Syria, abetted by Russia, still possesses and uses chemical weapons: US

Syria, abetted by Russia, still possesses and uses chemical weapons: US
Abu Ghassan, 50, a survivor of a 2013 chemical attack in the Ghouta region of Damascus, points at a piece of one of the rockets used in the strike. (Reuters)
Updated 14 April 2017

Syria, abetted by Russia, still possesses and uses chemical weapons: US

Syria, abetted by Russia, still possesses and uses chemical weapons: US

THE HAGUE: Syrian authorities — “abetted by Russia’s continuing efforts to bury the truth” — still possess and use chemical weapons, an American diplomat told the international chemical weapons watchdog on Thursday.
The strong comments by Kenneth D. Ward, the American ambassador to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), came amid ongoing diplomatic skirmishes over last week’s deadly attack in Syria.
Ward used a hastily convened meeting of the organization’s executive council to launch a withering verbal attack on Syrian President Bashar Assad and his allies in Moscow.
The meeting was called to discuss the April 4 attack on the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun that killed nearly 90 people. The US and other Western governments blame Assad’s regime. Washington in retaliation launched missile strikes on a Syrian air base they say was the starting point for the chemical weapons attack, a move that ratcheted up tensions between the US and Syria’s ally Russia.
Russia and Syria claim the Khan Sheikhun victims were killed by toxic agents released from an opposition chemical arsenal hit by Syrian warplanes.
But Ward insisted it was a deliberate attack that amounted to “a direct affront to the Chemical Weapons Convention and, indeed, a direct affront to human decency, carried out by a state party” to the OPCW, according to the text of his speech that was posted on the organization’s website.
Syria joined the OPCW in 2013 under severe international pressure following a deadly chemical attack on a Damascus suburb. Assad’s regime told the organization it had a 1,300-ton stockpile of chemical weapons and chemicals used to make them. That stockpile was destroyed in an operation overseen by the Nobel Peace Prize winning-group OPCW, but ever since there have been questions about whether Assad had declared all his weapons.
“On April 4, the bodies of innocent victims, grotesquely contorted and twisted by the nerve agent sarin, tell the real story,” Ward said. “Syria provided a grossly incomplete declaration to the OPCW of its chemical weapons program. It continues to possess and use chemical weapons.”
He added that “this outrage is abetted by Russia’s continuing efforts to bury the truth and protect the Syrian regime” form consequences of using chemical weapons.
Britain’s Ambassador, Sir Geoffrey Adams, told the meeting that UK scientists have analyzed samples from Khan Sheikhun and they “tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, or a sarin-like substance.”
Earlier this week, Turkish doctors also said that test results conducted on victims confirmed that sarin gas was used.
The OPCW’s Fact Finding Mission for Syria is conducting an investigation and is expected to report its findings in three weeks. The organization has not revealed any details, citing the need to preserve the integrity of the probe and the safety of OPCW staff.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday that OPCW inspectors should visit both the Syrian air base, which the US said served as a platform for the attack, and Khan Sheikhun to get a full and objective picture.
He said Russia vetoed a draft UN resolution Wednesday because it failed to mention the need to inspect the area of the attack.
“We are deeply worried by our partners in the UN Security Council trying to evade an honest investigation into that episode,” he said.


Syrian regime used chemical weapons in 2018 attack on Saraqib

Syrian regime used chemical weapons in 2018 attack on Saraqib
Updated 25 min 40 sec ago

Syrian regime used chemical weapons in 2018 attack on Saraqib

Syrian regime used chemical weapons in 2018 attack on Saraqib
  • Syrian Arab Air Force used the chemical weapon chlorine in an attack on the town of Saraqib in 2018
  • OPCW previously reported that Assad’s air force used the nerve agent sarin and chlorine in two attacks on the village of Lataminah in March 2017

THE HAGUE: The Syrian regime’s air force used the chemical weapon chlorine in an attack on the town of Saraqib in 2018, the global toxic arms watchdog said on Monday after an investigation.
The report is the second by an investigations team set up by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which has the new power to apportion blame for attacks.
The OPCW said in a statement that the Investigations and Identification Team “concludes that units of the Syrian Arab Air Force used chemical weapons in Saraqib on 4 February 2018.”
“The report reached the conclusion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that, at approximately 21:22 on 4 February 2018, a military helicopter of the Syrian Arab Air Force under the control of the Tiger Forces hit eastern Saraqib by dropping at least one cylinder,” the OPCW report said.
“The cylinder ruptured and released chlorine over a large area, affecting 12 named individuals.”
The team issued its first report a year ago, in which it said Syrian President Bashar Assad’s air force used the nerve agent sarin and chlorine in two attacks on the village of Lataminah in March 2017.


34 migrants dead after boat capsizes off Djibouti: IOM

34 migrants dead after boat capsizes off Djibouti: IOM
Updated 12 April 2021

34 migrants dead after boat capsizes off Djibouti: IOM

34 migrants dead after boat capsizes off Djibouti: IOM
  • Survivors reported that the boat capsized in rough seas at around 4:00 am after leaving Yemen with around 60 passengers on board

DJIBOUTI: Thirty-four migrants drowned on Monday after their boat capsized off the coast of Djibouti, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said, the second such accident in just over a month.
Survivors reported that the boat capsized in rough seas at around 4:00 am (0100 GMT) after leaving Yemen with around 60 passengers on board, an IOM official in Djibouti told AFP, asking not to be named.
"The migrants were being transported by people smugglers," Mohammed Abdiker, the IOM's regional director for East Africa and the Horn of Africa, added on Twitter.
"Apprehending and prosecuting people traffickers and smugglers who exploit the vulnerabilities of migrants must become a priority. Too many lives needlessly lost."
There were "many children" among the bodies found, the first official said, adding that survivors were receiving treatment from the IOM and local authorities.
The boat capsized in seas north of the Djibouti port town of Obock, a major transit point for thousands of African migrants in the region trying to reach the Gulf.
It follows a similar accident on March 4 when 20 people drowned after smugglers threw dozens of migrants overboard during a journey between Djibouti and Yemen across the Gulf of Aden.
At least 200 migrants were packed aboard that vessel when it left Djibouti. But about 30 minutes into the voyage the smugglers panicked about the weight on board, and threw 80 people into the sea before turning back towards land.
Two similar incidents in October claimed the lives of at least 50 migrants.
Every year thousands of migrants make perilous boat journeys from the Horn of Africa to war-torn Yemen, many with the aim of travelling overland to Gulf nations in search of work.
It is believed thousands of migrants are stranded in Yemen, where a years-long conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions in what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
The strait which separates Djibouti from Yemen is unusual in that it sees migrants and refugees passing in both directions -- boatloads of Yemenis fleeing to Africa to escape war, while others head in the opposite direction carrying African migrants to the Arabian Peninsula in search of better opportunities.


Netanyahu says will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons

Netanyahu says will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons
Updated 9 min 59 sec ago

Netanyahu says will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons

Netanyahu says will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons

DUBAI: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Iran has never given up efforts to obtain nuclear weapons and that Israel will never allow Tehran to build them.
The Israeli leader, addressing reporters with visiting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at his side, made no comment about Iran's accusation that Israel had sabotaged its key Natanz nuclear site.

Iran blamed Israel for Sunday's incident at the Natanz nuclear site and will take its revenge, state TV quoted Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying on Monday.
Iranian authorities described the incident a day earlier as an act of "nuclear terrorism" and said Tehran reserves the right to take action against the perpetrators.
Iran and world powers held what they described as "constructive" talks last week aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran that Washington abandoned three years ago.
"The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions ... they have publicly said that they will not allow this. But we will take our revenge from the Zionists," Zarif was quoted as saying.

On Monday, Iran had identified the person who disrupted flow of power at the Natanz nuclear facility that led to electricity outage in the site, Iran’s Nournews website quoted intelligence sources as saying.
“The person has been identified ... Necessary measures are being taken to arrest this person who caused the electricity outage in one of the halls at the Natanz site,” the website reported. It gave no details about the person.


Dubai’s local campaign to provide food goes international

Dubai’s local campaign to provide food goes international
Updated 12 April 2021

Dubai’s local campaign to provide food goes international

Dubai’s local campaign to provide food goes international
  • The program is an expansion of last year’s local ‘10 Million Meals’
  • Donations can be made across the globe to the campaign through www.100millionmeals.ae

DUBAI: The ‘100 Million Meals’ campaign, launched by Dubai’s ruler, will provide food parcels for the needy across 20 countries during Ramadan.
The program is an expansion of last year’s local ‘10 Million Meals,’ which distributed food in communities affected by the coronavirus pandemic across the country.
Individuals and companies across the globe can make donations to the campaign through www.100millionmeals.ae, which will then distribute food in countries such as Sudan, Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan, Angola, Uganda and Egypt.
“Providing food during the holy month of Ramadan is the best we can give from the UAE to humanity,” Dubai’s Ruler Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum said.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI) will work with the UN World Food Program, Food Banking Regional Network and local humanitarian organizations in receiving countries to distribute food for those in need.
“We will work with humanitarian organizations, companies, entities and humanitarians to join us in securing 100 million meals to bring a sense of safety to underserved homes across the world,” Al-Maktoum said.  
The campaign also supports the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to end hunger by 2030.


‘Green Paradise’ brings hydroponics to Libya

‘Green Paradise’ brings hydroponics to Libya
Agriculture remains a marginal sector in Libya, where the economy is dominated by hydrocarbons, the country boasting the most abundant oil reserves in Africa. (AFP)
Updated 12 April 2021

‘Green Paradise’ brings hydroponics to Libya

‘Green Paradise’ brings hydroponics to Libya

TRIPOLI: Under a yellow tarpaulin stretched over an arched metal frame, Siraj Bechiya and his partner inspect their hydroponically grown lettuce, pioneers of the method in mostly desert Libya where conventional agriculture struggles.
Zip ties, punctured plastic cups as pots and PVC tubing bought in DIY shops hold the precious crops at “Green Paradise” — so dubbed by the two young Libyan entrepreneurs spearheading the project.
But the ad hoc nature of the materials hasn’t stopped the plants from thriving, their long white roots nourished by water rich with nutrients and oxygen.
Bechiya and his partner, Mounir, have been working tirelessly on their project for months in the small town of Qouwea, 40 km east of the capital Tripoli, erecting a tunnel-shaped greenhouse surrounded by breeze-block walls on a semi-arid site.
Their hope is to demystify hydroponic farming, which “guarantees a good yield in small spaces,” uses little water and doesn’t need pesticides, 20-year-old Bechiya told AFP.
Soilless farming has gained ground in many countries but is still in its infancy in Libya.
But in a country whose territory is 90 percent arid desert, the method could offer a path toward more food self-sufficiency, Bechiya believes.
Agriculture remains a marginal sector in Libya, where the economy is dominated by hydrocarbons, the country boasting the most abundant oil reserves in Africa.
Arable land barely makes up three percent of Libya’s territory and is under threat, as rapid urbanization eats up the fertile strip along the Mediterranean coast.
Another major challenge to farming in Libya is the lack of water where agriculture needs it most.
The Great Man-Made River — a pharaonic project realized by former ruler Muammar Qaddafi more than 30 years ago — carries drinking water pumped from groundwater tables in the south to the northern cities where most Libyans live.
But this resource is not infinite, and the GMMR’s network has been heavily damaged in the decade of conflict that has ravaged Libya since Qaddafi’s ouster in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising.
In the face of these challenges, Bechiya and Mounir set out to train in hydroponics two years ago in neighboring Tunisia.
“When we came back, it was imperative that we move from theory to practice,” Bechiya said.
“We started with some vegetables in the house and we were surprised by people’s enthusiasm.”
In theory, hydroponics can guarantee higher yields and profits than conventional farming, which is at risk from weather, water shortages and pollution from unregulated pesticide use.
“With more space in the greenhouse, the idea was able to take off. We will continue to develop it ... and improve quality,” said Bechiya, as he measured the acidity of the water feeding his young lettuce.
“Libyan consumers don’t want produce full of pesticides anymore, but organic produce,” he added.