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Cladding on 120 tower blocks failed safety tests, says May

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London, June 29: British Prime Minister Theresa May said that cladding on over 100 high-rise buildings had failed fire safety tests.

May on Wednesday made her comments as part of the weekly session of the government’s question time in Parliament, Efe news reported.

“As of this morning, the cladding from 120 tower blocks across the country, in 37 local authority areas had been tested, and had failed the combustibility test,” May said.

The buildings underwent safety tests in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in west London, which left 79 people dead or missing when the 24-floor residential building was ravaged by a blaze.

In her debut question time appearance since the general election of June 8, May urged local authorities to carry out safety checks on buildings that they own.

“Given the 100-per cent failure rate,” May said, local authorities and housing associations “should not wait for test results,” but should get on with fire safety checks and take necessary action.

The Conservative leader the day before called for a national investigation into the use of flammable materials in the cladding used on public housing blocks in Britian.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, for his part, pointed out cuts in the number of firefighters across the country and said the Grenfell fire had exposed “the disastrous effects of austerity”.

“I urge the Prime Minister to come up with the resources needed to test and remove cladding,” Corbyn said.

London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that the Grenfell blaze that began early on June 14 started “in a fridge freezer”, before rapidly spreading to the other floors.

In recent days, residents of similar tower blocks in London have been moved to alternative accommodation over safety concerns.

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Nepal, China sign 8 deals worth $2.24bn

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Beijing, June 20: Nepal and China on Wednesday signed eight agreements worth $2.4 billion on the second day of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s visit.

These agreements were reached between the two governments and private sectors where Chinese investors will put money on developing hydroelectricity, water resources, cement factories and fruit cultivation and farming.

The signing ceremony took place at the Nepal Embassy here.

Additional memorandum of understandings will be signed on Thursday after delegation-level talks between Oli and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang.

Oli, who arrived here on Monday on his five-day-visit, will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday afternoon at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

This is Oli’s first official visit to China after returning to power in February and second foreign trip after India.

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US withdraws from ‘biased’ UN Human Rights Council

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Washington, June 20: The United States withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday. 

The US envoy Nikki Haley told the UN, the body is “hypocritical and self-serving” and “makes a mockery of human rights”.

Last year, Haley accused the council of “chronic anti-Israel bias” and said America was reviewing its membership, a BBC report said.

Constituted in 2006, the council invited flak for allowing countries with questionable human rights records to be members.

Following this United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres regretted the Donald Trump’s administration decision.

“The Secretary-General would have much preferred for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council,” reported Xinhua news agency quoting spokesman Stephane Dujarric as saying in a note to correspondents.

“The UN’s human rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide,” the note said.

The move comes amid sharp criticism over the Trump administration’s policy of separating child migrants from their parents at the US-Mexico border.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad has called the policy “unconscionable”.

Haley announced the US’s intention to exit the council at a joint news conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

She described the council a “cesspool of political bias”, but stressed: “I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from our human rights commitments.”

Last year, she told the council it was “hard to accept” that resolutions had been passed against Israel yet none had been considered for Venezuela, which at the time witnessed the killing of dozens of protesters during political turmoil.

Israel is the only nation that is subject to a permanent standing agenda item, meaning its treatment of the Palestinians is scrutinised at a regular basis.

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UN chief regrets as US exits ‘biased’ Human Rights Council

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Antonio Guterres

United Nations, June 20: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres regretted the withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), said his spokesman on Tuesday.

“The Secretary-General would have much preferred for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council,” reported Xinhua news agency quoting spokesman Stephane Dujarric as saying in a note to correspondents.

“The UN’s human rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide,” the note read.

Earlier, announcing the country’s withdrawal from the UNHRC, US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley described the body as “hypocritical and self-serving” and one that “makes a mockery of human rights”.

According to a BBC report, Haley last year accused the council of “chronic anti-Israel bias” and said the US was reviewing its membership.

Formed in 2006, the council has been criticised for allowing countries with questionable human rights records to be members.

The move comes amid intense criticism over the Trump administration’s policy of separating child migrants from their parents at the US-Mexico border.

UN human rights chief Zeid bin Ra’ad has called the policy “unconscionable”.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch also condemned separation of families, and called President Trump’s human rights policy “one-dimensional”.

Reacting to the US’ exit from the global rights body, Ra’ad said in Geneva that the US withdrawal is “disappointing, if not really surprising.”

“Given the state of human rights in today’s world, the US should be stepping up, not stepping back,” Zeid said.

Haley announced the US intention to quit the council at a joint news conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

She called the council a “cesspool of political bias”, but stressed: “I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from our human rights commitments.”

Last year, she told the Council it was “hard to accept” that resolutions had been passed against Israel yet none had been considered for Venezuela, which at the time saw dozens of protesters killed during political turmoil.

Israel is the only country that is subject to a permanent standing agenda item, meaning its treatment of the Palestinians is regularly scrutinised.

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