Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’

Mystery grows over pro-Saudi tabloid ‘The New Kindgom’ making rounds in the US

  • ,Courting the Saudis,
  • ,Publicity for the prince?,
  • ,The Trump connection,

It landed with a thud on newsstands at Walmart and rural supermarkets last month: ninety-seven fawning pages saluting Saudi Arabia, whose ambitious crown prince was soon to arrive in the US ,on a PR blitz to transform his country’s image,.

As questions swirled about the glossy magazine’s origins, the Saudis said they were just as perplexed as everyone else, declaring on Twitter: “If you find out, we’d love to know.”

But files obtained by The Associated Press show that a digital copy of the magazine, produced by American Media Inc. (AMI), was quietly shared with officials at the Saudi Embassy in Washington almost three weeks before its publication.

How the early copy made it to the Saudis is unclear. Yet the revelation adds another mysterious twist to a murky tale playing out against the backdrop of bids by both President Donald Trump and David Pecker, the tabloid publisher who supports him, to build goodwill with the Saudi kingdom’s leaders.

Courting the Saudis

The worlds of Trump, the Saudis and AMI have overlapped before, often in dizzying ways. The Trump administration has aggressively courted the Saudis and found a willing partner on a range of issues, including Iran, counterterrorism and Middle East peace, in the kingdom’s royal family. And AMI’s flagship publication, The National Enquirer, has been accused by critics of acting as a keeper of secrets for Trump.

AMI denies that it shared an advance copy of “The New Kingdom” with the Saudis or consulted with them on the project, and AMI says the Saudis did not pay the company to produce the magazine. But an individual with knowledge of the situation said AMI indeed reached out to Saudi officials in the US before publication to seek help with the content. The Saudis never responded, said the individual, who wasn’t authorised to comment publicly and requested anonymity.

Merely sharing an advance copy with the Saudis, while a deviation from traditional journalistic practice, is not legally problematic for AMI. But the unusual circumstances and continuing mystery of the magazine’s origins have led legal experts to point out a separate issue in federal lobbying law: if the Saudis or any other foreign government did direct or pay any company to produce such a magazine, that company would be required to register with the government under the Foreign Agent Registration Act.

There is no evidence any such direction, in this case, occurred.

Publicity for the prince?

Why would American Media, best-known for publishing salacious stories of sex and scandal, sink money into printing 200,000 copies of a magazine with a grinning Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman splashed across the cover?

Read: ,MBS: Reformist crown prince with firm vision,

The crown prince is no household name in the US, especially in states like Nebraska where the magazine showed up. And at $13.99 a copy and with no advertisements, the publication seems unlikely to be a money-maker.

Prince Mohammed has won praise in the West for trying to ,modernise Saudi Arabia, and improve some rights for women, but the magazine omits any criticism on such core issues as his hard-hitting tactics, Saudi Arabia’s restrictive political system and the country’s bloody intervention in Yemen’s civil war and strong-handed tactics toward Lebanon.

AMI spokesman Jon Hammond said he expected the magazine to turn a profit by selling 60,000 copies, comparing it to other AMI special editions on the Olympics, the Kennedys and Elvis Presley — topics that, unlike the Saudi crown prince, are of obvious widespread interest to tabloid readers in the US.

“Absolutely not,” Hammond responded when asked by the AP if American Media had collaborated with the Saudis on the magazine or been paid by them.

Saud Kabli, the Saudi Embassy’s communications director, said the embassy had “no role in the production of the magazine”.

“We don’t have a problem with the magazine, but we just don’t think it is effective,” Kabli said.

Metadata embedded in the PDF file, obtained by the AP from two different individuals, show it was produced by an AMI production employee at 8:41 pm on Feb 19. Shortly thereafter, it started circulating internally among Saudi officials, including the embassy’s military office, according to individuals familiar with the situation. It was also passed to Nail al-Jubeir, the former embassy spokesman and brother of Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, recently named Saudi ambassador to Ireland, the individuals said.

By the next day — Feb 20 — Saudi officials had started forwarding it to Washington foreign policy contacts, giving them an early look, said the individuals, who weren’t authorised to discuss the situation and requested anonymity.

A month later, on March 19, Prince Mohammed arrived in the US, with the magazine serving as his literary red carpet.

Explore: ,Saudi crown prince’s globe-trotting charm offensive,

“Meet the next king,” the cover exclaimed, describing the crown prince as “our closest Middle East ally destroying terrorism” and the visionary behind a “city of the future” which “will be operated by robots”.

The magazine draws heavily from newswire photos and stock images — many with no connection to Saudi Arabia, according to Tineye, a reverse-image search tool. Among the supposed Saudi Arabian highlights pictured are sand-dune surfing in Namibia, a massive indoor greenhouse in the Netherlands and wildlife pictures taken in Zambia and Israel.

“There are lots of things that warrant answers,” political law attorney Josh Rosenstein said about the pro-Saudi magazine.

The Trump connection

As Saudi Arabia starts to open up to Western entertainment, American Media has sought to expand its media empire into the Kingdom — the kind of lucrative opportunity that often comes with the blessing of the Saudi royal court. Last summer, Pecker dined at the White House with Trump and a French businessman with close business ties to the Saudis, and later traveled to Riyadh to pitch Saudi investors on helping AMI acquire Time magazine, The New York Times reported. AMI denied making such an ask.

Trump’s son-in-law and senior aide, Jared Kushner, has also tried to enlist Prince Mohammed’s help with his ambitious Mideast peace initiative. Kushner paid an unannounced visit early in the administration to Saudi Arabia, which also was Trump’s first overseas destination as president.

Kushner’s family real estate firm, The Kushner Cos., once sought money from a Saudi investor to buy out its partner in a Manhattan skyscraper that had been losing money for years.

Pecker is close to Trump and his struggling tabloid empire also has ties to the president’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Following an FBI raid on Cohen’s office this month, investigators are believed to be examining whether The National Enquirer was involved with Trump’s campaign.

The Enquirer endorsed Trump’s quest for the presidency. During the 2016 race, the tabloid paid a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump $150,000 to keep silent about the relationship. Last week, the company agreed to let the model, Karen McDougal, out of that contract.

The AP has also reported that AMI had made a $30,000 payment eight months earlier to a former doorman at a Trump building who had a juicy tip about him, requiring the doorman to sign a contract that effectively prevented him from going public. AMI said it paid the doorman not for his silence, but for exclusive rights to the story, which AMI never published because it said the story could not be authenticated.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - April 24, 2018 at 11:25 am

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‘Toy drone’ downed near royal palace in Riyadh

    RIYADH: Saudi Arabian security forces shot down a toy drone in the capital Riyadh on Saturday, a senior Saudi official and the state news agency said, after videos were posted online showing gunfire in a neighbourhood where a royal palace is located.

    Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz was not present in the palace at the time of the drone incident, senior officials said.

    A spokesman for the Riyadh police said forces at a checkpoint in the Khozama district identified the drone and “dealt with it according to their orders”, state news agency said without specifying if there were any injuries or damage.

    The state-run Saudi Press Agency wrote on Twitter that an investigation into the incident was under way.

    The incident by some posts on Twitter was being interpreted as a coup attempt in the kingdom.

    Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2018

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    Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - April 22, 2018 at 9:25 am

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    Bahrain sentences 24 Shia citizens to jail, revokes nationality

      DUBAI: A Bahrain court sentenced 24 Shia citizens to prison and stripped them of their nationality after finding them guilty of forming a “terrorist group”, a Bahraini judicial source said on Thursday.

      Other charges included travelling to Iraq and Iran for “weapons and explosives training” and attempted murder of police officers.

      The High Criminal Court on Wednesday sentenced 10 of the defendants to life in prison, 10 to a decade behind bars and the other four to jail terms ranging from three to five years.

      The Sunni-ruled, Shia-majority kingdom has stripped hundreds of its citizens of their nationality and jailed dozens of high-profile activists and religious clerics since protests demanding an elected government erupted in early 2011.

      The Bahraini government has accused Shia Iran of backing the protests and attempting to overthrow the government. Tehran denies involvement.

      Authorities on Wednesday also referred to trial seven Bahrainis accused of attacking an oil pipeline to Saudi Arabia in November.

      That trial is set for May 10.

      The blast cut off the pipeline linking Bahrain’s Bapco refinery with oil giant Aramco’s main pumping station in neighbouring Saudi Arabia’s Dhahran province.

      Manama in February said it had arrested four men suspected of attacking the pipeline, accusing Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran of training and arming two of them, which Tehran denied.

      Under Bahrain’s citizenship law, amended after political protests broke out in 2011, the authorities can revoke the nationality of individuals who engage in acts deemed “disloyal” to the state.

      Human Rights Watch in February accused the kingdom of “stripping away the citizenships of people whom they find undesirable”.

      Bahrain earlier this year deported eight people to war-torn Iraq after revoking their citizenship and making them stateless.

      Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2018

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      Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - April 20, 2018 at 8:25 am

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      PM Abbasi, COAS meet Saudi king, attend war games

        ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Monday left Saudi Arabia after attending the concluding ceremony of Joint Gulf Shield-1 military drill.

        He was expected to reach Islamabad in the early hours of Tuesday morning. During his two-day stay in the Kingdom, Mr Abbasi was accompanied by Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI Director General Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar.

        Besides attending the concluding ceremony in the Kingdom’s eastern city of Jubail, the prime minister and his entourage on the second day of their trip met King Salman bin Abdulaziz. There was a brief interaction with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman as well.

        The concluding ceremony was attended by leaders of the participating countries.

        Twenty-four countries participated in the Gulf Shield-1 military exercise, which continued for nearly a month. Besides hosts Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the other countries that took part in the exercise were the US, the UK, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Mauritania, Malaysia, Chad, Djibouti, Niger, Comoros, Afghanistan, Oman, Guyana, Turkey, and Burkina Faso.

        FO says PM will lead Pakistan delegation to 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London

        Troops from the Pakistan Army, Pakistan Air Force, and Pakistan Navy participated in the exercise.

        The drills are being described as one of the largest military exercises in the region, aimed at “raising level of preparedness; enhancing mutual coordination and cooperation among the participating countries, exchange of expertise and security integration”.

        “The drills featured two types of military operations that included conventional military operations represented by coastal defence attacks against the enemy, in addition to the irregular war operations carried out by besieging and penetrating villages and industrial installations so as to cleanse them of hostile elements,” spokesman for Joint Gulf Shield-1 Brig Gen Abdullah Al-Subaie said, according to Arab media.

        Meanwhile, the Foreign Office said that PM Abbasi would lead the Pakistan delegation to the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM-2018), in London from Wednesday to Friday (April 18 to 20). The main theme of this conference is ‘Towards A Common Future’.

        APP adds: Pakistan is one of the founding members of the organisation. The current membership of the Commonwealth consists of 53 member states reflecting diversity of all continents of the world. During his stay in London, the prime minister will call on Queen Elizabeth II, Prince of Wales and meet the British leadership.

        Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2018

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        Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - April 17, 2018 at 10:26 am

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        Miftah heads to Washington amidst strained ties

          WASHINGTON: Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Economic Affairs Miftah Ismail will arrive in Washington on Wednesday to attend spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group but is also likely to hold bilateral meeting with American officials.

          The visit comes a few days before the last federal budget of the PML-N government to be unveiled on April 27 and is causing speculation in Pakistan that he may seek some last-minute reprieve from international donors and the US government.

          But Ismail has already said that the government is not seeking another package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which begins its spring meetings in Washington from April 18.

          In 2013, the IMF provided a $6.6 billion loan package to Pakistan to help deal with “slow growth, declining reserves and increasing fiscal deficit.” Pakistan successfully completed the 36-month package and earned IMF’s praise for displaying fiscal discipline during this period.

          Visit is for Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank, but includes bilateral discussions with US officials

          Analysts predict that deteriorating external finances and dwindling foreign reserves may force the country to seek another bailout package from the IMF. But they also point out that the situation has changed drastically since 2013.

          Pakistan is no longer considered a close ally by the US and the Trump administration has already suspended its security assistance to the country. There are indications that Washington may further reduce its economic support by July this year.

          During his three-day stay in Washington, Miftah will also meet senior US officials in an effort to improve economic ties with the world’s largest economy, but those meetings present starker challenges today they would have a few years ago.

          Miftah will also seek Washin­gton’s backing for his efforts to prevent Pakistan from being placed on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which has already put Islamabad on a watch list of the countries whose financial systems have strategic deficiencies in combating money laundering and terror financing.

          Days before his scheduled visit to US, Miftah told journalists in Islamabad that Pakistan will have an action plan ready by June this year to allay FATF’s concerns. He said the plan would be formulated and executed within three months and hoped that by “implementing it, Pakistan will be off the grey list within a year.”

          Getting off that list without US support, however, could take a little more than an action plan . Pakistan is due to be added to the FATF grey list in June.

          Concerns about critically low foreign exchange reserves — caused by a widening current account deficit — are also to likely figure prominently in Miftah’s discussions in Washington. .

          In a report released in mid-March, IMF projected Pakistan’s gross financing requirements at $24.5bn for fiscal year 2017-18 and $27bn for 2018-19. A World Bank report, published on Sunday, warned that macroeconomic stability in the country was a major concern for the near-term economic outlook. It noted that the balance of payments position was particularly vulnerable and the upcoming elections may make things worse by delaying policy adjustments.

          The external vulnerabilities as well as the countries growing isolation in important global bodies will cast an important shadow as Miftah moves to probe the mood in Washington, particularly inside the IMF and the US Treasury.

          Pakistan has also approached friendly nations — particularly China and Saudi Arabia — for assistance to help avert another approach to the IMF. But so far, their response has not been very encouraging.

          Before his departure, he addressed a pre-budget seminar at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Islamabad where he said that privatisation should top the agenda of all political parties in the upcoming elections.

          He said Pakistan needs to grow at 8pc per year to meaningfully reduce poverty. He also pointed to the upcoming tax amnesty scheme, saying the government is giving “tax evaders a chance to declare their undeclared wealth”. We are enabling a system in which only those can buy properties or plots who are tax filers, otherwise, one cannot buy any piece of land, he added.

          Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2018

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          PM Abbasi in Saudi Arabia to inspect joint exercise of Islamic military alliance

            Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi reached Saudi Arabia on Sunday a two-day visit to join other world leaders to witness the closing ceremony of the 24-country joint military exercise.

            The month-long exercise Gulf Shield-1 aimed at strengthening military and security cooperation and coordination among the regional countries concludes on Monday.

            Upon arrival at the King Abdulaziz Air Force Base at Al Khobar, the premier was received by Dammam Governor Prince Saud bin Nayef. Ambassador Khan Hasham bin Saddique and Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf al-Maliki were also present at the airbase.

            PM Abbasi received by Dammam Governor Sauf bin Nayaf. —APP

            PM Abbasi received by Dammam Governor Sauf bin Nayaf. —APP

            Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir and Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa accompanied the prime minister.

            Troops of the Pakistan Army, Pakistan Air Force C-130 aircraft, JF-17 Thunder Fighter jets, Pakistan Navy ships, and commandos from Special Services Group are participating in the exercise, touted as the largest military drill in the region in terms of diversity of troops, weapon systems and operational manoeuvring.

            Brig Gen Abdullah Al-Subaie, the spokesman for Joint Gulf Shield-1, told a news conference that the exercise featured two types of military operations; conventional military operations that involved coastal defence attacks against the enemy, besides the irregular war operations carried out by besieging and penetrating villages and industrial installations to cleanse them of hostile elements.

            The spokesman said the most important aspect of the exercise was to activate the concept of joint military combat operational plans to counter hostile acts that threaten the security and stability of the region.

            PM Abbasi received by Dammam Governor Sauf bin Nayaf. —APP

            PM Abbasi received by Dammam Governor Sauf bin Nayaf. —APP

            The exercise also displayed military uniformity among the participating countries, in addition to the development of a sense of collective security, unity and common destiny, the spokesman said.

            The closing ceremony would comprise a parade by the participating troops. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud would receive the leaders, defence and foreign ministers and heads of different armed forces.

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            Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - April 16, 2018 at 4:25 am

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            Saudi king slams Iran’s ‘interference’ in Arab affairs

            • ,Donation for East Jerusalem,
            • ,Tough, unified stance against Iran,

            Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Sunday slammed Iran’s “blatant interference” in regional affairs as Arab leaders met in the kingdom for an annual gathering.

            Opening the 29th Arab League summit, the king also criticised the US decision to transfer its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and described “terrorism” as the biggest challenge facing Arab countries.

            Seventeen leaders from across the Arab world — minus Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — gathered in the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran for the summit, which this year comes as world powers face off over Syria and tensions rise between Riyadh and Tehran.

            The meeting opened only 24 hours after a ,barrage of strikes, launched by the United States, Britain and France hit targets they said were linked to chemical weapons development in Syria, which was suspended from the league seven years ago.

            But King Salman avoided any mention of Syria in his address, as a seat marked “Syrian Arab Republic” sat empty in the hall.

            Instead, the king focused on rivalries with long-time foe Iran — only 160 kilometres (100 miles) across the Gulf from Dharan.

            “We renew our strong condemnation of Iran’s terrorist acts in the Arab region and reject its blatant interference in the affairs of Arab countries,” the king said.

            A general view of the 29th Arab League Summit in Dhahran. —AFP

            A general view of the 29th Arab League Summit in Dhahran. —AFP

            Donation for East Jerusalem

            Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Sunday announced a $150 million donation for the maintenance of Islamic heritage in East Jerusalem.

            “Saudi Arabia announces a $150 million grant to support the administration of Jerusalem’s Islamic property,” the monarch said at the opening of the Arab League summit in the kingdom’s eastern city of Dhahran.

            “I name this summit in Dhahran the Jerusalem Summit so that the entire world knows Palestine and its people remain at the heart of Arab concerns,” he said.

            The funding announcement came as the king reiterated criticism of President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and shift the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.

            The move has sparked deep anger among the Palestinians — who see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state — and across the Arab world.

            “We reiterate our rejection of the US decision on Jerusalem,” Salman said. “East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian territories.”

            Arab ministers at a preliminary meeting in Riyadh on Thursday focused heavily on blocking the move, unanimously condemning Trump’s decision.

            Israel occupied mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

            Islamic holy sites in the city — including the revered Al-Aqsa mosque — are administered by a Jordanian-run trust known as the Waqf.

            King Salman also announced a $50 million donation to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

            The organisation, which provides aid to more than three million people, faces serious financial difficulties after the US announced it was cutting its funding of the body.

            Tough, unified stance against Iran

            Saudi Arabia is pushing for a tough, unified stance against its regional arch-rival Iran. The two regional titans back opposing sides in a range of hotspots across the Middle East, including Lebanon and Syria and in Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbour Yemen.

            Saudi-Iranian rivalries in the Middle East. —AFP

            Saudi-Iranian rivalries in the Middle East. —AFP

            Last month the Security Council issued a statement ,condemning Huthi missile attacks on Saudi,, but did not name Iran.

            In February, Russia ,vetoed a Security Council resolution, that would have expressed concern over Iran’s failure to block supplies of missiles to Yemen’s Huthi rebels.

            The summit also comes with Saudi Arabia and Qatar locked in a ,months-long diplomatic standoff,, with Riyadh accusing Doha of supporting Islamist extremists and being too close to Iran.

            Tensions have eased slightly in recent months but Qatar still only sent its representative to the Arab League for the Dhahran summit.

            Among the leaders in attendance was Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, who walked the red carpet and was greeted by King Salman. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for five counts of crimes against humanity, three counts of genocide and two counts of war crimes.

            Summits of the Arab League, established in 1945, rarely result in action.

            The last time the bloc made a concrete move was in 2011, when it suspended Syria’s membership over the Assad regime’s role in the war.

            Syria’s war, the most complex of the region’s conflicts, is the main point of contention pitting Riyadh and its allies, who mainly back Sunni rebels, against regime backer Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

            Gulf Arab states have made massive donations to Syria but have not officially offered asylum to Syrians.

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            Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - April 15, 2018 at 6:25 pm

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            Key world reactions to Syria strikes

            • ,Russia,
            • ,China,
            • ,Iran,
            • ,Israel,
            • ,Middle East/North Africa,
            • ,Nato,
            • ,United Nations,
            • ,Saudi Arabia,
            • ,Turkey,
            • ,Europe,
            • ,Cuba,
            • ,Amnesty International,

            PARIS: Here is a roundup of key reactions to the strikes by the United States, Britain and France against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

            Russia

            “Russia severely condemns the attack on Syria where Russian military are helping the lawful government in the fight with terrorism,” the Kremlin said in a statement. It said it was calling an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council.

            China

            China said it was “opposed to the use of force” in international relations.

            It called for a political solution and a “return to the framework of international law”.

            Iran

            Assad’s key regional ally, Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, branded US President Donald Trump, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Theresa May “criminals”.

            Israel

            “A year ago I gave Israel’s total support for (US) President Donald Trump’s decision to mobilise against the use of chemical weapons,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, referring to American strikes against the Syrian regime in April 2017 after a sarin gas attack on a rebel-held town.

            “Israel’s support remains unchanged,” he added.

            Middle East/North Africa

            Qatar was the first Gulf country to react. An official statement expressed support for strikes to stop attacks by the Syrian regime against civilians.

            Egypt’s foreign ministry expressed “deep concern” saying the strikes undermined the “safety of our brotherly Syrian people, and threatens the understandings reached regarding the de-escalation zones.” Algerian Foreign Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said his country regretted that the strikes came “at a time when the international community was waiting for an inquiry team to be sent to verify” the chemical arms claims.

            “These strikes will create an atmosphere which will weigh negatively on moves to resolve the Syrian crisis through a political settlement.”

            Nato

            Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a statement backed the strikes, saying they “will reduce the regime’s ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons”.

            Nato expressed “full support for this action intended to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter further chemical weapon attacks against the people of Syria,” the alliance said in second statement.

            “Chemical weapons cannot be used with impunity or become normalized. They are an immediate danger to the Syrian people and to our collective security.”

            United Nations

            “I urge all member states to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a statement.

            Saudi Arabia

            “Saudi Arabia fully supports the strikes launched by the United States, France and Britain against Syria because they represent a response to the regime’s crimes,” a foreign ministry statement said.

            The strikes were prompted by the “Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians, including women and children”, it added.

            Turkey

            “We welcome this operation which has eased humanity’s conscience in the face of the attack in Douma,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

            It accused Damascus of “crimes against humanity”.

            Europe

            European Council President Donald Tusk said on Twitter that the European Union supported the strikes and “will stand with our allies on the side of justice”.

            German chancellor Angela Merkel called the strikes a “necessary and appropriate military intervention”.

            The Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain defended the strikes as justified by evidence of a chemical attack.

            Cuba

            “Cuba’s Revolutionary government expresses its strongest condemnation of this new attack by the United States and its allies” against “military and civilian infrastructure”.

            The strikes are “a flagrant violation of the principles of international law and the charter (of the UN Security Council) and an outrage against a sovereign state which will only worsen the conflict in (Syria) and the region,” it added.

            Amnesty International

            “All precautions must be taken to minimise harm to civilians in any military action,” Raed Jarrar, advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at rights watchdog Amnesty International USA said in a statement.

            Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2018

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            Trump says ‘Mission Accomplished!’ after Syria strikes

            • ,’Crimes of a monster’,
            • ,Defiant Assad,
            • ,Rally in Damascus,
            • ,UN chief urges restraint,
            • ,Foreign Office condemns use of chemical weapons,

            President Donald Trump on Saturday hailed a ,US-led missile assault, on Syria’s regime as “perfectly executed,” despite the limited nature of the strikes and Russia’s condemnation, which further heightened tensions between the Cold War foes.

            The UN Security Council was set to meet at Moscow’s request at 1500 GMT over the operation, which was unleashed by the US, Britain and France in response to an alleged ,chemical weapons attack, on the rebel-held town of Douma.

            The strikes were targeted to inflict maximum damage on sites linked to chemical weapons development. A top Pentagon official, Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, said the action would set back Syria’s chemical weapons program “for years.”

            The sounds of massive explosions rang out across Damascus just before dawn on Saturday, ushering in 45 minutes of explosions and the roar of warplanes, AFP‘s correspondent in the city said.

            Flashes flared in the distance and by daybreak, plumes of smoke could be seen rising from the city’s north and east.

            “A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military,” Trump tweeted early Saturday.

            “Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”

            Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White later told reporters: “We successfully hit every target.” Both the regime of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and its ally Russia have denied all responsibility for the deadly Douma attack, and Moscow slammed the “aggressive actions” of the Western coalition, but it has not yet responded militarily.

            ‘Crimes of a monster’

            US President Donald Trump announced the joint action against Assad’s regime from the White House late Friday.

            Trump said the strikes were a direct response to the April 7 attack on Douma, outside Damascus, that rescuers and monitors say killed more than 40 people.

            “The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead,” Trump said.

            US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called the strikes a “one-time shot” with no additional military action planned for now.

            The strikes were the biggest foreign military action so far against Syria’s regime.

            The targets included a scientific research facility near Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility west of the city of Homs, and a third location near Homs that contained both a command post and a chemical weapons equipment storage facility, the US military said.

            The facilities hit had however reportedly been evacuated in recent days.

            Syrian state media reported only three people injured, while Russia’s defense ministry said there were “no victims” among Syrian civilians and military personnel.

            Defiant Assad

            Assad, who has denied ever using chemical weapons against his opponents, responded to the strikes with a defiant vow.

            “This aggression will only make Syria and its people more determined to keep fighting and crushing terrorism in every inch of the country,” he said.

            Assad’s key ally Iran also slammed the attack, with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei describing Western leaders as “criminals.”

            The targets appeared to steer well clear of any Russian personnel or equipment in Syria, where Moscow launched a military intervention in support of Assad in 2015.

            The Russian military claimed Syrian air defense systems had intercepted 71 Western missiles, though the Pentagon disputed that.

            Rally in Damascus

            In central Damascus, dozens of Syrians arrived on bicycles, on foot and in cars spray painted with the red, white, and black colors of the Syrian flag, blaring patriotic tunes.

            Nedher Hammoud, 48, claimed to have seen missiles “being shot down like flies.”

            “Let them do what they want, kill who they want… History will record that Syria shot down missiles — and not just missiles. It shot down American arrogance.”

            Despite the strikes, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said it was still planning on carrying out its investigation into the Douma attack.

            Thousands of rebels and civilians have since been bussed out of the town under a Russian-brokered deal.

            Syrian internal security forces entered Douma on Saturday and were poised to declare their control over it within “hours.” Jaish al-Islam, the group that held Douma, said it only abandoned the town because of the chemical attack.

            Leading Jaish al-Islam member Mohammad Alloush said Saturday the Western strikes had not gone far enough.

            “Punishing the instrument of the crime while keeping the criminal — a farce,” Alloush wrote on Twitter.

            And Ahmad, a 25-year-old mechanic who had been displaced from Douma, told AFP the Western strikes were too little, too late.

            “Assad won’t collapse. They’ll bomb for a day or two and then the regime will take it out on us,” he said.

            The spectre of military strikes had hung over Syria since harrowing footage of victims in Douma sparked outrage from Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

            France said it fired cruise missiles from frigates in the Mediterranean and deployed fighter jets from home bases on Saturday.

            Britain’s defense ministry said four British Tornado jets had fired Storm Shadow missiles at a base 15 miles (25 kilometres) west of Homs.

            UN chief urges restraint

            The Russian military had vowed to respond to any attack, and President Vladimir Putin’s administration had repeatedly warned Trump was taking America down a dangerous path.

            Despite the warnings, Washington, Paris and London insisted their own secret intelligence belied Assad’s guilt.

            A US spokeswoman said on Friday the allies had “proof.”

            UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who delayed a planned trip to Saudi Arabia and was to brief the Security Council, called for calm.

            “I urge all member states to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances,” he said in a statement.

            Foreign Office condemns use of chemical weapons

            The Foreign Office (FO) on Friday urged all the parties involved in the Syria conflict to refrain from actions inconsistent with the UN Charter.

            “Pakistan condemns the use of chemical weapons anywhere by anyone,” the FO said in a statement. “It is important to establish facts through urgent and transparent investigations by the OPCW. We call upon all parties to strive for an agreement within the OPCW framework and extend full support to the organization.

            “At this time our thoughts are with the people of Syria who have suffered as a result of ongoing turmoil in that country. We hope that all the parties will work to find an urgent solution to end the suffering of the Syrian people.”

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            Automakers push govt to standardise manganese content in petrol in Pakistan

              ISLAMABAD: The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) has asked the government to move quickly on setting specifications and standards for petroleum products in the market as more automotive manufacturers from Japan and Pakistan raised concerns about domestic fuel’s quality.

              An Ogra official confirmed that the Petroleum Division of the energy ministry had been requested to expeditiously notify updated petroleum standards and specifications. He said Pakistan Automotive Manufacturers Association (Pama) and Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (Jama) had expressed that high manganese content in petrol being sold in Pakistan is causing health hazard and engine problems.

              In August last year, Honda Atlas Cars Pakistan in a complaint to Ogra reported high manganese content in recently upgraded 92RON (Research Octane Number), causing three major issues: catalyst blocking or choking of the catalytic converter, engine knock due to low octane quality fuels and adverse human health effects of manganese.

              In November, the government constituted a committee led by additional secretary of the Petroleum Division and comprising Ogra and oil industry to set specifications for manganese that were missing from the previous petroleum product standards. The committee held a few meetings but has not been able to notify or conclude fresh standards.

              The regulator is also reported to have told the Petroleum Division that Pama had also complained that high manganese content in fuel emanated from a chemical to boost octane number. The Pama said there were hazardous technological and environmental repercussions of the metal content in fuel, if used beyond certain safe limits.

              From a technical standpoint, manganese compromises engine performance in the long run, chokes catalytic convertor of the vehicle and aggravates pollution level by not converting unsafe substances of the exhaust.

              It was reported that a delegation of Jama visited Pakistan last month and conveyed that Japan had some very serious concerns that “gasoline being used in Pakistan invariably contained manganese whose average is 52.6 ppm (parts per million); the highest figure being 86ppm.” The Jama said the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) standards required that use of any metal, whatsoever, is not permitted.

              Accordingly, there is zero metal in gasoline worldwide, except a few countries where metal is used but the quantities insignificant. Even in regional countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Oman and Vietnam, only Kuwait and Vietnam gasoline contained less than 10 ppm compared to as high as 86 ppm in Pakistan.

              The Japanese proposed to begin with allowing a maximum of 18ppm to facilitate oil industry bring down the existing level, followed by phasing out the metal completely. They said the vehicle parts were being devastated by high manganese content in gasoline which clogs the parts, resulting in partial combustion. The metal deposit and clogging asphyxiates the vehicle and emission from the tailpipe was sheer toxic and ‘undeniably a serious health hazard causing a number of bronchial, neurological and systemic diseases.”

              The Honda Pakistan had claimed in its initial complaint that it had to suspend its latest variant of 0.5L Turbo VTEC car due to the substandard fuel quality. The Oil Companies Advisory Council (OCAC) had at the time threatened Honda Pakistan to withdraw its complaint about the alleged sale of low-quality fuel in the market or face legal action but did not move beyond.

              The OCAC said the most likely cause of any observed catalyst blocking was a faulty engine management system or high sulphur fuels (which is damaging to catalytic convertors). The sulphur poisons catalyst surfaces, reducing the efficiency of the catalyst and sulphur compounds (sulphates) can block catalyst substrates.

              The oil industry said Pakistan was currently at the beginning of its clean fuel journey and sulphur levels remained higher than those required for Euro-IV vehicles. The quality of the fuel in regard to preventing engine knock is measured by the octane value or RON of the fuel.

              The OCAC said octane can be improved by a number of means, including the use of high-octane blending components, increased refinery severity, oxygenates, or additives.

              Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2018

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              A billion rupees spent on Nawaz Sharif’s foreign tours, Senate told

                Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday told the Senate that over a billion rupees were spent on former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s international trips during his third term in office.

                In a written report presented to the upper house on Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s request, the foreign minister stated that Sharif’s 64 international tours during his third term as the head of the state set back the exchequer by Rs1.013 billion.

                Sharif, whose five-year tenure was cut short due to his ,disqualification, by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case, went on 10 foreign trips in 2013, 11 in 2014, 23 in 2015, nine in 2016 and just as many in 2017.

                According to Asif’s report, Saudi Arabia was Sharif’s most frequently visited country: the former premier visited the kingdom seven times in total.

                ,Read: Nawaz Sharif in S. Arabia to hold talks on ‘matters of national interest’,

                Meanwhile, Sharif toured the United States a total of six times, although four of those visits were to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

                Sharif’s visit count for neighbouring China — with whom his administration is collaborating on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor — stands at four.

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                Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - April 11, 2018 at 3:25 pm

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                Saudi considering proposal to set up military base, nuclear waste site on Qatar border

                  Saudi Arabia could consider a proposal to dig a maritime canal along the kingdom’s border with Qatar, turning the peninsula-nation into an island and transforming its only land border into a military zone and nuclear waste site, state-linked Saudi newspapers reported on Monday.

                  The project has not been given official approval and faces many obstacles. Still, the proposal signals a new low in the 10-month-old feud between Qatar and a quartet of nations that includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain.

                  The four accuse Qatar of sponsoring terrorism because of its support for miltant opposition groups in the region and its warm relations with Iran. Qatar denies the allegations and says the moves attempt to undermine its sovereignty.

                  Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, met in Washington on Monday with United States Defence Secretary Jim Mattis. He is scheduled to meet President Donald Trump on Tuesday.

                  Saudi Arabia’s Sabq and al-Riyadh newspapers carried nearly identical reports Monday saying that under the proposal, Saudi Arabia would transform part of its side of the border with Qatar into a military base and another area would become a dump site for waste from nuclear reactors the kingdom wants to build.

                  The UAE, meanwhile, would also build a nuclear waste site at the closest point near its border with Qatar.

                  An earlier report by Sabq newspaper ran with a headline saying the canal project would “turn Qatar into an island” and would take just 12 months to complete.

                  The so-called Salwa Marine Canal project would be funded by Saudi and Emirati investors and dug by Egyptian companies with experience in the Suez Canal.

                  Sabq reports the canal would span the entirety of the border with Qatar, creating waterfront coastline for resorts, private beaches and Gulf cruise liners. The canal, estimated to cost 2.8 billion riyals ($750 million), would stretch 200 meters wide and up to 20 meters deep.

                  Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, became the first high-ranking official to comment on the proposal. In a string of tweets, he said the project is “proof of Qatar’s failure to manage and solve its crisis” and that Doha’s silence on the canal project “is proof of their fear and confusion.” Qatari government spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

                  The quartet has imposed a de facto blockade of Qatar since June. Saudi Arabia sealed shut Qatar’s only land crossing, cutting off a key route for food and construction imports. The four nations also expelled Qatari nationals and called on their citizens in Qatar to leave.

                  They have barred Qatari flights from using their airspace and have supported alternative members of the ruling Al Thani family in exile.

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                  Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - April 10, 2018 at 9:25 am

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                  France hosts reformist Saudi crown prince on global tour

                  • ,’Young, visionary, ambitious’,
                  • ,Underlying tensions,

                  Saudi Arabia’s crown prince arrived in France on Sunday for the next leg of a global tour aimed at reshaping his kingdom’s austere image as he pursues his drive to reform the conservative petrostate.

                  Prince Mohammed bin Salman will hold meetings with President Emmanuel Macron during his two-day official visit starting Monday ? his first trip to France as the heir to the Saudi throne.

                  Macron will walk a diplomatic tightrope with the young prince in talks set to focus on cultural ties and investments but also the war in Yemen, dubbed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and the kingdom’s arch-nemesis Iran.

                  The 32-year-old prince, widely known as MBS, was received at the Bourget airport near Paris on Sunday morning by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

                  The trip follows a coast-to-coast tour of the ,United States, as well as visits to ,Britain, and ,Egypt,, where the prince courted a host of business tycoons and struck multimillion-dollar deals from defence to entertainment.

                  Around 18 memorandums of understanding in energy, agriculture, tourism, and culture are set to be signed at an official Saudi-France CEO Forum on Tuesday, a source close to the crown prince’s delegation told AFP.

                  A Franco-Saudi cooperation deal to develop Al Ula, a Saudi city richly endowed with archeological remnants, is also expected to be a central highlight of the visit, the source added.

                  Aside from meetings with the French president, prime minister, and trade officials, the prince is also considering a visit to the Paris-based tech start-up campus Station F, the Arab World Institute and a concert in the southern city of Aix-en-Provence, the source said.

                  “This is not a traditional state visit,” another source close to the Saudi delegation told AFP, without revealing the time of his arrival on Sunday.

                  “It is about forging a new partnership with France, not just shopping for deals.”

                  Macron’s office said the trip would also focus on investment in the digital economy as well as renewable energy, as the world’s top crude exporter pumps billions of dollars in the sector in a bid to diversify its economy.

                  ‘Young, visionary, ambitious’

                  Prince Mohammed’s tour is meant to project “Saudi Arabia is open for business,” Bernard Haykel, a professor at Princeton University, told AFP.

                  “He is marketing Saudi Arabia as a strategic and business partner to the West and a force of stability in the region, as compared to rival Iran which he presents as a destabilising force,” he said.

                  The tour comes after a tumultuous period at home that saw a major ,military shake-up, and a ,royal purge, as the prince consolidates power to a degree well beyond that wielded by previous rulers.

                  The prince has used his global tour to project his reforms ? including the ,historic lifting of a ban on women driving,, ,cinemas, and ,mixed-gender concerts, ? as part of his pledge to return the kingdom to moderate Islam.

                  Backed by high-power lobbying and public relations firms, the prince is seeking to rebrand Saudi Arabia as a modernist oasis instead of an austere kingdom known for exporting jihadist ideology and subjugating women.

                  Saudi officials project strong relations between Prince Mohammed and Macron, both young leaders undertaking challenging reforms to transform their countries.

                  “Saudi Arabia is not resetting diplomatic ties with France,” a source close to the Saudi government told AFP.

                  “The leadership of both countries share much in common. They are both young, visionary and ambitious.”

                  Underlying tensions

                  But the trip follows a period of underlying tensions, with Macron seeking to bolster ties with the Arab world’s biggest economy while also managing other relationships with Middle Eastern nations.

                  Macron waded into a regional crisis last November when Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri ,tendered his resignation, on live television from Riyadh, apparently under pressure from the crown prince.

                  Macron ,invited Hariri to Paris, for talks and he has since rescinded his resignation, a development that analysts say exposed the limits of the prince’s authority.

                  As US President Donald Trump ,threatens to tear up, the 2015 nuclear cooperation deal with Iran, Macron also faces the challenge of convincing the crown prince that some agreement to curb Tehran’s atomic ambitions is better than no deal at all, experts say.

                  The crown prince, however, has emphasised closer ties with Washington just as Macron has sought to improve relations with Iran.

                  Macron also faces seething criticism over French weapon exports to Saudi Arabia, including Caesar artillery guns, sniper rifles and armoured vehicles, despite the kingdom’s role in the Yemen crisis.

                  Three out of four French people believe it is “unacceptable” to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, according to a poll last month by independent research group YouGov.

                  Last week, 10 international rights groups implored Macron to pressure Prince Mohammed over the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen, claiming it is exacerbating a humanitarian crisis for thousands of civilians.

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                  Peshawar ATC to hear Asma Rani murder case

                    PESHAWAR: Acting Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court Waqar Ahmad Seth on Friday ordered the transfer of the Kohat medical student ,Asma Rani murder case,, including the bail petitions of her suspected killers, to an anti-terrorism court in Peshawar from Kohat.

                    The orders were issued on the ,petition of Asma’s brother, Mohammad Irfan,, who claimed that the suspected killers belonged to an influential family of Kohat and therefore, it was impossible for him and his family to pursue the case there.

                    Justice Waqar ordered that the case and bail petitions of the arrested suspects be transferred to the ATC No 1, Peshawar, which should take them up on Apr 16.

                    PHC orders case transfer from Kohat on request of deceased’s brother

                    The petitioner said the suspects had brutally gunned down his sister on Jan 27.

                    The prime suspect in the case, Mujahidullah, had along with his brother, Sadiqullah, allegedly opened fire at Asma Rani after she turned down his marriage proposal.

                    The prime suspect later fled to the UAE but was arrested after the Interpol issued his red notices on the request of Pakistani government.

                    He was shifted to Pakistan last month.

                    Asma had named Mujahidullah as her killer in dying declaration.

                    Last month, the high court had ordered the transfer of the bail petitions of suspects to the court of Peshawar’s district and sessions judge.

                    However, as the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act were included in the FIR of the killing, the petitions weren’t heard by the sessions court prompting the petitioner to again move the high court for the transfer of the case to the ATC.

                    Ghulam Mohiuddin Malik, lawyer for the petitioner, said his client’s sister was a student of third year at the International Medical College, Abbottabad, and on the day of her killing, she had come to Kohat to spend weekend.

                    He said the suspects were the permanent residents of Kohat and belonged to influential political family as one of their close relative was the district president of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, whereas another was an MNA.

                    The lawyer said several relatives of the suspects were practicing lawyers and they were also having acquaintance with several other leading lawyers in the city.

                    He said the petitioner tried to engage a counsel in Kohat but no one accepted his case.

                    The lawyer said the accused were mighty, influential and possessing great strength in the local area.

                    “On every hearing, they (suspects) are hostile and come to the court with a large number of supporters putting petitioner and his relatives under pressure. They’ve been creating hostile atmosphere and threatening life of the petitioner,” he said.

                    After the Asma killing, the Kohat police had arrested the co-accused, Sadiqullah, and reportedly seized a 30-bore pistol used in the crime.

                    They later held another suspect, Shahzeb, who had allegedly helped Mujahidullah flee to Saudi Arabia.

                    The police claimed that on Shahzeb’s pointation, they had recovered a motorcycle used in the crime and vehicle used by Mujahidullah to flee.

                    Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2018

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                    Saudi king reaffirms support for Palestinians after son’s pro-Israel comments

                      Saudi King Salman reaffirmed support for Palestinians to US President Donald Trump, state media said Tuesday, after his ,son and heir apparent said Israel has a “right” to a homeland,.

                      The king “reaffirmed the kingdom’s steadfast position towards the Palestinian issue and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital,” the official Saudi Press Agency said.

                      The king also emphasised the need to advance the Middle East peace process in a phone call with Trump, which came after Israeli forces killed 17 Palestinians last week during a demonstration on its border with Gaza.

                      Saudi Arabia and Israel have no formal diplomatic relations, but behind the scenes their ties appear to have improved in recent years against what they see as a common Iranian threat.

                      Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians has long proved an obstacle to a full rapprochement, however, as Riyadh still supports the Palestinian claim to sovereignty.

                      But Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman indicated a notable shift in the kingdom’s position in an interview published Monday with US news magazine The Atlantic.

                      The prince was asked by the magazine whether the “Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland?”

                      “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation,” said the prince, who is on a three-week US tour.

                      “I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land,” he added.

                      “But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.”

                      Since 2002, Saudi Arabia has been the main sponsor of the Arab Peace Initiative, which envisions a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

                      No senior Saudi official is known to have previously accepted that Israel has a right to any land beyond the practical need to secure a lasting deal.

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                      Saudi king reaffirms support for Palestinians after son’s Israel comments

                        Saudi King Salman reaffirmed support for Palestinians to US President Donald Trump, state media said Tuesday, after his ,son and heir apparent said Israel has a “right” to a homeland,.

                        The king “reaffirmed the kingdom’s steadfast position towards the Palestinian issue and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital,” the official Saudi Press Agency said.

                        The king also emphasised the need to advance the Middle East peace process in a phone call with Trump, which came after Israeli forces killed 17 Palestinians last week during a demonstration on its border with Gaza.

                        Saudi Arabia and Israel have no formal diplomatic relations, but behind the scenes their ties appear to have improved in recent years against what they see as a common Iranian threat.

                        Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians has long proved an obstacle to a full rapprochement, however, as Riyadh still supports the Palestinian claim to sovereignty.

                        But Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman indicated a notable shift in the kingdom’s position in an interview published Monday with US news magazine The Atlantic.

                        The prince was asked by the magazine whether the “Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland?”

                        “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation,” said the prince, who is on a three-week US tour.

                        “I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land,” he added.

                        “But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.”

                        Since 2002, Saudi Arabia has been the main sponsor of the Arab Peace Initiative, which envisions a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

                        No senior Saudi official is known to have previously accepted that Israel has a right to any land beyond the practical need to secure a lasting deal.

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                        Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - April 3, 2018 at 5:25 pm

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                        Saudi crown prince says Israel has ‘right’ to its land

                        • ,’What is Wahhabism?’,
                        • ,’Triangle of evil’,
                        • ,’Absolute monarchy’,

                        The crown prince and de facto leader of Saudi Arabia said Israel has a “right” to a homeland, a notable shift in the kingdom’s position, in an interview ,published in The Atlantic, on Monday.

                        Saudi Arabia and Israel still have no formal diplomatic relations, but behind the scenes, improvements in their ties have accelerated in recent years.

                        Both countries see Iran as their biggest outside threat and the United States (US) as their key ally, and both see danger from armed extremists.

                        Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians has long proved an obstacle to a full rapprochement, however, as Riyadh still supports their claim to sovereignty.

                        But now Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — speaking to the editor-in-chief of US news magazine The Atlantic — appeared to put the rival land claims on an equal footing.

                        The prince was asked by Jeffrey Goldberg whether the “Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland?”

                        “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation,” said the prince, who is on a three-week US tour.

                        “I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land,” he added.

                        “But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.”

                        Since 2002, Saudi Arabia has been the main sponsor of the Arab Peace Initiative, which envisions a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

                        But no such senior Saudi official is known to have previously accepted that Israel has a “right” to any land beyond the practical need to secure a lasting deal.

                        If, as expected, the crown prince succeeds his octogenarian father King Salman and ascends to the Saudi throne, he will also become guardian of Islam’s holiest shrines.

                        But he told Goldberg he had no “religious objection” to Israelis living alongside Palestinians, so long as the main Muslim holy site in Jerusalem — the Al-Aqsa mosque compound — is protected.

                        “We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people,” he said.

                        “This is what we have. We don’t have any objection against any other people.”

                        ‘What is Wahhabism?’

                        When asked about the Wahhabist ideology, the crown prince told Goldberg “This Wahhabism — please define it for us. We’re not familiar with it. We don’t know about it.”

                        “It’s a movement founded by Ibn abd al-Wahhab in the 1700s, very fundamentalist in nature, an austere Salafist-style interpretation…,” replied Goldberg, at which point he appeared to have been cut off by the prince.

                        “No one can define Wahhabism. There is no Wahhabism. We don’t believe we have Wahhabism. We believe we have, in Saudi Arabia, Sunni and Shiite. We believe we have within Sunni Islam four schools of thought, and we have the ulema [the religious authorities] and the Board of Fatwas [which issues religious rulings]. Yes, in Saudi Arabia it’s clear that our laws are coming from Islam and the Quran, but we have the four schools — Hanbali, Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki — and they argue about interpretation.”

                        ‘Triangle of evil’

                        “A ‘triangle of evil’ is trying to promote the idea that our duty as Muslims is to reestablish the caliphate, to reestablish the mindset of the caliphate — that the glory of Islam is in building an empire by force,” said the prince in a question on Islam.

                        When asked to elaborate, he said: “First in the triangle, we have the Iranian regime that wants to spread their extremist Shiite ideology. The second part of the triangle is the Muslim Brotherhood, which is another extremist organisation. They want to use the democratic system to rule countries and build shadow caliphates everywhere. The other part is the terrorists — al-Qaeda, ISIS — that want to do everything with force.”

                        “This triangle is promoting an idea that God and Islam are not asking us to promote [...] Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Yemen — all of these countries are defending the idea that independent nations should focus on their own interests, in building good relations on the foundation of UN principles. The evil triangle doesn’t want to do that.”

                        ‘Absolute monarchy’

                        “Absolute monarchy is not a threat to any country. You say ‘absolute monarchy’ like it’s a threat,” the prince said in reply to a question. “If it were not for absolute monarchy, you wouldn’t have the United States. The absolute monarch in France helped the creation of the United States by giving it support. Absolute monarchy is not an enemy of the United States. It’s an ally for a very long time.”

                        “Saudi Arabia is a network of thousands of absolute monarchies, and then has a large absolute monarchy. We have tribal monarchies, town monarchies. Moving against this structure would create huge problems in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi fabric is much more complicated than you think. And actually our king doesn’t have absolute power. His power is based in law. If he is making a royal decree, he can’t say, ‘I’m King Salman and I’m doing this’. If you read decrees, you first see the list of laws that allow the king to take this decision. By the way, the queen of the United Kingdom, she has absolute power with any law. But she doesn’t practice it. So it’s complicated.”

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