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US secretary of state likely to visit Pakistan in September to hold talks with Imran Khan

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Islamabad | US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is likely to visit Pakistan in the first week of September to hold talks with newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan on issues of mutual interests, a media report said today.

Pompeo, who is expected in Islamabad on September 5, would be the first foreign dignitary to meet Prime Minister Khan, Dawn reported, quoting the diplomatic and official sources. Khan, 65, was sworn in as Pakistan’s 22nd prime minister at a simple ceremony in Islamabad yesterday.

The US has welcomed the swearing-in of Khan as new Prime Minister and said that it was looking forward to work with Pakistan’s new civilian government to promote peace and prosperity in the country and in the region.

The relations between Pakistan and the US nose-dived after President Donald Trump in January accused Islamabad of giving nothing to Washington but “lies and deceit” and providing “safe haven” to terrorists.

The US Congress also passed a bill to slash Pakistan’s defence aid to USD 150 million, significantly below the historic level of more than USD one billion per year.

Citing its sources, the paper said that during his talks with Pakistani officials, Pompeo may focus on two major issues: efforts to revive once close ties between the two countries and Pakistan’s support for a US-led move to jump-starting the Afghan peace process.

Alice Wells, who heads the Bureau for South Asian affairs at the State Department, may also accompany Pompeo, the paper added. In recent statements, US officials have expressed the desire to restore their once close ties with Pakistan.

In her speech at the Pakistan Embassy earlier this week, Wells not only welcomed Khan’s election but also expressed the desire to work with his government for resolving difficult issues.

Wells noted that the new leader had also recognised the importance of US-Pakistan relationship in his public statements and in his first meeting with US Embassy officials in Islamabad.

In his victory speech last month, Khan said he wants a balanced relation between Pakistan and America which should be mutually beneficial, not one sided.

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India welcomes outcome of Maldivian President election

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New Delhi | India on Monday congratulated opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on his victory in the presidential polls in the Maldives and said the election reflected the country’s commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law.

India also hoped that the Maldivian Election Commission will officially confirm the result at the earliest. “We welcome the successful completion of the third presidential election process in the Maldives which, according to preliminary information, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has won,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.  “We heartily congratulate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on his victory and hope that the Election Commission will officially confirm the result at the earliest,” it said.

According to reports, Solih won the presidential election, defeating President Abdulla Yameen who is known to be close to China. “This election marks not only the triumph of democratic forces in the Maldives but also reflects the firm commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law,” the MEA said.

India’s ties with the Maldives came under strain after President Yameen declared Emergency in the country on February 5, following an order by the country’s Supreme Court to release a group of Opposition leaders, who had been convicted in widely criticised trials.

India had criticised the Yameen government for the imposition of the Emergency and urged it to restore the credibility of the electoral and political process by releasing political prisoners. The Emergency was lifted 45 days later.

In July, India expressed concern over the announcement of the presidential election without allowing democratic institutions, including Parliament and the judiciary, to work in a free and transparent manner.

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

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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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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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