Chemical weapons allegedly used 45 times in Syria: OPCW chief

Chemical weapons allegedly used 45 times in Syria: OPCW chief
OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu speaks during a ceremony marking the OPCW's 20th anniversary in The Hague, Netherlands, in this photo taken on April 26, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 29 April 2017

Chemical weapons allegedly used 45 times in Syria: OPCW chief

Chemical weapons allegedly used 45 times in Syria: OPCW chief

THE HAGUE: Experts from the world’s watchdog tasked with destroying chemical weapons are probing reports that toxic arms have been used 45 times in Syria since late last year, the body’s chief said Friday.
Ahmet Uzumcu, its director general, said there was “a huge list of allegations” of the use of toxic arms reported to the operations hub of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
In the “second part of 2016, 30 different incidents, and since the beginning of this year, 15 separate incidents, so 45,” he told a reporters, brandishing a list of several pages which he chose to keep confidential.
They include the April 4 sarin gas attack on the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhun. “All these allegations are recorded by our experts, who follow this every day from our operations center,” Uzumcu said.
“The mission, if it goes ahead, will not be an easy one. The Syrian regime had enough time to erase whatever traces were left (of the chemical attack). It will have time to do that until the watchdog arrives in Syria,” Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst and international relations expert, told Arab News on Friday.
“The regime has been condemned for using chemical weapons against civilians, and this was proven by the British and the French, who conducted tests on samples taken from the victims. The question is, will there be any accountability based on the results of the new mission,” Al-Shehri added.
The OPCW is currently trying to ensure it is safe enough to deploy its fact-finding team to the town for further analysis, after Uzumcu said last week that “incontrovertible” test results from OPCW-designated labs on samples taken from victims showed sarin gas or a similar substance had been used.
The regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad has “already stated that it would support this mission, actually it has invited us to go via Damascus,” he said.
“The problem is that this area is controlled by different armed opposition groups, so we need to strike some deals with them to ensure a temporary cease-fire, which we understand the Syrian government is willing to do,” he added.
“If we can put all this together then we will deploy. The team is ready, and we have the volunteers.”
However, it is not yet mandated to also visit the Shayrat air base in the central Syrian province of Homs.
The base was the target of a US strike launched in the wake of the Khan Sheikhun attack, and Russia has called for the allegations that it was stocking chemical weapons to be investigated.
Uzumcu also confirmed that the OPCW, based in The Hague, believed Daesh terrorists had used “sulfur mustard” near Iraq’s second city of Mosul last week.
The Iraqi military said some security personnel were injured in the April 15 attack as part of the operation to recapture Mosul.
— With input from AP, AFP


Paphos summit: Israel will do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop Iran on nuclear front

Israeli, Emirati, Greek and Cypriot foreign ministry diplomats held meetings in Cyprus for two days starting from Friday. (Supplied/Greek MOFA)
Israeli, Emirati, Greek and Cypriot foreign ministry diplomats held meetings in Cyprus for two days starting from Friday. (Supplied/Greek MOFA)
Updated 16 April 2021

Paphos summit: Israel will do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop Iran on nuclear front

Israeli, Emirati, Greek and Cypriot foreign ministry diplomats held meetings in Cyprus for two days starting from Friday. (Supplied/Greek MOFA)
  • Ministers discuss economic and security issues, the coronavirus pandemic, and possible travel corridors

PAPHOS: Israel will do “whatever it takes” to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons, foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi said on Friday.

Speaking after a summit with his Greek and Cypriot counterparts and a senior representative from the UAE in Paphos, Cyprus, Ashkenazi said discussions centered around possibilities for building on prosperity and stability in the region.

“We also took time to discuss challenges that Iran and Hezbollah and other extremists pose to the stability of the Middle East and to the regional peace,” he said. “We will do whatever it takes to prevent this extremist ... success and definitely, to prevent this regime from having nuclear weapons.”

The Israeli, Emirati, Greek and Cypriot officials are holding meetings in Cyprus for two days from Friday.

Israel said the talks in Paphos on the island's west coast would be the first meeting of its kind involving the four nations, as part of efforts to advance regional strategic interests.

The ministers were also discussing economic and security issues, the coronavirus pandemic, and possible travel corridors to encourage tourism, Israel's foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Cyprus said the unprecedented four-way talks, lasting into Saturday, would “take advantage of the prospects opened” by "the recent normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.”

The UAE and Israel formalized ties last year, one of four deals the US brokered between Israel and Arab countries.

The talks also follow tensions between Turkey and its neighbours over gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Cypriot ministry said the meetings would touch on the “pandemic and its effects, economic cooperation, energy (and) tourism,” among other issues, and aimed “to enhance peace, stability, and security in the wider region.”


Myanmar’s ousted MPs form new shadow government

Myanmar’s ousted MPs form new shadow government
Updated 16 April 2021

Myanmar’s ousted MPs form new shadow government

Myanmar’s ousted MPs form new shadow government
  • Helming the so-called ‘National Unity Government’ is Aung San Suu Kyi, in her position as State Counsellor, and President Win Myint — who is also under house arrest
  • The junta has said anyone working with the CRPH is committing ‘high treason,’ and have announced arrest warrants for hundreds of prominent activists and politicians

YANGON: A “parliament” working in hiding to oust Myanmar’s junta from power announced a new shadow government Friday, with deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi at its helm alongside ethnic minority politicians.
The country has been in turmoil since the military detained Suu Kyi and seized power, triggering a massive uprising that the junta has sought to quell with lethal force.
Besides demanding for democracy’s return, protesters are also increasingly calling for more of a governing role for the country’s minority groups — which have long seen their voices marginalized by the ethnic Bamar majority.
The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) — a group of lawmakers mostly from Suu Kyi’s party attempting to govern underground via a shadow parliament — on Friday announced its leaders.
Helming the so-called “National Unity Government” is Suu Kyi, in her position as State Counsellor, and President Win Myint — who is also under house arrest and facing a barrage of charges from the junta.
They are flanked by a vice president who is ethnic Kachin and a prime minister who is ethnic Karen, said Min Ko Naing, a prominent democracy leader, in an address on the CRPH’s official Facebook page.
“We have organized a government which has the largest number of ethnic minority groups,” he said.
A list of appointed ministers also included prominent leaders from the Chin, Shanni, Mon, Karenni and Ta’ang ethnic groups.
The politicians were chosen based on results from the 2020 election, input from a nationwide anti-coup protest movement, and ethnic minority groups — including armed rebels in the country’s border territories, said Min Ko Naing.
“We have to pull it from the root... we must try to eradicate it,” he said, as he raised the three-finger salute — the symbol of resistance
“Only the people can decide the future.”
The junta has said anyone working with the CRPH is committing “high treason,” and have announced arrest warrants for hundreds of prominent activists and politicians — some of whom now hold positions in the new “National Unity Government.”
Myanmar has more than 130 official ethnic minority groups.
But the country’s political fate has long been tightly held by the Bamar majority — first under a nearly five-decade junta regime which forced a so-called “Bamarization” on minorities; and then under Suu Kyi’s administration.
Since the coup, more than 720 people have been killed in anti-coup unrest, according to the local monitoring group.


Pakistan appoints new finance minister in latest cabinet shake-up

Pakistan appoints new finance minister in latest cabinet shake-up
Updated 16 April 2021

Pakistan appoints new finance minister in latest cabinet shake-up

Pakistan appoints new finance minister in latest cabinet shake-up
  • Hammad Azhar, who was made finance minister less than a month ago, has now been replaced by Shaukat Tarin
  • Pakistan is currently working on national budget and on implementing economic reforms suggested by the IMF

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan appointed a new finance minister on Friday, replacing Hammad Azhar, who received the portfolio less than a month ago.

Shaukat Tarin, the new appointee, is a banker who also served at the same position from 2009 to 2010 under the Pakistan Peoples Party administration of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

The news was announced by the newly appointed information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain who shared the notification of the recent cabinet reshuffle in a Twitter post:

“Prime Minister Imran Khan has made changes in the cabinet, the details of these changes are attached.”

 

 

Azhar will now look after the Energy Ministry. He was given the additional portfolio of finance and revenue after Abdul Hafeez Shaikh was recently asked to step down last month over what the government described as rising inflation.

The change to the finance ministry comes at a time when the government is working on the annual budget which is likely to be presented in June. Pakistan's economic managers are also implementing structural reforms suggested by the International Monetary Fund to the country's economy.

Apart from the two cabinet changes, the prime minister also took the Economic Affairs Ministry from Makhdoom Khusro Bukhtiar and gave him the Ministry of Industries and Production.

Omar Ayub, who was previously supervising the Power and Petroleum Divisions, has now been tasked to take care of the Economic Affairs Ministry.

Senator Shibli Faraz has also been assigned the Ministry of Science and Technology which fell vacant when Chaudhry Fawad Hussain was appointed as federal minister for information and broadcasting.

“As info minister my task is to change misperceptions about Pak[istan] and highlight the vibrant effort of the Government,” Hussain wrote on Twitter.

 

 


Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai jailed for 12 months over huge democracy rally

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai jailed for 12 months over huge democracy rally
Updated 16 April 2021

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai jailed for 12 months over huge democracy rally

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai jailed for 12 months over huge democracy rally
  • Jimmy Lai currently in custody after his arrest under Beijing’s sweeping national security law

HONG KONG: Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai was jailed for 12 months on Friday over one of the city’s biggest ever protests in 2019.
It is the first time the 73-year-old – who is currently in custody after his arrest under Beijing’s sweeping national security law – has received a sentence for his activism.


Police: 8 dead in shooting at FedEx facility in Indianapolis

Police: 8 dead in shooting at FedEx facility in Indianapolis
Updated 16 April 2021

Police: 8 dead in shooting at FedEx facility in Indianapolis

Police: 8 dead in shooting at FedEx facility in Indianapolis
  • The shooter wasn’t immediately identified
  • At least four were hospitalized, including one person with critical injures
INDIANAPOLIS: Eight people were shot and killed in a late-night shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, and the shooter has killed himself, police said.
Multiple other people were injured Thursday night when gunfire erupted at the facility near the Indianapolis International Airport, police spokesperson Genae Cook said.
At least four were hospitalized, including one person with critical injures. Another two people were treated and released at the scene, Cook said.
The shooter wasn’t immediately identified, and Cook said investigators were still in the process of conducting interviews and gathering information.
Police were called to reports of gunfire just after 11 p.m. and officers observed an active shooting scene, Cook said. The gunman later killed himself.
FedEx released a statement saying it is cooperating with authorities and working to get more information.
“We are aware of the tragic shooting at our FedEx Ground facility near the Indianapolis airport. Safety is our top priority, and our thoughts are with all those who are affected,” the statement said.
Family members gathered at a local hotel to await word on loved ones. Some said employees aren’t allowed to have their phones with them while working shifts at the facility, making it difficult to contact them, WTHR-TV reported.
Live video from news outlets at the scene showed crime scene tape in the parking lot outside the facility.
A witness who said he works at the facility told WISH-TV that he saw a man with a gun after hearing several gunshots.
“I saw a man with a submachine gun of some sort, an automatic rifle, and he was firing in the open,” Jeremiah Miller said.
Another man told WTTV that his niece was sitting in her car in the driver’s seat when the gunfire erupted, and she was wounded.
“She got shot on her left arm,” said Parminder Singh. “She’s fine, she’s in the hospital now.”
He said his niece did not know the shooter.