British PM warns on Iran’s “destabilizing” influence

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Above, British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, met with King Salman where they discussed regional security and stability. (SPA)
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Jordan's King Abdullah meets with Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan, on November 30, 2017. (REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed)
Updated 01 December 2017

British PM warns on Iran’s “destabilizing” influence

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May slammed on Thursday Iran’s “destabilizing” regional influence and called for a stronger response to Tehran’s ballistic missile program.
She was speaking in Amman where she visited on Thursday on the return leg of a visit that also took in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, where she met with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In a speech in the Jordanian capital on Thursday, the British prime minister said that it was not just Daesh and the Assad regime that posed a threat to the stability of neighboring Syria.
“Iran is showing that it is more interested in bolstering its role in the region, and that of its proxy Hezbollah, than finding a lasting peace in Syria,” she said.
“And Iran’s destabilizing activity goes beyond Syria. Their previous attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon posed a threat to the international non-proliferation system on which wider international security depends.”
The prime minister reiterated the UK’s support of a nuclear deal struck in 2015 that allowed for the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran in return for Tehran’s commitment to reduce much of its nuclear program.
“This deal was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and a major step toward ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program is not diverted for military purposes. It is vitally important for our shared security,” said May.
But the prime minister said that the nuclear deal only addressed one aspect of Iran’s threat to the region – a reference to the country’s development of ballistic missiles.
“This includes in Yemen, where it is unacceptable for the Houthis to fire missiles at Riyadh,” she said. “In my meeting in Riyadh last night with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman I agreed that we would increase our work with Saudi Arabia to address this. I welcome the ongoing UN investigation into the source of the missiles and the international community must be resolute in its response to the findings.”
A Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen since March 2015. The war has created what the UN describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The coalition closed air, land and sea access to Yemen on Nov. 6, two days after Houthi rebels fired a missile toward Riyadh that was intercepted. They have since been partially re-opened.
May’s visit to Jordan coincided with an emergency debate on Yemen in the UK Parliament yesterday.
Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, said that Britain must help its Middle East allies defend the region against Iranian aggression.
“It would be wrong to point solely at Riyadh, because the truth is that decisions being made in Tehran today are having an effect that are being felt throughout the region.”
Opening the debate, MP Andrew Mitchell described the “dire humanitarian situation” in the country and said a visit to Yemen earlier this year had left him “deeply concerned.”


Saudi Arabia eases coronavirus lockdown restrictions

Updated 26 May 2020

Saudi Arabia eases coronavirus lockdown restrictions

  • Curfew to be eased on Sunday, except in Makkah, as domestic travel permitted
  • All curfews in Saudi Arabia to be lifted by June 20

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced the easing of restrictions that has halted much of the activity in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Sunday 31, May, the curfew on all areas of the Kingdom will be eased, except Makkah. Movement in cities and within the regions of the country will again be permitted, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The easing will mean the Kingdom’s 24-hour lockdown is relaxed with a curfew from 3 p.m to 6 a.m until Sunday, after which the hours will change to 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.. Makkah will remain under a full 24-hour lockdown.

On June 21, all curfews in the Kingdom will be lifted and prayers at Makkah’s mosque will be permitted.

Before then, social distancing guidelines must continue to be adhered to and gatherings of more than 50 people will continue to be banned.

Authorities have also allowed the attendance at ministries, government agencies and private sector companies, and the return of their office activities.

Some economic and commercial activities will also be allowed to take place including those at wholesale and retail shops, as well as malls. Cafes will be permitted to operate once more.

However, all job sectors where social distancing rules are harder to achieve such as beauty salons, barbershops, sports and health clubs, recreational centers and cinemas will remain closed.

Umrah pilgrimage and international flights will continue to be suspended until further notice.

The new rules are subject to constant evaluation at the health ministry and can be changed if the situation warrants it.

Earlier, Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, the health minister, said: “The phases start gradually until we return to normalcy, with its new concept based on social distancing.” 

He added that the precautionary steps taken by the Kingdom early in the outbreak helped to limit the spread of the virus. 

Now, he said, the ministry has developed a plan for the next phase that relies on two main factors: The capacity of the health care system to cope with critical cases, and the expansion of testing to identify new infections as soon as possible.

Reassuring the Saudi nation on Monday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “The bad conditions will pass, God willing, and we are heading toward the good, God willing.” 

The Kingdom recorded 2,235 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, taking the total to 74,795, and the death toll rose by nine to 399. Worldwide the virus has infected more than 5.5 million people and killed nearly 350,000.