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Iran dismisses allegations of meddling in US election

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Iran President

Tehran, Oct 22 : Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday denied allegations of interfering in the US mid-term Congressional elections.

“Iran’s policy is not to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said, reports Xinhua news agency.

In a statement published on the Ministry’s website, Qasemi said that attempts by the US officials to say that Iran had been involved in the US mid-term polls was a false allegation.

“The White House has for sometime been trying to raise allegations against other countries for specific political reasons,” Qasemi added.

US intelligence and law enforcement agencies on Friday claimed that foreign governments, including Iran, would try to influence US upcoming mid-term Congressional vote in November.

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US sanctions 17 Saudi officials over killing of Khashoggi

The sanctions were handed down after Saudi Arabia’s attorney general, Saud al-Mojeb, said Thursday that he would seek the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects charged in connection with the journalist’s death.

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journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Washington, Nov 16 (IANS) The United States’ government on Thursday sanctioned 17 Saudi Arabian officials for their alleged role in the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul early last month.

Among those sanctioned by the US Treasury Department is Saud al-Qahtani, one of the chief advisers to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Efe reported.

“The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi (on October 2). These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was quoted as saying in a press release.

“The government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists,” he added.

The US Treasury Department accused al-Qahtani of helping to plan and execute the operation that led to the killing of Khashoggi.

The other people hit with sanctions are Saudi Arabia’s consul general, Mohammed al-Otaibi; al-Qahtani’s subordinate, Maher Mutreb, who allegedly coordinated and executed the operation; and 14 others who purportedly participated in the crime.

“As a result of these designations, any property or interests in property of the individuals designated today within or transiting US jurisdiction is blocked,” Thursday’s press release said.

“Additionally, US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with blocked persons, including entities 50 percent or more owned by designated persons.”

The sanctions were handed down after Saudi Arabia’s attorney general, Saud al-Mojeb, said Thursday that he would seek the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects charged in connection with the journalist’s death.

In a press conference in Riyadh, the top prosecutor said the crown prince had not had any prior knowledge of the operation.

Al-Mojeb said the investigation had shown that Khashoggi, a government critic and Washington Post columnist, died after being restrained and injected with a tranquilizer following a fight inside the consulate.

His body was then dismembered and handed over to a Turkish collaborator, the attorney general said.

Al-Mojeb said the then-deputy head of intelligence, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, had masterminded the operation that was intended to get Khashoggi back to the kingdom.

He added that the order for the killing was given by the head of the delegation of agents that had traveled to Turkey, although he did not name that individual.

Khashoggi, long a part of the Saudi establishment, became estranged from Riyadh as a result of his criticism of the crown prince and had been living in self-imposed exile in the US since 2017.

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Middle East

Israel, Hamas trade heavy fire after deadly incursion

The fighting, which cast doubt over recent understandings brokered by Egypt and U.N. officials to reduce tensions, was triggered by a botched undercover Israeli military raid in Gaza the day before.

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Palestinian mourners carry the bodies of two of the seven Hamas militants who were killed in an Israeli raid late Sunday, during their funerals in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. ADEL HANA/AP

Palestinian militants bombarded Israel with dozens of rockets and mortar shells Monday while Israeli warplanes struck targets throughout the Gaza Strip in what appeared to be the most intense exchange of fire since the 2014 war.

Palestinian officials said at least three people, including two militants, were killed by Israeli fire and nine were wounded. In Israel, the national rescue service said at least seven people were wounded, including a 19-year-old man who was in critical condition.

The fighting, which cast doubt over recent understandings brokered by Egypt and U.N. officials to reduce tensions, was triggered by a botched undercover Israeli military raid in Gaza the day before.

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Saudis close to Crown Prince discussed killing enemies: NYT

Saudi officials have portrayed Khashoggi’s death as a rogue killing ordered by an official who has since been fired.

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Mohammed bin Salman

New York, Nov 12 : Top Saudi intelligence officials close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman asked a small group of businessmen last year about using private companies to assassinate enemies of the Kingdom, The New York Times reported.

The Saudis inquired at a time when Prince Mohammed, then the deputy crown prince and defence minister, was consolidating power and directing his advisers to escalate military and intelligence operations outside the Kingdom, informed sources told The Times on Sunday.

Their discussions, more than a year before the killing of The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, indicate that top Saudi officials have considered assassinations since the beginning of Prince Mohammed’s ascent.

Saudi officials have portrayed Khashoggi’s death as a rogue killing ordered by an official who has since been fired.

But that official, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, was present for a meeting in March 2017 in Riyadh where the businessmen pitched a $2 billion plan to use private intelligence operatives to try to sabotage the Iranian economy, the sources said.

During the discussion, part of a series of meetings where the men tried to win Saudi funding for their plan, General Assiri’s top aides inquired about killing Qassim Suleimani, the leader of the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and a man considered a determined enemy of Saudi Arabia.

George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, arranged the meeting.

He had met previously with Prince Mohammed, and had pitched the Iran plan to Trump White House officials.

Another participant in the meetings was Joel Zamel, an Israeli with deep ties to his country’s intelligence and security agencies.

Both Nader and Zamel are witnesses in the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and prosecutors have asked them about their discussions with American and Saudi officials about the Iran proposal, The New York Times reported.

General Assiri was dismissed last month when the Saudi government acknowledged Khashoggi’s killing and said he had organised the operation.

On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government had handed over a recording of Khashoggi’s killing to the US, Saudi Arabia, Britain and France, pressuring President Donald Trump to more harshly punish the Saudis over the murder.

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