Iraqi PM Abadi heads to Saudi Arabia at start of MidEast tour

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi attends the 28th Ordinary Summit of the Arab League at the Dead Sea, Jordan March 29, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 June 2017
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Iraqi PM Abadi heads to Saudi Arabia at start of MidEast tour

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi headed on Monday to Saudi Arabia, the first leg of a Middle East tour that will also include Iran and Kuwait, in a diplomatic effort to foster regional reconciliation, his office said.
Abadi’s visit to Saudi Arabia aims to promote reconciliation between the Sunni Muslim kingdom and majority Shiite Iraq and also to help heal deep and bitter divisions between Iraq’s Shiites and its Sunni Muslim minority.
Abadi had been due to visit Riyadh last week but postponed his trip to avoid appearing to take sides in a diplomatic dispute that erupted between Qatar and several other Arab states including Saudi Arabia, officials have said.
Qatar is facing a severe economic and diplomatic boycott by Saudi Arabia and its regional allies, which accuse Doha of funding terrorism, fomenting regional unrest and cosying up to their enemy Iran. Qatar denies the charges.
Abadi’s meeting with King Salman of Saudi Arabia will be their second meeting this year as the neighbors try to heal a rift over Iraq’s alliance with Shiite Iran.
“We don’t want to be part of any axis,” Abadi said as he left Baghdad, referring to an Iran-led Shiite regional coalition and a Saudi-led Sunni coalition.
“We want to coordinate with these states to continue fighting terrorism,” Abadi said, referring to Daesh, the hard-line Sunni group which controls parts of Iraq and Syria, and has claimed attacks in Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries.
Iraq lies on the fault line between Shiite Iran and the mainly Sunni Arab world. Deep-running animosity and distrust between the two sides is fueled by sectarian divides.
Tensions have escalated as Iran, by leveraging its ties with Iraq’s Shiites, emerged as the main power broker in Iraq after the United States withdrew its troops in 2011.
King Salman and Abadi last met in March on the sidelines of an Arab summit. In February Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir made a rare visit to Baghdad in February.


Egypt arrests activist Hazem Abdel-Azim, former El-Sisi supporter

Updated 27 May 2018
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Egypt arrests activist Hazem Abdel-Azim, former El-Sisi supporter

  • Egyptian security officials say a prominent activist has been detained

CAIRO: Egyptian security officials say a prominent activist has been detained, the latest in a new wave of arrests since presidential elections earlier this year.
The officials say Hazem Abdel-Azim was taken from his home in a Cairo suburb late Saturday on accusations that include disseminating false news and belonging to an outlawed group.
Abdel-Azim has been known for his harsh criticism of the government since he left President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s campaign in the 2014 elections.
The officials spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to media.
Egypt has arrested a number of secular activists since El-Sisi was re-elected in March in a vote in which he faced no serious challengers.
The latest arrests come amid a wider crackdown on dissent in which thousands of people have been jailed.