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Three more Kashmiri youth martyred by Indian occupied forces

Monitoring Desk

SRINAGAR: As many as three more Kashmiri youth were martyred by Indian forces in a fresh act of state terrorism in Indian occupied Kashmir’s (IoK) Kupwara district on Tuesday.

Kashmir Media Service reported that all three youth were killed by the Indian occupied forces during violent cordon and search operations in Tangdhar area of the district, while two youth were killed yesterday, bringing the toll to five in two days.

Earlier, Indian soldier, who was killed in an attack in the same area, later the Indian army said that the operation was ongoing in the area.

A complete shutdown was observed in Bandipora and Pulwama districts to protest against the killing of a youth by Indian troops.

All business establishments were shut while traffic was off the road in the two districts.

Five youth were killed by the troops during a cordon and search operations in Shokhbaba Sumlar area of Bandipora on Friday (Ashur – 10th Muharram). The shutdown was observed for the fourth consecutive day, today, in the district.

Meanwhile, normal life was crippled in Tral area of Pulwama district due to strike against the killing of one youth by Indian troops, yesterday. Three people were also injured in troops’ firing on the protesters in Aripal area of the town.

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EU to agree new sanctions regime for chemical attacks

BRUSSELS (Reuters): European Union envoys are set to agree a new mechanism to punish chemical weapons’ attacks by targeting people blamed for using banned munitions regardless of their nationality, diplomats said.

The legal regime, based on a French proposal to combat what Paris and London say is the repeated use of chemical weapons by Russia and Syria, would allow the EU to impose sanctions more quickly on specific individuals anywhere in the world, freezing their assets in the bloc and banning them from entry.

Ambassadors from the EU’s 28 governments are expected to approve the regime at their weekly meeting on Wednesday, without debate.

The EU already has sanctions lists for Syria and Russia, but under the current system individuals must be added to special country lists. These are complex to negotiate and difficult to expand because some EU governments are reluctant to criticise close partners, particularly Moscow.

“This is significant because we will be able to add names without a big, sensitive debate,” said one senior EU diplomat involved in the negotiations. “We can try to uphold certain rights rather than just issuing statements.”

Banned two decades ago under an international treaty, the rising use of nerve agents has alarmed Western governments. Recent cases include the assassination of the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2017 and the attempted murder of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in March.

EU diplomats say the new chemical weapons regime could be followed up by a similar mechanism for human rights violations, similar to the United States’ Global Magnitsky Act, which allows Washington to sanction individuals for abuses or corruption.

The regime, due to be given a final stamp of approval by EU foreign ministers on Oct. 15, will still need the support of all EU governments for names to be added, according to a preparatory paper seen by Reuters.

It was not immediately clear if Britain would propose to add two Russians accused of poisoning Skripal and his daughter. But diplomats say it is a possibility as Britain has been unable to convince other EU countries to back new sanctions on Russia over the case.

Britain has charged two Russian men, identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with attempting to murder Skripal and his daughter Yulia by spraying a chemical weapon on Skripal’s front door in the English city of Salisbury.

France pushed the EU sanctions regime in part because the United Nations Security Council has been deadlocked over how to set up an independent inquiry for chemical attacks in Syria.

Russia rejected a joint draft resolution by Britain, France and the United States earlier this year.

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Among leaders making UN debut: A new mother with baby in tow

NEW YORK (Reuters): At the United Nations this week, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has to contend with some daunting challenges – her debut before world leaders and the sleep schedule of her 3-month-old baby.

The 38-year-old Ardern has made global headlines since coming to power last October when she became only the second elected leader to give birth while in office, after Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto in 1990.

She is not only her country’s youngest premier, but the first to take maternity leave while in office, and is widely seen as a symbol of progress for women. As she prepared for her first U.N. address on Thursday, she also had the daunting task of traveling halfway round the world with a baby. Nearly 130 leaders and dozens of ministers will be at U.N. headquarters this week.

Ardern, who is breastfeeding and cannot be away from her baby for extended periods, will be accompanied by her partner, Clarke Gayford, who acts as daughter Neve Te Aroha’s full-time caregiver.

“I’m lucky. I have an incredible support network around me. I have the ability to take my child to work. There’s not many places you can do that,” Ardern told a Social Good Summit in New York on Sunday.

“Unless there is a culture that accepts that mothers and children are part of our workplaces, then we won’t change anything. So if I can do one thing and that is just change the way we think about these things, then I will feel pleased that we have achieved something,” she said.

When the event moderator remarked that the baby was backstage and very peaceful, Ardern quipped: “Wasn’t at 3:30 this morning.”

 

 

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500,000 children face ‘immediate danger’: UN

TRIPOLI (AFP) Half a million children are in “immediate danger” in Libya’s capital Tripoli due to fighting, the United Nations children’s fund UNICEF said on Monday. Clashes that broke out between rival militias in late August had killed at least 115 people and wounded nearly 400 by Saturday night, according to Libya’s health ministry.

UNICEF said Monday that “over 1,200 families have been displaced in the past 48 hours alone as clashes intensified in southern Tripoli”. That brings the total number of people displaced by the recent fighting to over 25,000, half of whom are children, UNICEF said. “More children are reportedly being recruited to fight, putting them in immediate danger. At least one child was killed as a result,” said Geert Cappelaere, the UN agency’s Middle East and North Africa director.

UNICEF also said schools are increasingly being used to shelter displaced families, which is likely to delay the start of the academic year beyond October 3. It said residents are facing food, power and water shortages, adding that the clashes have exacerbated the plight of migrants. “Hundreds of detained refugees and migrants, including children, were forced to move because of violence. Others are stranded in centres in dire conditions”, Cappelaere said. Despite a UN-brokered ceasefire on September 4, fighting broke out again last week in southern districts of the capital.

The clashes have pitted armed groups from Tarhuna and Misrata against Tripoli militias nominally controlled by Libya’s UN-backed unity government. The Libyan capital has been at the centre of a battle for influence between armed groups since dictator Moamer Kadhafi was ousted in a NATO-backed 2011 uprising. The country’s unity government has struggled to exert its control in the face of a multitude of militias and a rival administration based in eastern Libya.

 

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Calm opposition leader wins Maldives presidency

COLOMBO (AP): Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the president-elect of the Maldives, spent his youth marching in the streets for democracy. He was elected to Parliament at age 32 as an independent candidate, helping to draw up a new constitution. But unlike other reformers of his generation, Solih was never sidelined by a prison sentence or political exile, a fact that propelled him into the role of the opposition party’s standard-bearer.

Political observers say Solih, 56, known by his nickname, Ibu, has been a quiet force behind the tropical South Asian archipelago’s transition to democracy and a rallying point for the opposition in crisis under outgoing strongman Yameen Abdul Gayoom. “He was never in a hurry,” Mohamed Aflath, a businessman who voted for Solih in Sunday’s election, said Monday. “Some guys who were more eager to become the leader had to say goodbye to politics, some ended in jail while some in exile. But Ibu was very patient and calm.”

Solih’s supporters flooded the streets of the capital, Male, after his victory speech early Monday, waving the yellow flags of his Maldivian Democratic Party and singing campaign songs. Supporters cited his 25-year career as a parliamentarian as evidence of his commitment and self-restraint in contrast to some of the country’s more power-hungry political leaders. Amid the celebrations, Solih called on Yameen to immediately begin a smooth transition of power and urged his supporters to remain calm. Solih and his running mate, Faisal Naseem, are to be sworn in on Nov. 17.

An elections-eve police raid of Solih’s main campaign office cast a pall over the vote. But Solih assured Maldivians that he had spoken to police and security forces, and that “they expressed their support of the decision of the people.” Solih and his wife, Fazna Ahmed, studied in Australia before returning to join the Maldives’ nascent democracy movement, working to establish a multiparty parliamentary system in a nation whose modern history was riddled with conflicts between an ancient monarchy and a string of aristocrats running constitutional autocracies. He dabbled in journalism working for a state broadcaster and later an opposition magazine before becoming a member of Parliament in 1995 as an independent. When Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, an autocrat who ruled Maldives for 30 years, introduced democratic reforms, Solih joined an assembly to draw up a constitution, introducing the country to the concepts of separation of powers and fundamental human rights.

He helped cofound the Maldivian Democratic Party in 2003 along with his wife’s cousin, Mohamed Nasheed, who in 2008 became the first president elected in multiparty polls. Solih served as Parliament majority leader during Nasheed’s presidency. Nasheed was forced to resign in 2012 after losing military and police support over the arrest of a prominent judge. He ran for the presidency again in 2013 the country’s second multiparty election and lost to Gayoom’s half-brother, current President Yameen. With Yameen cracking down on the opposition jailing or forcing into exile almost all his potential rivals, including Nasheed, who was exiled first in the United Kingdom and then in Sri Lanka the responsibility of rallying the opposition fell to Solih.

 

 

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HK pro-independence party formally outlawed

HONG KONG (Reuters): Hong Kong authorities formally banned on Monday a group promoting independence from China the first outlawing of a political organization since Britain handed its former colony back to Chinese rule in 1997. The city’s Secretary for Security John Lee announced the ban on the Hong Kong National Party in a brief statement published in the government’s gazette, 10 days after the party submitted arguments against the move.

Lee ordered the ban under Hong Kong’s Societies Ordinance, a previously little noticed colonial-era law that requires all social groups and organizations to register with the police. The law allows the government to ban groups “in the interests of national security, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”. Lee later told reporters that the two-year-old group was prepared to use “all methods” to forge independence, which posed a threat to national security and broke the Basic Law, the mini-constitution that governs Hong Kong’s relations with China.

“It has a clear agenda in making Hong Kong a republic,” Lee said. Lee also said the group had spread “hatred and discrimination against mainland Chinese”. The authorities could not rule out action against other groups, including those promoting “self determination” as well as full independence, he said. Hong Kong’s nascent independence movement shows little sign of generating widespread public support but the government’s move in July to announce it was considering a ban on the Hong Kong National Party propelled its leader, Andy Chan, to prominence.

Hong Kong is governed under a “one country, two systems” principle which allows the global financial hub a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in China, including an independent legal system and freedoms of speech and assembly. The 28-year-old Chan has been widely quoted in local and international media in recent weeks. In August, he spoke at Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondent’s Club, a move condemned by the Chinese Foreign Ministry and locally-based Chinese officials. “I will never stop in my pursuit of freedom, human rights, equality and dignity,” Chan told Reuters earlier.

He could not be reached for comment on Monday, while some media reports said he was considering a legal appeal. Local government efforts to find ways of cracking down on the independence movement follows a warning last year from President Xi Xinping during a visit to the city that any attempt to endanger China’s sovereignty crossed a “red line”. China’s central government backed Monday’s ban, with a spokesperson for the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office expressing “resolute support”, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The central government supported the Hong Kong authorities in punishing any acts that jeopardized national security and had zero tolerance for any organizations preaching Hong Kong independence or engaging in activities of splitting the country, Xinhua quoted the spokesperson as saying. China’s perceived tightening grip over the city has stoked tensions in recent years, including the “Occupy Central” movement in 2014 that blocked major roads for nearly three months in a failed bid to pressure Beijing to allow full democracy.

 

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Thai junta chief eyes role in politics after election

BANGKOK (Reuters): Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is “interested in politics,” he said on Monday, a sign that he sees a public role for himself after a general election promised next year. May next year is the most recent deadline Prayuth’s junta has set for a vote its critics hope will return Thailand to civilian rule after more than four years of military rule, although it has repeatedly pushed back the timeline.

Critics say the military aims to maintain its grip on power beyond the election and they point to a military-backed constitution that limits the authority of civilian politicians. “I can say right now that I am interested in politics,” Prayuth, who has previously sidestepped questions about his political future, told reporters on Monday. “Because I love my country, like all Thai people,” he said. He did not elaborate on his comments.

As army chief, Prayuth, 64, led a 2014 coup that ousted a civilian government to end a prolonged period of sometimes deadly unrest. Technically Prayuth cannot stand for election under the constitution, because he would have had to resign from his post since 2017 to do so. Prayuth said on Monday he did not intend to quit as junta chief. However, Prayuth could return as prime minister if a political party nominated him as its frontrunner.

The constitution offers Prayuth another route. He could be chosen as an “outside prime minister” if 500 members, or two-thirds of the House of Representatives and the Upper House Senate, voted to kickstart the process, if the winning party’s candidate failed to get enough votes. Watana Muangsook, a member of the opposition Puea Thai Party, welcomed Prayuth’s participation in the next election but said he must first give up his post as junta chief.

“You may join whichever party, but you should resign as junta chief to lay down your weapons and play fair like everybody else,” Watana told Reuters. The junta, formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order, has promised to relax its curbs on political activities before the vote, to allow political parties to complete administrative tasks between September and December.

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Exercise freedom of expression responsibly, FM Qureshi tells Dutch counterpart

NEW YORK (Monitoring Desk: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that the right of freedom of expression must be exercised responsibly in a meeting with his Dutch counterpart Stef Bloc on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly on Monday.

Qureshi, who is in in New York to represent Islamabad in the 73rd UNGA session, appreciated the timely steps taken by the two governments to cancel the blasphemous caricature contest in the Netherlands last month, said an official statement.

Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders had canceled the controversial blasphemous caricatures contest after being at the receiving end of death threats.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had earlier said that the cartoon competition was hurting the religious sensibilities of the Muslim diaspora and vowed that the government would leave no stone unturned in raising the matter at international forums.

Foreign Minister Qureshi had termed the cancellation of the contest a “great moral victory for the Muslim Ummah”.

In today’s meeting, FM Qureshi also stressed upon promoting economic cooperation, trade and investment between the two countries.

During his stay in the United States, he will also meet foreign ministers from various countries.

A second meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also scheduled for October 2. The high-level huddle with the US diplomat is one of the top agendas of Qureshi’s week-long visit to the US which is aimed at following up on the progress made in the former’s visit to Islamabad earlier.

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Myanmar army chief says ‘no right to interfere’ as U.N. weighs Rohingya crisis

YANGON (Reuters): Myanmar’s army chief on Monday warned against foreign interference as world leaders gather at the United Nations to find ways to hold the country’s powerful generals accountable for atrocities against Rohingya Muslims last year.

In his first public comments on the subject since a report by a U.N. fact-finding mission this month, Min Aung Hlaing said Myanmar abided by U.N. pacts, but warned that “talks to meddle in internal affairs” cause “misunderstanding”.

“As countries set different standards and norms, any country, organization and group has no right to interfere in and make decision(s) over sovereignty of a country,” Min Aung Hlaing said in comments reported in English on his website.

The remarks, made during a trip to Myanmar’s northeast on Sunday, were also published in a military-run newspaper on Monday.

A military spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

The U.N. mission called for Min Aung Hlaing and five other generals to be prosecuted for crimes against humanity and genocide over allegations of mass killings and gang rapes.

A military crackdown unleashed in the western state of Rakhine last year after attacks by Rohingya militants on police and army posts drove more than 700,000 of the largely stateless minority across the border with Bangladesh.

Myanmar denied entry to the U.N. mission’s investigators and rejected their findings, insisting that security forces conducted a legitimate operation to root out “terrorists”.

In his remarks, Min Aung Hlaing referred to the Rohingya as Bengalis, suggesting they belong in Bangladesh, and said they must “accept scrutiny” under the country’s 1982 Citizenship Law.

The law limits citizenship for those, like the Rohingya, who are not members of officially decreed ethnic groups.

Elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi shares power with the military under a 2008 constitution written by the generals who ruled Myanmar for decades.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has begun examining the alleged forced deportation of Rohingya to Bangladesh. Myanmar has said it wants to repatriate Rohingya who fled.

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Russia to give Syria S-300 air defense after accusations against Israel

MOSCOW (Reuters): Russia announced on Monday it will supply an S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Syria in two weeks against strong Israeli objections, a week after Moscow blamed Israel for indirectly causing the downing of a Russian military plane in Syria.

Last week’s crash, which killed 15 Russian service members, had forced Moscow to take “adequate retaliatory measures to increase the safety of Russian military fighting international terrorism in Syria,” Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Monday in a televised address.

“A modern S-300 air defense missile system will be transferred to the Syrian armed forces within two weeks,” he said. The system will “significantly increase the Syrian army’s combat capabilities,” he said.

Russia, which fights in Syria to support the government, has said Syria shot the IL-20 surveillance plane down by mistake shortly after Israeli jets hit a nearby target. Russia blamed Israel for creating dangerous conditions that caused the crash.

Israel, which has struck Syria scores of times during the seven-year war, said after the incident that it would work to improve “deconfliction” of its missions with Russian forces, but would not halt them. It has long lobbied Moscow not to provide the S-300 to Syria.

Krelmin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on a conference call that the decision to supply the weapons was “not directed at any third country”. “Russia needs to increase safety of its military and it should be clear for everyone,” he said.

But he also repeated Moscow’s accusations that Israel was to blame for the crash: “No doubt that according to our military experts, deliberate action by Israeli pilots was the reason for the tragedy and this cannot but harm our (Russia-Israeli) ties.”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s office explicitly linked the Russian decision to supply the weapons to the air crash: “President Putin held Israel responsible for bring down the plane and informed President Assad that Russia will develop Syria’s air defense systems,” the Syrian presidency said.

Shoigu said Russia will equip Syrian anti-aircraft units with Russian tracking and guidance systems in order to identify Russian aircraft.

Russia in April had hinted that it would supply the S-300 to Assad’s government despite Israeli objections.

The missile system, originally developed by the Soviet military, but since modernized and available in several versions with different capabilities, fires missiles from trucks and is designed to shoot down military aircraft and short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

Israel says its air strikes on Syria are not a threat to Russia’s ally Assad, but that it must carry them out to halt arms shipments to Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah. It has made repeated efforts to persuade Moscow not to sell S-300s to Syria, as it fears this would hinder its aerial capability.