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Washington demands probe into Yemen bus strike

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Washington |The United States called for a “thorough” investigation following the deaths of 29 children in northern Yemen in a strike on a bus carried out by the Saudi-led coalition.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the US was “concerned” by reports of an attack resulting in civilian deaths. “We are calling the Saudi led coalition to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident,” she said.

Nauert added the US takes credible accounts of civilian casualties “very seriously.” “We call on the parties to take appropriate measures to protect civilians,” she said.

A hospital in Saada province supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross “received the bodies of 29 children under the age of 15, and 48 wounded, including 30 children,” the organization announced on Twitter. A spokesman for the Red Cross in Sanaa told AFP the toll was not final as casualties from the attack were taken to several hospitals.

The coalition acknowledged carrying out a “legitimate military action,” but spokesman Turki al-Maliki told AFP claims that children were inside the bus were “misleading,” adding that the bus carried “Huthi combatants.”

Saada is a stronghold of Huthi rebels, whom the Saudi-led coalition are fighting in support of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s forces. The war in Yemen has left more than 10,000 dead since 2015, sparking what the UN says is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The US has lent its Saudi allies support in the form of arms, intelligence and aerial refueling.

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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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Pakistan may not seek IMF bailout; seeking help from ‘friendly countries’: PM Khan

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Islamabad | Pakistan may not have to approach the IMF for loans as it has received “positive” responses from some “friendly countries”, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said, days after Islamabad formally approached the global lender for a bailout to tide over the economic crisis.

Talking to a delegation of senior editors on Wednesday, Khan said his government was in touch with some “friendly countries” and has sought cooperation to address the mounting balance of payments deficit and dwindling foreign currency reserves.

Though he did not name any countries, Pakistani media has reported that the government was consulting allies like China and Saudi Arabia for financial help.

“Their response is positive. I am quite hopeful that we will not have to approach the International Monetary Fund for our economic needs,” he was quoted as saying by The News.

Imran’s comments follows some tough talking by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and the US on Pakistan’s bailout plan, demanding absolute transparency on the country’s debts, including those owned by China under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.

Apart from selling off surplus luxury cars, Prime Minister Khan’s proposals include turning state-owned buildings into universities, dispensing with VIP security protocol and cutting air conditioning in government offices to keep the economy afloat.

Khan has vowed to steer Pakistan out of a looming balance-of-payments crisis, saying it needs USD 10 to 12 billion.

He said Pakistan’s economy has been badly hit. He said the previous governments borrowed so much that it has become hard for his government to repay the loans.

“Had the former government not received loans or the amount so received was utilised properly, the economy of the country would have been in a good shape,” he said.

Pakistan Finance Minister Asad Umar met IMF chief Lagarde on the sidelines of the IMF and World Bank annual meetings in Bali, Indonesia on October 12 and formally requested a “stabilisation recovery programme”.

Umar said that a team of the IMF will arrive in Pakistan on November 7.

He said the government don’t want to fully rely on the IMF and would do anything to bring improvement in the economy. He said the loan programme with the IMF is almost final, but the government will have to see that the IMF does not place any undoable conditions for Pakistan in return.

Lagarde has made it clear to Umar that the IMF would require absolute transparency on Pakistan’s debts, including those owned by China under the multibillion-dollar CPEC.

The CPEC is a network of infrastructure projects that are currently under construction throughout Pakistan that will connect China’s Xinjiang province with Gwadar port in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. It is the part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative.

The US has said that the huge Chinese debt was responsible for the economic challenges facing Pakistan, adding that it will review Islamabad’s bailout plea to the IMF from all angles, including the country’s debt position.

Umar said the Pakistan government was also exploring other options to avoid problems if the IMF programme did not materialise.

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French minister pulls out of Saudi conference over Khashoggi

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Jamal 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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