Islamabad, Feb 22 (Xinhua/UNB) - The Pakistani government decided to reinstate a ban on two organizations already been placed in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions committee's consolidated list, after a suicide attack in the India-controlled Kashmir, an official statement said.
The announcement issued late Thursday was made after a meeting of the National Security Committee attended by the country's top civil and military leaders.
A statement from the Ministry of Information said that the National Security Committee meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan in chair decided that "Jamat-ud-Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation be notified as proscribed organizations."
The Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its charity arm the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation both are blamed to have links with proscribed militant organization Lashkar-e-Taiba which has its activities in the Indian-controlled Kashmir.
The Pakistani government had banned the two organizations in January 2018 by prohibiting individuals and companies from making donations to the two groups. But later on, the ban was quashed by the country's Lahore High Court followed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan permitting them to continue their charity work.
The National Security Committee meeting was called amid rising tension between Pakistan and India following the Feb. 14 suicide attack in the Indian-controlled Kashmir, which killed over 40 policemen.
According to the statement, the prime minister directed the security institutions to accelerate action against the proscribed organizations to "ensure that militancy and extremism are routed from the society and the state never becomes hostage to extremists."
"We recognize that terrorism and extremism are the top issues in the region and the whole region including Pakistan have suffered," said the participants of the meeting, adding "Pakistan alone has endured over 70,000 casualties in the process (war on terror) besides the heavy loss to national exchequer."
Brussels, Feb 22 (AP/UNB) — The British government acknowledged Thursday that trade deals with major countries such as Japan and Turkey will not be in place by the planned Brexit day of March 29, while the European Union's chief said he remains downbeat about Britain avoiding a chaotic departure from the bloc.
Britain's international trade secretary, Liam Fox, claimed in 2017 that by the day the U.K. left the EU, the country would be in a position to continue the trade deals with 70 other nations it has as an EU member.
But only a handful of the deals have been finalized, including one with the tiny Faroe Islands.
As for the rest, Britain's Department for International Trade said Thursday "it remains our priority to conclude trade continuity agreements with these countries by exit day or as soon as possible thereafter."
The most significant of the pending deals is with Japan. A Japan-EU free-trade agreement took effect at the beginning of February, removing hundreds of millions of euros (dollars) in duties paid by EU exporters to the Asian nation.
A proposed U.K.-EU divorce agreement includes a 21-month transition phase that would keep Britain operating under EU rules while the government works out future trade arrangements.
Britain's Parliament has rejected the deal, and the government has failed to win concessions from the EU that lawmakers demanded.
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday that despite constructive talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday night, he doesn't have much hope a divorce agreement will be in place by March 29.
A no-deal Brexit "will have terrible economic and social consequences both in Britain and on the continent," Juncker said at a EU conference, adding he was doing his utmost so "the worst can be avoided."
But he said, "I am not very optimistic when it comes to this issue."
Without a deal, British businesses will face tariffs and other barriers to trade with both the EU and third countries. May and Juncker said after their meeting that negotiators would urgently seek a way to prevent Britain from withdrawing out of the Brexit quagmire to prevent Britain from withdrawing without a smooth transition.
The Confederation of British Industry said the government must rule out a "no-deal" Brexit.
"Many companies are unaware it is not just their relationships with EU customers at risk from a no-deal Brexit, but those across the globe," said the group's director of international trade and investment, Ben Digby.
"Individual businesses trading with markets outside the EU would face tariffs worth millions of pounds being slapped on them instantaneously."
United Nations (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo focusing on the redeployment of forces from Yemen's key port and the situation in Venezuela.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Yemen and Venezuela were the main focus of their 30-minute meeting Thursday afternoon, which was requested by Pompeo.
He said Guterres and Pompeo discussed the importance of Yemen's government and Houthi Shiite rebels implementing a December agreement reached in Stockholm and starting the withdrawal of their forces from Hodeida, whose port handles about 70 percent of Yemen's imports, and two smaller ports.
Dujarric provided no details on the Venezuela discussion.
Guterres has offered his good offices if President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido ask. The Trump administration has recognized Guaido as Venezuela's interim president.
Baghdad, Feb 21 (AP/UNB) — An Iraqi security official says the U.S.-backed Syrian forces fighting the Islamic State group in Syria have handed over more than 150 Iraqi members of the group to Iraq.
The official says the IS militants were handed over to the Iraqi side overnight, and that they were now in a "safe place" and being investigated.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
The handover comes as the U.S.-backed Syrian forces are involved in a standoff over the final IS-held sliver of land in southeastern Syria, close to the Iraqi border amid the extremists' imminent territorial defeat.
Earlier this month, Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi said Iraq will take back all Iraqi IS members, as well as thousands of their family members.
United Nations, Feb 20(AP/UNB) — The expected pullout of forces from three key ports in Yemen provides an opportunity to move to the major goal of ending the four-year conflict that has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis, the U.N. envoy for the war-battered country said Tuesday.
Martin Griffiths told the U.N. Security Council that Yemen's government and Houthi Shiite rebels demonstrated that they are able to deliver on commitments they made in December in Stockholm by agreeing on the first phase of redeployment from the ports.
He said forces will initially be withdrawn from the smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa, beginning "possibly" Tuesday or Wednesday. This will be followed by a pullout from the major port of Hodeida and critical parts of the city that will allow access to the Red Sea Mills, a major U.N. storage facility holding enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month, he said.
Griffiths called on the parties to fully implement the first phase and to agree on details of the second phase of the redeployment of forces, "which we hope will lead to the demilitarization" of Hodeida, whose port handles about 70 percent of Yemen's commercial and humanitarian imports.
A U.N. official said the first phase involves pulling back several kilometers, and the second phase a withdrawal of 18 to 30 kilometers (11-18 1/2 miles), depending on the location and fighters. In some places in Hodeida city, the opposing forces are facing each other about 100 meters apart, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiations were private.
The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by the Iranian-backed Houthis, who toppled the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. A Saudi-led coalition allied with Hadi's internationally recognized government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
The fighting in the Arab world's poorest country has killed thousands of civilians, left millions suffering from food and medical care shortages, and pushed the country to the brink of famine.
U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said about 80 percent of Yemen's population — 24 million people — need humanitarian assistance including nearly 10 million "just a step away from famine" and nearly 240,000 "facing catastrophic levels of hunger."
Lowcock told the council the figures "are considerably worse than last year," stressing that aid agencies are running out of money and facing restrictions in the Houthi-controlled north and on deliveries of fuel.
The U.N. is appealing for more than $4 billion to assist 15 million people across Yemen this year and Lowcock implored donors to pledge generously at a conference next week in Geneva convened by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and co-hosted by Sweden and Switzerland.
"We expect current resources to be used up by the end of March — just six weeks from now," Lowcock said. "Without adequate resources, the aid operation will grind to a halt at a time when more people need more help than ever before."
On the political front, Griffiths said the Stockholm agreement was "a breakthrough" and a major shift by the warring parties, but he said it "was only ever intended to be a preliminary step."
He recalled in a video briefing from Amman, Jordan that he previously told the council "that Hodeida was the center of gravity of the war — and it is."
"In truth, our primary interest, the real center of gravity of this war, has to be moving towards a political solution," Griffiths said. "The implementation of the Hodeida agreement as announced today gives us permission to look ahead beyond the agreement made in Stockholm."
He said starting a discussion on political and security arrangements for Yemen would be "a major step forward and an important statement of intent from the parties that they are determined ... finally, to bring this conflict to a close."
Another key part of the Stockholm agreement was the exchange of prisoners, which has been the subject of two rounds of talks in Amman.
Griffiths said both sides seek the release of all prisoners and "I would like to think that we are not far off from agreeing and realizing the release of a first batch."