UK’s Prince William kicks off solo Middle East tour in Kuwait

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The UK’s Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, met with the Emir of Kuwait on Monday during his solo Middle East tour. (KUNA - Kuwait News Agency)
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Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, meeting with Kuwait's Minister of the Amiri Diwan (Royal Palace) Affairs, Sheikh Ali Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah. (KUNA - Kuwait News Agency)
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Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, meeting with Kuwait's Minister of the Amiri Diwan (Royal Palace) Affairs, Sheikh Ali Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah. (KUNA - Kuwait News Agency)
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Prince William uses a monocular during a visit at Kuwait's Jahra Pools nature reserve, 35kms north of the Kuwaiti capital. (AFP)
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Duke of Cambridge Prince William and director of Kuwait's environment public authority Sheikh Abdullah Ahmad Al-Humoud Al-Sabah. (AFP)
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Prince William walks with Sheikh Mohammed Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah, deputy minister for royal affairs, and Sahar Al-Aqab, the director of cultural centres department at the royal palace. (AFP)
Updated 03 December 2019

UK’s Prince William kicks off solo Middle East tour in Kuwait

  • Emir sent cable of condolence to Queen Elizabeth II and UK prime minister Boris Johnson after London Bridge attack
  • The Duke will also visit Oman on his journey to the region

KUWAIT CITY: The UK’s Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, met with the Emir of Kuwait on Monday during his solo Middle East tour.

The Duke of Cambridge was received by Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah at the Bayan Palace, where the two enjoyed a five-course lunch.

During their meeting, which was attended by dignitaries, government ministers, ambassadors and religious leaders from the Muslim and Christian faiths, the Emir expressed his sympathies for the recent London Bridge Attack in which two people were killed.

He had sent a cable of condolence to Queen Elizabeth II and UK prime minister Boris Johnson on Saturday.

Also on Monday, Prince William visited the Jahra Nature Reserve where he was briefed on Kuwait’s efforts to preserve its natural habitats.

The Duke will also visit Oman on his journey to the region, which Kensington Palace said was a mission of strengthening British-Gulf cooperation.

“Throughout the tour, the Duke's programme will pay tribute to the historic ties Britain shares with Kuwait and Oman, and will highlight strong links and cooperation in many areas, including education, the environment, and defence,” a statement read.

“From the modern capitals of Kuwait City and Muscat, to the vast Kuwaiti deserts and stunning wadis in the Omani mountains, the visit will take in both countries' unique cultures, their beautiful landscapes, and diverse communities,” it added.


Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

Updated 11 August 2020

Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

  • Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast
  • The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors

QARTABA, Lebanon: Three firefighters. One Lebanese family. The same restless wait. Rita Hitti has not slept a wink since the Beirut port blast, when her firefighting son, nephew and son-in-law went missing.
“In one piece or several, we want our sons back,” she told AFP from the Hitti family’s home in the mountain town of Qartaba, north of Beirut.
“We have been waiting for the remains for six days,” she added, dark circles under her eyes.
Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast that killed 160 people and wounded at least 6,000 others across town.
They were among the first rescuers at the scene. They have not been heard of since.
Near the entrance to their Qartaba home, the three men are praised as “heroes” in a huge banner unfurled over a wall.
The double exposure shot shows them in the foreground dressed sharply in suits.
In the background, the blast’s now-infamous pink plume rises above their heads as they try to douse a fire.
An eerie calm filled the stone-arched living room, where dozens of relatives and neighbors gathered around Rita, the mother of Najib Hitti.
The women were mum, the men whispered between themselves, the young shuffled in and out of the room, quietly.
Karlen, Rita’s daughter, looked among the most sombre, with her husband Charbel Karam, brother Najib and cousin Charbel all missing.
Sitting next to her mother on the couch, she fought back tears and did not say a single word.
The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors.
The health ministry has said the number of missing stands at less than 20, while the army announced it had lifted five corpses from beneath the rubble.
A large blaze was still ripping through the blast site when the Hittis and other relatives of port employees dashed to the disaster zone to check on their loved ones.
But they were stopped by security forces.
“I told them I would know my boys from their smell,” Rita said she told an officer who barred her from the site.
“Let me enter to search for them and when I whiff their smell I will know where they are,” the mother said she pleaded.
Ever since, her hopes have gradually dwindled, but her anger is boiling.
Lebanese authorities have pledged a swift investigation but the exact cause of the blast remains unclear.
Authorities say it was triggered by a fire of unknown origin that broke out in a port warehouse where a huge pile of highly volatile ammonium nitrate fertilizer had been left unsecured for years.
Whatever the cause of the fire was, the popular consensus is that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of officials in charge of the port as well those who have ruled Lebanon country for decades.
“We gave them heroes and they returned them to us as ‘martyrs’,” Rita said, scoffing at the label officials have used to brand blast casualties.
“What martyrs? What were they protecting? The noxious things (authorities) were hiding in the port?” she asked rhetorically.
“They are martyrs of treachery.”
George, father of Charbel Hitti, also rushed to the blast site to look for his son and relatives after the explosion.
“I started to scream their names: Najib, Charbel... I was like a mad man,” he told AFP.
“We waited until 6 in the morning the next day for clues to what happened,” he said.
“In the end, I started crying.”
He did manage, however, to get one piece of information from a port security official close to the family who was at the scene of the blaze when the firefighting team first arrived on August 4.
The security official had told him that the firefighters were trying to break open the door to the ammonium nitrate warehouse because they could not find the keys before the explosion ripped the whole place apart.
A week has since passed and George said hopes of finding the three men alive have faded.
Assuming they are dead, George said he now wants one thing: “We just want DNA test results that are compatible with those of Charbel, Najib and Charbel,” he said.
“Imagine. This is everything we now wish for.”