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Newsline: Saudi Arabian spokeswoman in US shatters kingdom’s glass ceiling

As Saudi Arabia feverishly portrays itself as ready to join the ranks of modern, tolerant societies, the kingdom has turned to a once-unlikely messenger — one of its daughters — to make its case to the West. On Fatimah Baeshen’s first day as the Saudi Embassy in Washington’s official spokeswoman, the ultra-conservative nation’s rulers issued a decree to lift its ban on women driving, starting next summer. It was a step toward erasing what much of the world sees as a stain on Saudi Arabia’s women’s rights record. Activists are pushing for greater human rights and political freedoms, even with the recent openings for women.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/a-saudi-arabian-first-spokeswoman-at-kingdoms-us-embassy/

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Newsline: Trump Says Cuba is Responsible for Incident Claimed by US Diplomats

US President Donald Trump said that he believes Cuba is responsible for the health incidents reported by US diplomats in Havana, even though his own administration ignores the cause of those incidents. During a press conference at the White House, Trump said he believes Cuba is responsible for the alleged attacks, although there is an ongoing investigation and the State Department itself does not know who or what caused the symptoms claimed by the diplomats. This situation, which according to many sources is used by the current US administration to reverse the process of normalization of the relations with Cuba, hit headlines in last August. At that time, US diplomats working at the U.S. Embassy in Havana complained of incidents that made them feel ill such as hearing loss, dizziness, headache and fatigue, something that was described by the State Department as attacks, even when the investigation into this case has not yielded results. Meanwhile, Cuba has reiterated that it has no responsibility for the incidents, stating that it follows the provisions included in the Vienna Convention of 1961 on the protection to the personal safety of diplomats and their families. In late September, the State Department decided to withdraw more than half members from the U.S. Embassy in Havana, halted the issuance of visas to Cuba, issued a travel warning to the U.S. citizens and expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from Washington.

http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?o=rn&id=19647&SEO=trump-says-cuba-is-responsible-for-incident-claimed-by-us-diplomats

Newsline: US opens new embassy in Chad amid travel ban outcry

The U.S. officially opened a new embassy in Chad, just weeks after facing pushback for including the African country, a key counterterrorism ally, in President Trump’s new travel ban. The dedication is an “important symbol of our enduring partnership with the people of the Republic of Chad,” the State Department said in a statement. The multibuilding complex is situated on a 12-acre site southeast of downtown N’Djamena and includes a chancery, U.S. Marine Corps residence, warehouse, shops, utility building and facilities for the embassy community, according to the State Department. Construction on the $225 million project began in 2015. Operations moved to the new embassy complex this summer, but officials formally dedicated the building on Monday. U.S. Ambassador Geeta Pasi, Acting Director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations Ambassador William Moser and Chadian government officials were all involved in the dedication. But the move comes as the White House has faced scrutiny for including Chad, a reliable counterterrorism ally in Africa, in Trump’s latest travel ban.

http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/355723-us-opens-new-embassy-in-chad-amid-travel-ban-outcry

Newsline: Cubans Must Now Go to Colombia to Apply to Immigrate to the USA

US diplomatic sources said that Cubans who want to immigrate to the United States, often under family reunification, will have to apply for a visa at that country’s embassy in Colombia. “Following the suspension of visa services at the US Embassy in Havana, the State Department decided that the Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, will be responsible for dealing with requests for immigration visas for residents of Cuba,” said a statement from the US Embassy in Havana. The decision is the result of Washington pulling out the majority of its diplomatic personnel stationed in Havana after denouncing alleged “sonic attacks” against its personnel in Cuba. Although Washington does not blame the Cuban government for the attacks, it does hold it accountable for failing to adequately protect its diplomats on the island. The scarce personnel that remained on the island will focus on basic diplomatic duties and consular attention to US citizens visiting Cuba. Cubans who want to apply for a migratory visa must travel to Colombia to do the process. Non-migratory visas, such as business or tourism, may be requested personally in any diplomatic delegation of the United States in third countries. The only non-migratory visas to be managed in Havana will be diplomatic, official and emergency cases for health reasons. Under a migration agreement between the two countries, since 1994 the United States agreed to grant Cubans 20,000 annual immigrant visas, which will now be very difficult to meet due to the lack of consular staff in Havana.

http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=127830

Newsline: US diplomat summoned over Russian flag removal from seized diplomatic properties

The Russian Foreign Ministry has summoned the US embassy chief in Moscow to demand the return of Russian flags, which were removed from seized diplomatic properties in the United States earlier this week. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the American charge d’affaires had been summoned to account for the seized diplomatic property. “I can say you for sure that the protest has been lodged to the US side taking into consideration absolutely inadmissible actions. The US charge d’affaires in Russia was summoned and he has received a note of protest.” Russian flags had been removed from former consular buildings in San Francisco as well as a trade mission in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, which had previously been shut by US authorities. The Russian mission to the US described the move as “extremely unfriendly” while on Thursday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by phone that the flag’s removal was “unacceptable.” In response, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a press briefing on Thursday that the flags had been “respectfully lowered,” are being “safely stored” and will be returned “at their [Russia’s] convenience.” The dispute over the flags is the latest episode in an ongoing diplomatic row between Moscow and Washington, which started with the expulsion of 35 Russian embassy staff by outgoing President Barack Obama in late December 2016, as well as the closure of two diplomatic compounds in Washington, DC, and Maryland.

https://www.rt.com/news/406649-usa-diplomat-summoned-russian-flags/

Newsline: New audio adds to mystery of attacks on US diplomats in Cuba

A new audio recording said to capture what was heard by some US embassy workers amid a series of attacks on American diplomats in Cuba is adding another layer of intrigue around the mysterious incidents that sickened at least 22 US diplomats and family members. The recording — obtained by The Associated Press — is the first publicly reported audio sample said to be related to attacks that, according to a US official, may have involved the use of an acoustic device. The device was so sophisticated, it was outside the range of audible sound, the official said. And it was so damaging, the source said, that one US diplomat now needs to use a hearing aid. But what remains unknown is what kind of device may have been used, where exactly it was placed, and who put it there.

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/13/politics/cuba-us-diplomats-acoustic-weapons/index.html

Newsline: Russian ambassador says unfriendly moves contradict US pledges to normalize ties

The antagonistic steps taken by US authorities run counter to their earlier assurances that they want to normalize relations with Moscow, the Russian Embassy in Washington said on Thursday citing Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov. “A resolute protest has been conveyed to the US side following the removal of Russian flags from our diplomatic facilities in San Francisco and the trade mission in Washington. Earlier, these buildings were actually seized by the US authorities in violation of the norms of international law, bilateral agreements and the US laws,” Antonov said in an interview with the Rossiya television channel. “We consider these as highly unfriendly steps that run counter to previous official Washington assurances that it wants to normalize bilateral relations. The entire responsibility for the violation of norms of international relations rests only on Washington,” he stressed. Russia’s embassy in the United States said earlier it had lodged a protest to the US side over removal of flags from the seized Russian diplomatic facilities in San Francisco and the trade mission in Washington, and demanded the flags be immediately placed back. Later on, a State Department official told TASS that the Russian flags were removed from the Russian Consulate General in San Francisco by US authorities and it was done with due respect to Russia’s national symbols. “The flags at the former Russian consular properties in San Francisco were respectfully lowered and are safely stored within each of the buildings,” he said obviously referring to the consulate general and the consul’s residence in San Francisco. On September 2, the US authorities shut down the Russian trade mission in Washington, DC and its branch in New York City. Besides that, they demanded that the Consulate General in San Francisco be closed and the consul general’s residence vacated. The US set a deadline of October 1 for diplomats from the consulate general in San Francisco to pack up and remove their belongings. The US Administration says that the facilities have been stripped of diplomatic immunity. Nonetheless, they are still Russia’s state property, except the trade mission office in New York City, leased by Moscow.

http://tass.com/politics/970174