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Taliban: Work on agreement with US complete

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Zabihullah Mujahid Taliban spokesperson

Kabul, Aug 13 (IANS) The Taliban on Tuesday said that work on the agreement with the US to seek a way out of nearly two decades of conflict in Afghanistan is complete, although it added that the sides would meet after final consultations and the agreement will be signed in the presence of international guarantors.

“Work on agreement (has been) completed,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told Efe news, a day after the eighth round of peace negotiations between the US and the Taliban concluded in Doha, Qatar.

However, he added that “there will be another meeting” between the two sides after final consultations.

“Signing of the agreement will be taking place later in the presence of (international) guarantors,” Mujahid said, without giving any further details.

The spokesperson on Monday had tweeted about the end of the eighth round of negotiations after 10 days of “tedious and effective” work, although he did not say anything about the finalization of the agreement.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad also tweeted on Monday, confirming the conclusion of this round of negotiations and said: “I am on my way back to DC to consult on next steps.”

The Taliban want an agreement on the withdrawal of foreign troops and the US seeks guarantees that the country does not become a refuge for terrorists.

According to a report on Monday by American magazine Newsweek citing Pentagon sources, US troops on Afghan soil have received orders to draw back their operations against the Taliban and to stop assisting the Afghan military as Washington proposes to cut its troops to 6,000.

However, in response to the report, the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and US Forces, General Scott Miller, in a statement denied having received any of the orders that appear in what he said is an “inaccurate and speculative” article.

“We have no such orders and have made no such changes,” Miller said.

It is expected that an agreement with Washington would pave the way for direct talks between the Taliban, the government and Afghan leaders.

In July, some 60 Afghans – many of them government members – and 17 Taliban members took part in the seventh round of negotiations in Qatar.

The Afghan government announced a 15-member team to directly negotiate a peace agreement, a process that insurgents say will not begin until they first reach an agreement with the US on the withdrawal of international troops.

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Rioters’ acts imitate terrorism: Hong Kong police

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HONG KONG RAMPAGE

Hong Kong, Nov 18 : Condemning the escalating violence, Hong Kong police on Monday said that the latest attacks by rioters imitated terrorism, after a car attempted to hit an officer and a large group of rioters took away an arrested woman by force.

Kwok Ka-chuen, Chief Superintendent of Police, Public Relations Branch, made the remarks at a press conference on Monday.

On Sunday night, a private car suddenly drove through the police cordon line set in the vicinity of Austin Road and attempted twice to hit an officer. As warnings went in vain, an officer fired one shot at the car, which then quickly fled, Xinhua reported.

In the small hours of Monday, police arrested a 20-year-old woman for taking part in an unlawful assembly at the junction of Nathan Road and Jordan Road, and arranged an ambulance to send her to hospital as she sustained head injury.

A large number of rioters attacked the ambulance and took away the arrested woman. Two police officers were trapped inside the ambulance and attacked by rioters with stones, bricks and unknown liquids. With their lives under serious threat, an officer fired three warning shots.

Kwok said assisting offender is a serious offence and could lead to 10-year imprisonment.

Seven police officers were injured during the weekend, sending the total number of officers injured in the months-long violence to over 450, Kwok said.

Since June, the police have arrested 4,491 people aged between 11 to 83 over offences including unlawful assembly, rioting, possession of offensive weapon, arson, and assaulting police, among others.

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Prince Andrew ‘categorically’ denies sex claim

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Prince Andrew

New Delhi, Nov 17 : Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, has “categorically” denied any sexual contact with an American woman, who alleged that she was forced to have sex with him at the age of 17, a media report said on Sunday.

Answering questions during a BBC interview about his links to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II said the alleged incidents “never happened”.

Virginia Giuffre, then called Virginia Roberts, has said that she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew between 2001 — when she was 17 — and 2002 in London, New York and Epstein’s private island in the US Virgin Islands. Giuffre is one of Epstein’s accusers.

Andrew maintained that he was home with his children on one of the alleged occasions.

Andrew, who is the Queen’s third child, has been facing questions for several months over his ties with Epstein, an American financier who, at the age of 66, took his own life while awaiting a trial on sex-trafficking charges.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis, Andrew said: “It didn’t happen. I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened. I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.”

He said Giuffre’s account of him “profusely sweating” and “pouring with perspiration” when they danced at the club on the night in 2001 when she says they first had sex was impossible, because he had a medical condition preventing him from perspiring.

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Bangladesh gas line explosion kills at least 7

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Bangladesh Gas Blast

Dhaka, Nov 18 : At least seven people were killed and 10 injured in a gas line explosion near a port in southern Chittagong city of Bangladesh, police said.

The incident occurred in the Pathorghata area of the city, police deputy commissioner Mehedi Hasan told EFE on Sunday.

“At least 17 people were injured in the incident. Seven of them were declared dead in a hospital. There could be some pedestrians among the victims,” he said.

Mehedi said a part of a five-storied building also collapsed after the explosion.

“We are suspecting that the explosion occurred due to a leak in the gas line,” he said.

Alahuddin Mia, a sub-inspector at the police camp of Chittagong Medical College Hospital, said some of the injured were taken to the hospital in critical condition.

Gas line explosion is not uncommon in Bangladesh, where poor maintenance is often blamed for such accidents.

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