World leaders hail liberation of Raqqa

World leaders welcomed the defeat of Daesh in Raqqa. (AP)
Updated 21 October 2017
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World leaders hail liberation of Raqqa

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has joined the international community in hailing the liberation of Raqqa from the grip of Daesh terrorists.
The Kingdom expressed happiness about the opposition forces’ victory over Daesh in Raqqa, according to a statement issued in Riyadh,
An official source at theForeign Ministry said Saudi Arabia “considered the purification of Raqqa as an important step in the fight against terrorism.”
The source expressed the Kingdom’s hope that “this step will entail many serious steps to clear Syria, Iraq and the region of terrorism and extremism.”
The Saudi statement came as French President Emmanuel Macron said the fight against Daesh has entered “a major new phase” after Friday’s announcement by Syrian regime forces backed by the US-led coalition.
He thanked allied countries involved in the battle to take back Raqqa, notably those who died “defending liberty in the face of terrorist horror.”
France’s military has been involved in the coalition’s operations in Iraq since 2014 and in Syria since 2015, when Daesh extremists killed 130 people around Paris. France remains in a state of emergency and a target of Daesh threats.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian pledged €15 million by the end of the year in aid for civilians in Raqqa, including food water and sappers.
He said the liberation of Raqqa “deals a decisive blow to IS (Daesh), which made it the epicenter for orchestrating numerous attacks.”
Le Drian added that his “first thoughts go to the victims of this barbarism at the Bataclan, in the streets of Paris and Nice and elsewhere.”
A former defense minister, Le Drian warned that the challenges of post-Raqqa are considerable, “first in fighting pockets” of IS that remain and then “stabilizing liberated territories and finding a lasting political solution” for all components of Syrian society.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson earlier congratulated the Syrian people and the US.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces on the liberation of the city of Raqqa from the Daesh group.
In a statement released on Friday, Tillerson says the United States is proud to lead the 73-member global coalition in the fight against IS.
He says the coalition efforts has seen Islamic State’s “so-called caliphate crumble across Iraq and Syria” but cautions that “our work is far from over.”
Tillerson says the “liberation of Raqqa is a critical milestone in the global fight ... to defeat these terrorists.”
He says the fall of the city that was IS’ de facto capital also “marks the beginning of a new phase in the Syrian conflict” in which the United States and its partners will seek to “de-escalate violence across Syria.”
He says: “We are confident that we will prevail and defeat this brutal terrorist organization.”
The US-led coalition said Daesh’s loss of the Mosul and Raqqa are “turning points” for the extremist group, but adds a “tough fight” still lies ahead to eradicate Daesh remnants in Iraq and Syria.
In a statement released on Friday, it congratulated its Syrian partners, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), for conducting “a highly effective, professional operation in a difficult urban area.”
The statement said the liberated city of Raqqa will not return to local governance and leadership.
“Raqqawis now have a chance to control their own future,” it said.
The SDF on Friday declared victory over IS in Raqqa and formally handed over administration of the city to a US-backed council made up of of local officials and tribal leaders.
Iran’s army chief of staff and other senior officers from the Iranian military have visited a front line in the northern province of Aleppo saying that the extremists’ presence in Syria is coming to an end.
Iran has been one of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s strongest supporters since the country’s crisis began more than six years ago and has sent thousands of Iranian-backed militiamen to boost his troops against opponents.
Syrian regime forces and Iran-backed groups have scored major victories against Daesh in eastern Syrian recently capturing last week the Daesh stronghold of Mayadeen. Syrian troops and allied fighters are now marching toward the town of Boukamal on the border with Iraq.


Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

  • By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011
  • Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has survived attempts by his own party and unions to force him out but, with elections looming, looks less and less able to enact the economic reforms that have so far secured IMF support for an ailing economy.

Last week, the Nidaa Tounes party suspended Chahed after a campaign by the party chairman, who is the son of President Beji Caid Essebsi.

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence by working with the co-ruling Islamist Ennahda party and a number of other lawmakers including 10 Nidaa Tounes rebels. But his political capital is now badly depleted.

By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011.

In that time, he has pushed through austerity measures and structural reforms such as cutting fuel subsidies that have helped to underpin a $2.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial support.

Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up, not least as a bulwark against extremism.

Yet the economy, and living standards, continue to suffer: inflation and unemployment are at record levels, and goods such as medicines or even staples such as milk are often in short supply, or simply unaffordable to many.

And in recent months, the 43-year old former agronomist’s main focus has been to hold on to his job as his party starts to look to its ratings ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls in a year’s time.

The breathing space he has won is at best temporary; while propping him up for now, Ennahda says it will not back him to be prime minister again after the elections.

And, more pressingly, the powerful UGTT labor union on Thursday called a public sector strike for Oct. 24 to protest against Chahed’s privatization plans.

This month, the government once more raised petrol and electricity prices to secure the next tranche of loans, worth $250 million, which the IMF is expected to approve next week.

But the IMF also wants it to cut a public wage bill that takes up 15 percent of GDP, one of the world’s highest rates.