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Saudi crown prince deplores ‘repulsive’ Khashoggi murder in first comments

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Riyadh:Saudi Arabia’s crown prince denounced the “repulsive” murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and vowed justice will prevail, in his first public comments on the case, without addressing US accusations of a monumental cover-up.

Speaking at an investment conference in Riyadh, due to end on Thursday, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged there would be “no rupture” in ties with Ankara, after the killing in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul triggered a diplomatic crisis.

“The incident was very painful for all Saudis, it’s a repulsive incident and no one can justify it,” he said in Arabic, during an address to the Future Investment Initiative forum on Wednesday.

 

“Those responsible will be held accountable… In the end justice will prevail.” The prince, faced with mounting international censure, appeared relaxed as he shared the stage with Lebanon’s prime minister-designate Saad Hariri and Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad.

Three weeks since Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen living in self-imposed exile, disappeared after walking into the consulate to obtain marriage documents, the crisis shows no sign of abating.

Washington, a long-time ally of Riyadh, moved late Tuesday to revoke the visas of several Saudis. Britain followed suit on Wednesday as France said it was ready to back international sanctions against those responsible.

Saudi leaders have denied involvement in Khashoggi’s murder, pushing responsibility down the chain of command.

But Ankara has been holding its own investigation and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the killing was meticulously planned, calling for 18 Saudis detained by Saudi authorities to be tried in Turkey.

Erdogan on Wednesday spoke with Prince Mohammed in their first telephone conversation since the killing, a Turkish presidential source and Saudi state media said.

The two discussed “the issue of joint efforts and the steps that need to be taken in order to shed light on the Jamal Khashoggi murder in all its aspects,” the source added.

Speaking at the investment forum, Prince Mohammed said: “Many are trying to exploit the Khashoggi affair to drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and Turkey.” But, he said, “they will not succeed as long as there is a king named Salman and a crown prince named Mohammed bin Salman.”

Since becoming heir apparent last year, Prince Mohammed has won plaudits for reforms, including ending a decades-long ban on women drivers.

But his image has been tarnished by Khashoggi’s murder, despite repeated denials that he was involved.


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International

Imran Khan reshuffles cabinet amidst mounting criticism over govt performance

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Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan reshuffled his Cabinet amidst mounting criticism at the lackluster performance of the government.

The key ministry of interior was assigned to former ISI officer, Brig (retd) Ijaz Shah who was recently appointed as minister for parliamentary affairs.

He was a confidant of former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf. Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto reportedly named him among three people who were a threat to her life.

 

Shah was elected as a member of Parliament in last year elections.

Azam Swati, who stepped down last year as minister of science and technology for allegedly using his influence over police to register a case against a poor family, made a comeback and appointed as minister for parliamentary affairs.

Among other changes, information minister Fawad Chaudhry was made minister for science and technology and petroleum minister Ghulam Sarwar made minister for aviation.

Mohammad Mian Soomro would cease to hold portfolio of aviation and would be just the minister for privatisation. Minister of State for Interior and Shehryar Afridi was shifted and appointed as Minister of State for States and Frontier Regions.

Dr Zafarullah Mirza was appointed as Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on National Health Services in place of Amir Kiani who was sacked.

Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan was appointed as Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Nadeem Babar appointed as SAPM on Petroleum Division.

The Prime Minister has not appointed a new finance minister and instead planning to appoint an advisor on finance. Several names were making rounds for the key post. Those being discussed included Dr Abdul Hafiz Sheikh, Dr Hafiz Pasha and Shaukat Tareen. It is the first major reshuffle in the Cabinet since Khan became the prime minister eight months ago.

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213 died in Libya clashes, says WHO

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Washington: A total of 213 people have been killed and 1,009 others injured in the fighting between the UN-backed Libyan government and the east-based Army in and around the capital Tripoli so far, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

“Tripoli toll is now 213 dead and 1,009 wounded. WHO medical teams continue assisting surgical staff at local hospitals,” WHO tweeted.

“Two more ambulances have been damaged. WHO calls on all parties in Libya to protect civilians, health workers and health facilities,” the agency said.

 

The Army, led by Khalifa Haftar, has been leading a military campaign since early April to take over Tripoli where the UN-backed government is based.

Libya has been struggling to make a democratic transition amid insecurity and chaos ever since the fall of former leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011.

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Peace talks postponed after Taliban object to size of Afghan delegation

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KABUL: A meeting between the Taliban and Afghan politicians and civil society aimed at ending more than 17 years of war in Afghanistan has been postponed, officials and diplomats said on Thursday, citing Taliban objections to the size of the Afghan delegation.
The talks were set to begin in Doha, but a senior government official in Kabul said “the gathering has been called off for now and details were being reworked.”
Afghan delegates scheduled to fly to the Qatari capital on Thursday were told the trip was postponed and new dates were being discussed, a western diplomat in Kabul said.
“The government will have to change the composition of the delegation to make this meeting happen,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said leaders of the hardline Islamist group were uncomfortable with the size of the Afghan delegation and its composition.
“Presence of some participants was completely against the list of what was agreed upon,” Mujahid said, adding that the delegation included Afghans working for the government.
The Taliban have repeatedly refused to meet President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which they call a puppet regime, but have held several rounds of peace talks with US officials.
Ghani said on Wednesday the 250-member Afghan delegation included some government officials attending in a personal capacity. But the group did not include some of the most powerful figures in Afghan politics, who are reluctant to join forces with Ghani ahead of presidential elections due in September.
A senior government official said Afghan-to-Afghan peace talks are in jeopardy.
The talks between Afghan and Taliban officials at the same table for the first time have been considered a significant first step towards finding a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s protracted war.
The senior official said negotiations went awry after President Ashraf Ghani opposed a list of participants announced by the Qatar government, which is sponsoring the talks. The list of 243 people was announced by Qatar on Thursday.
The list differs in part from Ghani’s list of 250 people, according to the senior government official.

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