

Alaa al-Rahman, of the city of Idlib, told Al-Monitor, “The Turkish observation posts that spread in Saraqeb’s vicinity were useless and did nothing to stop the regime from taking control over the city. We had pinned hopes on these posts.”

Mohammad Rashid, a Syrian journalist from the opposition-held al-Ghab Plain in the northern Hama countryside, told Al-Monitor, “We are hoping that the balance of power will be tipped in favor of the opposition when the large Turkish military reinforcements enter the area.”

“What happened in Saraqeb came as a shock to us. I thought the Turkish posts would stop the regime forces from advancing into the city. What happened was exactly the opposite. Hanan Maher, a student at the University of Idlib, told Al-Monitor.

Photojournalist Humam Isa, from Idlib countryside, said, “The Turkish observation points contributed to the fall of the opposition-held areas in the hands of regime forces. The Turkish army did not stop the shelling to protect the civilians and did not offer enough support to the opposition to be able to defend its area,”

“It all seemed as if Turkey reconciled with Russia to give covert consent to the regime's offensive to take control over the M4 and M5 highway,” Issa told Al-Monitor.

Full report at:

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/02/syrian-regime-offensive-turkey-army.html

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Iraqi prime minister-designate faces pressure on Cabinet choices

Omar Sattar

February 18, 2020

BAGHDAD — There are multiple challenges keeping Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, recently named Iraq's prime minister-designate, from forming the government of independent technocrats that he pledged. The first major hurdle is that some political blocs want to continue to hold onto their current level of representation in the Cabinet.

Under the constitution, Allawi is required within 30 days to form a government and go to parliament to obtain a vote of confidence with an absolute majority of at least 165 out of 329 parliament members.

The Fatah and Sairoon Shiite blocs are the only ones supporting Allawi. They have 47 and 51 parliament members, respectively. Based on that, the new government needs a minimum of 67 additional votes to win a vote of confidence. Such a number can only be secured with the participation of the Kurdish and Sunni blocs. This is true particularly since some of the Shiite blocs, such as former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's al-Nasr bloc, refused to name Allawi to form a government.

A source familiar with the talks to form a government told Al-Monitor that Allawi is finding it difficult to convince the Kurdish parties in particular to give up their current share of positions in the new government.

The source, who declined to be named, added, “Not all of the Sunni blocs consent to a government of independents. They want to take part in naming the new ministers.” The source said, “Allawi is seeking to include the Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis in the government, provided that the ministers are not a part of the political blocs. In case he fails to obtain support from said blocs, he will halt his attempts to form a new government.”

The source also said, “The Shiite sides warned Allawi that naming ministers from the Kurdish and Sunni parties would result in their nominating someone else to head the government.” This is what perhaps pushed Sadrist movement leader Muqtada al-Sadr to declare opposition to the pressure placed on Allawi. Sadr said in a Feb. 11 tweet, “We are hearing of partisan and sectarian pressure to form an interim government. That would result in our being less satisfied with it, and could even lead us to disavow it. … We continue to call for reforms.”

Moreover, Hadi al-Amiri’s Fatah bloc indicated that the pressure placed on the prime minister-designate would obstruct Allawi's quest for the selection of independent ministers. Abdel Amir el-Debbi, a member of the bloc, said, “The Fatah bloc gave Allawi the freedom to select the ministers. The other blocs need to follow in our footsteps in order for the government to be formed within the constitutional deadline, and to refrain from holding onto particular ministries under the pretext of the election results.” Under the current sectarian quota system based on election results, blocs receive a certain number of seats in the Cabinet.  

Mahmoud Khoshnao, a top official with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party, told Al-Monitor that the Kurdish blocs, namely Gorran (Change), the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the PUK, agreed that the Kurdistan Regional Government and the prime minister-designate should hold direct talks on the formation of a new government.

Commenting on Allawi’s desire to form a government where political parties are not represented, Khoshnao said, “There is nothing called nonpartisan government in a parliamentary system. Having independent ministers is something irrelevant.” He further said, “Allawi has the right to seek to nominate competent and experienced ministers, without their being selected from outside the political parties and blocs. The current talks are centered on the nature of the ministerial program.” He added, “We have not touched on particular names for the ministerial portfolios.”

Meanwhile, the Sunni blocs are divided. There are those allied with Fatah, such as the National Axis bloc, which agreed to the selection of nonpartisan new figures. But the National Forces Alliance, led by parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi, is not a full advocate of such an idea. It holds three ministries in the Iraqi government and refuses to sacrifice them before the talks with Allawi start, said alliance member Mohammed al-Karbouli. Speaking to Al-Sumaria TV on Feb. 10, Karbouli questioned Allawi’s ability to keep the promises he made the day he was designated. Karbouli underlined that his bloc did not take part in the designation of Allawi and will not be engaged in talks with him until it becomes clear which party nominated him.

Karbouli’s remarks referred to Iraqi President Barham Salih's apparent violation of constitutional Article 76 when he designated Allawi to become prime minister, similarly to what happened when Adel Abdul Mahdi was designated prime minister in 2018. In 2018, Salih did not reveal the name of the “largest parliamentary bloc” that is tasked with naming the prime minister as per the constitution, and Abdul Mahdi thus turned into the candidate of all parliamentary blocs, and the blocs that nominated him (Fatah and Sairoon) pretended later on that they had nothing to do with that nomination. Abdul Mahdi submitted his resignation in November, but continues to be the caretaker prime minister pending parliamentary approval of Allawi and his Cabinet.

So far, none of the blocs have officially nominated Allawi as prime minister. Yet it was leaked that the Sairoon bloc would nominate him with the approval of Fatah. But other blocs have no desire to take responsibility for a candidate who is not tolerated by the street.

It also appears that Allawi is unlikely to be able to overcome the pressure from the political blocs without having to break his promises to bring about reforms.

While protesters in southern and central cities are demanding new elections, Allawi's government would not be able to serve as an interim one preparing for early elections if two-thirds of the legislators do not vote to dissolve the parliament. Moreover, an as-yet unratified new electoral law that many see as inadequate and disputes over the composition of the elections commission make it seem very unlikely for Allawi to be able to hold early elections; the last elections were held in 2018 and the next ones are scheduled for 2022.

Full report at:

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/02/iraq-government-prime-minister.html

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India

 

Does a voter ID mean you are a citizen? It’s unclear

Murali Krishnan

Feb 19, 2020

Is electoral photo identity card proof of citizenship? A slew of contradictory rulings by different courts in the past week have brought a fundamental question of law under a cloud of uncertainty.

On February 12, the Gauhati high court placing reliance on its 2018 judgment in Md. Babul Islam v. State of Assam held that the electoral photo identity card is not proof of citizenship.

The decision was given by bench of justices Manojit Bhuyan and Parthivjyothi Saikia in a plea by one Munindra Biswas who had produced copy of his voter id and the voter list of 1997 bearing his name.

On electoral card, the court held that it is not proof of citizenship.

“Regarding Electoral Photo Identity Card this court in the case of Md. Babul Islam v. State of Assam [WP(C) No. 3547 of 2016] has held that Electoral Photo Identity Card is not a proof of citizenship.”

On electoral list, the court said that the court said that the petitioner did not produce voter lists prior to 1997 and thereby failed to prove that he was staying in Assam prior to March 1971.

“The petitioner herein has failed to file voter lists prior to 1997, thereby the petitioner failed to prove that he has been staying in Assam prior to 25.03.1971.”

On the very same day, the same bench also rejected the claim of a person who had produced proof of her parents’ names appearing in the voter list but could not prove her linkage to her parents.

PAN and bank documents which were supplied by the petitioner were not accepted by the court which held that they are not proof of citizenship. The court again relied on its 2018 judgment in Md. Babul Islam to hold so.

“This Court in Md. Babul Islam Vs. Union of India [WP(C)/3547/2016], has already held that PAN Card and Bank documents are not proof of citizenship.”

In 2018, the Gauhati high court in Md. Babul Islam v. State of Assam had held that merely producing an electoral photo identity card without any supporting evidence would not be proof of citizenship.

“In so far Exhibit-7 Elector Photo Identity Card is concerned, besides not being proved, it is a post 25.03.1971 document. Besides, merely producing such an identity card in the absence of supporting evidence would not be proof of citizenship”, the court had ruled.

In at least two of these cases, claims of citizenship were turned down by the Gauhati high court despite the persons concerned producing voter card as proof.

While the Gauhati high court consistently ruled against electoral card as a proof of citizenship, a Mumbai court on February 15 ruled that electoral photo identity card is proof of citizenship unless proved otherwise.

The ruling by a magistrate’s court in Mumbai came in a case concerning citizenship of a couple who were alleged to be from Bangladesh.

The court held that “birth certificate, domicile certificate, bonafide certificate, passport, etc can be relied upon to establish the origin of any person.”

The court while acquitting the couple added, “Even the election card can be said to be a sufficient proof of citizenship as while applying for the election card or voting card, a person has to file declaration with the authority in view of Form 6 of Peoples Representation Act to the authority that he is citizen of India and if the declaration is found false, he is liable for punishment.”

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs had in December 2019 stated that voter card, Aadhaar and passport are not citizenship documents.

According to The Indian Express, a government official had said that documents like voter ID, Aadhaar and passport do not prove citizenship and they are only travel documents or prove residence in India.

Supreme Court lawyer Sriram Parakkat agreed.

“As per the existing legal position in India, neither voter id car nor passport will be proof of citizenship. I am not saying that it is morally correct. But that is the law since 2003 because we have stopped giving citizenship based on birth from 1987. The state is hardly bothered whether a person is born in India or not. Aadhaar card, passport, voter id etc are proof that a person was born in India”, said Parakkat.

So what is the law since 2003?

In 2003, a major amendment was introduced to the Citizenship Act. After the amendment, a person who is born in India on or after July 1, 1987 but before the 2003 amendment came into force will be a citizen only if one of his parents is an Indian citizens. In case of those born after the 2003 amendment, both parents should be citizen of India or one of the parents should be a citizen and the other should not be an illegal migrant.

Conflicting decisions by courts, experts said, is because there is a lot of scope for subjective interpretation after the 2003 amendment to the citizenship act.

“The law today has made proving of citizenship a question of fact in such a way that you can never conclusively prove citizenship. Somebody else will have the discretion of declaring you a dubious citizen. Proof will have to be adduced about one of the parents being an Indian citizen for which their documents will have to be adduced and your relationship with that parent will have to be conclusively proved. Moreover, even that will be dependent on the subjective satisfaction of somebody – for example the Foreigners Tribunal in NRC”, said Parakkat.

However, Assam is governed by a special regime under Section 6A of the Citizenship Act and that contextual difference should be looked into while analyzing decisions of Gauhati high court, said Alok Prasanna Kumar, Senior Resident Fellow and Team Lead, Vidhi Karnataka.

“Under section 6A, there is a special regime for Assam. So, in Assam it is not that everyone in voters list is automatically a citizen. A person in Assam will have to show that he/she is descended from somebody who is a citizen of India and in India prior to 1971”, Prasanna Kumar said.

So what purpose does an electoral card serve?

“The name of the parents will be written on electoral card or passport. To that extent, it will be an indication which might make the person easier to prove citizenship. But none of these documents will be conclusive proof of citizenship on a standalone basis. In fact, as the law stands today, there is no single document which we can say is a conclusive proof of Indian citizenship”, Parakkat said.

Moreover, this has constitutional sanction, says Parakkat.

“Article 11 gives wide powers to the Parliament to make laws on citizenship. Constitutionally, tools like NRC etc have a very rigid constitutional base”, he said.

So while the Mumbai court might have had good intentions, Parakkat said that it is not good law unless the 2003 amendment to Citizenship Act is struck down.

“So we cannot say that the Gauhati high court orders are wrong. Yes, we might on a bare perusal feel that it is wrong but I think it has a valid legal and Constitutional base.”

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/does-a-voter-id-mean-you-are-a-citizen-it-s-unclear/story-mI7gzNTkBCTRh1gxr2RUAI.html

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80 lakh foreigners, jihadis in Assam NRC, NGO tells SC

Feb 19, 2020

GUWAHATI: Assam's updated National Register of Citizens contains the names of almost 80 lakh foreigners, including arrested "jihadis", the NGO Assam Public Works (APW) claimed on Tuesday after filing a fresh affidavit in the Supreme Court seeking "100% verification" of the final citizenship rolls.

"Azharuddin, Ranjit Ali, Luit Jamiul Jamal and Muqaddir Islam, all arrested jihadis, have been declared Indian citizens through the NRC. We have been repeatedly pointing out these wrongs and prodding the authorities to rectify them," APW chief Abhijeet Sharma, whose organisation's 2009 petition was the genesis of the apex court's directive to update the NRC, said from Delhi.

The four persons named by Sharma were arrested by Delhi Police on November 25 for allegedly planning an attack on the national capital and a blast at the Goalpara Raas Mahotsav.

In its new affidavit challenging the NRC published on August 31 last year, APW suggests that an "alternative mechanism" for the state's indigenous people to prove their land holdings would have made the exercise watertight.

The affidavit also requests the apex court to set up a judicial committee to probe the alleged anomalies and corruption that took place during the NRC exercise, including misappropriation of Rs 4.76 crore in the name of purchasing 3,700 generators that had been rented.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/80-lakh-foreigners-jihadis-in-assam-nrc-ngo-tells-sc/articleshow/74199980.cms

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NIA Files Charge Sheet against 11 Terrorists of Bangladesh-Based JMB Group

18 February 2020

Bengaluru, Feb 18 (PTI) The NIA on Tuesday filed a charge sheet against 11 JMB terrorists, including a Bangladeshi national, for their alleged involvement in criminal conspiracy to commit terror acts, and recruiting people for anti-national activities among others, an official said.

They have been charged under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Arms Act and the Foreigners Act, a National Investigation Agency (NIA) spokesperson said.

Najir Sheikh (25), Arif Hussain (24), Asif Ikbal (23), Kador Kazi (33), Habibur Rahaman (28), Mohammad Dilwar Hossain (28), Mustafizur Rahman (39), Adil Sheikh (27), Abdul Karim (21), Mosaraf Hossain (22) and Bangladesh resident Jahidul Islam (40) have been named in the charge-sheet filed before a special NIA court here.

The case pertains to seizure of incriminating material last year from a house in Bengaluru''s Chikkabanavara area which was rented and used by JMB members, the official said.

The seized items included electrical and electronic items, tools, chemical apparatus, containers among others generally used for making bombs and IEDs.

Some 9mm bullets, digital cameras and other incriminating hand written documents were also seized.

Investigation revealed that the accused, members of the Jamaat ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a proscribed terrorist organisation, were involved in a criminal conspiracy to commit terrorist acts or preparation thereof, raising funds by committing dacoities for their terrorist activities, organising terrorist camps and recruiting persons for committing terrorist activities, the official said.

They were also involved in harbouring group members, procurement of explosive and ammunition for anti-national activities, the official said.

Full report at:

https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/nia-files-charge-sheet-against-11-terrorists-of-bangladeshbased-jmb-group/1738031

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India issues fresh travel advisory asking citizens to not visit 5 provinces in Iraq

Feb 18, 2020

NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday issued a fresh travel advisory cautioning citizens against visiting large parts of Iraq in view of the deteriorating security situation.

In the advisory, the Ministry of External Affairs has asked Indian citizens to specifically avoid travelling to Nineveh, Salahuddin, Diyala, Anbar and Kirkuk which witnessed escalation in tension in the wake of fresh attacks by ISIS terrorists.

Indian nationals have been advised not to travel to these five provinces as they "remain unsafe" due to the prevailing security situation, the advisory said.

"Those Indian nationals wishing to travel for employment and already having work permits and appropriate visas may return to their jobs in the safe areas in Iraq other than those listed as unsafe areas," it said.

It also asked Indians planning to visit Iraq to inform the Indian Embassy in Baghdad or Consulate General in Erbil prior to travelling to the country.

"Indian nationals wishing to travel for religious purposes, and having appropriate visa and return air-ticket, may also travel for pilgrimage to the holy places of Najaf and Karbala.

"They should not extend their religious pilgrimage to neighbouring Syria and not travel by road from Iraq to Syria or vice-versa," the advisory said.

India had issued a travel advisory on June 15, 2014, cautioning Indian nationals to avoid visiting Iraq in the wake of the precarious situation then developing in the country after the ISIS terrorists had taken over large Iraqi territories.

As the security situation improved, another travel advisory was issued on February 4 last year allowing Indian nationals to consider travelling to the country except the five provinces.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-issues-fresh-travel-advisory-asking-citizens-to-not-visit-5-provinces-in-iraq/articleshow/74198250.cms

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Most of APPGK are either Pakistani or PoK heritage, not one PIO among them, all are anti-India

Feb 18, 2020

LONDON: Most of the members of a parliamentary group on Kashmir run by Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, who was refused entry to India on Monday, are Pakistani or of PoK origin, and all of them are consistently critical of India’s governance of Kashmir.

Whilst the All-Party Parliamentary Kashmir Group (APPGK) claims to “support the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people through dialogue” and “to highlight the abuses of human rights in Kashmir, and to seek justice for the people there”, not one of its members is of Indian heritage.

Abrahams, its chair, was deported from India to Dubai on Monday after being informed by immigration officials in Delhi that her e-visa was not valid.

According to the November 2019 APPG register, the most up-to-date record of membership, the group’s senior vice-chair is Labour MP for Bradford East Imran Hussain, a British Pakistani who has used inflammatory language against India for years.

After visiting PoK and the Line of Control in September 2019, where he claims he was briefed by senior officers in the Pakistan military, he claimed to a local newspaper in Britain that what was happening in Kashmir was a “war crime”.

The honorary president of the parliamentary group is PoK’s Mirpur-born Lord Nazir Ahmed, a non-affiliated UK peer. He was one of the key speakers at the August 15 British Pakistani protests outside the Indian high commission in London last year that turned violent and led to the Indian diaspora and mission building being targeted.

Its honorary vice-president is Pakistan-born Labour MP for Manchester Gorton Afzal Khan, who signed a letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, dated August 5, 2019, calling on him to “strongly condemn the actions of the Indian government” and its “illegal and unconstitutional revocation of Article 370 to annex Kashmir”.

The group’s secretary is PoK Kotli-born Lord Hussain, a Liberal Democrat politician and life peer who has also often spoken against India on Kashmir. The senior vice-chair is Jack Brereton, Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent South. On August 8, 2019 Brereton wrote a letter to foreign secretary Dominic Raab saying that the nullification of Article 370 was a “dangerous situation” and “serious escalation”.

An Indian diplomatic source in London told TOI: “Given the kind of events this APPG holds and the kinds of rogue elements from Pakistan they invite, and the kinds of issues it supports, I am not surprised this is its membership.”

Abrahams was granted a multiple-entry business e-visa on October 7, 2019 with validity until October 5, 2020. On February 14, an email was sent to her stating that her e-visa had been rejected but she may be eligible for a regular visa.

The Indian e-visa website states an e-visa is “not available to diplomatic/official passport holders”.

The Indian high commission in London tweeted on Tuesday: “Ms Debbie Abrahams did not hold a valid visa. Further, there is no provision for visa on arrival for UK nationals. She was accordingly requested to return.”

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/most-of-appgk-are-either-pakistani-or-pok-heritage-not-one-pio-among-them-all-are-anti-india/articleshow/74198010.cms

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Jamia charge sheet filed, Sharjeel Imam being probed

Karn Pratap Singh

Feb 19, 2020

A charge sheet has been filed against 18 people arrested in two cases related to the violence at Jamia Millia Islamia university and New Friends Colony during protests against the new citizenship law on December 15, the Delhi police said on Tuesday.

None of the 18 people accused of rioting, violence, attacking security personnel and damaging public as well as private property are students of Jamia Millia Islamia. However, the role of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) scholar Sharjeel Imam as an “instigator” is being probed, the police said.

Imam was arrested in one of the two cases for allegedly “inciting violence” through an “inflammatory speech” outside Jamia Millia Islamia on December 13, for which he has also been booked in a separate case of sedition. Imam has not been named in the charge sheet that was filed before a Saket court on February 13 as the probe against him is still pending, said deputy commissioner of police (crime branch) Rajesh Deo, who is heading the special investigation team (SIT) probing the December 15 violence. “We have not named Sharjeel Imam in the charge sheet. He might be named in the supplementary charge sheets, which we will file after concluding the probe. As many as 68 suspects in the two cases are still absconding. Also, there is no mentioning of Popular Front of India (PFI) in the charge sheet, as the organisation’s role in the violence has yet not been established,” said Deo.

On Monday, the SIT secured one-day custody of Imam, who was already in Tihar jail in the sedition case, to interrogate him regarding his role in the December 15 clashes between anti-CAA protesters and security personnel, which left nearly 100 people, including Jamia students and police personnel, injured.

On Tuesday, Imam was produced before a city court that sent him to judicial custody till March 3. Deo said Imam’s name emerged during the interrogation of Furkan, one of the 18 men arrested and chargesheeted in the two cases registered at Jamia Nagar and New Friends Colony police stations. “When we asked Furkan why he indulged in rioting and violence on December 15, he said that he was provoked by Imam’s inciting speech made outside the Jamia university two days before the violence . We also questioned some locals and people known to him. They too acknowledged his role in abetting the violent outburst of December 15,” the DCP said.

The police said since four of the 18 people are still in judicial custody, the law mandates them to file a charge sheet within 60 days of the arrests because the maximum quantum of punishment in the sections imposed is less than 10 years.

Officials said all the 18 men were arrested on the basis of video footage in which they were seen clashing with security personnel and torching public buses and damaging private property.

The charge sheet has been filed under sections 307 (attempt to murder), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with a deadly weapon),149 (unlawful assembly), 186 (obstructing a public servant), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter a public servant), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter a public servant) and 427 (mischief causing damage), and 120 (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and sections 25/27 of the Arms Act.

Between Sunday and Monday, multiple videos were circulated on social media to show what happened inside Jamia Millia Islamia in the aftermath of an anti-CAA protest in December. The videos contradicted the Delhi police’s claim that they did not enter the university’s library area or beat up students. A couple of videos also showed a group of suspected rioters carrying stones — some of them wearing masks — inside the reading room and in a corridor.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/jamia-charge-sheet-filed-sharjeel-imam-being-probed/story-46en49w55S67IFBvykx9QM.html

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Three terrorists killed in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama

Feb 19, 2020

SRINAGAR: At least three terrorists were killed in an encounter with security forces in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir, police officials said on Wednesday.

Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Tral area of Pulwama district late Tuesday night following information about presence of terrorists there, a police official said.

He said during searches, an encounter broke out between terrorists and security forces.

Three unidentified terrorists were killed in the gunfight, the official said, adding more details were awaited.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/three-terrorists-killed-in-jks-pulwama/articleshow/74200817.cms

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Pakistan

 

Jemima Goldsmith tweets poster showing Bushra Bibi doing black magic

Feb 19, 2020

Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan’s ex-wife Jemima Goldsmith on Tuesday shared a Lollywood film poster on her Twitter handle which shows the PM, his wife Bushra Bibi as a magician, and Jemima.

“No disrespect intended. Like most of you, I just found it funny,” she wrote, adding that she did not mean to be disrespectful to anyone and that she shared the picture because she found it humorous.

“I’m a genuine fan of Pakistani film posters, street art and truck art,” she added.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/18/jemima-goldsmith-tweets-poster-showing-bushra-bibi-doing-black-magic/

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FATF sub-group recommends keeping Pak in ‘grey list’

Feb 19, 2020

NEW DELHI: As expected, Pakistan avoided getting into the black list at the ongoing FATF plenary session, with a key sub-group, International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG), recommending that it remain on the grey list. Malaysia, Turkey and China supported Pakistan.

A final decision by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will be announced on Friday.

The reviewers presented the findings of the Asia-Pacific Group (APG), a sub-group of the FATF which met in Beijing in January, at the ICRG meeting in Paris on Tuesday, which completed the ICRG process. The findings will now be presented at the FATF plenary, which will be completed on Friday.

“The ICRG meeting has recommended that Pakistan be retained in the grey list. A final decision will be taken on Friday when the FATF takes up issues concerning Pakistan,” a source said. It is possible that Pakistan may get an additional 6-8 months to get its act together on systems to control terror funding.

The country needed to show success on 13 out of 27 action points to get out of the grey list.

In the last plenary, Pakistan was put on notice with language that threatened dire action. Since then, it has moved on several counts to improve its position. This week’s FATF plenary is being held a week after an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan sentenced Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, to 11 years in two terror financing cases. The two sentences of five-and-a-half years each will run concurrently.

The west is now more willing to give Pakistan a longer rope on the terror financing front, particularly as it is believed to be helpful in getting a US-Taliban deal through that will enable a US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Pakistan also recently informed FATF that Jaish-e-Mohammad founder Masood Azhar and his family were “missing”.

It has claimed that there were only 16 UN designated terrorists in Pakistan, of which “seven are dead”. Out of the nine who are alive, seven had applied to the UN for exemption from financial and travel restrictions.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/fatf-sub-group-recommends-keeping-pak-in-grey-list/articleshow/74200279.cms

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Mystery gas leak death toll doubles amid blame game

Imran Ayub February 19, 2020

KARACHI: As the federal and provincial agencies continued their hitherto unsuccessful efforts to determine the source and place of a toxic gas leak in a neighbourhood of Karachi, the death toll from the leak rose to 14 on Tuesday.

With many persons hospitalised since Sunday, when the leak was first noticed, the people of the affected areas took to the streets, accusing the administration of paying only lip service over the grave issues involved.

• Traders reject report blaming soya bean consignments

• Commissioner says ship carrying soya bean has been moved away from Karachi port

• PSO closes Keamari oil terminal

After a brief respite on Monday, the situation began deteriorating again in the early hours of Tuesday when a number of people, including women and children, were rushed to private and government hospitals. This exercise continued till sunrise. Finally in the evening, the Sindh health ministry came up with the latest casualty figures.

“To conclude the report, 14 patients expired from Feb 16 to 18, till signing of this report at 6.30pm,” said the special health secretary in his report to Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.

“It is pertinent to mention that 258 patients were examined and 232 were discharged after treatment and 12 patients are under observation in relevant hospitals. The specimens of the patients were collected and sent to Aga Khan University Hospital and ICCBS for further investigation and analytical study.”

The efforts to determine the cause or even the exact place of gas leak failed to bring anything to conclusion. Interestingly, the government even failed to bring the investigation agencies to the same page when it came to their findings.

The International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences at the University of Karachi suspected that “soybean dust (aeroallergens)” was behind the problem. However, a study conducted by a private laboratory assisting the Sindh environment authorities spoke of high levels of hydrogen sulfide and nitric oxide in the air.

“The air quality monitoring conducted over the past two days by a private laboratory in the affected areas of Keamari found the air extremely polluted, but the levels of pollutants, particularly two harmful gases, didn’t cross the limits where they could endanger a human life,” said a source privy to the study conducted by the private laboratory.

Amid confusing statements from different agencies, the people of Keamari, including the Railway Colony, Sikandarabad, Jackson Market and Masaan Road, continued to suffer as the authorities only promised to evacuate them without proper planning and arrangements on ground.

Panic and fear

The situation sparked a protest when hundreds of Keamari residents took to the streets and blocked the main road, suspending traffic to and from the Karachi Port Trust premises.

“The situation is such a mess,” said Jamal Khan, a protester and resident of the Railway Colony. “We should be ashamed that in this modern age we are unable to find the exact cause and place of all this poisonous gas. Are they doing this deliberately to conceal the truth?

“Above all, we are promised over television by the government of evacuation from these affected areas but no one has come yet to visit our streets and neighbourhoods.”

The situation arising out of the protest took more than three hours to normalise and the people dispersed after the local administration made several promises. But panic and fear didn’t lessen.

A majority of the schools in the affected areas and neighbouring blocks announced a holiday for the rest of the week and the state-run oil marketing company decided to suspend operations at its oil terminal in Keamari.

“The Pakistan State Oil has decided to keep its oil terminal in Keamari closed temporarily,” said the company spokesman.

“The move has been made only as a precautionary measure for safety and health of our staff. This temporary suspension would not affect our supply and it would continue unaffected across the country.”

Chief Minister Shah acknowledged that authorities had been unable to determine the cause of the toxic gas leak, which he said had not spread to other parts of the city. He called it a “mystery” but insisted that all institutions concerned were involved in efforts to unearth the cause of the incident.

“I am thankful to Pak Army, Sindh Police, district administration and health department who all have worked together to unearth the causes of the gas leak,” said Mr Shah, adding: “Pakistan Navy and Suparco are conducting lab tests of the wind and samples of various oils and goods cargos being downloaded at KPT.”

“The lab results would definitely resolve the issue,” he hoped.

Meanwhile, traders have rejected the report which blamed consignments of soybean as cause of the toxic air. They claimed to have met all quality checks defined under the law and said the consignment was believed to be of highest quality.

“The vessel contains merchantable soybean of US origin, which is of highest quality and was shipped after the usual stringent quality tests by the US Department of Agriculture,” said a statement issued by the All Pakistan Solvent Extractors’ Association.

“Upon arrival into Pakistan, the vessel was thoroughly inspected by the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) which found no quality issues. Therefore, the question of the cargo causing any toxicity to the environment does not arise.”

The claims from the traders, however, failed to convince the authorities who ordered removal of the ship carrying soybean from the Karachi Port to other destination.

“The ship carrying soybean has been removed from the KPT to other destination,” said Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani. “We have already taken all necessary precautionary measures in collaboration with health department and all other concerned institutions.”

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1535364/mystery-gas-leak-death-toll-doubles-amid-blame-game

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Imran blamed for ‘overshadowing’ Erdogan’s statement on Kashmir

Syed Irfan Raza

February 19, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s remarks about initiating a treason case against Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman apparently “overshadowed” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s historic statement on Kashmir before a joint sitting of parliament last week, claims the opposition.

The opposition was of the view that the prime minister’s “uncalled-for” statement after an hour of the Turkish president’s statement had undermined the whole two-day official visit of Mr Erdogan to Pakistan as PM Khan’s remarks had diverted the attention of the entire media and even parliament from the guest’s statement.

On the other hand, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said the opposition had harmed the Kashmir cause by taking part in JUI-F’s dharna (sit-in) at Islamabad’s Peshawar More in November last year when the government was highlighting at the international level the inhuman acts of India against innocent Kashmiris.

PM Khan had during an informal chat with a group of reporters at the Prime Minister House on Friday [Feb 14] said that a treason case should be initiated against Maulana Fazl for admitting that he had staged the sit-in to topple the government.

The controversial remarks by the prime minister got hype not only in the media, but also in the following separate sessions of the Senate and the National Assembly where legislators even forgot to give a vote of thanks to President Erdogan for supporting Pakistan’s point of view on Kashmir. They kept reacting to the prime minister’s remarks.

The opposition was of the view that if Mr Khan had not given such a statement, the speech of the Turkish president before the joint sitting of parliament would have made more traction in the media throughout the day.

Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said in a statement that PM Khan’s statement against the JUI-F chief had shifted the focus away from constructive discussion on Kashmir and Palestine because “he could never grow out of his petty container-top mindset”.

She slammed Mr Khan’s verbal indictment of the JUI-F chief as a traitor and said that the prime minister could not, even for one day, pose to be a reasonable representative of Pakis­tan with an acceptable stature because he just did not have it in him. “Imran could not regard President Erdogan’s presence for a day and step out of his vitriol spewing container mode because that was not an act, that’s the crass, prudish and uncultured person Imran really is,” she added.

The former information minister said Mr Khan’s immaturity and outrageous statement wasted all the gains of President Erdogan’s statement on Kashmir and Palestine.

“Whoever points out Imran’s corruption, incompetence and cluelessness would be dubbed a traitor? Whoever questions his blatant abuse of power is a traitor? Imran paralysed the country, delayed the Chinese president’s visit, incited people to drag sitting prime minister [Nawaz Sharif] by the throat, called for civil disobedience, incited people to circumvent banking transactions, burnt utility bills, undermined democracy with his umpire-finger narrative and all that is patriotic, but when someone like Fazlur Rehman stands up for the rights of people crushed by Imran’s incompetent regime, he is titled a traitor.

“If Imran isn’t corrupt, how come he funds his lavish cars and Banigala mansion without any significant sources of income? How did he buy a Rs130 million house in Lahore?”

Ms Marriyum added: “If Imran isn’t corrupt why is he not letting anyone expose the records of Jahangir Tareen and Khusro Bakhtiar’s sugar mills. If he is clean why doesn’t he form an investigative commission on historic Rs13,000 billion new loan. If he isn’t corrupt why did Imran not reprimand his ministers for ‘dacoity’ on people’s pockets through medicine cost spike, electricity and gas tariffs hike?”

She said Imran Khan, Jahangir Tareen and Khusro Bakhtiar were the only lynchpins responsible for the wheat and sugar mafia that created a crisis in Pakistan.

Collective national response

Meanwhile, Pakistan People Party’s (PPP) senior leader Farhatullah Babar said in a statement that PM Khan had never been serious about the Kashmir issue, his rhetoric notwithstanding.

“One feels that he deliberately chased and hounded the opposition to pre-empt a truly collective national response to a national challenge arising out of Aug 5 annexation of held Kashmir by India. Iran, Turkey and Malaysia are the only three countries of the OIC that stood solidly with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. Yet he ditched them at the time of Kaula Lampur summit even though he had accepted the invitation,” he added.

Mr Babar said Mr Erdogan made a powerful speech on Kashmir before the joint session, but its impact was lost when PM Khan, for no apparent reason, suddenly changed the direction of public discourse by calling for initiating a treason case against the JUI-F chief and the media space and time had been diverted to a non-issue. “Whether it was deliberate or was result of stupidity, one thing is clear: Mr Khan’s incompetence is exposed as never before,” he added.

When contacted, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said: “If he [the PM] had said so then what. Please move forward. What is next?”

She said the prime minister was one of the biggest advocates for the Kashmir cause and, therefore, he had raised the issue effectively and vehemently at all international forums.

“If on one hand Imran Khan’s remarks are criticised, on the other credit goes to him for inviting United Nation Secretary General Antonio Guterres who also gave a big statement on Kashmir,” she said.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1535370/imran-blamed-for-overshadowing-erdogans-statement-on-kashmir

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Strike observed in Quetta to mourn suicide blast victims

February 19, 2020

QUETTA: A complete strike was observed here on Tuesday in protest against killing of eight innocent people in a suicide blast on Monday.

The strike was called by political parties, including the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awa­mi Party, Awami Nat­ional Party, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, Pakistan Peoples Party, Balochistan National Party-Mengal and traders’ organisations.

All shops, markets, shopping malls and business establishments remained closed in the city throughout the day to condemn terrorism.

The Quetta city and areas on its outskirts presented a gloomy and deserted look. Traffic also remained thin as majority of the vehicles remained off the road. Most of the banks closed their main shutters, but served customers through small doors.

Heavy contingents of police, Balochistan Constabulary and Frontier Corps were deployed in and around the city to deal with any untoward situation.

Political parties thanked people and the business community for keeping their business completely closed throughout the day. They said the peaceful people of Quetta had proved that they are against terrorism and want peace in Balochistan.

FIR registered

Meanwhile, the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) registered a first information report (FIR) of the suicide attack.

Police said that the FIR had been registered on a complaint of the Civil Lines SHO against unknown people under sections of the Pakistan Penal Code and the Anti-terrorist Act.

A team of senior police officers was investigating the incident.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1535368/strike-observed-in-quetta-to-mourn-suicide-blast-victims

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Europe

 

France unveils restriction on foreign imams to curb ‘separatism’

February 19, 2020

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday he would curb the practice of foreign countries sending imams and teachers to France to crack down on what he called the risk of “separatism”.

Macron has so far stayed away from issues related to France’s Muslim community, the biggest in Europe, focusing instead on economic reforms.

In a much-anticipated intervention less than a month before mayoral elections, Macron said he would gradually put an end to the system in which Algeria, Morocco and Turkey send imams to France to preach in mosques.

“This end to the consular Islam system is extremely important to curb foreign influence and make sure everybody respects the laws of the republic,” he told a news conference in the eastern city of Mulhouse.

Macron said 300 imams were sent to France every year by these countries, and that those who arrived in 2020 would be the last to arrive in such numbers.

He said his government had asked the body representing Islam in France to find solutions to train imams on French soil instead, make sure they can speak French and don’t spread Islamist views.

Macron, who is constantly attacked by far-right leader Marine Le Pen on the issue of how to integrate French Muslims, also said he would end the practice of French students being taught by teachers paid by foreign governments.

France has agreements with nine countries, including Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey, whereby their governments can send teachers to French schools to teach languages to students originally from these countries.

Macron said he had found an agreement to end the practice with all of these countries except Turkey.

“I won’t let any country, whatever it is, feed separatism,” Macron said.

“You can’t have Turkish law on French soil. That can’t be.”

France has suffered major attacks by Islamist militants in recent years.

Co-ordinated bombings and shootings in November 2015 at the Bataclan theatre and other sites around Paris killed 130 people – the deadliest attacks in France since World War Two.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2020/02/19/france-unveils-restriction-on-foreign-imams-to-curb-separatism/

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan pushes for ‘associate’ EU citizenship

18 February 2020

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan pushed the idea of an “associate” EU citizenship for Britons after Brexit, as he visited Brussels on Tuesday to see officials including the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

“Many Londoners are heartbroken that we have left the European Union but we still very much feel part of the European family,” he said.

He explained he was in the EU’s de facto capital to “bang the drum” for London in terms of continuing investment following Brexit, “but also see if there is a possibility, even though we’ve left the European Union, of some sort of associate citizenship going forward.”

That initiative was floated last year by the European Parliament’s pointman on Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt, as a nod to the close relations Britain nurtured with EU counterparts over the 47 years it was in the bloc.

It appeals to many Britons who want to retain the freedom of movement they had enjoyed across Europe allowing them to work, study and settle in more than two dozen countries.

But there is little chance of an associate membership being offered.

A withdrawal agreement struck late last year by Britain excludes such an arrangement. The prevailing legal opinion is that EU citizenship is contingent on citizenship of a country that is part of the European Union.

Britain left the European Union at the end of last month, in large part because it opposed EU freedom of movement rules.

A transition period running to the end of this year allows it to trade as a member and for British citizens already in EU countries to retain residency rights.

The two sides are to use this year to negotiate an agreement on their future relationship, spanning trade, cross-migration, security and other issues. Britain has ruled out the option of extending the transition period.

Verhofstadt, who met Khan, insisted that “such an idea needs to be discussed around the negotiating table in the coming months.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/18/London-Mayor-Sadiq-Khan-pushes-for-associate-EU-citizenship-.html

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Jewish lawyer’s fight in defence of a British Pakistani Muslim

Saeed Niazi & Murtaza Ali Shah

February 19, 2020

LONDON: The Jewish lawyer of a British Pakistani man who won £1.2 million case against Mail on Sunday and David Rose has said that he decided to take up the case of Pakistani man because as a Jew he could feel what it’s like to be discriminated against and maligned.

Defamation law specialist Mark Lewis, who is based both in London and Southern Isarel, told in an interview that as soon as he saw article in Mail on Sunday (MoS) by David Rose targeting Pakistani man Wajed Iqbal, linking him with paedophiles and sex crimes, he could tell that the Pakistani Muslim has been stitched up to create a story.

Three weeks ago the Associated Newspaper Limited (ANL) – the publishers of the Daily Mail, Mail Online and the Mail on Sunday – settled £1.2 million case with Wajed Iqbal after accepting that the allegations made against him in an article published in MoS in August 2017 were false and had no basis in truth.

Wajed Iqbal, speaking to The News and Geo, said he had no doubt that David Rose and MoS had picked on him because he was a Pakistani and Muslim.

Mark Lewis, a leading lawyer fighting anti-semitism and prejudice, said: “The whole thing about Jewish people is that they know what bigotry is like as a Pakistani Muslims in the UK do. I grew up in northern England, like Wajed Iqbal, where my Jewish cousin who has no Pakistani background was hurled the slur of ‘Paki’ by people when we were teenagers and mistook his looks Pakistani youth. Coming from a Jewish background, I know when there is discrimination against a particular community. I choose to stand up for the victims of prejudice.”

Lewis said: “It shows that the poison that exists is due to a hatred of people who are different. They don’t need any rationality of logic.” Mark Lewis said racism and Islamophobia were the main factors why Wajed Iqbal was targeted by Mail on Sunday in its story.

He explained: “My client was a low ranking officer in the local authority who was involved in the licensing of taxis. He was picked on as being the person in charge of licensing taxis because if you get a Pakistani Muslim involved in taxi licensing in England, you invite prejudice.

A huge scandal was orchestrated which shook the Pakistani community. The building blocks of the controversy were Pakistani, Muslim and taxi. Put them all together and you find a scandal.

The only thing is that it wasn’t true. If anyone did any research that conclusion would’ve been reached.”

Mark Lewis added: “It seems very obvious to me that he was targeted because he was a Muslim with a Pakistani background. Some people weren’t Pakistani Muslims who were more senior and more involved in taxi licensing in the same department as Wajed Iqbal but they were ignored but my client was targeted because of his background.” He said the MoS received documents from the local authority showing that there wasn’t any truth to these allegations.

Mark Lewis said: “Whether its anti-Muslim bigotry or not, the story focused on a Muslim only because he was a Pakistani Muslim. That was the entire story. The test is not what David Rose thought but what the readers thought.

David Rose said ‘there is a Pakistani Muslim taxi driver who is involved in something wrong’. It was biased. The timing was also suspicious as that time a BBC programme focused on the Rotherham scandal to mislead the public and created an unnecessary connection.”

Mark Lewis said that the MoS was expecting a non-party disclosure, hoping that the documents from the local authority would show that Wajed Iqbal was guilty however the documents showed quite the opposite.

“They showed my client hadn’t done anything he was accused of. Wajed Iqbal took every step to ensure that those who would have committed any wrongdoing were brought to the attention of the local authority. When the Mail on Sunday found this, their initial reaction was to wait for more information from the local authority which exonerated their victim. When he was exonerated, the Mail on Sunday knew they had no other choice but to negotiate with my client.”

Mr Iqbal had been wrongfully accused of acting as a “fixer” for paedophile taxi drivers in the May 2017 article.

Wajed Iqbal, 44, had sued Mail on Sunday stating that his life had been ruined by the defamatory article, leaving him reliant on anti-depressants, jobless, and prevented from seeing his children.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/616415-jewish-lawyer-s-fight-in-defence-of-a-british-pakistani-muslim

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Emmanuel Macron launches campaign against political Islam

Victor Mallet

Feb 19, 2020

President Emmanuel Macron has launched a campaign against political Islam and what he calls Islamist “separatism” in some French cities, seeking to restore order in sometimes violent and impoverished suburbs and to elicit support from rightwing voters ahead of local elections in March.

In some of his most explicit comments on Islam and France, Mr Macron said it was “unacceptable” for anyone to disobey the laws of the French republic in the name of a religion or a foreign power. “The republic must keep its promises, we must fight against discrimination, we must put meritocracy everywhere,” he said. “But on the other side we must fight against separatism, because when the republic does not keep its promises, others try to replace it.”

Mr Macron announced measures to tighten controls on foreign financing of mosques, to end the nomination by Algeria, Morocco and Turkey of 300 imams a year for France, and withdraw from this year permission for foreign governments to control language courses for 80,000 pupils learning Arabic, Turkish and other languages from their countries of origin — a system he called “an important vector of separatism” given that many of the teachers did not speak French or care about French culture.

The imams, he said, were often linked to Salafism or the Muslim Brothers and “preach against the republic”. Mr Macron added: “We will train imams in France so they learn the language and the laws of the republic.”

Mr Macron spoke to residents in the Bourtzwiller district of Mulhouse in eastern France on the first of a series of planned walkabouts. He made a point of not visiting a large new mosque in Mulhouse, a city with both a large immigrant population and many white supporters of the far-right.

The French president was speaking against a backdrop of growing concern in France about the influence of Islamist radicals on troubled communities where crime is rife and where many of the inhabitants are of north African immigrant origin. Multiple terror attacks in recent years have added to those fears.

Typical of such concern is a book published last month and written by François Pupponi, who was mayor of Sarcelles near Paris for 20 years.

In The Emirates of the Republic: How Islamists are Taking Control of the Suburbs, he wrote that 100-200 Islamists and young thugs are terrorising a community of 60,000 — including Muslims, Christians, Jews and others. “One of the realities of these suburbs is the irruption of radical Islam,” Mr Pupponi writes.

Islamists also have a strong presence on social media. In what has become known as the “Mila Affair”, a teenage schoolgirl who casually criticised Muslim men and their religion in an Instagram exchange quickly became the target of death threats and insults.

Abdallah Zekri of the French Council of the Muslim Faith prompted outrage when he suggested in a radio interview that the 16-year-old had it coming. “You reap what you sow,” he said. However, the council’s president, Mohammed Moussaoui, later said Muslims should accept freedom of speech and criticism of Islam, “even its principles and its foundations”.

The Mulhouse visit is not the first time Mr Macron, an economic and social liberal who was swept to power in 2017 as a new politician of “neither left nor right”, has hardened his stance on social matters to court the conservative vote.

In September, he outlined tougher immigration policies and said it was time to be “extremely firm” in applying asylum rules strictly given the surge in applications from foreigners taking advantage of France’s longstanding reputation as the “land of asylum”.

Controlling immigration, curbing Islamists and tackling crime are the key policies of Marine Le Pen and her far-right Rassemblement National party, which won the most votes in France in the European elections in May and is considered the main political threat to Mr Macron.

“Communalism and Islamic fundamentalism are on the rise in our country,” Ms Le Pen said in a recent Financial Times interview. “A hundred and fifty districts in France in the hands of Islamists — we can’t let that happen. We have to act and act quickly, or else it’s our survival, our civilisation and our peace that are at stake.”

Since 2018, the Macron administration has designated French 47 districts — including Bourtzwiller and its 15,000 people — as quartiers de reconquête républicaine (areas of republican reconquest) in a drive to retake control of previously lawless zones by sending in extra police and improving schools.

Moderate Muslims have backed Mr Macron’s approach. “There really is an ideology to separate Muslims from the rest of society,” said Hassen Chalghoumi, an imam from Drancy near Paris who needs state bodyguards to protect him from extremists who have threatened to assassinate him. “The republic has to wake up and deal with these Islamists who try to impose themselves in schools and elsewhere.”

Full report at:

https://www.ft.com/content/88c1e898-5269-11ea-90ad-25e377c0ee1f

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Russia, Turkey agree to adhere to treaties on Syria

Elena Teslova  

18.02.2020

MOSCOW

Russia and Turkey agreed to adhere to existing agreements on Syria during talks in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

The delegations of the two countries held two-day talks in which they agreed to continue efforts to deescalate tensions and ease the humanitarian crisis in Syria, while continuing their fight against terrorism, the ministry said in a statement published on its website.

"It was noted that achieving long-term security and stability in Idlib and other parts of Syria is ultimately possible only on the basis of a commitment to the country's sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity," it said.

In addition, both delegations stressed the importance of advancing the political process of resolving the crisis in Syria, led and implemented by the Syrians themselves with the assistance of the UN, as provided for in the UN Security Council resolution, it said.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/russia-turkey-agree-to-adhere-to-treaties-on-syria/1737848

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Russia, Italy to hold consultations on Libya

Elena Teslova 

18.02.2020

MOSCOW

Russia on Tuesday announced it would in several weeks hold "special consultations" with Italy on a possible solution to the ongoing conflict in Libya.

Speaking at a news conference in Rome following a meeting between Russian and Italian foreign and defense ministers, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow was particularly interested in clarifying the details of a new EU mission to monitor compliance with the arms embargo on Libya.

"Our position is that it is necessary to respect the decisions of the [UN] Security Council and not to take steps that would be considered disrespectful to the prerogatives of this supreme UN body in the field of maintaining international peace and security," said Lavrov.

On Monday, EU members agreed in principle to set up a new naval mission to monitor compliance with the UN arms embargo on Libya.

The new mission will operate in the air and sea, as well as through satellites, to ensure all countries respect the ban on providing arms to the parties involved in the Libyan conflict.

Lavrov underlined the need for the UN Security Council to authorize the decision, recalling the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in an international operation in 2011, that he said took advantage of a UN-sanctioned no-fly zone above the country.

"We are well aware of the legitimate, understandable reasons pushing Italy to bring order to this issue and the reasons why the EU countries are interested in ensuring that weapons are not delivered to Libya via illegal routes. I am convinced that by contacting the Security Council, they will be able to get a solution that will suit them and ensure compliance with international law, including the prerogatives of the Security Council," Lavrov said.

In turn, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said the new mission was created based on a UN mandate to monitor the implementation of the arms embargo.

Maio said the mission would employ satellites to monitor the country from space, adding that navy ships would function as a "barrier" against arms deliveries along its coasts. He added that -- should Libya agree -- it would also involve patrols along the country's land borders.

"Air and sea patrols will be carried out by military ships and aircraft, but the approach will be non-military. If we do not allow the import of weapons, the two sides will be forced to start a dialogue," he stressed.

Libya's legitimate government had been under attack by Haftar since last April, claiming the lives of more than 1,000 people.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: warlord Khalifa Haftar in eastern Libya, supported mainly by Egypt and the UAE, and the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which enjoys the UN and international recognition.

On Jan. 12, the conflict parties announced a cease-fire in response to a joint call by the Turkish and Russian leaders. But talks last week for a permanent cease-fire deal ended without an agreement after Haftar left Moscow without signing the deal.

On Jan. 19, Haftar accepted at the Berlin conference on Libya to designate members to a UN-proposed military commission with five members from each side to monitor implementation of the cease-fire.

Syria

Following the meeting, Russia's Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu urged for a settlement in Syria as well, calling on Western countries to lift sanctions on the Bashar al-Assad regime, at least on fuel and medical supplies.

"Over the past year, an average of 1,200 refugees have returned to Syria from Lebanon and Jordan every day. People are drawn to their homes. One of the issues that need to be resolved is the lifting of, at least, a small part of the sanctions imposed on Syria," he said.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed or displaced in the conflict, mainly by regime airstrikes targeting opposition-held areas.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

But more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by regime and Russian forces since then, flouting both the 2018 cease-fire and a new one that started on Jan. 12.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/russia-italy-to-hold-consultations-on-libya/1737754

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German arsonist jailed over mosque attack

Mesut Zeyrek  

18.02.2020

COLOGNE, Germany

An arsonist who caused considerable damage last May to a mosque in the German city of Hagen in North Rhine-Westphalia state was jailed for 3.5 years Monday.

The 53-year-old man, who set fire to a trash dumpster and cartons outside with the flames spreading to the mosque, was sentenced by a local court.

Omer Oral, an official from the Islamic Community National View (IGMG), one of Germany’s largest Muslim-Turkish associations, said they hope the decision will deter all enemies of Islam.

The mosque, which belongs to the IGMG, was damaged on May 25 last year after the attack.

The group had called for a full investigation into the incident.

Germany has witnessed growing Islamophobia and hatred of migrants in recent years triggered by far-right parties who have exploited fears over a refugee crisis and terrorism.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/german-arsonist-jailed-over-mosque-attack/1736930

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Sweden calls for pressure on Syrian regime over Idlib

Atila Altuntas

18.02.2020

STOCKHOLM

Sweden's foreign minister urged the European Union on Monday to pressure Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime over its attacks in Idlib province.

With around a million Syrians fleeing due to the attacks, pressure on the Assad regime should be increased and a ceasefire and humanitarian access should demanded, Ann Linde said on Facebook.

Her remarks came after a meeting of foreign ministers of European Union countries in Brussels.

Mentioning that Sweden had allocated 35 million euros ($38 million) for the humanitarian crisis in Idlib, she stressed that the Assad regime’s attacks were horrible.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/sweden-calls-for-pressure-on-syrian-regime-over-idlib/1736924

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Southeast Asia

 

Jakarta to stop 'terrorist virus', no repatriation for jihadis

by Mathias Hariyadi

02/12/2020

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The Indonesian government plans to keep the "terrorist virus" out of the country. After days of controversy and debate, Jakarta has decided not to repatriate 689 Indonesian members of the Islamic State (IS) group who in recent years joined its jihad in Iraq and Syria.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Mahfud MD made the announcement last night after meeting with officials from the National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT[*]), the Religious Affairs Minister as well as the Law and Human Rights Minister, and attending a closed-door cabinet meeting with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

“The government and the state have to ensure that the 267 million people in Indonesia are safe from the threat of terrorism. If these foreign terrorist fighters come back, they could become a new terrorist virus that threatened those 267 million people,” Mahfud said after the meeting at Bogor Presidential Palace in West Java.

Citing the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Minister explained that 689 Indonesians have been identified as IS sympathisers. Most of them are currently in Syria and Turkey.

Some 228 people still have Indonesian identity papers, whilst others cannot prove their nationality. For Indonesian authorities, most Indonesian IS sympathisers are women and children.

Mahfud noted that the government still plans to collect information about the Indonesian members of IS and that young children might be repatriated, depending on their circumstances. “Children under 10 will be considered on a case-by-case basis; for example, if they have parents there or not,” he said.

Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the most important moderate Islamic organisation in Indonesia and the world with approximately 90 million members, welcomed the government's decision.

NU chairman Kiai Haj Said Agil Siradj had already told the authorities that his organisation “rejects the repatriation of former IS combatants and sympathisers”.

After meeting with the Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, the religious leader stressed that his organisation believed that repatriating former combatants did not reflect what the Qurʼān said.

“Why should we be bothered about whether or not we repatriate 600 people if it could disturb the tranquillity of 260 million others,” he asked.

Indonesia is now vetting ways to eradicate extremist ideologies and counter their spread in the country.

“We have to educate our people to become competent citizens,” said Dr J Kristiadi, a senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Jakarta, speaking to AsiaNews. “Every Indonesian is expected to know and understand their rights and duties as citizens,” he added.

“In my personal opinion, some foreign fighters might not be well aware of their duties and rights as Indonesian citizens and that their offence is considered a gross violation of the laws.”

This said, “The future of our country is my concern. Civic education – like raising the flag or singing the national anthem – is not only a practical matter. We must educate people about the true nature of nationalism so that they can behave like citizens who love their country.”

http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Jakarta-to-stop-'terrorist-virus',-no-repatriation-for-jihadis-49280.html

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Religious ministry denies protests against Riau Islands church renovation related to intolerance

Ardila Syakriah

February 19, 2020

The Religious Affairs Ministry has insisted that the protests against the renovation of Santo Joseph Catholic Church in Karimun, Riau Islands, are not an act of intolerance.

“I went to Karimun. The point is there is no intolerance issue there. The problem [with the renovation] is merely regarding its building permit [IMB],” Religious Affairs Ministry special staff member Ubaidilah Amin Moech said on Tuesday.

He added that the church’s renovation committee had agreed to wait for the Tanjungpinang State Administrative Court (PTUN) in Batam to issue its ruling on a lawsuit regarding the renovation. The Karimun Regency Caring Alliance (APKK) previously sued the Karimun One-Stop Integrated Service for granting the building permit for the church renovation.

Ubaidillah denied that a number of people had been reported to the police amid the protests. “The church’s renovation committee was not reported to the police. The force only questioned them to clarify information disseminated on social media.”

Coordinating Legal, Political and Security Affairs Minister, Mahfud MD, claimed on Monday that the case had been settled, as all related parties agreed to refrain from doing anything that would raise tensions.

The renovation of the church has been halted since Feb. 6, after members of the APKK and local United Muslim Forum (FUIB) protested against the work. They also reportedly objected to the church’s location in Karimun’s capital of Tanjung Balai.

The church, which was established in 1928, obtained a building license (IMB) for the renovation in October last year.

The renovation committee had started working on the permit to renovate the church since May 2012, when they wrote a letter to ask for support from the local community. They eventually collected 107 signatures of non-Catholic residents in Tanjung Balai who supported the work.

The signatures were required according to a 2006 joint ministerial decree on procedures to build places of worship, requiring a congregation to get 90 signatures from its members and another 60 from other residents prior to the construction.

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/02/19/religious-ministry-denies-protests-against-riau-islands-church-renovation-related-to-intolerance.html

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'Bin Abdullah' case: What the Federal Court's minority rulings said

19 Feb 2020

BY IDA LIM

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 19 — The Federal Court’s majority ruling last Thursday said that the National Registration Department (NRD) was wrong to decide on its own to use “bin Abdullah” for a Johor-born illegitimate Muslim child’s name in his birth certificate, but also said that the NRD was right to disallow the father from using his name for the child.

However, three of the seven judges on the Federal Court panel in this case dissented, holding the opinion that the NRD should not have unilaterally used “bin Abdullah” for the child’s name — but for different reasons, and that the NRD was wrong to refuse the father’s application to have his name be part of the child’s name.

The three dissenting judges gave two separate judgments, with Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri David Wong Dak Wah reading his after the majority decision was delivered by Court of Appeal President Datuk Rohana Yusuf.

Federal Court judge Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan had on that day also read out her minority judgment that was agreed to by fellow Federal Court judge Datuk Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim.

In this case, the Johor-born child (whose name has been withheld) had sought to have his name in his birth certificate changed from A Child bin Abdullah to A Child bin MEMK to take after his father’s name MEMK, and for the words “Permohonan Seksyen 13” to be removed from the birth certificate.

(The “bin Abdullah” patronym and the “Permohonan Seksyen 13” entry were seen as obvious giveaways of his illegitimate status that could expose him to stigma).

Here’s a brief summary of what the minority judgments said:

What the case is not about

From the outset and throughout her minority judgment, Justice Nallini noted that it was not disputed that the Johor-born Muslim child was deemed illegitimate under Johor’s state Islamic law, stressing that this case was not about seeking to change this child’s illegitimate status to make him legitimate.

Instead, she said this case revolved around the Registrar-General of Births and Deaths’ scope of powers under a federal law — Births and Deaths Registration Act (BDRA) — when recording and registering the full name of Muslim illegitimate children or recording their “paternity” (who their father is) in the Register of Births and Deaths or the country’s official records.

In dissecting the case, Nallini listed four issues to be determined, including whether a legal provision under the BDRA allowing fathers to ask for their names to be registered as their illegitimate children’s surname were not applicable to Malays and/ or Muslims.

This legal provision refers to Section 13A of the Births and Deaths Registration Act covering the “surname” of children, which states that a legitimate child’s surname in official records is to be the surname if any of the father, while also saying that an illegitimate child’s surname if any is to be the mother’s surname if she provides such information or can be the surname of the person who acknowledges himself to be the father upon his request.

What does ‘surname’ mean?

In answering the first issue on whether Malays are excluded from the BDRA’s Section 13A, Nallini noted that a big part of the arguments presented by lawyers at the Federal Court was on the definition of “surname.”

While the word “surname” is not defined in the BDRA, Nallini said that the expert opinion provided by three academics — which said Malays have no surnames — were “entirely irrelevant” in answering what “surname” means in the BDRA.

This is because the term “surname” under the BDRA requires statutory interpretation or the court to interpret it, as it is a question of law, she said.

Nodding at the experts’ view that Malays have no “surname” based on the literal dictionary meaning and traditional English language and culture, Nallini said that it would be more “logical and reasonable” to interpret the word “surname” in line with the BDRA’s purpose to also include patronymic names. (The use of patronyms in Malaysia — including by Malays — typically sees the names of fathers being part of their children’s names.)

Nallini said that applying a literal meaning to “surname” would exclude Section 13A from applying to a majority of Malaysia’s population and that it would also exclude many other races locally such as Indians and Kadazans who similarly do not have family names or surnames as used in the traditional Western culture, pointing out that including “patronymic surname” would instead enable this provision to cover all Malaysians “regardless of race, culture and social convention.”

“In other words, to conclude that Section 13A is inapplicable to Malays and/or Muslims on the grounds that they do not possess surnames, would amount, in my view, to going against the express purpose set out in Section 13A, namely to afford a child born out of wedlock the right to have his father’s name specified on his birth certificate. This would run awry of the textual meaning to be accorded to ‘surname’ in that Section. Significantly, it would preclude such persons, albeit non-Muslims, from utilising Section 13A too,” she said.

The judge also highlighted that the legal interpretation of what “surname” means has to take into account the purpose of the BDRA, which she noted is a federal law enacted by the federal government to provide for a “full repository or register of births within the country” which would allow children to have an identity with the register recording the identities of their mother and father.

The judge said that BDRA was intended to apply to all Malaysians and did not have separate provisions for different races, noting: “It is applicable to all persons in the country, regardless of race and religion. No differentiation is made in the applicability of the provisions of the BDRA 1957 to the various races who comprise the citizens of this plural population comprising Malaysia. Neither does the Act relate to, provide for, or prescribe stipulations in relation to legitimacy, naming conventions, cultural practices or religious law. In other words it is an entirely secular Act.”

Nallini concluded that the NRD was legally obliged to record the Johor child’s name as ‘Child bin MEMK’ with MEMK’s personal name as a patronymic surname.

Justice Wong, the other judge who dissented, pointed out that the vast majority of Malaysians with the exception of the local ethnic Chinese do not have surnames in the traditional sense, and similarly said “surname” in Section 13A should be defined as including “patronymic surnames” as many Malaysians such as the natives of Sabah and Sarawak would otherwise be excluded.

How the Constitution views state laws and federal laws

Nallini also examined the issue of whether state laws enacted by state governments such as laws governing Muslims’ personal lives apply to federal laws enacted by the federal government such as the BDRA.

The Federal Constitution divides what Parliament can legislate and what state legislative assemblies can make laws on into two lists — Federal List and State List — under the Ninth Schedule.

(The two lists set out the exclusive matters that the federal government and state governments can make laws on, and with both not able to make laws under the other’s jurisdiction unless expressly authorised by conditions in the Constitution).

In explaining the constitutional arrangement, Nallini noted that it meant any laws made by the state government on Islamic personal laws only apply to that state, adding that matters falling strictly under the State List have no impact on matters that are exclusively under Parliament in the Federal List.

She noted that the strict federal nature of the BDRA is shown by the Constitution’s Federal List’s Item 3(e) which is national registration and Item 12(a) covering census and registration of births and deaths among other things.

While Article 3(1) provides for Islam as the religion of the federation with other religions to be practised in peace and harmony, Nallini noted that Article 3(4) — which provides that nothing in Article 3 would diminish other constitutional provisions — meant that the constitutional arrangement under Article 74 which divides the federal and state law-making powers continue to apply.

“Thus, Islamic law has no application insofar as the registration of deaths and births is concerned,” she said when citing the constitutional arrangement.

“The structure of the Federal Constitution in the present context is such that a clear divide is maintained between civil law, which is intrinsically secular in nature and applicable to all citizens on the one hand, and Muslim personal law on the other, which is confined to State legislation promulgated in accordance with the State List and applicable only to Muslims,” she said, describing this unique constitutional structure that embraces both secular and religious laws as “genius” and in keeping with the rule of law in Malaysia’s plural society.

The judge concluded that the contents of Johor’s Islamic Family Law (State of Johor) Enactment 2003 “cannot be imported and applied” in interpreting BDRA which is a federal law, as doing so would conflate or mix up federal law and state law, while also mixing up the two different concepts of “paternity and legitimacy” which are treated differently under state Islamic law and civil law.

The judge also said whether someone is legitimate or illegitimate when it comes to Shariah matters could easily be proven by calculating the difference from their date of birth and the date of their parents’ marriage.

‘Bin Abdullah’ vs with father’s name vs just child’s name

The two remaining issues that Nallini examined were whether the NRD was legally correct to impose “bin Abdullah” on the Johor-born child’s name, and whether — if the NRD acted beyond their powers — the court should order for the birth certificate to have the child’s name carry the father’s name MEMK or for the document to record only the child’s personal name.

Citing the above, Nallini said the NRD was not entitled to arbitrarily ascribe the name “bin Abdullah” to the Johor child’s name, further pointing out that the Registrar-General of Births and Deaths is merely carrying out an administrative function under the BDRA.

Since the BDRA did not provide for “bin Abdullah” to be used, the NRD or the Registrar-General were duty-bound under Section 27(3) of the same law to correct the mistake of using “bin Abdullah” for the Johor child’s name when asked to do so by the parents, as it would otherwise amount to the Registrar-General taking on a function that he has not been given under the BDRA, she said.

“Neither has he been conferred with powers as an adjudicator with the ability to adjudge on the best option to be adopted in relation to the naming convention of a child, be it in relation to religion, culture or otherwise,” she said, later adding that the Johor child should not have only his personal name registered in official records but should also carry his father’s name as Section 13A had been fulfilled.

What the other minority ruling said

Justice Wong, who had also noted that the Johor child’s illegitimate status was not in dispute and under the Shariah courts’ exclusive jurisdiction, pointed out that the Court of Appeal had noted that the Johor case revolved around the administration of civil law by civil authority and not the administration of Islamic law by a religious authority.

Wong also agreed with the Court of Appeal’s previous unanimous ruling that the NRD director-general or registrar-general is not bound by a fatwa issued by a religious body, as the latter’s jurisdiction and power under the BDRA is a civil one and limited to determining if the Johor child’s parent had fulfilled Section 13A(2) requirements for his name to be ascribed to the child’s name.

Wong also agreed with the Court of Appeal that a fatwa or religious opinion by a religious body has no legal effect unless adopted as federal law by Parliament, as such fatwa would otherwise become part of federal law without going through the legislative process. (The NRD had relied on two fatwas by a national-level committee of Islamic scholars when imposing “bin Abdullah” on the Johor child’s name.)

Wong also touched on the Johor child’s welfare and best interests when saying that the “Permohonan Seksyen 13” entry should be removed from the Johor child’s birth certificate, noting the Court of Appeal’s ruling had said the law did not require such an entry and that a child’s legitimacy could be easily determined by comparing the birth date and parents’ marriage date for matters such as inheritance disputes in Shariah courts.

Noting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’s Article 3 which places a child’s best interests as the primary consideration in all actions taken by those such as administrative bodies and courts (a clause which Malaysia has placed reservations on), Wong went on to highlight the birth certificate as a significant document that gives a person an identity in the eyes of the state and its use for matters such as school enrolment.

“Is it necessary for anyone to know whether someone was born illegitimate?...What useful purpose does this serve? Thus with respect, I think the Court of Appeal arrived at the right decision by ordering removal of the Section 13 endorsement,” he said of the entry which signals to the public the illegitimacy status of the child.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/02/19/bin-abdullah-case-what-the-federal-courts-minority-rulings-said/1838721

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Religious authorities were looking for Joshua, says witness

Minderjeet Kaur

February 18, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Insurance salesman Peter Pormannan, the first witness at the public inquiry into missing pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth Sitepu, said religious authorities were looking for Joshua after he converted from Islam to Christianity.

“Two years after I met Joshua, he told me that religious authorities were looking for him,” he said, adding that he believed it was related to Joshua’s conversion.

Pormannan said this at the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) public inquiry.

Suhakam officers during the inquiry then asked Pormannan if Joshua was investigated or threatened by the religious authorities.

To this, Pormannan said Joshua was not threatened.

“Joshua also told me that his IC (MyKad) stated that he was a Muslim and he wanted to take it out since he was a Christian,” Peter added.

Ruth, an Indonesian, is represented by lawyer Philip Koh. Her brother and sister were present during the inquiry.

Joshua and Ruth were last seen on Nov 30, 2016.

They were married in Oct 2004.

The inquiry is tentatively being held over 14 days, between today and April 29. It is chaired by commissioner Hishamuddin Yunus, assisted by commissioners Jerald Joseph and Madeline Berma.

Pormannan said he first met Joshua and Ruth in 2012 in Klang, after which they kept in touch. He said Joshua had no place to live and he had offered the couple his late mother-in-law’s house in Kampung Jawa after her death.

They lived in Kampung Jawa for about a year. During this time, they constantly kept in touch and Joshua told Pormannan that he had converted to Christianity.

Pormannan said Joshua and Ruth then shifted to Kampung Tunku, Petaling Jaya.

He said on the day they disappeared, Joshua had been agitated after receiving a phone call where he told the caller: “I am not disturbing you, why are you disturbing me.”

After the phone call, Joshua and Ruth left the house in a Perodua Kancil and have been missing since, he said.

Pormannan said his two children had stayed with Joshua and Ruth as it was nearer for them to attend college.

One of the children, Grace Thangamalar, lived in Kampung Tunku with the couple from 2015 to 2017.

Grace said Joshua and Ruth were disturbed after receiving the phone call, adding that one of the tenants told her that there was an argument over the phone.

She also said that Joshua and Ruth would allow people who needed help to live in their home and prior to the phone call, there was a Malay family who had stayed in the house for a few hours.

“The family came about 1am and left at 6am. Ruth told us that problems had cropped up after the family left,” she added.

The 27-year-old, who works as a logistics executive in Klang, told her father that the couple was missing after a month.

While her father was called several times to give his statement to the police, Grace said she was only called by the police last Tuesday to give her statement.

Suhakam had also conducted public inquiries into the disappearances of pastor Raymond Koh and social activist Amri Che Mat.

The conclusion in the two cases was that both Raymond and Amri were victims of enforced disappearance and that Koh, in particular, was abducted by Bukit Aman’s Special Branch.

The public inquiry is to assist the authorities with their ongoing investigation into the disappearances of Joshua and Ruth and to identify the best possible recommendations and work on these with appropriate parties.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/18/religious-authorities-were-looking-for-joshua-says-witness/

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Muftis cannot enforce minimum age for marriage, say Islamic authorities

Hakimie Amrie Hisamudin

February 19, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Muftis can only propose the minimum age for marriage, not enforce it, according to Islamic authorities in Perak and Johor.

Perak mufti Harussani Zakaria told FMT that muftis could not set a minimum marriageable age and insist on adherence since it is not specified in Islam.

The Johor executive councillor in charge of Islamic affairs, Abdul Mutalib Abdul Rahim, said muftis could propose the minimum age but added that Muslims below that age could apply to the shariah courts to get married.

He said the courts would usually approve such applications.

Mutalib also commented on former Terengganu mufti Ismail Yahya’s suggestion that shariah law be made uniform across the states.

He agreed that muftis should discuss the proposal with the state religious councils, but said there were not many discrepancies between the states.

Ismail recently said Muslims in Malaysia were being deprived of justice due to the application of different sets of Islamic laws across the states.

He said the campaign to stop underage marriages among Muslims had failed as some states could allow a girl as young as 16 to tie the knot.

Shariah Lawyers Association Malaysia president Musa Awang, commenting last Friday on Ismail’s remarks, said making the country’s Islamic laws uniform would not only ease the work of shariah lawyers but also make such laws easier for people to understand.

Pahang mufti Abdul Rahman Osman said yesterday most shariah enactments were already uniform across the states.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/19/muftis-cannot-enforce-minimum-age-for-marriage-say-islamic-authorities/

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Unemployed JB man who allegedly stepped on Quran to undergo mental evaluation

18 Feb 2020

BY BEN TAN

JOHOR BARU, Feb 18 — A 33-year-old unemployed man was charged at the Magistrate’s Court here today after he was accused of stepping on the Quran and insulting Islam, in an incident that was shared ‘live’ on Facebook on February 13.

However, accused Mohd Zulkifli Ali was ordered to undergo a mental evaluation before proceeding with the case.

Earlier, Mohd Zulkifli nodded in apparent acknowledgement after the charges were read to him by an interpreter before Magistrate Nurasidah A. Rahman.

However, no plea was recorded from him.

This prompted Deputy Public Prosecutor Nurhayati Muhammad Fathullah to apply for the accused to be transferred to Permai Hospital in Tampoi here for a mental assessment.

The court allowed the application under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) where the accused will undergo a mental examination to ascertain his mental state.

Mohd Zulkifli was charged with two offences at the same location and time at a hotel room in Taman Tebrau Jaya at 8.40am on February 13.

For the first charge, he is accused of defiling the Quran by stepping on it with the intention of insulting Islam.

The offence is punishable under Section 295 of the Penal Code which provides for a maximum jail term of two years, or a fine, or both.

That particular section deals with the destruction, damage or defiling of any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons, with the intention of insulting the religion of any class of persons, or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion.

For the second charge, Mohd Zulkifli was charged with uttering insulting words heard by an individual with intent to defile his religious convictions and committing an offence under Section 298 of the Penal Code which provides for a term of imprisonment of up to a year or both.

The section deals with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, through words, sounds or gestures.

Nurasidah fixed March 17 as the date for the case’s re-mention and submission of the accused’s mental health evaluation.

Earlier, Mohd Zulkifli, clad in a white T-shirt and jeans, arrived at the Johor Baru Court Complex at about 9.30am.

On Saturday, the police confirmed that they had opened an investigation into a viral video which shows a man allegedly stepping on the Quran on Facebook.

The accused was subsequently arrested and remanded the following day for three days to assist investigations.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/02/18/unemployed-jb-man-who-allegedly-stepped-on-quran-to-undergo-mental-evaluati/1838555

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Mideast

 

Israeli PM Netanyahu’s trial to start March 17: ministry

February 18, 2020

JERUSALEM: The trial of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges will open on March 17, the justice ministry said Tuesday.

It said the indictment would be read by judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman in the presence of Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

The announcement comes as the 70-year-old prime minister campaigns ahead of March 2 elections, Israel’s third in less than a year, after two previous polls resulted in a deadlock between Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz.

Gantz had refused after September elections to join a unity government led by Netanyahu, saying he must first settle his differences with the judiciary before taking power.

Netanyahu was charged in the autumn last year with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit formally presented the charge sheet to the Jerusalem district court on January 28 after Netanyahu had withdrawn a request seeking parliamentary immunity lodged earlier that month.

His opponents had already mustered a majority in the legislature to deny him immunity.

Netanyahu is Israel’s only head of government to have been indicted during his term in office.

Under Israeli law, a sitting prime minister is only required to step down once convicted of an offense and after all avenues of appeal have been exhausted.

Netanyahu denies the charges and says he is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1629701/middle-east

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Pakistani Senate adopts resolution against Trump’s Palestine plot

19 February 2020

The Upper House of the Pakistani Parliament — the Senate — has unanimously adopted a resolution against a US-devised proposal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying the scheme seeks the Palestinian people’s “humiliating surrender” before their oppressors.

The 104-seat legislature approved Monday the resolution, which had been tabled by Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan from Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan party.

The document underlined the need for “a just, fair and peaceful solution” to the issue of Palestine based on UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, which call for “the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State, safe return of all Palestinians to their homes and lands currently in illegitimate possession of Israeli settlers in breach of international law, and stopping the acts of aggression against Palestinians.”

It also urged the Pakistani government to take steps to summon an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in an attempt to “chalk out a consensus-based strategy, with due regard to the rights and legitimate interests of the Palestinian people as recognized by the international law.”

Islamabad, it added, should also summon a special UN General Assembly session to hear the Palestinians and other stakeholders, and explore options for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Pakistan’s Senate further expressed dismay at Tel Aviv’s continued occupation of Palestinian territories, detention of hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails, and the relentless oppression of Palestinian people by the regime forces.

The scheme that US President Donald Trump calls “deal of the century” is “tantamount to an instrument of humiliating surrender for the Palestinians before the oppressor and the aggressor,” it noted.

The Senate also stressed that a peaceful and just solution to the Palestine issue is “in the larger interest of world peace and security,” demanding continued aid and technical assistance to the Palestinian nation.

The Mideast plan was drawn up by the Trump administration in coordination with the Israeli side. Trump released his controversial Middle East plan during an event at the White House alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington on January 28.

All Palestinian groups have unanimously rejected Trump’s initiative that 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.

The scheme also denies the right of return of Palestinian refugees into their homeland, among other controversial terms.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/19/619006/Pakistan-Senate-Palestine-Israel

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Iran's proposal: A national referendum in territory of Palestine

18 February 2020

Iran has proposed a referendum among all Palestinian people, including Muslims, Christians, and Jews, as well as their descendants, as the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Majid Takht-e Ravanchi outlined the plan in two letters sent to the world body's chief and the Security Council's president on November 1, 2019.

The full text of the letters was published Monday on khamenei.ir, the official website of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

Following are the texts:

In the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

No. 112284                                                                                                                             

01 November 2019

Your Excellency,

It is a source of grave concern that after more than seven decades, the question of Palestine is still unresolved and the international community has failed to settle this chronic complicated crisis. I attach hereby, for your kind attention, the text of a plan, received from the Secretariat of the International Conference on Palestine, concerning a National Referendum in the Territory of Palestine.

I should be grateful if you would have the present letter and its annexe circulated as a document of the Security Council.

Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Majid Takht Ravanchi

Ambassador

Permanent Representative

HE Mr. Antonio Guterres

Secretary- General

United Nations, New York

CC: HE. Ms. Karen Pierce

President of the Security Council

United Nations, New York

Introduction:

For more than seven decades, the question of Palestine has been the world's oldest and the most complicated crisis. As a result of the continued expansionist policies as well as the illegal and inhumane practices of the Zionist regime, the oppressed people of Palestine has been deprived from its inalienable and imprescriptible rights and their living conditions have deteriorated on a daily basis. Such policies and practices, which are in violation of the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and rules of international law, particularly international humanitarian law and human rights, have been systematically intensified due to the failure of the international community in taking serious practical measures to resolve the question of Palestine.

To realize their fundamental rights, particularly the right to self-determination as well as self-defense against occupation and illegal expropriation of their territory, the people of Palestine have resisted and made praiseworthy efforts thus far. Nevertheless, due to the lack of any comprehensive and practical initiative or plan corresponding with the historical facts and historical roots of the question of Palestine, it has remained unresolved.

Given the destructive consequences of the continued occupation of the territory of Palestine, the displacement of the people of this territory and the current intricate situation of the oppressed people of Palestine, as well as the threats emanating from this situation against regional and international peace and security, and taking into account the historical facts and being aware of the ineffectiveness of the initiatives proposed for resolving the question of Palestine, the Islamic Republic of Iran is of the belief that the only possible solution is to hold a national referendum with the participation of all Palestinian people including Muslims, Christians and Jews and their descendants; and accordingly, presents its initiative entitled "National Referendum in Palestine" to the United Nations.

It is essential that the said referendum be held by observing the principled criteria in line with historical realities and in conformity with the democratic principles and the fundamental and imprescriptible rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the observance of international standards on elections; Therefore, such referendum could constitute a solid basis for the settlement of the question of Palestine.

Title of the Plan:

National Referendum in the territory of Palestine

The objective of the Plan:

The objective of the plan for a "National Referendum in the Territory of Palestine" is to provide the grounds for the people of Palestine to exercise their right to self-determination.

Legal Basis of the Plan:

Following the illegal acts of Britain during the trusteeship period, in 1948 the Zionist regime was recognized by the United States and later by other countries such as the former Soviet Union, whereas the people of the territory of Palestine were never consulted about their fate. In fact, the Zionist regime was established without allowing the native population of the territory of Palestine to exercise their right to self-determination.

The measures that led to the formation of the Zionist regime were contrary to international law at the time. According to Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, Britain had no sovereignty over Palestine and should have allowed the exercise of the right to self-determination, namely holding a free referendum with the participation of all inhabitants of Palestine. Even after the establishment of the United Nations, whereas the Charter of the United Nations had included completely specific rules regarding territories like Palestine (Chapter XI - Articles 73-74), these regulations were not taken into account. Even resolution A/RES/181(II) A of the United Nations General Assembly in November 1947 on the partition plan for Palestine also was not implemented because the Palestinian Arabs were against it. Therefore, at the time of the formation of the Zionist regime, the right to self-determination of the people of Palestine was completely disregarded.

Furthermore, during the negotiations at the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, the representative of the Government of Iran, along with the representatives of some Arab countries, objected to the partition of Palestine and considered it as a ground for war and conflict.

In fact, so far the right to self-determination of the people of Palestine has neither been exercised at the time of the declaration of the formation of the Zionist regime in the occupied territories of Palestine nor afterwards. According to Article 1 common to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, all peoples have the right to determine their political status. Similarly, in accordance with Articles 1 and 3 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment of all human rights including the right to self-determination.

The International Court of Justice, in its advisory opinion of 9 July 2004 on the "Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory", evidently emphasizes the need for the observance of the right to self-determination of the people of Palestine and affirms the obligations of the Zionist regime to respect and observe it. Moreover, the necessity of exercising the right to self-determination by the indigenous people of a territory has been clarified fully in the International Court of Justice's Advisory Opinion of 25 February 2019 on "the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius by UK". According to this advisory opinion, a country that assumes the trusteeship of a non-self-governing territory cannot, at its own discretion and without observing the right of people to self-determination, detach a territory. As mentioned in this advisory opinion, any detachment that occurred without the consent of the indigenous people is null and void and other countries should avoid such acts.

Moreover, the right to self-determination is among the most fundamental principles recognized under international law that has been noted in Article 1(2) of the Charter of the United Nations and the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations Notwithstanding this fact, the right of the Palestinians to self-determination has constantly been violated, both at the time of the declaration of the formation of the Zionist regime in the Occupied Territory of Palestine and afterwards.

In other words, the right to self-determination, as a fundamental and undeniable right in international human rights system and as an erga omnes norm in public international law, has been recognized in many international instruments. Given the nature of this right as an erga omnes rule, all states are obliged to observe the commitments arising therefrom and to provide the conducive ground for its realization.

Likewise, noting resolution A/RES/194 (III) of 1948 of the United Nations General Assembly On the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, this Plan includes all genuine Palestinians. Accordingly, holding a fair and inclusive referendum is the most basic mechanism for nations to achieve their right to self-determination.

Implementation Phases of the Plan:

The implementation of this Plan includes four main phases:

Enforcing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their historical homeland.

Holding a national referendum among the people of Palestine, including the followers of all religions, who inhabited in Palestine before the issuance of the Balfour Declaration, for the self-determination and determination of the political system.

Establishing the political system determined by the majority of the people of Palestine.

Deciding on the status of the non-indigenous residents of Palestine by the political system elected by the majority.

Implementation Mechanisms:

All people of Palestine including Muslims, Christians and Jews will have the right to participate in the referendum.

Representatives of the people of Palestine from among the Muslim, Christian and Jewish will assume the primary and managerial role in all planning and implementation phases of the Plan.

With a view to facilitate the participation of all Palestinians, particularly the Palestinian refugees in this referendum, the global project for comprehensive identification, census and identity registration of all Palestinian citizens in Palestine and other countries will be implemented. An international authority with the participation of the representatives of the people of Palestine will be mandated to implement this project.

An international committee will be formed under the auspices and with the assistance of the United Nations and participation of the representatives of the people of Palestine to implement the above-mentioned plan and to focus on the main issues of Palestine inter alia historical, sovereignty and territorial issues related to Palestine and the Al-Quds Al- Sharif.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/18/618932/Iran-Palestine-Israel-referendum

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Is Abbas the key to Israeli annexation of West Bank lands?

February 18, 2020

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had expected more widespread, angry protests than eventually took place on the streets of Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus and Hebron following the Jan. 28 unveiling of the US plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace. He was hoping that such demonstrations would boost support for his leadership even as the dream of the Palestinian state he had promised his people faded away.

The plan presented by President Donald Trump represents a personal blow for Abbas. Since being elected president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2005, Abbas has been promising Palestinians that peaceful methods would lead to a state, unlike the sometimes violent tactics advocated by his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. Despite Abbas' efforts, for the past 15 years, he has endured constant blows, with none of his promises to the Palestinians being realized. In fact, peace has never seemed farther from fruition, and the occupation never deeper or more humiliating. From the Palestinians' perspective, the Trump plan legitimizes Israel’s occupation of their territory and legalizes the settlements built on their land. In other words, Abbas’ quest for a peaceful road to an independent state has been a miserable failure.

According to a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey, headed by Khalil Shikaki, 64% of Palestinians support a return to armed struggle. The survey of 1,270 respondents in early February also found that most view Abbas’ dismissal of the Trump plan as the correct response, but at the same time also do not believe he will make good on his threats to revoke Palestinian recognition of Israel and halt security coordination with Israeli forces. In short, this means most Palestinians want an aggressive leadership, one that is not all talk, reflecting distrust of their leader at the darkest hour of the Palestinian struggle after the 1993 Oslo peace agreement. The findings reflect a realization that the dream of a Palestinian state is unachievable as long as Abbas remains in power.

Israel is of course monitoring the Palestinian response to the Trump plan with great interest to see how it is affecting the already shaky ground on which Abbas stands. On the one hand, Israeli officials found it encouraging that senior Palestinian officials were unable to inspire people to turn out for mass protests and clashes with Israeli troops with the exception of several localized demonstrations. On the other hand, there is grave concern that Abbas, at the age of 84, is nearing the end of his political road. His potential successors are not yet sharpening their swords, but are closing ranks within their various camps and taking advantage of Palestinian despair over the lack of a diplomatic horizon.

Israel is keen to see Abbas enfeebled, embattled and bruised, with most of the Palestinian street ignoring his calls, but at the same time wants him to carry on. From the Israeli perspective, if a decision is made to annex West Bank territories immediately after March 2 elections, it would be best to do so with Abbas in control in the hope of the move eliciting only a weak response. On the other hand, the weaker Abbas is, the nearer the battle for succession. Each wannabe successor could try to strengthen his position by encouraging sweeping, violent resistance. Any sign of weakness, as Abbas is viewed as exhibiting, would sink a candidate’s prospects.

Three figures in particular regard themselves as viable heirs to Abbas and capable of leading the Palestinians in a different direction with a less conciliatory and ingratiating policy: Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah senior; Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy Fatah chief; and Jibril Rajoub, a senior Fatah official. Majid Faraj, head of Palestinian intelligence, is another possible candidate and probably Israel’s preferred choice. The prospects of Faraj succeeding Abbas are not, however, good, in part because he keeps a low profile due to his job, forgoing interviews and photos. For many Palestinians on the West Bank, he is an unknown figure, lacking the power base that every contender will need when the battle of succession gets underway.

One thing appears to be certain: Whoever replaces Abbas will strive for a determined, militant line vis-à-vis Israel and try to foment far more sweeping, determined and violent protests than thus far witnessed. Will the Palestinian street heed calls for popular resistance, or do people feel a sense of despair and distrust toward Abbas’ former protégés as well, including his bitter enemy Dahlan? It probably depends on what Israel does.

Unilateral Israeli annexation, as per the go-ahead granted by the Trump plan, will likely generate a wave of protests relatively easy to contain with Abbas in power. He will rant and rail, try to mobilize international support against Israel and even appeal to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, but Israel will stay the course and do whatever it wants. Unilateral annexation under a new Palestinian leader would alter that scenario, as the successor seeks to prove he is not as docile as Abbas.

Israel is all too familiar with such a scenario. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and even former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, all of whom are dismissive of Abbas and speak of him with disdain, would nonetheless prefer that Abbas remain in charge of the PA in order to maintain the status quo of a faltering entity too weak to resist.

The Israelis must, however, avoid chaos within the PA if they want its next leader to be able to withstand pressure for a return to armed struggle. Herein lies a paradox. Any Israeli diplomatic or military move potentially perceived by the Palestinian public as undermining Palestinian sovereignty — even if it doesn't entail immediate unilateral annexation of territory — could intensify protests and radicalize the positions of Abbas' heirs.

Even with Abbas having declared his intention to halt security coordination with Israeli forces, Israel is offering him closer military coordination in the arena of domestic Palestinian affairs in order to preserve his standing and warn rivals against taking actions with the hope of his departure. To that end, Israel is also offering an economic “gift”: It will issue hundreds of additional permits to allow West Bank Palestinians to work in Israel, perhaps illustrating that the current tensions do not impact business as usual.

Full report at:

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/02/israel-palestinians-mahmoud-abbas-donald-trump-jibril-rajoub.html

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Coalition: Will not tolerate attempts to undermine security in Yemen’ al-Mahra

19 February 2020

The Arab Coalition reiterated on Tuesday its support for the legitimate Yemeni government, adding that it will not tolerate attempts to undermine security in Yemen’s al-Mahra governorate.

“We support the Yemeni government’s efforts to address organized crime, smuggling and attempts to undermine security and stability in al-Mahrah Governorate,” said a statement of the Arab Coalition.

Colonel Turki al-Maliki, the spokesperson of the Arab Coalition, added in the statement that “The attempts of organized crime and smuggling groups in al-Mahra Governorate constitute a real security threat that undermines the legitimate efforts of the Yemeni government to impose security and stability in the governorate.”

Al-Maliki revealed that “some of the well-known figures in the governorate who are heading organized crime and smuggling groups attempted yesterday (Monday), to disrupt the efforts of government security agencies to stop and control smuggling operations in the governorate, and sought to facilitate these operations by using violence and lethal force by targeting security units and coalition forces, causing some injuries” among the security personnel.

He added that the Yemeni security forces and the Arab Coalition took the appropriate retaliatory measures, and by seizing weapons during the operation.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/19/Coalition-Will-not-tolerate-attempts-to-undermine-security-in-Yemen-al-Mahra.html

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Zarif’s meeting with US congressmen part of Iran’s general diplomacy: Foreign Ministry spox

19 February 2020

The Foreign Ministry spokesman has confirmed a recent meeting between Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif and a number of American congressmen in Munich, saying the talks took place as part of Iran’s “general diplomacy.”

Abbas Mousavi posted a tweet on Tuesday to comment on a Saturday meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference between Foreign Minister Zarif and a delegation of Democratic congressmen headed by Connecticut’s Senator Chris Murphy.

“Zarif has always said that he would meet with some members of the US Congress, who would ask to meet him, and detail the Islamic Republic of Iran’s vantage points and the realities of the region,” Mousavi noted.

“These measures are part of [Iran’s] general diplomacy, which includes meetings with elites and think tanks as well as interviews and briefings with press representatives,” the spokesman said.

On Sunday, Zarif incorporated pictures of his meetings with foreign officials on the sidelines of the conference, during which he engaged in “advancing the cause of peace and de-escalation in our region and beyond.”

Javad Zarif

@JZarif

Wrapping up three days in Munich, where I met with my counterparts from across the globe, as well as many other officials, think tanks, NGOs and media representatives on the sidelines of the @MunSecConf. Advancing the cause of peace and de-escalation in our region and beyond.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

1,550

7:19 PM - Feb 16, 2020

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US President Donald Trump, who has been enacting a policy of “maximum pressure” against Iran, however, came out critical of the meeting, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo questioned Murphy’s motives.

Trump said Tuesday, “Is there anything that I should know? Because that sounds like to me a violation of the Logan Act,” referring to an obscure, little-used federal law that prevents “unauthorized American citizens” from negotiations with foreign governments having a dispute with the US.

“They ought to find out about that if it’s true,” Trump added.

In turn, Pomepo said, “If they met, I don’t know what they said…I hope they were reinforcing America’s foreign policy and not their own.”

US conservative organizations and media outlets cited anonymous sources as saying that Murphy and other Democrats had met “secretly” with Zarif.

Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, however, confirmed the meeting and said, “Members of Congress meet with foreign leaders all the time, even when we disagree with the President’s policy toward that nation, and even when that nation is an adversary….”

Murphy’s office also said the senator had advised the US Embassy in Germany about his plans to meet with Zarif, while the congressman himself noted that his discussion with the Iranian foreign minister were “all apolitical priorities.”

“Unfortunately, President Trump’s Iran policy has been a total disaster,” the senator added. “It’s too bad the administration isn’t having these same conversations,” he noted.

“His policy is just making Iran stronger and more menacing in the region, and I wish he could have the guts to see what is right in front of his eyes – blind escalation, with no diplomatic pathway, isn’t working,” the senator bemoaned.

He reminded that he had met with Zarif both under Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama “for years.”

“They are our adversary…But I think it’s dangerous to not talk to your enemies,” the senator said, noting that the danger that is caused by the absence of any negotiation rises “esp amidst a cycle of escalation.”

Chris Murphy

@ChrisMurphyCT

1/ Attached is my usual account of my latest trip abroad, this one to Ukraine and Munich.

I met w the Iranian Foriegn Minister in Munich. It’s dangerous not to talk to adversaries, esp amidst a cycle of escalation.

Quick thread on what I told Zarif.https://medium.com/@ChrisMurphyCT/behind-the-scenes-of-my-trip-to-ukraine-and-munich-c1398a06ff0b …

Behind the Scenes of My Trip to Ukraine and Munich

I just got back from a return trip to visit President Zelensky in Ukraine and a stop at the important Munich Security Conference in…

medium.com

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The senator has been critical of Trump’s withdrawal from a historic nuclear accord with Iran and others in 2018. The departure was followed by the US’s returning of the sanctions that the deal had lifted. Both the withdrawal and the snapback of the bans flew directly in the face of the deal’s multi-lateral nature and the fact that it has been ratified in the form of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

Murphy went on to detail some of the subject matters that came up during his meeting with Zarif.

He said he wanted to meet the Iranian official for several reasons, including to “gauge whether he thinks the reprisals for the Soleimani assassination are over.”

The US military assassinated Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) among others, in a drone strike that targeted their car near the Baghdad International Airport on January 3.

The IRGC shortly unleashed volleys of ballistic missiles at the US bases in Iraq. Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei later described the retaliatory strikes as “only a slap.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/19/619008/Iran-meeting-United-States-Congress-Senator-Murphy-Zarif-Munich-Trump-Pompeo

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Turkey says Greece cannot deny Muslim Turkish minority

February 18 2020

Top Turkish officials on Feb. 18 slammed Greece's president for mislabeling the Muslim Turkish minority in a region of Greece bordering Turkey as a "Greek Muslim minority".

"The president of a country said to be the cradle of democracy again called the Muslim Turkish minority a 'Greek Muslim minority',” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Twitter, saying this mischaracterization comes “despite all the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.”

He added: “Whatever you say, Western Thrace's Turkish minority has been Turkish for centuries, it will remain Turkish..!"

On Feb. 16, visiting Western Thrace, a Greek region with a large Muslim Turkish population, Prokopis Pavlopoulos claimed that under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, the Turks of Western Thrace are only a religious minority, whereas the Orthodox Greeks living in the Turkish metropolis Istanbul are a national minority.

In a speech, Pavlopoulos referred to the Greek minority in Istanbul as a "Greek minority,” while using the expression "Greek Muslim Minority" to describe the Turkish minority in Western Thrace.

'Reprehensible' to deny Muslim Turkish minority

Ömer Çelik, the spokesperson for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), also blasted the Greek leader.

"It is extremely wrong for Greek President Pavlopoulos to call the Muslim Turkish minority a 'Muslim Greek Minority' during his visit to Western Thrace. Denying the identity of the Muslim Turkish minority is a reprehensible act," he said on Twitter.

Çelik urged Pavlopoulos to correctly address the Muslim Turkish minority with “respect for democratic values," adding that it is "unacceptable" for politicians to launch "systematic attacks against the identity" of Muslim Turks in an EU member country.

For decades Greece has enforced policies suppressing the Muslim Turkish minority of Western Thrace – often in defiance of European court rulings – such as denying them the right to elect their own muftis (religious leaders) or banning the word “Turkish” in the name of associations.

"[The identity of the] Muslim Turkish minority is a historical fact in Western Thrace. Nobody can change this fact. It is a racist approach to call the Muslim Turkish minority the 'Muslim Greek minority'," added Çelik.

He also said that efforts to change the historical facts about the Turkish community in Western Thrace are in vain, and that it is saddening to see such "racist approaches" in defiance of rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.

"Those who try to portray Western Thrace's Turkish society as a 'threat' and 'danger' are harming their democracy."

Çelik said Western Thrace's Turkish society is a "powerful resource" for Greek democracy.

Athens has claimed that the expression "Turkish minority" is not found in the Treaty of Lausanne, the 1923 pact defining the borders of the modern Turkish state in the aftermath of the Turkish War of Independence.

Greece's Western Thrace region is home to a Muslim Turkish minority of around 150,000 people.

Full report at:

https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-says-greece-cannot-deny-muslim-turkish-minority-152165

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Israeli military says will create command to combat Iran threats

18 February 2020

Israel’s military will set up a special branch in its general staff dedicated to threats from Iran, it said Tuesday.

The military said it will appoint a major general to head the command, which is part of a broader restructuring in the general staff.

A statement by the military offered few details about the new command, saying the nature of the new branch’s work was “yet to be determined.” But the move highlights the importance Israel places on the threats it views coming from Iran.

Iran has forces based in Syria, Israel’s northern neighbor, and supports Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. In Gaza, it supplies Islamic Jihad with cash, weapons and training, and also supports Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules the coastal territory. Israel also accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons - a charge Iran denies.

Israel has repeatedly struck Iran-linked targets in Syria in recent years and has warned against any permanent Iranian presence on the frontier. But its battle against Iran has increasingly come out of the shadows, with Iranian and Israeli forces coming into direct confrontation.

In November, the Israeli military said fighter jets hit multiple targets belonging to Iran’s elite Quds force, including surface-to-air missiles, weapons warehouses and military bases.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/18/Israeli-military-says-will-create-command-to-combat-Iran-threats.html

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Israel eases restrictions on Gaza Strip following ‘relative calm’

18 February 2020

Israel on Tuesday cancelled punitive measures it had imposed against the besieged Gaza Strip after a weekend wave of attacks with rockets and incendiary balloons by militants in the Palestinian enclave.

“In view of the relative calm around Gaza in recent days,” the defense ministry said it had decided “to reinstate the civilian measures that were suspended last weekend.”

“As long as calm is maintained, Israel will extend the fishing zone to 15 nautical miles (on Wednesday) and issue 2,000 new permits” for Gaza residents to enter Israel, said a statement by COGAT, the ministry’s unit in charge of civilian affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Israeli air force had attacked Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip on Saturday in retaliation for rocket fire from the enclave into Israel, a previous army statement said.

Following the rocket fire, Israel announced it would cancel a previous slight easing of the blockade on the Gaza Strip, reducing the zone in which it allows Palestinians in the coastal territory to fish.

The exchange of fire between both sides has escalated since last month after US President Donald Trump unveiled his Middle East peace plan, rejected by the Palestinians as a capitulation to Israeli objectives.

Islamist movement Hamas has controlled Gaza since 2007 and Israel holds it responsible for all fire emanating from the Strip.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/18/Israel-eases-restrictions-on-Gaza-Strip-following-relative-calm-.html

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Iran releases detained German prisoner, sets trial for French scholars

18 February 2020

Iran on Tuesday released a German prisoner who was detained in the country as part of a prisoner swap, as the trial date for two detained French scholars was set for next month.

Iran said Tuesday that a German held in Iran has been released as part of a prisoner swap for an Iranian held in Germany on suspicion of violating US sanctions.

“We announced that we are ready to (release) this German national... on condition that they (the Germans) do not extradite our citizen to America,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said.

“On Sunday... the Iranian national left Germany and entered Iran, and on Monday... we released the German national,” he told a televised news conference.

Tehran has repeatedly jailed dual citizens in recent years, mostly on espionage charges.

Meanwhile, the trial of two French scholars held in Iran was set to begin on March 3, their lawyers told AFP. France has called for the release of French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah and her French colleague Roland Marchal, who had been detained since June.

Iran has rejected France’s call as an interference at Tehran’s state matters.

“We do not recognise dual nationality. She is Iranian. We do not let other states to interfere in our judiciary matters. Their court session will be on March 3,” Esmaili said.

Adelkhah’s lawyer told Reuters last month that Iran had dropped spying charges against Adelkhah but she faced other security-related charges.

The issue has complicated ties between Tehran and Paris, both parties to a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. Washington exited the deal in 2018 and has reimposed sanctions that has hit Iran’s economy hard.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/18/Iran-releases-detained-German-prisoner-sets-trial-for-French-scholars.html

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UN: Houthis interfering in relief operations in Yemen

19 February 2020

The United Nations on Tuesday thanked Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for funding humanitarian operations in Yemen, reiterating that there are “several obstacles” facing relief work in the Houthi-controlled areas.

In a briefing on Yemen at the UN Security Council on Tuesday, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths praised in his statement the Saudi support for the medical air bridge to transfer critically ill Yemenis abroad for treatment.

Griffiths called all parties involved in the Yemeni conflict to make concessions to achieve unconditional peace.

“Peace won’t be dictated from a position of military dominance. Engagement in the UN process must be unconditional. It cannot be secondary to territorial gain, particularly when there is no military solution.”

Turning to another concern, Griffiths reminded the Council of the deteriorating SAFER oil tanker located off the coast of Yemen, warning that any rupture could spill over a million barrels of oil into the Red Sea.

“This threat…must be dealt with on a purely technical basis, without politicization,” he advised.

“The United Nations is committed, ready, and prepared to send objective, technical experts to undertake an assessment and initial repair, to be immediately followed by permanent arrangements to address the threat and make that vessel safe.”

On Sunday, Griffiths said that both sides of the conflict in Yemen agreed on a detailed plan to complete the first phase of a large-scale exchange of prisoners.

The announcement of the deal came after a seven-day meeting between rival sides of the Yemeni conflict in the Jordanian capital Amman.

For his part, Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, thanked on Tuesday Saudi Arabia for funding the humanitarian operations in Yemen.

Lowcock added that the rise in hostilities, as mentioned by the UN envoy, has displaced 35,000 people since January.

“This escalation, in addition to clashes in other places, has reversed the trend towards decreasing civilian casualties that we had seen in previous months,” he said, with 160 people killed or wounded nationwide in January.

“For months, I have called for a nationwide ceasefire. This call is even more urgent today when the violence, as Martin has said, is at a very real risk of spiralling out of control,” Lowcock said.

He pointed to serious obstacles hindering relief work in the Houthi-controlled areas.

The US ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft warned that Washington could halt its support to humanitarian agencies operating in Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, if the Iranian-backed Houthis do not stop undermining relief distribution.

Craft expressed concern over the levy imposed by the Houthis on the currency in areas under their control.

Britain’s envoy to the UN called on the Yemeni government to put forward a plan to reassure donor countries about the financial situation in Yemen.

She also expressed concern over the restrictions imposed by the Houthis on the delivery of relief aid to the areas under their control.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/19/UN-Houthis-interfering-in-relief-operations-in-Yemen.html

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Riyadh provided Jaish ul-Adl terrorists with weapons, equipment: IRGC cmdr.

18 February 2020

A senior Iranian commander says Saudi Arabia has provided at least three planeloads of weapons and equipment to a Pakistan-based terrorist group conducting acts of terror against the Islamic Republic.

Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)'s Ground Forces, made the announcement on Tuesday and said members of the so-called Jaish ul-Adl terrorist group operating on the northwestern, western and southeastern borders of the country are well-armed and equipped, which shows the terrorists enjoy the “all-out backing of the US, Saudi Arabia and their regional allies.”

Pakpour added that the IRGC Ground Forces had dealt a “heavy blow” to the terrorists despite such support for them.

The so-called Jaish ul-Adl terrorist group, which is based in Pakistan, has been behind several bomb attacks and kidnappings in the southeast of Iran.

Terrorist groups carrying out similar attacks against Iranian interests in southeastern and southwestern parts of the country have known links to Saudi Arabia and a number of other repressive regimes in the Persian Gulf region.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/18/618993/Iran-Brigadier-General-Mohammad-Pakpour-Saudi-Arabia-Jaish-ul-Adl-terrorist-group-

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Secretary of Iran’s Guardian Council calls for ‘healthy, lawful’ elections

18 February 2020

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the secretary of Iran’s Guardian Council (GC), which vets candidates for elections, has highlighted the importance of the upcoming parliamentary elections in the country, calling on observers of the votes to help executive committees hold “healthy and lawful elections” under close scrutiny and without interference in the voting process.

In a Tuesday message addressed to the monitors of the elections due on Friday, Ayatollah Jannati said all observers, regardless of their political or factional inclinations, had to apply the rule of law and avoid bias.

As stated in law, he said, the country’s armed forces, the three branches of government, and intelligence and security apparatus are not allowed to interfere in the voting procedure.

“Any misuse of public resources and government facilities in favor of a current or future candidate is contrary to electoral justice,” he said.

He said that all observers were obliged to make sure that the candidates are financially healthy and therefore less prone to fraud.

“All observers of the Guardian Council are obliged, with particular sensitivity to this matter, to confirm and announce the financial health of the candidates for the parliament and consider any documented and credible report regarding” any possible corruption cases.

“Do not neglect the rights of the people and the rights of the candidates,” Jannati told the observers, adding all candidate complaints should be reviewed and documented.

“Judgments in this regard are based solely on the rule of law and justice and there is a need to respond to their objections and questions,” he said.

Iran’s 11th parliamentary elections will be held on February 21, 2020. The date will also feature interim elections for Iran’s Assembly of Experts, which elects and oversees the activities of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution.

Campaigns officially started on Thursday and the candidates have one week to win the people’s support for their candidacy. After campaigning is over, there will be a 24-hour silence period until voting begins on Friday morning.

More than 7,000 candidates are competing to enter the parliament. A winning candidate must have at least 20 percent of the votes cast in their constituency in order to become lawmaker for a four-year term.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/18/618950/Iran-elections-Guardian-Council-Secretary-Jannati-parliamentary-elections

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Israel plans 9,000 new settler units in East Jerusalem al-Quds: Watchdog

19 February 2020

The Israeli regime reportedly plans to build 9,000 settler units between two Palestinian neighborhoods in the occupied east Jerusalem al-Quds.

The anti-settlement monitoring group Peace Now said on Tuesday that the details of the plan — the first such project in the city in more than 20 years — emerged a day after Israel's transport ministry approved a controversial proposal to extend a train line from Tel Aviv into the occupied Old City of East Jerusalem al-Quds.

The settlement units, as Peace Now stated, would be built on the site of Atarot airport located in northern al-Quds and between two Palestinian neighborhoods.

The watchdog group warned that the planned construction would drive "a wedge in the heart of the Palestinian urban continuity between Ramallah and East Jerusalem [al-Quds], thus preventing the establishment of a viable Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem [al-Quds]."

Peace now added that the plan "also includes the demolition of dozens of Palestinian residential units” that were built in the area throughout the years.

Under a so-called Middle East peace plan unveiled last month by the US, Israel will have sovereignty over all of al-Quds as well as settlements in the occupied territories.

Palestinians have rejected the plan as a conspiracy since they demand east Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of their state.

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.

Emboldened by US President Donald Trump’s all-out support, Israel has stepped up its settlement construction activities in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which pronounced settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds “a flagrant violation under international law.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/19/618998/Israel-settler-units-East-Jerusalem-al-Quds-Peace-Now-

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US threatens to suspend Yemen aid operations over Houthi interference

February 18, 2020

LONDON: The United States is considering suspending aid efforts in northern Yemen next month unless Houthi interference in relief operations ceases immediately.

Yemen is at the center of the worlds biggest aid operation but the Iran backed militia that triggered the war when it seized the capital in 2014 has repeatedly hampered international relief efforts.

Addressing the UN Security Council Tuesday, the US ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft said the Houthi meddling has reached such a level that donors are unsure if their aid is getting through.

“Houthi interference now prevents the guarantee of assistance delivery in the areas they control,” she said.

“In light of these entirely avoidable circumstances donors are faced with a difficult dilemma of how to continue delivering aid while remaining responsive to tax payers.

“We may be forced to consider suspending or reducing our assistance in northern Yemen as early as March unless undue Houthi interference ceases immediately and access to vulnerable populations improves.”

The UN says the Houthis are trying to introduce a two percent tax for international aid organizations.

Sir Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the Houthis have introduced more than 200 regulations on aid delivery, blocked staff and aid from reaching their destinations and failed to approve 40 percent of aid projects last year in the territory it controls.

“It is important to be clear that we have much more serious problems in the areas controlled by the Ansar Allah (Houthi) authorities,” Lowcock told the Security Council.

“The situation is unacceptable. Stopping the world’s largest aid operation would be fatal for millions of people.”

UN officials said this month they were considering scaling back operations in Houthi-controlled areas because the situation had deteriorated so dramatically.

“Humanitarians can no longer manage the risks associated with delivering assistance at the volume we currently are,” a senior UN official told Reuters

Last year the World Food Program suspended some food aid in Sanaa amid allegations the Houthis redirected aid from the people it was intended for.

The Houthis have refused to allow the agency to introduce a biometric data system to record who receives the aid.

Meanwhile, the UN’s main envoy to Yemen told the council that a sharp increase in violence  threatened the confidence building measures aimed at bringing the conflict to an end.

“We’re witnessing in Yemen what we have long feared,” Martin Griffiths said. “I’ve briefed this council several times on signs of hope. But we’ve all been acutely aware that renewed violence could reverse the gains made and render peace more difficult.”

He urged the parties involved to set aside short-term military goals.

The conflict in Yemen has pitted the internationally recognized government, which controls the south, against the Houthi militants, which seized much of the north in 2014.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1629691/middle-east

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Houthi militias bury dozens of fighters

February 19, 2020

AL-MUKALLA, YEMEN: Houthi media reported that the Iran-backed militia buried dozens of fighters, including a senior commander, who had been killed in combat against Yemeni government forces or by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes.

Brig. Yahiya Abdul Jabbar Juhedan, commander of the Brigade 417 Border Guards, was buried in Houthi-held Sanaa. Houthi media described him as having had “unrivaled” military know how.

Yemeni Army commanders say at least 1,000 Houthi fighters have been killed or injured since early last month, when fighting flared in the country’s north in the wake of a Houthi missile and drone attack that killed more than 110 soldiers and civilians in the city of Marib.

Fighting has intensified over the last couple of days, mainly in the provinces of Jouf, Marib and Serwah.

The heaviest fighting was reported on Monday and Tuesday in the northern province of Jouf, where government forces ambushed Houthi fighters and pushed backed their assaults in the districts of Masloub and Ghayl. Many Houthi fighters were killed, state TV reported.

IED kills family

An improvised explosive device (IED) planted by the Houthis struck a vehicle, killing a family of four and injuring a person in the western province of Hodeida, state media reported.

The family members were killed on Sunday when their car drove over the IED in the region of Moushaj.

The Houthis have planted thousands of landmines in Hodeida to obstruct a major push by government forces to liberate the province.

Local rights groups that document war casualties say Houthi landmines and IEDs have killed dozens of civilians so far this year.

The spiraling number of civilian deaths has prompted Yemeni officials to urge the UN to pressure the Houthis to stop planting landmines and to hand over maps showing where they are planted in liberated areas.

Brig. Gen. Tareq Mohammed Saleh told a UN official that the Houthis have planted thousands of landmines that kill civilians every day. Saleh urged the UN to help local demining efforts.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1629976/middle-east

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South Asia

 

Ghani becomes Afghanistan’s president for the second time

18 Feb 2020

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced the final elections results on Tuesday, introducing Mohammad Ashraf Ghani as the Afghanistan President for the second time.

According to IEC, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has secured 50.64% of votes, Abdullah Abdullah and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar have received 39.53% and 3.85% votes respectively.

The total turnout for Afghanistan’s 2019 presidential election was 1,823,948 which makes less than 5% of Afghanistan’s population if the whole population is assumed 40 million.

Ghani wins the election securing less than 2.5% of the nation’s votes.

Abdullah Abdullah’s electoral team said the election results fraudulent and they do not accept the final election results.

Afghanistan’s presidential election was held on the 28th of September 2019.

https://www.khaama.com/ghani-becomes-afghanistans-president-for-the-second-round-8979789097/

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Abdullah does not accept the election result, claims victory

18 Feb 2020

Following the announcement of the final election results by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) that announced Mohammad Ashraf Ghani the winner of the 2019 election with the 50.64% votes, Abdullah Abdullah appeared in a press conference with his allies claiming victory.

Abdullah Abdullah appeared in a press conference late on Tuesday evening claiming victory and said he will establish an inclusive government, earlier his supporters called to announce a parallel government if the election results are announced considering fraudulent votes.

Abdullah asked his supporters to stand against injustice and fraudulent votes.

“The Stability and Insurgence is the winner of the 2019 election and we announce our victory”, Abdullah said.

“The fraudsters are the rogues of history and we establish an inclusive government, long live Afghanistan!”, said Abdullah in a press conference addressing the nation and his supporters.

Abdullah accused the electoral commissioners of the national treason.

This comes as the final Afghan presidential election result was announced by IEC on Tuesday, introducing Mohammad Ashraf Ghani the winner with 40.64% votes.

According to IEC, Abdullah Abdullah the main rival of Mohammad Ashraf Ghani secured 39.52% votes standing in second place.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/abdullah-does-not-accept-the-election-result-claimed-victory-87987908/

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Afghan state telecom companies reduce data price by 20-30%

18 Feb 2020

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Telecommunication announced a reduction of data prices by the Afghan Telecom and Salaam, state-owned telecom companies.

According to the Ministry of Telecommunications, Afghan Telecom has reduced its data prices by 30% and Salaam, another state-owned telecom has reduced its internet data package prices by 20%.

This comes as the telecom and internet users have been regularly complaining of a high internet price in Afghanistan.

A year ago, a campaign naming ‘#WhereIsATRA’ started by some youths against low telecom service quality and high internet prices.

Mirwais Arya, one of the key members of the ‘#WhereIsATRA’ campaign who has closely monitored the telecom operations in Afghanistan told Khaama Press that the Ministry of Telecommunication which is the wholesale provider of the internet data is ready to provide internet to the private companies at a lower rate, but the private companies are in a tight collusion with each other trying not to lower the data prices.

The main issue with the state-owned Salaam telecom company is its low technical capabilities and inability to provide the same service quality as the private companies that will of course not lead to a market competion. Mirwais Arya told Khaama Press.

Mohammad Fahim Hashimi, the Minister of Telecommunications had early said that the telecom companies buy a one-gigabit internet for less than AFN 10.00, but resell at AFN 180.00 which is 18 times higher than the original price.

Despite the high internet data price in Afghanistan, the quality of the service is way lower compared to the neighboring countries.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/afghan-state-telecom-companies-reduce-data-price-by-20-30-8879069/

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Iran supplying Taliban with missiles, says Afghan security official

19 February 2020

Iran has supplied the Taliban with anti-aircraft missiles, the police chief of Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province said on Tuesday.

Iran has supplied Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s western province of Farah with portable shoulder-fired air-defense systems known as MANPADS, General Muhammed Haya told Radio Azadi, the Afghan branch of the US government’s Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s external broadcast services.

“We have evidence that shows Iran is supplying the Taliban with weapons,” said Haya, adding that the Taliban are trying to transfer the weapons they received from Iran to Uruzgan.

“Iran gave the Taliban these missiles so they can target the Afghan air force planes,” he said.

The Taliban had claimed on January 27 that it shot down a US military plane in Afghanistan's Ghazni, killing all military personnel on board, including high-ranking officials.

The US military later denied that its plane was shot down.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is also providing financial support to the Taliban, Haya said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had previously accused Iran of using militant groups such as the Taliban to undermine Afghanistan peace efforts.

The Taliban condemned the US killing of prominent IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani last month. The terrorist organization described Soleimani as a “great warrior” in a statement.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/19/Iran-supplying-Taliban-with-missiles-says-Afghan-security-official.html

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Africa

 

Turkish drone downed in Ain Zara, south of Libya’s Tripoli

18 February 2020

Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) evacuated all fuel tankers in the port of Tripoli after attacks by Eastern Libyan forces on Tuesday, in a new escalation in the battle for control of Tripoli.

The NOC in a statement said that “all fuel vessels have been evacuated urgently from Tripoli port after a strike near LPG ship.”

“All offloading operations were cancelled after projectiles struck near a highly explosive LPG tanker in Tripoli port,” the statement added.

On Tuesday evening, the Libyan National Army (LNA) announced the shooting down of a Turkish drone in Ain Zara, south of the capital, Tripoli.

The Libyan army spokesman said that the drone had taken off from the Mitiga Air Force Base, to target the LNA’s positions, in response to the army’s bombing of a Turkish cargo ship carrying ammunition and weapons coming from Turkey at the Tripoli port.

“The Turkish ship loaded with weapons and ammunition docked this morning in the port of Tripoli was destroyed,” the statement from the LNA’s media center said.

Since January, Turkey has sent several ships carrying arms and heavy trucks to Tripoli and Misrata, another western port, diplomats say.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2020/02/18/Turkish-drone-downed-in-Ain-Zara-south-of-Tripoli.html

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Turkish ship carrying weapons targeted by LNA in Tripoli port

18 February 2020

A Turkish cargo ship carrying ammunition and weapons coming from Turkey was targeted by the Libyan National Army (LNA) at the Tripoli port Tuesday, Al Arabiya sources reported.

“The Turkish ship loaded with weapons and ammunition docked this morning in the port of Tripoli was destroyed,” said a statement from the LNA's media center.

UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame confirmed the port was attacked, without giving additional details.

A Reuters reporter in Tripoli, which eastern forces have been trying to take, could see heavy smoke billowing from the port area. A port source said a warehouse had been hit.

Turkey has sent troops and weapons to support the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which is fighting against the LNA, led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, for control of Libya. Ankara has also been accused of sending Syrian mercenary fighters to the country, including freed ISIS prisoners.

The presence of the Turkish ammunition ship comes despite the European Union's attempts to enforce an arms ban on Libya.

“The arms embargo has become a joke, we all really need to step up here,” said UN Deputy Special Representative to Libya Stephanie Williams on Sunday.

Turkey also has commercial interests in Libya, which have brought it into conflict with the LNA.

In 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a disputed deal with GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj that gave Turkey maritime rights to vast swaths of the eastern Mediterranean. The deal has been rejected by the EU, which backs its members Greece and Cyprus, and other countries including Egypt.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2020/02/18/Libyan-Army-targets-Turkish-ship-carrying-weapons-in-Tripoli-port.html

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Security Council resolution reinforces Berlin peace process for Libya: UN envoy

18 February 2020

The UN Security Council’s most recent resolution on Libya is a “strong message” which reinforces the peace process for the country set out at a conference in Berlin, said the UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, at a press conference on Tuesday.

“The adoption by the Security Council of Resolution 2510 (2020) that gave the Berlin Conference conclusion a stamp of legitimacy that was needed in order to convey a strong message,” said Salame.

However, Salame said that the current truce had frequently been violated and referred to the attack on a Turkish ship in Tripoli’s port.

“The situation on the ground remains a situation where the truce is very fragile, is often violated, where new attacks took place, even today, in the very [sea] port of Tripoli, where incidents take place left and right,” he said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2020/02/18/Security-Council-resolution-reinforces-Berlin-peace-process-for-Libya-UN-envoy.html

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Libya's UN-backed govt suspends Geneva talks after Haftar port attack

19 February 2020

Libya's unity government announced late Tuesday it would halt its participation in UN talks aimed at brokering a lasting ceasefire in the war-torn country where a fragile truce has been repeatedly violated.

The pull-out came after a barrage of rocket fire hit a port in the capital Tripoli, the target of a months-long operation by eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar to oust the Government of National Accord (GNA).

"We are announcing the suspension of our participation in the military talks taking place in Geneva until firm positions are adopted against the aggressor (Haftar) and his violations" of the truce, the GNA said in a press release.

"Without a lasting ceasefire... negotiations make no sense. There can be no peace under the bombing," it added.

The port strikes were the latest violation of a tenuous truce that came into effect in January, brokered by Haftar-backer Russia and Turkey, which supports the UN-recognized government in Tripoli.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

"It is clear the objective of the systematic bombardments of the residential areas, the airport and the port, in addition to the total blockage of the oil installations, is to provoke crises for the citizens in all the aspects of their life", the GNA statement said.

It added that Haftar's forces were "trying in vain" to destabilize the state, having failed to seize power.

UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame launched the second round of talks on Tuesday in the latest international effort to end fighting between the warring sides, with five senior officers from the GNA and five appointed by Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) taking part.

A first round of the talks ended with no result earlier this month but Salame said there was "more hope" this time, mainly because of the approval of a UN Security Council resolution calling for a "lasting ceasefire."

EU to launch naval mission

Libya has been in turmoil since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed longtime dictator Moamer Gaddafi, with rival armed factions still vying for power.

In the latest outbreak of fighting, Haftar launched his offensive on Tripoli last April but after rapid advances his forces stalled on the edges of the capital.

The fighting has left more than 1,000 people dead and displaced some 140,000 according to the United Nations.

Further talks were planned to start in Geneva on February 26 on finding a political solution.

World leaders had agreed at a Berlin summit last month to end all meddling in the conflict and stop the flow of weapons, but little has changed on the ground since then.

EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday to launch a naval mission to enforce an arms embargo, which the UN said was being violated by air, land and sea.

The naval operation will be authorized to intervene to stop weapons shipments into the North African state.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/19/618997/Libya-ceasefire-talks-General-Khalifa-Haftar-GNA

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Haftar forces kill 3 civilians in attack on Libyan port

Gulsen Topcu 

19.02.2020

TRIPOLI

Forces loyal to Libyan renegade commander Khalifa Haftar killed three civilians at Tripoli port, the country’s UN-recognized government said Tuesday.

Five others were also injured in the two missile attacks, Fevzi Uneyyis, the spokesperson for the Health Ministry under the Government of National Accord (GNA), said on the Facebook page of “Operation Volcano of Rage,” a military operation being conducted by GNA forces.

Mustafa al-Mujai, a spokesman for the operation, said according to preliminary reports, heavy damage occurred at the port due to the attacks.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: Haftar in eastern Libya, supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the GNA in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.

Libya’s legitimate government has been under attack by Haftar’s forces since last April, with more than 1,000 lives lost in the violence.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/haftar-forces-kill-3-civilians-in-attack-on-libyan-port/1738012

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Somali army kills 12 Al-Shabaab militants

Feb 19, 2020

Somali army killed 12 members of Al-Shabaab extremists on Monday in an operation in the southern region of Lower Shabelle, a military officer said on Tuesday.

Ismail Abdi Malik, commander of the 16th Unit of Somali Special Forces, told journalists that the army launched an attack on a base used by Al-Shabaab militants in Wan lawayn town and inflicted casualties.

“The offensive happened successfully. There was a confrontation between the militants and the army. But the forces defeated them, killing 12 of them,” Malik said.

He added that the forces will maintain the offensives until the army drives the militants out of the whole region.

Residents said the town witnessed clashes between government forces and Al-Shabaab militants.

Full report at:

https://africa.cgtn.com/2020/02/18/somali-army-kills-12-al-shabaab-militants/

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Gallant Nigerian soldiers rewarded for historic successes against Boko Haram

February 18, 2020

Joe Hemba

For putting up very outstanding performances in the theatre of war, the Sector 2 of the Theatre Command of Operation Lafiya Dole in Yobe State, rewarded some of its personnel last weekend.

The special recognition to the soldiers came at the event of the Nigerian Army Social Activities (NASA) which is a Nigerian version of the West African Army Social Activities otherwise referred to as WASA staged by the Commander Sector II of Operation Lafiya Dole, Suleiman Idris.

PREMIUM TIMES checks revealed that this is the first time the activities were held in the theater in Damaturu during the almost ten years of the Boko Haram insurgency.

While the event was garnished with cultural and social activities by the troops that prompted guests to jerk from their seats for intermittent laughter and amusements, the occasion took a frenzied moment as the master of ceremony took a roll call of soldiers identified for special recognition. Guests became spellbound with emotions as these select soldiers took turns to take salute and collect awards from the commander and representative of the governor, Mai Buni, at the event.

At the beginning, the awards appeared to be a normal exercise until the Acting Director of Army Public Relation of Sector II of Operation Lafiya Dole, Polycarp Oteh, began to read their citation and the acts of gallantry that qualified them for the special recognition.

Sergeant Major Mustapha Abubakar won the Best Soldier 2019 of 233 Battalion after he successfully coordinated radio communications to troops to defeat Boko Haram on December 22, 2019 despite very high volume of fire. His citation reads:

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“15NA/74/4099 Sigm Mustapha Abubakar was born on 13 December, 1991 into the family of Mr. and Mrs Abubakar Sadiq from Adamawa State. He was enlisted into the Nigerian Army on the 13 December, 2015. He was taken on strength in Sector 2 Mobile Strike Team 5 on 13 November, 2017. Sigm Mustapha has shown remarkable contribution to the fight against insurgency in Operation Lafiya Dole Theatre within Sector 2 AOR. As a radio operator, he (always) ensures seamless communications within the formations/units under command.

“Mustapha displayed act of bravery during the attack on Damaturu by Boko Haram on the 22, December 2019. Mustapha, amidst high volume of fire, confidently moved ammunitions to resupply troops in the frontline and thus the BHT were defeated.

“Furthermore, he exhibited act of doggedness by advancing on the foot in hot pursuit of the fleeing BHTs during the counter-ambush operation at Jakana on the 26 of January, 2020 in which 2x Gun trucks and 2x AA guns were captured. Sigm Mustapha has shown a high level of discipline in the discharge of his duties.

“It is worthy to note that Sigm Mustapha is a disciplined hardworking soldier who is ready to carry out any task given to him diligently. He is hereby recommended by this Brigade for the gallantry award”.

The Commander Sector II Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Suleiman Idris addressing press at the event.

Corporal Yusuf Umar bagged the award for the best non-commissioned officer due to his doggedness as a driver after being shot severally by Boko Haram in an ambush. With his gallantry and courage, he never yielded to the fire power and drove through the ambush to a safer location with very high controlled military items. He still nurses gunshot wounds from the encounter and could not make it to the event. His award was presented (to) his friend. Below is his citation.

“Cpl Yusuf Umar of the sector 2 standby force was detailed as a driver of the 5-ton truck conveying military controlled items in a convoy on the 6 September, 2019. During the movement, the convoy came under Boko Haram attack and the troops fought through the ambush gallantly and defeated the Boko Haram Terrorist. Cpl Yusuf was shot several times while driving the truck but he continued driving from the ambush site until they reached their destination.

“Cpl Yusuf never yielded to the pain/pressure occasioned by the gunshot wound he sustained on his leg. He exhibited a high level of courage and act of gallantry by moving the items to a safer place and was rescued by troops.

Idris Buba receiving his award from the Speaker Yobe State House of Assembly Ahmed Lawan Mirwa

“Cpl Yusuf is currently on out-patient treatment. To receive the award on behalf of cpl Yusuf is Cpl Adamu Audu”.

Leadership, Professionalism, patriotism and dedication coupled with courage is the embodiment of Sergeant Musa Ibrahim. His courage manifested during a Boko Haram attack on Damaturu where he tacitly moved from trenches supplying ammunition to troops and boosting their moral as the Platoon Sergeant of the QRF Unit in Damaturu. His citation below reveals his act of gallantry.

“Sgt. Musa Ibrahim was born on 6 Jun 1982. He hails from Kachia Local Government in Kaduna State. he attended Army Primary School Kano and later proceeded to Army Day Secondary School Janguza Kano. He was enlisted into the NA on 19 August 2002 and posted to 21 Brigade Garrison on completion of his training. He was deployed to 233 Battalion and was inducted into operation Lafiya Dole on 4 February 2013. Musa was deployed as the Platoon Sergeant of the Unit’s Quick Response Force(QRF) at the Battalion Headquarters.

“Srgt. Ibrahim Musa regularly ensured training of soldiers of the unit’s QRF while instilling (a) fighting spirit in his subordinates. This came to the fore during encounter with BHTs where he fought gallantly as the PL Srgt of the Unit’s QRF. On 22 Dec 2019, Srgt Musa demonstrated high level of courage when Damaturu came under BHTs/ISWAP attack.

“He was observed moving from one trench to the other encouraging and motivating his colleagues thus boosting their morale. This motivation contributed (to) the success recorded during the meeting engagement with the terrorist where more than 30 of the terrorists were neutralized and the capturing of BHTs 1x Gun truck and cache of assorted ammunition.

“His hard work and courage is in keeping with the standard of professionalism in the Nigeria Army as well as patriotism of an exemplary citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

“Idris Buba remains one of the finest vigilante fighters with his dedication and commitment in the fight earning him the promotion of the commander of vigilante group in Damaturu. He also emerged as the best vigilante for the year 2019 having bursted and arrested several gangs including kidnap kingpin within the state. Below is his citation.

“Idris Buba was born in the year 1985. HE HAILS FROM Askira Uba IN Borno state. Idris JOINED Yobe state Hunters Group popularly known as Sarkin Baka in the year 2014. He has since then participated in several operations within sector 2 Operation Lafiya Dole AOR. Following his brevity, Idris was subsequently promoted and appointed the commander of Sakin baka Damaturu in 2015.

“Since his appointment as the commander, he has carried out several operations with his men and in conjunction with 233 Bn and 27 TF Bde respectively. In January 2019, Idris led his men to Chirokusko general area of Tarmuwa LGA where he arrested a kidnap kingpin and recovered 1x AK 47 rifle, 2 x den guns, 2 x loaded magazines with extra 44 rounds of 7.62mm(special) ammunition. Idris led another operation in May 2019 where his group neutralized 2 x cattle rustlers, captured 2 suspects alive, recovered 206 rustled cattle, 1 x magazine and 1 x locally made pistol.

“Similarly his group participated in meeting engagements against BHTs/ISWAPs attack in Damaturu on 22 Dec 2019 which led to the neutralization of many terrorists and recovery of 1 x GT with cache of assorted ammunition. In January 2020, Idris also led his men to the arrest of 5 x kidnapers terrorizing the general area of Jajere.

“These performances exhibited by his group has demonstrated his good leadership. Thus Idris is highly commendable for Command Sector 2 gallantry award.”

Some of the awardees who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES praised the commander for staging the event and recognising them for their contribution in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgents.

Idris Buba, who bagged the Best Vigilante Award, said he was humbled by the award. He said it has thrown a new challenge for him to realise that he is being watched on the things he does in the theatre.

“This award is a clear demonstration that whatever you are doing people are watching you. If I were doing things contrary to the work that I chose to do, the story would have been a different one. But look at me today collecting this award. It challenges me to think that the little contribution we are doing is being recognized. This will make me and my people to do more. I dedicate this award to all our members both living and dead,” Mr Buba said.

Full report at:

https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/377913-gallant-nigerian-soldiers-rewarded-for-historic-successes-against-boko-haram.html

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North America

 

Someone should talk to Iran, US senator says amid Trump anti-Iran approach

18 February 2020

Despite US President Donald Trump’s anti-Iran approach, Senator Chris Murphy says “someone should,” talk to Iran.

The Democratic senator made the comment in a Medium post published Tuesday after reports that he met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“I think it’s dangerous to not talk to your enemies. Discussions and negotiations are a way to ease tensions and reduce the chances for crisis,” he said. “I cannot conduct diplomacy on behalf of the whole of the US government, and I don’t pretend to be in a position to do so. But if Trump isn’t going to talk to Iran, then someone should.”

The meeting has faced backlash from Trump and his top diplomat, Mike Pompeo.

“If they met, I don’t know what they said. I hope they were reinforcing America’s foreign policy, not their own,” Pompeo said during a news conference in Ethiopia.

The US president went even further, suggesting that the Connecticut lawmaker’s move was a violation of US law.

“Senator Murphy met with the Iranians; is that a fact? I just saw that on the way over. Is there anything that I should know? Because that sounds like, to me, a violation of the Logan Act,” Trump said.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi has said that the meeting was part of the country's “general diplomacy.”

S.A MOUSAVI

@SAMOUSAVI9

دکتر ظریف همواره گفته اند که با برخی اعضای کنگره آمریکا که از او درخواست ملاقات می کنند، دیدار و دیدگاه های ج.ا. ایران و واقعیات منطقه را تشریح می کند. این اقدامات بخشی از دیپلماسی عمومی است که شامل دیدار با نخبگان، مراکز فکری و مصاحبه و دیدار توجیهی با اصحاب رسانه ها نیز می شود.

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10:36 PM - Feb 18, 2020

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Tensions between Iran and the US have risen in the wake of Trump’s anti-Iran campaign in the wake of his withdrawal from an internationally backed nuclear deal.

Tehran has vowed to resist the US economic war after scaling back its commitments under the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/18/618994/Iran-Chris-Murphy-Zarif-US-Munich

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US neocons, Zionist lobby losing war in Syria: Commentator

18 February 2020

The United States government, neoconservatives and the Zionist lobby in Washington are losing the war in Syria, according to Edward Corrigan, an international lawyer and political commentator.

US President Donald Trump has called for an end to Russia’s support for the Syrian government, engaged in efforts to liberate the whole country.

Trump "expressed concern over the violence in Idlib, Syria, and... conveyed the United States' desire to see an end to Russia's support,” in a call with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Sunday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed a similar sentiment among journalists at the Munich Security Conference after he talked with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

Commenting on this, Corrigan said, “They're losing the war. Before they did not want to engage in any sort of political process, they still thought that they could accomplish some of their goals by military means. Now, they realize that they can't do that. So now they're in public about this switching gears and talking about politics only because they're trying to save the remnants of the [Daesh] and dash other extremist groups in the better and undisruptive part of Syria.”

“And it's only because they're losing. And I don't think the Russians would do that because it's purely hypocritical to see the Americans have been providing weapons to Saudi Arabia, to the United Arab Emirates to the… militants in the south, and, of course, even the Pentagon has been arming the Kurds. So, you know, this is an example of hypocritical and say, you know, do it we say don't do as we do,” he said. 

“The Americans are up to their neck, in providing arms to the various groups in order to destabilize and try to destroy Syria, as are the Israelis. The Israelis are supplying American weapons and paying salaries. And you know, for the most part, providing American war materials to the extremist groups in Syria to take up Israel's objective,” he stated.

“And these are not the same as Turkey's objectives. And Turkey is trying to reassert itself as a player in the area. Some people call this, you know, reasserting itself with the Ottoman Empire. But the Turks also have a lot of problems with the Americans, you know, the strong support for the Palestinians inside Turkey. There will be next to zero support for the American move of their embassy from Tel Aviv to Turkey. There is no support for the so-called deal of the century, which is basically the total capitulation of the Palestinians, and enforcing an Israeli hegemony over the West Bank, and, you know, even that creating, what is, you know, basically, even more of an apartheid state than it is,” he noted.

“They want to take away the Arabs in Israel and put them into the West Bank but also take the West Bank deport the Arabs. They don't want the Arab population. They will only want Jewish only settlements,” he said. 

“So there's a lot of problems between Turkey and the United States, and we have seen evidence of this by, you know, Turkey price getting the S-4 defense system. Also, the Americans are threatening them about by not allowing Turkey to get the F-35 stealth fighters and there are other problems,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/18/618960/%E2%80%98US-neocons,-Zionist-lobby-losing-the-war-in-Syria%E2%80%99

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Pompeo says Ethiopia-Egypt dam dispute could take months to resolve

February 18, 2020

ADDIS ABABA: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that it could take “months” to resolve a dispute between Ethiopia and Egypt over a massive dam on the Nile River.

Tensions have been high in the Nile basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on the project in 2011.

The US Treasury Department stepped in last year to facilitate talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan — another downstream country — after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi reached out to US President Donald Trump, a close ally.

The latest round of talks concluded in Washington last week, and officials have said they want to reach a deal by the end of February.

But at a press conference Tuesday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, Pompeo said the process could take longer.

“A great deal of work remains, but I’m optimistic that over the coming months we can resolve this,” he said.

Ethiopia says the dam — which will be the largest hydropower plant in Africa — is crucial for its growing economy.

Egypt fears the project will disrupt the river that provides 90 percent of its drinking water.

Addisu Lashitew, an analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said he expected Pompeo “will be trying to make a final push” to reach a deal during his stay in Ethiopia.

“President Trump seeks to get the credit... as the dealmaker for resolving this issue,” Addisu said on a call with reporters last week.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew said at the press conference Tuesday there were “outstanding issues that need negotiation.”

He did not elaborate, but major sticking points include the filling of the dam’s reservoir, which Egypt worries will dramatically curb water flow downstream.

Ethiopia is the last stop on Pompeo’s three-country Africa tour, the first by a US cabinet-level official to the continent in 19 months.

On Tuesday he met Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year in part for pursuing an ambitious reform agenda upon taking office in 2018 following several years of anti-government protests.

Pompeo said the two men discussed the reforms and preparations for landmark elections planned for August 29.

“A free and credible vote will show there is no false choice between democracy and security, and it will ensure that everyone has a voice,” Pompeo said.

“I think the most impressive thing about these reforms is that they’re owned by the Ethiopian people,” he added.

Pompeo also met Tuesday with Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde and Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the African Union Commission which is headquartered in Addis Ababa.

On Wednesday he is expected to deliver a policy speech at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa before flying to Saudi Arabia.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1629706/world

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Trump: Erdogan trying to avoid tragedy in Syria’s Idlib

Michael Hernandez  

18.02.2020

WASHINGTON

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking to ensure a humanitarian catastrophe does not befall northwest Syria's Idlib province, U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday.

"He’s fighting on Idlib," Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One. "He doesn’t want people to be killed by the thousands, and hundreds of thousands."

Trump said Washington and Ankara are "working together" to determine what can be done amid a Syrian regime offensive backed by Russia and Iran that the UN said has led to the displacement of 900,000 people already.

"You have a lot of warring going on right now, a lot of warring going on, but I am dealing with President Erdogan," Trump said.

Mark Lowcock, the UN's humanitarian affairs chief, said Monday that "indiscriminate" violence in the region reached "a horrifying new level" since the regime offensive began in December and he demanded the Security Council to take action to avoid catastrophe of historical proportions.

"The biggest humanitarian horror story of the 21st Century will only be avoided if Security Council members, and those with influence, overcome individual interests and put a collective stake in humanity first. The only option is a ceasefire," he said.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib province into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/politics/trump-erdogan-trying-to-avoid-tragedy-in-syria-s-idlib/1737915

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