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Saudi Arabia urges its citizens to leave Lebanon

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Saad al-Hariri
Workers hang a poster of outgoing Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri with Arabic words that read "We are all Saad," on a seaside street in Beirut, Lebanon.

Riyadh, Nov 10: Saudi Arabia on Thursday asked its nationals who are visiting or residing in Lebanon to leave that country as soon as possible.

Official news agency SPA reported that the government also advised Saudi citizens not to travel to Lebanon amid accusations that Riyadh is playing a role in the current Lebanese political crisis.

Tension has risen between Riyadh and Beirut since last Saturday, when Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation while on a visit to Saudi Arabia, prompting some in Lebanon to assert that the Saudis forced Hariri to step down.

Hariri, who remains in Riyadh, met Thursday with French Ambassador François Gouvette and with the head of the European Union delegation, Michele Cervone d’Urso.

Hariri, a dual Lebanese-Saudi citizen, has denied that he is under house arrest in Riyadh.

In announcing his resignation, Hariri denounced an alleged plot to assassinate him. The prime minister, a Sunni Muslim, also criticized Shiite-majority Iran for interference in Lebanese political affairs.

Hariri’s critique of Iran is connected to Tehran’s support of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.

Saudi Arabia, where the fundamentalist Wahhabi strain of Sunni Islam is dominant, views both Iran and Hezbollah as adversaries.

Hariri’s resignation has not yet been accepted by Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, who said he awaits Hariri’s return to Lebanon to learn the reasons behind the resignation.

Lebanon’s three main sectarian groups: Maronite Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims, have tried to maintain a delicate power- sharing arrangement since achieving independence in 1943.

Under the terms of the so-called National Pact adopted then, a Maronite Christian is supposed to be the country’s president, a Sunni Muslim holds the post of prime minister and a Shiite Muslim serves as speaker of parliament.

There have been times in recent history, such as the 1975-1990 civil war, when the division of power among groups has been unable to stem the tide of sectarian violence.

Saad Hariri’s fear of possible assassination may come from his family’s relationship with politically motivated murder. In 2005, his father, former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, died in a car bombing, an incident that led to the Cedar Revolution and Syria’s exit from Lebanon.

IANS

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Mattis arrives in Afghanistan for Taliban deal

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Washington, Sep 7 : US Secretary of Defence James Mattis arrived here on Friday on a surprise visit to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at a time when Washington is trying to make headway in Kabul after 17 years of war.

Mattis’ visit, in the middle of his tour of the region, comes unexpectedly as is usual owing to security concerns, and no details about his activities or the duration of his stay in the Afghan capital have been revealed, reports Efe news.

“US Defence Secretary Mattis and General (Joseph) Dunford the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff arrived in Kabul. And will be having meeting with President (Ashraf) Ghani. Details will be shared later,” Afghan presidential spokesperson Haroon Chakhansuri tweeted.

The information office of the US and UN mission in Afghanistan confirmed Mattis’ arrival but did not disclose any details about his agenda.

The arrival of Mattis coincides with the recent takeover by Austin Miller from John Nicholson as NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and US Forces Afghanistan.

Mattis, who came to the Afghan capital on Friday morning from New Delhi, had, along with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, discussed with their Indian counterparts, Nirmala Sitharaman and Sushma Swaraj respectively, the importance of both India and the US in Afghanistan.

New Delhi and Washington reiterated their support for an Afghan-led peace process in a joint statement on Thursday, in which the latter acknowledged the former’s longstanding and ongoing contribution to Afghanistan as well as India’s role in its neighbour’s development and stability.

The same subject was addressed by Pompeo and Mattis during their stopover in Pakistan, where the Secretary of State stressed the need for Pakistan “to seriously engage to help us get to the reconciliation we need in Afghanistan”.(IANS)

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Shelter home rapes: Opposition demands another Bihar minister’s resignation

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Tejashwi Yadav

Patna, Aug 18 (IANS) Opposition RJD and Congress on Saturday demanded resignation of another Bihar minister over his alleged involvement in the Muzaffarpur shelter home rape cases.

Without naming the minister, leader of Opposition Tejashwi Yadav on Saturday demanded Chief Minister Nitsh Kumar sack the minister, a BJP MLA from Muzaffarpur. Yadav held out threat that he would “expose” the minister’s involvement in the case.

Bihar Social Welfare Minister Manju Verna recently resigned following outrage across the country and protests by Opposition in the state over the rape of young girls at a shelter home in Muzaffarpur. The Opposition has now trained guns on state Urban Development Minister Suresh Sharma, a BJP MLA from Muzaffarpur.

“If Nitish Kumar and (Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader) Sushil Modi do not sack him, we will be forced to expose and reveal his involvement like what we did in the case of Verma,” Tejashwi told media.

The RJD leader alleged the minister had close links with jailed main accused Brajesh Thakur.

Congress spokesperson Premchand Mishra said Sharma should resign on his own or Nitish Kumar should force him to quit. “We will intensify our protest for his resignation,” said Mishra.

However, ruling JD-U spokesperson Ajai Alok rejected the resignation demand, saying that the CBI is probing the case. “There is no need for the minister’s resignation. If he is found guilty in the CBI probe, he would be sent to jail,” said Alok.

The BJP is yet to react to the allegations against Sharma.

Manju Verna had resigned on August 8 after media reports of call details revealed that her husband had spoken to the key accused Brajesh Thakur 17 times.

Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress leaders have alleged that Verma’s husband visited the shelter home run by Thakur “regularly.”

The Muzaffarpur case came to light when the Bihar Social Welfare Department filed an FIR based on a social audit of the shelter home conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

The Patna High Court is monitoring the CBI probe into the shocking rape of 34 minor girls at the Muzaffarpur shelter home, a horror that has caused nationwide outrage.

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Supreme Court admits Armymen plea against dilution of AFSPA , to hear on Aug 20

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Supreme Court of India

New Delhi, Aug 14 : The Supreme Court on Tuesday admitted Army men plea against the dilution of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that gives immunity to military personnel from prosecution for their actions in disturbed and insurgency-hit areas.

Indian Army soldiers claimed that exposing them to CBI and police prosecution for exigencies during operational encounters against insurgents will endanger “national security.”
The Supreme Court will hear the petition on August 20 .

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra agreed to hear the matter after advocate Aishwarya Bhati sought an early hearing of a plea moved by a group of serving Army officers.

Lawyer Aishwarya Bhati said, “A petition has been filed on behalf of 355 serving Army officials regarding protection in Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA) areas where soldiers are operating in anti-insurgency, militancy and &proxy war situations.”

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