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Convinced Donald Trump to remain in Syria: Emmanuel Macron

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Paris, April 16: French President Emmanuel Macron said that he “convinced” his American counterpart Donald Trump to remain in Syria before the coordinated strikes launched against targeted Syrian government sites in response to an alleged chemical attack, the media reported.

“Ten days ago, President Trump said the US’s will is to disengage from Syria. We convinced him that it was necessary to stay,” CNN quoted Macron as saying on Sunday during a two-hour televised interview with several French media outlets.

On Friday night, the US, France and the UK launched a series of strikes on a research laboratory and two storage facilities associated with Syria’s chemical weapons programme.

Satellite images of the facilities, located west of Homs and near the capital Damascus, before and after the strikes appear to show they suffered extensive damage.

France also convinced Trump that the strikes had to be limited to suspected chemical weapons sites, Macron added.

Prior to the strikes, there had been reports that Trump wanted to see tougher, more extended action in Syria but was talked down by his national security team.

The strike was fiercely condemned by Syria’s main ally Russia, who attempted to bring a motion in the UN Security Council on Saturday to denounce the “aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic by the US and its allies”.

During Sunday’s interview, Macron said Russian President Vladimir Putin was an “accomplice” to Syria’s alleged use of chemicals weapons.

“They have not used chlorine themselves, but they have methodically contributed to the international community’s powerlessness to prevent the use of chemical weapons by diplomatic means,” CNN quoted the French leader as saying.

The French President said his country had not declared war on Syria, calling the strikes a “reprisal” for violations of the treaty banning the use of chemical weapons.

“There has been repeated and proven violations of the treaty,” he said.

Friday night’s strikes were a response to the suspected chemical weapons attack on civilians in Douma, outside Damascus, on April 7 where over 70 people including children were killed.

Inspectors for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were due to go to Douma on Sunday after arriving in Syria shortly after Saturday’s strikes, and are yet to report on any findings.

The US and its allies have been criticized for acting before inspectors had a chance to examine the site.

Politicians in France and the UK on Monday will seek answers from the countries’ leaders about their decision to launch strikes without formal approval.

Protests against the strikes were held around the world Saturday, including in major cities in the UK, Mexico, Greece and the US.

IANS

World

67 killed, 126 injured in polling day violence in Afghanistan

The 193 attacks against security forces and polling centres began at around 7 a.m and continued until at least 6 p.m, Deputy Interior Minister Akhtar Mohammad Ibrahimi told a press conference, reports Efe.

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Afghanistan Polls Day Attack
Picture Credit : Swadaya Srikandi @swadayasrikandi

Kabul, Oct 21 (IANS) At least 67 people were killed — 27 civilians, nine members of security forces and 31 insurgents — and 126 injured in 193 attacks carried out throughout Afghanistan by the Taliban, who had threatened to target Saturday’s parliamentary elections, which were held three years late.

The 193 attacks against security forces and polling centres began at around 7 a.m and continued until at least 6 p.m, Deputy Interior Minister Akhtar Mohammad Ibrahimi told a press conference, reports Efe.

The attacks include a suicide blast in Kabul, 76 raids against polling centres throughout the country, a dozen explosions near those polling centres, as well as armed fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces.

As a result of these attacks, 27 civilians were killed and close to 100 were wounded, while at least nine members of the security forces died and 25 were injured, Ibrahimi said.

In addition, 31 Taliban insurgents were killed and 18 were arrested, he said.

According to the Deputy Interior Minister, the number of attacks on Saturday represent half of those that took place in 2014 during the presidential elections.

Despite the violence, presidential spokesman Haroon Chakhansori described the elections as a “success” and a “defeat for terrorists”.

According to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior, authorities deployed 70,000 soldiers and police officers to provide security during Saturday’s election.

The Taliban warned Afghans that they would target all polling booths and urged people against voting.

“Enemy’s polling stations all over the country are under attack by Mujahideen, countrymen must refrain from taking part in this fake process to save their lives and not to become a tool for the implementation of the evil plans of the enemy,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

Another Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed that 400 attacks were carried out, in which “dozens of soldiers and police were killed or injured,” adding that “the elections failed”.

The elections were initially planned to take place in 2015, but were delayed for three years due to security challenges and political and economic instability.

These elections have been seen as a test regarding the state of Afghanistan’s fragile democracy, as well as a trial ahead of the presidential elections set to take place in April 2019.

This was the first time that the Afghan government was responsible for security during an election since NATO ended its combat operations in the country in 2014.

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Kasatkina wins Kremlin Cup title, ends Jabeur’s historic run

Kasatkina’s victory also means she will head to the WTA Finals in Singapore after overtaking Aryna Sabalenka as the first alternate.

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Picture Credit Twitter : @DKasatkina

Moscow, Oct 20 : Daria Kasatkina of Russia won the Kremlin Cup title on Saturday, prevailing over Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 and ending Jabeur’s historic run in which she became her country’s first-ever WTA finalist.

Kasatkina, World No. 14 and her country’s highest-ranked player, needed a little over two hours to claim her second WTA trophy and her first on home soil, having lost to Germany’s Julia Gorges in straight sets in the 2017 championship match, reports Efe.

But Saturday’s match looked to be headed in a similar direction as her 24-year-old Tunisian opponent, ranked world No. 101, easily came out on top in the opening set and took a 4-1 lead in the second.

However Kasatkina staged a comeback, and two extremely long breaks in a row sent them into the tie-breaker, which the 22-year-old Russian won.

After a tough third set, Kasatkina outlasted Jabeur and won the Premier-level trophy, becoming one of the few Russian players to do so, alongside Anastasia Myskina (2003-2004), Anna Chakvetadze (2006), Elena Dementieva (2007), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (2014) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (2015-2016), according to the WTA.

Kasatkina’s victory also means she will head to the WTA Finals in Singapore after overtaking Aryna Sabalenka as the first alternate.

IANS

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Second Brexit referendum: Over half a million people march in London

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London, Oct 20 : Over half a million people marched through central London on Saturday calling for a second, final vote on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, protest organizers announced.

Demonstrators assembled at London’s Park Lane before marching en masse towards Parliament Square in a show of force that hoped to bring about a so-called People’s Vote, essentially a second referendum on whether to go ahead with Brexit once a final deal has been drafted, the BBC reported.

Organizers at the People’s Vote HQ said more than 570,000 people had descended on central London, with many coming from across the nation to vent their frustration with the Brexit process. Scotland Yard said it was not able to estimate the size of the crowd.

Several well-known British personalities have endorsed the People’s Vote initiative, as have politicians from across the political spectrum, including London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Khan, who started the march, was among those to speak at Parliament Square, along with representatives from the main political parties.

“What’s clear is that the only options on the table now from the Prime Minister are a bad Brexit deal, or no deal whatsoever. That’s a million miles away from what was promised two-and-a-half years ago,” he said.

Labour’s Lord Adonis, a campaigner for People’s Vote, said: “Brexit’s becoming a dog’s dinner. This week’s fresh chaos and confusion over Brexit negotiations has exposed how even the best deal now available will be a bad one for Britain.”

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon sent a message of support to the rally, saying the Scottish National Party would support a vote that would give the option of staying in the EU.

Richard Tice, founder of Leave Means Leave and former co-chair of Leave.EU, said: “The idea that you should have a second referendum would be incredibly damaging, most of all to the trust in democracy from people up and down this country.”

The protest came at a time when Brexit negotiations were deadlocked over how to maintain a soft border between the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, once Britain is no longer part of the EU’s single market.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, who leads the minority Conservative Party government, had dismissed the possibility of staging a referendum on the terms and conditions of Brexit.

The UK narrowly voted to leave the EU in a referendum in June 2016. The country is on track to leave in March 2019, with or without a deal.

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