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Australian PM ‘regrets’ inviting Islamic cleric to state dinner

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INDIA-AUSTRALIA

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Friday expressed regret that an Islamic cleric, who once said AIDS was a fitting punishment for being a homosexual, was invited to a government-hosted dinner.

Speaking on Australian radio on Friday, Turnbull condemned divisive remarks made by Sheikh Shady Al-Suleiman, national president of the Australian National Imams Council, who was invited to the dinner which signified the beginning of Ramadan.

The cleric has previously been on record to say that homosexuality is an “evil act” which brings with it “evil disease”, and Turnbull said that if he had known of such remarks, Suleiman would have been taken off the invite list.

“If I had been aware he had made those remarks about homosexuals and gay people, he would not have been invited,” Turnbull said.

Government spokesman, Mathias Cormann echoed the prime minister’s views, saying that Turnbull did not personally invite Suleiman, rather, he would have been part of a broader invite to the Imam Council.

“As soon as (Turnbull) did become aware, he absolutely condemned the (comments),” Cormann told Sky News on Friday.

Following the revelations, Suleiman released a statement regretting his choice of words in the past, and revoked his views that gays should be punished for their sexuality.

“I have previously noted passages in the holy Quran which do not support homosexuality,” he said.

“However I always follow such statements with a personal commitment to tolerance and encouragement that all Muslims and all people approach all individuals, no matter their faith, race or sexuality, in a considerate and respectful way.”

The Iftar dinner hosted by Turnbull is thought to be the first by an Australian prime minister, while Turnbull also took the opportunity to praise the contribution of Australian Muslims for promoting unity in the community.

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US, Russia diplomats discuss Helsinki meeting, ties

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Washington, July 23 (IANS) The US Department of State has said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to discuss Helsinki meeting fruits and issues over bilateral and regional concerns.

According to a statement issued by State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert on Sunday, the phone conversation took place on Saturday when the two foreign ministers discussed a broad range of issues, “some of which were following up from the meeting between President Trump and President Putin” in Finland on July 16, Xinhua reported.

Among the topics discussed was the situation in Syria.

The two also discussed how to implement ideas on counterterrorism process coordination and the mutual goal of establishing business-to-business dialogue between private, non-governmentally controlled entities in the two countries, another deliverable of the Trump-Putin meeting.

Pompeo and Lavrov also discussed “the need for Russia to provide equal diplomatic access to the US, at a level that is fair and reciprocal”.

US White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said Thursday that Putin will be invited to Washington in the autumn, and “those discussions are already underway”.

Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said on Friday in response that that his country is open to a new meeting between the two presidents.

Trump has been widely attacked after his meeting with Putin on July 16, due to his reconciliatory remarks that many saw as a sign to side with Moscow against US intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 US elections.

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Philippines Rains: Over 700,000 affected, 5 dead

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Manila, July 22 : At least five people have died and more than 700,000 have been affected due to days of torrential rains that have lashed the Philippines and have caused dams and waterways in Northern and Central Luzon, as well as Metro Manila to overflow.

 

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said it had received reports that a resident of Luisa Pelew died in a landslide while a resident of Negros Oriental Angelito Jipulan drowned, reports Xinhua news agency.

Police have also reported at least three more deaths, including a Negros Occidental resident who reportedly drowned, and two children from Antique province whose house was buried by a landslide.

The NDRRMC said the affected population of 158,509 families or 728,003 persons were from 585 villages in the National Capital Region (NCR) and several provinces in the Philippine.

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Exempt S. Korean vehicles from new tariffs: Seoul to Washington

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Seoul, July 22 :South Korea has asked the US to exempt its vehicles from the new 25 per cent tariffs Washington is planning to impose on imported vehicles and spare parts, officials said on Sunday.

South Korean Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon made the request to his US counterpart Steve Mnuchin in a meeting on Saturday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Efe news agency reported.

According to an official statement by the finance ministry, Kim asked Mnuchin that South Korean vehicles be excluded from the new tariffs the White House is planning to impose on national security grounds.

The South Korean official reminded his US colleague of the positive impact the Asian country’s automobile industry has had on employment and investments in the US.

Currently, South Korean vehicles entering the US market are not subject to import tariffs under the free trade agreement signed by both countries in 2012.(IANS)

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