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US NSA OKs Trump to share info with Russia

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Donald Trump

Washington, May 17 : US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said on Tuesday that it was “wholly appropriate” for President Donald Trump to share classified information with Russian officials during their meeting in the Oval Office last week.

Trump decided to mention the information in the “context of the conversation” with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, McMaster told reporters in the White House, calling it “wholly appropriate to that conversation” and “consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leader with whom he’s engaged”.

During those conversations, Trump disclosed the city from which the intelligence was derived, McMaster confirmed.

However, McMaster did not make clear if the information was highly classified as the Washington Post reported one day earlier.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump tweeted that he has “the absolute right” to share certain information with Russia.

“As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against the IS & terrorism,” he said in a pair of tweets on Tuesday.

But the president also did not specifically say whether he spilled highly classified information to Russian officials.

Trump reportedly relayed information from a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria when meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

The related information-sharing arrangement was considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, according to the Post report.

In response, McMaster, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell all issued statements later on Monday, claiming such reports are wrong.

Powell said in a statement: “This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”

“At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly,” said McMaster, who participated in the meeting.

The Post report said Trump appeared to be boasting of the “great intel” he receives when he described a looming terror threat, citing an official with knowledge of the exchange.

The information was provided by a US partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement. The partner did not give the US permission to share the information with Russia, the Post said.

Following the meeting, the White House contacted the CIA and National Security Agency to contain the damage, according to the Post.

As US President Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that such disclosures broke the law. However, he is facing a deepening trust crisis as a new poll released Tuesday finds nearly half of US voters (48 per cent) said they would support Trump’s impeachment, while only 41 per cent would oppose such charges.

The White House is in a “downward spiral” and needs to do something to get “under control”, Republican Senator Bob Corker said following the Post report.

Trump’s approval ratings have been hovering in the high 30s and 40s. According to Gallup, Trump has the lowest approval of any new president since the surveys began in 1953.

World

India, China and Russia hold consultation on Afghanistan

Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia currently enjoy observer status while Sri Lanka, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia and Nepal are dialogue partners.

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Nikolai Patrushev

Moscow/Beijing, May 22 : Afghanistan is a major source of terrorist threats for the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said on Tuesday, four days after he held consultation on the issue with India and China.

For the SCO member-states, the threat of terrorism and extremism comes first and foremost from Afghanistan’s territory. We are convinced that any unilateral attempts to solve the situation in the Islamic republic by force bypassing the norms and principles of the international law may only worsen the situation and create additional security risks, Patrushev said.

His comments followed talks India, China and Russia held on Afghanistan and exchanged views in the Russian capital on May 17.

India’s Deputy National Security Adviser Rajinder Khanna, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou and Assistant to the Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Aleksandr Venediktov consulted each other. Patrushev then held a group meeting with the delegation members of the three countries who took part in the consultation.

The three sides agreed to strengthen coordination and cooperation under the frameworks of the SCO and the BRICS countries, and to hold the next round of consultation in due course, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

They also exchanged views on the situation in the Asia-Pacific region and cooperation under the frameworks of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the BRICS countries, reaching broad consensus, said the statement.

On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin at their informal summit in Sochi expressed concern over terrorism and radicalisation. In this context, they endorsed the importance of restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan in an atmosphere free from the threat of terrorism, and agreed to work together towards achieving this objective, said the Ministry of External Affairs.

Patrushev said Russia jointly with other SCO members had been calling for restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan through political settlement led by Afghan citizens.

The Tashkent conference on Afghanistan on March 26-27 confirmed the need to step up multilateral cooperation, including in the SCO framework. We view this meeting, and also meetings in the framework of the Kabul process as a logical continuation of consultations as part of the Moscow format and the SCO-Afghanistan contact group, TASS news agency quoted Patrushev as saying.

Any initiatives on the Afghan track should take into account the interests of regional states and rule out the prospects of imposing unacceptable scenarios on them. In this context, we support the Chinese side’s proposal to hold the second meeting of the contact group in Beijing, he said.

The SCO was formed in Shanghai in 2001 by six founding states – Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

In 2017, India and Pakistan became full-fledged members.

Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia currently enjoy observer status while Sri Lanka, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia and Nepal are dialogue partners.

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World

16 killed in Afghanistan blast

No group, neither the Taliban or the Islamic State, have claimed responsibility for the incident.

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IED Blast
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Kabul, May 22 : At least 16 people were killed when a vehicle, packed with explosives detonated in the southern Kandahar province on Tuesday, authorities said.

Provincial Governor Tooryalai Wesa said that at least 16 people were killed and 38 others wounded in the explosion, Ariana News reported.

According to Wesa, the death toll is expected to rise, as most of the injured were in critical condition.

No group, neither the Taliban or the Islamic State, have claimed responsibility for the incident.

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India’s Ola in 3 more Australian cities

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Ola

New Delhi, May 22: Indian ride-sharing major Ola on Tuesday expanded its services in Australia to three more cities — Brisbane, Gold Coast and Canberra.

To celebrate its launch in these cities, Ola is offering discounted rides from Tuesday. Customers can download the Ola app either from Google Play or iOS App Store, register for an Ola account and begin booking their rides.

“Customers in these cities can book discounted rides using Ola app starting Tuesday,” the city-based online cab aggregator said in a statement here. The online transportation network company has been operating in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne since it forayed into the island-nation early in 2018.

So far, over 30,000 driver-partners have registered themselves with the company since its launch in Australia on January 30, the statement said.

“Over the coming months, Ola is working on its rollout in other Australian cities Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart,” it added.

Founded in 2011, Ola has been competing against Uber in the Indian ride-hailing market. The seven-year-old Ola claims to have over 125 million users in 110 cities across India.

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