Pompeo praises Egypt ‘freedoms’ during church and mosque visit

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Mike Pompeo tours the newly inaugurated Al-Fattah Al-Alim mosque, in Egypt's New Administrative Capital. (Reuters)
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Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan pose for photo as they tour the newly inaugurated Al-Fattah Al-Alim mosque. (Reuters)
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Security waits for the departure of Mike Pompeo, after his visit to the newly inaugurated Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of the Nativity Christ, in Egypt's New Administrative Capital. (Reuters)
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The US Secretary of State leaves the newly inaugurated Cathedral of the Nativity Christ, in Egypt's New Administrative Capital. (Reuters)
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A member of the US Diplomatic Security takes a position as Mike Pompeo tours the newly-inaugrated Al-Fattah Al-Alim mosque. (AFP)
Updated 11 January 2019

Pompeo praises Egypt ‘freedoms’ during church and mosque visit

NEW ADMINISTRATIVE CAPITAL, Egypt: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday praised Egypt’s religious freedoms as he visited a vast cathedral and a mosque in the country’s new capital east of Cairo.
Washington’s top diplomat, who describes himself as an evangelical Christian, is on a tour aimed at reassuring regional US allies after Washington’s shock decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.
On Thursday evening he visited the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ and the Al-Fattah Al-Alim mosque in Egypt’s New Administrative Capital, 45 kilometers east of the capital.
At the mosque, he praised Egypt’s “freedoms here in this houses of worship, these big, beautiful, gorgeous buildings where the Lord is clearly at work.”
The two buildings were inaugurated by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on Sunday, a day after a deadly bomb blast near a church in the country where extremists have repeatedly targeted Christians.
“This is a special country where President El-Sisi clearly made a point by putting this, this largest cathedral in the Middle East here in this place,” Pompeo said, calling the building “a great symbol of hope.”
The cathedral’s inauguration was hailed by US President Donald Trump, who wrote on Twitter that he was “excited to see our friends in Egypt opening the biggest Cathedral in the Middle East.”
“El-Sisi is moving his country to a more inclusive future,” Trump said.


Iraqi protesters shut roads to ports, oil fields

Updated 57 min 41 sec ago

Iraqi protesters shut roads to ports, oil fields

  • Basra saw protesters block access routes to the ports of Khor Al-Zubair and Umm Qasr, as well as Rumailah oil field

BAGHDAD: Anti-government demonstrators in southern Iraq shut roads to two major ports and a key oil field Wednesday, port officials and AFP correspondents said, leading to a brief operational halt.
Correspondent in oil-rich Basra province saw protesters block access routes to the ports of Khor Al-Zubair and Umm Qasr, as well as Rumailah oil field.
Trucks waiting to load up goods from the ports could be seen waiting empty behind crowds of demonstrators.
Khor Al-Zubair is used for some heavy crude exports but also to import fuel products like benzene, while Umm Qasr is the main entry point for food and medicine into Iraq.
“Export and import activities have stopped because trucks cannot enter Khor Al-Zubair or Umm Qasr ports,” one official at Basra’s port authority said.
A second official later said the route to Khor Al-Zubair had been reopened but Umm Qasr remained shut.
Sit-ins have become a go-to tactic for Iraqis demonstrating against their government since early October.
Protesters have shut the road to Umm Qasr several times, causing a delay in offloading operations that on one occasion forced around a dozen ships to unload their cargo in another country.
Road closures have also impacted heavy crude from the Qayyarah field in northern Iraq from reaching Khor Al-Zubair since earlier this month.
The prime minister’s office has warned security forces “will not allow” protesters near key infrastructure, and riot police have forced roads open in deadly crackdowns.
More than 330 people have been killed since rallies erupted on October 1 in Baghdad and across the south.
In the capital’s main protest camp of Tahrir (Liberation) Square, thousands gathered Wednesday to express their ongoing frustration.
Top leaders and political parties have focused their efforts on hiring drives, more welfare and a new electoral law as immediate measures.
Parliament met late Tuesday to discuss a draft voting law that proposes downsizing the house from 329 seats to 251, shrinking districts and distributing votes according to a complex hybrid system.
But the United Nations mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said the draft law needed more work.
“The draft electoral legislation — currently under review by the Council of Representatives — requires improvements to meet public demands,” it said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
UNAMI chief Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert urged lawmakers to pass legislation that “will reflect the public appetite for a new and different way of conducting politics.”
Protesters have so far been unimpressed by the government’s proposals and large crowds — most of them students — turned out on Wednesday.
“Last night’s session serves their own interests, not those of the people,” said Younes, a 28-year-old protester.
Crowds have spilled over from Tahrir onto three main bridges that lead to the western bank of the Tigris, where key government buildings and embassies are based.
On Tuesday night, they tried to cross two of the bridges to reach the so-called Green Zone but security forces deployed on the bridges fired tear gas to keep them back, a security source told AFP.