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Trump says missing Saudi journalist Khashoggi likely dead, warns of ‘very severe’ consequences

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Washington: US President Donald Trump has said it looks like Saudi Arabia’s missing dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead and warned of “very severe” consequences if the kingdom is responsible. Trump’s remarks came after he was briefed on the investigation by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Khashoggi, 60, who has not been seen since entering Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul earlier this month, is feared to have been killed inside the mission. The incident has resulted in a global outrage, more so in the US where he lived as a legal permanent resident and worked for ‘The Washington Post’. “It certainly looks that way to me. It’s very sad. Certainly, looks that way, Trump told reporters at Joint Air Force base Andrews before boarding Air Force One on his way to Montana for a campaign rally. This is the first time that the US has officially acknowledged about Khashoggi’s death, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Turkish investigators have told local media and also to the US media that Khashoggi was brutally killed inside the consulate on October 2. “Well, it’ll have to be very severe. I mean, it’s bad, bad stuff. But we’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters when asked what would be the consequences of such an unfortunate incident. The President’s remarks came hours after he had a detailed meeting with Pompeo, who a night earlier arrived from his trip to Saudi Arabia and Turkey, where he talked to them about the missing journalist. “We are waiting for some investigations, and waiting for the results. We will have them very soon, and I think we’ll be making a statement, a very strong statement. But we’re waiting for the results of about three different investigations, and we should be able to get to the bottom fairly soon,” Trump said.

Trump so far has resisted the call for strong action against Saudi Arabia. During his meeting with Trump, Pompeo advised that Saudi Arabia is given some more time to complete investigation. “We’ve made clear to them that we take this matter with respect to Mr Khashoggi very seriously. They’ve made clear to me they, too, understand the serious nature of the disappearance of Mr Khashoggi,” Pompeo said. “They also assured me that they will conduct a complete, thorough investigation of all of the facts surrounding Mr Khashoggi, and that they will do so in a timely fashion, and that this report itself will be transparent for everyone to see, to ask questions about, and to inquire with respect to its thoroughness,” he said. “And I told President Trump this morning that we ought to give them a few more days to complete that, so that we, too, have a complete understanding of the facts surrounding that. At which point we can make decisions about how or if the United States should respond to the incident surrounding Mr Khashoggi,” said the top American diplomat.

Meanwhile, several lawmakers led by Congressman Jim McGovern introduced a legislation in the House to prohibit all US arms sales to Saudi Arabia until Secretary of State determines that the Saudi regime is not responsible for the disappearance or death of Khashoggi. If the Saudi government is found to be culpable in Khashoggi’s disappearance, the legislation prohibits all US military aid and sales to Saudi Arabia until Congress passes a resolution approving such sales. House Democratic Whip Steny H Hoyer said the reported death of Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi officials is appalling, as is the Trump Administration’s failure to hold the government of Saudi Arabia accountable for its actions. “Given the reports surrounding Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance, America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia ought to be carefully scrutinised, as should any possible sale of US weapons to Saudi Arabia,” he said. “If the President refuses to stand up to Saudi Arabia, it is incumbent upon Congress to take a stand to not only defend US values, but to send a strong signal of support to journalists and democracy activists everywhere,” Hoyer added.

In a related development, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Reporters Without Borders on Thursday urged Turkey to urgently ask UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to establish a UN investigation into the possible extrajudicial execution of Khashoggi.

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Lankan MPs seek suspension of state funds allocated to Rajapaksa

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The Parliament, which was convened Monday for a third-floor test against Rajapaksa, was adjourned just 10 minutes after its opening.

 

Colombo| Sri Lankan lawmakers have submitted a motion to Parliament seeking the suspension of state funds allocated to disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has lost two no-confidence motions.

The Ousted prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe‘s United National Party Parliamentarian Navin Dissanayake said that six United National Front MPs handed over the motion to be debated in Parliament, the Colombo Gazette reported Monday.

They are of the opinion that state funds of the “illegitimate Prime Minister” should be suspended forthwith, the paper said.

The motion is to be placed in the order paper and debated and a vote taken on the November 29, it added.

The Parliament, which was convened Monday for a third-floor test against Rajapaksa, was adjourned just 10 minutes after its opening.

The public and VIP galleries were shut for diplomats on a request by Rajapaksa’s United People’s Freedom Alliance. The security was also tightened to prevent any incident, officials said.

Sri Lanka is witnessing a political crisis since President Maithripapala Sirisena abruptly sacked prime minister Wickremesinghe and installed ex-strongman Rajapaksa in his place on October 26.

Sirisena later dissolved Parliament, almost 20 months before its term was to end, and ordered a snap election. The Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned President Sirisena’s decision to dissolve Parliament and halted the preparations for snap polls on January 5.

Monday’s session was conducted peacefully. The House was adjourned till November 23 ten minutes after its opening.

Last week, Sri Lanka’s parliament witnessed unprecedented violence as lawmakers threw furniture and chilli powder at each other.

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California wildfire death toll rises to 77

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Chico (US) | Authorities say one more set of human remains has been found, bringing the total number killed in a devastating California wildfire to 77. A state incident report released Sunday evening says the flames destroyed more than 10,500 homes.

Over a thousand names remain on a list of those unaccounted for after the so-called Camp Fire swept through the rural town of Paradise on November 8. Authorities stressed that many of those may be safe and unaware they have been reported missing.

Hundreds of volunteers are sifting through ash and debris, searching for human remains before expected rains complicate their efforts. The predicted downpours could wash away telltale fragments of bone, or turn loose, dry ash into a thick paste that would frustrate the search. The fire was 65 percent contained Sunday.

Crews searching for remains of people after the devastating Northern California wildfire are stepping up their efforts ahead of rains forecast for later this week that could complicate their work. A team of 10 volunteers along with a cadaver dog were examining burned houses Sunday in a Paradise neighbourhood looking for victims. They’re focusing on vehicles, bathtubs and mattress springs that would indicate a charred bed. If no remains are found, the team leaves a note in orange spray paint near the home.

Rain would help suppress the fire but could also complicate the search and recovery effort. Officials say ash that is now dry and easy to dust off would turn into paste, making it harder to uncover remains.

The National Park Service says all but one of 13 mountain lions being tracked in Southern California mountains have been accounted for following a devastating wildfire.

As of Friday, the only missing mountain lion was one dubbed P-74, a young male born last year. In addition, all four bobcats that the agency monitors via GPS have been located in the Santa Monica Mountains northwest of Los Angeles.

Officials have again increased the number of homes and other structures burned by a huge Southern California wildfire. The figure rose Sunday to 1,130 buildings destroyed – many of them homes – and 300 damaged. The tally is continuing.

Firefighters are making progress against the blaze that broke out November 8 and tore through communities west of Los Angeles from Thousand Oaks to Malibu. More evacuees have been allowed back in their homes and the 151-square-mile (391-square-kilometer) blaze is now 88 percent contained.

California’s governor is expressing optimism that President Donald Trump will support the state as it deals with raging wildfires. Democratic Governor Jerry Brown said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” airing Sunday that the Republican president has “got our back” and has pledged to continue to help.

Trump initially blamed state officials for poor forest management in exacerbating the fires and threatened to cut off federal funding. He’s since signed an emergency declaration and toured the devastated areas Saturday with Brown and Governor-elect Gavin Newsom. Brown also suggested in the CBS interview that the wildfires will make believers of even the most ardent climate change skeptics “in less than five years” and that those living near forests might need to build underground shelters to protect them from wildfires going forward.

Pope Francis has prayed for victims of California’s wildfires and freezing weather on the US East Coast.

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Pakistan PM Imran Khan visits UAE to seek financial assistance

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Dubai | Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in the UAE on Sunday on a day-long visit to the Gulf country, where he is likely to seek financial assistance to minimise the cash-strapped Pakistan’s dependence on an IMF bailout package.

Khan, who is visiting the UAE for the second time in the last two months, met Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE’s Armed Forces, at the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi. He is accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Finance Minister Asad Umar among other officials, the Express Tribune reported.

“The purpose of the visit is to seek billions of dollars in aid as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) becomes unusually tough on Pakistan on the fiscal and monetary fronts, which is hindering early conclusion of talks,” the paper said. Pakistan wants USD 6 billion financial assistance from the UAE in the shape of cash deposits and oil on deferred payments, it added. The two sides may sign a memorandum of understanding on the financial assistance package, the paper quoted a cabinet minister as saying. Finance Minister Umar, however, denied that there is any link between the IMF conditions and the PM’s UAE visit.

Last month, Khan had a stopover in Dubai on his return from Saudi Arabia in September.  Saudi Arabia had agreed to provide Pakistan with a USD 6 billion rescue package during Khan’s visit to the Gulf Kingdom.

Early this month, Prime Minister Khan visited China, which reportedly agreed to provide USD 6 billion in aid to Pakistan. Khan will visit Malaysia later this week where he is likely to seek monetary assistance. Pakistan was facing a USD 12 billion financing gap for the current fiscal year.

The Pakistan government is keen to minimise the amount borrowed from the IMF by getting loans from “friendly” countries like Saudi Arabia, China and Malaysia as officials in Islamabad believe that the global lender could attach tough conditions.

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