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First batch of retrenched Indian workers return from Saudi Arabia

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New Delhi/Jeddah, Aug 11 : As the first batch of 26 retrenched Indian workers were on their way back home from Jeddah on Thursday, India appreciated Saudi Arabia’s prompt action to provide relief to distressed Indian workers in the Gulf kingdom.

“We appreciate the magnanimous view taken by the Saudi Arabian government of granting exit visas expeditiously and agreeing to bear the expenses for the travel of the workers,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in his weekly media briefing in New Delhi.

“The swift action to tackle a localised problem specific only to some companies of Saudi Arabia signifies the deep and abiding relationship that our two countries share,” he said.

Following reports of retrenchment of the workers by the Saudi Oger company, Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh visited Saudi Arabia last week.

According to Swarup, Singh “had very productive meetings” with the Saudi Minister for Labour and Social Development Mufrel Al Haqbani and other senior dignitaries.

“As a result of these meetings, the process of lodging claims and making arrangements for those Indian workers wishing to come back to India or relocate to another company has already started,” the spokesperson said.

The crisis also saw Saudi King Salman issuing a series of directives to address their problems, and earmarking 100 million Saudi Riyals ($26 million) to address the concerns of the workers and end their suffering.

King Salman also directed the Saudi passport department to facilitate exit visas and other procedures for the distressed workers.

Swarup said in his media briefing that the first batch of 26 Indian workers left Jeddah for New Delhi on Thursday by a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight.

“Once they arrive, respective state governments will be making arrangements for their travel to their home towns,” he added.

The workers, who were brought to the airport in a bus by the Indian consulate in Jeddah, were seen off by Consul General Noor Rahman Sheikh, and senior officials Anand Kumar and M. Fahmi.

Many of the workers, including Hindus, at the airport on Thursday morning were seen carrying the holy waters of Zamzam in bottles for friends and relatives back home. The Saudi Labour Ministry had announced free passage for workers who were willing to return home.

Though Indian consulate officials have assured the workers that they will pursue financial claims on their behalf, most appeared confused and apprehensive about what lay ahead — including the onward journey to their states from New Delhi.

“It is saddening to leave Saudi Arabia as I made some money earlier; but now the chances are grim,” said Ram Nivas, a plumber from Churu district in Rajasthan.

“Due to non-payment of wages, there was no meaning in continuing the job,” said Nasir Raza of Gaya district in Bihar, who had returned to Saudi Arabia only recently after a vacation, is now leaving for good.

“I have full faith in both the governments of Saudi Arabia and India and I have authorised them to collect my pending arrears and send them to me in India,” said Musharaf Ali, a driver hailing from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh who has been here for eight years.

“I had heart surgery and the huge expenses were borne by the now ill-fated company. I had enjoyed working there. Though there was the option to seek new employment, I prefer to return home,” said Shakir Ahmed, a resident of Patna in Bihar.

“When I arrived three years ago I felt so happy to be part of such a large company, but the situation worsened and it is sad to return home. I love the country,” said V. Ram Prasad of Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.

The lists of workers who are being repatriated at their request are being prepared by Indian diplomats in coordination with Saudi Labour Ministry officials. Many Indian workers are opting to return home, according to sources.

Middle East

170 injured in fresh clashes in Palestine

The march of the millions is coming and is expected on May 15. This will be the climax of the Great March of Return.

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File Pic of Palestinians protester

Gaza, May 5 (IANS) Almost 170 Palestinian protesters were injured on Friday in clashes with Israeli soldiers near the border between eastern Gaza Strip and Israel, an official said.

Ashraf al Qedra, a Palestinian Health Ministry spokesperson, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that 170 demonstrators were injured, sustaining gunshots, rubber bullet injuries and gas suffocation.

Eyewitnesses said after Friday prayers, hundreds headed to five different locations along the border. Israeli soldiers using loudspeakers warned the demonstrators, asking them to “Go home for your safety”.

The protestors rolled burning tires to within 500 meters of the fence.

The Israeli military said some 7,000 Palestinians were protesting along the border. When “violent riots” erupted in five locations, it said troops responded with “riot dispersal means” and live fire.

Sallah Abdul Aati, one of the organizers of the rallies, said the protests will continue.

“The march of the millions is coming and is expected on May 15. This will be the climax of the Great March of Return,” he said.

The protests have been held for six consecutive weeks. As Israel celebrates its 70th independence anniversary, the Palestinians are demanding that the Palestinian refugees forced to leave their homes during the Arab-Israeli War in 1948 be allowed to return.

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Middle East

Rouhani warns Trump against walking away from n-deal

I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments, the Iranian government will react firmly.

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Tehran, April 24 : Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday warned his US counterpart Donald Trump that abandoning a nuclear deal that the Tehran government signed with world powers in 2015 would lead to “serious consequences”.

Speaking live on television, Rouhani said his government had kept its end of the deal and warned Trump not to tear up the agreement, which had also been signed by Russia, China, Germany, the UK and France.

“I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments, the Iranian government will react firmly,” Rouhani said.

“If anyone betrays the deal, they should know that they would face severe consequences,” he added.

Trump has said that unless the US’ European allies put right what he has described as “terrible flaws” in the deal by May 12, his government would re-establish economic sanctions on Iran, dealing the pact a major blow, Xinhua news agency reported.

Rouhani stressed that Iran was complying with the deal, as has been confirmed a dozen times by the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose Director General Yukiya Amano said in March that a possible failure of the agreement would be a great loss.

French President Emmanuel Macron was in Washington in an attempt to try and persuade Trump not to walk away from the accord.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday he had agreed with his Chinese counterpart that Moscow and Beijing would try to block any US attempt to wreck the nuclear deal.

Iran has said it would ramp up its nuclear programme if the deal collapses.

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Middle East

Putin warns against further actions violating UN charter

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Vladimir Putin

Moscow, April 16 : Further actions violating the UN charter such as the recent US-led strikes on Syria will result in chaos in international relations, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani over phone on Sunday.

The two leaders condemned Saturday’s airstrikes by the US and its allies on Syria and agreed that it would hinder the process of a political settlement in the war-torn country, according to a Kremlin statement, Xinhua news agency reported.

“It was stated that this illegal action seriously damages the prospects for a political settlement in Syria. Putin in particular stressed that if such actions, carried out in violation of the UN Charter, continue, it will inevitably lead to chaos in international relations,” the statement read.

The US, together with Britain and France, launched missile strikes on Syria on Saturday, saying that it was in response to an alleged chemical weapon attack by the Syrian military. The Syrian government has categorically denied the accusation.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the same day held an emergency meeting over the missile attack at Russia’s request but failed to approve a resolution condemning the bombardment.

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