AFGHAN PRESIDENT REJECTS FOREIGN INTERFERENCE IN COUNTRY'S FATE
12th Aug 2019
Afghanistan's president on Sunday rejected foreign interference as the United States and the Taliban appear to be closing in on a peace deal without the Afghan government at the table. President Ashraf Ghani spoke during the Muslim holiday Eid-al-Adha and as U.S. and Taliban negotiators continue their work in the Gulf nation of Qatar, where the insurgents have a political office. Speaking after the Eid prayers, Mr. Ghani insisted that next month's presidential election is essential so that Afghanistan's leader will have a powerful mandate to decide the country's future after years of war. "Our future cannot be decided outside, whether in the capital cities of our friends, nemeses or neighbors. The fate of Afghanistan will be decided here in this homeland," he said. "We don't want anyone to intervene in our affairs."
U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is seeking a peace deal by Sept. 1, weeks before the vote. The two sides are expected to agree on the withdrawal of some 20,000 U.S. and NATO troops in return for Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan would not be a base for other extremist groups. Few details have emerged, but Mr. Khalilzad and the lead Taliban negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, have been traveling in recent days to brief several countries involved in the process on the latest developments. The Taliban spokesman in Qatar, Suhail Shaheen, who has said a deal is expected at the end of this round of talks, on Sunday issued an Eid message expressing the hope that Afghanistan "will celebrate future Eids under the Islamic system, without occupation, under an environment of permanent peace and unity." AFTER PROTESTS, RUSSIA TELLS TELLS GOOGLE NOT TO ADVERTISE 'ILLEGAL' EVENTS Russia's state communications watchdog said on Sunday it had asked Google to stop advertising "illegal mass events" on its YouTube video platform. Tens of thousands of Russians staged what observers called the country's biggest political protest for eight years on Saturday, defying a crackdown to demand free elections to Moscow's city legislature. The watchdog, Roscomnadzor, said Russia would consider it interference in its sovereign affairs and a hostile influence should Google fails to respond to the request. Police rounded up scores of people after the demonstration in Moscow and at another rally in St. Petersburg, and detained a leading opposition figure before it began. But the response from the authorities was milder than the previous week when more than 1,000 protesters were detained, sometimes violently.
The White Counter monitoring group said up to 60,000 people had attended the Moscow rally, describing it as the biggest in Russia for eight years. Police put turnout at 20,000. SAUDI ALLIANCE STRIKES AFTER ADEN 'COUP' A Saudi-led coalition on Sunday launched a strike against Yemen's southern separatists after they seized the presidential palace in second city Aden in deadly fighting that threatened to push the war-ravaged nation deeper into turmoil. The seizure, decried by the Riyadh-backed Yemeni government as a UAE-supported coup, reflects deep divisions between secessionists and loyalist forces, both of whom have fought Shiite Huthi rebels. "The coalition targeted an area that poses a direct threat to one of the important sites of the legitimate government," a statement said, calling on the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) to withdraw from positions seized in Aden or face further attacks. It did not specify the target but residents in Aden told AFP it was an air strike against separatist camps in the city. Since the fighting flared on Thursday, around 40 people have been killed and 260 others including civilians wounded, according to the UN. "It is heart-breaking that during Eid-al-Adha, families are mourning the death of their loved ones instead of celebrating together in peace and harmony," said Lise Grande, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen. Riyadh-based Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi is backed by the coalition - led by Saudi Arabia and its ally the United Arab Emirates - that is battling the Iran-aligned Huthis. But another force in the anti-Huthi coalition - the UAE-trained Security Belt Force - has since Wednesday been battling loyalists in Aden, the temporary base of Hadi's government.