PM Abadi says opposed to repeat of Iraq election

File photo showing Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi attends the election campaign, along with his supporters in Kirkuk, Iraq April 28, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 12 June 2018
0

PM Abadi says opposed to repeat of Iraq election

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said on Tuesday he opposed any repeat of the May 12 parliamentary election, and warned that anyone who tried to sabotage the political process would be punished, after allegations of electoral fraud raised tensions.
Parliament has demanded a nationwide recount of votes, drawing calls for the election to be re-run. Abadi said only the Supreme Federal Court could decide whether to re-run the vote, which was won by Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr’s bloc.
“The matter is exclusively in the hands of the judiciary, not politicians. The government and parliament don’t have the power to cancel the election,” Abadi told a news conference.
On Monday, Sadr urged Iraqis to unite rather than squabble over a possible re-run of the election, in a message apparently meant to lower the political temperature after a ballot box storage depot caught fire.
Abadi called the fire a deliberate act and said the attorney general would bring charges against those who are trying to undermine the political process.
An Iraqi court ordered the arrest of four people accused of setting fire to the storage site, the judiciary said. Three of them were policemen and one an employee of the Independent High Elections Commission.
Abadi said a preliminary report had provided evidence of gasoline at multiple areas inside the storage site. It also showed that security cameras had been disabled and no locks had been broken, implying it was carried out by someone with access to the storage site.
Iraqi authorities said the ballot boxes had been rescued but the fire has fueled fears of violence.
Sadr, who once led violent campaigns against the US occupation that ended in 2011, has emerged as a nationalist opponent of powerful parties allied with neighboring Iran and as a champion of the poor.
He has warned that certain parties are trying to drag Iraq into a civil war, adding that he would not participate in one.
Abadi thanked Sadr for a disarmament initiative he floated after a weapons cache at his Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City exploded, killing 18 people, and said he hoped the cleric would stick to it.
“I welcome Sayed Moqtada’s announcement that his followers commit to not having weapons outside the framework of the state. We consider this good,” he said, adding that those responsible for the explosion would be brought to justice.
“What happened in Sadr City is very regrettable, it is a crime. Those responsible will receive their just punishment.”


Russia ‘trying to help Syrian refugees to return home’

Russian soldiers distribute aid in the central Syrian province of Homs. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 August 2018
0

Russia ‘trying to help Syrian refugees to return home’

  • A buffer zone separates Syria to the east, from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the west
  • The Russian military police have set up four observation points along the demarcation line on the Syrian side of the buffer zone

MOSCOW: The Russian Defense Ministry said it was coordinating efforts to help Syrian refugees return home and rebuild the country’s infrastructure destroyed by the civil war.
Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said in a conference call that included Russian and Syrian officials that work is underway to rebuild dozens of Syria’s power stations, schools and other vital institutions.
In Damascus, Syrian Public Administration Minister Hussein Makhlouf pledged the regime would protect refugee property rights and grant returning refugees a year’s deferral from military conscription.
“The Syrian government is working to simplify procedures for refugees who return, repair housing and try to create new jobs,” Makhlouf said, adding that the authorities were also working to streamline legislation to facilitate refugee returns.
He dismissed as hostile “propaganda” claims that some refugees were facing arrests on their return.
Makhlouf called on Western nations to drop their sanctions against Damascus, introduced early in the seven-year conflict, in order to help post-war restoration and encourage the return of the refugees.
Mizintsev said that over 1.2 million of internally displaced Syrians and about 300,000 refugees have returned in the past two and a half years.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin might take part in a summit with the leaders of Turkey and Iran at the beginning of September.
The three leaders met in April at a summit in Ankara where they discussed developments in Syria.
With help from its Russian ally, President Bashar Assad’s regime has expelled fighters from large parts of Syria’s south since June.
Israel has repeatedly pledged to prevent Iran from establishing a military presence along its border. A series of airstrikes that killed Iranians inside Syria have been attributed to Israel.
A buffer zone separates Syria to the east, from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the west.
The Russian army’s Lt.-Gen. Sergei Kuralenko told reporters on an organized press tour this week how “stability” had returned to the buffer zone.
Apart from “a few problems with Daesh” in its southern tip, the demilitarized zone was “entirely under control of Syrian military police,” Kuralenko said.
“Everything is ready” for the return of UN troops, he said, after the peacekeepers were forced to withdraw in 2014.
After retaking most of the two southern provinces adjacent to the buffer zone, regime forces last month raised their flag inside, above the key border crossing of Quneitra.
The Russian military police have set up four observation points along the demarcation line on the Syrian side of the buffer zone, Kuralenko said, and plan to set up four more in the near future.
They are “willing to hand them over to the UN if it says it is ready to ensure the monitoring of the Golan alone,” he said.