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US to impose new sanctions on Russia over nerve agent attack in Britain

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New York: The Trump administration said that it would impose new sanctions against Russia to punish Moscow for the use of a nerve agent in the attempted killing of a former spy and his daughter in Britain.
The State Department said in a brief statement that the sanctions were in response to “the use of a ‘Novichok’ nerve agent in an attempt to assassinate UK citizen Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in March”.
The US, on August 6, determined that the Russian government “has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. The statement said that following a 15-day Congressional notification period, these sanctions will take effect around August 22.
Russia has rejected allegations levelled by the UK that Moscow was behind the deadly nerve-agent attack in the English city of Salisbury on March 4 that had left Skripal and his daughter hospitalised in critical condition.
The sanctions are mandated under the Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991, which “requires the President to make a determination with respect to whether a country has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals,” the State Department said.
The Washington Post quoted a State Department official as saying that the sanctions could have a significant impact on trade with Russia, including prohibition of licenses on sending some US goods there, such as electronic devices.
“But unless Russia agrees within 90 days to stop all use of chemical weapons and permit inspections to confirm their elimination, additionally mandated measures could cut off almost all trade between the two countries, prohibit landing rights for Russian airlines, and lead to a suspension of diplomatic relations,” the Washington Post report said.


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2+2 dialogue opportunity to enhance engagement with India: US

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Washington:Describing India as an “all-weather partner”, the US has said the upcoming 2+2 dialogue with the country is an important opportunity to enhance engagement on a range of diplomatic and security issues and discuss how to operationalise India’s status as a major defence partner.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis will travel to New Delhi next month for the 2+2 dialogue, the format of which was agreed upon between the two sides during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington in June 2017.
Earlier, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman were to travel to Washington to take part in the meeting with their US counterparts in July.
But the US had postponed the dialogue citing “unavoidable reasons”. After June last year, the two countries have tried to schedule the dialogue many times with several dates having been considered. Earlier this year also, the ‘2+2 dialogue’ had been postponed due to uncertainty over the confirmation of Pompeo as President Donald Trump’s new Secretary of State.
“With India, we are looking forward to the inaugural 2+2 dialogue with Secretaries Pompeo and Mattis travelling for these meetings in New Delhi on September 6,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Alice Wells told reporters on Monday.
“It is an important opportunity to discuss and enhance our engagement on a range of diplomatic and security priorities and really is an indication of the deepening strategic partnership that we enjoy with India,” she said.
Wells was addressing a Foreign Press Centre video conference from Washington on ‘US Policy in the Indian Ocean Region’ during which she previewed her upcoming travel to the Indian Ocean Conference hosted by the India Foundation in Hanoi on August 27-28.
She said India plays a central role in US national security adding that it is “enshrined in the President’s national security strategy as well as the administration’s South Asia and Indo-Pacific strategies.”

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US wants another Eid ceasefire in Afghanistan, says Pompeo

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WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who is likely to visit Islamabad in the first of week of September for talks with the new Pakistani government, said that the United States wanted a ceasefire in Afghanistan during Eidul Azha because this was also the desire of the Afghan people.
The Afghan government announced on Sunday that it wanted a ceasefire in the country during this Eid like the one that was observed during Eidul Fitr, which allowed rival Afghan factions, particularly the Taliban, to celebrate the religious festival peacefully with their families.
But Mr Pompeo and Afghan officials both said that for this ceasefire to happen, it was necessary for the Taliban to desire it as well.
“This plan responds to the clear and continued call of the Afghan people for peace,” Mr Pompeo said.
He noted that the last ceasefire in Afghanistan revealed the deep desire of the Afghan people to end the conflict. “And we hope another ceasefire will move the country closer to sustainable security,” the chief US diplomat said.
“The United States and our international partners support this initiative by the Afghan people and the Afghan government, and we call on the Taliban to participate.”
Pompeo said the US supported this initiative because “it is our hope and that of the international community that the Afghan people may celebrate Eidul Azha this year in peace, free from fear”. He said the US also supported Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer for comprehensive negotiations with the Taliban on a mutually agreed agenda. “We remain ready to support, facilitate, and participate in direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban,” said the US diplomat.
Earlier this week, Mr Pompeo telephoned the Saudi crown prince and also asked him to help arrange a ceasefire during Eidul Azha. The United States hopes that the ceasefire will enable the Taliban to experience the blessings of peace while celebrating the festival with their families.
Pompeo, who will be arriving in Islamabad after the ceasefire, is expected to urge the new Pakistani government to back its efforts for bringing a durable peace in Afgha­nistan. In return for Pakistan’s support in Afghanistan, Washington may drop its opposition to a $12 billion aid package with the IMF and consider restoring its security assistance to Pakistan.

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Sharif, daughter cannot leave Pakistan, says Imranled government

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Islamabad:Jailed former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam will be placed on the Exit Control List, the first meeting of the new Cabinet of Prime Minister Imran Khan decided , a move that will prevent them from fleeing the country.
Prime Minister Khan chaired the Cabinet meeting, which also discussed economic challenges and austerity measures, among other matters, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said.
He said the Cabinet decided to place Sharif and Maryam on the Exit Control List as part of the government’s anti-corruption drive.
The Cabinet also directed the law and interior ministries to implement red warrants against Sharif’s sons, Hassan and Hussain, and former finance minister Ishaq Dar and bring them back to Pakistan as they were “absconding criminals of the state”.
All three of them are named in corruption cases filed by the National Accountability Bureau and have been declared as absconders by an accountability court.
The law ministry has been directed to contact the British government over the Avenfield properties in London owned by the Sharif family, the minister said. The Sharif family bought the four posh flats through money laundering, a Pakistani anti-corruption court had found.
“Avenfield properties belong to Pakistan,” Chaudhry said, referring to one of the corruption cases against the Sharif family in which the 68-year-old former prime minister was sentenced to a total of 11 years in prison while his daughter Maryam, 44, was given eight years’ sentence by an accountability court earlier in July.
The father-daughter duo are currently serving their term at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, along with Maryam’s husband Captain (retd) Safdar who was sentenced to a year in prison.
Sharif’s wife, Kulsoom, is currently undergoing treatment in a hospital in London for throat cancer.
“Eliminating corruption is an important part of our [government’s] policy,” Chaudhry continued, adding that there will be no political appointments in Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s government.
The cabinet did not discuss anything regarding former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf, he said. Musharraf is staying in Dubai since last year and has been summoned by Pakistani courts in a number of cases.
The Cabinet meeting also focused on implementation of the policy measures announced by Prime Minister Khan in his address to the nation yesterday, the information minister said.
The Cabinet also decided that Prime Minister Khan will not go on on any foreign tours for the next three month “unless there is a pressing matter that needs to be addressed”. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will represent Pakistan on international platforms.

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