Blinken urges Pakistan to seek China debt relief after floods

Blinken urges Pakistan to seek China debt relief after floods
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets with Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari at the State Department in Washington, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 27 September 2022

Blinken urges Pakistan to seek China debt relief after floods

Blinken urges Pakistan to seek China debt relief after floods
  • Blinken promised strong US support for Pakistan as it dries out and rebuilds from the floods

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Monday on Pakistan to seek debt relief from its close partner China as floods devastate the South Asian country.
Blinken promised strong US support for Pakistan as it dries out from the floods, which have submerged one-third of the country, an area the size of the United Kingdom.
“We send a simple message. We are here for Pakistan, just as we were during past natural disasters, looking ahead to rebuild,” Blinken said after talks in Washington with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
“I also urged our colleagues to engage China on some of the important issues of debt relief and restructuring so that Pakistan can more quickly recover from the floods,” Blinken said.
China is a key economic and political partner of Pakistan, pushing ahead with a $54 billion “economic corridor” that will build infrastructure and give Beijing an outlet to the Indian Ocean, although Chinese interests have also faced attacks from separatists.
Washington, whose Cold War alliance with Islamabad has frayed, has repeatedly charged that China will reap the benefits while Pakistan will face unsustainable debt.
The warnings by the United States — which considers China its preeminent global competitor — have repeatedly been brushed aside by Pakistan.
Some 1,600 people — one-third of them children — have died in Pakistan’s floods and more than seven million have been displaced, amid fears that such severe disasters will become more common due to climate change.
The United States has committed $56 million in humanitarian aid and sent 17 planes full of supplies, with promises of long-term support.
Bhutto Zardari said that President Joe Biden, who signed a landmark domestic climate package last month, also needed to look at “climate justice.”
“It’s not only important that you ‘build back better’ here,” he said, using Biden’s campaign slogan.
“The opportunity of this crisis in Pakistan is that we must build back better — greener, more climate-resilient — back home as well,” he said.
“I believe that working together we can do this.”
Pakistan, despite being the fifth most populous country, contributes only about 0.8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change due to its state of development.
The US relationship with Pakistan sharply deteriorated over the course of the two-decade war in Afghanistan.
Under heavy pressure, Pakistan provided crucial logistical access, but US officials believe Islamabad’s powerful military and intelligence apparatus never abandoned the Taliban, who swept back to power last year as US troops pulled out.
“We have had our differences — that’s no secret,” Blinken said.
But he said Pakistan and the United States “have a shared stake in Afghanistan’s future,” including greater freedoms for women and girls, whose rights have again been heavily curtailed by the Taliban under their austere interpretation of Islam.
In another longstanding concern of the United States, Blinken encouraged Pakistan to respect for freedom of religion and expression.
Pakistan has seen repeated attacks against religious minorities and mob violence over accusations of blasphemy.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s five-month-old government has faced criticism for restrictions on the media since he replaced Imran Khan, who lost a no-confidence vote in parliament after running afoul of the military.
Blinken also called on Pakistan to pursue a “responsible relationship” with India.
Dialogue has been at a standstill between the historic rivals, with India launching airstrikes in February 2019 in response to a deadly attack blamed on Pakistan-backed militants.
Immediately after meeting Bhutto Zardari, Blinken was hosting a dinner for India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, with whom he will hold talks on Tuesday.
The South Asian foreign ministers were not expected to meet in Washington.


Suicide bombing at Indonesian police station kills officer, injures at least 10

Suicide bombing at Indonesian police station kills officer, injures at least 10
Updated 55 min 31 sec ago

Suicide bombing at Indonesian police station kills officer, injures at least 10

Suicide bombing at Indonesian police station kills officer, injures at least 10
  • Attacker was affiliated with Daesh-inspired JAD group, police say
  • Dozens of notes protesting Indonesia’s new criminal code found around crime scene

JAKARTA: A convicted bombmaker who was released from prison last year attacked a police station in Indonesia’s main island of Java on Wednesday, killing an officer and wounding at least 10 others, officials said.
The attacker entered the Astana Anyar police station in Bandung, West Java at around 8:20 a.m. with a motorcycle, detonating one of two bombs he was carrying as officers gathered for a morning assembly. The other explosive was defused.
“This morning a suicide bomb attack took place and the perpetrator died,” National Police Chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo told reporters when he visited the station in the afternoon.
The injured comprised mostly police officers with at least one civilian wounded, he said.
“He is affiliated with Jamaah Ansharut Daulah group in Bandung or West Java, and at this time our team is continuing work to solve the incident that has occurred.”
Footage taken from the scene showed body parts near the damaged lobby of the station and people running out of the building as white smoke engulfed the facility.
Prabowo identified the attacker as Agus Sujatno and said dozens of notes were found at the crime scene with messages of protests against Indonesia’s new criminal code.
Also known by his alias Abu Muslim, he was released from the Nusakambangan prison island last year after completing a four-year sentence on charges of terrorist funding and making explosives used in a 2017 attack that also took place in Bandung.
“While in prison, he was not cooperative and was still hard-line,” Irfan Idris, deradicalization director at the National Counter-Terrorism Agency, told Arab News.
JAD, which had pledged allegiance to Daesh, was responsible for several other deadly suicide bombings in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.
This includes the 2018 church attacks in Surabaya that involved three families carrying out suicide bombings, killing nearly 30 people including the attackers themselves.
Stanislaus Riyanta, security and terrorism analyst from the University of Indonesia, said the attack was triggered by the new criminal code passed on Tuesday.
“They are looking for momentum. When they get it, such as with the passing of the new criminal code, they will use it,” Riyanta told Arab News.
Riyanta said Indonesian authorities should be cautious not only because the new criminal code was recently passed, but also ahead of Christmas and New Year holidays.
“This is a group with their own ideology, an ideology of violence, and they are anti-government, anti-democracy,” he added. “When there is a right moment, they will carry out their attacks.”


UN General Assembly adopts four draft resolutions to boost ‘lagging’ relief system

UN General Assembly adopts four draft resolutions to boost ‘lagging’ relief system
Updated 07 December 2022

UN General Assembly adopts four draft resolutions to boost ‘lagging’ relief system

UN General Assembly adopts four draft resolutions to boost ‘lagging’ relief system
  • One of them focuses on assistance for the Palestinian people and urges the international community to push ahead with reconstruction efforts in Gaza
  • The others call for the improvement of disaster-preparation systems, properly structured responses to such disasters, and improved protection of humanitarian workers

LONDON: The UN General Assembly adopted four draft resolutions on Tuesday intended to strengthen its relief system, which it noted is struggling to assist nearly 400 million people facing severe crises around the globe.

One of the resolutions focuses on “Assistance to the Palestinian People.” It underscores the importance of emergency and humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip, and the need to move forward with reconstruction efforts. It urges the international community to provide urgently needed assistance and services to alleviate the difficult humanitarian situation confronting Palestinian women, children and families, and to assist in the reconstruction and development of Palestinian institutions.

The resolution “Strengthening of the Coordination of Emergency Humanitarian Assistance of the United Nations” encourages the international community to provide assist to member states in preparing for disasters. It also promotes the creation of multi-hazard warning systems and recognizes the accomplishments of the Central Emergency Response Fund.

In adopting “International Cooperation on Humanitarian Assistance in the Field of Natural Disasters, From Relief to Development,” the General Assembly recognized the link between emergency responses, rehabilitation and development, along with the importance of facilitating a smooth transition between these three stages.

The fourth resolution, “Safety and Security of Humanitarian Personnel and Protection of United Nations Personnel,” strongly condemns all acts of violence, attacks and threats directed against humanitarian workers, as well as the UN and its affiliates. It urges states to investigate all such incidents and expand their procedures to improve the systematic monitoring, reporting and investigation of attacks on humanitarian aid workers and medical personnel.

 


Ukraine’s Zelensky named Time’s 2022 ‘Person of the Year’

Ukraine’s Zelensky named Time’s 2022 ‘Person of the Year’
Updated 07 December 2022

Ukraine’s Zelensky named Time’s 2022 ‘Person of the Year’

Ukraine’s Zelensky named Time’s 2022 ‘Person of the Year’
  • The former comedian rallied his compatriots in broadcasts from the capital and traveled across his war-torn nation
  • On Tuesday, Zelenskiy visited Ukrainian troops near the front lines in eastern Ukraine

DUBAI: Time magazine named Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky 2022’s “Person of the Year” on Wednesday, saying he inspired Ukrainians and won global accolades for his courage in resisting Russia’s devastating invasion.
Refusing to leave Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv at the outbreak of the war as Russian bombs rained down, the former comedian rallied his compatriots in broadcasts from the capital and traveled across his war-torn nation, the publication noted in bestowing its annual title.
On Tuesday, Zelensky visited Ukrainian troops near the front lines in eastern Ukraine.
“Zelensky’s success as a wartime leader has relied on the fact that courage is contagious. It spread through Ukraine’s political leadership in the first days of the invasion, as everyone realized the president had stuck around,” Time wrote in acknowledging the 44-year-old leader.
Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk was named Time’s “Person of the Year” in 2021, a year that saw his electric car company become the most valuable carmaker in the world. Time began this tradition in 1927.


155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona

155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona
Updated 07 December 2022

155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona

155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona

MADRID: More than 150 people were lightly injured Wednesday when a train ran into the back of another at a station near Barcelona, the emergency services and Spain’s Renfe rail operator said Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for the SEM regional emergency services said the vast majority of those hurt in the collision which occurred just before 8:00 am (0700 GMT) sustained light injuries, while five were in moderate condition.
“There was a collision between two trains at 7:50 am at the Montcada i Reixac-Manresa station, on the line heading to Barcelona, that’s to say one train ran into the back of another,” a spokesman for the state rail operator told AFP.
Rail traffic along the line was suspended in both directions and Renfe had opened an investigation into what happened, he said.
“There were 155 people affected of which 150 were lightly injured and five who were moderately hurt,” a spokeswoman told AFP.
She said 18 medical units had been deployed to the area, which lies some 10 kilometers (six miles) north of Barcelona.


Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack

Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack
Updated 07 December 2022

Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack

Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack
  • Raids targeted alleged members of “Citizens of the Reich” (Reichsbuerger) movement
  • Two of the 25 arrests were made abroad

FRANKFURT: German police staged nationwide raids on Wednesday and arrested 25 people suspected of belonging to a far-right “terror cell” plotting to overthrow the government and attack parliament.
Around 3,000 officers including elite anti-terror units took part in the early morning raids and searched more than 130 properties, in what German media described as one of the country’s largest police actions ever against extremists.
The raids targeted alleged members of the “Citizens of the Reich” (Reichsbuerger) movement suspected of “having made concrete preparations to violently force their way into the German parliament with a small armed group,” federal prosecutors said in a statement.
Those arrested are accused of having formed “a terrorist group by the end of November 2021 at the latest, which had set itself the goal of overcoming the existing state order in Germany and replacing it with their own kind of state,” they said.
Two of the 25 arrests were made abroad, in Austria and Italy.
The prosecutors in Karlsruhe said they had identified a further 27 people as suspected members or supporters of the terror network.
The Reichsbuerger movement includes neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists and gun enthusiasts who reject the legitimacy of the modern German republic.
Long dismissed as malcontents and oddballs, the Reichsbuerger have become increasingly radicalized in recent years and are seen as a growing security threat.
Former soldiers are believed to be among the members of the recently established terror group, federal prosecutors said.
“The accused are united by a deep rejection of state institutions and the free, democratic basic order of the Federal Republic of Germany,” they said.
The suspects were aware that their plan “could only be realized by using military means and violence against state representatives,” they added.
Justice Minister Marco Buschmann praised the dismantling of the “suspected terror cell” on Twitter, saying it showed that Germany was able to defend its democracy.
Reichsbuerger followers generally believe in the continued existence of the pre-war German Reich, or empire, as it stood under the Nazis, and several groups have declared their own states.
They typically deny the authority of police and other state institutions.
According to prosecutors, the terror cell suspects believe in Reichsbuerger and QAnon conspiracy theories and are “strongly convinced” that Germany is run by a “deep state” that needs to be toppled.
They allegedly planned to appoint one of the arrested suspects, Heinrich XIII P.R., as Germany’s new leader after the coup.
He had already sought to make contact with Russian officials to discuss Germany’s “new state order” after the coup, prosecutors said.
There was however “no indication that the contact persons responded positively to his request.”
A Russian woman named as Vitalia B., who was among those arrested on Wednesday, is suspected of having facilitated those contacts, prosecutors added.
As part of the preparations for the coup, members of the alleged terror cell acquired weapons, organized shooting practice and tried to recruit new followers, particularly among the military and police, according to prosecutors.
Germany’s domestic intelligence service estimates that the Reichsbuerger scene consists of around 20,000 people.
Of those, more than 2,000 are deemed potentially violent.
Germany considers far-right terrorism the biggest threat to its security following a spate of attacks in recent years.
In April, police foiled a plot by a far-right group to kidnap the health minister.
The group was affiliated with the Reichsbuerger movement and the so-called “Querdenker” (Lateral Thinkers) group that opposed the government’s coronavirus-related shutdowns.