Iran candidates exchange barbs in fiery final debate

Supporters of Iranian conservative presidential candidate, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, pose for a selfie during a campaign rally in Tehran. (AFP)
Updated 14 May 2017
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Iran candidates exchange barbs in fiery final debate

TEHRAN: Iran’s six presidential candidates exchanged barbs in their final debate on Friday, accusing each other of corruption and economic mismanagement a week ahead of the election.
Seeking a second four-year term, moderate President Hassan Rouhani has been on the offensive all week, framing the vote as a choice between greater social freedoms and repression.
But the theme of Friday’s debate was the economy, where continued stagnation and high unemployment have given plenty of ammunition to his conservative opponents.
Hard-line Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf repeatedly returned to his theme that Rouhani’s administration had only benefited the “four percenters” at the top of society.
“The country is facing an economic crisis, with unemployment, recession and inflation. A tree that has not born any fruit in four years will not yield anything positive in the future,” said Ghalibaf.
“Tens of thousands of our factories have been closed and they are continuing to close.”
Rouhani hit back that Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers had ended sanctions and brought a windfall from the return of oil sales over the past year that could now be invested. “We want to allocate $15 billion for investments... and $3-5 billion for supporting the poor and needy,” he said.
He said handouts would be focused on rural and deprived areas — places where conservatives have tended to perform more strongly.
Cleric and jurist Ebrahim Raisi is seen as the leading conservative, though still a distant second to Rouhani in unofficial polls ahead of the Friday vote. He kept up his efforts to reach out to poor and religiously conservative voters.
“The people expect government members to fear God,” he said.
“Poverty has increased with this government from 23 percent to 33 percent. We must increase direct aid to the poor,” he added, accusing Rouhani’s government of only boosting subsidies at the last minute to grab votes.
“Why did you wait for the election campaign to increase aid? Why didn’t you do it four years ago? The people are intelligent and they will decide.”
The six candidates selected to run by the conservative-dominated Guardian Council are evenly split between moderate-reformists on one side and hard-liners on the other, and the debates have the feel of two teams clashing.
Some of the fiercest exchanges were between Ghalibaf and Iran’s reformist vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri, who accused each other of corruption and making empty promises.


Camel dung fuels cement production in northern UAE

Updated 5 min 50 sec ago
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Camel dung fuels cement production in northern UAE

  • Farmers in the emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah drop off camel excrement at collection stations

RAS AL-KHAIMAH: Thousands of tons of camel dung are being used to fuel cement production in the northern United Arab Emirates, cutting emissions and keeping animal waste out of landfill.
Under a government-run scheme, farmers in the emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah drop off camel excrement at collection stations. It is then blended with coal to power the boiler at a large cement factory.
“People started to laugh, believe me,” said the general manager of Gulf Cement Company, Mohamed Ahmed Ali Ebrahim, describing the moment the waste management agency proposed the idea.
But after running tests, the company found two tons of camel waste could replace one ton of coal.
“We heard from our grandfathers that they used cow dung for heating. But nobody had thought about the camel waste itself,” said Ebrahim, whose factory now uses 50 tons of camel dung a day.
Cow dung has been tapped as a resource to generate energy from the United States, to Zimbabwe to China. Camel dung is a rarer fuel but one well suited to Ras Al-Khaimah, one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, home to around 9,000 camels used in milk production, racing and beauty contests.
Each camel produces some 8kg of faeces daily — far more than farmers use as fertilizer.
A blend of one part dung to nine parts coal burns steadily — essential for cement ovens that work continuously at up to 1,400 degrees Celsius.
The main aim of the project is to prevent camel waste from ending up in the dump, with the government seeking to divert 75% of all waste from landfill by 2021.
“We don’t make use of it. The most important thing is for the area to be clean, for the camels to be clean,” said farm owner Ahmed Al-Khatri, stroking camel calves in the afternoon sun as a farm worker sifted dung for collection.
Authorities want more cement plants to adopt the practice and start using chicken and industrial waste, as well as sludge from water treatment, said Sonia Ytaurte Nasser, executive director of the waste management agency.
“Waste is just a resource in the wrong place,” she said.