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Putin on one-day official visit to Italy on Thursday

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Vladimir Putin

Rome, July 2 (IANS/AKI) Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold talks with Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, President Sergio Mattarella and will meet Pope Francis during an official visit to Rome on Thursday amid tight security.

The meeting between Putin and Conte is scheduled to take place at the Prime Minister’s office and the two leaders will hold a joint press conference afterwards, said a statement from Conte’s office.

Putin’s talks with Conte and Mattarella were expected to focus on “key issues in Russian-Italian political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian aid cooperation” as well as “pressing international and regional issues,” Russia’s official Tass news agency reported, citing a statement from Kremlin.

Putin and Conte will also attend a meeting of the Russian-Italian Civil Society Dialogue Forum, according to the Kremlin statement, Tass said.

“The President of the Russian Federation will visit the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis,” Tass quoted the statement as adding.

There will be numerous traffic restrictions in central Rome during Putin’s one-day visit, police announced.

An off-limits “green zone” will close off the Hotel St Regis near Piazza Repubblica, the streets around Palazzo Chigi (the Prime Minister’s office) and Palazzo Madama (the Italian Senate, where Conte is due to dine with Putin), and Via della Conciliazione leading to St Peter’s Square, according to police.

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UN to continue talks with Iraqi parties to achieve reform

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Iraq Protests

Baghdad, Nov 12 Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, special representative of the UN secretary-general for Iraq, said on Tuesday that the United Nations will continue to reach out to all Iraqi parties to achieve the reform demanded by protesters.

“The United Nations continues to reach out to all parties, including demonstrators, syndicates and the Iraqi government, to achieve the real reform that people are demanding,” Hennis-Plasschaert said at a news conference in the capital Baghdad after his meeting with heads of syndicates and unions of different local activities, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Our role is to help, advise and support achieving a change,” she told reporters.

Hennis-Plasschaert, also head of the UN Assistant Mission for Iraq, admitted that “the crisis of confidence between the citizens and the government … requires a lot of hard work” to solve.

She said the UN mission in Iraq had issued a document earlier this month to outline some of the steps and measures needed to implement the legitimate demands of the protesters.

The UN envoy said she would present to the Iraqi parliament the results of her meetings with all factions of the Iraqi society in order to discuss their proposals to get out of the current crisis in Iraq.

Mass demonstrations have continued in Baghdad and other cities in central and southern Iraq since early October, demanding comprehensive reform, accountability for corruption, improvement of public services and job opportunities.

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Karzai asks Central Asian nations to cooperate on terrorism

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Hamid Karzai

Nur-Sultan, Nov 12 The former president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, on Tuesday considered it necessary that Central Asian countries, together with Russia and China, cooperate to prevent the spread of extremism and terrorism in the region to reduce dependence on the United States.

Karzai told Efe at the Astana Club conference, which addressed the issues confronting Eurasia, that the recent attack by jihadists on a Tajik border post after crossing from Afghanistan is a clear indication of the challenges facing the region in this area.

At least 15 members of the Islamic State terrorist group died in the security operation, and four others were arrested, the Tajik Border Guard reported.

“This must bring us all, the Central Asian countries, Afghanistan, and especially the major powers in the region such as Russia and China, to cooperate together and to take this matter into our own hands and prevent the spread of extremism and terrorism,” he said.

He hoped that “the United States would sincerely engage with Afghanistan and the rest of the region” to prevent the spread of terrorism and extremism, but believed that “in the past 18 years, in spite of the loss of life and suffering of the Afghan people, it was not achieved.”

“If extra-regional forces cannot do this, then it is upon the region in the form of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and especially with the backing of Russia and China, to put all our resources together to bring an end the extremism from which our people are suffering,” he said.

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ATC charges TLP chief in violent protests case

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Khadim Hussain Rizvi

Lahore, Nov 12 : An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Lahore on Tuesday formally charged Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi and 26 others in a case related to the violent protests initiated by the TLP following a Supreme Court verdict acquitting Aasia Bibi in a blasphemy case last year.

ATC-I Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta announced the charges brought against the religio-political leaders. Strict security arrangements had been made for the proceedings, The Dawn reported.

A total of 26 suspects – including Rizvi and TLP patron-in-chief Pir Afzal Qadri – were issued copies of the challan. Some of the suspects appeared in court along with counsels Tahir Minhas and Nasir Minhas.

Additionally, the ATC issued summons for the witnesses for the next hearing which will be held on November 13.

Violent protests had erupted in different parts of the country soon after the Supreme Court’s verdict acquitting Aasia Bibi was announced on October 31, 2018, as activists of the TLP and other religious parties took to the streets and blocked major roads and intersections through sit-ins and by putting up barricades. The protests continued for three days.

The FIR against the accused referenced Sections 290, 291, 353, 427, 186 and 188 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), Section 6 of the Sound System Punjab Ordinance, 2015 and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.

Rizvi was taken into protective custody by police on November 23, 2018 amidst a massive crackdown against TLP workers.

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