Muslim rebel commanders transform into Philippine officials

Muslim women pray in Manila on Monday after a nationwide peace caravan from Mindanao to show support for the signing of a framework agreement. (File/Reuters)
Updated 22 February 2019
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Muslim rebel commanders transform into Philippine officials

  • The Philippines and Western governments and the guerrillas see Muslim autonomy as an antidote to ease nearly half a century of Muslim secessionist violence
  • About 12,000 combatants are expected to be demobilized starting this year under the peace deal

MANILA, Philippines: Some of the fiercest Muslim rebel commanders in the southern Philippines are in Manila to be sworn in as administrators of a new Muslim autonomy region in a delicate milestone to settle one of Asia’s longest-raging rebellions.
President Rodrigo Duterte will lead a ceremony Friday to name Moro Islamic Liberation Front leader Murad Embrahim and some of his top commanders as administrators of a transition government for the five-province Bangsamoro region.
About 12,000 combatants are expected to be demobilized starting this year under the peace deal.
The Philippines and Western governments and the guerrillas see Muslim autonomy as an antidote to ease nearly half a century of Muslim secessionist violence, which the Daesh group could exploit to gain a foothold.


France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

Updated 25 March 2019
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France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

  • The ban will become effective starting April 1
  • The airlines were also banned by Germany since January

PARIS: France has banned flights in and out of the country by Iran’s Mahan Air, accusing it of transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other Middle East war zones, diplomats said on Monday, after heavy US pressure on Paris to act.
The decision to revoke Mahan’s license to operate in France was made after Germany banned the airline in January.
Paris had considered revoking its license more than two years ago under the presidency of Francois Hollande, but had backed down because it feared it could harm relations just after a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers was signed in 2015.
The United States imposed sanctions on Mahan Air in 2011, saying it provided financial and other support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and Washington has been pressing its European allies to follow suit.
“We knew of their activities from our own intelligence services and after the German move it was a question of credibility,” said a French diplomatic source.
The French ban on the airline, which had four flights a week to Paris from Tehran, takes effect from April 1. The airline’s website is no longer taking reservations and calls to its offices in Paris were not answered.
Tensions between Paris and Tehran have grown in recent months as President Emmanuel Macron and his government have become increasingly frustrated with Iran’s ballistic missile tests, regional activities and a foiled attack on an Iranian exile group in France, which Paris says Iranian intelligence was behind.
Both countries only reappointed ambassadors to each other’s capitals last month after more than six months without envoys.
There are no plans at this stage to ban another airline — Iran Air — said one diplomat.
Mahan Air, established in 1992 as Iran’s first private airline, has the country’s largest fleet of aircraft and has flights to a number of European countries, including France, Italy, Spain and Greece.
European countries have been under sustained US pressure to reimpose sanctions on Iran since President Donald Trump last year pulled Washington out of an international nuclear non-proliferation treaty reached with Tehran under his predecessor Barack Obama.
Along with Iran, the other signatories to the deal — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — are still trying to keep it alive and set up in January a mechanism to allow trade with Tehran and circumvent US sanctions.