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UCL: Real Madrid ready for PSG clash —Zidane

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Zinedine Zidane insists he is not letting the pressure get to him as he prepares his Real Madrid side for Wednesday’s huge Champions League last-16 clash with Paris Saint-Germain at the Santiago Bernabeu, AFP reports.

“I’m very happy. We all live for these moments. I don’t feel any particular pressure,” a relaxed Zidane said at a press conference at Real’s Valdebebas training complex on Tuesday.

“We have prepared as we usually do. Certainly tomorrow (Wednesday) there will be a bit more pressure than usual, but I’m going to enjoy it. My future does not bother me much just now.”

Zidane has been going through the toughest period of his short managerial career, with Real fourth in La Liga, a huge 17 points behind leaders Barcelona, albeit with a game in hand.

That has led to speculation that the Frenchman’s future as coach is on the line against a feared PSG side, with the two-time defending European champions putting all their hopes in the Champions League going into the first leg of this tie.

“I am just trying to get on with my work. This is my passion,” said Zidane, who has won eight trophies as Real coach. “I have nothing that I need to demonstrate.”

The tie is a special one for the Marseille-born Zidane, as he faces a French club for the first time since being appointed Real coach in January 2016. The second leg will be in Paris on March 6.

“Playing against PSG as someone from Marseille, there has always been a rivalry there, but I’m not going to think about that. I just want a beautiful game of football.”

Zidane got the full backing of Real’s Brazilian left-back Marcelo, who said the former World Cup winner has a great relationship with the stars in the Madrid dressing room.

“He is a person who is very close to us and who helped us so much when he arrived here,” said the 29-year-old.

“He is a great coach who has done so much for this team and will keep on doing so to get things back to how they used to be.”

Marcelo will be coming up against his international team-mate Neymar, who he claimed ahead of the game in an interview with Brazilian television would “one day play for Real Madrid”.

“Madrid fans like good players, and Neymar is a world star. Any fan would like to have Neymar in their team,” he added on Tuesday.

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Foreign

Saudi Crown Prince Ordered Khashogghi’s Murder – CIA

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The US Central Intelligence Agency has concluded Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, US media reported Friday, citing people close to the matter.

The US assessment directly contradicts the conclusions of a Saudi prosecutor one day prior, which exonerated the prince of involvement in the brutal murder.

But The Washington Post, which broke the story, said the CIA found that 15 Saudi agents flew on government aircraft to Istanbul and assassinated Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate.

Queried by AFP, the CIA declined to comment.

Khashoggi, a Post columnist, had gone to the consulate to obtain documents necessary to marry his Turkish fiancee.

Saudi Arabia — which quickly dismissed the reported CIA findings — has repeatedly changed its official narrative of the October 2 murder, first denying any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts and later saying he was killed when an argument degenerated into a fistfight.

In the latest version presented by the Saudi prosecutor on Thursday, a 15-member squad was formed to bring Khashoggi back from Istanbul “by means of persuasion” — but instead ended up killing the journalist and dismembering his body in a “rogue” operation.

The CIA examined multiple intelligence sources, the Post said, among them a phone call between the prince’s brother — the Saudi ambassador to the United States — and Khashoggi.

The ambassador reportedly told the late journalist that he would be safe to go to the consulate in Istanbul and get the papers he needed.

– ‘Some things you can’t do’ –
But a Saudi embassy spokesperson said that Ambassador Khalid bin Salman had never discussed “anything related to going to Turkey” with Khashoggi.

“Amb Prince Khalid bin Salman has never had any phone conversations with (Khashoggi),” the statement posted on the ambassador’s Twitter account said.

“The claims in this purported assessment is false,” it said.

The US intelligence agency also said in determining the crown prince’s role it considered him a “de facto ruler” of Saudi Arabia: “The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” the Post quoted an official as saying.

That official dubbed Prince Mohammed a “good technocrat” — but also someone unpredictable who “goes from zero to 60, doesn’t seem to understand that there are some things you can’t do.”

The New York Times later reported that the CIA findings were also based on calls from the kill team to one of the crown prince’s senior aides.

But the paper said that while the intercepts showed Prince Mohammed was working to lure Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, the crown prince had not said in the calls that he wanted Khashoggi killed.

The Times cited officials as saying US and Turkish intelligence so far have not found direct evidence connecting the prince to Khashoggi’s killing.

Following the reports, US Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday said Washington “is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder.”

On the sidelines of an APEC summit in Papua New Guinea, Pence described the Saudi journalist’s killing as an “atrocity” and an “affront to a free and independent press” but declined to comment on classified information.

The CIA conclusions threaten to further fray relations between Washington and longtime ally Riyadh, which has sought to end discussion of the murder and rejected calls for an international investigation.

“We are going to follow the facts,” said Pence.

But he added the US wanted to find a way of preserving a “strong and historic partnership” with Saudi Arabia.

On Thursday, the US Treasury imposed sanctions on 17 people, including close aides of Prince Mohammed, suggesting a coordinated effort between Riyadh and Washington to pre-empt the threat of harsher actions from an outraged US Congress.

US President Donald Trump has shied away from directly blaming the Crown Prince but on Friday agreed with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that “any cover-up of the incident should not be allowed.”

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President Buhari To Attend Peace Forum In France

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President Muhammadu Buhari will today (Friday) leave Abuja for Paris, France where he will be participating in the first edition of the Paris Peace Forum, taking place between November 11 and 13, 2018.

This was disclosed in a statement on Friday by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina.

According to the statement, President Buhari is expected to join the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres and other world leaders in discussing contributions towards global peace while underscoring the imperative of collective action.

He will also join other world leaders to commemorate the centenary anniversary of the Armistice signed on November 11, 1918, between the Allied Forces and Germany in the forest of Compiegne in France to end the First World War.

Also, the President will attend a luncheon hosted by his French counterpart, President Emmanuel Macron, in honour of visiting heads of delegations.

Organised by the French Government and a number of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), the Forum is based on the “simple idea that international cooperation is key to tackling global challenges and ensuring durable peace.”

Before returning to Abuja, the President and his delegation will have an interactive session with the Nigerian Community in France.

Accompanying the president on the trip are the Governors of Katsina, Anambra and Ekiti States Aminu Masari, Willie Obiano and Kayode Fayemi, respectively.

Others include the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; the National Security Adviser, Maj-Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd); and the Director-General, National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Abubakar.

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Politics

Saraki Reshuffles Senate Committees, Axes Buhari’s Loyalist

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Senate President Bukola Saraki, on Wednesday, announced the reshuffling of heads of four standing committees in the Senate.

Saraki who made the announcement at the end of plenary on Wednesday, stated that the Chairman, Senate Committee on Police, Abu Ibrahim (APC, Katsina State) has been redeployed to the Committee on Labour, while Tijjani Kaura (APC, Zamfara) takes his stead.

Ibrahim is seen as a staunch loyalist of President Muhammadu Buhari and confidant of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, who has been having running battles with the Senate recently.

The Senate President also announced that the immediate past Senate Majority Leader, Ali Ndume (APC, Borno) now heads the Committee on Establishment while the newly sworn-in APC senator from Bauchi State, Lawal-Yahaya Gumau heads the Committee on Federal Character.

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