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It ‘certainly’ seems that Khashoggi is dead, says Trump

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Washington:US President Donald Trump said that it “certainly” seems that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared two weeks ago in Istanbul, is dead, adding that if this is confirmed there will be very serious consequences.

“It certainly looks that way… Very sad,” said the President when asked by a reporter whether Khashoggi, who disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, was dead.

Trump also said in remarks to reporters before boarding Air Force One to fly to a campaign rally in Montana that the alleged crime “will have serious consequences”, an Efe report said.

 

In previous comments to The New York Times, the President said on Thursday that it would be a miracle if the journalist is not dead.

“Unless the miracle of all miracles happens, I would acknowledge that he’s dead,” the President said. “That’s based on everything – intelligence coming from every side,” he added, noting that the case is not a positive development for US-Saudi relations.

Trump’s words came after he was informed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of the latest aspects of the case – insofar as they have been related to the US officials by Saudi and Turkish authorities.

Pompeo had travelled to Riyadh and Ankara this week to speak with local authorities there regarding Khashoggi’s disappearance, but returned and briefed the President personally at the White House on Thursday morning about what he had learned.

At their meeting, Pompeo asked Trump to give Saudi Arabia “a few more days” to investigate Khashoggi’s disappearance, although he did not specify when he expected that investigation to be completed.

The Saudi journalist had been living in the US since 2017, periodically writing columns for The Washington Post, but he disappeared on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Many lawmakers, media outlets and other experts have said that there is virtually no doubt that Khashoggi is dead, murdered by specially dispatched Saudi agents inside the consulate.

“We made clear to them that we take this matter with respect to Mr. Khashoggi very seriously,” Pompeo told reporters after his White House meeting with Trump, adding that the Saudis “assured me that they will conduct a complete, thorough investigation of all the facts surrounding Mr. Khashoggi and that they will do so in a timely fashion”.

“I told President Trump this morning that we ought to give them a few more days to complete that so that we, too, have a complete understanding of the facts surrounding that, at which point we can make decisions about how, or if, the United States should respond to the incident surrounding Khashoggi,” he added.

Trump had predicted on Wednesday that the truth about Khashoggi’s disappearance probably would become known before the end of this week, adding that the most important thing as far as he’s concerned is to determine if Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew anything about the journalist’s possible murder.

Pompeo’s new remarks point to the possibility that the Saudi investigation could take longer, despite the growing impatience of the international community.

The top US diplomat emphasized that the Saudi report will be “transparent” and that everyone will be able to ask questions about the matter.

The US administration then will also be able to judge whether the Saudi report was credible, accurate, fair and transparent, Pompeo said in response to a reporter’s question.

Pompeo also mentioned the long strategic relationship between Washington and Riyadh, saying that “They are an important strategic alliance of the United States and we need to be mindful of that as well.”

The Secretary of State noted that Turkey is also investigating the matter and predicted that the two separate probes, when considered together, will be able to provide a full picture of what actually occurred in Istanbul.


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Pakistan puts major CPEC power project on hold, asks China to delete it from list

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Islamabad: In a setback to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Pakistan government has decided to put on hold a major power project, Rahim Yar Khan power project, and has reportedly informed the Chinese government about the same. According to a report in Pakistan-based Dawn News, the Pakistan government will shut down several other schemes under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).

The report further said that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government has asked Beijing to “formally delete the project from the CPEC list”. The same was communicated to China in a meeting of the CPEC Joint Coordination Committee by Pakistan on December 20, 2018. According to the report, the project was pushed by the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz government in the past.

The development comes months after China refuted charges that Pakistan’s current economic crisis crumbled because of projects under CPEC. China had said that blaming CPEC was uncalled for and that the corridor in fact was something that would bolster Pakistan economy in the years to come.

 

The defence of CPEC was necessiated after rising voices in Pakistan against it. Several people questioned the loans taken from China and asked the terms for their repayment. Even the United States has said that the current state of Pakistani economy is a result of loans it has taken from Beijing and has made it clear that it won’t allow any bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which would be used by Islamabad to repay Chinese debt.

The IMF also later observed that increasing Chinese involvement in Pakistan’s economy could be disastrous on the latter’s future.

Islamabad has already cut the size of the biggest Chinese “Silk Road” project in Pakistan, a reconstruction of the main rail line between the port city of Karachi and Peshawar in the northwest by $2 billion, citing government concerns about the country’s debt levels. The changes are part of Islamabad’s efforts to rethink key Belt and Road Initiative projects in Pakistan, to which China has pledged about $60bn in financing.

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Trump threatens to ‘devastate’ Turkey’s economy if it attacks Kurds

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Washington: US President Donald Trump said that America would “devastate Turkey economically” if the NATO-allied country attacks Kurds in the region. “Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining IS (Islamic State) territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms,” the President tweeted.

“Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds,” but followed up in a second tweet, “Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey.”

Turkey views some Kurdish groups in the region as terrorist organisations and Kurds make up the majority of US-allied fighters operating in Syria in the civil war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad`s regime, CNN reported.

 

It`s a stark threat toward an ally in the region that has partnered with the US in the fight against the IS. CNN reported on Thursday that the first US military ground equipment has been withdrawn from Syria, according to an administration official with direct knowledge of the operation.

Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly lashed out at US National Security Adviser John Bolton for saying the US withdrawal was contingent upon Ankara`s pledge not to attack US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria once troops leave.

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Bill for delisting Pakistan as major ally tabled in US Congress

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WASHINGTON: A bill seeking to remove Pakistan from a list of America’s major non-Nato allies has been introduced in the US Congress, even though the Trump administration enhances its contacts with Islamabad in its pursuit of a peaceful end to the Afghan war.

The resolution — introduced by Congressman Andy Biggs who, like the Trump administration, is a Republican — sets new conditions for future re-designation.

If a US president desires to put Pakistan back on the list, he or she will have to certify to Congress that Pakistan continues to conduct military operations that are contributing to significantly disrupting the “safe haven and freedom of movement” of the Haqqani Network in the country.

 

The president also has to certify that Pakistan has shown progress in arresting and prosecuting Haqqani Network’s senior leaders and mid-level operatives.
Take a look: Pakistan has given us nothing but lies and deceit, says US President Donald Trump

The re-designation will require another certification from Congress that Pakistan has taken steps to demonstrate its commitment to preventing the Haqqani Network from using any Pakistani territory as a safe haven and that Pakistan actively cooperates with Afghanistan to restrict the movement of militants along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Known as Resolution H.R. 73, the bill has been sent to the House Foreign Affairs Committee for necessary action.

Mr Biggs, a second-term legislator, has no cosponsor and his move will need a strong support from the Trump administration and the Democratic Party to pass a House dominated by the Democrats.

In recent statements, President Donald Trump has clearly expressed his desire to withdraw at least half of the 14,000 US troops still stationed in Afghanistan.

Senior Democrats — both in and outside Congress — have also said that the United States cannot remain involved in these apparently unending wars in Afghanistan and Syria.

But before an ultimate withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Trump administration wants to ensure that the pullout does not lead to the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government in Kabul.

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