Wednesday, 2 January 2019

02 Jan.ND: Rafale deal: Congress releases audio clip, claims Parrikar said he had ‘all files in his bedroom’/ Former union ministers seek review of Supreme Court judgment on Rafale deal/ Modi sidestepping Ayodhya issue, why talk ordinance after SC order: Congress


NEWS DIGEST, Afternoon 
02 Jan. 2019: 25 Rabiul-II 1440: Vol: 11, No:92
INDIA
Rafale deal: Congress releases audio clip, claims Parrikar said he had ‘all files in his bedroom’
New Delhi/Panaji: Congress today claimed to have an audio recording of a Goa minister quoting Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar as saying that files related to the Rafale jet deal were "in his bedroom" and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi whether that was why his government was not allowing a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) inquiry. Manohar Parrikar tweeted that the audio clip was a "desperate attempt to fabricate facts". The minister supposedly on tape, Vishwajit Rane, says the tape is doctored and that Mr Parrikar "never made any reference to Rafale".Manohar Parrikar was Union Defence Minister when the deal for 36 Rafale jets was signed between India and France. He has been chief minister of his native state Goa since March 2017. In recent months, he has been severely unwell, battling a pancreatic condition, which has spurred calls for his replacement. Congress claimed that Parrikar had said at a meeting of the Goa cabinet that no one could remove him as "all the Rafale papers are in my flat, in my bedroom". Vishwajit Rane, the Goa health minister, is on tape relating this conversation, claimed Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala shortly before the jet deal was to be discussed in parliament.Surjewala played an audio tape, the authenticity of which cannot be verified by NDTV, in which Vishwajit Rane is apparently talking to an unknown person about a three-hour cabinet meeting and saying "keep it confidential". A voice said to be Rane's says that the chief minister "made a very interesting statement, that I have all the information of Rafale in my bedroom". The other person is heard reacting: "What are you saying!" To which, the minister says: "...You can cross-check with somebody you are close to in the cabinet. This is something he said, that means he is holding them to ransom...He said it is in my bedroom here only in my flat, each and every document on Rafale."Surjewala told reporters: "Former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has all the files relating to Rafale jet deal. The fashion in which every procedure was bypassed...it is all recorded in the files. Those files are with Mr Parrikar. Why are those files being hidden? We want the truth."Rane, in a press conference, said: "The audio tape is doctored. The Congress has stooped to such a low level to doctor a tape to create miscommunication between the cabinet and chief minister. Mr Parrikar has never made any reference to Rafale or any documents. I have asked him for a criminal investigation into this." The Supreme Court last month cleared the government of allegations linked to the Rafale deal. The court said there was no reason to doubt the decision-making process, delivering a huge reprieve to the government amid Congress allegations of corruption in the Rs. 59,000-crore contract. ndtv
Former union ministers seek review of Supreme Court judgment on Rafale deal
New Delhi :Former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court, seeking review of its December 14 judgment on the Rafale fighter jet deal. The petitioners alleged that the court relied upon “incorrect claims” made by the Centre.This comes on a day when the Rafale issue will be discussed in the Lok Sabha after the Congress changed its stand and agreed for a discussion on the deal.  Earlier, the Congress had disrupted proceedings in the Lok Sabha, demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the deal.In their review plea today, the petitioners alleged that the judgment “relied upon patently incorrect claims made by the government in an unsigned note given in a sealed cover” to the apex court, according to PTI. They have also sought that the plea be heard in an open court.On December 14, the apex court had dismissed all PILs alleging irregularities in the procurement of 36 Rafale jets from France.indianexpress
Parliament LIVE: Jaitley, Rahul target each other over defence deals
New Delhi :Lok Sabha on Wednesday witnessed stormy scenes as the Rafale deal was taken up for discussion and had to be adjourned twice. Initiating the discussion on the Rafale issue, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, claiming that he “does not have guts” to come to Parliament to confront questions on the issue and “hides” in his room.Gandhi also sought permission to play a tape purportedly of a Goa minister on the Rafale issue but failed to receive the Speaker’s nod. Interrupting Gandhi, Arun Jaitley demanded if he can authenticate it, but the Congress leader said he would not do so. Is it not true that defence ministry officials objected to the new price of Rs 1600 crore, Gandhi said, accusing Modi of favouring his “dear friend” and “failed businessman” Anil Ambani.Replying to Gandhi, Jaitley said the Congress chief’s allegations were rejected by the Supreme Court. “Some people naturally dislike the truth.French govt dismissed the Congress’ allegations,”Jaitley said. Raking up the Bofors scam, Jaitley said, “Some people understand money but not national security. When he (Rahul) was a young man, he was playing in the lap of one Q (Quattrocchi) whose name cropped up in Bofors case.”indianexpress
Modi sidestepping Ayodhya issue, why talk ordinance after SC order: Congress
New Delhi :Congress hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi following his interview to ANI and accused him of suffering from an “I, Me, Mine and Myself” syndrome and argued that his “I’s” and “lies” have destroyed India’s social fabric and economy.The party said nation expected the PM to talk about 10 major poll promises he had made in 2014, but was left disappointed.Congress communication department in-charge Randeep Surjewala said he failed to understand what the Prime Minister meant when, responding to a question on bringing an ordinance for construction of Ram temple at the disputed site, Modi said his government will make all efforts once the judicial process is over. Arguing that the decision of Supreme Court, whatever it may be, “should be accepted by everyone”, Surjewala said, “There is no need for an ordinance thereafter…the Prime Minister is trying to derail.”He said, “Which constituency is he trying to please? I hope (RSS chief) Mohan Bhagwat and other colleagues of his are listening carefully – he has (today) rejected his own party and the RSS’s demand. We are happy that the Prime Minister is today stating that the Supreme Court will decide the issue, but he is trying to confuse and sidestep the issue by saying an ordinance will come thereafter. On the decision of the Supreme Court, there is no need for an ordinance, Mr Prime Minister — that is law of the land.”Surjewala also hit out at Modi’s assertion that there is no personal allegation against him. indianexpress
RSS on Modi’s interview: Remarks step in direction of building Ram temple
New Delhi :Hours after PM Narendra Modi told ANI Tuesday that the government would make “all efforts” on the Ram temple issue once the judicial process is over, the RSS welcomed his remarks and expressed hope that the government “fulfils the promise” in this tenure.In a statement, RSS sah sarkaryavah Dattatreya Hosabale said, “Even in 2014 Election Manifesto prepared under the leadership of Narendra Modi, BJP promised to explore all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. The people of Bharat reposed complete confidence and gave BJP the full mandate. The people of Bharat expect this government to fulfil the same promise during this tenure.”He said: “We feel that the statement by Prime Minister is a positive step in the direction of temple construction. PM reiterating the resolve to construct a grand Sri Ram Temple in Ayodhya in his interview is in tune with the resolution passed by BJP at Palampur in 1989. In this resolution the BJP had stated that they would try to construct the grand Sri Ram Temple at Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya through mutual dialogue between the two communities or by enabling required legislation.”Ram Temple issue was back on the frontburner in September when RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, in his lecture series in New Delhi, said that Ram temple should be built in Ayodhya at the “earliest”. In his annual Vijayadashmi speech in Oct., Bhagwat said that the decision regarding ownership of the land should be expedited and the government should clear the path for construction of the temple through an appropriate and requisite law. indian express
‘Can’t wait for verdict’: VHP’s terse message to BJP on Ram Temple
New Delhi:Hindus cannot wait till eternity for court to decide on the Ram Temple, VHP working president Alok Kumar said on Wednesday.Kumar was reacting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement in an interview that the government would do whatever is required only after the judicial process gets over. “The only way forward is to enact a legislation clearing the way for construction of a grand temple at the Ram janmabhoomi,”VHP leader Alok Kumar said while addressing a press conference.“The Ayodhya matter has not been listed before the appropriate bench, but it’s in CJI’s court and the hearing may be far away,” Kumar said.HT     
BJP's Assurances on Ram Temple Have Very Little Credibility:Yechury
New Delhi: After Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested that a decision on an ordinance on the Ram temple in Ayodhya could only be taken after the completion of judicial process, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury has said the assurances given by BJP had very little credibility.He also alleged that sharpening communal polarisation was the ruling BJP only plan.PTI
Rajya Sabha repeatedly adjourned amid din over Triple Talaq, Cauvery issue
New Delhi: Rajya Sabha was Wednesday repeatedly adjourned after the opposition members kept creating a ruckus in the House over the issues of Triple Talaq Bill and Cauvery dam. They even entered the Well of the House following which Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu adjourned the House. Soon after the House was convened for the day, members from the AIADMK started protesting against the construction of a dam across the Cauvery river, while other opposition party members raised the demand to send the Triple Bill to the Select Committee of Parliament, which led to the adjournment of the House.As the din continued, Chairman Naidu again adjourned the proceedings till noon. Since the House was not being allowed to function smoothly by the agitating members, Chairman adjourned Rajya Sabha for the day.It is worth mentioning that the Triple Talaq Bill, which was passed in the Lok Sabha, with 245 votes in favour and 11 opposing, was listed for discussion the Upper House.ANI
Triple Talaq Bill 'Anti-women and Barbaric', Says AIMPLB Women Wing
Hyderabad: Terming triple talaq bill "inhuman, anti-women and barbaric", women's wing of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Tuesday appealed to Rajya Sabha members to press for referring it to a select committee for scrutiny.Asma Zohra, the chief organiser of the women's wing of AIMPLB, told reporters here that if passed, the triple talaq legislation will damage the family and social fabric of the community."There was no need for this bill after Supreme Court judgment invalidating triple talaq. It is brought with political and communal motives to divide the society," she said.She claimed that Muslims across India oppose and condemn the bill brought in the Rajya Sabha for a second time.The women's wing of AIMPLB believes that if passed the legislation will break marriages rather than empowering women. It termed the bill a direct blow to family system and the institution of marriage.She said the AIMPLB has time and again stated that triple talaq in one sitting is not the standard procedure of divorce and those practicing this shall face social boycott."Muslim women will not get anything from this bill. Instead, they will be left abandoned and deserted. Her condition will become more miserable," it said."It is ironic that there is freedom in this country for men and women to have premarital, extramarital and even multiple relationships. Decriminalisation of Section 377 is being cited as an example of freedom in personal and civil matters, then why a Muslim husband is penalised for divorce," asked Asma Zohra.IANS
‘Triple Talaq bill is inhuman’: Women’s wing of Muslim Law Board calls for scrutiny
UP BJP mulls setting up special panels for triple talaq victims
Lucknow: With the opposition blocking the passage of Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018 in Rajya Sabha, UP BJP is toying with the idea to constitute a separate panel of experts comprising Islamic scholars, Muftis and advocates to take up cases of instant triple talaq victims in the state. The panel, proposed to be set up in all six zones of the state, will take up cases of instant triple talaq just like AIMPLB, an organisation constituted for the protection of Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) and provisioning application of the Islamic Law Code in personal affairs.The proposal to set up separate panel of experts comes days after BJP decided to set up a separate team of party functionaries headed by Nazia Hasan, a member of UP BJP minority affairs wing, to reach out to women who are victims of triple talaq.“The idea of a separate panel is to provide legal support to instant triple talaq victims and rehabilitate them,” Hasan told TOI. She said that the party would also approach the state government to provide training to such victims and make them self-reliant. timesofindia
Correction Of Names, Particulars In Assam Citizens' List Begins today
Guwahati: The process for correcting names and other particulars that appeared in the final draft of the National Register of Citizens will begin from January 2, said a notice issued by the office of NRC Assam. According to the notice issued by NRC state coordinator, Government of Assam, "Name, etc Correction - Services for online correction of names and other particulars appearing in Draft NRC will be started from 10 am of 2/1/19. This facility can be availed by visiting NRC Assam's website. Facility for name correction will also be available by submission of correction forms at NRC Seva Kendras (NSKs). These facilities will be available till 31/1/19," the notice stated.The process has no connection with the submission of claims and objections which got over on Dec.31, 2018, it said.The filing of claims and objections to decide the fate of 40 lakh people whose names were excluded from the draft list (released on July 30 last) had begun on Sept.25, 2018 and ended on Dec.15. PTI
In Assam, student group contests the inclusion of over 2.5 lakh people in draft NRC
Even as 30 lakh of the 40 lakh people left out of Assam’s draft National Register of Citizens made fresh claims of citizenship before the deadline of December 31, more than 2.5 lakh objections have been filed against people who were included in the roster. Almost all of these objections were filed on the last day of the “Claims and Objections” round, said officials. “Before yesterday, the number was less than 600,” said an NRC official who did not want to be identified. “The number increased to 2.6 lakh on the last day, we are still counting but the final tally should not significantly change.” About 2.89 crore of the 3.3 crore people who applied to be included in the National Register of Citizens – a roster of bona fide Indian citizens in Assam – have made it so far. To be included in the citizenry list, an individual has to prove that they or their ancestors entered the country before midnight on March 24, 1971.scroll.in
Not compulsory to sing ‘Vande Mataram’ at secretariat on 1st day of month: Madhya Pradesh
Asserting that singing Vande Mataram for a day is not a barometer of patriotism, the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday announced that it was no longer compulsory to sing the national song in the secretariat on the first day of every month.For the first time since 2005, government employees did not sing the national song at the secretariat on Tuesday — the first day of the month.Chief Minister Kamal Nath holds the portfolio of General Administration Department (GAD), which is responsible for organising the monthly event.BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal asked Nath to tell the state if he had stopped the practice because he holds GAD portfolio. “By discontinuing singing of Vande Mataram, he has given a new year gift to patriotic citizens,” Agrawal said. Congress spokespersons and ministers were at a loss to explain what they thought was a mistake, with some, including ministers P C Sharma and Jitu Patwari of the opinion that it was an oversight.However, the CM struck a different note, saying, “The decision has not been taken as part of any agenda. We are not against singing Vande Mataram…It’s a wrong to link patriotism and nationalism with day’s singing of Vande Mataram. Are those people who don’t sing Vande Mataram not patriots?” he said.indianexpress
UP Cabinet gives nod to impose cow welfare cess on eight public sector depts
Lucknow: ttar Pradesh Cabinet has cleared a proposal to impose a ‘Gau kalyan cess’ (cow welfare cess) on eight “profit-making” public sector departments to generate funds for setting up and maintaining temporary cow shelters across the state.These departments include excise, public works, State Industrial Development Corporation and UP Expressways Industrial Development Authority (toll tax) among others.Cabinet also gave the green signal for punitive action against farmers who leave their animals in public places and on other’s properties. A fine will be imposed under existing laws by the police, district administration or urban body.“The decision is very significant and special. It is regarding a policy for establishment and maintenance of temporary cow shelters in gram panchayats, chetra panchayats, nagar panchayats, municipal corporations etc,” said Cabinet Minister Srikant Sharma, adding that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had said that cow slaughter would not be accepted in any form.indianexpress
UP Cabinet decides to set up cow sheds for stray cattle
Madhya Pradesh to withdraw, Rajasthan govt to examine cases against Dalits
Bhopal, Jaipur:A day after BSP chief Mayawati threatened to withdraw support to Congress-led governments in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan unless cases registered against innocent people during last year’s Bharat Bandh are withdrawn, the MP government on Tuesday announced that cases lodged against political opponents by the previous BJP dispensation will be withdrawn.Madhya Pradesh Law Minister P C Sharma said cases lodged against people who were not on the spot of violence or disturbances during the April 2 agitation will also be withdrawn. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said his government will examine the cases registered in connection with violence during the Bharat Bandh on April 2, 2018, and that innocent people should not be implicated.Justifying Mayawati’s demand as “natural”, Gehlot told the media, “It is a matter of investigation to see how many people, against whom cases were registered, were guilty, and how many were innocent. Sometimes, a person who is not guilty gets implicated.”indianexpress
Rajasthan’s Muslim minister performs puja at Shiva temple in Pokhran:HT
Barmer:Minister in the Rajasthan’s Gehlot government, Saleh Mohammed on Sunday performed a special puja at Shiva temple in Pokhran in Jaisalmer district. Mohammed, son of Muslim religious leader Gazi Fakir, reached Pokhran for the first time after taking oath as a minister in the Gehlot Cabinet. The sudden move of the minister surprised people in the area.Madhu Changani, priest of Shiv Temple, confirmed the report. Changani told HT that it was not for the first time Mohammad had visited the temple. “He (Mohammad) had visited this temple during the election time also,” he said, adding that Mohammad has “some association” with the temple. Changani said that after reaching the temple Mohammad performed “special puja” for about half-an-hour following “Hindu rituals”. He (Mohammad) also performed ablution and offered honey and milk on Lord Shiva’s idol.
Trump signs law to step up India defence ties, call out China
New Delhi:Just before ushering in the New Year on Dec.31, US President Donald Trump signed an Act designed to counter the encroaching influence and growing threat from China and to reinvigorate US leadership in Indo-Pacific region.Calling for strengthening of diplomatic, economic, and security ties with India, Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) allocates a budget of $1.5 billion over a five-year period to enhance cooperation with America’s strategic regional allies in the region. The new law cites “China’s illegal construction and militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea and coercive economic practices”, and mandates actions for “countering China’s influence to undermine the international system”.Act notes “the increased presence throughout Southeast Asia of the Islamic State and other international terrorist organizations that threaten the US”. The law states that US “recognizes the vital role of the strategic partnership between US and India in promoting peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region” and “calls for strengthening and broadening of diplomatic, economic, and security ties between the United States and India”. indianexpress
5 Rohingya in detention in Assam to be repatriated
Guwahati:Five Myanmar nationals, who are in detention in Assam, will be repatriated via the India-Myanmar border in Moreh in Tengnoupal district of Manipur, officials confirmed.Another Myanmar national, Mohd Slam who was brought from Ambala in Haryana, was repatriated on Wednesday, Manipur police said.A top police official in Sonitpur said that five people, believed to be Rohingya, are on their way to Manipur and are likely to be repatriated either on Wednesday or Thursday depending on Myanmar officials.“They are on their way,” Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta, Assam’s additional director general of police (border) said, confirming the possible repatriation of the five Myanmar nationals.“Five of them left from Tezpur yesterday,” Numal Mahatta, Sonitpur’s additional superintendent of police said, adding their travel documents had arrived.HT
FCRA licence of over 4,800 NGOs cancelled in 3 years: Govt tells Rajya Sabha
New Delhi:Over 4,800 NGOs were barred from receiving foreign funds in the last three years as their FCRA registrations were cancelled for not filing annual returns, Union minister Kiren Rijiju said Wednesday.Replying to a written question in Rajya Sabha, Rijiju said as per the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010, all associations and NGOs, which are registered under the Act or which are given prior permission to receive foreign contribution under it are required to submit their annual returns, and income and expenditure statements, receipts and payment account, balance sheet for every fiscal.Non-submission of the mandatory annual returns is a violation of the provisions of the FCRA.PTI
2 women under 50 years of age enter Sabarimala temple, shrine shut for performing purification rites
Police provide security to the residences of Kanakadurga and Bindu at Malappuram and Kottayam.
Two women in the age group of 10-50 years entered the Ayyapa temple in Sabarimala in the early hours of Wednesday, police sources told The Hindu.This is the first time that women from this age group have entered the temple following a Supreme Court verdict that allowed the same.Video footage shows Bindu from Kozhikode and Kanakadurga from Malappuram making the entry through the staff gate on the northern side at 3:48 a.m. and moving out through the seemingly empty barricade in front of the temple ''sopanam'' at 3:50 a.m. Policemen in plainclothes escorted them. Protesters shout slogans as they part in a rally called by various Hindu organisations after 2 women entered the Sabarimala temple in Kochi on Jan. 2.The duo made an attempt to visit Sabarimala during the recently concluded Mandalam pilgrim season, but police forcibly took them back to Pampa following stiff resistance from devotees and sangh parivar workers.thehindu
Kannada Author Booked For Saying Ram Not God; Questioning Ram Temple
BENGALURU:K. S. Bhagawan, a retired professor and Kannada writer has been charged for allegedly insulting Lord Ram and Mahatma Gandhi in his recent book, police said on Tuesday, reports PTI.Bhagawan, who has many books to his credit on Hinduism, Indian culture and history, earlier had courted controversy by making certain references to the Bhagavad Gita that are termed as “offensive” by right-wing organisations, has made unflattering observations about Lord Ram’s character in his book.The Kannada book “Rama Mandira Yeke Beda” (Why Ram temple is not required) claims Ram was not a God and he suffered from weaknesses just as any other human being.Right-wing organisations had on Friday staged a demonstration against Mr Bhagawan, accusing him of depicting Lord Ram in poor light in his book and making derogatory references, and a complaint was also lodged by Hindu Jagaran Vedike Mysuru district president K Jagadish Hebbar on Saturday against him for his alleged derogatory references to Lord Ram and Mahatma Gandhi.caravandaily
WORLD
Israeli settlement activity surged in Trump era: Monitor group
With little resistance from a friendly White House, Israel has launched a new settlement push in the West Bank since President Donald Trump took office, laying the groundwork for what could be the largest construction binge in years, according to data obtained by AP.The figures, gathered from official government sources by the anti-settlement monitoring group Peace Now, show an increase in building in 2018 and a sharp spike in planning for future construction.The trend, highlighted last week when an Israeli committee advanced plans for thousands more settlement homes on occupied lands, has only deepened Palestinian mistrust of the Trump administration as it says it is preparing to roll out a Middle East peace plan.Each new settlement expansion further diminishes the chances of setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel.Both supporters and opponents of settlements confirm a change in atmosphere since early 2017 when Trump took over from Barack Obama, whose administration had tried to rein in construction.aljazeera
British MPs, lawyers request visit to detained Saudi activists
A cross-party group of British parliamentarians and international lawyers has asked to visit detained female activists in Saudi Arabia to investigate allegations that they are being tortured and denied legal representation and family visits.In a letter to the Saudi ambassador to the UK, MP Crispin Blunt, the head of the group's detention review panel, asked Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdulaziz to assist them in arranging a visit to Dhahban prison near Jeddah to speak to the activists held there."We hope to be able to gather direct testimony from the detainees during our visit in Saudi Arabia," Blunt wrote on Wednesday, adding the group wanted to also "meet and interview officials responsible for and tasked" with the activists' detention.Several international human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have alleged that eight female activists who had campaigned for the right for women to drive have been tortured with electric shocks and whipped with an "egal", a rope that keeps a male headscarf in place.aljazeera
Sudan: Calls grow for Omar al-Bashir to step down
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir is facing growing calls to step down following deadly protests over a dire economic crisis in the country.22 Sudanese opposition political parties and groups on Tuesday demanded that Bashir transfer power to a "sovereign council" and a transitional government that would set a "suitable" date for democratic elections.The groupings, calling themselves the National Front for Change, include some Islamist factions that were once allied with Bashir, who seized power in a 1989 military coup, as well as breakaway groups from large traditional parties."This government does not have the ability to overcome the economic crisis because the economic crisis is basically a political crisis," Mubarak Elfadel, chairman of the Umma Party, told reporters at a press conference in Sudan's capital, Khartoum.aljazeera
Somalia orders UN envoy to leave country
Somalia's government has ordered the top United Nations official in the country to leave, accusing him of interfering with national sovereignty days after he raised concerns about the actions of UN-supported Somali security forces. Foreign affairs ministry said on Tuesday that Nicholas Haysom, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, "is not required and cannot work in this country", effectively declaring the official persona non grata. aljazeera
Clashes between 'radical' fighters and rebels 'leave 31 dead in western Aleppo'
Clashes between "radical" fighters and rebels in northern Syria have killed at least 31 people, an activist group said on Wednesday.Tuesday's fighting, pitting al-Qaeda-linked coalition Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) against an alliance of rebel groups, flared in western Aleppo province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.As a result of the fighting, the Observatory said HTS had taken control of Darat Izza, the second largest town in the western sector of the Aleppo countryside, as well as the roads to the town and a number of checkpoints, positions and areas around it.HTS had on Monday accused rebel group Nureddine al-Zinki of killing five of its members, and launched an offensive against rebel positions close to the country's last opposition bastion in the northwestern province of Idlib.Al-Zinki is a major player in the National Liberation Front (NLF), a Turkish-backed rebel alliance.middleeasteye
UK arms officials met with Saudi Arabia days after Khashoggi murder: Report
Members of the Defence and Security Organisation, a government agency within the UK’s Department of International Trade, met with Saudi Arabian officials to promote arms exports, just days after the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Mirror report said late on Monday.Citing documents obtained in a Freedom of Information request, the Mirror report said the DSO delegation visited Riyadh on the day of Khashoggi’s disappearance – 2 October – and made subsequent visits back to the kingdom to promote arms sales on 14 and 22 October.The delegates reportedly included Nigel Maddox, a retired top air force officer who now works as a senior DSO official.The Mirror said that government officials confirmed that Department of International Trade meetings took place in Riyadh during those dates.middleeasteye
China building ‘most advanced’ naval warships for Pakistan: Report
Beijing:China is building the first of four “most advanced” naval warships for its “all-weather ally” Pakistan as part of a major bilateral arms deal to ensure among other things “balance of power” in the strategic Indian Ocean, state media reported.Equipped with modern detection and weapon systems, it will be capable of anti-ship, anti-submarine and air-defence operations, China Daily quoted state-owned defence contractor China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) as saying. The under-construction ship is a version of the Chinese Navy’s most advanced guided missile frigate, it said.The CSSC did not specify the ship’s type but said it is being constructed at its Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard in Shanghai.China, an “all-weather ally” of Islamabad, is the largest supplier of weapon system to Pakistan. Both the countries also jointly manufacture JF-Thunder a single engine multi-role combat aircraft.The ship’s class is Type 054AP, which means it is based on the Type 054A of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, the report quoted the Pakistani Navy as saying.PTI
India may have added at least 70,000 newborns on Jan 1: UNICEF
New Delhi:India is estimated to have welcomed 18 per cent of the total babies born globally on January 1, 2019, UNICEF said. According to the UNICEF, 69,944 babies were expected to be born on the New Year Day out of 3,95,072 babies likely to be born across the world. As per UNICEF, globally over half of these births are estimated to taken place in seven countries, along with India like China (44,940), Nigeria (25,685), Pakistan (15,112), Indonesia (13,256), US (11,086), Democratic Republic of Congo (10,053), and Bangladesh (8,428). Sydney was set to greet an estimated 168 babies, followed by Tokyo (310), Beijing (605), Madrid (166) and finally, New York (317). Fiji in the Pacific was likely to deliver 2019’s first baby and the US its last.IANS
Israel PM lobbies Honduras to open embassy in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM:Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lobbied the Honduran president to move his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This came during a joint meeting between Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez in Brazil on the sidelines of the inauguration of new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.  During the meeting, Netanyahu discussed the relocation of the Tegucigalpa embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to official Israeli and U.S. statements. In a Wednesday statement, Netanyahu’s office said the meeting dealt with the opening of the Honduran Embassy in Jerusalem and an Israeli embassy in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa. According to the statement, the talks on moving the Honduran Embassy to Jerusalem was first discussed during a visit by Netanyahu's wife Sara to Guatemala last December. Anadolu Agency
312 Palestinians martyred by Israel in 2018: NGO
RAMALLAH;Israeli army forces martyred 312 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip last year, according to a Palestinian NGO on Wednesday.A total of 53 children and three women were among those killed by the Israeli army in 2018, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Abdullah Hourani Center for Studies and Documentation said in a statement.According to the NGO, 262 Palestinians were martyred in the Gaza Strip and 50 others in Israel-occupied West Bank.“The number of Palestinian martyrs has increased by 200 percent in 2018, compared to a year earlier,” the Center said, adding that 31,000 Palestinians were injured in the Gaza Strip and 500 others in the West Bank by Israeli army fire.Anadolu
US forces to withdraw from Syria via northern Iraq
BAGHDAD:U.S. troops in Syria are going to leave the war-torn country through northern Iraq, an Iraqi military officer said. The forces "will withdraw to Erbil, not areas controlled by Iraq's [Baghdad] central government," Major General Yahya Rasul said. He said the U.S. forces may return to the U.S. or other regions after arriving in Erbil. The officer said the move will not undermine the Iraqi sovereignty as a permanent presence of the troops is not a subject of discussion. The U.S. is yet to announce a roadmap for the withdrawal.On Monday, President Donald Trump signaled the U.S. was slowing its withdrawal of 2,000 troops stationed in Syria. Anadolu Agency
flash: views & NEWS
‘Modi gave written answers, then ANI formed questions’: Twitter users poke fun at PM’s interview
SC judgment on Rafale has raised more questions than it has answered:Kapil Sibal
Assam is sitting on a volcano of suffering and conflict: Harsh Mander

Compiled and edited by Anwarulhaq (Released at: 4:53 PM)

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