UAE, Egypt welcome Libya cease-fire talks

Khalifa Haftar’s eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Tripoli based Government of National Accord (GNA) have agreed to resume cease-fire negotiations following days of heavy fighting. (File/AFP)
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Updated 03 June 2020

UAE, Egypt welcome Libya cease-fire talks

LONDON: The UAE and Egypt said they welcomed an announcement that Libya’s rival administrations have agreed to resume talks on reaching a cease-fire in the country.
Khalifa Haftar’s eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Tripoli based Government of National Accord (GNA) have agreed to resume cease-fire negotiations following days of heavy fighting, the UN said on Tuesday.
In a joint statement late on Tuesday, the Egyptian and Emirati foreign ministries “called for parties to fully commit to the political process under the auspices of the United Nations and the Berlin Conference”.
They added that the political process is the only solution to achieving peace and unity in Libya.
The Berlin conference in January resulted in efforts to reach a cease-fire but that initiative had stalled before this week’s announcement that parties were ready to resume talks.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that the presence of Russian prisoners in the Libyan capital of Tripoli was the main obstacle to cooperation between the countries.
Lavrov made the comment after talks in Moscow with the GNA's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeg.

(With Reuters)


Data leak reveals true scale of Iran’s COVID-19 crisis

Updated 03 August 2020

Data leak reveals true scale of Iran’s COVID-19 crisis

  • Iranian outbreak, already the worst in the Middle East, is far more serious than initially reported.
  • Tehran’s cover up of the true virus toll is consistent with their reaction to previous embarrassing incidents.

LONDON: A data leak from within Iran has revealed that the number of deaths caused by COVID-19 is nearly three times higher than the figures reported by the government.

The data, which was passed to the BBC Persian service, shows almost 42,000 people died with COVID-19 symptoms up to July 20, nearly triple the 14,405 reported by its health ministry.

The number of infections is also far higher than that admitted by the government: 451,024 as opposed to the 278,827 disclosed by Tehran.

Undercounting cases is common across the world due to limited testing capacity, but the BBC’s information reveals that Iranian authorities reported significantly lower daily numbers, despite having a record of all deaths — suggesting the figures were deliberately suppressed.

The data leak also shows that the first recorded case of the virus in Iran was on Jan. 22 — a month before the government acknowledged any cases.

Already the center of the Middle East’s virus outbreak, Tehran’s cover-up of early cases and its failure to swiftly act on the outbreak likely accelerated the spread of the virus across the region.

The BBC received the data from an anonymous source, who told them they shared the data to “shed light on the truth” and to end “political games” over the epidemic.

The data supplied includes details of daily admissions to hospitals across Iran, including names, age, gender, symptoms, date and length of periods spent in hospital, and underlying conditions patients might have.

The overall trend of cases and deaths in the leaked data is similar to official reports, but different in size.

Dr Nouroldin Pirmoazzen, a former Iranian MP who was an official at the health ministry and is now living in the US, told the BBC that the government was “anxious and fearful of the truth” when COVID-19 hit Iran.

He said: “The government was afraid that the poor and the unemployed would take to the streets.”

The Iranian health ministry maintains that the country’s reports to the World Health Organization on the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths are “transparent” and “far from any deviations.”

The cover-up of the true scale of their COVID-19 crisis is not unusual behaviour from the regime. A number of incidents have brought a similar response in 2020 alone.

In January, Iran shot down a Ukrainian jet near Tehran, killing all passengers on board. The regime hid its actions for three days, only acknowledging wrongdoing as public pressure mounted through protests.

Then Iranian nuclear and military facilities were the target of a series of sabotages, explosions, and cyberattacks, but Tehran has attempted to conceal what happened at virtually every step of the way.