Egypt’s El-Sisi says law curbing NGOs needs to be more “balanced“

In this photo provided by Egypt's state news agency MENA, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, speaks during a youth conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. (AP)
Updated 05 November 2018
0

Egypt’s El-Sisi says law curbing NGOs needs to be more “balanced“

  • Rights groups say the May 2017 law effectively bans their work and makes it harder for charities to operate
  • El-Sisi said: “I believe in the work done by civil society organizations.”

CAIRO: Egypt’s president has signalled he might order a review of a law restricting the work of non-governmental organizations, which has raised an outcry from human rights groups, saying it needed to be “balanced.”
Rights groups say the May 2017 law effectively bans their work and makes it harder for charities to operate. Officials have said it is necessary, arguing that foreign-funded NGOs threaten national security.
Responding to a request from a participant in a youth forum in the Red Sea city of Sharm Al-Sheikh on Sunday to revisit the NGO law, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said: “I agree with you. I believe in the work done by civil society organizations.”
“The law contained phobia and a fear of these organizations for Egypt,” he added.
“I want to reassure those who are listening to me inside Egypt and outside of Egypt, that in Egypt, we are keen that the law becomes balanced and achieves what is required of it to regulate the work of these groups in a good way. This is not just political talk,” El-Sisi said.
The measure restricts NGO activity to development and social work and brought in jail terms of up to five years for violation.
El-Sisi said the government was dissatisfied with the law when it was issued last year and he had opted not to actively enforce it, “in the hope that we can move to redraft it.”
While critics have said that the law mainly targets rights groups, even apolitical charities have complained it restricts them at a time when subsidy cuts and tax increases have made it harder for Egyptians to make ends meet.
Charities have long played an important role in feeding, clothing and providing health care and education in a country where millions live on less than $2 a day.
Under the law, donations exceeding 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($560) must be pre-approved. If no approval is granted within 60 days the request is automatically denied. Failure to inform authorities could result in jail terms of up to five years and fines of up to 1 million Egyptian pounds ($56,000).
Gamal Eid, founder and director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, expressed skepticism over El-Sisi’s seriousness in amending the law.
“If the calls for an independent civil society from abroad ease, he will not amend the law,” Eid said, adding that the government did not respect civil society in Egypt. ($1 = 17.8600 Egyptian pounds)


Iran's foreign minister walks back from remark on missile talks

Updated 17 July 2019
0

Iran's foreign minister walks back from remark on missile talks

  • Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with NBC News that if the US wants to talk about Iran's missiles, it needs "first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region"
  • A compromise deal remains the best way to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday

TEHRAN: Iran's foreign minister said Wednesday that his country has no choice but to manufacture missiles for defense purposes — comments that reflect more backtracking after a remark by the top diplomat suggesting the missiles could be up for negotiations.
Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with NBC News that aired earlier this week that if the US wants to talk about Iran's missiles, it needs "first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region."
Iran has long rejected negotiations over its ballistic missile program, which remains under the control of the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard that answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The foreign minister's remarks suggested a possible opening for talks as tensions remain high between Tehran and Washington.
But the Iranian mission to the United Nations promptly called Zarif's suggestion purely "hypothetical" and said the Iranian missiles were "absolutely and under no condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period."
In Tehran, the Foreign Ministry's spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, tweeted late on Tuesday that Zarif's comments meant to challenge Washington and "threw the ball into the US court while challenging America's arm sales" to its Mideast allies.
Zarif himself on Wednesday backpedaled on the missiles issue, saying Iran has no choice but to manufacture the missiles for its own defense.
He cited the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and tweeted that, "For 8 YEARS, Saddam (Hussein) showered our cities with missiles & bombs provided by East & West. Meanwhile, NO ONE sold Iran any means of defense. We had no choice but building our own. Now they complain."
"Instead of skirting the issue, US must end arms sales to Saddam's reincarnations," Zarif also said.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have sharply escalated since President Donald Trump unilaterally last year withdrew America from the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.
America has also rushed thousands of additional troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Mideast amid unspecified threats from Iran.
Mysterious oil tanker blasts near the Strait of Hormuz, attacks by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and Iran's shooting down of a U.S. military drone in the past months further raised fears of a wider conflict engulfing a region crucial to global energy supplies.

A compromise deal remains the best way to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday.

The UN nuclear watchdog has confirmed that Iran earlier this month violated the 2015 accord, and Iran's supreme leader on Tuesday said Tehran would keep removing restraints on its nuclear activity in the deal.

In her last major speech before stepping down next week, May said the nuclear deal must be protected "whatever its challenges".

"Whether we like it or not a compromise deal remains the best way to get the outcome we all still ultimately seek – to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and to preserve the stability of the region," May said.

Recently, British authorities intercepted the Iranian supertanker Grace 1, carrying 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, and seized it with the help of British Royal Marines off the coast of Gibraltar.
They believed it to be violating European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to Syria. Spanish authorities said the seizure came at the request of the United States.
This is not the only issue between Iran and Britain.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman imprisoned in Iran following her arrest in April 2016 on charges of plotting against the Iranian government, has been transferred to a hospital mental health facility, her husband said Wednesday.
Her family denies the allegations against her.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said in Britain that his wife has been moved to the mental health ward of Iman Khomeini hospital under the control of the Revolutionary Guard.
"Hopefully her transfer to hospital means that she is getting treatment and care, despite my distrust of just what pressures can happen behind closed doors. It is unnerving when we don't know what is going on," he said.
Iran does not recognize dual nationality.
British officials have urged Iranian officials to let her have contact with her family.