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Diwali celebrates triumph of light over darkness: Pompeo

Press Trust of India

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Washington: Greeting people across the world observing Diwali, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said that it is a festival that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness.

He also said that it is also a time of reflection and prayer when observers perform seva, or selfless service, without any expectation of reward or payment.

In a Diwali message wishing people a joyous and prosperous holiday, Pompeo said, “Also known as the ‘Festival of Lights’, this special occasion celebrates the triumph of light over darkness.” The US Secretary of State said that nearly a billion celebrants from around the world will light the diya, or lamp, “as a reminder that good ultimately overcomes evil, understanding over ignorance, and kindness over animosity”.

“As those celebrating decorate their homes with vibrant lights, I would also like to recognize the achievements of our friends in the United States observing Diwali who make important contributions to our country on a daily basis,” Pompeo said.

Senator John Cornyn, who is co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, said that Diwali marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year, and millions across the globe – including hundreds of thousands of Indian-Americans in Texas – celebrate the Festival of Lights.

“These lights are physical, including lanterns, candles, and fireworks, but for those who light the flames, they hold a deeper meaning. Diwali celebrates awareness of one’s inner light and light’s triumph over darkness. It celebrates goodness over evil and hope over despair,” he said.

Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to the US House of Representatives, in a video message said that Diwali is such a special time of year where people all over the world are coming together to light their lamps in honour the return of Lord Ramachandra to His kingdom after many years in exile, and celebrate the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.

“Unfortunately, in our world today, we find ourselves surrounded by darkness and divisiveness, based on race, gender, politics, or religion. We see political leaders and influencers, people in the media, unfortunately fomenting bigotry and hatred, for their own personal or political gain,” she rued.

Rather than engaging in constructive dialogue, treating each other with respect, disagreeing without being disagreeable, too much of the public discourse is dominated by hatred, tribalism, and character assassination which unfortunately has also led to threats or acts of violence, Gabbard said.


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International

CIA concludes Saudi Crown Prince behind Khashoggi’s killing: report

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Washington: The US Central Intelligence Agency has concluded Saudi’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, The Washington Post reported, citing people close to the matter.

The US assessment directly contradicts the conclusions of a Saudi prosecutor one day prior, which exonerated the prince of involvement in the brutal murder.

According to the CIA findings, 15 Saudi agents flew on government aircraft to Istanbul and assassinated Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate, the Post said. Queried by AFP, the CIA declined to comment.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, had gone to the consulate to obtain documents necessary to marry his Turkish fiancee.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly changed its official narrative of the October 2 murder, first denying any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts and later saying he was killed when an argument degenerated into a fistfight. In the latest version presented by the Saudi prosecutor on Thursday, a 15-member squad was formed to bring Khashoggi back from Istanbul “by means of persuasion” — but instead ended up killing the journalist and dismembering his body in a “rogue” operation.

The CIA scrubbed multiple intelligence sources, the Post said, among them a phone call between the prince’s brother — the Saudi ambassador to the United States — and Khashoggi. The ambassador reportedly told the late journalist that he would be safe to go to the consulate in Istanbul and get the papers he needed.

The US intelligence agency also said in determining the Crown Prince’s role it considered him a “de facto ruler” in Saudi Arabia: “The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” the Post quoted an official as saying.

That official dubbed Prince Mohammed a “good technocrat” — but also someone unpredictable who “goes from zero to 60, doesn’t seem to understand that there are some things you can’t do.”

The CIA conclusions threaten to further fray relations between Washington and key ally Riyadh, which has sought to end discussion of Khashoggi’s murder and rejected calls for an international investigation.

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China offers Myanmar support over Rohingya issue after US rebuke

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Beijing: China supports the Myanmar government`s efforts to protect domestic stability and approach to resolving the Rohingya issue, Premier Li Keqiang told the country`s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, after US Vice President Mike Pence offered a strong rebuke.

Pence voiced Washington`s strongest condemnation yet of Myanmar`s treatment of Rohingya Muslims, telling Suu Kyi that “persecution” by her country`s army was “without excuse”.

Meeting Suu Kyi on the sidelines of a Southeast Asian summit in Singapore, Li said China attaches great importance to its ties with Myanmar and would build on their tradition of friendship, China`s Foreign Ministry said.

“The Chinese side supports Myanmar`s efforts in maintaining its domestic stability, and supports Myanmar and Bangladesh appropriately resolving the Rakhine state issue via dialogue and consultation,” the ministry cited Li as saying.

China is “willing to provide the relevant parties with necessary support in this regard”, he added, without elaborating.

More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees crossed into Bangladesh from western Myanmar`s Rakhine state, U.N. agencies say, after Rohingya insurgent attacks on Myanmar security forces in August 2017 triggered a sweeping military crackdown.

The two countries agreed on Oct. 30 to begin returning refugees to Myanmar in mid-November. The U.N. refugee agency has said conditions in Rakhine are “not yet conducive for returns”.

China has close relations with Myanmar, and backs what Myanmar officials have called a legitimate counter-insurgency operation in Rakhine.

China`s statement cited Suu Kyi as expressing thanks to China for the many times it has extended help to Myanmar, especially the constant understanding and support for the Myanmar peace process and the Rakhine issue.

A plan to begin repatriating hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees to Myanmar stalled , amid protests by refugees at camps in Bangladesh and recriminations between the officials in both countries.

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US votes against UN censure of Israel over Golan

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UNITED NATIONS: For the first time, the United States voted against an annual UN resolution condemning Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights, dropping its practice of abstaining in the vote.

The non-binding resolution was adopted in a General Assembly committee by a vote of 151 to 2, with the United States and Israel the only two countries opposing the measure.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley called the resolution “useless” and “plainly biased against Israel,” citing concerns about Iran’s military role in Syria to oppose the measure.

“Further, the atrocities the Syrian regime continues to commit prove its lack of fitness to govern anyone. The destructive influence of the Iranian regime inside Syria presents major threats to international security,” she said in a statement on the eve of the vote.

Israel seized control of much of the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 war and later annexed it, in moves never recognized by the international community.

The resolution declares that the Israeli decision to occupy and annex the Golan was “null and void,” and calls on Israel to rescind that decision.

Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon applauded the US shift, which he said was “another testament to the strong cooperation between the two countries.” The administration of President Donald Trump has taken a strong pro-Israeli stance, defying UN resolutions by moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and cutting aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

US ambassador to Israel David Friedman told an Israeli newspaper in September that he expected the annexed Golan Heights to remain under Israeli control “forever,” and mentioned the possibility of US official recognition of the Golan as Israeli territory.

During a visit to Israel in August, US National Security Advisor John Bolton said there were no discussions on such recognition.

Israel and Syria, which has been embroiled in conflict since 2011, are still technically at war.

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