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Ban admits bowing to Saudis on war crimes against children in Yemen

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In a startling public admission, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has acknowledged he caved in to financial pressure from Saudi Arabia and removed references to the coalition led by it in a UN report on children’s sufferings in armed conflict as it threatened to “burn down the whole house”.

Calling it “one of the most painful and difficult decisions I have had to make”, Ban told reporters on Thursday that he took the action because of threats by some countries to cut off funds to many UN programmes. If that happened, he added, “children already at risk in Palestine, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and so many other places would fall further into despair”.

Accepting “due criticism”, he defended his action: “Because of this, you cannot burn down whole house. I’m Chief Administrative Officer of this Organization. I have to take care and consider so many crises happening at the same time.”

Ban did not name Saudi Arabia in his diplomatically-worded remarks. But in the context it was a clear reference to Saudi Arabia, which openly campaigned against its listing in the report.

While it is normal practice in diplomacy to exert pressure to influence reports and findings, this is probably the first time it has been acknowledged so candidly in public. Ban’s term as the head of the world body ends in December and this enables him to speak out frankly in his final days in office.

It also puts the spotlight on Saudi financial muscle that chokes off reports and actions by international organisations, governments and leaders of human rights abuses by Riyadh.

“The report describes horrors no child should have to face,” Ban said. “At the same time, I also had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would de-fund many UN programmes.”

But Ban also condemned the arm-twisting. “It is unacceptable for member states to exert undue pressure. Scrutiny is a natural and necessary part of the work of the UN,” he said.

Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Representative Abdallah al-Mouallimi denied his country had used financial pressures to get it removed from the report. “It is not in our style, it is not in our genes, it is not in our culture to use threats and intimidation,” he told reporters.

The UN report released last week said the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for 510 deaths of children and 667 injuries last year in Yemen. It blamed the rebel Houthis for 142 child deaths and 247 injuries.

On Monday, the references to Saudi Arabia were removed “temporarily” from the list of countries and others harming children during armed conflicts pending a “joint review”, Ban’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday.

But al-Mouallimi said the removal from the “wildly exaggerated” report was permanent. He denied the allegations and said the coalition used “precision targeting” to avoid harming civilians.

Amnesty International condemned the dropping of Saudi Arabia from the list.

“It is unconscionable that this pressure was brought to bear by one of the very states listed in the report,” said Richard Bennett, Representative at the UN. “Blatant pandering such as this undermines all of the UN’s work to protect children caught up in war.”

Earlier there have been reports of the UN giving into pressures and modifying reports at the draft stage and this was a rare instance of a retraction after publication.

According to media reports, references to Israel in the 2014 Gaza conflict were removed before publication of a similar UN report last year after lobbying by the United States. At the same time, Hamas was was also left off in the report.

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Pakistan marks July 13 as Kashmir Martyrs Day

Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted, saluting the people of Kashmir for fighting against what he called “illegal and oppressive Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir”.

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Imran Khan Pakistan PM

Islamabad, July 13 : July 13, 2020 is being marked as Kashmir Martyrs Day in Pakistan with homage being paid to the people of Kashmir, who lost their lives in the revolt against the Dogra dynasty in 1931.

The day is being marked as an opportunity for Pakistan to ponder more on what it calls the ongoing struggle of the people of Kashmir, first during Dogra Maharaja of British colonial rule in the sub-continent 89 years ago and then by the Indian forces.

Pakistan military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said the day was declared as national day soon after the birth of India and Pakistan in 1947 and was observed by all sections cutting across political and ideological affiliations.

“Every single drop of blood shed shall not be forgotten nor forgiven,” Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) DG Maj-Gen Babar Iftikhar said in a tweet.

“KashmirMartyrsDay is reminiscent of utmost price paid 4 freedom by brave Kashmiris. Every single drop of blood shed, shall not be forgotten nor forgiven. Decades of Indian atrocities failed 2 suppress insurmountable spirit & legitimate freedom struggle, destined to succeed.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan also tweeted, saluting the people of Kashmir for fighting against what he called “illegal and oppressive Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir”.

“Today, on the occasion of Kashmir Martyrs’ Day, we salute the people of Kashmir for their ongoing struggle against the illegal and oppressive Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir. The martyrs of July 13, 1931 were the ancestors of today’s Kashmiri resistance,” he said.

On the other hand, Sardar Masood Khan, President of Pakistan Administered Kashmir, has written off any chances of table talks between India and Pakistan, owing to India’s conduct in Kashmir.

He said: “India has changed dynamics of the area unilaterally. So we would not sit with them around the negotiating table.”

Sardar Masood Khan insisted that the issue of Kashmir should not be taken as a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan anymore, adding that the Kashmir issue has been internationalized and multi-lateralized.

“So, I think that we have this new space in the international domain. We should use it, not lose it,” he said.

He declared the Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan as redundant because of “unilateral Indian actions in Jammu and Kashmir”.

Sardar Masood Khan maintained that Pakistan is ready for a third-party intervention and mediation on Kashmir dispute.

“I think that as citizens of Pakistan, we are ready for the diplomacy of any kind. I believe that the starting point of such diplomacy should be the UNSecurity Council resolutions because these were drawn after prolonged deliberations and should not be set aside.

“Further, the Kashmiris should be associated with any direct or indirect negotiations on Kashmir. They are the real party to the dispute,” he added.

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Nelson Mandela’s daughter Zindzi dies at 59

State television South African Broadcasting Corporation has reported that Mandela died at a Johannesburg hospital early Monday morning.

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Nelson Mandela daughter Zindzi

Johannesburg, July 13 : Zindzi Mandela, the daughter of South Africa’s anti-apartheid icons Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, died here on Monday, according to the country’s public broadcaster SABC reported.

State television South African Broadcasting Corporation has reported that Mandela died at a Johannesburg hospital early Monday morning.

She had been South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark since 2015.

The Mandelas’ daughter came to international prominence in 1985, when the white minority government offered to release Nelson Mandela from prison if he denounced violence perpetrated by his movement, the Africa National Congress, against apartheid, the brutal system of racial discrimination enforced in South Africa at that time.

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”Trump wanted to sell Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria”

Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September 2017 and caused an estimated 2,982 fatalities and US $90 billion in damage, according to official data.

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Trump Sell Puerto Rico

Washington, July 13 : US President Donald Trump considered selling Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the destructive Hurricane Maria in 2017, former acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke has told the New York Times.

In an interview with the newspaper on Friday, Duke said that “the president”s initial ideas were more of as a businessman”, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Can we outsource the electricity? Can we sell the island? You know, or divest of that asset?” Trump reportedly said, according to the New York Times interview.

Nonetheless, the idea of selling the US territory was never seriously considered or discussed after it was raised, Duke said.

Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September 2017 and caused an estimated 2,982 fatalities and US $90 billion in damage, according to official data.

Trump has criticized Puerto Rican officials for their management of the relief fund that his administration provided for the island”s recovery. In November 2018, White House officials told Congress that Trump didn”t want any additional relief funding to the island.

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