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Trump invites Putin to US amid criticism over Helsinki meet

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Washington, July 20 (IANS): The White House has announced that the Russian President has been invited to Washington later this year, despite mounting criticism over US President Donald Trump’s failure to take Vladimir Putin to task over Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential polls.

The White House’s announcement came on Thursday even as leaders in Washington were still struggling to understand what happened when Trump and Putin met earlier this week in Helsinki, Finland.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a tweet said that National Security Adviser John Bolton extended the invitation and that “discussions are already underway”.

“That’s gonna be special!” said Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, when he was told about the invitation during a live interview.

The White House was finding it hard to explain statements made by Trump after the Helsinki meeting as uncertainty spread throughout the government about whether he had reached agreements with Putin on Syria and Ukraine, leaving his military and diplomatic corps in the dark, the New York Times reported.

Coats said he would have advised against Trump and Putin’s private meeting in Helsinki, which worried US security officials because no notes were taken and only two interpreters were present, but that he had not been consulted.

Underscoring how little is known about the meeting, Coats said that he was not told what happened in the room. Asked whether it was possible Putin had secretly recorded the more-than two-hour meeting, Coats answered: “That risk is always there.”

Thursday’s announcement was the latest unexpected turn in a week in which Trump faced a torrent of bipartisan criticism over his cozy approach to Putin and his conflicting statements about Moscow’s election interference, all while brushing aside warnings that Putin should be viewed as an adversary.

“The summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed.”

Several lawmakers urged the interpreter of Trump in his meeting with Putin to testify before Congress for what exactly the two leaders had said in the meeting.

Also, the two sides of the aisle on Capital Hill have been increasingly enraged over the White House’ ambiguity regarding Putin’s request to interrogate several former US diplomats, including former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and his several colleagues, over their behaviours in Russia.

Earlier this week, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office reportedly requested the questioning of several of these individuals. The initiative was first voiced by Putin during his meeting with Trump. The White House was reported to be reviewing the demand.

Sanders said that “the President was going to meet with his team” over the issue and “there was some conversation about it, but there wasn’t a commitment made on behalf of the US” during the Trump-Putin meeting.

The possible decision to allow Russian investigators to question US former diplomats sparked further fury on Capitol Hill. Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell said that if Trump allowed Russians to question McFaul, “you can count on me and millions of others to swiftly make you an ex-President.”

Republican Senator Marco Rubio also urged the White House to “publicly and unequivocally rule it out”. For his part, McFaul tweeted earlier that he expects the U.S. government to defend him and his colleagues “in public and private.”

Under mounting pressure, the White House later rejected Putin’s request.

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No boundary dispute with China: Nepal Foreign Minister

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Pradeep Gyawali

Kathmandu, Sep 23 : Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali on Wednesday said that there is no boundary dispute with China, referring to recent media reports that said China had encroached on Nepalese territory and built 11 buildings in Humla district on the Nepal-China border.

Later in the evening, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also issued a statement and denied any encroachment by the Chinese side. These clarifications came amid media reports that China has unilaterally constructed 11 cemented buildings in Nepalese territory recently and locals of the Lapcha area where the buildings were constructed brought it to the notice of the local Humla district administration and protested the move.

But the Nepal Foreign Ministry said late Wednesday that its attention has been drawn to the media reports about the alleged construction of buildings by China within Nepalese territory between the Nepal-China boundary pillars 11 and 12 at Humla district.

“The Department of Survey, Government of Nepal, based on the official records, reports of the joint field inspection and boundary maps, has verified and confirmed that the said buildings are not located within the Nepalese territory,” the statement said.

Earlier on Wednesday, a group of people had protested in front of Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu and chanted slogans against the land encroachment by the Chinese in Humla. The issue of Chinese buildings in question had also surfaced in 2016, the ministry added, an inter-ministerial team after the field inspection had concluded that the said buildings were located approximately one kilometre inside the Chinese territory from the Nepal-China border.

The ministry stated that the boundary between Nepal and China was delineated and demarcated based on the Boundary Treaty and Boundary Protocols signed between the two countries. Nepal and China have always maintained close communication on border matters, it said.

Addressing a press conference Gyawali who is also the spokesperson of Nepal government said that a probe committee comprising officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Land Reform had later shown that the Chinese side had constructed buildings some 1 kilometre away from the Nepal-China border. New buildings were constructed by Chinese authorities for their border security personnel in the same area now.

Gyawali also said that a team led by Chief District Officer (CDO) of Humla district is currently in the Limi village and further details will be available once the team returns to the district headquarters. The Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu also refuted the media reports stating that the buildings mentioned by the media are on the Chinese side and urged the Nepal to verify the construction.

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France’s Macron urges UN mission to visit China’s Xinjiang region

“This is the reason why … France has requested that an international mission under the aegis of the United Nations go to Xinjiang in order to take into account the concerns that we collectively have on the situation of the Muslim Uighur minority,”

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PARIS : France’s president on Tuesday called for an international mission under the auspices of the United Nations to visit China’s Xinjiang due to concerns over the Muslim Uighur minority.

U.N. experts and activists say at least a million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims are held in detention centres in Xinjiang. China describes them as training centres helping stamp out terrorism and extremism and giving people new skills.

“Fundamental rights are not a Western idea that one could oppose as an interference … these are the principles of our organisation, enshrined in texts that the member states of the United Nations have freely consented to sign and to respect,” Emmanuel Macron said in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly.

“This is the reason why … France has requested that an international mission under the aegis of the United Nations go to Xinjiang in order to take into account the concerns that we collectively have on the situation of the Muslim Uighur minority,” he said.

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Disaster

Israel reports 2,445 new Covid-19 cases; 193,374 in total

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Jerusalem, Sep 23 : Israel’s Ministry of Health reported 2,445 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total confirmed cases to 193,374.

The total count of deaths from the coronavirus in Israel rose by 12 to 1,285, while the number of patients in serious condition rose from 653 to 668, out of 1,352 patients currently hospitalised, Xinhua news agency reported.

The number of recoveries in the country increased by 3,971 to 140,751, while the number of active Covid-19 cases stood at 51,338.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Israeli government approved a plan to expand the national economic safety net to deal with the pandemic’s impact.

“Expanding the plan will enable immediate economic assistance for businesses and wage-earners who are expected to be hurt by the current Covid-19 nationwide lockdown,” said a joint statement by the Prime Minister’s Office and Finance Ministry.

The expansion includes the lowering of damage threshold for businesses to receive fixed expenditure grants to 25 per cent, providing advances against the fixed expenditure grants, a comprehensive worker retention plan, and deferring the reduction in unemployment benefits.

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