UN: Top Iraqi Shiite cleric backs reforms to resolve unrest

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the UN's special representative to Iraq, in a meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani in Najaf to discuss the series of reforms put forward by the UN a day earlier. (Supplied)
Updated 12 November 2019

UN: Top Iraqi Shiite cleric backs reforms to resolve unrest

  • “Al-Sistani wants young people to continue their demonstrations and sit-ins until all the required reforms are implemented.”
  • Sistani has said security forces had a responsibility to show restraint with peaceful protesters

BAGHDAD: The top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Al-Sistani welcomed the UN initiative to dismantle the current crisis and meet the demands of the demonstrators and called on the Iraqi government to stop the arrests and kidnappings of demonstrators.

Baghdad and nine southern Shiite-dominated provinces have been witnessing anti-government mass demonstrations since Oct. 1. More than 300 demonstrators were killed and a further 15,000 injured, mostly in

Baghdad, due to live bullets and tear gas canisters used by Iraqi forces to suppress the demonstrations, medics and officials said.

Demonstrators are demanding the dismissal of the government and early national parliamentary elections, preceded by a change in the election law and the electoral commission and the amendment of the constitution.

However, the political forces have refused to discuss the dismissal or resignation of the government and discuss early elections.

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Al-Sistani, the leader of the Shiite community and the

most influential man in Iraq who is seen as the godfather of the political process since 2003, received Jeaine Hennis-Plasschaert, the UN secretary-general’s representative in Iraq on Monday to discuss the latest developments in the country and was handed a copy of the proposals of the UN mission to resolve the crisis.

A copy of the proposals obtained by Arab News included “immediate” measures to be implemented within less than a week, including the release of peaceful demonstrators from Oct. 1 to today, non-prosecution of peaceful demonstrators, the initiation of a full investigation into the cases of kidnapping, identification and disclosure of the kidnappers, punishing officials for the excessive use of force against demonstrators and all regional and international parties not to interfere in Iraqi affairs.

The indirect measures, which are supposed to be implemented in a few weeks, include reforms to electoral law, prohibiting armed factions and preventing the existence of any weapons outside the control of the state and fighting corruption.

The medium-term proposed measures, which are supposed to be implemented within one to three months, including constitutional amendments.

Al-Sistani welcomed the UN proposals — presented by Plasschaert — but expressed concern about the lack of seriousness of the political forces to undertake any of the proposed reforms “if the three executive, legislative and judicial authorities are not able to make the necessary reforms or did not want, then (we) must think to find another way,” the statement read.

“The situation cannot continue as it is before the recent protests.”

Al-Sistani is seeking gradual changes with regard to the required reforms and does not prefer armed solutions for fear of involvement of factions linked to Iran in the suppression of demonstrations to protect the interests of their local and regional allies, sources close to Al-Sistani told Arab News.

“Al-Sistani wants young people to continue their demonstrations and sit-ins until all the required reforms are implemented. He is pushing in that direction,” a prominent Shiite leader close to Al-Sistani told Arab News.

“But (Al-Sistani) wants a peaceful handover of power to avoid bloodshed. This takes time and the demonstrators must understand this. Pushing for the immediate handover of power (toppling the government) or stripping the current political forces of all they currently possess, is a dangerous option and cannot be taken. They (the political forces) are murderers and they will not surrender easily and any uncalculated escalation means that blood will flow in the streets,” he said.


Yemeni president in US for annual medical checkup

Updated 13 August 2020

Yemeni president in US for annual medical checkup

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi touched down in the US for his annual medical checkup on Thursday, the Yemeni Embassy in the US said.
Ambassador Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak received Hadi at the airport in Cleveland, Ohio, where the appointment is due to take place, and “reaffirmed his utmost best wishes to the president for continued good health,” the embassy said in a brief statement.
Hadi left for the US after appointing a new governor and a new security chief in Aden, and mandating new Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed to form a new government. Hadi has travelled regularly to Cleveland for medical treatment since becoming president in early 2012, reportedly suffering from heart problems.
Saeed asked the governor, Ahmed Hamid Lamlis, to focus his efforts on reviving public institutions in Aden, restoring peace and security and fixing basic services that have been hit hard by years of instability. The official Saba news agency reported that the prime minister pledged Lamlis his government’s full support.
Saeed also entered discussions with various political factions in Yemen with a view to forming his government. Abdul Malik Al-Mekhlafi, an adviser to President Hadi, said on Twitter that the administration would be announced within a month, as the internationally recognized government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) enacted security and military components of the Riyadh Agreement.
The STC recently rescinded a controversial declaration of self-rule under a new Saudi-brokered proposal to accelerate the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement.
Signed by both sides in late 2019, the agreement was designed to end hostilities in Aden and other southern provinces. Under the deal, the government and the STC were agreed to withdraw their forces from contested areas in southern Yemen, move heavy weapons and military units from Aden and allow the new government to resume duties.
Meanwhile, a judiciary committee assigned by the country’s attorney general to investigate reports of thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate stored at Aden’s port found hat the material was in fact a different fertilizer, urea, which could also prove hazardous if mixed with other materials.
In a letter addressed to the Yemen Gulf of Aden Ports Corporation, Judge Anes Nasser Ali, a local prosecutor, ordered the port’s authorities to remove the urea from the city.
Shortly after the tragic explosion in the Lebanese capital Beirut last Tuesday, Fatehi Ben Lazerq, editor of the Aden Al-Ghad newspaper, ignited public uproar after suggesting 4,900 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in 130 containers had been gathering dust at the port for the last three years, which could cause an equally destructive explosion. The story prompted the country’s chief prosecutor, politicians and the public to call for an investigation.