Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

Pakistani army: Militants attack patrol, killing 2 soldiers

December 12, 2017

Pakistan troops on patrol in Waziristan. (AFP)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army says militants opened fire on an army vehicle on patrol in the country’s mountainous northwestern region near the Afghan border, killing two soldiers.

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Tuesday’s statement says the military vehicle came under attack in the North Waziristan tribal region. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Islamic militants have long been operating in the area.
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The military has carried out massive operation against them but militants are able to cross the porous Afghan-Pakistan border and shelter on the other side. They have also been able to carry out cross-border attacks.
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The Pakistani army has been constructing a series of fences along the border, which zigzags across a remote and difficult mountain terrain, to check the movement of militants.
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Afghanistan objects to the construction of the fences.
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Don’t drag us into your politics, Pakistan tells Indian leaders

December 12, 2017

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Polling officials checking the electronic voting machines (EVMs) in Surat on Friday on the eve of the first phase of the Gujarat Assembly election.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday claimed at an election rally that there was an attempt by Pakistan to interfere in the Gujarat polls.

Islamabad on Monday said Indian leaders should not drag Pakistan into their politics during Gujarat poll campaign.

“India should stop dragging Pakistan into its electoral debate and win victories on own strength rather than fabricated conspiracies, which are utterly baseless and irresponsible,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said on Twitter.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday claimed at an election rally that there was an attempt by Pakistan to interfere in the Gujarat polls.

Mr. Modi also alleged that suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar had held a meeting at his house with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a former Vice-President, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India, and a former Pakistan foreign minister.

Allegations baseless, says Congress

The Congress has termed Mr. Modi’s allegations “baseless”.

“Holding the country’s topmost post, Modiji is making baseless allegations. Modiji is worried, dejected, angry. Such a statement has no truth or fact, and is based on lies. Such a behaviour is unbecoming of a prime minister,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters on Sunday.

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, condemning Pakistan’s statement, said, “We are very proud of India’s democracy and totally condemn this unwarranted statement from Pakistan. I wish to tell Pakistan that Indians are capable of contesting India’s democracy on their own… India’s Prime Minister is a popularly elected PM… and so is the BJP.”

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/dont-drag-us-into-your-domestic-politics-pakistan-to-india/article21389702.ece

ATM cyber heists hit Pakistan banks

December 11, 2017

This photo shows that HBL ATM software license is not genuine. (AN photo)

ISLAMABAD: An ATM scam affecting hundreds of debit card users in Pakistan has led to several arrests by the country’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which apprehended another four suspects on Sunday.

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FIA official Abdul Ghaffar Mirani told Arab News that investigators have unearthed a scam of about $105,000 and expected the number to rise after digital forensic experts searched confiscated equipment and cloned debit cards used by the scammers.
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Mirani withheld the exact number of people arrested but said that mostly Chinese nationals had been taken into custody. “Our team is probing further as more complaints are pouring in and data is being compiled from other cities,” he said.
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The cyber heist is being dealt with by the FIA’s National Response Center for Cyber Crime (NR3C), the country’s only technology-based crime division, which was set up 10 years ago and assists other law enforcement agencies in Pakistan.
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On Friday, FIA Director Shakeel Durrani said at a press briefing that the investigation had revealed the involvement of Canadian, Nigerian and Italian hackers, as well as an Indian scammer identified as Sorev.
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The information was divulged by Saqibullah, a Rawalpindi resident running a racketeering business, who as their front man sold stolen financial information to the hackers. He is also involved in identity theft, credit debit card cloning and extortion. His arrest has expanded into a FIA investigation searching for his collaborators.
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Durrani said, “The prime suspect (Saqibullah) would take photos of ATM machines to match suitable skimming machines that were ordered from other countries.”
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The cash withdrawals from the hacked accounts were in China, Canada, Italy, Nigeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, US, but were not limited to those countries, he said.
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Revelations of the ATM-skimming scam were revealed last week by the country’s largest financial institution, Habib Bank Limited (HBL), which confirmed more than $105,000 had been stolen from 559 hacked HBL customers, mostly in the cities of Karachi and Lahore.
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Image result for Habib Bank Limited, photos, signage
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“We have more than 10 million customers, which means that the size of the amount missing is not very significant for the HBL, while the number of customers affected is also low, said HBL’s corporate and marketing executive Naveed Asghar, who was reported in a local English daily. “It is a fraud and we must check it and find the culprits … it happens in all the countries that use ATMs,” he said.
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Banks using outdated technology fitted with aging security protocols attracted a “organized foreign group” to hack the ATM booths, suggests the FIA, which is approaching the State Bank of Pakistan, the country’s banking regulator, to introduce biometric policy and enforce it across the banking spectrum.
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An HBL official in Islamabad told Arab News: “The practice of skimming is not new,” but the bank’s new biometric security measures, currently being introduced in its ATMs, “will prevent and curb future hacks.” Though HBL seems to be the main target, Standard Chartered Bank, Faysal Bank Limited, Bank Al Habib Limited and other banks have also fallen victim to cybercrime, he said.
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“Officially the bank hasn’t sent out warning notifications to customers of this continuing fraud but we are compensating the affected account holders. An internal memo has been circulated for each bank branch to check and monitor the ATMs,” the banking officer said.
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Former Afghan PM slams Iran’s ‘negative’ role

December 11, 2017

In this file photo, former Afghan prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar speaks during a welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 4, 2017. (REUTERS)
ISLAMABAD: Former Afghan prime minister and chief of Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA), Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, said Iran’s role in his country “has always been negative.”
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Tehran “has always preferred continuation of war in Afghanistan… Iran has invested for at least 30 years (on war),” he told Pakistan’s Geo TV.
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“Iran is a party to the war in Afghanistan and supports different groups… Most of the weapons came from Iran after the withdrawal of the former Soviet Union (from Afghanistan),” he said, adding that Tehran is providing weapons to the Taliban.
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“Many countries think their national interests are served by the continuation of the war,” he said, adding that other countries should not bring their rivalries to Afghanistan.
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“Unfortunately some neighbors don’t want an end to the war… so there’s instability, differences among Afghan leaders and a weak government. They’ve been spending on this war for 30 to 40 years,” Hekmatyar said.
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“Pakistan is the only country badly affected by the Afghan war. Pakistan… suffered the most. This war paved the way for the creation of groups that took up arms against Pakistan,” he added.
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“Pakistan wanted to import energy, gas, electricity and oil from Central Asia, but the war has blocked this and Pakistan faces a lot of problems due to an energy crisis.”
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Hekmatyar said the US has achieved nothing from the war: “The US has not only spent billions of dollars, but thousands of their personnel have been killed and injured. I don’t understand what the US wants to achieve from this war.”
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He renewed his offer to mediate between the Afghan government and the Taliban, adding: “We have contacts with the Taliban at different levels. I’m hopeful of progress as we’ve received positive signals from the Taliban.”
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Hekmatyar cited a “change in the Taliban approach to some extent, as the majority of Taliban leaders want peace.”
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He said: “I believe the Taliban have been forced to fight… due to internal and external factors.”
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Russia Urges India to Back China’s Belt and Road

December 11, 2017

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing and suit

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj (C) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shake hands before the start of their meeting in New Delhi, India, December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi Reuters

By Sanjeev Miglani

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Russia threw its weight behind China’s massive Belt and Road plan to build trade and transport links across Asia and beyond, suggesting to India on Monday that it find a way to work with Beijing on the signature project.

India is strongly opposed to an economic corridor that China is building in Pakistan that runs through disputed Kashmir as part of the Belt and Road initiative.

India was the only country that stayed away from a May summit hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping to promote the plan to build railways, ports and power grids in a modern-day recreation of the Silk Road.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said New Delhi should not let political problems deter it from joining the project, involving billions of dollars of investment, and benefiting from it.

Lavrov was speaking in the Indian capital after a three-way meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj at which, he said, India’s reservations over the Chinese project were discussed.

“I know India has problems, we discussed it today, with the concept of One Belt and One Road, but the specific problem in this regard should not make everything else conditional to resolving political issues,” he said.

Russia, all the countries in central Asia, and European nations had signed up to the Chinese project to boost economic cooperation, he said.

“Those are the facts,” he said. “India, I am 100 percent convinced, has enough very smart diplomats and politicians to find a way which would allow you to benefit from this process.”

The comments by Russia, India’s former Cold War ally, reflected the differences within the trilateral grouping formed 15 years ago to challenge U.S.-led dominance of global affairs.

But substantial differences between India and China, mainly over long-standing border disputes, have snuffed out prospects of any real cooperation among the three.

India, in addition, has drawn closer to the United States in recent years, buying weapons worth billions of dollars to replace its largely Soviet-origin military.

Swaraj said the three countries had very productive talks on economic issues and the fight against terrorism.

(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

 

Netanyahu in Brussels With EU’s Mogherini: Israel Should Give Peace a Chance

December 11, 2017

Netanyahu’s visit comes on the heels of a harsh exchange with the organization’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who fiercely opposed Trump’s Jerusalem move

(Brussels, Belgium) Dec 11, 2017 9:24 AM
Image result for Netanyahu, Federica Mogherini, photos

File photo: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and the European Union chief of foreign policy 

An Israeli prime minister has not traveled to Brussels, the heart of the EU, in 22 years.

Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, and the ramifications of the policy shift, are expected to be a dominant issue during the meetings. Various EU leaders have slammed Trump for the Jerusalem-recognition move, saying that by doing so he has taken Israel’s side on the Jerusalem issue.

The EU has for years adopted the Palestinian position on the matter, saying east Jerusalem needs to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Despite Mogherini’s tough words about the recognition, the EU foreign ministers did not immediately issue a condemnation of the move, because of opposition from Hungary and the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic – a strong ally of Israel inside the EU – followed Trump’s recognition by announcing that it was recognizing west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists in Paris protested on Saturday against Netanyahu’s visit, holding Palestinian flags and pictures of Macron branded as an “accomplice.” Protests also took place in numerous capitals over the weekend, including in Berlin, Beirut, London, Mogadishu, Amman and Tehran, as well as in Istanbul.

The Turkish daily Hurriyet quoted a presidential source as saying that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Macron spoke by phone on Saturday and agreed to “close cooperation” on the Jerusalem issue.

According to Huriyet, the two presidents “agreed to continue efforts to convince the US to reconsider its decision.”

Erdogan has called for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul on Wednesday to discuss the matter. Observers in Jerusalem say that the Turkish president is trying to “ride” the issue into a leadership position on the Arab and Muslim street, similar to what he did following the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010 when he became the temporary darling of the Muslim world for his tough rhetoric and confrontational approach to Israel.

Erdogan also spoke on the phone with the presidents of Lebanon, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan on Saturday regarding the issue. Israel has strong ties with both Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

One senior diplomatic official said that Netanyahu’s visit to Paris and Brussels will undoubtedly be “hot,” and that the prime minister is “furious” at Mogherini for her comments.

According to assessments in Jerusalem, there are influential voices in the EU saying that this is an opportunity to “provide an alternative” and to initiate a peace plan of their own, perhaps reviving the French initiative that died earlier this year when presidents François Hollande of France and Barack Obama of the US left office.

Netanyahu, according to diplomatic sources, has sought a meeting with all the EU foreign ministers for months, but had to overcome initial skepticism on their part.

He is expected to “stand up” to the Europeans, criticizing their “obsession” over the settlements and telling them that they are feeding Palestinian intransigence by giving the impression that a solution can be imposed on Israel from the outside.

Mogherini announced last week that she invited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to meet the foreign ministers at their monthly parley next month.

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Benjamin-Netanyahu/Defiant-Netanyahu-travels-to-lions-den-517565

See also Haaretz (Paywall):

https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/.premium-1.828186

BRUSSELS – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded a possible peace deal being drafted by the White House while speaking at the European Union in Brussels…
read more: https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/.premium-1.828186

Netanyahu faces pressure in Europe amid Jerusalem protests — Netanyahu has taken aim at what he called Europe’s “hypocrisy,” for condemning Trump’s statement

December 11, 2017

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he leaves the Elysee Palace on Sunday in Paris. (AFP)

BRUSSELS: Israel’s leader faces renewed pressure from Europe on Monday to reboot the Middle East’s moribund peace process following widespread criticism of the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in Brussels for an informal breakfast with EU foreign ministers who will urge him to “resume meaningful negotiations,” according to the bloc’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini.

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The talks come after French President Emmanuel Macron met Netanyahu in Paris on Sunday and called on him to freeze settlement building and to re-engage with Palestinians following widespread protests over the US move.

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Last week’s decision by the administration of US President Donald Trump upended decades of US diplomacy and broke with international consensus.

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Speaking alongside Netanyahu on Sunday, Macron again condemned the decision as “contrary to international law and dangerous for the peace process.”

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“I urged the prime minister to show courage in his dealings with the Palestinians to get us out of the current dead end,” Macron said after talks in Paris with the Israeli leader.

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“Peace does not depend on the United States alone… it depends on the capacity of the two Israeli and Palestinian leaders to do so,” the French leader said.
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Netanyahu has praised Trump’s decision as “historic” and he explained Sunday that Jerusalem “has always been our capital and it has never been the capital of any other people.”
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“It has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years, it has been the capital of the Jewish state for 70 years. We respect your history and your choices and we know that as friends you respect ours. I think this is also central for peace,” he said.
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“The sooner the Palestinians come to grips with this reality, the sooner we’ll move toward peace.”
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Before leaving Israel, Netanyahu had taken aim at what he called Europe’s “hypocrisy,” for condemning Trump’s statement, but not “the rockets fired at Israel or the terrible incitement against it.”
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Pointedly, Macron began his pre-prepared remarks with a clear condemnation “with the greatest of clarity of all forms of attacks in the last hours and days against Israel.”
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Despite the obvious differences between the 39-year-old French leader and the Israeli hard-liner, there were also attempts to show they had developed a good early working relationship and held common views.
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“Does this mean Emmanuel Macron and me agree on everything? No, not all of it, but we’re working it,” Netanyahu said at one point, joking later: “The lunch in the Elysee is superb, the conversation is superb too.”
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The two countries are keen to reset ties after often difficult exchanges under ex-president Francois Hollande.Most EU members, including the bloc’s biggest countries, have expressed alarm over the Trump administration’s policy shift.
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Mogherini has warned the decision on Jerusalem “has the potential to send us backwards to even darker times than the ones we’re already living in.”
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Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Friday, she repeated Europe’s stance that “the only realistic solution” for peace was two states — Israel and Palestine — with Jerusalem as the capital of both and the borders returned to their status before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
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“It is in Israel’s security interest to find a lasting solution to this decades-long conflict,” she added.
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But the 28-member block is not unified on the issue — Hungary, Greece, Lithuania and the Czech Republic in particular favor warmer ties with Israel.
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Last week Hungary broke ranks to block a joint statement from the EU that was critical of Washington’s Jerusalem shift.
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Trump’s announcement on Wednesday has been followed by days of protests and clashes in the Palestinian territories.
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Four Palestinians were killed either in clashes or from Israeli air strikes in retaliation for rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.
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Tens of thousands have also protested in Muslim and Arab countries, including Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia.
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Further protests were held in Lebanon, Indonesia, Egypt and the Palestinian territories on Sunday.
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Macron was also asked if France would attempt to launch another peace initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict following failed efforts in the past.
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“There’s a desire by the Americans to mediate which remains and I don’t want to condemn it ab initio (from the beginning),” he said. “We need to wait for the next few weeks, the next months to see what will be proposed.
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“And I think we have to wait to see whether the interested parties accept it or not.”
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Netanyahu was an outspoken critic of efforts by former French president Hollande to push a Middle East peace process.

 

Sri Lanka hands over debt-laden port to Chinese owner

December 9, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | The $1.12 billion deal announced in July lets a Chinese state company take over Sri Lanka’s southern port of Hambantota, which straddles the world’s busiest east-west shipping route, on a 99-year lease

COLOMBO (AFP) – Sri Lanka Saturday handed over a deep-sea port to a Chinese firm, in a deal agreed to boost the cash-strapped island’s finances that has raised concerns at home and abroad over Beijing’s growing influence.The $1.12 billion deal first announced in July lets a Chinese state company take over the southern port of Hambantota, which straddles the world’s busiest east-west shipping route, on a 99-year lease.

“With the signing of the agreement today the Treasury has received $300 million,” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said at a ceremony in the capital to mark the handover.

“This is the beginning of our debt settlement,” Wickremesinghe said.

The loss-making port will now be jointly managed by the state-owned Sri Lanka Port Authority and China Merchants Port Holdings.

Sri Lanka owes China $8 billion that former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime borrowed for its infrastructure development projects, including the port.

The deal has raised concerns at home and overseas, where countries such as India and the United States are known to be worried that China getting a foothold at the deep-sea port could give it a military naval advantage in the Indian Ocean.

On Friday Sri Lanka’s parliament approved wide-ranging tax concessions for the port deal, including a tax holiday of up to 32 years for the Chinese firm, that opposition parties objected to.

“Please tell this House the details of very favourable tax concessions you gave China on the deal. What are you getting out of it?” Anura Dissanayake, an opposition law marker asked in parliament Saturday.

Sri Lanka has said it wants to reduce its high foreign debt with the proceeds of the Hambantota port deal, and is selling off some other enterprises to raise revenue

Pakistan Air Force threatens to shoot down US drones

December 9, 2017

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A US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone takes off from Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan March 9, 2016. (File photo by Reuters)
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ISLAMABAD: The head of the Pakistan Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, has warned that US drones violating the country’s airspace will be shot down, marking a significant shift in Pakistan’s US policy.
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Aman was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Air Tech Conference and Techno Show in Islamabad on Thursday evening.
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“We will protect the sovereignty of the country at any cost,” he said, adding that Pakistan is working on its own unmanned drones and that a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will be manufactured in the next 18 months.
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The US has been carrying out drone strikes on militants inside Pakistani territory since June 2004, initially from air bases inside Pakistan. When relations soured in 2011, the US was forced to shift its drone bases across the border to Afghanistan.
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Successive Pakistani governments have publicly condemned the drone strikes, but experts have said that there was a tacit agreement in place between America and Pakistan to allow the strikes to take place.
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Sen. Nuzhat Sadiq, chairperson of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, told Arab News that Pakistan has effectively eliminated terrorists and militants from its territory through various military operations so there is no need for US drones now.
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“It is the policy of the government not to allow any more US drone strikes on our soil, and the air chief has effectively conveyed it to the Americans,” she said.
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Sadiq said that Pakistan is a nuclear state and could not allow any country to violate its sovereignty. “We are on a strong footing now, and introducing viable changes in our foreign policy toward the US,” she said.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the US has carried out a total of 429 drone strikes inside Pakistan since June 2004, killing 2,938 people, including civilians.
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The most recent strike inside Pakistani territory was on Sept. 15 in Kurram Agency, on the border with Afghanistan, in which three people were killed.
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Aziz Ahmad Khan, an expert on foreign affairs and former diplomat, told Arab News that Pakistan would not need to shoot down any US drones as the “matter has already been settled with the Americans in some recent high-level meetings.”
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“The number of US drone strikes in Pakistan has already reduced significantly and we hope to get rid of this counterproductive menace forever,” he added.
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Retired Gen. Talat Masood, a defense analyst, told Arab News that Pakistan has explained to the US that Pakistan will no longer be used as a base for terrorist attacks in neighboring countries as it has eliminated all the militants’ “safe havens.”
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“The air chief’s statement is a message to the US that it should cooperate with Pakistan to fight against militancy, instead of carrying out unilateral drone attacks in Pakistan,” he said.
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He warned, however, that the government should be prepared for repercussions from the US, as “the superpower is not going to digest this change in policy easily.”
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Angry protesters lash out against Trump across Muslim world

December 9, 2017

The Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) — Large crowds of worshippers across the Muslim world staged anti-U.S. marches Friday, some stomping on posters of Donald Trump or burning American flags in the largest outpouring of anger yet at the U.S. president’s recognition of bitterly contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In the holy city itself, prayers at Islam’s third-holiest site dispersed largely without incident, but Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops in several dozen West Bank hotspots and on the border with the Gaza Strip.

Israeli warplanes struck Hamas military targets in the Gaza Strip Friday in response to a rocket fired from the zone that Israel’s military said was intercepted by its Iron Dome missile-defense system.

The Palestinian health ministry said at least 15 people were injured in Friday’s air strikes.

Earlier, a 30-year-old Gaza man was killed by Israeli gunfire, the first death of a protester since Trump’s dramatic midweek announcement. Two Palestinians were seriously wounded, health officials said.

Dozens of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were hit by live rounds or rubber-coated steel or inhaled tear gas, the officials said.

Trump’s pivot on Jerusalem triggered warnings from America’s friends and foes alike that he is needlessly stirring more conflict in an already volatile region.

Muslim faithful prayed in the compound of the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on Friday amid heightened tension following a decision by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. (Dec. 8)

The religious and political dispute over Jerusalem forms the emotional core of the Israeli-Arab conflict. The ancient city is home to major Muslim, Jewish and Christian shrines and looms large in the competing national narratives of Israelis and Palestinians.

Trump’s decision on Jerusalem is widely seen in the region as a blatant expression of pro-Israel bias, but it was unclear if protests and confrontations would maintain momentum after Friday. More extensive violence has erupted in the Palestinian areas in the past, including deadly bloodshed triggered by disputes over Jerusalem.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement and other groups had called for three “days of rage” this week. However, Abbas remains an opponent of violence, saying it’s counterproductive and that he might at some point order his security forces to contain protests.

Separately, Fatah’s rival, the Gaza-based Islamic militant Hamas, called this week for a third uprising against Israel, but such appeals have fizzled as Palestinians become more disillusioned with their leaders.

On Friday, demonstrators in the West Bank torched heaps of tires, sending columns of thick black smoke rising over the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem. Palestinian stone-throwers traded volleys in the streets with soldiers firing tear gas and rubber bullets. Along the Gaza-Israel border fence, Israeli troops fired at stone-throwers.

Across the region — from Asia’s Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan to North Africa’s Algeria and Lebanon in the Levant — thousands of worshippers poured into the streets after midday prayers to voice their anger. Some protesters burned U.S. and Israeli flags or stomped Trump posters that showed the president alongside a Nazi swastika.

In Jordan’s capital of Amman, thousands marched through the center of town, chanting “America is the head of the snake.”

Pro-Western Jordan is a crucial U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic extremists, but King Abdullah II cannot afford to be seen as soft on Jerusalem. His Hashemite dynasty derives its legitimacy from its role as guardian of the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third-holiest site.

Trump’s decision has also strained U.S. foreign relations.

U.N. Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov told an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council on Friday that Trump’s announcement created a “serious risk” of a chain of unilateral actions that would push the goal of peace further away.

Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour warned of the danger of “a never-ending religious war that will only be exploited by extremists, fueling more radicalism, violence and strife in the region and elsewhere.”

Even traditional U.S. allies sharply criticized Trump’s decision.

Sweden’s U.N. Ambassador Olof Skoog said the U.S. action “contradicts international law and Security Council resolutions.” Britain’s Ambassador Matthew Rycroft called the U.S. decision “unhelpful to peace,” the French envoy expressed regret and Italy’s Sebastiano Cardi warned of “the risk of unrest and tensions in the region.”

The U.S. ambassador, Nikki Haley, told the council that the Trump administration is more committed to peace “than we’ve ever been before — and we believe we might be closer to that goal than ever before.” Haley did not explain.

In Europe, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday played down the impact of Trump’s policy shift, which also included a pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Tillerson said it will likely take years for the U.S. to open an embassy in Jerusalem.

In a news conference with the French foreign minister, Tillerson said Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital “did not indicate any final status for Jerusalem.”

The United States is making clear that Jerusalem’s borders will be left to Israelis and Palestinians to “negotiate and decide,” he said.

Most countries around the world have not recognized Israel’s 1967 annexation of east Jerusalem and maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv. Under a longstanding international consensus, the fate of the city is to be determined in negotiations.

Trump’s announcement delivered a blow to Abbas, a supporter of the idea of reaching Palestinian statehood through U.S.-led negotiations with Israel. In siding with Israel on Jerusalem, he has said, the Trump administration effectively disqualified itself as a mediator.

However, Abbas has not decided how to move forward, including whether he will rule out future U.S.-brokered negotiations. Trump has said he still intends to propose a Mideast peace deal.

More than two decades of intermittent Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have failed to bring the Palestinians closer to statehood. Some in Abbas’ inner circle say the old paradigm, with the U.S. serving as mediator, is no longer relevant.

On Thursday, a senior Fatah official said the Palestinians would not receive Vice President Mike Pence when he visits the West Bank later this month, but it was not immediately clear if the official spoke for Abbas.

The Arab League, an umbrella group of close to two dozen states, is to meet Saturday to try to forge a joint position, followed next week by a gathering in Turkey of the 57-state Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Turkish officials said Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to Turkey next week for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Jerusalem’s status and other issues.

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Laub reported from Jericho, West Bank. Associated Press writers Fares Akram in Gaza City, Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, Alice Su in Amman, Jordan, and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations also contributed to this report.