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Syria rejects US claims on chemical weapon use

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Damascus, Feb 4: The Syrian Foreign Ministry has rejected the US claims about the Syrian government using chemical weapons in the war as “lies.”

The ministry said in a statement on Saturday that the US remarks about the use of chemical weapons in the Eastern Ghouta region of the east of the capital Damascus are “false claims”, Xinhua news agency reported.

Such allegations were timed to undermine the efforts to resolve the Syrian war through a peaceful settlement between the Syrians without foreign interventions, it noted.

The Syrian government reaffirms its position against the use of chemical weapons, and Syria has handed over all its chemical arsenals to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the ministry said.

The US and its allies are “desperately” searching for a pretext to target Syria, following the success of the Syrian army in its war against terror-designated militant groups across Syria, it pointed out.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis recently threatened Syria with a military action if hard evidence is found to back up the claims of another sarin attack in Syria.

Last month, activists claimed the Syrian forces used chlorine in an attack on the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta countryside of Damascus, causing 21 people to suffer from breathing difficulties.

In April last year, the US struck a military base in central Syria with more than 50 Tomahawk missiles, in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack by the government forces on a rebel-held town in the northwestern province of Idlib.

The Syrian government denied the accusations, saying it’s rebels who mounted the attack to frame the government and draw in a military action from the US.

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All options under study: Imran’s advisor on India’s MFN move

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Protest against CRPF Attack

Islamabad, Feb 16 (IANS) Pakistan will consider all available options to retaliate for the Indian governments decision to withdraw the Most Favo­ured Nation (MFN) status, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Advisor on Commerce Razak Dawood has said.

India withdrew the MFN status it gave to Pakistan in 1996 following the February 14 terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district that has till now claimed the lives of 49 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers.

Dawood said on Friday that Pakistan might take unilateral measures against India or revoke concessions under the South Asia Preferential Trade Agreement (Sapta) and might take up the issue in the Geneva-based World Trade Organisation, Dawn online reported on Saturday.

“We would not overreact… We would take action with great care,” he added while addressing the media at the office of board of investment on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s visit.

A Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist crashed a car bomb into a CRPF convoy in Pulwama district on the Srinagar-Jammu Highway on Thursday, making it the worst ever attack on security forces on any single day since a separatist campaign broke out in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989. It drew international condemnation.

The attack further damaged the already tense India-Pakistan diplomatic relations, with New Delhi saying it had evidence of Islamabad’s involvement in the carnage. Pakistan, however, dismissed accusations that it had links with the militants behind the attack.

Pakistan Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua met the envoys of the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council – US, Russia, China, France and UK – on Friday and denied her country’s role in the dastardly strike.

India, however, rejected Janjua’s claims and said the “links are clear and evident and for all to see”, noting that JeM was based in Pakistan.

A spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry termed as “preposterous” demands for an investigation saying there was a video of the suicide bomber declaring himself a member of the JeM.

India also demanded that Pakistan take immediate and verifiable action against terrorists and terror groups operating from territories under its control.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who is currently in Munich, slammed India, saying that New Delhi should have acted more responsibly and engaged themselves with Pakistan by sharing evidence.

“Accusing Pakistan is very easy, you pass the buck,” he said.

“Pakistan has been very clear, our viewpoint is clear, and, specifically, the stance of this government has been plain and simple: we desire peace,” Qureshi said.

“We desire good relations with our neighbours, we neither wish to opt for the path of violence nor has this ever been part of our intentions,” he added.

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Saudi Crown Prince’s Pakistan visit delayed in wake of Pulwama terror attack

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Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman

New Delhi, Feb 16: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan has been delayed by a day. He is now scheduled to arrive in the country for a two-day visit starting from February 17 (Sunday), Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

Earlier, the Saudi Crown Prince was slated to arrive in Islamabad on Saturday, but now the visit has been postponed by a day. The Pakistan foreign ministry did not divulge the reason behind the change in schedule, adding that the bilateral engagements “remains unchanged,” The Dawn reported.

This will be the Saudi Crown Prince’s maiden visit to Pakistan since becoming the heir to the throne in 2017. Security has been beefed up in the Pakistani capital ahead of his arrival.

The sudden change in schedule comes after Saudi Arabia strongly condemned the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district that claimed the lives of 40 CRPF soldiers. Pakistan-backed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Denouncing the deadly assault, Saudi Arabia on Friday reinforced its support to India against terrorism and extremism, wishing for the speedy recovery of the wounded.

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US for India’s bid to name JeM Chief Masood Azhar as global terrorist

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John Bolton

New Delhi, Feb 16: The United States on Saturday, has extended support for India’s bid to designate Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as an international terrorist.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton in a telephonic conversation with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval, backed India’s right to self-defence against cross-border terrorism.

Bolton offered all assistance to India to bring the perpetrators and backers of the attack promptly to justice. NSA Doval appreciated US support.

The suicide attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy carrying troopers towards Srinagar had blown up a bus when an explosives-packed SUV hit into the paramilitary vehicle, claiming lives of 40 troopers at the spot on February 14.

“The two NSAs vowed to work together to ensure that Pakistan cease to be a safe haven for JeM and terrorist groups that target India, the US and others in the region,” the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

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