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Saudi crown prince crazy, says US senator

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Washington: US senators say they are more certain than ever after a private CIA briefing that the Saudi crown prince had a role in the murder of a journalist.

In a blistering attack, Senator Lindsey Graham said he had “high confidence” Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, BBC reported.

The South Carolina Republican described the Saudi royal as “a wrecking ball”, “crazy” and “dangerous”.

The Saudis have charged 11 people but deny the crown prince was involved.

Members of the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations did not mince words after the briefing by CIA Director Gina Haspel on Tuesday.

“There is not a smoking gun – there is a smoking saw,” Graham said, referring to Khashoggi’s alleged dismemberment in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

The senator said he could not support Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war in Yemen or arms sales to the Saudi government as long as the crown prince remained in power.

Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, echoed those views.

He said the US must “send a clear and unequivocal message that such actions are not acceptable in the world’s stage”.

Another senator, Bob Corker, told reporters, using the crown prince’s initials: “I have zero question on my mind that the crown prince MBS ordered the killing.”
The Tennessee Republican added: “If he was in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes. Guilty.”

Corker suggested that US President Donald Trump had condoned the murder of a journalist by refusing to condemn the Saudi crown prince.

Fellow Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama said: “Now the question is, how do you separate the Saudi crown prince and his group from the nation?”

The Senate is planning to vote on a proposal to end US military support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, after members of both parties advanced the resolution last week.

Senator Chris Murphy, who was not privy to Tuesday’s briefing, criticised the Trump administration.

“Not everything needs to be secret,” the Connecticut Democrat tweeted.

“If our government knows that Saudi leaders were involved in the murder of a US resident, why shouldn’t the public know this?”

The CIA has concluded Mohammed bin Salman “probably ordered” the killing of Khashoggi.

The spy agency has evidence he exchanged messages with Saud al-Qahtani, who allegedly oversaw the Saudi reporter’s murder.

The CIA director — who has reportedly heard an audio recording of the murder — did not attend a recent congressional briefing by cabinet members, dismaying lawmakers.

The White House denied having a hand in Ms Haspel’s conspicuous absence, and the CIA said no one had told Haspel not to attend.

At last week’s hearing, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis told senators there was no direct evidence of the crown prince’s involvement in Khashoggi’s death.

Trump has said the CIA findings on the crown prince were not conclusive.

On November 20, he said: “It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t.”


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China hopes resumption of Sino-India military drills will provide impetus to bilateral ties

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Beijing: China expressed hope that the resumption of military exercises between the Indian and Chinese armies that will begin on Tuesday would inject impetus and yield good results for the improvement of bilateral ties.

An Indian military team headed by Col Puneet Tomar has arrived in China’s southwestern Chengdu city to take part in the ‘Hand-in-Hand’ military drills between the two armies starting there from Tuesday, the Indian Embassy here said.

Officials earlier said both sides would field 100 personnel to take part in the seventh edition of the exercises. The inaugural ceremony would be held on Tuesday and the drills would be concluded on December 23.

The drills are being held after a gap of one year as they could not be held last year because both armies were locked in a 73-day standoff at Doklam in the Sikkim sector.

Asked about how China viewed the exercises being resumed after Doklam, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said “we hope this can have a good results”.

He referred to the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at Wuhan in April this year and the “important consensus” reached between the two leaders to improve relations.

He noted that the two leaders had met four times this year.

The two countries should implement the consensus between the two leaders including the exchanges between the two militaries, Lu said.

“Under the guidance of the consensus between the two leaders and through the concerted efforts of the two sides, I hope the exchanges between the two militaries can achieve positive outcomes, injecting impetus to the bilateral ties,” he said.

The Chinese military earlier said the subject of the exercises will include adoptive and basic training, and live shooting.

“The drills will promote understanding between the two militaries and improving their capabilities in fighting terrorism,” Chinese defence ministry spokesman Col Ren Guoqiang had said last month.

“True to its name which is ‘Hand-in-Hand’, we believe China and India’s militaries should work hand-in-hand to bring benefits to our people,” he said.

After the Doklam standoff, the two militaries made efforts to improve relations following the Wuhan summit.

Besides resuming the defence dialogue after the standoff, the two countries also held the 21st round of border talks.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who are the Special Representatives for the border talks, held the discussions on November 24 in Chengdu during which they called for intensifying efforts to find a solution to the vexed border dispute.

The two sides also held the ninth defence dialogue on November 13 led by Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra and Lt General Shao Yuanming, Deputy Chief of Joint Staff Department of Central Military Commission of China.

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135 hurt in ‘yellow vest’ protests in France, PM calls for ‘dialogue’

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Paris: A total of 135 people have been injured after violence broke out between police and groups of masked youth in several French cities during protests against high living costs, said Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.

Besides, 1,385 people have also been detained.

Created on social media, the “yellow vest” movement which got its name from the high visibility vests drivers keep in their cars, has lured people of all ages and backgrounds.

With no leader, it had turned into a bigger movement denouncing a squeeze on household spending, high living costs caused by Macron`s fiscal and economic policy which they say favours the rich. Some even demanded Macron to step down.

In a joint press briefing with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Saturday, the Minister added that 974 individuals remained in police custody and that the figure could rise.

At least 10,000 demonstrators participated in the Paris march, while 125,000 protesters turned out across the country.

Among the injured were 17 police officers who were hurt in the scuffles mainly in the French capital and Bordeaux city, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The situation is under control,” Castaner said, adding “…but totally unacceptable.”

“Time for dialogue. This dialogue has begun, it must continue. The French nation must find itself. No tax can threaten national unity,” said Prime Minister Philippe, noting that President Emmanuel Macron would propose further measures to abate the social anger.

After a calm start, tension flared in Les Grands Boulevards and streets near the Champs Elysees and the Republic Square where a group of hooded men joined the protest and hassled police by setting barricades and setting afire garbage bins and trees.

Scores of vehicles were burnt and shops damaged, forcing the police to fire tear gas and use water cannon to push back the rioters.

Armoured vehicles were also deployed for the first time in the capital since Paris suburbs riot in 2005 amid intensified security measures that the government implemented to avoid the chaos two weeks ahead of the peak of Christmas holidays.

As part of an “exceptional” security plan, the government has deployed 89,000 officers in the French cities.

In Paris, 8,000 officers have been put in place to maintain law and order to avoid any incident similar to last Saturday`s rioting that plunged the French capital into chaos, its worst unrest in decades.

Earlier this week, the French government dropped a plan to increase fuel tax next year, bowing to the force of the streets.

However, the protest movement shows no sign of abating. Protesters still demand concrete moves, notably a rise in minimum wage and lower taxes.

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Decision to assassinate Arafat approved by Saudis: Former senior advisor

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Washington : A former senior adviser to Yasser Arafat, the late leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), has said that Arafat’s death was not natural and he was actually assassinated, with Saudi Arabia approving the decision to assassinate him.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Palestine’s Arabic-language Shehab news agency, Bassam Abu Sharif said former US president, George W. Bush, had contacted Saudi officials after a meeting with former Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, during which Arafat’s liquidation was discussed, and Saudi authorities consented.

Abu Sharif went on to say that the Riyadh regime approved of Arafat’s assassination, because it viewed him as an obstacle to the Arab Peace Initiative, which envisioned a so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Sharon met with Bush at the White House and told him that he could no longer keep his promise of not physically attacking Yasser Arafat, because he was a leading terror figure and collaborating with Hamas, and that Hamas operations were carried out with the approval and blessing of Arafat,” the senior member of the PLO pointed out.

Abu Sharif highlighted that Bush contacted Saudi officials the following day and informed them of the matter, and the Al Saud regime agreed to the decision to assassinate Arafat.

The late Palestinian leader’s adviser noted that his new book, titled Salty Fish, contains many secrets about the assassination of Arafat; Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the former leader of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2004; as well as senior Hamas figure, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was found dead in his hotel room in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, back in 2010.

Arafat, who led an armed struggle against Israel in the late 1960s, died of unknown causes at a hospital near the French capital, Paris, on November 11, 2004. He was 75.

Israeli forces have attacked a group of Palestinian students, who planned to hold a ceremony to mark the death anniversary of Yasser Arafat,In 2012, Arafat’s widow, Suha, filed a legal complaint in France, claiming that her husband had been assassinated while staying at the Mercy military hospital near Paris in 2004. He had been moved to the hospital the previous month for diarrhea and vomiting.

According to French doctors, he died of a massive stroke, although the origin of his illness was unknown.

Arafat’s tomb in Ramallah was opened the same year, so that three teams of French, Swiss, and Russian investigators could collect samples for investigation.

A subsequent French investigation found no proof of poisoning. However, separate probes from Swiss and Russian experts found that Arafat had been poisoned to death with polonium.

An investigation has proved Israel assassinated the former leader of Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat.

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