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India, US to deepen collaboration against Pakistan based terror outfits LeT, JeM

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India and the US have agreed to deepen their already close collaboration against Pakistan-based terror groups Lashkar-e-Taeba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), blamed for terrorist attacks in India, and other terrorist threats.

Visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and US National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice agreed to do so at a meeting at the White House here Tuesday.

While LeT is held responsible for the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, JeM is blamed for the Jan 2 attack on the Indian Air Force station at Pathankot.

Rice and Jaishankar also “affirmed their commitment to deepening bilateral cooperation on climate change, trade, and defence,” according to a statement by National Security Council (NSC) Spokesperson Ned Price.

“They also discussed US-India collaboration against Lashkar-e-Taeba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and other terrorist threats,” it said.

“Building on their leaders’ commitment to make the US-India partnership a defining relationship for the 21st Century, they agreed to deepen their already close collaboration on these issues.”

Rice and Jaishankar also noted preparations for the upcoming March 31-April 1 Nuclear Security Summit that is expected to be attended by about 50 world leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

There is widespread speculation that Modi and Sharif would meet on the sidelines of the summit.

The last time the two premiers met was on Dec 25, 2015, when Modi made a surprise visit to Lahore, a first by an Indian prime minister in over a decade.

Modi briefly attended Sharif’s grand-daughter’s wedding ceremony and then held a brief meeting with his Pakistani counterpart.

The attack on the Pathankot airbase came a week later leading to the cancellation of foreign secretary level talks between India and Pakistan.

During his visit to Washington last week, Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz expressed Islamabad’s “gratitude” to Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama for their “consistent support to the revival of Pakistan-India dialogue.”

He also affirmed Pakistan government’s commitment to acting against all terrorist groups without any distinction.

World

”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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Lifestyle

Pope ”pained” by Hagia Sophia mosque decision

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the first Muslim prayers would be held in Hagia Sophia on July 24.

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Hagia Sophia Mosque

Vatican City, July 13 : Pope Francis has said he”s “pained” by Turkey”s decision to convert Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.

Speaking at a service in the Vatican, the Roman Catholic leader added that his “thoughts go to Istanbul”, the BBC reported.

Hagia Sophia was built as a Christian cathedral nearly 1,500 years ago and turned into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of 1453.

The Unesco World Heritage Site became a museum in 1934 under Turkish Republic founding father Ataturk.

But earlier this week a Turkish court annulled the site”s museum status, saying its use as anything other than a mosque was “not possible legally”.

Pope Francis confined himself to a few words on the issue: “My thoughts go to Istanbul. I think of Santa Sophia and I am very pained.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the first Muslim prayers would be held in Hagia Sophia on July 24.

Shortly after the announcement, the first call to prayer was recited at the site and broadcast on all of Turkey”s main news channels. Hagia Sophia”s social media channels have also been taken down.

Islamists in Turkey have long called for it to become a mosque again but secular opposition members opposed the move.

Defending the decision, President Erdogan stressed that the country had exercised its sovereign right, and he added that the building would remain open to all Muslims, non-Muslims and foreign visitors.

The Pope is one of several religious and political leaders worldwide who have criticised the move.

The World Council of Churches has called on President Erdogan to reverse the decision. The Church in Russia, home to the world”s largest Orthodox Christian community, immediately expressed regret that the Turkish court had not taken its concerns into account when ruling on Hagia Sophia.

It has also drawn condemnation from Greece, and Unesco said its World Heritage Committee would now review the monument”s status.

One of Turkey”s most famous authors, Orhan Pamuk, told the BBC that the decision would take away the “pride” some Turks had in being a secular Muslim nation.

“There are millions of secular Turks like me who are crying against this but their voices are not heard,” said Pamuk.

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Disaster

Iran’s Khamenei says all must help fight ‘tragic’ virus resurgence

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Ali Khamenei

Everyone must help fight the “tragic” resurgence of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei says.

Speaking in a video conference to parliamentarians, Khamenei stated that Iran’s “enemies” fail to achieve their “anti-Iran goals” despite strong pressure on Tehran.

Earlier, Khamenei criticized the US for using “knee on neck” policies on the whole world and also accused the US of creating COVID-19.

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