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Saudi King orders government reshuffle after Khashoggi fallout

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Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman ordered a sweeping government reshuffle , replacing key security and political figures including the foreign minister, as the kingdom grapples with the international fallout over critic Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

The surprise shake up saw the appointment of a new National Guard chief and the head of a new space agency, but the ministries of energy and finance were unaffected despite an economic downturn.

The revamp left untouched the authority of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler facing intense international scrutiny over the October 2 murder of journalist Khashoggi, which tipped the kingdom into one of its worst crises.

 

Ibrahim al-Assaf, a former finance minister who was detained last year in an anti-corruption sweep, will replace Adel al-Jubeir as foreign minister, a royal decree said.

Jubeir was effectively demoted to minister of state for foreign affairs, the decree added without explaining the change, as the kingdom appears diplomatically weakened after Khashoggi’s murder.

In other significant appointments, Prince Abdullah bin Bandar was named chief of the powerful National Guard, and Musaed al-Aiban was appointed the new national security adviser.

The reshuffle would help the crown prince further “consolidate power” as many of those promoted were his “key allies”, tweeted Ali Shihabi, head of the pro-Saudi think tank The Arabia Foundation.

In other changes, Turki al-Shabanah was appointed as the new information minister, replacing Awwad al-Awwad — who was named as an advisor to the royal court.

Turki al-Sheikh, a close aide to the crown prince, was removed as the head of the kingdom’s sports commission and appointed entertainment authority chief, while Ahmed al-Khatib was named tourism authority chief.

The king also ordered the creation of a national space agency to be led by one of his other sons, Prince Sultan bin Salman, a former astronaut.

The energy, economy and finance ministries were left untouched even as the kingdom grapples with a sharp fall in crude prices that has generated renewed uncertainty over Prince Mohammed’s Vision 2030 reform programme for a post-oil era.

But the appointment as foreign minister of Assaf, who holds a seat on the boards of state oil giant Aramco and the vast Public Investment Fund, indicates an emphasis on “economic diplomacy” as the kingdom seeks to reassure foreign investors rattled by the Khashoggi crisis, analysts say.

Assaf was held in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel last year along with hundreds of elite princes and businessmen, in what the government called an anti-corruption crackdown.


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International

Secret locations of US nuclear weapons in Europe accidentally leaked

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Washington: The secret locations of US nuclear weapons stored in Europe have been accidentally revealed in a report published by a Nato committee.

The document referred to the sites of roughly 150 American nuclear weapons.

“These bombs are stored at six US and European bases — Kleine Brogel in Belgium, Büchel in Germany, Aviano and Ghedi-Torre in Italy, Volkel in The Netherlands, and Incirlik in Turkey,” a section of the report seen by Belgian newspaper De Morgen said.

 

The information was included in an early version of the report published in April by the Defence and Security Committee of the Nato Parliamentary Assembly, titled A New Era for Nuclear Deterrence? Modernisation, Arms Control and Allied Nuclear Forces.

However, the reference has since been removed from the final version released last week.

The latest version of the report instead makes reference to aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons, adding: “The European Allies often cited as operating such aircraft are Belgium, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, and Turkey.”

A Nato official told The Washington Post the report was “not an official Nato document” and pointed out that it was written by the alliance’s parliamentary assembly.

“We do not comment on the details of Nato’s nuclear posture,” they added.

While the storing of American nuclear weapons in Europe has long been regarded as an open secret, media organisations on the continent viewed the document as confirmation.

“Finally in black and white: There are American nuclear weapons in Belgian,” the De Morgen report was headlined.

“Nato reveals the Netherlands’ worst-kept secret,” Dutch broadcaster RTL News said.

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‘They gave you Nobel for what?’ Trump asks Yazidi activist Nadia Murad

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Washington: US President Donald Trump appeared unfamiliar with the work and cause of Nobel laureate Nadia Murad as she pleaded with him to help the Yazidis of Iraq.

Murad, one of thousands of women and girls from the ancient faith abducted by ISIS as they overran swathes of Iraq in 2014, joined a group of survivors of religious persecution who met Trump in the Oval Office on the sidelines of a major meeting at the State Department.

After Murad explained how her mother and six brothers were killed and that 3,000 Yazidis remained missing, Trump said, “And you had the Nobel Prize? That’s incredible. They gave it to you for what reason?”

 

With little pause, Murad, who was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year, repeated her story.

“After all this happened to me, I didn’t give up. I make it clear to everyone that ISIS raped thousands of Yazidi women,” she said.

“Please do something. It’s not about one family,” she said.

Trump, who has boasted of crushing the self-styled caliphate of ISIS that once stretched across Iraq and Syria, also appeared at a loss when Murad asked him to press the Iraqi and Kurdish governments to create safe conditions for the Yazidis to return.

“But ISIS is gone and now it’s Kurdish and who?” Trump asked, before later telling her, “I know the area very well.”

Murad also explained how Yazidis took dangerous routes to find safety in Germany, whose welcome to refugees has been vocally criticized by Trump.

The US leader also appeared unfamiliar when he met a representative from the Rohingya, a Muslim minority targeted in a brutal campaign two years ago in Myanmar.

One day earlier, his administration banned travel to the United States by Myanmar’s army chief and three other senior officers, calling the violence “ethnic cleansing.”


The Trump administration frequently speaks of promoting religious freedom, a key issue for much of his evangelical Christian base.

Government ministers and representatives of persecuted groups are spending three days at the State Department for a meeting on religious freedom, which Vice President Mike Pence will address on Thursday.

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Iran FM at UN accuses US of ‘economic terrorism’

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Tehran: Iran’s foreign minister has renewed accusations that the United States was waging “economic terrorism,” on a visit to the United Nations during which Washington has sharply curtailed his movements.

After months of soaring tensions, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif came to New York for a UN session on sustainable development, where he denounced unilateral sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump.

Iranians are “subjected to the most brutal form of ‘economic terrorism’ — deliberately targeting innocent civilians to achieve illegitimate political objectives,” Zarif said from the rostrum on Wednesday.

 

The “unlawful, extraterritorial” sanctions “represent the greatest threat to the achievement of sustainable development goals of Iran and many of our neighbours,” he said.

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