Trump urges Iran to talk as US aircraft carrier passes Suez

The USS Abraham Lincoln sails south in the Suez canal near Ismailia, Thursday, May 9, 2019. The White House said Wednesday it dispatched the aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Gulf over what it described as a new threat from Iran. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)
Updated 09 May 2019

Trump urges Iran to talk as US aircraft carrier passes Suez

  • Trump says he could not rule out a military confrontation given the heightened tensions
  • Aircraft strike group and bomber task force deployed to the region as message to Iran

CAIRO: Donald Trump on Thursday urged Iran's leadership to sit down and talk with him about giving up Tehran's nuclear program and said he could not rule out a military confrontation given the heightened tensions between the two countries.

The US President was speaking hours after Egypt confirmed the American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln passed through the Suez Canal. The US strike group is heading towards the Gulf amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran.

At an impromptu news conference at the White House, Trump declined to say what prompted him to deploy the force to the region over what was described as unspecified threats.

“We have information that you don't want to know about,” said Trump. “They were very threatening and we have to have great security for this country and many other places.”

Trump was asked whether there was a risk of military confrontation with the American military presence in the area.
“I guess you could say that always, right? I don't want to say no, but hopefully that won't happen. We have one of the most powerful ships in the world that is loaded up and we don't want to do anything,” he said.

Trump has expressed a willingness to meet Iranian leaders in the past to no avail and renewed that appeal in talking to reporters.
“What they should be doing is calling me up, sitting down. We can make a deal, a fair deal, we just don't want them to have nuclear weapons - not too much to ask. And we would help put them back to great shape.”
He added: “They should call. If they do, we're open to talk to them.”

Trump's national security advisor John Bolton on Sunday announced the deployment of the aircraft strike group and bomber task force in a “clear and unmistakable” message to Iran that it would respond to any attack on the US or its allies.
To reach the Gulf, the carrier must pass through the  Suez Canal which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.

General Ralph Groover, the US defence attache in Cairo, commended Egyptian authorities for ensuring the vessel's “complete safety” during its passage, according to a statement from the canal's Port Authority.
In his announcement Sunday, Bolton stopped short of saying Washington planned to enter into a direct conflict with Tehran.
But the deployment comes amid increasing  rhetoric following Washington's withdrawal last year from the multi-party 2015 deal over Iran's nuclear programme.
In recent weeks, Trump's administration has re-imposed stringent sanctions on Iran and blacklisted the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist group.
In response, Tehran said it would stop abiding by parts of the nuclear agreement.
Iran on Monday dismissed the naval deployment as "old news", saying Iranian forces had seen the vessel enter the Mediterranean three weeks earlier.
The USS Abraham Lincoln has been deployed to the Gulf on previous occasions, including during the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.


Palestinian minister claims Israeli police physically abused him

Fadi Hidmi. (Supplied)
Updated 04 April 2020

Palestinian minister claims Israeli police physically abused him

  • East Jerusalem — with a population of 350,000 — has been all but ignored by the Israeli Ministry of Health in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic

AMMAN: Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Fadi Hidmi was released by Israeli police on Friday afternoon after being arrested for the fourth time without charge.

Ministry spokesman Awad Awad told Arab News that Hidmi had been “warned” not to “move around” or “do any work in” Jerusalem in accordance with measures being taken to minimize the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Awad also claimed that Hidmi had been physically abused by the police, saying that the minister was “punched in the face and forced to wear a mask with blood on it.”

CCTV at Hidmi’s Mount of Olives house show that he was manhandled by Israeli police during his arrest in the early hours of Friday.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed the arrest.

Rosenfeld told the Israeli press that Hidmi was arrested “on suspicion of Palestinian activities in Jerusalem.”

He said police searched Hidmi’s home and confiscated documents as well as “large sums of money. Israeli media said that the police had confiscated NIS10,000 ($2,750) found in the house.

Hidmi, a Jerusalem resident, was the director of the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce and Industry before accepting his current job in the Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh’s government.

Before Hidmi’s release on Friday, Shtayyeh wrote on social media: “Israel targets who work for #Jerusalem, even at such critical moments as we work to save our people's lives from #COVID19.”

East Jerusalem — with a population of 350,000 — has been all but ignored by the Israeli Ministry of Health in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Jamil Kousa, director of the St. Joseph hospital, told Palestine TV that he was only informed on March 25 that his hospital should be prepared to accept patients with COVID-19.

Ahmad Buderi, the coordinator of the Jerusalem Alliance — an organization launched to help combat COVID-19 — has said that people in the city are depending almost solely on local initiatives to deal with the pandemic.

Before his arrest, Hidmi launched the website madad.ps to coordinate the distribution of urgenly needed food and medical supplies to the city’s residents.

Walid Nammour, secretary-general of the Jerusalem Hospital Network, estimates that the city’s six hospitals need $7 million to to deal with the potential spread of COVID-19 in East Jerusalem.

Nammour told Arab News that 300-400 ventilators are needed and that only 26 are available at present.