World en Thu Dec 15 15:44:32 IST 2022 us-warns-of-possible-attack-in-islamabad-marriott-hotel-amid-security-fears <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The US Embassy in Islamabad, on Sunday, warned its staff of a possible attack on Americans at a top hotel in Pakistan's capital as the city was already on high alert following a suicide bombing earlier in the week.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The US government is aware of information that unknown individuals are possibly plotting to attack Americans at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad sometime during the holidays&quot;, the embassy said in a security alert.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The advisory banned its American personnel from visiting the popular hotel over the holidays.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The US mission also urged all personnel to refrain from non-essential travel in Islamabad during the holiday season.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The embassy directive came two days after a suicide bombing in a residential area of the capital killed a police officer and wounded ten others. The explosion happened when police stopped a taxi for inspection during a patrol.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the police, a rear seat passenger detonated explosives he was carrying, blowing up the vehicle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Militants with the Pakistani Taliban, who are separate from but allied with Afghanistan's rulers, later claimed the attack.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Islamabad's administration has since put the city on high alert, banning public gatherings and processions, even as campaigns are ongoing for upcoming local elections. Police have stepped up patrols and established snap checkpoints to inspect vehicles across the city.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A suicide bombing targeted the capital's Marriott Hotel in September 2008, in one of the deadliest such incidents in the capital.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Attackers drove a dump truck up to the hotel's gates before detonating it, killing 63 people and wounding over 250 others.</p> Sun Dec 25 21:56:40 IST 2022 pushpa-kamal-dahal-prachanda-appointed-new-prime-minister-of-nepal <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Sunday appointed CPN-Maoist Centre chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' as the new Prime Minister of Nepal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prachanda has been appointed as the Prime Minister of Nepal as per the Article 76 Clause 2 of the Constitution, according to a statement issued by the President's Office here.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The President had called any member of the House of Representatives, who can garner a majority with support from two or more parties as stipulated in the Article 76 clause 2 of the Constitution to submit a claim for the Prime Minister's post.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prachanda, 68, had submitted the claim before the deadline given by the President expired at 5 pm on Sunday.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The swearing in ceremony of the newly-appointed Prime Minister will take place at 4 pm on Monday, according to the President's Office.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prachanda along with CPN-UML chairman K P Sharma Oli, Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) president Ravi Lamichhane, Rastriya Prajatantra Party chief Rajendra Lingden among other top leaders earlier went to the President's Office with a proposal to appoint him as the new Prime Minister, sources said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prachanda has support of 165 lawmakers in the 275-member House of Representatives which includes CPN-UML with 78, CPN-MC with 32, RSP with 20, RPP with 14, JSP with 12, Janamat with 6 and Nagarik Unmukti Party with 3.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prachanda is being appointed as the Prime Minister of Nepal for the third time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Born in Dhikurpokhari of Kaski district near Pokhara on December 11, 1954, Prachanda remained underground for almost 13 years. He joined mainstream politics when the CPN-Maoist adopted peaceful politics, ending decade long armed insurgency.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He led the decade-long armed struggle from 1996 to 2006 that ultimately ended with signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in November 2006.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier, a crucial meeting was held at former prime minister Oli's residence where CPN-Maoist Centre and other smaller parties agreed to form a government under the leadership of Prachanda'.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There has been an understanding between Prachanda and Oli to lead the government on rotation basis and Oli agreed to make Prachanda Prime Minister at the first chance as per his demand.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;As the largest party the Nepali Congress failed to form a government under its leadership as per Article 76(2) of the Constitution within the president's deadline. Now, the CPN-UML has taken the initiative to form the new government under the leadership of Prachanda with the support of 165 lawmakers,&quot; Shankar Pokharel, CPN-UML general secretary, told reporters after the meeting.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier in the day, Prachanda walked out of the Nepali Congress led five-party alliance after Prime Minister and Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba rejected his bid to become the Prime Minister in the first round.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Deuba and Prachanda had earlier reached a tacit understanding to lead the new government on a rotational basis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During talks with Prachanda on Sunday morning at the PM House, Nepali Congress had staked claim for both the key posts of President and Prime Minister, which Prachanda had rejected resulting in failure of the talks, Maoist sources said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NC offered the post of Speaker to the Maoist Party, which was rejected by Prachanda.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;The alliance has broken as the last-minute talk between Deuba and Prachanda failed to strike a deal,&quot; Shah told PTI earlier in the day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After talks with Prime Minister Deuba failed, Prachanda reached the private residence of CPN-UML chairman Oli to seek his support to become the Prime Minister. He was joined by leaders of other smaller parties.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nepali Congress is the largest party with 89 seats in the House of Representatives while CPN-UML and CPN-MC have 78 and 32 seats, respectively.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No party in the 275-member House of Representatives has 138 seats required to form a government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the House, CPN (Unified Socialist) has 10 seats, Loktantrik Samajwadi Party (LSP) has four, and Rastriya Janamorcha and Nepal Workers and Peasants Party have one seat each.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are five independent members in the Lower House.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—PTI</p> Sun Dec 25 19:19:45 IST 2022 mikey-hothi-becomes-first-sikh-city-mayor-in-california <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;Mikey Hothi, whose parents are from India, has been unanimously elected as the mayor of Lodi city in northern California, becoming the first Sikh to hold the top position in the city's history.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp; Hothi was nominated by newly-elected councilwoman Lisa Craig, who won election to mayor Mark Chandler's seat in November and was unanimously selected vice mayor during Wednesday's meeting.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p> He represents the council's fifth district and served as vice mayor this past year under mayor Chandler, who announced last summer he would not seek re-election.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p> &quot;Honored to be sworn in as the 117th Mayor of the City of Lodi,&quot; Hothi tweeted on Friday.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p> His family was also instrumental in founding the Sikh temple on Armstrong Road, local newspaper The Lodi News-Sentinel reported.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p> Our experience is similar to that of the Hispanic community that came before us, the Greek community, the Germans, Hothi was quoted as saying in the report.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p> Everyone came to Lodi because they realised it was a safe family town. (It has) great education, great people, great culture, great values, and just hard-working people in this town. I'm just proud to represent this community as its next mayor, it said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p> Hothi, who graduated from Tokay High School in 2008, said that growing up in the city was a challenge, especially post-9/11, when many Muslims and Sikhs experienced unfair harassment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p> But Hothi, whose parents are from Punjab, explained that his family not only survived but thrived in Lodi. Many became business owners and entrepreneurs who still manage successful companies today, the report said. PTI&nbsp; &nbsp;MRJ 12251009</p> Sun Dec 25 11:02:30 IST 2022 uk-pm-sunak-makes-surprise-christmas-calls-thanks-diplomats-and-workers <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak surprised diplomats, military personnel, charity workers and other public servants working across the world this Christmas by calling them to personally thank them for their sacrifice and dedication in an 'extraordinary' year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Downing Street said the British Indian leader's calls on Friday to diplomats included one to Pakistan to Sherwan Asif, who has worked for the British High Commission in Islamabad for more than 12 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“He was at the forefront of the UK's response to the devastating floods that ravaged the country in June and Sherwan identified areas in critical need and ensured UK's funding reached the most vulnerable,” Downing Street said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Whether you are working in Mogadishu or Milton Keynes this Christmas, I want you to know that I am personally grateful for your sacrifice,” said Sunak.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This year has been an extraordinary year for so many reasons, but most of all, it's been a year in which the true spirit and resilience of the United Kingdom has been on the show, from the support given to our Ukrainian friends, to the work being done to ensure essential aid reaches the most vulnerable overseas,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“And closer to home, those who have checked on friends and neighbours, volunteers, public servants and essential service staff all working over Christmas, I am truly humbled by your dedication and I know your selflessness this festive season will spread cheer across the country,” he added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Alongside Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Permanent Under-Secretary Sir Philip Barton and First Sea Lord Admiral Ben Key, Sunak made the calls to diplomats in Somalia and Ukraine, as well as a Royal Navy ship sailing in Antarctica.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the UK, Sunak surprised Chris Mitchell who runs Smart Play, an award-winning government-funded Holiday Activities and Food programme in London. Sunak heard first-hand how Mitchell and his team are supporting vulnerable children across the area with fun activities and nutritious meals throughout the school holidays.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Speaking to diplomat Nic Guffog, who is based in Mogadishu, Somalia, the UK prime minister heard how the foreign office staffer had been using her breather breaks and flights from the UK back to Somalia to bring in Christmas decorations for the UK's diplomatic compound in Mogadishu.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She told Sunak how staff in Mogadishu were living in containers under the threat of terror attacks and would spend Christmas supporting efforts to counter the threat posed by Al-Shabaab and helping the Somalian government deal with the hunger crisis facing the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Guffog, who looks after the Embassy compound in East Africa, said the order for Christmas dinner had to be placed in the spring and had recently arrived by container ship.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This year's celebrations were particularly special for the embassy after a COVID outbreak last year meant staff couldn't sit together in the compound on Christmas Day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also on the call list was Svita Yavorska, who has spent the year working for the UK's Embassy in Ukraine from Kyiv, Warsaw and now Lviv.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Svita told the prime minister how she had to flee to Poland following the war in Ukraine, before setting up the Embassy's temporary base in Poland.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Finally, Sunak spoke to some of the crew of HMS Protector, which is currently deployed off the coast of the South Sandwich Islands, updating navigational charts using the latest sonar technology, monitoring the retreat of glaciers and ice shelves, and supporting the British Antarctic Survey scientists by delivering vital supplies and fixing any engineering issues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sunak heard how the shipmates are experiencing 20 hours of sunlight a day and had seen whales, penguins and endangered turtles during their deployment, as well as surveying underwater volcanos, and losing 7-1 to members of the Monserrat national football team during a friendly game on shore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Asking about their Christmas plans, the sailors told him they had planned a number of celebrations between keeping watch on the ship, including a fancy dress party and Christmas dinner for the ship's company.</p> Sat Dec 24 22:27:52 IST 2022 after-university-ban-taliban-restricts-women-from-working-for-domestic-foreign-ngos <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;The Taliban government in Afghanistan on Saturday ordered all foreign and domestic non-governmental groups to restrict employing women.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The order came in a letter from Economy Minister Qari Din Mohammed Hanif, which said that any NGO found not complying with the order will have its operating license revoked in Afghanistan.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The contents of the letter were confirmed to The Associated Press on Saturday by ministry spokesman, Abdul Rahman Habib.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to reports, the recent order was issued after the Ministry received serious complaints about the dressing of women at foreign organisations. The Ministry received complaints that the women were not wearing proper headscarves or hijab.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The new ban comes amid protests by women against the Taliban for banning them from University education.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Taliban's minister for higher education Nida Mohammad Nadim said the ban was necessary to prevent the mixing of genders in universities and because he believes some subjects being taught in universities violated the principles of Islam. Another reason he cited for the university ban was women’s failure to observe a dress code.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There has been widespread international condemnation of the university ban, including from Muslim-majority countries. The Taliban security forces used water cannons to disperse women protesting the ban on university education for women.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(With PTI inputs)</p> Sat Dec 24 20:44:22 IST 2022 china-calls-us-defence-bill-political-provocation-taiwan-welcomes-it <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The $858 billion US defence bill has angered China but pleased Taiwan. China, in a statement, criticised the US for hyping the China threat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Taiwan welcomed the bill saying it demonstrated US support for the self-governing island that China says must come under its rule.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“China deplores and firmly opposes this US move,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted online Saturday, calling the new law a serious political provocation that blatantly interferes in China's internal affairs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>President Joe Biden signed the $858 billion defence bill into law in Washington on Friday. It includes about $45 billion more than Biden had requested as lawmakers look to offset inflation and boost the nation's military competitiveness with China and Russia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The bill also repealed a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for US troops.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Chinese ministry in a statement said, “The $858 billion military spending measure, which authorises up to $10 billion in security assistance and fast-tracked weapons procurement for Taiwan, contained provisions that cause serious damage to peace and stability in Taiwan Strait.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the Indo-Pacific region, the legislation authorises increased security cooperation with Taiwan and requires expanded cooperation with India on emerging defence technologies, readiness and logistics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A Taiwan Foreign Ministry statement thanked the US Congress for showing the great importance it attaches to Taiwan-US relations and strengthening Taiwan's security. China objects to US support for Taiwan, an island of 23 million people off its east coast. The two split during the civil war that brought the communists to power in China in 1949.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Chinese Foreign Ministry statement said the US defence bill severely affects peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>China staged major military exercises around Taiwan in August after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island. The Chinese military sent 39 planes and three ships toward Taiwan earlier this week in a relatively large show of force.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(With agency inputs)</p> Sat Dec 24 19:50:22 IST 2022 china-ready-to-work-on-relations-with-india-foreign-minister-wang-yi <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, on Sunday, said that China is ready to work with India through steady and sound growth of the relations, ANI reported.<br> </p> <p>&quot;China and India have maintained communication through the diplomatic and military-to-military channels, and both countries are committed to upholding stability in the border areas. We stand ready to work with India in the direction toward steady and sound growth of China-India relations,&quot; Wang said.</p> <p>The statement comes after a face-off between Chinese and Indian forces in Arunachal's Tawang sector on December 9. &quot;In the interim, the two sides agreed to maintain the security and stability on the ground in the Western Sector,&quot; MEA had said after the clash.&nbsp;</p> <p>China and India agreed to maintain security and stability on the ground in the Western Sector at the 17th round of the Corps Commander Level Meeting. The meeting took place on December 20 and the meeting point was the Chinese side of the Chushul-Moldo border meeting.&nbsp;</p> <p>Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also defended his country's position on the war in Ukraine on Sunday and signalled that China would deepen ties with Russia in the coming year.<br> </p> <p>Its refusal to condemn the invasion of Ukraine and join others in imposing sanctions on Russia has further frayed ties and fueled an emerging divide with much of Europe.</p> <p>Wang said that China would deepen strategic mutual trust and mutually beneficial cooperation with Russia.</p> <p>Even as China has found common ground with Russia as both come under Western pressure, its economic future remains tied to American and European markets and technology.</p> <p>Xi Jinping is pushing the Chinese industry to become more self-sufficient, but Wang acknowledged that experience has shown that China and the United States cannot decouple or sever supply chains.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>--With PTI inputs</p> Sun Dec 25 14:21:44 IST 2022 bethlehem-rebounds-from-covid-pandemic-lifting-christmas-spirits <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The biblical town of Bethlehem is gearing up for what residents hope will be a merry Christmas, with thousands of visitors expected to descend upon the traditional birthplace of Jesus as it rebounds from the coronavirus pandemic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tourism is the economic lifeblood of this town in the occupied West Bank, and for the past two years, the pandemic kept international visitors away. This year, visitors are back, hotels are full and local shopkeepers have reported a brisk business in the runup to the holiday.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We are celebrating Christmas this year in a very much different way than last year,” said Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Maayah. “We're celebrating Christmas with pilgrims coming from all over the world.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Just before midday, crowds were still sparse as police and businesses prepared for the celebrations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Police were erecting barricades in Manger Square, as marching bands played drums and bagpipes. Foreign tourists meandered about and snapped selfies with the town's large Christmas tree behind them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the top Roman Catholic clergyman in the Holy Land, was expected to arrive from nearby Jerusalem to greet well-wishers. Later, he was to celebrate Midnight Mass in the nearby Church of the Nativity, built on the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Still, present-day reality was visible at Manger Square as banners showing photos of Palestinian prisoner Nasser Abu Hamid were prominently displayed. The veteran prisoner died of cancer last week in an Israeli prison clinic after spending some 20 years behind bars for his conviction in the deaths of seven Israelis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Dec 24 17:30:01 IST 2022 lack-of-munition-limiting-russias-operations-against-ukraine-finds-uk-intelligence <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The defence intelligence of the United Kingdom on Saturday reported that a lack of sufficient stockpile of munitions is limiting Russia's operations against Ukraine. British Intelligence found Russia has likely limited its long-range attacks on Ukraine to once a week.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The defence intelligence said, “Despite the easing of its immediate personnel shortages, a shortage of munitions highly likely remains the key limiting factor on Russian offensive operations.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;“Russia has likely limited its long-range missile strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure to around once a week due to the limited availability of cruise missiles,” the intelligence report said. “A vulnerability of Russia’s current operational design is that even just sustaining defensive operations along its lengthy front line requires a significant daily expenditure of shells and rockets,” they added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Dec 24 17:11:30 IST 2022 sitiveni-rabuka-elected-as-fijis-new-prime-minister <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Sitiveni Rabuka has been elected as Fiji's new Prime Minister. After 16 years, Fiji is preparing to welcome its new prime minister.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The appointment of Rabuka ends 10 days of uncertainty after an election delivered a hung parliament. Rabuka is the leader of the People's Alliance, a political party in Fiji formed in 2021.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fiji's Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) on Friday voted to form a coalition with Rabuka's People's Alliance and the National Federation Party.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the secret parliamentary vote for prime minister, Rabuka got 28 votes, while 27 members of parliament voted for Fiji Leader Voreqe Bainimarama.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The announcement was made by the newly-elected speaker of the Fijian Parliament, Naiqama Lalabalavu, on Saturday.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fiji's Social Democratic Liberal Party joined forces with Rabuka's People's Alliance and the National Federation Party on Friday. Following the alliance formed, Rabuka clinched for the next term, marking the end of 16 years of leadership under Frank Bainimarama, who seized power in 2006 military coup, reported ABC news.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The last two democratic elections in Fiji was won by Bainimarama's Fiji First party.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a press conference earlier this month, SODELPA's leader said he wanted Fiji's foreign relations to be closely aligned with Australia, New Zealand and some members of the Pacific Islands Forum, reported Reuters.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fiji has a history of military coups, with Rabuka staging two in 1987, and at times witnessed tense race relations between its indigenous majority and a large ethnic Indian group until constitutional reform in 2013 removed a race-based voting system that favoured indigenous Fijians, Reuters reported.&nbsp;</p> Sat Dec 24 09:59:45 IST 2022