Qatari drivers near pole position in ranking of London parking offenders

Vehicles from Qatar racked up a staggering £191,105 ($256,578) in parking fines in Westminster between April 2016 and March 2017. (AN photo)
Updated 28 September 2017
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Qatari drivers near pole position in ranking of London parking offenders

LONDON: A visit to the UK capital means a fine day out for Qatari tourists — in more ways than one.
Drivers from the Gulf state were on Tuesday ranked second on a list of the most prolific parking offenders in the popular Westminster area.
The London borough is home to such famous sights as Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament. But now you can add illegally parked Qatari supercars to that list.
Vehicles from the country racked up a staggering £191,105 ($256,578) in parking fines in Westminster between April 2016 and March 2017, according to figures released by the London council.
The council said that most of these fines go unpaid, although it could not give an exact figure.
Qatari drivers are parked just behind those from the UK’s near-neighbor France, which ranked top of the list, with fines worth an eye-watering £356,000.
Aside from European countries, the top 10 was dominated by Gulf states, with more Middle Eastern countries in the top 10 than ever before.
Supercars from across the region are now familiar sights across central London as Gulf tourists escape the heat and come to the UK capital for the summer with their four-wheeled status symbols in tow — with many attracting the attention of both passersby and parking inspectors.
The parking-fine figures are for a period before the June 5 move by the Anti-Terror Quartet — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain — to impose a series of sanctions on Doha over the latter’s alleged support of terror groups.
The quartet views the move as a “boycott” — although Doha interprets it more harshly, as a “blockade” against it.
Despite the claim by Doha, supercars with Qatari plates were still visible on the streets of central London over summer, and spending on Qatar-registered credit and debit cards rose in June, according to payments processing company Worldpay.
The UAE ranked third in the ranking of parking offenders in Westminster, with a total bill of £116,030. Saudi Arabia made it into the top 10 for the first time, pulling up in eighth place with drivers attracting fines worth £64,065; Kuwait was a spot back with £55,530 worth of parking tickets.
Danny Chalkley, a Westminster City councilor and Cabinet member dealing with highways, stressed the need for visitors to London to remember that being on holiday does not exempt them from the normal rules of the capital’s roads.
“We gladly welcome visitors from abroad who wish to visit our iconic roads and landmarks,” he said.
“However, drivers who park irresponsibly are a nuisance for our residents and visitors alike. This should be a reminder that a foreign number plate does not give you immunity from the law.
“We are committed to ensuring those who break the rules are forced to pay up.”
While parking illegally is nothing to shout out about, those Gulf drivers who are incurring the wrath of London’s parking attendants are at least polite, according to one traffic warden Arab News spoke to.
“When I dish them out with parking fines they never complain, they just accept it with a smile, they usually have a load of friends with them and they probably don’t want to cause a fuss in front of them,” one parking attendant, who declined to be named due to company policy, said.
The council has called on the UK government to establish an international system which allows local authorities to trace foreign motorists.


Libya rivals clash south of capital, causing blackouts

Updated 18 September 2018
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Libya rivals clash south of capital, causing blackouts

  • Tuesday morning’s clashes centered on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport
  • Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the country

TRIPOLI: New clashes flared between rival militias south of Libya’s capital Tripoli on Tuesday, causing widespread power outages, the national electricity firm said.
The fighting underscored the fragility of a United Nations-backed cease-fire reached earlier this month after days of deadly violence between armed groups in the capital, beset by turmoil since the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Tuesday morning’s clashes centered on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport, according to witnesses including an AFP journalist.
Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the North African nation’s south and west.
Fighting which broke out late last month killed at least 63 people and wounded 159 others — mostly civilians — before the cease-fire came into effect on September 4.
Last week, the capital’s only working airport came under rocket fire just days after reopening following the truce.
Mitiga International Airport, located in a former military base that includes a prison, is currently controlled by the Special Deterrence Forces, a Salafist militia which serves as Tripoli’s police force and has been involved in clashes around the capital.
Interior Minister Abdessalam Ashour said Monday that a “regular force” would be tasked with securing the airport.
UN envoy Ghassan Salame later reported 14 cease-fire violations around Tripoli, but sought to play them down, saying the deal had been “generally respected.”
Tripoli’s main airport has been out of action since it was severely damaged by similar clashes in 2014.
Since Qaddafi’s fall in 2011, oil-rich Libya has been rocked by violence between dozens of armed groups vying for control of its cities and vast oil resources.
A UN-brokered agreement signed in Morocco in December 2015 established the Government of National Accord (GNA) in a bid to ease the chaos.
But deep divisions remain between the GNA and rivals including military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is based in eastern Libya and backs a competing authority.
The GNA last week announced a series of measures to secure the capital and curb the influence of militias over state institutions and banks.