UN: Reconstruction of landmark Mosul mosque to begin in 2020

In this July 4, 2017, file photo, fleeing Iraqi civilians walk past the heavily damaged al-Nuri mosque as Iraqi forces continue their advance against Daesh militants in Iraq's Old City of Mosul. The United Nations' cultural agency says reconstruction of Al-Nouri Mosque in Iraq's city of Mosul is scheduled to start at the beginning of 2020. (AP)
Updated 11 September 2019
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UN: Reconstruction of landmark Mosul mosque to begin in 2020

  • The 12th-century monument is famed for its leaning minaret
  • The mosque restoration plan will be the most eye-catching part of a $100 million UNESCO-led heritage reconstruction of Mosul

PARIS: The United Nations’ cultural agency UNESCO announced Wednesday that a landmark reconstruction of Iraq’s Al-Nouri mosque in Mosul, which was blown up by the Daesh group in 2017, will start at the beginning of next year.
The timeline of the restoration plan of the 12th-century monument, famed for its leaning minaret, was hammered out during a meeting in Paris between UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay and several Iraqi officials, including Iraqi Culture Minister Abdulamir Al-Dafar Hamdani, and Mosul’s regional governor, Mansour Al-Mareed.
First launched in 2018, the mosque restoration plan will be the most eye-catching part of a $100 million UNESCO-led heritage reconstruction of Mosul.
“Revive the Spirit of Mosul” is the largest restoration plan in Iraqi history, and comes two years after the old city’s destruction at the hands of extremists.
“Today we agreed on a calendar, a precise calendar and plan of action to be mobilized on the ground in Iraq. ... The ongoing phase of structural consolidation and the critical phase of site-clearing and mine-clearing (has) to be achieved from now to the end of the year,” Azoulay told reporters.
“We’ve also agreed on a timetable that would see the reconstruction start in the first semester of 2020 for the mosque,” she added.
IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi declared an Islamic caliphate from the Al-Nouri mosque in the summer of 2014, only for IS extremists to blow it up in June 2017 as Iraqi forces closed in.
Two years after IS was evicted, Mosul is a city still very much in ruins with no meaningful international effort to rebuild — one that is still struggling with basic services like electricity, water and health care. The UN’s development program is working to restore private houses in the historic Old City. Most of its residents still reside in camps.
The UNESCO initiative goes far beyond the mere restoration of the mosque, and will see the cash be used to rebuild churches, schools and a street in Mosul’s Old City, which was famous for its bookshops.
The United Arab Emirates is providing $50.4 million to finance the project, focusing on the restoration of the mosque, with the European Union providing $24 million.
The decision to select Mosul, as opposed to other Iraqi cities, for a revamp owes to its particular history as a melting pot city.
“We’ve chosen Mosul as a symbol because Mosul was before the conflict a city of diversity, a city of tolerance — more than tolerance — a city where people lived together and knew each other beyond communities, beyond religious belongings,” Azoulay said.
She stressed that she’s asked that some of the $100 million go toward the rebuilding of a synagogue and Christian religious sites.


Iran’s Hassan Rouhani may skip UN meet over US visa delay

Updated 18 September 2019

Iran’s Hassan Rouhani may skip UN meet over US visa delay

TEHRAN: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his delegation could be forced into skipping next week’s UN General Assembly because the United States has yet to issue them visas, state media said Wednesday.
Rouhani and his delegation had been scheduled to travel to New York for the annual UN gathering on Monday, but that was now looking unlikely given the lack of visas, state news agency IRNA said.
“If the visas aren’t issued in a few hours, this trip will probably be canceled,” IRNA reported.
The delegation includes Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif, who the United States imposed sanctions against on July 31.
The foreign minister had been due to travel to New York on Friday morning, according to IRNA.
The absence of Rouhani would ruin France’s bid to arrange a meeting between him and US President Donald Trump as part of European efforts to de-escalate tensions between the arch-foes.
“Iran’s absence will show that in contrast with its commitments to the United Nations and international organizations within the framework of agreements, diplomacy has no value for the United States,” IRNA said.
“Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has not left the scene and it continues its active diplomacy, the US government must answer for its behavior,” it added.
The UN General Assembly debate is due to begin on Tuesday.
As the host government, the United States generally is obliged to issue visas to diplomats who serve at UN headquarters.
But Iran and the United States have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions in its campaign of “maximum pressure.”
Iran responded by scaling back its commitments under the landmark accord, which gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for limiting the scope of its nuclear program.