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WTO To Ratify The Appointment Of Okonjo-Iweala As Director-General Next Week

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WTO To Ratify The Appointment Of Okonjo-Iweala As Director-General Next Week
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After five months without a substantive leadership, the General Council of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) announced it will hold a special session to ratify Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Director-General next week.

The WTO General Council Chair, David Walker met with delegates yesterday to ascertain if there were further objections on the candidate.

The WTO’s General Council will hold a special meeting on 15 February at 15:00 Geneva time to consider the appointment of the next Director-General. The meeting will take place in virtual format.

It is uncertain however, if she will be asked to take up the reins almost immediately or at a later date, in view of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference holding in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan later in the year.

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The biennially-held Ministerial Conference is the topmost decision-making of the WTO which finds itself in a deep crisis occasioned by the challenges following the COVID-19 pandemic, the trade tensions between the US and China, the collapse of the dispute settlement appeal system amid growing protectionism.

Key WTO ambassadors had last year preferred Nigerian, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to head the WTO with the US insisting on Yoo Myung-Hee.

With Seoul announcing last week, the withdrawal of her candidate, Myung-Hee hours before the Biden-led administration’s strong support for the Nigerian, the path is expectedly clear for the first woman and first African to lead the WTO.

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Myung-Hee, Korea’s first female Trade Minister, pledged to co-operate with the incoming DG-WTO.

Deeply honored to have been able to run for the @WTO Director General position. Many thanks for all the support given to me during the process.

Will work closely with the new DG and all @WTO Members to reform and revitalize the multilateral trading system.

Yoo Myung-Hee

The DG’s role is expected to be primarily advisory, managerial and renewable after four (4) years.

Okonjo-Iweala is a global financial expert, economist and international development professional spanning, three decades of experience. She was twice appointed Nigeria’s Finance Minister and briefly, Foreign Affairs Minister. The first woman to occupy both positions.

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U.S. Intelligence Reports Says Mohammed bin Salman Approved Khashoggi’s Murder

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U.S. Intelligence Reports Says Mohammed bin Salman Approved Khashoggi's Murder
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the 2018 killing of U.S.-based journalist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, according to a declassified report released by the Biden administration on Friday.

The report, released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), said the crown prince, the kingdom’s de facto leader, “approved an operation … to capture or kill” Khashoggi.

“We base this assessment on the Crown Prince’s control of decisionmaking in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammad bin Salman’s protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi,” the report said.

“Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorization,” it continued.

The four-page report’s release was highly anticipated and is part of President Biden’s strategy to “recalibrate” the relationship with Saudi Arabia, where he has committed to emphasize democratic values and human rights in Washington’s dealings with Riyadh.

“For too long, the United States failed to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the brutal murder of journalist, dissident, and Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in statement Friday. “I’m encouraged to see the new administration taking steps to rectify that by releasing this long-overdue congressionally mandated report into his killing.”

The report was released the day after Biden spoke with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. A White House statement on the call did not mention Khashoggi or the report, but said the president “affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law.”

On Wednesday, Biden said he had read the report, without elaborating.

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Asked Friday whether Biden raised Khashoggi with the king, White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to elaborate on the call, but stressed to reporters that officials “at every level” have publicly raised concerns about human rights abuses.

Khashoggi was killed by a Saudi hit squad, including a bone saw-wielding forensic doctor, in October 2018 while he was at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for a marriage license. Turkish authorities have said he was strangled soon after entering the consulate and dismembered.

The report’s release Friday was paired with an announcement by Secretary of State Antony Blinken of visa restrictions against 76 Saudi individuals believed to be engaged in threatening dissidents overseas, including but not limited to those connected to Khashoggi’s murder.

“While the United States remains invested in its relationship with Saudi Arabia, President Biden has made clear that partnership must reflect U.S. values,” Blinken said in a statement. “To that end, we have made absolutely clear that extraterritorial threats and assaults by Saudi Arabia against activists, dissidents, and journalists must end. They will not be tolerated by the United States.”

Called the “Khashoggi ban,” the visa restrictions can be imposed on any individual believed to be directed by a foreign government to seriously harass and threaten people perceived as dissidents.

The Treasury Department also announced sanctions on Ahmad Hassan Mohammed al Asiri, Saudi Arabia’s former deputy head of the General Intelligence Presidency, who the department said was “assigned to murder” Khashoggi and was the “ringleader” of the operation.

Treasury also slapped sanctions on Saudi Arabia’s Rapid Intervention Force, Crown Prince Mohammed’s elite personal protective detail whose members were part of the hit squad. But the sanctions notably did not target the crown prince himself.

The report on Friday listed the names of 21 individuals U.S. intelligence officials have “high confidence … participated in, ordered, or were otherwise complicit in or responsible for” Khashoggi’s murder “on behalf of” Crown Prince Mohammed. Still, it says the United States can’t confirm if the individuals knew the operation would result in the journalist’s death.

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The report highlighted that members of the hit team included officials linked to the Saudi Center for Studies and Media Affairs, whose leader publicly said in 2018 he did not make decisions without the crown prince’s approval.

The team also included seven members of Crown Prince Mohammed’s elite personal protective detail, who the U.S. officials “judge would not have participated in the operation against Khashoggi without Muhammad bin Salman’s approval,” the report said.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who represents the Virginia district where Khashoggi resided, called for a “reevaluation” of the U.S. and Saudi relationship in the wake of the crown prince’s responsibility.

“This report lays the blame for the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, my constituent, directly at the feet of the Crown Prince. Saudi Arabia must be held accountable, and that demands a careful and complete re-evaluation of the US relationship with the Kingdom,” Connolly said in a statement. “It is a dark stain on the Trump administration that they were willing to keep this report from the American people in order to protect its relationships with the Crown Prince over and above basic American values and Jamal’s life itself.”

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), a U.S. organization founded by Khashoggi shortly before his murder, said the report’s release helps confirm previously reported details.

“At minimum, certainly this information is really just further confirmation of what we all know — and that is that Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the murder of Jamal, our founder,” she said.

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Whitson said DAWN is likely to include the ODNI report in its own civil suit against the crown prince, which was filed with Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia and seeks monetary damages.

Whitson added the report’s release serves as a warning against such brazen violent actions.

“It is an important warning and we hope an important measure of deterrence against other despots who think they can go around the world killing people they don’t like in foreign countries,” she said.

Biden has already taken actions shifting the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, in part over Khashoggi’s murder and supported by Congress. They include ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led offensive in Yemen, as well as relevant weapons sales to the kingdom.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, urged the Biden administration to follow the report’s release with “serious repercussions against all of the responsible parties it has identified, and also reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia.”

“We must ensure that if foreign governments target journalists simply for doing their jobs, they are not immune to serious repercussions and sanctions, because restoring confidence in American leadership requires we act in accordance with the values that have long set America apart,” Schiff said. “The administration should take further steps to diminish the United States’s reliance on Riyadh and reinforce that our partnership with the Kingdom is not a blank check.”

The State Department on Friday is reportedly expected to announce further restrictions on offensive weapons to the kingdom.

Still, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby stressed after the report’s release that Saudi Arabia “remains a strategic partner in the region.” He declined to comment on the ODNI report itself, describing it as outside the purview of the Defense Department.

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President Biden Orders Air Strikes On Iranian Backed Militias In Syria

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President Biden Orders Air Strikes On Iranian Backed Militias In Syria
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The US military struck a site in Syria on Thursday used by two Iranian-backed militia groups following rocket attacks on American forces in the region in the past two weeks,” CNN reports.

“The strikes mark the military’s first known action under President Joe Biden. The site was not specifically tied to the rocket attacks, but were believed to be used by Iranian-backed Shia militias operating in the region.”
The U.S. military carried out an airstrike against an Iranian-backed militia stronghold in Syria Thursday, a senior official told Fox News.

In the first known military action by President Biden, multiple facilities were struck by American F15 fighter jets that targeted Iraqi border-based Shia militia groups, Kait’ib Hezbollah and Kait’ib Sayyid al Shuhada.

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Both forces are suspected of having received funding and military support from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

The senior official said the strike was “shot across the bow” and a defensive strategy, intended to deter Iran and its militia from launching rockets at U.S. forces in the region, like the recent attacks in Iraq.

The Defense Department later confirmed the strikes.

“These strikes were authorized in response to recent attacks against American and coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Thursday.

Two rockets landed within the U.S.’s Green Zone in Baghdad Monday, falling near the U.S. embassy and marking the third attack of its kind within a week.

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The Green Zone is several miles wide and houses the U.S. embassy and other government buildings.

Though Monday’s strike reported no causalities, a rocket fired in Erbil, Iraq last week killed several people, including an American service member and several American contractors.

“We are outraged by the recent attacks,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday.

“When it comes to our response, we will respond in a way that is calculated, within our own timetable, and using a mix of tools at a time and place of our choosing,” he added. “What will not do is lash out and risk an escalation that plays into the hands of Iran and contributes to their attempts to further destabilize Iraq.”

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The Pentagon said the defensive strike Thursday was conducted with diplomatic support and in coordination with coalition partners.

The airstrike was was timed to avoid large scale casualties and targeted a command hub. The extent of the damage and casualities hit will be known after a bomb assessment is complete, security officials told Fox News.

“The operation sends an unambiguous message — President Biden will act to protect American coalition personnel,” Kirby told reporters Thursday.

“At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to deescalate the overall situation in both Eastern Syria and Iraq,” he added.

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See Trump’s Statement After Being Acquitted By The Senate

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See Trump's Statement After Being Acquitted By The Senate
US Ex President Donald Trump
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FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’S STATEMENT AFTER BEING ACQUITTED BY THE SENATE.

I want to first thank my team of dedicated lawyers and others for their tireless work upholding justice and defending truth.

My deepest thanks as well to all of the United States Senators and Members of Congress who stood proudly for the Constitution we all revere and for the sacred legal principles at the heart of our country.

Our cherished Constitutional Republic was founded on the impartial rule of law, the indispensable safeguard for our liberties, our rights and our freedoms.

It is a sad commentary on our times that one political party in America is given a free pass to denigrate the rule of law, defame law enforcement, cheer mobs, excuse rioters, and transform justice into a tool of political vengeance, and persecute, blacklist, cancel and suppress all people and viewpoints with whom or which they disagree. I always have, and always will, be a champion for the unwavering rule of law, the heroes of law enforcement, and the right of Americans to peacefully and honorably debate the issues of the day without malice and without hate.

This has been yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country. No president has ever gone through anything like it, and it continues because our opponents cannot forget the almost 75 million people, the highest number ever for a sitting president, who voted for us just a few short months ago.

I also want to convey my gratitude to the millions of decent, hardworking, law-abiding, God-and-Country loving citizens who have bravely supported these important principles in these very difficult and challenging times.

Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun. In the months ahead I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people. There has never been anything like it!

We have so much work ahead of us, and soon we will emerge with a vision for a bright, radiant, and limitless American future.

Together there is nothing we cannot accomplish.

We remain one People, one family, and one glorious nation under God, and it’s our responsibility to preserve this magnificent inheritance for our children and for generations of Americans to come.

May God bless all of you, and may God forever bless the United States of America.

My deepest thanks as well to all of the United States Senators and Members of Congress who stood proudly for the Constitution we all revere

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