Iran postpones debate on terror financing

Fighters from the Iraqi Shiite Hezbollah Brigade walk into the Wadi al-Salam cemetary in the Shiite holy city of Najaf on December 10, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 10 June 2018
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Iran postpones debate on terror financing

TEHRAN: Iran's parliament voted Sunday to suspend discussion of joining the UN Terrorism Financing Convention for two months, while it waits to see whether its nuclear deal with world powers will survive.
There has been an often furious debate among Iranian lawmakers over whether to join the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which requires members to pass numerous laws against terrorism financing and money-laundering.
Iran and North Korea are currently the only countries on the FATF black-list, adding to their difficulties in accessing global banking.
But many conservative lawmakers argue the new laws -- in the works since last year -- will cut off Iranian support to Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas -- whose military wings are designated as terrorist organisations by the United States and European Union, among others.
They say the legislation will also condemn members of the Revolutionary Guards listed as terrorists by the US, including the head of its external operations, Qassem Soleimani.
But Abbas Araghchi, deputy foreign minister, defended the efforts to join the FATF, saying it was firmly in Iran's interests.
"This very parliament was the victim of Daesh terrorism this time last year... Without international cooperation and joining international conventions, it is impossible to confront it," said Aragchi.
"Inside the country there are some holes and weaknesses in banking networks, which unfortunately facilitates terrorist groups and drug-smuggling," he added.
Daesh carried out twin attacks last June on Iran's parliament and the tomb of revolutionary founder Ruhollah Khomeini, killing 17.
Iran, a majority Shiite country, is considered a primary enemy by extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Daesh -- and has directly fought these groups in Syria and Iraq.
But with the US pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal last month and ordering full sanctions to be reimposed on Iran, many say it is pointless to join the FATF.
The other parties to the nuclear deal -- Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia -- are working to salvage the deal and maintain trade ties, but most international banks already refuse to work with Iran for fear of US penalties.
On Sunday, lawmakers voted 138 to 103 (with six abstentions) on suspending the discussion around the Terrorism Financing Convention for two months, while they wait to see how the nuclear deal discussions play out, according to ISNA.


Sudan protests rumble on as Bashir remains defiant

Updated 17 January 2019
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Sudan protests rumble on as Bashir remains defiant

  • Rights group Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at 40, including children and medical staff
  • Bashir has remained steadfast in rejecting calls for him to resign

KHARTOUM: One month after protests erupted across Sudan against rising bread prices, anti-government demonstrations have turned into daily rallies against a defiant President Omar al-Bashir who has rejected calls to resign.
Protest organisers have called for a march on the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum on Thursday, along with simultaneous demonstrations in several other cities.
Authorities say at least 24 people have died since the protests first broke out on December 19 after a government decision to triple the price of bread.
Rights group Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at 40, including children and medical staff.
The protests have escalated into nationwide anti-government demonstrations that experts say pose the biggest challenge to Bashir since he took power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.
"I have been demonstrating and will continue to demonstrate until this regime is overthrown," vowed Adel Ibrahim, 28, who has participated in demonstrations in Khartoum.
"We are protesting to save our future and the future of our homeland."
Protests initially broke out in the eastern town of Atbara, which has a history of anti-government sentiment, and within days spread to other provinces and then to Khartoum.
Cities like Port Sudan, Gadaref, Kassala and agricultural regions that previously backed Bashir saw protests calling for him to step down, while the western region of Darfur too witnessed rallies against the 75-year-old veteran leader.
Using social media networks to mobilise crowds, most protesters have marched chanting "Peace, freedom, justice", while some have even adopted the 2011 Arab Spring slogan -- "the people want the fall of the regime".
Crowds of demonstrators, whistling and clapping, have braved volleys of tear gas whenever they have taken to the streets, witnesses said.
"There's a momentum now and people are coming out daily," said prominent Sudanese columnist Faisal Mohamed Salih.
"Even the authorities are astonished."
Although the unrest was triggered by the cut in a vital bread subsidy, Sudan has faced a mounting economic crisis in the past year, including an acute shortage of foreign currency.
Repeated shortages of food and fuel have been reported across cities, including in Khartoum, while the cost of food and medicine has more than doubled.
Officials have blamed Washington for Sudan's economic woes.
The US imposed a trade embargo on Khartoum in 1997 that was lifted only in October 2017. It restricted Sudan from conducting international business and financial transactions.
But critics of Bashir say his government's mismanagement of key sectors and its huge spending on fighting ethnic minority rebellions in Darfur and in areas near the South Sudan border has been stoking economic trouble for years.
"If this regime continues like this, we will soon lose our country, which is why we have to fight," said Ibrahim, who has been looking for a job for years.
An umbrella group of unions of doctors, teachers and engineers calling itself the Sudanese Professionals' Association has spearheaded the campaign, calling this week the "Week of Uprising".
"Protesters don't even know the organisers by names, but they still trust them," said Salih.
Sudanese authorities led by the feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) have cracked down on protesters, drawing international criticism.
More than 1,000 people, including protesters, activists, opposition leaders and journalists have been arrested so far, rights groups say.
Bashir has remained steadfast in rejecting calls for him to resign.
"Demonstrations will not change the government," he told a rally in Darfur on Monday as supporters chanted "Stay, stay".
"There's only one road to power and that is through the ballot box. The Sudanese people will decide in 2020 who will govern them," said Bashir, who is planning to run for the presidency for the third time in elections to be held next year.
Two uprisings in Sudan in 1964 and 1985 saw regimes change within days, but experts say this time protesters have a long road ahead.
"At the moment, Bashir appears to have the majority of the security services on his side," said Willow Berridge, a lecturer at Britain's Newcastle University.
Bashir's ruling National Congress Party has dismissed the demonstrations.
"There are some gatherings, but they are isolated and not big," party spokesman Ibrahim al-Siddiq told AFP.
The International Crisis Group think-tank said Bashir might well weather the unrest.
"But if he does, it will almost certainly be at the cost of further economic decline, greater popular anger, more protests and even tougher crackdowns," it said in a report.
Salih said protesters appeared to be determined.
"But the one who tires first will lose," he said.