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Hariri avoids returning Beirut, to reach Paris and other capitals before arriving home

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France invites to dispel notion of his detention in Saudi Arabia

Amid political uncertainty in Lebanon, Prime Minister Saad Hariri has decided to travel from Saudi Arabia to France and some other European and Arab countries before returning to Beirut. After his sudden announcement of resignation while in Saudi Arabia earlier this month, he is considered to be detained against his will.

French President Emmanuel Macron sent an invitation to Saad Hariri and his family to “spend few days in Paris” after he  spoke with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday. Macron has reportedly clarified that he was not offering Hariri political “exile”. The move is considered to be an effort to dispel the notion that Saudi Arabia has detained him.

In a related development, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh at dinner on Wednesday. Some observers believe that France was trying to mediate between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile Aljazeera has quoted Okab Sakr, a leader associated with Hariri’s Future Movement political party, saying on Wednesday that Hariri will arrive in Paris in the next 48 hours.

“It is likely he will visit other countries as well before heading to Beirut. It is very likely he will be doing a tour of some European and Arab countries to explain Lebanon’s position on the current crisis before he returns [to Lebanon],” he said. Okab’s location is not disclosed.

Hariri announced his resignation, on November 4, after he dropped in Riyadh complying with a telephone call to visit the kingdom without aides or officials. He was shocked to see no one turning up to receive him; instead his cell mobile was confiscated immediately after touching down at Riyadh airport.

While announcing his resignation Hariri criticised Iran for interfering in Lebanon’s internal affairs by supporting Hezbollah which was responsible for “directing weapons” at Yemenis, Syrians and Lebanese. In his comments directed towards to Iran Hariri said Arab world would “cut off the hands that wickedly extend to it”.

On Sunday last, Hariri chose to be interviewed by his own party’s mouthpiece Future TV in Riyadh for announcing that he was free in Saudi Arabia and pledged to return to Beirut “within days”.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun had alleged that Hariri was detained by Saudi authorities against his will and his resignation will be considered only after his returns to Beirut.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrullah, in a speech on last Friday in Beirut said Hariri’s “forced” resignation was unconstitutional because it was done “under pressure”. He said he was certain that Hariri was forced to resign as part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts of stoking sectarian tension in the country.

On November 12, Reuters had confirmed that Lebanese PM Saad Hariri is in illegal custody of Saudi Arabian authorities at an unknown location. Quoting sources close to Hariri, the agency said that Saudi Arabia has concluded that Saad Hariri had to go because he was unwilling to confront Hezbollah.

Even French President Emmanuel Macron, before conducting unscheduled visit to Riyadh on November 12 said that all Lebanese officials should live freely, “which means having very demanding stance on those who could threaten any leader”.

Macron  was the first European leader indicating that Saudi Arabia was holding Hariri against his will saying it wished for him to have “all his freedom of movement and be fully able to play the essential role that is his in Lebanon”.

Hariri was leading a coalition government with Hezbollah’s participation.

According to observers, Saudi move to force Hariri to resign was aimed to weaken Hezbollah by creating political vacuum in Lebanon at a time when Daesh (IS) is defeated in Syria and Iraq with active Iranian support.

Iran, Iraq and Syria have been alleging Saudi Arabia for its support to Daesh terrorists and consider it as an act of sharing responsibility of implementing the larger US-Israeli plan in the region.

The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran was witnessed in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, where they support rival sides. Saudi has long tried to weaken the Iran-backed Hezbollah, one of the main political parties in the Lebanese ruling alliance.

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Sri Lankan Minister Douglas Devananda says statements on reclaiming Katchatheevu island from Sri Lanka have no ground

Devananda told the media on Thursday that it is not unusual to hear such claims and counterclaims about Katchatheevu as elections are taking place in India.

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Sri Lankan Minister Douglas Devananda has said the statements from some political leaders in India on reclaiming Katchatheevu from the island nation have no ground. He told the media on Thursday that it is not unusual to hear such claims and counterclaims about the strategic island as elections are taking place in India.

The Sri Lankan Minister said he thought India is acting on its interests to secure this place to ensure Sri Lankan fishermen would not have any access to that area and that Sri Lanka should not claim any rights in that resourceful area. According to the 1974 agreement, Devananda said Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen can go fishing in the territorial waters of both countries until the pact was reviewed and amended in 1976.

The amended agreement resulted in fishermen from both countries being barred from fishing in neighboring waters. India’s ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday steered clear of the row surrounding Katchatheevu island. To a volley of questions on the Katchatheevu issue, MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal reffered to External affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s recent comments on the matter.

He said he would like to talk about the issue that has been raised. He added the External Affairs minister has spoken to the press here in Delhi and also in Gujarat and has clarified all the issues. He said everyone should look into the press engagements and they would find the answers to their questions there.

The remarks from Devananda, a Sri Lankan Tamil, came days after the Narendra Modi government accused the Congress and its ally DMK in Tamil Nadu of overlooking national interests by handing over Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka in 1974. The BJP has also been slamming the 2 parties for not ensuring the rights of the fishermen wanting to fish in waters around the island.

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US reiterates its call for fair, transparent, legal process for Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, speaks on Congress frozen accounts

The US spokesperson said that they are also aware of the Congress party’s allegations that tax authorities have frozen some of their bank accounts in a manner that will make it challenging to effectively campaign in the upcoming elections.

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A day after India summoned an US diplomat over their remarks on the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the liquor policy case, the US reiterated its call for fair, transparent, timely legal processes on Wednesday.

Responding to questions on India summoning Gloria Berbena, the US Acting Deputy Chief of Mission in New Delhi, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that they will continue to follow these actions closely, including the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Notably, the meeting at the foreign ministry’s South Block office lasted nearly 40 minutes yesterday with India objecting strongly to the US remarks on the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal.

Matthew Miller also responded to a question on the Congress party’s frozen bank accounts. The US spokesperson said that they are also aware of the Congress party’s allegations that tax authorities have frozen some of their bank accounts in a manner that will make it challenging to effectively campaign in the upcoming elections. He added that the US encourages fair, transparent and timely legal processes for each of the issues.

Arvind Kejriwal was arrested last week by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection to the Delhi liquor policy scam. Earlier, AAP leaders Manish Sisodia, Satyendar Jain and Sanjay Singh were arrested in the same case.

The External Affairs Ministry had earlier stated that states are expected to be respectful of the sovereignty and internal affairs of others, and this responsibility is even more so in case of fellow democracies, adding that it could otherwise end up setting unhealthy precedents.

The Ministry further emphasized that India’s legal processes are based on an independent judiciary which is committed to objective and timely outcomes. It mentioned that casting aspersions on India’s legal procedure is unwarranted.

The United State’s remarks followed days after Germany’s Foreign Office stressed that Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is entitled to a fair and impartial trial. The Indian government labelled their remark as blatant interference in internal matters.

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5 Chinese nationals killed in suicide bomb attack in Pakistan

This is the third major attack on Chinese interests in Pakistan within a week.

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Nearly five Chinese nationals were killed in an explosion during an attack on their convoy by a suicide bomber in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday. Reportedly, the suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a convoy of Chinese engineers travelling from Islamabad to their camp in Dasu, situated in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Regional police chief Mohammad Ali Gandapur said that five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in the attack. As yet, none has claimed responsibility for the attack. Bisham Station House Officer (SHO) Bakht Zahir asserted that the incident was a suicide blast and the authorities concerned were collecting the evidence.

The Station House Officer further added that security arrangements were tightened at the spot and the bodies were being shifted to a hospital. He added that they will investigate from where and how the vehicle of a suicide bomber came and how it happened. Notably, this is the third major attack on Chinese interests in Pakistan within a week.

Previously, two attacks hit an airbase and a strategic port in the southwest province of Balochistan where China is investing billions in infrastructure projects. Several Chinese engineers and Pakistani construction workers have for multiple years been working on hydroelectric projects as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative in the western province of Khyber-Paktunkhwa.

Notably, Dasu is home to a significant dam project, has been a target of previous attacks. Earlier in 2021, the attack in Dasu resulted in the deaths of nine Chinese nationals, along with two Pakistani children. The incident occured when a bus carrying Chinese engineers and workers to the Dasu Hydropower Project site was targeted.

There was confusion surrounding the nature of the attack initially, with some reports suggesting it was a bus accident. Nonetheless, subsequent investigations revealed that it was indeed a terrorist attack. The bus was hit by a blast, leading it to plunge into a ravine.

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