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Newsline: Top US diplomat Pompeo tells Saudi crown prince Khashoggi killers to be held accountable

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday (Nov 11) the US will hold accountable all those involved in the killing of a dissident Saudi journalist, in a telephone call that also took in the conflict in Yemen. The killing of Mr Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul and the war in Yemen, which has pushed the country to the brink of famine, are two of the main sources of strain in the decades-old alliance between Washington and Riyadh. Crown Prince Mohammed is controversially linked to both: he has played a direct role in overseeing Saudi Arabia’s Yemen intervention and has also been accused of orchestrating the Oct 2 murder of Mr Khashoggi, who was a US resident. “The Secretary emphasised that the United States will hold all of those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi accountable, and that Saudi Arabia must do the same,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. The top US diplomat has previously said Mr Khashoggi’s killing “violates the norms of international law”, and that the US was reviewing possible sanctions on individuals identified as having been involved. Upping the pressure on Saudi Arabia, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey had shared recordings related to Mr Khashoggi’s murder with Riyadh, Washington and other capitals, without giving details of their specific contents. After repeated denials, Saudi Arabia finally admitted the 59-year-old journalist had been murdered at its diplomatic mission in what it termed a “rogue” operation. Ankara has been demanding, to date without success, the extradition of those involved in the killing.



Newsline: Ex-Medical Student Sentenced in US Diplomat’s Shooting

Prosecutors say a former medical student has been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for the 2017 shooting of a U.S. diplomat. A news release from the U.S. Department of Justice said 33-year-old Zia Zafar of Chino Hills, California, was sentenced after previously pleading guilty in a federal court in Virginia to attempted murder of an internationally protected person and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. According to prosecutors, Zafar was living in Guadalajara, Mexico, in January 2017 when he followed vice consul Christopher Ashcraft from the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara. Authorities said as Ashcraft drove away from the consulate, Zafar fired a shot into the vehicle and hit the vice consul in his chest. Ashcraft survived, but the bullet remains lodged in his spinal column.


Newsline: US Embassy Construction Program Trails 2005 Goal

The State Dept.’s embassy construction program has moved more slowly than officials had projected in 2005, completing far fewer major facilities than it had aimed to build by now, because smaller projects unexpectedly were added to its to-do list and inflation increased construction costs, the U.S. Government Accountability Office says in a newly issued report. In the congressionally requested report, released on Oct. 25, GAO recommends steps to address the problems, and the State Dept. says it will adopt those recommendations. GAO says that the projects added to the work plan of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) included embassy office annexes and housing for U.S. Marine Corps security guards on embassy complexes. In the report, GAO also says that State has received only one inflation-related funding allocation since 1999 for the embassy program, and the higher inflation-related costs have hampered the program’s progress. In the wake of terrorist bombings in 1998 at embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 220 people, Congress passed legislation directing OBO to compile a list of embassies that should be replaced. OBO’s list totaled 180 embassies; it later reduced that to about 170, by deciding to upgrade, not replace, some facilities. In 2005, OBO had 30 projects in the works and said it planned to finish the other 140 by 2018, according to GAO. But by the end of fiscal year 2017, OBO had completed only 77 embassy or consulate projects, and had another 21 under construction, by GAO’s count. The total cost of the completed projects was slightly more than $24 billion.


Newsline: US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert may be the next UN ambassador

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert is reportedly the leading candidate to become the next US ambassador to the United Nations. President Donald Trump, at a press conference, confirmed Nauert is a contender for the job. “She’s under serious consideration,” Trump told reporters. “She’s excellent, been with us for a long time, been a supporter for a long time.” Trump added that a lot of “great people” want the position, but he’ll likely make the decision next week. A source also told Vox that Trump interviewed Nauert for the role. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley announced earlier this month that she’s planning to step down by the end of the year. During her two years in office, Haley toggled between Trump’s “America First” approach and a more traditional Republican approach to foreign policy. Nauert, a former Fox News host, joined the State Department as its top spokesperson in April 2017. She’s largely been an effective messenger for the agency, and her clout at Foggy Bottom has grown, particularly since the exit of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. From March until October of this year, Nauert also served as the acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, a high-ranking post at State.


Newsline: US Ambassador to Russia reveals cancer diagnosis

US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr. has stage one cancer, he revealed in an interview with the Deseret News published Thursday. “It’s just stage one,” Huntsman said. “So we’ll probably get it taken care of, and we’ll be fine.” After noticing small black spots on his ear and leg, Huntsman told the Deseret News that he met with doctors at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Utah and later had the moles removed. He will need regular checkups to ensure the cancer has not spread, the paper reported. The cancer diagnosis has deep significance for the former Utah governor. Huntsman lost his father to cancer in February, the paper reported, and the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a close personal friend, also had melanoma — the same type of cancer as Huntsman. According to the paper, Huntsman was also careful not to reveal his cancer to anyone in Moscow, worrying about how the information would be received. Huntsman was confirmed as US ambassador to Russia last year and has been frequently targeted by state media propaganda. A State Department spokesperson told CNN they received this statement Thursday from Huntsman: “Ambassador Huntsman would like to thank his medical team who were quick with their early diagnosis and provided excellent treatment. The melanoma was detected early, and Ambassador Huntsman is already back in Moscow with his family and Embassy colleagues, hard at work representing the United States.” The White House did not immediately return a request for comment about Huntsman’s diagnosis.


Newsline: Suspicious package found outside Russian Embassy in Washington

Secret Service personnel responded to the Russian Embassy Sunday evening after an unattended package was discovered outside the building. Secret Service agents were dispatched to the embassy to clear the unattended package, according to an agency spokesperson. The package has since been cleared. Road closures were briefly in effect around the embassy, located on Wisconsin Avenue.


Newsline: Diplomat tells UN Russia is getting ready for war if US attacks

A Russian diplomat has both confirmed and denied what US war hawks have been calling out. Moscow is indeed preparing for war, he said – just in case the US starts one. Speaking at the UN on Friday, Andrey Belousov, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department of Nonproliferation and Arms Control, said that Russia is indeed readying itself for war, so it can defend its people against American aggression. Russia’s military build-up and large-scale drills, often painted in the Western media as preparations for all-out war, are a defensive necessity, he said. “We are preparing to defend our homeland, our territorial integrity, our principles, our values, our people.” Russia doesn’t seek a confrontation, he said, unlike the US. “Why else would the United States pull out of the [INF] Treaty, increase their nuclear potential, adopt a new nuclear doctrine that lowers the threshold for nuclear weapons use – that’s the question for us all.”