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India Exempted From Iran Oil Sanctions

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             India Exempted From Iran Oil Sanctions Washington: A day before India-US strategic dialogue here, the US has exempted India and six other nations from its tough Iran oil sanctions for significantly reducing their oil purchases from Tehran.

By exempting India from the sanctions, the US has taken a contentious issue off the table from their strategic dialogue, co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, starting here Wednesday.
India’s external affairs ministry said it had seen the US notification exempting Indian financial institutions from the application of the provisions of US domestic law for energy-related transactions with Iranian Central Bank and other financial institutions designated by US government. “This is a decision taken by the US government under its domestic law,” ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said in response to a query on the US announcement.
“India and the United States have a growing strategic partnership. The India-US strategic dialogue on June 13 will once again demonstrate the strength of our relationship and the extraordinary breadth of our bilateral cooperation, based on our shared values and convergent interests,” he added.
Besides India, the US has added Malaysia, South Korea, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Taiwan to the exemption list, leaving China and Singapore, the top two buyers of Iranian crude, still exposed to possible penalties by the end of this month.
They “have all significantly reduced their volume of crude oil purchases from Iran”, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday of the countries added to the exemption list. “By reducing Iran’s oil sales, we are sending a decisive message to Iran’s leaders: Until they take concrete actions to satisfy the concerns of the international community, they will continue to face increasing isolation and pressure,” Clinton said.
“We have implemented these sanctions to support our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and to encourage Iran to comply with its international obligations,” she said.
“The US remains committed to a dual-track policy that offers Iran the chance to engage seriously with the international community to resolve our concerns over its nuclear programme through negotiations with the P5+1,” she said.
“Iran has the ability to address these concerns by taking concrete steps during the next round of talks in Moscow. I urge its leaders to do so,” Clinton said.
Clinton announced in March that an “initial group” of countries – Japan and 10 European Union nations – had “significantly reduced” their Iranian oil purchases and thus qualified for an exemption under a sanctions law for a renewable period of 180 days.
India and South Korea were the third and fourth-largest buyers of Iranian oil in the first half of last year, according to the US Department of Energy.
Under the US law enacted Dec 31, nations have until June 30 to demonstrate they have “significantly reduced” the volume of their Iranian crude purchases – or their banks that settle oil trades with Iran may be cut off from the US financial system.

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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SOUTH ASIA

Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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