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India exempted from certain US sanctions over Chabahar port in Iran

Press Trust of India

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Washington/New Delhi: The United States has exempted India from the imposition of certain sanctions for the development of the strategically-located Chabahar port in Iran, along with the construction of the railway line connecting it with Afghanistan.

The decision by the Trump administration, which a day earlier imposed the toughest ever sanctions on Iran and is very restrictive in giving exemptions, is a seen as a recognition by Washington of India’s role in development of the port on the Gulf of Oman, which is of immense strategic importance for the development of war-torn Afghanistan.

“After extensive consideration, the Secretary (of State) has provided for an exception from imposition of certain sanctions under the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012, with respect to the development of Chabahar port, construction of an associated railway and for shipment of non-sanctionable goods through the port for Afghanistan’s use, as well as the country’s continued imports of Iranian petroleum products,” a State Department spokesperson told news agency PTI.

The US on Monday imposed “the toughest ever” sanctions on a defiant Iran aimed at altering the Iranian regime’s “behaviour”. The sanctions cover Iran’s banking and energy sectors and reinstate penalties for countries and companies in Europe, Asia and elsewhere that do not halt Iranian oil imports.

However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that eight countries — India, China, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey — were temporarily allowed to continue buying Iranian oil as they showed “significant reduction” in oil purchase from the Persian Gulf country.

To a question on the fate of Chabahar port after the US reimposed all its sanctions on Iran, the spokesperson said, “This exception relates to reconstruction assistance and economic development for Afghanistan. These activities are vital for the ongoing support of Afghanistan’s growth and humanitarian relief.”?

In May 2016, India, Iran and Afghanistan had inked a pact which entailed the establishment of Transit and Transport Corridor among the three countries using Chabahar Port as one of the regional hubs for sea transportation in Iran, besides multi-modal transport of goods and passengers across the three nations.

Pompeo’s decision to give India an exemption from the imposition of certain sanctions for the development of the port is driven by the South Asian strategy, which was announced by president Donald Trump in August.

It states that India has a major role in bringing peace and development in Afghanistan. “The president’s South Asia strategy underscores our ongoing support of Afghanistan’s economic growth and development as well as our close partnership with India,” the state department spokesperson said.

“We seek to build on our close relationships with both the countries as we execute a policy of maximum pressure to change the Iranian regime’s destabilising policies in the region and beyond,” thespokesperson added.


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International

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

Agencies

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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

Agencies

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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

Agencies

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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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