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French minister pulls out of Saudi conference over Khashoggi

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Khashoggi

Paris: French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said Thursday he was pulling out of a major investment conference in Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “I won’t go to Riyadh next week,” Le Maire told France’s Public Senat TV channel, adding that “the current circumstances do not allow me to go to Riyadh”.

The minister echoed President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks last week on Khashoggi’s disappearance, calling it a “very serious” matter. Le Maire is one of the first senior Western officials to pull out of the October 23-25 Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he will decide on Thursday whether to attend.

Several business titans and Western media groups have already pulled out of the conference organized by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Khashoggi, who was living in self-imposed exile in the United States where he contributed to the Washington Post, vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. He was critical of some of Saudi Arabia’s policies. Turkish officials claim he was killed and dismembered in the consulate by a hit squad which arrived from Riyadh — claims denied by the Saudi government.

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A leader who doesn’t take timely U-turns is not a real leader: Imran Khan

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Imran Khan

Islamabad | Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said a leader who does not take timely “U-turns” is not a “real leader”.

During an interaction with journalists at the PM House, Khan cited an example from his cricket days when he led Pakistan’s national team said, “We used to make a strategy and then step out into the field but if the opponent team formed a strategy against ours then we would have to change it.”

To buttress his point, the 66-year-old cricketer-turned-politician also referred to Adolf Hitler and Napoleon Bonaparte, Geo News reported. “Hitler and Napoleon suffered huge defeats and caused losses as they did not take U-turns,” it quoted Khan as saying. “If you are walking and there is a wall in front of you, then you will have to change and find another way,” the Geo News journalist quoted Imran as explaining.  “A leader who does not take U-turns as per the requirements of the situation is not a real leader,” The News quoted Khan as saying.

Khan also attacked former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, saying what he told an accountability court on Friday was not a U-turn but a “lie”. “What Nawaz Sharif did in court was not a U-turn but a lie,” Khan said, apparently referring to the Pakistan Muslim League supremo telling the court that he had never had any transaction with Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani.

Sharif is currently facing trial in three corruption cases filed against him and his family by the National Accountability Bureau on a directive from the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers scandal. Khan said his government will uphold the decisions taken by the Supreme Court.

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Sri Lankan Parliament disrupted again, adjourned until Monday amid political crisis

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Sri Lanka

Colombo | Rival Sri Lankan lawmakers threw chilli powder and furniture at each other and disrupted the proceedings of Parliament for a second day Friday, forcing Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to summon police inside the House and adjourn the session until Monday.

The brawl occurred a day after the Speaker announced there is no prime minister or government following a no-confidence motion against disputed prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Friday’s proceedings were to repeat the floor test which was disrupted on Thursday.

President Maithripala Sirisena, who installed Rajapaksa as prime minister last month in a controversial move, had agreed for a floor test with the leaders of ousted prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s coalition during crisis talks last night.

The MPs supporting Rajapaksa took over the seat of the Speaker, delaying the proceedings, officials said. They shouted slogans against Jayasuriya broke furniture. Some Rajapakse loyalists were also seen throwing chilli powder at rival legislators and police, Colombo Gazette reported.

The Speaker summoned police inside Parliament chamber after 45 minutes of disruption. One of the rioting MPs Arundika Fernando occupied the seat of the Speaker with more MPs surrounding it. Gamini Jayawickrema Perera, a senior parliamentarian, was injured in the melee.

The rioting United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) members demanded the arrest of two legislators of the Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP). They charged that two UNP legislators, Palitha Thewarapperuma and Ranjan Ramanayake were carrying knives during the brawl which took place yesterday. Yesterday, UPFA MP Dilum Amunugama was injured in clashes inside the chamber.

Police Friday protected Jayasuriya from the rioting MPs as he called the Tamil National Alliance lawmaker MA Sumanthiran to propose the suspension of the standing orders. Jayasuriya on the basis of a voice vote announced that the motion against Rajapaksa was defeated as physical voting could not take place due to the brawl.  The rioting MPs threw books at the police. Jayasuriya immediately suspended the sittings until November 19 and left the House surrounded by police.

President Sirisena said that he would not ‘prorogue the Parliament under any circumstances.’ “I urge all Parliamentarians to uphold principles of democracy parliamentary traditions at all times. I will not prorogue Parliament under any circumstances,” the president tweeted. The trouble erupted in Parliament on Thursday when the Speaker agreed to a request from ousted premier Wickremesinghe’s UNP that a vote be taken on a statement made by Rajapaksa demanding fresh polls.

Jayasuriya allowed Rajapaksa to make a statement as a lawmaker after stating that he does not recognise the claim of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) leader who lost a no-confidence motion on Wednesday. Rajapaksa’s side has disputed the no-trust motion, saying proper procedure was not followed and accused Jayasuriya of bias towards his own party.

Parliament on Wednesday passed the no-confidence motion against Rajapaksa after the Supreme Court overturned the presidential decree to dissolve the House and hold snap polls on January 5. Amid raucous scenes, Parliament on Wednesday met for the first time since October 26, when Sirisena sacked premier Wickremesinghe, installed Rajapaksa in his place and suspended the House, plunging the island nation into an unprecedented Constitutional crisis.

The vote of no confidence against Rajapaksa has further complicated the political crisis. It is not yet clear whether Rajapaksa will resign or whether the ousted Wickremesinghe, who has the support of 122 lawmakers in the 225-member House, will return to power.

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Julian Assange charged in US: WikiLeaks

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Julian Assange

Washington | WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was behind a massive dump of classified US documents in 2010, has been charged in the United States, WikiLeaks said on Thursday. Prosecutors revealed the existence of the sealed indictment inadvertently in a court filing in an unrelated case, WikiLeaks said.

The exact nature of the charges against Assange was not immediately known. “SCOOP: US Department of Justice ‘accidentally’ reveals existence of sealed charges (or a draft for them) against WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange in apparent cut-and-paste error in an unrelated case also at the Eastern District of Virginia,” Wikileaks wrote on Twitter. The still unsealed charges against Assange were disclosed by Assistant US Attorney Kellen Dwyer as she made a filing in the unrelated case and urged a judge to keep that filing sealed.

Dwyer wrote, “due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged,” according to The Washington Post. Later, Dwyer wrote the charges would “need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested.”

US media were alerted late Thursday to the inadvertent disclosure thanks to a tweet from Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. He is known to follow court filings closely.

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