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Pakistan PM calls security meet as US suspends $255-million military aid

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Islamabad :Pakistan’s prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will meet senior ministers and officials over the next two days to discuss its response to US president Donald Trump’s remarks that America “foolishly” handed Islamabad billions of dollars in aid over the last 15 years and got “nothing but lies and deceit”.

Radio Pakistan reported that Abbasi would preside over a meeting of the federal cabinet on Tuesday, which will discuss among other things, the national security issue.

New agency Press Trust of India cited unnamed official sources as saying that Trump’s remarks would be the main point of discussion in the meeting.

 

The cabinet meeting will be followed by the meeting of National Security Committee (NSC) on Wednesday. Abbasi will chair the NSC meet which will review the security situation of the country and the region in detail.

The prime minister will chair the huddle to discuss the future course of action following the United States president’s scathing statement against Pakistan, a statement from Abbasi’s office said.

The meeting will be attended by foreign minister Khawaja Asif, interior minister Ahsan Iqbal, defence minister Khurram Dastgir-Khan, services chiefs and senior civil and military officers.

Trump tweeted that the US “foolishly” gave aid to Pakistan over the course of 15 years but Islamabad remained deceitful by providing safe havens to “terrorists” from Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s defence ministry fired back within hours of Trump’s comments alleging that it has got “nothing but invective and mistrust” for all the actions it took in support of America’s war against terrorism.

“Pak as anti-terror ally has given free to US: land & air communication, military bases & intel cooperation that decimated Al-Qaeda over last 16yrs, but they have given us nothing but invective & mistrust. They overlook cross-border safe havens of terrorists who murder Pakistanis,” the Pakistan defence ministry tweeted.

Pakistan’s foreign minister Khawaja Asif also met Abbasi after Trump’s accusations, a media report said.

“The meeting held a detailed review of the Trump’s statement,” the Geo TV reported citing its sources.

It said the two leaders also discussed the country’s foreign policy.

“We will respond to President Trump’s tweet shortly inshallah… Will let the world know the truth… difference between facts and fiction..,” Asif also tweeted.

“We have already refused to the US mantra of ‘do more’ for it (US). We have told the Trump administration that we will not do ‘no more’ for it. The ‘do more’ does not hold any importance. Pakistan is ready to publicly provide every detail of the US aid that it has received over the last 15 years,” the minister said.

Pakistan Peoples Party senator Sherry Rehman tweeted that the “coalition support funds has never been counted as AID in any accounting by Pakistan, nor will it be seen as part of assistance”.

“It was compensation on expenses incurred on joint action on border. Other ‘Aid’ we should indeed talk about, because Pakistan never charged for NATO traffic,” she said.


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Threats to US would mean Iran’s end, warns Trump

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Washington: US President Donald Trump has asked Iran “never to threaten” the US and warned Tehran that if it wants a fight, it would be “the official end” of the Islamic nation.

“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” Trump tweeted.

His tweets appeared to be a considerable shift in tone from the President’s brief remarks at the White House on May 16, when he responded “I hope not” after being asked whether the US and Iran were headed toward war, The Washington Post reported.

 

The White House has not officially responded to Trump’s tweets.

Trump issued his threat a few hours after the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said on Sunday that Iran does not fear a war but the US does, reports Efe news.

Salami said in a speech at a military ceremony broadcast on state-run Iranian TV that Tehran was not seeking war but did not fear it either, in contrast to the US, which is afraid of war and does not have the willpower to engage in one.

He also warned that the entire Middle East could become “a powder keg” for Washington.

Last week, the US decided to deploy to the Persian Gulf the amphibious assault ship USS Arlington, Patriot missiles, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and assorted warplanes, including bombers, after claiming that it had detected unspecified “indications” of Iranian plans to attack US forces in the Middle East.

In recent weeks, concern has been increasing that National Security Adviser John Bolton, a long-time hawk on Iran who was instrumental in instigating the invasion of Iraq under George W. Bush, might be working to edge the administration closer to some kind of military action against Tehran.

Last year, prior to bringing Bolton into the administration as one of his top advisers, Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal. More recently, Trump has tightened economic sanctions against the Tehran regime and his administration says it has built up the US military presence in the region.

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White House unveils 1st part of Middle East peace plan

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Washington: The White House has unveiled the first part of its Middle East peace proposal, which is being deemed as an economic “workshop” to encourage investing capital in the West Bank, Gaza, and the region, a senior administration official told CNN.

The White House announced on Sunday that the workshop will take place in Manama, Bahrain, on June 25 and 26, bringing together finance ministers with global and regional business leaders.

The effort is being headed by Jared Kushner, the senior White House adviser and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, who have spent years developing the proposal along with the much stickier political component, which officials said would be announced later in the year.

 

Kushner told CNN that “people are letting their grandfathers’ conflict destroy their children’s futures. This will present an exciting, realistic and viable pathway forward that does not currently exist”.

The senior administration official said that the plan will discuss four major components: infrastructure; industry; empowering and investing in people; and governance reforms “to make the area as investible as possible”.

The economic plan will also include a “combination of grant money, low interest loans and then also private capital”, the official said.

The workshop however, will avoid political issues such as whether the Palestinians will get their own state; the status of Jerusalem; measures Israel takes in the name of security; and what should happen with Palestinians and their descendants who fled or were expelled from Israel around the time of the state’s creation in 1948, he added.

Finance ministers, but not foreign ministers, will be invited along with delegations of business leaders.

However, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, told CNN that the plan was “futile”.

“Any economic plan without political horizons will lead nowhere… Palestinians will not accept any proposals which do not include a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

The decision on whether or not Palestinians would attend the workshop would be made by the leadership of Abbas, Abu Rudeineh said, adding that when a similar meeting was held in Washington in March 2018 to discuss ways of improving the economic and humanitarian situation facing Gazans, the Palestinians had chosen to stay away.

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Tourist bus near Egypt’s Gaza pyramids hit with bomb; injures 17

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Cairo: A roadside bomb hit a tourist bus near the Giza Pyramids, wounding at least 17 people including tourists, Egyptian officials said. The officials said the bus was travelling on a road close to the under-construction Grand Egyptian Museum, which is located adjacent to the Giza Pyramids but is not yet open to tourists.

The bus was carrying at least 25 people mostly from South Africa, officials added. The attack comes as Egypt’s vital tourism industry is showing signs of recovery after years in the doldrums because of the political turmoil and violence that followed a 2011 uprising that toppled former leader Hosni Mubarak.

The officials said security forces cordoned off the site of the explosion and the wounded were taken to a nearby hospital. The explosion damaged a windshield of another car, they said. Footage circulated online shows shattered windows of the bus.

 

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief media. Atif Moftah, general supervisor of the Grand Egyptian Museum, said the explosion did not cause any damage to the museum, in a statement issued by the antiquities ministry.

No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. It is the second to target foreign tourists near the famed pyramids in less than six months.

In December, a bus carrying 15 Vietnamese tourists was hit by a roadside bomb, killing at least three of them.

Egypt has battled Islamic militants for years in the Sinai Peninsula in an insurgency that has occasionally spilled over to the mainland, hitting minority Christians or tourists. The insurgency gained strength after the 2013 military overthrow of the country’s first freely elected president, an Islamist whose brief rule sparked mass protests.

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