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Pompeo urges neighbours to back Afghan peace talks

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WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Afghanistan on a surprise visit, stressing the need for neighbouring countries to support Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s effort to start peace talks with the Taliban, according to a transcript released in Washington.
Pompeo, who was greeted by Chief of Staff Abdul Salam Rahimi when he arrived at Gul Khanna presidential palace in Kabul for a meeting with Ghani, said the US not only supported the proposed talks but was also willing to participate.
But he clarified that the peace process would be Afghan-led and the US would only participate to help resolve differences and encourage Afghan­istan’s neighbours to support the process as well.
“We’re counting on all the actors in the region to be supportive. The Pakist­anis, too, need to understand that we need to have a set of elections [in Afghanistan] that do not have violence,” he said. “We’re counting on all the actors in the region to support this process and make sure the Afghan people can have their voices heard during these elections,” he added.
“We have seen good signs from lots of regional partners,” he said, repeating what his senior aide, Prin­ci­pal Deputy Assistant Secre­tary Alice Wells, earlier said in Islamabad last week.
Wells, who heads the bu­­r­eau for South and Central Asian affairs at the US State Department, said at a news briefing in Washing­ton this week, “It’s critical that Pakistan and Afghan­istan have improved relations in order to reinforce what has to be a unified effort to achieve reconciliation in the region. And we would like to see those steps extended to more vigorous counterterrorism effort on behalf of the Pakistani government.”
In Kabul, Ghani said at a joint news conference with Pompeo that all sides involved in the effort to promote the peace talks need to move with caution. “If we think only in one day a 40-year-crisis can be ended we are being unrealistic,” he said.
Pompeo’s visit to Kabul, which followed a tour of Asian countries, was his first to Afghanistan since he became secretary of state in April.


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International

26 killed as tour bus catches fire in China

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Beijing: A tour bus caught fire in central China’s Hunan Province killing 26 people, local authorities said. The 28 injured in the incident were rushed to three local hospitals for treatment. Among them the condition of five were state to be critical, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted local officials as saying.

The accident occurred around when the 59-seater bus from neighbouring Henan province suddenly caught fire on a highway in Hanshou County in the city of Changde.

The bus had 53 passengers, two drivers and a tour guide at the time of the incident.

 

The two drivers were detained and an investigation into the cause of the accident is underway.

The incident came a day after 64 people lost their lives while 640 were injured in a powerful explosion at a chemical plant in eastern China. The blast occurred on Thursday following a fire in a fertilizer factory in a chemical industrial park in Yancheng, Jiangsu province, according to the government of Xiangshui county.

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New Zealand bans Christchurch terrorist’s manifesto

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Wellington: New Zealand has banned the possession and distribution of a manifesto believed to be written by the lone terrorist who carried out the March 15 Christchurch mosques carnage where 50 people were killed, officials said on Saturday.

The Office of Film and Literature Classification announced that the document is objectionable under the law, reports CNN.

The so-called “manifesto” of Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian charged with the massacre, spans more than 80 pages and is filled with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rants.

 

“There is an important distinction to be made between ‘hate speech,’ which may be rejected by many right-thinking people, but which is legal to express, and this type of publication, which is deliberately constructed to inspire further murder and terrorism,” said New Zealand’s Chief Censor David Shanks. “It crosses the line.”

The document was posted on social media and was sent to the office of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern just before the shooting began.

On Thursday, Shanks called on the public to delete any copies, as well as online posts or links to the document.

People can also report any social media posts, links or websites.

“New Zealanders can all play a part in denying those who exhort hatred, killing and terror,” Shanks said.

“Do not support the murderous objectives of its author by republishing or distributing it.”

Earlier this week, authorities banned footage of the fatal shootings, including edited clips and still images.

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Death toll climbs to 64 in one of China’s worst industrial blasts in years

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Beijing: The death toll climbed to 64 in one of the worst industrial accidents of China in recent times which knocked down buildings, tossed children into air and caused a tremor equivalent to a magnitude-3.0 earthquake, officials said Saturday. The officials said that 24 others were missing.

The explosion occurred after a fire in the fertilizer factory in Jiangsu province on Thursday, according to the government of Xiangshui county. Thirty-four people were in a critical condition and 73 seriously injured, state-run China Daily reported. The death toll is expected to rise as several people have been critically injured.

Over 640 people were injured in the incident. More than 3,000 workers and around 1,000 residents have been relocated to safe places. The Ministry of Emergency Management said that 88 people were rescued from the scene.

 

Such is the scale of the devastation that the entire industrial park in the Yancheng resembled an area struck by a massive earthquake with almost all buildings demolished in one go.

It is the worst industrial accident since the massive explosion rocked the port area of Tianjin in 2015 in which 173 people were killed. The China earthquake centre reported an earthquake of 3.0 magnitude during the time of the blast. An aerial video posted by China Daily which provided the first detailed view of the area showed shocking images of the blast which has destroyed the entire neighbourhood, causing an extensive damage showcasing the destructive side of China’s unbridled industrial development.

Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical plant, where the blast took place, was flattened and 16 neighbouring factories were left with varying degrees of damage. The impact smashed windows and uprooted roofs of some buildings and reduced others to rubble. Officials claimed that the rivers outside the chemical industrial park were not polluted.

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