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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.




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.

Middle East

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s family ‘forgives’ his killers

In December 2019, a court sentenced five unnamed men to death for their role in his killing after a secretive trial in Riyadh.




journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Riyadh, May 22 : The family of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Friday released a statement forgiving his killers.

The statement was posted to the Twitter account of Salah Khashoggi, one of the late journalist’s sons, on Friday, the BBC reported.

“In this blessed night of the blessed month (of Ramzan) we remember God’s saying: If a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah,” Salah, who lives in the Saudi city of Jeddah, wrote.

“Therefore we the sons of the Martyr Jamal Khashoggi announce pardoning those who killed our father, seeking reward God almighty.”

The journalist, who had gone into self-imposed exile in the US in 2017, went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2n 2018 seeking documents to get married to fiance Hatice Cengiz.

Investigators believe that he was murdered and dismembered while she waited outside, but his remains have never been recovered.

Saudi officials initially claimed he had left the building alive and their account of events changed several times in the weeks after his disappearance.

After offering changing accounts of his disappearance, Saudi authorities eventually submitted he was killed in a botched operation by a team tasked with getting him to return to the country, reports the BBC.

In December 2019, a court sentenced five unnamed men to death for their role in his killing after a secretive trial in Riyadh.

Salah has previously issued statements expressing his confidence in, and support of, the Saudi investigation.

He has also previously criticised “opponents and enemies” of Saudi Arabia who he said had tried to exploit his father’s death to undermine the country’s leadership.

Last year, the Washington Post said in a report that Khashoggi’s children had received homes and monthly payments as compensation for the killing of their father.

But Salah, Khashoggi’s eldest son, was the only sibling who intended to carry on living in Saudi Arabia, the newspaper said.

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New Israeli govt sworn in after 508 days of impasse

Netanyahu was sworn in as Prime Minister and will head the government for the fifth term of his political career.




Netanyahu and Gantz

Jerusalem, May 18 : Israels 35th government was sworn in at the Knesset (Parliament), bringing an end to a 508-day political impasse.

On Sunday night, the Knesset voted 73-46 in favour of the new coalition government agreed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his former rival, Benny Gantz, reports The Times of Israel.

Netanyahu was sworn in as Prime Minister and will head the government for the fifth term of his political career.

Gantz, also the Chairman of the Blue and White Party, was sworn in as “alternate Prime Minister and future Prime Minister” as well as Defence Minister.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader who was first elected as Prime Minister in 1996 and has served three consecutive terms since 2009, promised to hand over the premiership to Gantz on November 17, 2021.

“We established the precise terms under which our agreement will be fulfilled and will not be fulfilled,” Netanyahu said later in a Channel 12 interview, amid widespread scepticism that he will honour the deal.

“I will fulfil exactly, but exactly, what is written in the agreement. It is my intention and my goal to do so. And there is no reason for me to say anything to you but, yes, that’s what we will do.”

In addition to Netanyahu and Gantz, 32 ministers were sworn in, including the first female ultra-Orthodox Minister, Omer Yankelevich (Diaspora affairs), and the first Ethiopia-born Minister, Pnina Tamano-Shata (immigration and absorption), in Israel’s history, said The Times of Israel report.

Totaling 73 lawmakers, the coalition will include 35 MKs from the Likud party, 16 from the Blue and White party, nine from the Shas party, seven from the United Torah Judaism party, two from the Labor party, two from the Derech Eretz party, one from the Jewish Home party and one from the Gesher party.

Speaking at the cabinet’s first meeting, which took place immediately after the swearing-in ceremony, Netanyahu told the new Ministers that the COVID-19 pandemic topped the government’s agenda.

The second mission would be to pass a state budget and revive the economy, while the third item would be to combat Iran, he said.

The fourth was fighting the war crimes probe in the International Criminal Court and the fifth was the diplomatic issue of West Bank annexation.

Gantz spoke after Netanyahu, saying Israel was ending the “worst political crisis in its history” and calling for an end to “the era of incitement” and the start of an “era of reconciliation”.

He said he would do everything so that all Israeli citizens — Jewish or Arab, heterosexual or LGBT — would “feel at home”.

Meanwhile, the new government’s swearing-in comes just a week before Netanyahu’s criminal trial over his suspected corruption.

His trial on charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud will start on May 27, but he denies any wrong-doing, slamming the allegations as part of “a witch hunt”.

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25k registered for repatriation in Saudi reported job loss

India’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dr Ausaf Saeed told IANS in an exclusive interview that despite the challenge of some job losses, there are huge opportunities for the Indian companies to collaborate in various sectors.




jobs employment rate

Hyderabad, May 15 : About 35 per cent of the 72,000 Indians who have registered with the Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia for repatriation reported job loss either for short term or long term due to Covid-19 pandemic.

The fall in oil prices coupled with the outbreak of Covid-19 and the lockdown impacted the Saudi economy, triggering fears of possible retrenchment of a large number of people. India’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dr Ausaf Saeed told IANS in an exclusive interview that despite the challenge of some job losses, there are huge opportunities for the Indian companies to collaborate in various sectors.

The Indian community in Saudi Arabia has so far reported 31 deaths due to Covid while the number of people tested positive stands at 3,000. Excerpts from the interview.

Q: What has been the impact of the pandemic on Saudi Arabia, especially the Indian community there? Is the infection rate higher among Indians compared to others?

A: Saudi Arabia has the largest number of Covid cases in GCC countries. Around 45,000 cases have been reported and 273 people passed away. Saudi authorities don’t give the breakup of nationalities but our understanding is that more than 3,000 Indians have tested positive for Covid. They are undergoing treatment and many of them have recovered or in the process the recovery but unfortunately we had around 31 deaths among the Indian nationals due to Covid.

Majority of them are from Kerala that is eight, there are six from Uttar Pradesh, six from Maharashtra, four from Telangana and the remaining from other states. Saudi authorities mentioned that around 75 per cent of the cases detected pertain to expatriates. There are 11 million expatriates in Saudi Arabia and Indians are around 2.6 million. I don’t think the incidence of Covid is higher among Indians than other expatriate communities. Out of 2.6 million, there are 3,000 who tested positive. So the situation is not alarming but we are monitoring it very carefully and are in touch with the community.

Q: How is the embassy handling the situation and reaching out to the community?

A: The Indian community is the biggest community in Saudi Arabia. They are spread all over the kingdom and the kingdom is a big country. One of the challenges was to ensure that people living in remote parts of the kingdom are reached out. There are various community organizations in different cities. We formed linkages with all of them. I myself had a video conference with Indian community representatives from 16-17 different cities and then we formed WhatsApp groups of community members and of doctors and we created a helpline so that they get in touch with us.

We also identified 100 Saudi major employers who are employing Indians. We ascertained the conditions of the workers in the locations they are kept in. We came across some issues in some camps like food shortage and tried to address them. We provided medicines in some places through Indian community welfare organizations. We are asking people through interactions to stay calm and don’t get panicky. We told them about the evacuation process, reassuring them that the government will make arrangements for their repatriation.

Q: What kind of impact the pandemic is having on the Saudi economy and what situation you foresee for the Indian community? Do you anticipate a huge job loss among Indians?

A: Covid had its impact on the economies all over the world and Saudi Arabia is also not immune to it. The kingdom was very quick to respond. It suspended ‘Umraa’ pilgrimage and tourist visas as early as in beginning March but still the numbers increased. In March the oil price fell to around 20 dollars per barrel and of course now it is 30-33. The Saudi budget is planned as per 80 dollars per barrel. Because of oil prices and Covid there was a large impact on Saudi economy and in the first quarter of 2020 (Jan to March) there was a revenue deficit of 25 per cent.

Saudi government took a lot of austerity measures, increased VAT from 5 per cent to 15 per cent and reduced cost of living allowances for Saudi employees but at the same time it gave economic stimulus to the private sector to the tune of 33 billion riyals so that the private sector overcome the challenges. Despite all that there are certain sectors which will be affected like construction, tourism, hospitality, aviation. All this will have an impact on jobs. The kingdom may go for automation and that may result in some job loss across the board and not for Indians alone.

At the same it also provides a lot of opportunities for Indian companies especially in food, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and information technology. We have an opportunity and at the same challenge of possible retrenchment of large number of people.

Q: Has there been a job loss among Indians?

A: When we started the registration process for repatriation purpose, we asked them to give reasons why they want to go. 72,000 people registered to go back and out of this 35 per cent workers have lost their jobs either for short term or long term. Thus around 25,000 people reported some distress in their jobs. We don’t know whether it is a limited impact or long term impact. Some companies like in construction would like to lay off the employees now and when construction resumes they come back.

We don’t know the full impact as yet. In the initial stage many companies came to us saying they are laying off the employees and now there is retraction of requests by some companies as the economy is opening up and construction activity has resumed in some cities. The companies and employees are also rethinking, hoping that there will be stimulus and resumption of activity. There is some hope and at the same time anxiety about the future. We are reassuring that we will talk to companies wherever possible to avoid lay-offs.

Q: How are you handling the repatriation process and what are the plans going forward.

A: In the first phase we sent back about 1,000 people to India. Next week we are going to have 10 flights that will take about 1,500 to 2,000 people. We also expect that the companies which laid off the employees will facilitate their return in the days to come. The process of repatriation may go one for a month. Our priority for repatriation are the destitute workers who lost their jobs, medical cases and many families who came on visit visas. There have been a few Umraa cases who are stranded for a couple of months. There are many workers who came to Saudi on a short term visa to work on small projects for various companies.

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