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Saudis warn of economic reprisals if U.S Congress passes 9/11 bill

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2016)

saudi arabiaSaudi Arabia is warning it will sell off billions in American assets if the U.S. Congress passes a bipartisan bill that would allow victims of 9/11 and other terrorist attacks to sue foreign governments.

Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir issued the warning to U.S. lawmakers last month during a visit to Washington, two senior State Department officials told CNN. A source with knowledge of the Saudis’ thinking said investments would be put in jeopardy if this bill passes, so they are trying to protect themselves from risk.

The story was first reported Saturday by The New York Times.

The Obama administration has, in turn, applied heavy pressure on Congress to block the bill. Top officials from the State Department and Pentagon warned Senate Armed Services Committee staffers last month that the bill could bring economic risks to the U.S.

The Saudis did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Asked if President Barack Obama would veto the legislation if passed by Congress, a senior administration official told CNN that “rather than entertain a hypothetical, we believe there needs to be more careful consideration of the potential unintended consequences of its enactment before proceeding with legislation.”

“We would welcome opportunities to engage with the Congress on that discussion,” the official added.

In February, Secretary of State John Kerry said the legislation could “expose the United States of America to lawsuits and take away our sovereign immunity and create a terrible precedent.”

The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and John Cornyn, R-Texas, opens the door for families of 9/11 victims to sue foreign states and financial partners of terrorism.

Former Sen. Bob Graham, the co-chair of the 9/11 congressional inquiry, told CNN’s Michael Smerconish Saturday morning that he is “outraged but not surprised” by the warning from the Saudi government.

“The Saudis have known what they did in 9/11, and they knew that we knew what they did, at least at the highest levels of the U.S. government,” Graham said on “Smerconish.”

The government of Saudi Arabia, a longtime and key strategic U.S. ally in the Middle East, has never been formally implicated in the 9/11 attacks and Saudi officials have long denied any involvement. But 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals, and in February, Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called “20th hijacker” who pleaded guilty to participating in an al Qaeda conspiracy in connection to the 9/11 attacks, alleged members of the Saudi royal family supported al Qaeda.

Twenty-eight pages of the 9/11 Commission Report, which are said to focus on the role of foreign governments in the plot, remain classified. Saudi officials asked the U.S. to release the redacted 28-page section in 2003, saying this would give them the opportunity to defend themselves against claims of involvement.

But the Bush administration refused, saying the material would jeopardize their ability to gather intelligence on suspected terrorists. The Obama administration has carried on that policy.

Families of both victims and survivors in the 9/11 attacks filed a lawsuit against the Saudi government, but the suit was thrown out last year when a federal judge ruled that the kingdom had sovereign immunity in the case.

Written by: CNN

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MPs call for ‘national treasure’ to be sent abroad for safekeeping

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(Last Updated On: January 27, 2021)

The Presidential Palace (ARG) on Wednesday called for calm and for MPs in the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) to act and speak responsibly about national issues after they called for the country’s treasure, the Bactrian Hoard, to be sent abroad for safekeeping.

ARG tweeted that the “Wolesi Jirga Speaker’s remarks about the safety of the Bactrian Treasure and its transfer abroad were unfortunate.”

The collection of pieces, including gold items, numbers about 20,000 in total, and date back to the period covering the third century BC to the first century AD.

Unearthed in northern Afghanistan in 1978 from four archaeological sites, the treasure has been preserved for hundreds of years and hidden during times of war.

In line with this, ARG tweeted the Bactrian Hoard “is one of the greatests assets of the Afghan people, which has been preserved in the maze of history in which the country’s assets were looted.”

ARG also stated that government has protected this historical treasure in a responsible manner and has allowed it to be exhibited several times in countries around the world.

The exhibitions have been done in a way for the treasure to represent “the history and identity of Afghanistan, and significant revenues to the state treasury have been obtained through this,” said ARG.

The Presidential Palace’s reaction came on the heels of comments made by Rahman Rahmani, the Speaker of the Wolesi Jirga, who called for the treasure to be sent out of the country and stored abroad for safekeeping.

Rahmani said the Central Bank, where the gold is currently housed, was unreliable, and he insisted on transferring the “hoard” to a more trustworthy country on loan.

In addition to this, some lawyers also called on government to examine the state of the country’s foreign exchange reserves.

The issue was raised after SIGAR released a report recently stating that vast amounts of money is still being smuggled out of the country, especially out of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul – and specifically through the VIP area.

“If money is smuggled, the Bactrian treasure will not be safe, and this treasure is to support Afghanistan’s money and must be transferred to another country because the Central Bank lacks credit, and this is a very serious matter,” Rahmani said.

Another MP, Nilofar Ibrahimi said: “Action must be taken to prevent the transfer of Bakhtar treasures, because the Central Bank’s cameras have been turned off for two months and we are concerned about the distrust of the current government and this treasure is in danger of being smuggled and should be transferred to a trustworthy country.”

The total collection is estimated to be worth around $13 billion. Over the past 13 years, the treasure has been exhibited in foreign countries, earning Afghanistan about 314 million Afghanis.

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Commitment to peace is all that’s keeping Republic’s team in Doha

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(Last Updated On: January 27, 2021)

Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said Wednesday the level of violence meted out by the Taliban is so intense that government should have walked away from negotiations but instead a steadfast belief in peace on Afghanistan’s part has kept the negotiations on track in Doha, Qatar.

Speaking at an Afghan Women’s Network meeting, Abdullah said government’s determination at securing peace is the only reason the talks are still underway.

He also said the Taliban must stop calling for the release of more prisoners until they have changed their ways.

“As long as the violence continues at the same level, the negotiations should have been stopped, because the violence escalated and it escalated from the other side, unfortunately. Our commitment to peace is decisive and we will continue the process,” Abdullah said.

“There is hope for the people of Afghanistan; when we are close to peace, then the issue of prisoners won’t be a problem; it is certainly part of the agreements that are being reached,” Abdullah added.

Members of the peace negotiating team meanwhile said the Taliban is not ready for a ceasefire and everytime the topic turns to their request for an Islamic Emirate, the group’s members walk away from the negotiating table.

The Republic’s talks team members also said the Taliban team has not been interested in discussing the agenda for the last ten days.

“Whenever there is a discussion about the issues they raise, they shrug their shoulders and they have repeatedly run away from the negotiating table,” said Farooq Majrooh, a member of the Afghan Republic’s team.

“They want to be superior, to use war and terror as a means, and to have the upper hand in this matter,” said Habiba Surabi, another member of the negotiating team.

However, Afghan women have called for an immediate ceasefire and said that peace talks and violence cannot go hand-in-hand.

“Violence parallel with peace talks is illogical and we want a ceasefire,” said Roshan Sirran, head of Afghan Women’s Network (AWN).

“The more bloodshed there is, the greater the distance, the greater the animosity, and the greater the distance between the parties,” said Sima Samar, former Minister of Government for Human Rights.

The Taliban have in the past stated they will only discuss a ceasefire once a ruling system for Afghanistan has been determined.

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AIHRC reports sharp increase in assassinations last year

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(Last Updated On: January 27, 2021)

Over 2,000 civilians were killed or wounded in targeted assassinations and attempted assassinations last year, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said.

According to a report released on Wednesday, this attack method mainly targets civilian government employees, journalists, members of civil society, religious scholars, influential and prominent figures, members of the National Assembly and human rights defenders.

The AIHRC said in the report that a total of 2,250 people were killed or injured in targeted assassination attacks and attempts – including 1,078 killed and 1,172 injured – last year.

“Unfortunately, civilian casualties from assassinations and targeted killings in 2020 have almost tripled to 169 percent compared to 2019,” the report stated.

In 2019, a total of 834 civilians were killed and injured as a result of the use of assassination methods and targeted attacks.

AIHRC stated that 65 women and 74 children were among the victims of this tactic who were killed, and 95 women and 290 children were among the wounded.

The watchdog noted in its report that suicide attacks had decreased by 23 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year. Despite this, the number of civilian casualties from suicide attacks remained very high, AIHRC said.

In 2020, civilian casualties from Taliban suicide attacks decreased by 44 percent compared to 2019.

In 2019, 1,195 civilians were killed in Taliban suicide attacks, killing 301 and wounding 894 while in 2020, that number dropped to 528 victims, including 65 killed and 463 injured.

In the civilian casualties caused by ISIS (Daesh Afghanistan) suicide attacks, in 2020, compared to 2019, there was a 33 percent increase.

In 2019, the total number of civilian casualties resulting from ISIL (Daesh Afghanistan) suicide attacks was 194 killed and wounded. In 2020, that number rose to 258 killed and injured.

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