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Bangladesh’s PM designate Sheikh Hasina to take oath on January 7

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DHAKA: Sheikh Hasina will be sworn in as the Prime Minister for the fourth time at Bangabhaban – the official residence and office of the Bangladesh President. Besides Hasina, other cabinet ministers will also take an oath.

“The swearing ceremony of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and cabinet members will be held at Bangabhaban at 3.30pm on Monday i.e. January 7, 2019,” informed President Abdul Hamid’s press secretary Joynal Abedin.

The announcement came in the wake of President Hamid extending an invite to Hasina to form the government after Awami League appeared as the single largest party securing 288 of the total 298 seats. Elections were held for 298 of total 300 seats in Bangladesh on December 30, after polls were cancelled in one seat (Brahmanberia -2) and were deferred in one seat (Gaibandha) due to the demise of the BNP candidate.

 

Earlier in the day, elected Awami League members and party President Sheikh Hasina were sworn in as the members of Parliament. The swearing in ceremony was held at the Oath room of the Parliament.

As many as 257 Awami League members took oath alongside 22 Awami League alliance partner Jatiya Party members. Prime Minister-designate Sheikh Hasina also took oath as the member of Parliament today.

The Parliament speaker Shirin Chaudhury administered the oath ceremony.

However, Opposition members stayed away from the oath ceremony. The opposition alliance – Jaitya Oikya Front managed to secure seven seats – five were bagged by BNP and two by Gono Forum.

On the same day, a seven-member delegation of the Jatiya Oikya Front led by BNP secretary general Fakhrul Islam submitted a memorandum to the Chief Election Commissioner Nurul Huda demanding fresh elections under a caretaker and a non-partisan government.

Similar demands for fresh elections were raised by the opposition alliance. However, the election commission of Bangladesh had turned it down.

The 11th general elections to Bangladesh were held on December 30, 2018. The elections were marred by violent clashes between the ruling Awami League and the Opposition party – BNP members. As many as 18 people lost their lives in the violent clashes. Two civilians who had gone to cast their vote were caught amidst a cross fire and succumbed to bullet injuries later. A security personnel belonging to the Ansar force was also killed while bringing a situation under control on the day of the polling.


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International

Trump to meet Kim Jong-un again in late February: White House

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WASHINGTON: The White House announced that US President Donald Trump will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in late February.

During the meeting, the two leaders will hold talks over the steps taken by Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear and missile programmes. It may be recalled that the first meeting between the two leaders was held on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. The White House, however, did not reveal where the two leaders will meet in February.

The White House made the announcement shortly after Trump held a meeting with North Korean envoy, Kim Yong Chol, on Friday for a discussion that included talk about Kim Jong-un’s unfulfilled pledge to dismantle nuclear weapons programmes of North Korea.

 

“President Donald J Trump met with Kim Yong Chol for an hour and half, to discuss denuclearization and a second summit, which will take place near the end of February. The president looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

The press secretary told reporters: “We continue to make progress, we continue to have conversations. The US is going to continue to keep “pressure and sanctions” on North Korea until “we see fully and verifiable denuclearization”. We had very good steps and very good faith from the North Koreans with the release of hostages and other moves and so we’ll continue this conversation.And the President looks forward to it next February.”

Kim yong Chol arrived at the White House after meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun at a hotel in Washington.

“The Secretary, Special Representative Biegun, and Vice Chairman Kim discussed efforts to make progress on the commitments President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un made at their summit in Singapore. At the conclusion of the Secretary’s meeting with Vice Chairman Kim, the two sides held a productive first meeting at the working level,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said.

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Blast targets Al Qaeda ally in Syria, kills 11

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BEIRUT: An explosion outside an office belonging to an Al Qaeda-linked group in Syria’s northwest killed at least 11 people and wounded several others, opposition activists said.

The blast comes a week after members of the Al Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Arabic for Levant Liberation Committee, or HTS, took over control of wide parts of Idlib province and the surrounding countryside after forcing rival insurgents to accept a deal for a civil administration run by HTS in their areas.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Smart news agency, an activist collective, said the blast occurred on the southern edge of the rebel-held city of Idlib.

 

The observatory said 11 people were killed in the blast, including seven HTS members. Smart said 12 people were killed, many of them militants.

In the country’s east, an air strike in the last area held by the militant Islamic State group killed at least 20 people.

State news agency SANA said 20 people were killed in the air strike on the IS-held village of Baghouz, while the observatory said 23 people were killed including 10 IS members.

They both blamed the US-led coalition that has been providing air cover to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in their monthslong offensive to capture the area from extremists near the Iraqi border.

The SDF has intensified its offensive over the past weeks on the IS-held area.

Meanwhile in Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan met with US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to discuss the situation in Syria as the United States prepares to withdraw troops.

Graham, a prominent voice on foreign affairs in the US, met with Erdogan and other Turkish officials on Friday for talks that were also expected to include a proposal for the creation of a “safe zone” in northeast Syria.

The visit comes days after a suicide bombing, claimed by IS, killed two US service members and two American civilians in the northeastern town of Manbij.

Graham has said he is concerned that US President Donald Trump’s troop withdrawal announcement had emboldened IS militants and created dangerous uncertainty for American allies.

The Pentagon identified three of the four Americans killed in the suicide bomb attack in Manbij Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, who was based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, from upstate New York and based at Fort Meade, Maryland; and a civilian, Scott A. Wirtz, from St. Louis.

The Pentagon hasn’t identified the fourth casualty, a civilian contractor.

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Pakistan rules out India’s role in Afghan peace process

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Islamabad: Pakistan has ruled out any role for India in the Afghan peace process, the media reported on Friday.

“India has no role in Afghanistan,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said at the weekly media briefing on Thursday while responding to a query about Islamabad’s position on New Delhi’s part in the reconciliation process.

Faisal acknowledged that Pakistan has a difficult relationship with India, saying that despite Pakistan’s efforts for normalisation, no concrete progress could be achieved in ties with India, Dawn news reported.

 

“You all know that India is not willing to engage with Pakistan,” he reminded.

Faisal’s remarks were in sharp contrast to what Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had told the National Assembly last month.

“Since India is present in Afghanistan, its cooperation in this regard (facilitating a negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict) will also be required,” he had told legislators.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Pakistan on Thursday to discuss with the senior civil and military leadership the latest efforts to bring peace to the war-torn country.

Khalilzad, who met Taliban representatives last month in Abu Dhabi, is leading an inter-agency delegation to India, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan from January 8-21 to “facilitate a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan”.

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