Trump to honor Macron, his unlikely French friend

US President Donald Trump (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron (R) shake hands ahead of a working lunch. (AFP)
Updated 21 April 2018
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Trump to honor Macron, his unlikely French friend

PARIS: They talk regularly, have shared memorable handshakes and supposedly have an “unbreakable” friendship. When US President Donald Trump and France’s Emmanuel Macron meet next week, there will be more back-slapping — but also major differences.
The Trump-Macron relationship has been one of the few stable elements in recent American foreign policy, with the French leader emerging as the privileged European partner for the White House.
While Trump’s relations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel have often been tetchy and he has clashed publicly with British Prime Minister Theresa May, the mercurial US leader has been consistently friendly with France’s 40-year-old centrist.
Their warm ties will be on display from Monday when Macron becomes the first foreign visitor during Trump’s term to be honored with a state visit, nine months after Trump was guest of honor during France’s national day on July 14 last year.
“The visit comes at a time of extremely close relations between France and the United States with regular and intense exchanges between the two presidents,” an aide to Macron told reporters this week.
The aim of the trip is to “continue and reinforce this dynamic,” he added.
Although their political background, age and personal lives are sharply different, the two men have bonded over their role as outsiders who outwitted their established political rivals to gain power.
“The friendship between our two nations and ourselves is unbreakable,” Trump told Macron during his trip to Paris last July, which ended with their famous 25-second-long handshake.
They have since worked closely on the fight against the Daesh group in Iraq and Syria and coordinated Western strikes on Syrian regime chemical weapons installations last weekend.
But though they have found common ground on military matters, the list of subjects where they do not see eye-to-eye is long — from climate change and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to the role of the European Union and trade.
Furthermore, Macron never misses an opportunity to condemn the forces of right-wing nationalism and populism — which brought Trump to power — and did so again last week during a speech to the European Parliament.
“Everybody has been asking the same question: why is Macron getting along with Trump?” said Celin Belin, a former French diplomat working as a fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington.
“The question is also why does Trump like Macron? I think he enjoys the respect Macron provides and he respects Macron’s power.”
Belin believes Trump has also deliberately picked a favorite in the European Union “and he has picked France because it’s strong militarily and not an economic threat, which is the opposite of Germany.”
French diplomats privately concede that the main question for Macron is whether his proximity to the US unilateralist will lead to results, either in convincing the United States to take into account its EU allies or mitigating the fallout from Trump’s decisions.
During the trip to Washington, Macron will have repeated opportunities to try to influence his American partner starting with a dinner at Mount Vernon, the home of the first US president George Washington, along with their wives Brigitte and Melania on Monday night.
Macron will also visit the State Department, take part in a state dinner at the White House and demonstrate his English-language skills — a rarity for a French president — in an address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.
Topping the agenda will be the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump is threatening to pull out of against the wishes of European nations, and US trade tariffs on steel and aluminum which could hit EU exports.
Trump is set to announce a final decision on the Iran deal and whether to prolong an exemption on EU metals imports in the first few weeks of May.
“We hope that the visit will be useful in convincing and in advancing things in the right direction,” Macron’s adviser said on condition of anonymity, but he warned: “You shouldn’t expect a diplomatic breakthrough.”
Other issues set to be discussed include US talks with North Korea and relations with Russia following the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Syrian civil war.


Murderer of six-year-old girl hanged in Lahore

Updated 21 min 1 sec ago
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Murderer of six-year-old girl hanged in Lahore

  • Ali was convicted of raping and killing Zainab and eight other minors
  • We are relieved that criminal finally met his fate, victim’s father says

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Ensuring justice was served to the family of the deceased, Pakistan’s government hanged a man convicted of raping and murdering a six-year-old girl in a Lahore prison, on Wednesday.
Imran Ali, 24, who was arrested after Zainab Ansari’s body was found in a garbage dump in Kasur, located more than 50kms away from Lahore, was executed in Kot Lakhpat jail at 5.30am. Officials handed over Ali’ body to his family, with his last rites expected to be performed in Kasur later this afternoon.
Speaking to the local media soon after the execution, Zainab’s father, Amin Ansari, said that justice had been served. “Justice is served. I am satisfied …. we are relieved today that the criminal has finally met his fate. The whole family is devastated. We miss our daughter…we can’t imagine even today that she is no more with us,” Ansari, fighting to hold back his tears, told Arab News.
The murder that shook the nation
It all began on January 4, when six-year-old Zainab left her house for Quran studies at a madrassa near her place. At the time, her parents were away in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah, leaving Zainab under the supervision of her aunt.
Unable to trace her whereabouts, Zainab’s uncle lodged a complaint with the police, about his missing niece, the next day. Four days later, on January 9, Zainab’s body was recovered from a nearby dumping ground.
The gruesome rape and murder led to nationwide protests, with people from all walks of life taking to social media to express outrage over the incident, resulting in #JusticeForZainab becoming one of the top trends on Twitter at the time. Riots also broke out in the Kasur district after Zainab’s battered body was recovered, with people urging law enforcement agencies to bring the culprit to book.
Taking cognizance of the situation, the-then Punjab Chief Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, constituted a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe and resolve the case. “I will not rest until justice has been served to the affected family,” Shehbaz had said at the time.
The high-profile nature of the case brought several law enforcement agencies together; and amid pressure from civil society groups and the media, police were able to expediate the process and arrest Ali two weeks after the incident.
They had relied on CCTV footage which showed Zainab walking with Ali in a neighborhood alleyway. The National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) was called upon to identify the suspect based on a sketch, but failed to deliver any leads. Using the DNA tests of 1,150 men -- between the ages of 20 and 45 years who matched the suspect’s age and were living within a two-kilometer radius of Zainab’s house – the JIT finally zeroed in on Ali.
Ali had been detained by the police in the initial stages of the case, too, but had been released after Zainab’s family had intervened, reasoning that he was someone that they knew and trusted. He further cemented their conviction by becoming a part of the team that was leading the search for Zainab after she had gone missing.
Following his arrest, investigators conducted two other tests on Ali before confirming his involvement in Zainab’s rape and murder and those of four other girls from the same locality.
With all his appeals for clemency rejected by the superior courts and the president, Ali was finally convicted in February this year after a four-day trial.
Zainab’s father, who was present at the jail to witness Ali’s execution, said. “He doesn’t look remorseful nor asked for forgiveness. Perhaps he was aware of the gravity of the crime he had committed.”
A few days ago, Ansari had appealed to the Lahore High Court to publicly hang Ali as a lesson to others, but his request was denied. “Zainab cannot come back, but we hope that her killer’s execution will serve as a strong deterrent in the society,” he said.
Zainab’s murder was one among 12 to take place in Kasur since last year. In 2015, a gang of pedophiles were arrested following allegations that they were responsible for abducting and sexually assaulting more than 280 children in the area.