Iraq PM Mustafa Al-Kadhimi calls early election for June 6, 2021

Iraq PM Mustafa Al-Kadhimi calls early election for June 6, 2021
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi said general elections will be held next year. (File/AFP)
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Updated 31 July 2020

Iraq PM Mustafa Al-Kadhimi calls early election for June 6, 2021

Iraq PM Mustafa Al-Kadhimi calls early election for June 6, 2021
  • Elections in Iraq are sometimes marred by violence and often by fraud
  • The next parliamentary elections had originally been due to take place in May 2022

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi on Friday called an early general election for June 6, 2021, roughly a year ahead of when it would normally be held.
Early elections are a key demand of Iraqi anti-government protesters who staged months of mass demonstrations last year and were killed in their hundreds by security forces and gunmen suspected of links to militia groups.
Iraqi’s parliament must still ratify the election date.
Kadhimi was selected by parliament in May to head a government that would guide the country toward early elections. His predecessor Adel Abdul Mahdi quit under pressure from protests in December last year.
Activists have also demanded fairer elections and changes to Iraq’s voting process and election committee after widespread accusations of fraud in the last nationwide vote in 2018.
The United Nations praised Kadhimi’s announcement saying it would promote “greater stability and democracy.”
Voter turnout in Iraq’s last election was 44.5 percent, but especially low in some impoverished southern Shiite Muslim areas. Many Iraqis say they have no faith in Iraq’s electoral system.
Demonstrators who took to the street in their hundreds of thousands last year accuse the political elite, especially lawmakers, of squandering Iraq’s oil wealth to line their own pockets.
Kadhimi’s government faces a health crisis with a rapid spread of the coronavirus, a fiscal crisis because of low oil revenues and exports, challenges from powerful militia groups which oppose him and a rising Daesh insurgency. 


US blames Houthis for failed Yemen peace efforts

US blames Houthis for failed Yemen peace efforts
Updated 20 min 34 sec ago

US blames Houthis for failed Yemen peace efforts

US blames Houthis for failed Yemen peace efforts
  • Envoy Tim Lenderking condemns Houthis for civilian attacks
  • Tells Yemen’s foreign minister that his government has Washington’s support

RIYADH: The US envoy to Yemen has blamed the Houthi militia for failed efforts to bring peace to the country.
Tim Lenderking made the comments during a meeting on Thursday with Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak in Saudi Arabia, Saba news agency reported.
Lenderking is holding talks in the Kingdom as part of a US push to bring a nationwide cease-fire.
But the Biden administration appears increasingly frustrated by the Iran-backed Houthis and their refusal to engage with peace efforts.
During his meeting with Bin Mubarak, Lenderking repeated Washington’s position that there is no military solution to the Yemen conflict.
He strongly condemned the continued Houthi attacks on civilians and said an immediate and comprehensive cease-fire was a basic necessity to alleviate human suffering.
He said the US continued to support the legitimate government and the unity, stability and security of Yemen.
Bin Mubarak said: “The Houthi militia’s refusal to agree a comprehensive cease-fire, reopen Sanaa airport, and guarantee the supply of oil derivatives revenues to pay employees’ salaries proves the false pretexts these militias claim and confirms their bargaining on the humanitarian side, in order to continue implementing Iran’s subversive agenda.”
He said the militia’s targeting of civilians and populated areas in Marib with ballistic missiles has not stopped, but rather increased in severity, which exacerbates the seriousness of the humanitarian situation, increases the number of civilian casualties and undermines international efforts to establish peace.”


Houthis denounced for sentencing two activists to death

Houthis denounced for sentencing two activists to death
Updated 6 min 11 sec ago

Houthis denounced for sentencing two activists to death

Houthis denounced for sentencing two activists to death
  • Yemeni minister Ahmed Arman: Houthis are using the judicial bodies in areas under their control to “settle scores” with their opponents and to confiscate their property
  • Yemeni rights groups voiced concerns about the Houthis’ escalating crackdown on dissidents at a time when mediators are pressing them to agree to a peace initiative

ALEXANDRIA: Yemeni government officials, human rights activists and journalists have condemned a Houthi-run court’s decision to sentence two Yemeni activists to death, accusing the rebels of using the judiciary in areas under their control to punish dissidents.

On Tuesday, a Houthi-run court ordered that Zafaran Zaid, a Yemeni human rights activist and lawyer, and her husband and fellow activist Fuad Al-Mansouri be executed by firing squad. The two were tried in absentia. 

Zaid, head of the Yemeni Women’s Empowerment Foundation (Tamkeen), has exposed a number of human rights abuses by the Houthis. Al-Mansouri is the head of the Development Media Association and an outspoken critic of the Houthis. His brother, the journalist Tawfiq Al-Mansouri, was abducted by the Houthis in 2015 and sentenced to death in 2020. 

The court found the couple guilty of smuggling Buthaina Mohammed Al-Raimia — the Yemeni child injured in an errant airstrike by the Arab coalition in 2017 — to Riyadh. 

The child was sent to Riyadh by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, where she received life-saving medical treatment. Once she was fully recovered, she was returned to her family in northern Yemen.

Ahmed Arman, Yemen’s minister of legal affairs and human rights, told Arab News on Thursday that the Houthis are using the judicial bodies in areas under their control to “settle scores” with their opponents and to confiscate their property. 

“The ministry renews its strong condemnation and denunciation of all immoral and inhumane practices used by the Houthis against citizens in areas under their control and calls on the international and regional community to provide support to the Yemeni government and help it restore its authority over all Yemeni territories,” Arman said.

He added that Houthi-controlled courts have issued similar death sentences against hundreds of Yemeni activists, military and security officials, politicians and journalists for challenging their rule and backing the Yemeni government and Arab coalition. 

“The Houthis continue to use so-called judicial authority in areas under their control to seek vengeance on Yemenis,” Arman said.

Yemeni activists and rights groups echoed Arman’s concerns about the Houthis’ escalating crackdown on dissidents at a time when regional and international mediators are pressuring the rebels to agree to a peace initiative brokered by the UN to end the war. 

“The Houthis have become violent and oppressive towards Yemeni women — employing all methods of intimidation against them. What is happening is a flagrant violation of human rights,” Noora Al-Jarwi, a Yemeni activist, said.

The Geneva-based SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties demanded the Houthis put an end to their “farcical” death-sentence rulings. 

“SAM emphasizes that such rulings seriously violate a set of basic rights guaranteed by both Yemeni and international law,” the organization tweeted.


Egypt completes concrete work on tallest tower in Africa

Egypt completes concrete work on tallest tower in Africa
Updated 54 min 24 sec ago

Egypt completes concrete work on tallest tower in Africa

Egypt completes concrete work on tallest tower in Africa
  • The central business district of the NAC will feature 20 towers, including the 400-meter Iconic Tower
  • The 80-floor Iconic Tower project covers an area of 65,000 square meters

CAIRO: Egypt has announced the completion of the concrete work at the Iconic Tower skyscraper — the tallest tower in Africa — in the New Administrative Capital (NAC), east of Cairo.

“This represents a historic day in the history of modern Egypt and serves as a documentation of the growth the country is witnessing,” Minister of Housing Assem Al-Gazzar said at a function celebrating the feat on Thursday.

The project’s investments are estimated at $3 billion.

The project is being jointly implemented by the Egyptian Ministry of Housing, represented by the New Urban Communities Authority, and the China State Construction Engineering Corporation, one of the largest contracting companies in the world.

Al-Gazzar said the political leadership is taking full interest in the development projects at the NAC.

He said the Iconic Tower project will serve as a turning point in the history of urbanization in Egypt and that next week a new project will be launched in the city of El-Alamein alongside several new towers, “which confirms the extent of cooperation between Egypt and China.”

He added that several further projects would be inaugurated in the coming period.

Al-Gazzar thanked China and the Chinese company for their “great flexibility with the Egyptian government in implementing this huge project.”

The central business district of the NAC will feature 20 towers, including the 400-meter Iconic Tower.

Ahmed Al-Banna, project manager from the company Dar Al-Handasa, said the construction took 800 non-stop working days, adding that the pandemic did not halt the work.

He said the work was carried out in three phases, after which the concrete strength was installed, which accelerated work inside the tower.

The second phase, from the third floor to the 30th floor, took about 100 workdays, while during the third phase, one floor took about six workdays. The number of engineers, technicians and workers in the group amounted to 190.

The 80-floor tower project covers an area of 65,000 square meters.


Mutual desire between Cairo, Doha to restore ties, says Egyptian foreign minister

Mutual desire between Cairo, Doha to restore ties, says Egyptian foreign minister
Updated 17 June 2021

Mutual desire between Cairo, Doha to restore ties, says Egyptian foreign minister

Mutual desire between Cairo, Doha to restore ties, says Egyptian foreign minister
  • Sameh Shoukry said that during his visit to Doha, he discussed the many issues that had accumulated during the years in which Qatar was boycotted by the Anti-Terror Quartet
  • Shoukry said that many of the issues “were dealt with appropriately” and that both countries affirmed a mutual desire to restore “brotherhood and solidarity relations”

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Thursday that his recent visit to Doha, where he met Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, inspired a mutual desire to restore strong relations between the two countries.

In a press conference in Cairo with Foreign Minister of Luxembourg Jean Asselborn, Shoukry said that during his visit to Doha, he discussed the many issues that had accumulated during the years in which Qatar was boycotted by the Anti-Terror Quartet — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

On June 5, 2017, the four nations cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, closing borders and airspace and imposing an economic blockade. The decision was based on “Qatar’s embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups supported by Iran,” as reported earlier.

Shoukry said that many of the issues “were dealt with appropriately” and that both countries affirmed a mutual desire to restore “brotherhood and solidarity relations.”

“I was honored to meet Qatar’s emir. The meeting was positive,” Shoukry said, adding that the emir expressed keenness to reestablish friendly relations and to take into account and resolve all the issues that had previously complicated ties between the two countries.

Shoukry also referred to the consultative meeting of the Arab League Council in Doha at the request of Egypt and Sudan on the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Ethiopia is building on the Nile River.

A decision was made to support the Egyptian-Sudanese position and their water rights. The need for Ethiopia to be more flexible and reach a binding legal agreement on the issue of filling the dam was also addressed.

Shoukry said that Egypt wishes to reach a solution on the issue of the dam through negotiations.

For 10 years, Cairo has been trying to reach an agreement that takes into consideration common property rights in the Nile River, Shoukry said. He stressed that the Ethiopian people have a right to development but must exercise it without harming downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.

He said that Cairo’s goal is to show flexibility and provide an opportunity for the “Ethiopian brothers” to improve their standard of living.

“We have not yet sensed a political will from Addis Ababa to sign the agreement that was drafted in Washington … Ethiopia continues to be intransigent and repudiates agreements,” he added.


Cars erupt in flames in Beirut airport carpark, stockpiled petrol likely cause, local media report

Cars erupt in flames in Beirut airport carpark, stockpiled petrol likely cause, local media report
With petrol in short supply, residents have regularly been lined up for hours over the past two weeks to fill their tanks. (Twitter)
Updated 17 June 2021

Cars erupt in flames in Beirut airport carpark, stockpiled petrol likely cause, local media report

Cars erupt in flames in Beirut airport carpark, stockpiled petrol likely cause, local media report
  • The fire is under investigation, but Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces could not be reached for comment.

DUBAI: Thick plumes of black smoke filled the air as a blaze ripped through three cars in the car park of Beirut’s international airport on Thursday.

Initial reports in local media suggested the cause of the fire was due to petrol stored inside one of the vehicles.

It is thought that the fuel was likely stored in several cans being used to stockpile petrol which has recently become a hot commodity in Lebanon, due to shortages.

Reports suggest the fuel somehow ignited and spread to two other cars parked nearby – although Arab News has been unable to independently verify this.

No injuries were reported, an emergency worker stationed at the airport told Arab News.

The fire is under investigation, but Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces could not be reached for comment.

Petrol stations across Lebanon have been running on low supply for weeks as the central bank struggles to meet subsidy needs.

With petrol in short supply, residents have regularly been lined up for hours over the past two weeks to fill their tanks.

Public officials have advised people not to stockpile petrol in take-home containers, which have caused a spike in accidental fires.

Last month, a residential building in a Beirut suburb caught fire after a resident hoarded the attractive commodity.