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US-Taliban discuss peace deal in new talks

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Afghanistan peace deal

Doha, Jan 17 : The Taliban and the US have resumed their talks that are expected to continue for “several days” in the Qatari capital of Doha for finalizing an arrangement to sign a possible Afghanistan peace deal, the militant group said on Friday.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told Efe news that its negotiating team led by Mullah Baradar Akhund held a meeting with US negotiators led by envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha.

“They held talks about the signing of the agreement and its related ceremony,” Mujahid said, adding that the fresh round of talks has been “productive” and would continue for “several days”.

Another Taliban spokesperson, Emran Khalil, wrote on his Twitter page that the two sides discussed the issues related to the “signing of the agreement and withdrawal mechanism of foreign troops” from Afghanistan.

Khalil said there were no changes in the draft peace deal that was “completed” last September.

“Hopefully, the date for the signing of the deal (will) be revealed soon.”

However, the spokesmen didn’t mention about a ceasefire or a possibility of Taliban scaling down its violent activities, which have been among the main demands of the Afghans, particularly of the government in Kabul before a peace deal is signed between the US and the insurgents.

On Thursday, Pakistan said the Taliban were ready to reduce violence for a breakthrough in the Afghan peace process.

On December 30, 2019, Mujahid denied any possibility of a ceasefire, but said they were discussing the reduction in violent activities after the US asked for it.

The new talks began earlier this week after a month-long break since the two sides paused the negotiations for internal consultations on December 12, 2019.

The Taliban and the US resumed the negotiations on December 7 following a three-month stalemate after President Donald Trump abruptly called off the talks in September over a deadly attack in Kabul that also killed an American soldier.

A possible US-Taliban agreement is expected to pave the way for intra-Afghan peace talks between the Taliban and the government of President Ashraf Ghani.

The Taliban have for long rejected to hold any official and direct talks with the Afghan government before it reaches an agreement with the US on its troop withdrawal from the country.

The US and Taliban negotiators during a yearlong nine rounds of talks were said to have completed a peace draft agreement last September.

The draft agreement ensures that over 5,000 US troops will withdraw from five American bases in the first 135 days after the signing of the deal.

Since the end of the NATO combat mission in January 2015, the US maintains one contingent within the framework of the new allied mission of advising Afghan troops and another for “anti-terrorist” operations.

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Politics

Sajid Javid stepped down to avoid humiliation

He had then cleared absconding businessman Vijay Mallya’s extradition to India in February last year following the decision by the Westminister Magistrates Court in December 2018.

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Sajid Javid

London, Feb 29 : Sajid Javid has revealed that he decided to resign as the UK Chancellor instead of being “humiliated” by sacking all his aides at a Cabinet reshuffle, a media report said on Saturday.

On February 13, Javid resigned as the Chancellor of the Exchequer over differences with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a cabinet reshuffle. He was offered to retain the post if he fired all his advisors but declined.

He was replaced by Indian-descent Rishi Sunak, who is married to Akshata, the daughter of Infosys co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy.

“It was really hard. I wanted to do a budget but when the Prime Minister said to me these are the conditions, in my mind it was black and white,” the Daily Mirror quoted Javid as saying to the Times newspaper.

“Even if I had entertained the idea for a second I would be absolutely humiliated afterwards.”

Javid said that other Cabinet members hastily congratulated him after defending the right of Ministers and telling him “well done”, while thanking him for speaking on all their behalf.

“I loved my job. I have wanted to be Chancellor since I knew who Nigel Lawson was when I was a kid and the only person that believed I could ever become chancellor was my dad. He never got to see it,” he told the Times.

Javid further said that he had “no option” but to leave the Cabinet when he was told to sack his advisers, and he still has to unpack boxes after moving from the seat of British power in Downing Street.

Pakistani-descent Javid, who became the first Asian to become a Cabinet Minister when he was made Secretary of State of Culture, Media and Sports in the David Cameron government in 2014 after stints as Economic Secretary to the Treasury (2012-13) and Financial Secretary (2013-14), was earlier the Home Secretary in the the Theresa May government.

He had then cleared absconding businessman Vijay Mallya’s extradition to India in February last year following the decision by the Westminister Magistrates Court in December 2018.

Javid, who ran for Conservative Party leadership after May quit but lost to Johnson, was made Chancellor by the latter.

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World

S.Korea warns of more COVID-19 cases as total reaches 2,931

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Seoul, Feb 29 (IANS) South Korea on Saturday warned a large number of virus cases will be reported in Daegu, the epicentre of the country’svirus outbreak, as the total number of infections rose to 2,931, with 17 fatalities.

On Saturday, the country reported 594 new cases of which 476 were in Daegu, 300 km southeast of Seoul, and 60 in neighbouring North Gyeongsang province, Yonhap News Agency quoted the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) as saying.

The sharp increase in cases in Daegu, the country’s fourth-largest city with a population of 2.5 million, came as authorities began intensive tests on followers of the Shincheonji church.

Many more confirmed virus cases were expected in the coming days as health authorities have begun testing more than 210,000 Shincheonji followers.

South Korea’s health authorities have so far surveyed 88 per cent of the followers of the church, with around 2 per cent of them showing symptoms of the novel virus.

The KCDC said it has collected samples from 3,381 church members who showed symptoms of COVID-19 infection.

“The proportion of confirmed cases among Shincheonji followers is very high, and over the next few days, the number of new cases in Daegu will run high till virus tests on the church followers are completed,” Yonhap News Agency quoted Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip as saying at a briefing here.

South Korea confirmed its first new coronavirus case in a Chinese woman from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, on January 20.

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Business

Pakistan’s economy shows positive indicators: PM’s Office

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Imran Khan Pakistan PM

Islamabad, Feb 28 : Pakistan’s economic indicators are seeing a constant improvement due to efforts made by the current government to overcome the serious economic challenges, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Friday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, chairing a meeting of his economic team, expressed satisfaction over the improvement in all sectors, adding that his government is making efforts to bring a trickle-down effect of the improving economy on general public and in this regard steps are being taken to provide relief to low income and salaried class of the country, Xinhua reported.

He also directed the economic team to keep the public updated about the positive indicators of the economy in a bid to win the confidence of the local businessman to invest in the country.

Earlier this month, the prime minister approved subsidy of Pakistani Rs 10 billion ($65 million) on five essential food items for controlling rampant inflation in the country.

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