Macron: France will sell arms to Egypt to help counter terrorism in Middle East

Macron: France will sell arms to Egypt to help counter terrorism in Middle East
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Siss gesture upon El-Sissi arrival at the Elysee palace, Monday, Dec. 7, 2020 in Paris. (AP)
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Updated 07 December 2020

Macron: France will sell arms to Egypt to help counter terrorism in Middle East

Macron: France will sell arms to Egypt to help counter terrorism in Middle East
  • French president meets Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Paris
  • El-Sisi says working to secure future for the Egyptian people in the region

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday he would not condition the future sale of French arms to Egypt on human rights because he did not want to weaken Cairo's ability to counter terrorism in the region.
"I will not condition matters of defence and economic cooperation on these disagreements (over human rights)," Macron said during a joint press conference with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi after the two leaders held talks in the Elysee Palace.
"It is more effective to have a policy of demanding dialogue than a boycott which would only reduce the effectiveness of one our partners in the fight against terrorism," he added.

Meanwhile, Sisi said that he was working to secure the future for the Egyptian people in the region.

"The security of 100 million Egyptians falls upon me," he said, accusing the Muslim Brotherhood organization of exporting extremist ideology to France and the rest of world.

Macron also stated that he had spoken frankly to El-Sisi about matters of human rights in the North African country, though he gave few details.
Macron made his remarks at a press conference with El-Sisi after the two leaders held talks at the Elysee Palace. Sisi was making a two-day visit to France, though hopes of nurturing closer ties were overshadowed by a furor over Cairo’s rights record.
Macron also said that while progress had been made in stabilising Libya, threats persisted from external actors.
France views Egypt and its leader as a bulwark against Islamist militants in the Sinai peninsular and Libya.

Earlier in the morning, France had welcomed Sisi with a Cavalry parade through Paris.

(with Reuters) 


Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack

Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack
Updated 03 March 2021

Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack

Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis said Wednesday he still expected to make his historic visit to Iraq in two days time, after a rocket attack on a military base hosting US-led coalition troops.
"The day after tomorrow, God willing, I will go to Iraq for a three-day pilgrimage. For a long time I have wanted to meet these people who have suffered so much," the 84-year-old Francis said in his weekly Wednesday address.
The Argentine pontiff asked for prayers for the trip, the first ever by a pope to Iraq, through which he hopes to encourage the dwindling Christian community to remain in their ancient homeland while broadening his outreach to Islam.
"I ask you to accompany this apostolic journey with your prayers so that it may take place in the best possible way and bear the hoped-for fruits," the pope said.
He added: "The Iraqi people are waiting for us, they were waiting for Saint John Paul II, who was forbidden to go. One cannot disappoint a people for the second time. Let us pray that this journey will be successful."
At least 10 rockets slammed into a military base in western Iraq hosting US-led coalition troops earlier on Wednesday, security sources said, leaving one civilian contractor dead.
The attack on the sprawling Ain al-Assad base in Iraq's western desert comes after several weeks of escalating US-Iran tensions on Iraqi soil.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for Francis said the pope would be travelling by armoured vehicle and that he would not be meeting crowds.
"This is a particular situation, that's why the transports will all be in a closed vehicle, meaning it will be complicated to see the pope on the streets," spokesman Matteo Brunei said.
"There will be a number of meetings but none will be more than a few hundred people," he said.


New government takes oath before Kuwait emir

New government takes oath before Kuwait emir
Updated 03 March 2021

New government takes oath before Kuwait emir

New government takes oath before Kuwait emir

DUBAI: Kuwait Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah called on the executive and legislative authorities in his country to cooperate as a new government took oath before him, according to state-run news agency KUNA. 

Sheikh Nawaf received at his Bayan Palace the prime minister, Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah to swear-in as head of cabinet.
Ministers of the new government were also sworn in.

The previous government had resigned in January.
Oil Minister Mohammad Abdulatif Al-Fares, Finance Minister Khalifa Hamade and Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Sabah were reappointed in the new cabinet.

 


COVID-19: UAE soon one of first countries to vaccinate most of population

COVID-19: UAE soon one of first countries to vaccinate most of population
Updated 03 March 2021

COVID-19: UAE soon one of first countries to vaccinate most of population

COVID-19: UAE soon one of first countries to vaccinate most of population
  • The UAE has been ranked as one of the top countries in coronavirus jabs by Our World in Data
  • It has also approved four coronavirus vaccines

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates will soon be one of the first countries in the world to vaccinate most of its population against coronavirus, TV channel Al-Arabiya reported.
“With the dedicated effort of the UAE government to combat the pandemic – for which we are truly thankful for, and the willingness of the general public to support the programs led by the government, UAE may soon be the first country to vaccinate its entire population and hence, reach herd immunity,” specialist in emergency medicine at Bareen International Hospital Fouad Al-Rahal told Al-Arabiya English.
The UAE has been ranked as one of the top countries in coronavirus jabs by Our World in Data, a collaboration between researchers at the University of Oxford and the non-profit Global Change Data Lab.
According to Our World in Data, UAE has administered at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to more than 60 percent of its population.
The Gulf state’s National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority reported that over six million vaccine doses have been administered across the seven emirates, with a rate of 60.82 doses per 100 people.
(embed tweet)
The UAE has approved four coronavirus vaccines, the Chinese Sinopharm, US-German Pfizer-BioNTech, UK-Swedish Oxford-AstraZeneca and Russian Sputnik V.


One dead in rocket attack on Iraq base hosting US troops

One dead in rocket attack on Iraq base hosting US troops
Updated 12 min ago

One dead in rocket attack on Iraq base hosting US troops

One dead in rocket attack on Iraq base hosting US troops
  • Comes just two days before the first-ever papal visit to the country

BAGHDAD: At least 10 rockets slammed into a military base in western Iraq hosting US-led coalition troops on Wednesday, security sources said, leaving one civilian contractor dead.

The attack on the sprawling Al-Asad base in Iraq’s western desert comes after several weeks of escalating US-Iran tensions on Iraqi soil.

It also comes just two days before the first-ever papal visit to the country by Pope Francis, who said he would still make the visit so as not to “disappoint” the Iraqi people.

Al-Asad hosts both Iraqi forces and US-led coalition troops helping fight the Daesh group, as well as the unmanned drones the coalition uses to surveil militant sleeper cells.

Coalition spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto confirmed that 10 rockets hit the base at 7:20 am (0420 GMT) while Iraqi security forces said they had found the platform from which 10 “Grad-type rockets” hit the Al-Asad base.

Western security sources told AFP the rockets were Iranian-made Arash models, which are 122mm artillery rockets and heavier than those seen in similar attacks.

“One civilian contractor died of a heart attack during the attack,” a high-level security source told AFP, adding that he could not confirm the contractor’s nationality.

The death marks the third fatality in rocket attacks in recent weeks, after rockets targeting US-led troops in the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil left two people dead.

Days later, more rockets hit a US military contracting company working north of the capital and the US embassy in Baghdad, but only injuries were reported.

In response, the US carried out an air strike on February 26 against Kataeb Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary force stationed along the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Washington says it struck on the Syrian side of the border but Kataeb claims one of its fighters who was killed in the bombardment was protecting “Iraqi territory.”

Analysts have pointed to both domestic and international reasons for the sudden rise in tensions.

Hard-line Iraqi groups have an interest in ramping up the pressure on Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi following his pledges to rein in rogue militias.

They may also carry a message from Tehran to Washington, which under US President Joe Biden is offering to revive the Iran nuclear deal abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump in 2018.

Iran is demanding the US lift sanctions immediately, while the US wants Iran to move first by returning to previous nuclear commitments.

Tensions between the two rivals peaked in January 2020, following a US drone strike on Baghdad airport that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and top Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis.

In response, Iran launched ballistic missiles on Al-Asad and Irbil, wounding dozens.

Over the next 10 months, dozens of rockets and roadside bombs targeted Western security, military and diplomatic sites across Iraq — some of them deadly.

Iraqi and Western officials have blamed hard-line pro-Iran factions, some of which have established “front groups” to avoid being directly accused of violence.

Last year’s attacks came to a near-complete halt in October following a truce with the hard-liners, but they have resumed at a quickening pace over the past three weeks.

Despite the recent escalation, Pope Francis is determined to go ahead on Friday with the first-ever papal visit to the country.

“The day after tomorrow, God willing, I will go to Iraq for a three-day pilgrimage. For a long time I have wanted to meet these people who have suffered so much,” the 84-year-old Francis said in his Wednesday address.

He added: “The Iraqi people are waiting for us, they were waiting for Saint John Paul II, who was forbidden to go. One cannot disappoint a people for the second time. Let us pray that this journey will be successful.”

While he is not scheduled to visit western Iraq, Francis will spend time in Baghdad and Irbil, both hit by rocket attacks last month.

Iraq is simultaneously gripped by a second wave of the coronavirus, which is seeing more than 4,500 new cases a day in the country of 40 million.

To stem the spread and control the crowds during the Pope’s visit, Iraq is set to extend its weekend lockdowns to include the entirety of the papal visit from March 5-8.


Ten people killed in plane crash in South Sudan

Ten people killed in plane crash in South Sudan
Updated 03 March 2021

Ten people killed in plane crash in South Sudan

Ten people killed in plane crash in South Sudan

JUBA: Ten people, including the two pilots, died when a plane crashed Tuesday at an airstrip in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, the region’s governor said.

“It was with great shock and horror to receive the news of the plane crash (HK-4274) of South Sudan Supreme Airline that happened today the 2nd day of March 2021 at around 5.05 PM at Pieri Airstrip,” Governor Denay Jock Chagor said in a statement sent to AFP Wednesday.

“Ten people including the two pilots lost their lives.”