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Massive explosion rocks port area in Lebanon’s capital Beirut

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(Last Updated On: August 4, 2020)

A massive explosion rocked Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, Tuesday, injuring many people as glass shattered and balconies collapsed from the impact, Reuters reported.

Lebanon’s state news agency NNA and two security sources said the blast had occurred in the port area where there are warehouses housing explosives. It was not immediately clear what caused the blast or what kind of explosives were in the warehouses.

“I saw a fireball and smoke billowing over Beirut. People were screaming and running, bleeding. Balconies were blown off buildings. Glass in high-rise buildings shattered and fell to the street,” a witness told Reuters.

Local broadcaster LBC quoted the health minister as saying there was a “very high number” of injures and a large amount of damage. Al Mayadeen television said hundreds were wounded.

Another witness told Reuters that she saw heavy grey smoke near the port area and then heard an explosion and saw flames of fire and black smoke: “All the downtown area windows are smashed and there are wounded people walking around. It is total chaos.”

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Pakistan invites Afghan cricket team on official tour

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(Last Updated On: November 24, 2020)

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has invited Afghanistan’s national cricket team on an official tour for the first time, officials said Tuesday.

This historic move follows the recent visit to Kabul by Prime Minister Imran Khan – one of the game’s greatest players.

“We’ll try to look for a possible window for this tour – and if not 2021, we’ll definitely try to plan a series in 2022 season,” said PCB chief executive Wasim Khan.

“A cricket series between Pakistan and Afghanistan could be a harbinger of love and peace between the two countries,” he told AFP.

An Afghan national side toured Pakistan in May 2011 but they only played a second-string side and matches were not given first-class status.

The two countries have played only a single official one-day match and one Twenty20 international – both in the United Arab Emirates.

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Afghan leaders approved progress around peace talks: Sources

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(Last Updated On: November 24, 2020)

Sources among Afghan negotiators in Doha told Ariana News that Masoom Stanikzai, head of the republic’s negotiating team, and President Ashraf Ghani’s special envoy for peace affairs Abdul Salam Rahimi discussed the latest developments around peace talks with leaders of the Afghan government and got their approval to move forward.

According to the sources Stanikzai has returned to Doha and will announce details of the agreement once the Taliban are ready to do so.

Peace talks were on Tuesday a central point of discussion at the Geneva pledging conference with all donor countries emphasizing the urgency for a peace agreement and ceasefire.

“Peace negotiations are hard work; very time consuming and often very tedious. Eventually the negotiations will need to cover sensitive and complex issues.

“About the country’s political configurations, about a role of Islam in society and a justice system; about human rights including women’s rights and rights of religious and ethnic minorities,” said Deborah Lyons, Special Representative to the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

The latest development around peace talks comes a day after sources close to the negotiations told Ariana News that there had been a breakthrough after both teams agreed to a procedural plan going forward.

The Taliban also confirmed that progress had been made but said that they will soon finalize the details from their side.

“After that the main issue will be discussed based on the agenda. We hope that the problems will be solved soon,” said Mohammad Naeem Wardak, spokesman for Taliban’s political office in Doha.

On other hand, some sources told Ariana News that four members of the republic’s team have left Kabul to return to Doha.

“People will be optimistic despite the concerns. If they (Taliban) act honestly people will be hopeful for peace,” said Abdul Rauf Inhame, a member of Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of parliament.

The progress in intra-Afghan talks was welcomed by many people in Afghanistan and around the world.

Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said at a meeting with former president Hamid Karzai, that he welcomes the progress and called for a reduction in violence and a ceasefire.

Based on the procedural plan of the peace talks, both sides are expected to discuss issues that could include the reduction in violence, and a ceasefire.

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Foreign partners pledge ‘conditions-based’ support to Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: November 24, 2020)

Addressing delegates at the key donor pledging conference in Geneva on Tuesday, the European Union’s (EU) foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called for an immediate ceasefire in Afghanistan and said that any move to set up an Islamic Emirate would affect the bloc’s support.

Borrell told delegates at the pledging conference: “A ceasefire should not be an outcome of the (peace) process, it should accompany the process from today…Any attempt to restore an Islamic Emirate would have an impact on our political and financial engagement.”

Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, who announced the EU’s pledge at the conference, said: “A pledge of €1.2 billion (US$1.4 billion) for the next four years illustrates our commitment to the Afghan people. Our assistance will support the Afghan authorities’ agenda for democratic, sustainable development and modernisation, helping to lift people out of poverty, improve governance, reduce corruption and enhance the daily lives of the Afghan people.”

In a statement issued by the EU after the announcement, the bloc said: “The EU’s support to Afghanistan is conditional upon an inclusive, Afghan-owned, Afghan-led peace process that builds on the political and social achievements of the last 19 years.”

The EU was not however alone in its conditions-based approach as many other countries echoed these words.

Top of the list among a number of conditions was that of women’s rights and most donors pledged support on condition that women’s voices continued to be heard, that women form a key component to the peace process and that their rights are preserved.

Reuters meanwhile reported that uncertainty over whether compromises needed for peace might lead to backsliding on human and women’s rights, has made some countries wary about making long-term commitments to an Afghan administration – which needs foreign money to cover about three-quarters of its spending.

Some diplomats said that keeping a tight rein on funding could provide foreign governments with some leverage to inject a greater sense of urgency into the peace process.

Also, most governments are under intense pressure to make savings as they ramp up spending to help their own economies recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, diplomats told Reuters.

Countries pledged billions of dollars on Tuesday in addition to the EU’s 1.2 billion euros ($1.43 billion).

According to Shamroz Khan Masjidi, spokesman for the Ministry of Finance, Afghanistan’s foreign partners pledged a total of US$6 billion for development over the next four years.

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