News - Afghanistan
Written by   
Friday, 01 August 2014 14:42

President Hamid Karzai met with the newly appointed U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Daniel Feldman on Thursday afternoon, according to the Presidential Palace statement.

News - Afghanistan
Written by   
Friday, 01 August 2014 10:58

Unknown gunmen killed Saifullah, the mayor of Mohamad Agha district of central Logar province on Thursday night after an hour clash at his home, said local officials.

The incident took place after a number of unknown gunmen attacked Saifullah's house in Mohammad Agha and he was killed in the shooting, said Din Mohammad Darwish, provincial governor spokesman.

"Saifullah was hit by a bullet in the shooting and died later," Darwish said. No other family members and his bodyguards were hurt in the attack."

The gunmen escaped after the shooting, he said.

He was the mayor for four years in Mohammad Agha and was also a key member of the Jamiyat-e Islami party, he added.

The police have started investigations on the attack.

No group including the Taliban has claimed reasonability for the attack.

Last Updated on Friday, 01 August 2014 14:51
News - Afghanistan
Written by AFP   
Friday, 01 August 2014 10:20

Israel and Hamas agreed to begin a 72-hour ceasefire from 0500 GMT Friday, alongside a diplomatic push for a more durable end to the bloodshed after almost four weeks of fighting.

Just hours before the ceasefire came into force 14 more Palestinians were reported killed by Israeli tank and air fire in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile the Israeli army said that five of its soldiers died in mortar fire near the Gaza border, underlining the need for a negotiated truce.

Hopes of an end to the bloodshed rose early Friday after US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Israel and Hamas had agreed a three-day ceasefire.

Both sides swiftly confirmed their commitment to a truce, after 25 days of bloody confrontation.

While the proposal was accepted by Hamas, a spokesman stressed it was dependent on Israel reciprocating.

"Hamas and all the resistance movements have accepted a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire from 8:00am Friday which will be respected by all these movements if the other party also observes the ceasefire," Fawzi Barhum said.

"Israel has accepted the US/UN proposal for a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire beginning 8:00am Friday (local time)," a source in the Israeli prime minister's office said.

Speaking in New Delhi earlier, Kerry said after the ceasefire went into force, Israeli and Palestinian representatives, including from Hamas, would also begin more durable truce talks in Cairo in a move confirmed by Egypt.

But he said Israeli forces would remain inside Gaza.

Earlier Thursday, Israel vowed it would not accept any ceasefire that did not allow troops to continue destroying tunnels used by militants to attack Israel.
The ceasefire was a joint US-UN initiative and will give civilians "a much needed reprieve", Kerry said.

"This is a respite, a moment of opportunity -- not an end. It's not a solution," he warned, saying Israel would still be allowed to carry out "defensive" operations to destroy tunnels.

The 14 latest Palestinian victims included a woman and at least two children killed by Israeli tank fire in the southern Gaza Strip early Friday, a spokesman for the local emergency services said.

Six of them were killed in an Israeli air strike in the same area, the spokesman said.

Their deaths bring the toll on the Palestinian side to 1,450 since the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip began on July 8.

UN figures show that around two-thirds of the victims were civilians, drawing sharp criticism from around the world.

Meanwhile the Israeli army said in a statement that "5 IDF (army) soldiers were killed during operational activity along the border with the Gaza Strip when a mortar was fired at the forces."

Their deaths bring the Israeli military toll to 61, since the beginning of "Operation Protective Edge," the statement added.

- Tunnel vision -

The ceasefire announcement came after the UN Security Council expressed "grave disappointment" that repeated calls for a truce had not been heeded, and demanded there be a series of humanitarian breaks to ease conditions for civilians trapped in the war-torn territory.

Egypt has invited Israel and the Palestinian Authority to send delegates to Cairo for truce talks, after the 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza was announced.

"Egypt emphasises the importance of both sides committing to the ceasefire so the negotiations can take place in a favourable atmosphere," the Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The delegations are expected to start arriving in Cairo later Friday.

Frank Lowenstein, the US Middle East envoy, was also expected to depart on Friday for the Egyptian capital, a State Department official said.

Despite rising international concern over the civilian death toll in Gaza, Washington said it had agreed to restock Israel's dwindling munitions supplies.

The announcement came as the White House said there was little doubt that Israeli artillery was the source of a "totally indefensible" strike on a UN school in northern Gaza that killed 16 people on Wednesday.

The school was sheltering more than 3,000 Palestinians made homeless by the relentless fighting which on Friday entered its 25th day.

"It does not appear there's a lot of doubt about whose artillery was involved in this incident," spokesman Josh Earnest said.

The Israeli army has suggested the deaths may have been the result of a misfired Palestinian rocket.

- 'Facing a precipice' -

The European Union also condemned the hit on the school, saying it was "unacceptable" that those who had been forced out of their homes by the fighting -- and at the request of the Israeli army -- had been killed.

"These incidents must be investigated with immediate effect," it said.

With one in seven people of Gaza's population of 1.8 million people forced to flee their homes due to the intensive fighting, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, which is sheltering almost all of them, warned it was stretched to breaking point.

"I believe the population is facing a precipice and appeal to the international community to take the steps necessary to address this extreme situation," UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl told the Security Council.

There was no let-up Thursday in the bloodshed with at least 50 Palestinians killed, another 14 dying from injuries suffered in earlier attacks and a growing number of bodies pulled from under rubble in areas near Khan Yunis, medics said.

Last Updated on Friday, 01 August 2014 11:12
News - Afghanistan
Written by Zabihullah Jahanmal   
Thursday, 31 July 2014 18:49

Despite the approval of anti-money laundering legislation last month, relations between private Afghan banks and some international ones remain suspended or conditioned, causing problems for Afghans looking to transfer money from abroad to Afghanistan.

The Anti-Money Laundering & Financing Terrorism Prevention Laws were mandated by the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which warned Afghan banks that they would face global isolation if the laws were not passed. Now, despite the laws having been ratified, officials at private banks around the country have reported that relations with credible banks abroad have yet to stabilize.

"Approval of the laws was only to prevent Afghanistan being blacklisted, but rehabilitation of relations between Afghan banks and the rest of the banks in the world is time consuming, until foreign banks are satisfied with the services of our banks, the relations will not be revived," said Khalil Sediq, the head of a private bank association.

Afghans in the capital have reported that over the past two months a number of foreign banks have refused transfer their money into the country properly.

Still, officials at the Central Bank of Afghanistan have said that given the FATF-demanded legislation was passed, there shouldn't be any sort of problems in international transactions for Afghan banks. They said foreign banks have no reason for delaying transactions.

"There is no place for further excuses for delaying transactions; one month ago, we were accepting the problem, but now our banks must revive their relations with banks in the world and offer necessary services, otherwise, they will lose their customers, because today there are not just a few banks, there are many," Central Bank Chairman Nurullah Delawari said.

A year ago, the major recognized banks around the world cut off relations with Afghan banks due to Parliament's failure to pass the Anti-Money Laundering and Financing Terrorism Prevention Laws. Afghan banks were forced to rely on mediator banks in Turkey and China to conduct transactions. However, those mediator banks also decided to cut off relations with Afghan banks after the Kabul government was again unable to ratify the laws.

Last Updated on Thursday, 31 July 2014 20:23
News - Afghanistan
Written by Saleha Sadat   
Thursday, 31 July 2014 18:35

On Wednesday the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) welcomed the Independent Election Commission's (IEC) verdict in accepting the criteria for the invalidation of votes in the inclusive audit process.

In a statement released by UNAMA on Wednesday, head of UNAMA Ján Kubiš said, "the IEC's adoption of the criteria means that the regulatory framework for the presidential audit is now complete."

He adds that "it will help minimize the points of friction encountered in the audit so far" encouraging "both campaigns to continue demonstrating the political will necessary to proceed expeditiously with the audit, without any interruption."

On Thursday, at a press conference in Kabul at the IEC headquarters, IEC Chairman Yousuf Ahmad Nuristani publicly announced their implementation of the UN audit checklist, emphasizing that the criteria for the vote invalidation process has been finalized.

"The candidates must accept the criteria," Nuristani said. "This time the process will continue and we will not stop."

According to Kubiš, the invalidation criterion was finalized after two weeks of talks between the IEC members and the candidates' technical representatives.

He stressed that the criteria will separate the clean votes from the fraudulent votes on the basis of international standards and with the Afghan laws in consideration. Kubiš added that United Nations (UN) experts will soon arrive to Kabul to assist the IEC with the invalidation process.

"We are proud to work together hand in hand in the audit process," Kubiš said at Thursday's press conference. "Every valid vote of the country will be counted and any delay in the process will have a bad impact both on the political and economical situation of Afghanistan."

The auditing process is said to resume on Saturday and until then all election observers will be trained in agreement to the UN procedure that has been accepted by the IEC.

According to the criteria suggested by the UN, the following are among the reasons that constitute for vote invalidation:

• Absence of IEC stamp and signatures of observers on the ballot result sheets

• Similar marks on the ballots

• Presence of 600 or over ballots in favor of one candidate

• Difference in the result sheets and ballots

• Broken ballot boxes

• Other signs of fraud, such as the absence of ballot boxes along with the list of voters in each box

The vote audit process was paused because of disagreements between the candidates about the criteria and procedures. The UN mediation helped create new criteria that would be favorable to both presidential camps; however, it is yet to be seen whether or not the process will move forward in a timely manner.

Last Updated on Thursday, 31 July 2014 20:45
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