Imran Khan vows to work with Sharif on terrorism

Updated 17 May 2013
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Imran Khan vows to work with Sharif on terrorism

LAHORE: Pakistani politician Imran Khan yesterday vowed to cooperate with incoming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on terrorism and other major challenges following key elections.
Khan made the remarks from his hospital bed, where he is laid up with a fractured spine after falling at a campaign rally, after his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) polled third place, behind Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N).
“We have decided that despite severe differences that we have, we will work together to resolve major national problems including terrorism,” Khan said in a video message aired during a PTI press conference.
He harshly criticized Sharif and the center-right PML-N during the campaign for last Saturday’s general election and had vowed to go into opposition.
Sharif pledged to work with Khan for the good of the country, after visiting the former cricket star in hospital on Tuesday.
Khan is credited with helping to inspire 60 percent turnout at the polls, having galvanized the youth and urban middle class in particular with promises to end corruption, introduce tax reform and stand up to the Americans.
“Elections are over and we all as a nation want to move forward,” Khan said, adding he wanted all politicians and the military to sit down together and find a solution to domestic terrorism, which has killed thousands of people in Pakistan.
“We cannot ensure prosperity until we eliminate the issue of terrorism,” he said.
Partial official results confirm PML-N on 123 seats, with the outgoing Pakistan People’s Party on 31 and PTI on 26. Another 18 of the 272 directly elected seats in the national assembly are still to be declared.
Khan’s party won the most seats in the Taleban-hit northwest, where he has vowed to put together a provincial coalition government and turn it into a “role model” for the rest of the country.
But he alleged yesterday that vote rigging had taken place in 25 constituencies and said he would ask the election commission to order recounting in at least four.

Battles displace
thousands
In Parachinar, a new offensive by the Pakistani military against militants in a northwestern tribal area has displaced thousands of people in the past week, an official said yesterday.
For years, Pakistan has been battling militant groups such as the Taleban in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. Civilians are often caught in the middle of the fighting, and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced over the years of conflict.
About a week ago, the military launched a new push in Kurram, one of seven Pakistani tribal regions near the Afghan border, the official and displaced people said.
Details of the fighting have not been revealed so far but on Wednesday, Mujahid Hussain, chief of disaster management efforts in the Kurram tribal area said an estimated 35,000 and 49,000 have left their villages in the area.
The Pakistani military has launched numerous operations in the past to displace militants based in Kurram and other areas who often travel back and forth into Afghanistan.
Most of those who fled are staying with relatives but Hussain says tents would be set up in a refugee camp near the city of Parachinar for those who have nowhere to go.
A local resident who fled said the fighting started on May 8 in the central part of the Kurram region, forcing people to flee their homes.
“We don’t know from which side these mortars and shells are coming from, but we were the ultimate victims and we had no option but to leave our homes in haste,” said Malik Hayat Khan, speaking at a press conference Tuesday in Parachinar.
Another person who fled, Sadeen Khan, said many families had to spend all their money on hiring a vehicle to help them flee the area. “Whatever cash we had we spent on transportation to save our children,” he said.
Often when families are displaced from conflicts in the tribal areas, they stay with family members or rent homes. But if the conflict drags on and they’re not able to return home, they run out of money and are sometimes forced to move into camps run by the government or aid groups.


France’s Macron at White House, Mount Vernon as state visit begins

Updated 35 min 24 sec ago
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France’s Macron at White House, Mount Vernon as state visit begins

  • French President Emmanuel Macron received the full red carpet treatment at the White House as he begins his state visit to the US
  • Macron is set to address a joint session of Congress

WASHINGTON: French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday kicked off a pomp-filled three-day state visit to the US at the White House — a test of whether his studied bonhomie with President Donald Trump can save the Iran nuclear deal and avoid a trans-Atlantic trade war.
Before getting the full red carpet treatment at the White House — payback for wooing Trump with military parades and a dazzling Eiffel Tower dinner in Paris last July — Macron took an impromptu stroll to the Lincoln Memorial with his wife Brigitte.
Hailing the “very important” visit, Macron then rolled into the West Wing from Lafayette Square — named after the storied French general who fought in America’s war for independence — beneath dozens of fluttering tricolor French flags and before a full US military color guard.
Waiting at the door, the US president smiled and held out his hand for Macron to shake, and the French leader kissed him on both cheeks.
The pageantry — designed to underscore Trump and Macron’s “friendship” — comes in stark contrast to the bare-bones one-day working visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel later in the week.
But beyond the 21-gun salutes and dinners of lamb and “Burnt Cipollini Soubise” lurks high political danger for the 40-year-old French leader.
Trump is deeply unpopular in France and Macron, like other world leaders — from Japan’s Shinzo Abe to Britain’s Theresa May — is under growing pressure to show voters the benefits of his courtship with the 71-year-old Republican.
Looming over a joint outing to George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate on Monday evening, and working meetings and a state dinner on Tuesday, are two May deadlines that have the potential to wreck already fragile trans-Atlantic relations.
Biting trade sanctions on European steel and aluminum will enter into force on May 1 unless Trump agrees to sign a waiver. If he refuses, there are fears of a full-fledged trade war.
Meanwhile, France and other European nations are battling to save a complex nuclear deal with Iran, which Trump will scuttle if he refuses to waive sanctions against Tehran by a May 12 deadline.
Iran says it is ready to relaunch its nuclear program — which the West suspects is designed to produce a bomb — if Trump kills the deal.
European officials say Trump’s demand to reopen the deal are impossible, and are scrambling to address his concerns on Tehran’s missile testing, inspections and the regime’s behavior in the region.
There is growing frustration in European capitals that Trump’s stubbornness over the Obama-era agreement is diverting attention away from other pressing issues.
In an interview broadcast on the eve of his arrival, Macron went on Trump’s favorite television channel, Fox News, to make his pitch.
“If you make war against everybody,” Macron said, “trade war against Europe, war in Syria, war against Iran — come on — it doesn’t work. You need allies. We are the allies.”
Macron will also be keen to temper Trump’s instinct to precipitously pull the US military out of Syria, amid cooperation in fighting the Daesh group and coordinated strikes on chemical weapons installations operated by Damascus.
“I think the US role is very important to play,” he said.
“Why? I will be very blunt. The day we will have finished this war against ISIS — another name for Daesh — if we leave, definitely and totally, even from a political point of view, we will leave the floor to the Iranian regime, Bashar Assad and these guys.”
In public, both countries are keen to emphasize their historic relationship — recalling that France was the first ally of American revolutionaries fighting for independence.
Macron brought with him an oak sapling that he and Trump planted at the White House on Monday as a symbol of friendship.
It comes from near the site of the Battle of Belleau Woods in northern France, where 2,000 US Marines perished at the end of World War I.
The pair, clearly relaxed, also briefly visited the Oval Office before heading to Mount Vernon.
On a personal level, despite sharp differences in political background, age and lifestyle, the presidents seem to have struck up a bond as fellow outsiders who outwitted the establishment to gain power.
“We have a very special relationship because both of us are probably the maverick of the systems on both sides,” Macron told Fox News.
Trump himself told Macron their “friendship” was “unbreakable” during his trip to Paris last year.
When asked about their first encounter — a much-scrutinized six-second handshake during a NATO summit in May — Macron acknowledged it had was a “very direct, lucid moment” that had set the tone between them.
“And a very friendly moment,” he added. “It was to say now, we will work together.”
On Wednesday, the centrist leader will demonstrate his English-language skills — a rarity for a French president — in an address to a joint session of Congress.