World Newsletter

FRONT PAGE NEWS
22 February 2020

U.S. SAYS PREPARING TO SIGN DEAL WITH TALIBAN ON FEBRUARY 29

The United States is preparing to sign a deal with the Taliban on February
29, building on an agreement on reducing violence across Afghanistan,
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.
"Upon a successful implementation of this understanding, signing of the
U.S.-Taliban agreement is expected to move forward," he said in a statement
released after visiting Saudi Arabia.
A week-long "reduction in violence" between the Taliban, the U.S. and Afghan
security forces will commence shortly, Afghanistan's National Security
Council spokesman Javed Faisal said on Friday.
The partial truce will mark a historic step in more than 18 years of
gruelling conflict in Afghanistan and would pave the way for a deal that
could, ultimately, see the war end.
Mr. Pompeo said that intra-Afghan negotiations would begin shortly after the
February 29 signing, expected to take place in the Qatari capital Doha.
They will "build on this fundamental step to deliver a comprehensive and
permanent ceasefire and the future political roadmap for Afghanistan," he
said.
The U.S. top diplomat said that challenges remain, but that progress made so
far "provides hope and represents a real opportunity. The United States
calls on all Afghans to seize this moment".


RUSSIA BOOSTING TRUMP'S CANDIDACY, CLAIMS US INTEL

Russia is interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get Donald Trump
re-elected, US intelligence officials have warned lawmakers in a briefing
that infuriated the President, who then replaced his intelligence chief, US
media reported.
Trump erupted in anger at acting director of national intelligence (DNI)
Joseph Maguire when he learned of the February 13 session with the House
Intelligence Committee, The Washington Post and New York Times said
Thursday.
Maguire aide Shelby Pierson reportedly told lawmakers Russia was once again
meddling in the US election on Trump's behalf.
Trump complained that the Democrats would use the information against him,
the reports said.
Trump announced on Wednesday he was replacing Maguire with Richard Grenell,
53, the ambassador to Germany and his loyalist.
Democratic congressman Bennie Thompson said that by firing Maguire over the
briefing "the President is not only refusing to defend against foreign
interference, he's inviting it." Schiff tweeted late Thursday that if Trump
was interfering in the sharing of intelligence information with Congress, it
appeared that he was "again jeopardising our efforts to stop foreign
meddling."


IRAN VOTES IN PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS THAT FAVOURS CONSERVATIVES

Iranians were voting for a new parliament Friday, with turnout seen as a key
measure of support for Iran's leadership as sanctions weigh on the economy
and isolate the country diplomatically.
The disqualification of some 9,000 potential candidates, most of them
reformists and moderates, raised the possibility of lower-than-usual
turnout.
Iran's leadership and state media urged voter participation, with some
framing it as a religious duty. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cast
his ballot at a mosque near his Tehran office, shortly after polls opened
and urged Iranians to the polls.
"Anyone who cares about Iran's national interests should participate in the
election," he said. Earlier in the week, Khamenei said high voter turnout
will thwart "plots and plans" by Americans and supporters of Israel against
Iran.
"Enemies want to see what the results of the U.S. maximum pressure are," he
said, referring to U.S. sanctions and pressure from Washington that have
strangled Iran's ability to sell its oil abroad, forcing its economy into
recession.
Around 7,000 candidates are running in 208 constituencies for the 290-seat
chamber.
The election is being held at a time of growing economic hardship.


SRI LANKAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE PROPOSES IMMEDIATE BURQA BAN

A Sri Lankan parliamentary committee on national security has proposed an
immediate ban on the burqa and suspending the registration of political
parties on ethnic and religious basis, following the Easter Sunday terror
attack that killed over 250 people.
The proposals featured in a special report presented in Parliament on
Thursday to resolve 14 controversial issues following the April 21 Easter
attack last year. The report was tabled by MP Malith Jayatilaka, Chairman
Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security, the Daily Mirror
reported.
According to the report, a number of countries have already banned the
burqa.
The report suggested that the police should have the power to ask anyone
wearing a face covering in a public place to take off such clothing in order
to establish the identity of the person.
If such a request is not complied with, police should have the power to
arrest the individual without a warrant, the report said.
It also recommended the country's Election Commission to enact a legislation
to suspend the registration of political parties on ethnic and religious
basis.
The report also said that the registration of political parties which have
some racial or religious conflict or in its name should also prohibited.
Such a party should be converted into a political or non-religious political
party within a specified period of time, the report said.

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