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US-led strikes on Syria justified: Israeli official

News Desk

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Retaliatory airstrikes led by the US on Syria are justified because of the “murderous actions” said an Israeli official of the Damascus government today.

The official who denied disclosing his identity said, “ Last year (US) President Donald Trump said that the use of chemical weapons would violate a red line. This night, under America’s guidance, the United States, France and Britain acted accordingly (because) Syria continues to carry out its murderous actions”.

He further added, “Syria also serves as a base to carry out such action, namely on behalf of Iran, endangering its territory, its forces and its leadership”.

The public radio stated that Israel had been earlier apprised quite ahead of time of the air strikes that were today done by the United States, Britain and France.

Tensions seem to have been intense between Israel and Iran that is a chief backer of the Syrian regime that provides military advisors and “volunteer” ground forces to Damascus.

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White House says four witnesses denies any knowledge of sexual assault by Kavanaugh

Anil Rajpurohit

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Washington | The White House has doubted the sexual assault allegation by a California professor against Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at a house party attended by four others, arguing that they have denied any knowledge of the incident or having attended the party.

Ford had alleged that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a house party some 36 years ago in suburban Washington, a charge denied by Justice Kavanaugh.

“One week ago, Dr Christine Blasey Ford claimed she was assaulted at a house party attended by four others. Since then, all four of these individuals have provided statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee denying any knowledge of the incident or even having attended such a party,” White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a late-night statement on Saturday.

The statement came after Ford accepted a request from the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify on her allegations against Justice Kavanaugh. The confirmation of Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court judge now hinges on this hearing.

The Senate Judiciary Committee and lawyers of Ford have agreed to a hearing on Thursday, according to media reports.

On September 16, the Washington Post reported on Dr Ford’s allegation of sexual assault taking place at a party attended by Judge Kavanaugh and three other individuals.

The next day, Judge Kavanaugh issued a statement, saying: “This is a completely false allegation.” He urged the Committee to allow him to testify publicly, and in an interview with Committee Counsel, repeated his categorical denial.

A day later, one of the witness, Mark Judge issued a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying: “I have no memory of the alleged incident. I do not recall the party described.”, the statement said.

On September 19, another witness, Patrick “PJ” Smyth issued a statement to the Committee, stating “I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has levelled against Brett Kavanaugh.”

According to the White House, on Saturday, Leland Keyser, another witness, issued a statement to the Committee through her counsel, stating “Ms Keyser does not know Mr Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr Ford.”

“Brett Kavanaugh has been clear from the beginning — he categorically and unequivocally denies this allegation and is eager to testify publicly to defend his integrity and clear his good name,” Kupec said.

“On Monday, Brett Kavanaugh met with Committee counsels to answer questions subject to criminal penalties and offered to testify publicly Tuesday morning. Since then, we have heard about different dates, conditions, and ever changing schedules, but today we appear no closer to a fair hearing.

“But one thing has remained consistent: Brett Kavanaugh remains ready, willing and eager to testify as soon as possible,” the White House spokesperson said.

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Pakistan PM Imran Khan hits out at India, calls its response “arrogant” for cancelling talks

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Imran Khan

Islamabad | India’s decision to cancel the foreign minister-level meeting in New York was “arrogant”, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said Saturday, asserting that he was “disappointed” by the New Delhi’s “negative” response.

India on Friday cited the “brutal” killing of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the release of the postal stamps “glorifying” Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani for calling off the meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York this month.

Announcing the cancellation of the meeting, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in New Delhi that the incidents “exposed” the “true face” of Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan to the world as well as Islamabad’s evil agenda behind the proposal for talks.

“The latest brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities and the recent release of a series of 20 postage stamps by Pakistan glorifying a terrorist and terrorism confirm that Pakistan will not mend its ways,” Kumar said. “Disappointed at the arrogant and negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue,” Prime Minister Khan said in a tweet.

“However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture,” he said in a sharp reaction to India’s cancellation of the meeting. Kumar said talks with Pakistan after the “two deeply disturbing” developments would be “meaningless”. “In view of the changed situation, there will be no meeting between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan in New York,” he said.

Reacting to India’s remarks, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said Friday that the “so-called ‘disturbing developments'” alluded to in the Indian statement predated the Indian agreement to hold the bilateral meeting in New York. He said the alleged killing of a BSF soldier took place two days prior to the Indian announcement of its agreement to hold the bilateral meeting.

When the allegations of Pakistan’s involvement first appeared, Pakistani rangers clearly conveyed to BSF through official channels that the country had nothing to do with it, he said. “Pakistan…categorically reject these allegations…Our authorities would be prepared to conduct a joint investigation to establish the truth,” Faisal said.

On the issue of the postage stamps, he said they were issued before the July 25 elections and before Prime Minister Khan assumed office on August 18.

“We choose not to further comment beyond saying that these comments are against all norms of civilised discourse and diplomatic communication,” Faisal said.

“We believe by its ill-considered cancellation of the meeting, India has once again wasted a serious opportunity to change the dynamics of the bilateral relationship and put the region on the path of peace and development,” he added.

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India, Pakistan foreign ministers’ meeting in New York terrific news: US

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India-Pakistan

Washington | The US on Friday termed as a “terrific news” the proposed meeting between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York, expressing hope that the conditions will be set for a “good” and “strong” relationship between the two neighbours in the future.

The meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi will be the first such high-level engagement since suspension of dialogue between the two nations after the Pathankot air base terror attack in 2016. India, however, made it clear that it was not the resumption of the Indo-Pak dialogue.

“We saw that (reports of meetings between Indian and Pak leaders). I think that’s a terrific news for the Indians and Pakistanis to be able to sit down and have a conversation together,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters at her daily news conference. Nauert also welcomed the exchange of messages between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan.

“We saw the reports about the positive messages being exchanged between Prime Minister Khan and also Prime Minister Modi. And we hope that the conditions will be set for a good strong relationship, a good strong bilateral relationship in the future,” she said.

The last meeting between the two foreign ministers was held during Swaraj’s visit to Islamabad in December 2015 to attend the Heart of Asia Summit, where she had met he then Pakistan foreign minister Sartaj Aziz.

After the meeting, the two sides had announced resumption of Indo-Pak dialogue under the comprehensive bilateral format, but the initiative did not take off after Pakistan-based terror groups attacked the Pathankot air base.

The Indo-Pak ties have nose-dived since then in view of a number of terror strikes by Pakistan-based groups, which India retaliated by carrying out ‘surgical strikes’ in September 2016 across the LoC. India has been maintaining that terror and talks cannot go together.

The US has traditionally welcomed any talks between India and Pakistan, the pace of which, it has noted would depends on the leadership of the two countries.

“In general, the United States supports dialogue between India and Pakistan that can reduce tensions, and we understand and had frequent conversations with the Indian partners on the expectations that there would be demonstrable reduction in cross-border terrorism or infiltration that will help create the confidence for dialogue to take place,” Alice Wells, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, had told reporters during a conference call last week.

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