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Saudi king backs son, praises judiciary amid furore over Khashoggi murder






Riyadh: Saudi King Salman stood by the crown prince and heaped praise on the judiciary , in his first public remarks since critic Jamal Khashoggi’s murder tipped the country into one of its worst crises.

The public prosecutor last week exonerated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king’s son, of involvement in the murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, but the CIA reportedly concluded he had ordered the assassination.

The prosecutor called for the death penalty against five men, announced indictments against 11 people, and said a total of 21 individuals were in custody in connection with the killing.


“The kingdom was founded on Islamic principles of justice and equality, and we are proud of the efforts of the judiciary and the public prosecution,” the 82-year-old monarch said in his annual address to the Shura Council, a top advisory body.

“We ensure that this country will never deviate from implementing God’s law without discrimination,” he added, without directly addressing the murder of The Washington Post columnist in his speech.

In Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy, only the king has the authority to oust the powerful crown prince –- who faces intense global criticism over the murder –- but he has repeatedly indicated that he has no intention to do so.

In his speech, the king praised his son’s economic reform program aimed at creating jobs for a swelling youth population and preparing the kingdom for a post-crude era.

Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television reported the prince will attend the upcoming Group of 20 summit in Argentina, his first overseas trip since the murder.

In a show of defiance, the prince will come face-to-face with international leaders from Turkey, the United States and other European nations at the two-day summit that begins November 30.

“The crown prince is sending a very clear message to the international community that nothing they say or do over the Khashoggi affair will interfere with Saudi decision making,” said Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute in the United States.

“Effectively, he is daring his international critics to put their rhetoric into action and betting that they won’t.”



Pakistan’s environment is favourable for my return: Musharraf




DUBAI: Former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf has said Pakistan’s current environment is favourable for his return and he will definitely come back to the country.

Addressing the media in Dubai , the former president while responding to a question said, “I have two courses open — first is that I do not go at all. But how can I not go? Pakistan is my country and my roots are there. There is no question that I don’t go. I will definitely go but there is one way of jumping and going all of a sudden like fools and the other is waiting a little. The environment is better now in my opinion, the political environment favours that I go back.”

In the current government, half of the ministers are those who were part of my cabinet, he added. “The law minister is my own and the attorney general is my own lawyer.”


Dismissing reports that he is critically ill, Musharraf said, “An impression is being given given that I am suffering with an illness owning to which I cannot move. I have no such issue.”

Regarding his political party, Musharraf said, “Our party [All Pakistan Muslim League] is being reorganised and Hidayatullah Khaishgi will be its new chairman.”

“Our party has no interest in destabilising the current [Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf] government, in fact, I feel if we have an interest in keeping Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari out of politics as they destroyed the country. This government has made a third political force and we fully support it,” he added.

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Our stand on Syria will not be reversed: Trump




Washington: The US is not reversing course in Syria, President Donald Trump has said as he defended his decision to keep a small number of troops in the war-torn country after the withdrawal of American forces.

Trump agreed to keep about 200 US troops as part of planned multinational force that would maintain a safe zone in northeastern Syria, the official said. This force would be in addition to the 200 troops the US is planning to maintain after the withdrawal at its base in at-Tanf, Syria, the official said.

“I’m not reversing course,” Trump told reporters responding to a question on his decision on keeping some 200 US troops in Syria as against his previous decision on full withdrawal of more than 2,500 troops.


“I have done something that nobody else has been able to do. In another short period of time, like hours, you’ll be hearing about the caliphate. It’ll 100 per cent defeated. Nobody’s been able to say that,” Trump said.

“That doesn’t mean there aren’t some very bad people walking around and strapping on bombs and all of these things. But we’ve done a job that nobody else has been able to do,” he said.

The US initially planned to only provide air support — not ground troops — to the observer force, but NATO allies objected and said they would not contribute troops toward such a mission without a US troop commitment, the official said.

After consulting with State and Defense Department officials, national security adviser John Bolton met with Trump on Thursday and convinced him to agree to commit “a couple hundred” troops, said a senior administration official, who briefed a small group of reporters on Friday on the plans on condition of anonymity.

Trump said Senator Lindsey Graham congratulating him this morning on having defeated the caliphate. “Frankly, I’m getting a lot of congratulations,” he said.

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Democrats push to block Trump’s border emergency




Washington: US Democrats rolled out their measure aimed at blocking President Donald Trump from circumventing Congress to seize federal dollars for construction of his controversial southern border wall.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the chamber will vote next Tuesday on the so-called disapproval resolution to terminate the national emergency that Trump declared last week, an exceptional step that sparked fierce political and legal battles.

The legislation is expected to clear the Democrat-held House of Representatives, then head to the Senate where it is guaranteed a vote under the rules. Its fate however is anything but assured in the upper chamber, which is controlled by Trump’s Republicans.


Trump swiftly weighed in to say he would reject the measure if it reaches his desk, deepening a showdown with his Capitol Hill opponents. “Will I veto it? 100 per cent,” Trump said, expressing confidence that Congress would not be able to override his objection. Overriding a presidential veto requires a two-thirds majority in both chambers, meaning substantial numbers of Republicans would have to break with Trump in order for his emergency declaration to be blocked.

Pelosi meanwhile hammered away at Trump’s “lawless” declaration, saying it had no valid rationale. “There is no evidence to support the president’s false claim of a crisis on the border,” Pelosi told a conference call Friday from Laredo, Texas, where she and fellow lawmakers were visiting a bridge connecting the US and Mexico.

Trump announced the emergency last week in order to bypass Congress, which did not approve the USD 5.7 billion he wanted for his wall, a longstanding promise from his 2016 presidential campaign. The spending bill, which he reluctantly signed in order to avert a government shutdown, included appropriations of just USD 1.4 billion for fencing and other barriers along the border, but specifically not for Trump’s proposed wall.

Democrats — and some wary Republicans — condemned Trump’s unilateral move as an effort to usurp the powers of the purse, which under the US Constitution are reserved for Congress.

“We do not have a monarch, we have a separation of powers in our country,” Pelosi said, adding she was urging Republicans to join Democrats in pushing back against the president.

The call to action comes as Trump and the White House press on with plans to re-purpose more than USD 6 billion from other sources, mostly already-allocated funds in the Defense Department budget.

Trump has repeatedly declared that rampant illegal immigration is fuelling a crisis along the border, leading to higher crime and strains on public services such as health care.

Congressman Joaquin Castro cited low levels of illegal immigration and record levels of national security resources at the border to boost the argument that Trump’s emergency declaration was unnecessary, and “an unconstitutional power grab.”

Castro, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said his resolution already has at least 226 co-sponsors, including one Republican — beyond the simple majority needed in the 435-member body. He said he would keep calling Republicans to build support for the measure and to urge lawmakers to send a bipartisan message to Trump.

“If the Congress rolls over on this, the president is likely to do it again,” warned Castro. Days earlier, 16 states filed suit against the Trump administration, saying the emergency declaration violated the US Constitution’s assertion that Congress is the final arbiter of public funds.

The White House has remained consistent in its position that the emergency order empowers Trump to reallocate funds. Military officials said some 6,000 active-duty troops and 2,300 National Guard members will be positioned along the border beginning March 1, helping install an additional 140 miles (225 kilometers) of concertina wire.

The states’ lawsuit countered that tapping military money would result in huge losses for the states’ National Guard units which would otherwise use the dollars for counter-narcotics activities and law enforcement.

Pelosi noted that a genuine emergency would secure support from Congress and the American people, but that Trump was merely declaring one in order “to honor an applause line in a rally.”

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February 2019
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