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Saudis likely to admit journalist Khashoggi died during interrogation: report

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Washington: Saudi Arabia is preparing a report in which it is likely to admit that dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, missing since October 2, died during an interrogation at its consulate in Istanbul, according to a media report.
Khashoggi, 60, is feared to have been killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The incident has resulted in a global outrage, more so in the US as he lived here as a legal permanent resident and worked for ‘The Washington Post’.
Khashoggi, a US resident, vanished on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish authorities suspect he was abducted and murdered by the Saudis. But Riyadh insists that the journalist, a known critic of Saudi King Salman, had left the building and that murder claims are “baseless”.
US lawmakers have been demanding scrapping of the USD 110 billion mega defence deal with Riyadh, whereas heads of several companies, CEOs, newspapers have announced not to attend an upcoming finance conference in Saudi Arabia.
President Donald Trump on Monday talked to the Saudi King, during which the latter flatly denied having any knowledge of the missing journalist. Officially Saudi Arabia has insisted that the journalist left its consulate, but so far has not been able to give any proof of it.
Trump, who has warned Saudi Arabia of severe consequences, has dispatched his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for talks with the Saudi leader. Amidst global outrage, CNN on Monday reported that the Saudis were preparing a report that will acknowledge that Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation that went wrong. The interrogation was intended to lead to his abduction from Turkey, the news channel said citing two unnamed sources.
“One source says the report will likely conclude that the operation was carried out without clearance and transparency and that those involved will be held responsible,” the report said, cautioning that things could change as the report is still being prepared.
Earlier in the day, Trump told reporters that it was possible that some “rogue element” within the government could have carried out the inhuman act.
Some of the lawmakers criticised Trump for such a statement.
“President Trump’s suggestion that Khashoggi’s elaborately planned murder in the Saudi’s own consulate was orchestrated by ‘rogue killers’ defies reality,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen.
“Orders must have come from the top. The US must not be complicit in an effort to cover up this heinous crime,” he said.
“This is not leadership. We need answers from the Saudis about Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance. The President should be leading that effort and standing up for human rights,” Senator Mark Warner said.
“Trump accepting Saudi Arabia’s #Khashoggi story without a thorough, independent investigation only enables authoritarian behaviour,” said Senator Ed Markey.
Senator Dick Durbin called for a strong response from the US. “I cannot support President Trump’s proposed arms sales given the fact that Saudi Arabia is apparently complicit in the disappearance of Khashoggi,” he said.
“Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin should cancel his participation in the Saudi investor conference and it’s long overdue that the Trump Administration nominate a US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia,” Durbin said.


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Pakistan puts major CPEC power project on hold, asks China to delete it from list

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Islamabad: In a setback to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Pakistan government has decided to put on hold a major power project, Rahim Yar Khan power project, and has reportedly informed the Chinese government about the same. According to a report in Pakistan-based Dawn News, the Pakistan government will shut down several other schemes under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).

The report further said that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government has asked Beijing to “formally delete the project from the CPEC list”. The same was communicated to China in a meeting of the CPEC Joint Coordination Committee by Pakistan on December 20, 2018. According to the report, the project was pushed by the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz government in the past.

The development comes months after China refuted charges that Pakistan’s current economic crisis crumbled because of projects under CPEC. China had said that blaming CPEC was uncalled for and that the corridor in fact was something that would bolster Pakistan economy in the years to come.

 

The defence of CPEC was necessiated after rising voices in Pakistan against it. Several people questioned the loans taken from China and asked the terms for their repayment. Even the United States has said that the current state of Pakistani economy is a result of loans it has taken from Beijing and has made it clear that it won’t allow any bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which would be used by Islamabad to repay Chinese debt.

The IMF also later observed that increasing Chinese involvement in Pakistan’s economy could be disastrous on the latter’s future.

Islamabad has already cut the size of the biggest Chinese “Silk Road” project in Pakistan, a reconstruction of the main rail line between the port city of Karachi and Peshawar in the northwest by $2 billion, citing government concerns about the country’s debt levels. The changes are part of Islamabad’s efforts to rethink key Belt and Road Initiative projects in Pakistan, to which China has pledged about $60bn in financing.

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Trump threatens to ‘devastate’ Turkey’s economy if it attacks Kurds

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Washington: US President Donald Trump said that America would “devastate Turkey economically” if the NATO-allied country attacks Kurds in the region. “Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining IS (Islamic State) territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms,” the President tweeted.

“Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds,” but followed up in a second tweet, “Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey.”

Turkey views some Kurdish groups in the region as terrorist organisations and Kurds make up the majority of US-allied fighters operating in Syria in the civil war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad`s regime, CNN reported.

 

It`s a stark threat toward an ally in the region that has partnered with the US in the fight against the IS. CNN reported on Thursday that the first US military ground equipment has been withdrawn from Syria, according to an administration official with direct knowledge of the operation.

Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly lashed out at US National Security Adviser John Bolton for saying the US withdrawal was contingent upon Ankara`s pledge not to attack US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria once troops leave.

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Bill for delisting Pakistan as major ally tabled in US Congress

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WASHINGTON: A bill seeking to remove Pakistan from a list of America’s major non-Nato allies has been introduced in the US Congress, even though the Trump administration enhances its contacts with Islamabad in its pursuit of a peaceful end to the Afghan war.

The resolution — introduced by Congressman Andy Biggs who, like the Trump administration, is a Republican — sets new conditions for future re-designation.

If a US president desires to put Pakistan back on the list, he or she will have to certify to Congress that Pakistan continues to conduct military operations that are contributing to significantly disrupting the “safe haven and freedom of movement” of the Haqqani Network in the country.

 

The president also has to certify that Pakistan has shown progress in arresting and prosecuting Haqqani Network’s senior leaders and mid-level operatives.
Take a look: Pakistan has given us nothing but lies and deceit, says US President Donald Trump

The re-designation will require another certification from Congress that Pakistan has taken steps to demonstrate its commitment to preventing the Haqqani Network from using any Pakistani territory as a safe haven and that Pakistan actively cooperates with Afghanistan to restrict the movement of militants along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Known as Resolution H.R. 73, the bill has been sent to the House Foreign Affairs Committee for necessary action.

Mr Biggs, a second-term legislator, has no cosponsor and his move will need a strong support from the Trump administration and the Democratic Party to pass a House dominated by the Democrats.

In recent statements, President Donald Trump has clearly expressed his desire to withdraw at least half of the 14,000 US troops still stationed in Afghanistan.

Senior Democrats — both in and outside Congress — have also said that the United States cannot remain involved in these apparently unending wars in Afghanistan and Syria.

But before an ultimate withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Trump administration wants to ensure that the pullout does not lead to the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government in Kabul.

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