AS IT HAPPENED: Joe Biden becomes 46th US President

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States as his spouse Jill Biden holds a bible on the West Front of the US Capitol in Washington DC, January 20, 2021. (Reuters)
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Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States as his spouse Jill Biden holds a bible on the West Front of the US Capitol in Washington DC, January 20, 2021. (Reuters)
President-elect Joe Biden arrives with his wife Jill Biden for his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the US Capitol in Washington DC, January 20, 2021. (Reuters)
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President-elect Joe Biden arrives with his wife Jill Biden for his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the US Capitol in Washington DC, January 20, 2021. (Reuters)
Doug Emhoff, U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and President-elect Joe Biden wave as they arrive on the East Front of the US Capitol for the inauguration on January 20, 2021. (AFP)
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Doug Emhoff, U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and President-elect Joe Biden wave as they arrive on the East Front of the US Capitol for the inauguration on January 20, 2021. (AFP)
Members of the U.S. Army Band
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Members of the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" looks on ahead of the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on the West Front of the US Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. (AFP)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania make their way to board Marine One before departing from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on January 20, 2021. (AFP)
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US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania make their way to board Marine One before departing from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on January 20, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 21 January 2021

AS IT HAPPENED: Joe Biden becomes 46th US President

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States as his spouse Jill Biden holds a bible on the West Front of the US Capitol in Washington DC, January 20, 2021. (AFP)
  • Kamala Harris also sworn in as Vice President
  • Ceremony took place amid heightened tensions and a massive security operation

LONDON: Joe Biden has officially become the 46th president of the United States.

Biden took the oath of office just before noon Wednesday during a ceremony at the US Capitol. The presidential oath was administered by US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Biden was sworn in using a Bible that has been in his family since 1893 and was used during his swearing-in as vice president in 2009 and 2013.

History was made at Biden’s side, as Kamala Harris became the first woman to be vice president.

The ceremony in which presidential power is transferred is a hallowed American democratic tradition. And this time it serves as a jarring reminder of the challenges Biden faces: The inauguration unfolds at a US Capitol battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks ago, encircled by security forces. It’s devoid of crowds because of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

Follow live updates of the inauguration below (all times GMT):

21:25 - The UAE’s President Sheikh Khalifa congratulated Joe Biden and wished him success. 

Sheikh Khalifa said he hoped their two countries would deepen their decades-long partnership and work together on pressing challenges such as global health, climate change, and violent extremism.

He said the UAE has worked closely with President Biden during his many years in the US Senate and as Vice President.

20:30 - President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden drove from Arlington Cemetery to the White House, where they stepped through the famous doors for the first time as America’s first couple.

Vice President Harris wasn’t too far behind with her husband, the Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff.

19:30 - After the ceremony in the Capitol, Biden and Harris are now attending a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Arlington Ceremony before they head off to the White House.

19:00 - Following his official confirmation as President of the United States, Biden signs his first documents in his new position of power.

18:00 - World leaders have been sending, or tweeting, their congratulations to Biden and Harris following their swearing-in ceremonies. From UK prime minister Boris Johnson to Pope Francis to the EU chief Ursula von der Leyen, read more here.

Watch Israel's Netanyahu’s message below:

17:30 - There were some big names from the world of entertainment were also involved in the inauguration, with Lady Gaga performing the US anthem and Jennifer Lopez performing “This Land Is Your Land.”

 

 

 

 

17:15 - Biden called on Americans to overcome their divisions, declaring in his first address in office that “without unity, there is no peace.”

He also pledged during his inaugural address Wednesday that he would be honest with the country as it continues to confront difficulties, saying that leaders have an obligation “to defend the truth and defeat the lies.” He asked even those who did not vote for him to give him a chance. He said, “Hear me out as we move forward.”

As he did frequently during the campaign, Biden pledged that he will be a “president for all Americans” and will “fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”

He added, “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue.”

16:50 - LIVE - Joe Biden completes his oath and becomes the 46th President of the United States, assuming the office from Donald Trump.

16:20 - Biden’s presidential inauguration ceremony has begun, with history being made as Harris becomes the first woman to be vice president.

16:00 - Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are on the podium ahead of the ceremony.

 

15:45 - An iconic shot of the next President of the United States, Biden, arriving for his inauguration with his Vice Presdient Harris. 

15:30 - Senators and dignitaries, including former president Obama and his wife Michelle, are arriving and making their way to their positions.

15:20 - In case you missed it, Trump made a speech on Tuesday during which he outlined his achievements in the Middle East in his four-year tenure in the White House. Click here for more.

15:10 - The 44th American president, Barack Obama, for whom Biden served as Vice President, tweeted a supportive message for his friend and former colleague ahead of the ceremony.

 

15:00 - In a column written for Arab News this week, the GCC’s assistant secretary-general for political affairs and negotiation Dr. Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg drew comparisons between the situation in Washington now and 30 years ago, when the US launched a military operation to remove Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait.

He argues that the new administration will need to urgently engage the rest of the world to reassure allies and partners and deter adversaries.

“US rivals and adversaries are already testing the resolve of the new administration. Iran, for example, has resumed its harassment of shipping in the Gulf by hijacking a South Korean ship, and Tehran’s proxies have also intensified their malign activities in the region. The Houthis of Yemen have escalated their attacks on Saudi civilian targets and, on Dec. 30, launched an attack on Aden airport targeting the newly formed government of Yemen upon its arrival to the country.”

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

14:45 - Read more of Arab News’ coverage on the Biden inauguration and what his tenure as president of the US will bring over the next four years.

How the Biden presidency might impact Turkey’s Kurdish problem

Biden plans immediate end to Trump’s ‘travel ban’ on Muslim majority states

Kremlin says would welcome Biden’s efforts to extend New START arms control treaty

14:30 - And Biden had a simple message of hope ahead of his swearing-in...

14:25 - Vice President Harris shared a touching tribute to the “women who came before” her, a few hours before the ceremony later today.

14:15 - President-elect Biden attended church ahead of his inauguration, in a traditional step taken ahead of the swearing-in ceremony.

Biden and incoming first lady Jill Biden were at Washington’s Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. With them were incoming Vice President Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff.

At Biden’s invitation, the first couple was joined by a bipartisan group of members of Congress, including all four top-ranking members of congressional leadership.

14:00 - Trump said he will be “back in some form” before boarding Air Force One for Florida.

“This has been an incredible four years,” Trump said in brief remarks to staff, supporters and members of his family gathered at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington. “We’ve accomplished so much together, I will always fight for you. We will be back in some form.”

Trump did not address Biden by name but said he wishs the new administration “great luck and great success.”

13:30 - Trump makes some final comments as President of the United States, saying the job had been the “greatest honor” of his life. Watch it below:

 


Pakistan refuses air bases for US after Afghan pullout

Pakistan refuses air bases for US after Afghan pullout
Updated 12 May 2021

Pakistan refuses air bases for US after Afghan pullout

Pakistan refuses air bases for US after Afghan pullout
  • Islamabad’s role is to be ‘a partner in peace,’ says foreign minister

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said on Tuesday it will not provide air bases to the US after the troop withdrawal from neighboring Afghanistan, vowing to protect the nation’s interests and support the Afghan peace process.

“No. We don’t intend to allow boots on the ground here, and Pakistan isn’t transferring any base (to the US),” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told a press conference in the capital Islamabad.

Last month, US President Joe Biden said that the remaining 2,500 foreign troops will leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11, more than four months after the initial deadline of May 1 set by the Taliban and Washington as part of a historic accord signed in Doha more than a year ago.

He warned the Taliban that the US could defend itself and its partners from attacks as it draws down its forces, and that Washington would “reorganize its counterterrorism capabilities and assets in the region” to prevent the emergence of another terrorist threat.

The removal of the remaining US troops coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, which spurred America’s entry into lengthy wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Qureshi said that his government had formulated an “explicit policy” regarding partnership with the US for peace in Afghanistan.

“We will be partners in peace, and this will be our role — the role of a facilitator,” he said.

In his congressional testimony last month, Gen. Kenneth Frank McKenzie, commander of the US Central Command, said that Washington is engaged in “a significant” diplomatic effort to determine where it will base a counterterrorism force in the region to deter terrorist groups after all American troops leave the country.”

He added: “No such understanding, however, currently exists with any of Afghanistan’s neighbors for housing the proposed anti-terrorism forces.”

Qureshi denied there had been pressure on Pakistan from the US to provide air bases, saying: “There is no pressure. Pakistan will protect its interests.”

He said that Islamabad hoped to see peace and stability in Afghanistan.

“It’s our need, and we want it to happen this way,” he said, vowing to continue support for the US-led Afghan peace process.

Afghans will have to take ownership of the peace process to make it a success, he said.

“The basic responsibility for peace lies with the Afghans, and we are praying for their success.” 

Qureshi also welcomed the Taliban’s announcement of a three-day cease-fire during the Eid holidays in Afghanistan on Monday.

“This is a positive development. The reduction in violence will help provide a conducive environment for negotiations,” he said.

Pakistan’s military bases and land routes played a crucial role in facilitating and sustaining the US-led military invasion of landlocked Afghanistan.

Islamabad has long retaken control of its bases from the US forces, and defense analysts said it would not be in the country’s interest to hand these over to Washington once again.

“The US wants to maintain its surveillance of Afghanistan after the troops’ withdrawal, and that is why it is looking for options in the region to house aircraft, drones and maintenance systems,” Lt. Gen. (retd) Amjad Shoaib, a defense analyst, told Arab News.

He added that Washington “may maintain its presence in India” with which it has already signed a logistics support agreement, but “even then they would need Pakistan’s permission to use the air corridor for any drone or jet flight to Afghanistan.”

“We have already suffered a lot due to America’s war in Afghanistan and cannot sustain it further by providing military bases,” he added.

Related


Horror as 71 bodies of suspected COVID-19 victims found along Ganges river

Horror as 71 bodies of suspected COVID-19 victims found along Ganges river
Updated 12 May 2021

Horror as 71 bodies of suspected COVID-19 victims found along Ganges river

Horror as 71 bodies of suspected COVID-19 victims found along Ganges river
  • Discovery of half-burnt, decomposed bodies sends shock waves among locals in the Buxar district of Bihar

NEW DELHI: Local authorities in the Buxar district of India’s eastern state of Bihar on Tuesday confirmed the discovery of 71 dead bodies, suspected to be of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) victims, after they washed ashore along the banks of the river Ganges. 

The discovery sent shock waves and panic among locals in the Chausa town of the Buxar district on Monday after they found the half-burnt, decomposed bodies along the river, confirming media reports that the pandemic had spread to rural areas of India, the global epicenter of the pandemic. 

“We have conducted the postmortem of 71 bodies on Monday and preserved their DNA for future investigation,” Kanhaiya Kumar, the district’s public relations officer, told Arab News. 

He added that the “bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition and had floated in from the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh.”

Bihar’s Buxar district shares its border with the Ghazipur area of the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh. The River Ganges, which starts from the Himalayas, crisscrosses through Uttar Pradesh before entering Bihar, flowing into Bengal and eventually merging with the Bay of Bengal. 

Locals, however, dispute the district administration’s claims that the bodies came from the neighboring state. 

“The fact remains that the water in the river Ganges is shallow these days, and at many places between Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the river is dry. How  can the bodies come from the other state?” Kapindra Kishore, a Buxar-based journalist, told Arab News. 

“The villagers are claiming over 100 bodies were floating, and they say that many deaths are taking place in the rural areas that are not being reported,” he added. 

On Tuesday, India registered more than 330,000 cases and 3,700 deaths, slightly lower than Monday. 

Out of the total tally, Bihar reported over 10,000 cases and 75 deaths. 

Some, however, allege that the data is being underreported. 

“There is a community transfer of the virus this time, and many are dying in villages without adequate medical supply. You will never get the actual data because people are dying at home without going to the hospital,” Ajit Kumar Singh, a local legislator from the Dumraon area of the Buxar district, told Arab News. 

“If earlier 15 to 20 bodies were being cremated per day in the district crematorium, now at least 100 are being burnt every day,” he explained, adding that many locals cannot afford the expensive wood necessary for the funeral pyres. 

“Just like COVID-19 medicines are being sold in the black market these days, so too the wood for cremation is being supplied at a higher rate,” he said. 

“Poor people who can’t afford wood at higher rates throw the dead bodies into the river in a half-burnt state. This is the reality today,” he added. 

According to official data, the Buxar district has registered 78 deaths so far in the second wave of COVID-19. 

Doctors say the number is much higher than reported. 

“The situation is really grim in Buxar and adjoining areas, and the discovery of the bodies at Chausa shows how bad we are placed,” Dr. Mahendra Prasad, a Buxar-based doctor and district president of the Indian Medical Association, told Arab News. 

“Not even cities are prepared to handle the crisis, much less villages. People are dying in rural areas in large numbers, which are not reflected in the official data,” he added. 

There are about 100 beds in hospitals across Buxar, which has a population of more than 1.7 million. 

“The administration was not ready to handle the situation. Now they are working on it, but whether it will be adequate is difficult to say. We are dependent on God’s mercy,” Prasad said. 

One of the worst-affected villages in the district is Dharahara, which reported 15 deaths in the past week. 

“In every village, there are more than 20 people who are COVID-19-positive, and in my village itself, in just over one week, some 15 people have lost their lives,” Rama Shankar, a Dharhara-based student activist, told Arab News. 

“The government has failed us completely. People are dying due to a shortage of oxygen, a lack of beds in hospitals and the complete negligence of the health sector,” Shankar said, adding that “essential medicine like Remdesivir, which should normally be available for no more than $50, costs $500 in the black market.” 

He said that “the virus has spread into the community, but the government is not doing mass testing to break the chain of infection. We are suffering because the government has failed us.”


India buys 300,000 doses of Remdesivir from Egypt

India buys 300,000 doses of Remdesivir from Egypt
Updated 11 May 2021

India buys 300,000 doses of Remdesivir from Egypt

India buys 300,000 doses of Remdesivir from Egypt
  • The shipments came as part of Egypt’s support and solidarity with friendly countries

CAIRO: India has bought 300,000 doses of the Remdesivir drug from Egypt’s Eva Pharma company as it grapples with a coronavirus crisis.

The Indian Embassy in Cairo on Monday signed an agreement to procure 300,000 doses of the drug that is used to treat coronavirus infections.

The signing ceremony was attended by Indian envoy Ajit Gupte and Riad Armanious, CEO of Eva Pharma.

It was held at the embassy of India in Cairo, with the embassy acting on behalf of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Gupte thanked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly for directing relevant Egyptian authorities to cooperate with India in the medical emergency.

He expressed confidence in Remdesivir to effectively heal of tens of thousands of coronavirus patients.

Gupte praised the keenness of the Egyptian state and Egyptian national institutions to support India.

He said that the sale of the drug will play a “crucial” role in India’s fight against coronavirus. The country is expected to receive doses quickly over the next few days, according to the Middle East News Agency.

Armanious affirmed his confidence in Remdesivir speeding up the recovery of Indian coronavirus patients.

He said that the drug prevents the virus from reproducing inside the cells of the human body and stops its spread, which will reduce death rates in India.

Armanious added that the drug has achieved “great success” across several continents after it was exported to a large number of countries.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Egypt’s Ministry of Health and Population sent three military aircraft to India loaded with large quantities of medical aid.

The shipments came as part of Egypt’s support and solidarity with friendly countries, and implements the directives of El-Sisi, an official statement said.

India is experiencing a second wave of COVID-19, with high rates of infections and deaths amid an acute shortage of medicine, medical supplies, and prevention and protection tools.


Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid
Updated 11 May 2021

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid
  • Most of the crowd on Tuesday in Madrid waved Palestinian flags and shouted “Israel, assassin of the Palestinian people”
  • Protestors wore face masks as stipulated by Spanish health laws to fight pandemic

MADRID: A few dozen people have gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in the Spanish capital to protest Israel’s use of force against the Palestinians.
Most of the crowd on Tuesday in Madrid waved Palestinian flags. They shouted “Israel, assassin of the Palestinian people” and “it’s Palestine, not Israel” in Spanish.
Some held up photos of Palestinians being arrested by Israeli forces. All wore face masks as stipulated by Spanish health laws to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The escalation in the conflict was sparked by weeks of tensions in contested Jerusalem.


Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program
Updated 11 May 2021

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program
  • Priority for age groups and medical vulnerability waived in favour of permanent residents of nearly 100 islands
  • Islanders make up around 1.5 million of Greece’s population of 10.7 million

NAXOS, Greece: A vaccination program for Greek islands is being accelerated to cover all local residents by the end of June, the government announced Tuesday ahead of the launch of the tourism season.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said a nationwide priority system for age groups and medical vulnerability was being waived for permanent residents of nearly 100 islands.
“This initiative is aimed at supporting local island communities and their economy and it also aspires to send a positive overall message for our tourism,” Mitsotakis said.
Greece is fighting to revive its key tourism sector that was battered by the pandemic in 2020 but its vaccination rates remain below the European Union average and the country has only recently stabilized a surge in cases.
Islanders make up around 1.5 million of Greece’s population of 10.7 million. Many holiday islands have a year-round population of under 10,000, while Crete has the largest with more than 600,000 residents, followed by Evia, Rhodes, Corfu, Lesbos, and Chios. The tourism season will officially start Friday.