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Ban appoints Major General Menon head of UN Syria-Israel observer mission

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Major General Jai Shankar Menon to head the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which monitors the Syria-Israel ceasefire in the Golan Heights.

Menon succeeds Lieutenant General Purna Chandra Thapa of Nepal whose assignment ends on Sunday. Menon was Additional Director General for Equipment Management in the Indian Army.

Announcing the appointment Tuesday, Ban’s deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said, “Menon brings to his new position extensive command experience and knowledge of peacekeeping affairs at the national and international levels.”

Menon is familiar with the region having served with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) from 2007 to 2009. UNDOF was set up in 1974 to supervise the ceasefire and disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria in the area seized by Israel during the 1967 War.

His appointment as UNDOF Head of Mission and Force Commander comes at a time of heightened tension with Syria engulfed in a multilateral civil war involving the government headed by President Hafez al-Assad backed by Iran and Russia; rebels supported by Saudi Arabia, Gulf countries and the West, and the Islamic State, the fundamentalist terrorist group.

The Syrian side that UNDOF monitors is still under the control of the beleaguered forces loyal to al-Assad.

UNDOF has 947 personnel, 789 of them blue-helmeted troops, including 190 from India.

Menon’s previous assignments include General Officer Commanding of an infantry division, commandant of the Regimental Training Centre, brigade commander and Military Observer with the UN Operation in Mozambique.

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Prachanda faction expels Prime Minister Oli from party

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Discord and division continue inside the Nepal Communist Party, which has not split formally but has virtually fallen apart after Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli unilaterally decided to dissolve the House of Representatives on December 20 without the party’s consent.

Since then, the Nepal Communist Party is acting like two parties — one headed by Oli himself and the other led by former Prime Ministers Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda and Madhav Kumar Nepal. Both sides are running separate programmes across the country under the same banner as they await official recognition from the Election Commission.

Amid this row, the Prachanda-Nepal faction has taken disciplinary action against Oli.

A Standing Committee meeting of the faction held on Sunday decided to expel Oli from the party, its spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha told the media.

The dissident faction has alleged Oli breached the party discipline and is liable to expulsion from the party. It had earlier relieved him from the post of party Chairman.

According to Pampha Bhusal, leader of the dissident faction, Sunday’s meeting decided to expel Oli even from the general membership, accusing him of violating the party statutes.

“He (Oli) is not even an ordinary member of the party now,” Bhusal said.

The faction had earlier asked Oli to furnish, within three days, an explanation why not action should be not taken against him for anti-party activities.

The faction had handed over this notice to the Prime Minister’s residence. However, Oli did not respond to the letter. Sunday’s meeting also reviewed the protest programme and discussed a new protest plan.

The faction had taken to the streets against the dissolution of the House of Representatives, terming the move unconstitutional and undemocratic.

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Pak okays Russian vaccine for ’emergency use’

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The Sputnik V has become the third vaccine to be approved for emergency use in the country — the first one being the Oxford University-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine and the second one by Chinese state-owned firm Sinopharm. 

“In a meeting conducted by the registration board of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap), another vaccine has also been given EUA which was developed with the backing of Russian Develop­ment Investment Fund,” Dawn news reported on Sunday citing the official as saying. 
“Russia’s state-owned Sputnik-V has developed a double-dose vaccine, which is administered by syringes,” said the official. 

A local pharmaceutical AGP, he said, had been authorised as the sole importer and distributor of the Russian vaccine. 
The development comes as Pakistan’s overall coronavirus caseload has increased to 532,412 as of Sunday, while the death toll stood at 11,295.

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Twitter locks account of Chinese Embassy in US over Uyghur tweet

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Twitter has locked the official account of China’s Embassy in the US over a controversial post that referred to Muslim Uyghur women as “baby-making machines” prior to government intervention.

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