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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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Kabul seeks closure of Taliban’s Qatar office

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Taliban office in Qatar
Taliban office in Qatar (Photo- The Newyork Times)

Doha, Feb 24: Kabul has started discussions with the Qatari government to close the Taliban office in Doha as it has had “no positive consequence in terms of facilitating the peace talks with the group in Afghanistan”, a senior government official has said.

“There is no need to keep the office open”, said Mohammad Hanif Atmar, National Security Advisor to President Ashraf Ghani, in an interview with Middle East newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat earlier this week.

“The aim behind opening (Taliban’s) Qatar office was to start official peace negotiations with the terror group from the address, but so far no official negotiation from the office has been started with government. Even a single step has not been taken forward in the peace process through this office,” Qadir Shah, a spokesman for Atmar’s office said.

“It had no benefit for us even after seven years… It is better to close it,” Atmar said.

He also said that Kabul has so far witnessed no sign of “sincere” cooperation from Islamabad in counter-terrorism efforts.

The Taliban had earlier reached out to the US with an offer for talks and urged people to pressurize Washington to bring an end to the invasion of Afghanistan.

The Taliban had said that they preferred to resolve the conflict that began in 2001 through peaceful dialogue and warned that the use of force alone would complicate the problem in Afghanistan.

The group had called on the “American people and the peace-loving Congressmen” to pressurize US leadership to end the occupation of the Asian country, a precondition that Taliban has always maintained to begin any negotiation.

IANS

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PNB says Virat Kohli continues to be its brand ambassador

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Virat Kohli PNB

New Delhi, Feb 24: The $1.8 billion fraud hit Punjab National Bank (PNB) has said that Indian skipper Virat Kohli continues to be its brand ambassador.

“There are reports in the media that Virat Kohli, Bank’s brand ambassador is going to discontinue his endorsement with Punjab National Bank. The same is again totally false and incorrect. Virat Kohli is our brand ambassador,” the bank clarified through a public notice.

The notice further clarified: “There are media reports that the bank has engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to conduct an investigation into the alleged fraud and PwC has been asked to gather evidence that can be used against Nirav Modi and his associates in the court. The news is totally incorrect.”

It also said that media reports saying Reserve Bank of India and government asking PNB to make payment of the fraudulent amount to other banks is also incorrect.

The bank reiterated that the bank has the capacity and capability to handle the situation and protect the interest of the institution, customers and stakeholders.

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Informed MoS PMO about harrasement being meted out to the officers: IAS Association on Delhi Chief Secy row

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ias association secretary after meeting MoS PMO

Members of IAS officers of Delhi Government on Friday met the Minister of State Jitendra Singh to convey the problems they face working with the Delhi Ministers.

The MOS PMO after the meeting told media that in his meeting with the members of IAS association gave details of the problems faced by them while working in Delhi.

“We should give them a work-friendly environment.We should be to get the best out of our officers & we must enable them to perform to the best of their performance in the interest of the nation,” he added.

Whereas Secretary of IAS association, Manisha Saxena,”Apprised the ministers of the harassment being meted out to the officers. We requested him to protect us, probably devise some way of better protection for officers.

“We made him aware of incidents in last 2.5-3 yrs and how officers were pressurised,” she added.

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