UK must stand up to Iran: MPs

UK must stand up to Iran: MPs
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) rally, which Assadollah Assadi planned to bomb, in Villepinte, north of Paris, June 30, 2018. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 February 2021

UK must stand up to Iran: MPs

UK must stand up to Iran: MPs
  • EU, Britain urged to use ‘maximum pressure’ against ‘pariah state’
  • Statement follows court ruling that found Iranian diplomat guilty of planning to bomb opposition rally in Paris

LONDON: A cross-party group of British MPs has written to the government urging it to have the “courage” to downgrade diplomatic relations with Tehran in response to the threat posed by Iran’s state terrorism.

The letter, issued by the British Committee for Iran Freedom (BCFIF), said the case of Assadollah Assadi — an Iranian diplomat convicted of terrorism for trying to bomb an opposition rally in Paris in 2018 — is evidence that Tehran uses its diplomatic missions abroad as a cover for terrorism.

“Iran’s decision to act as a pariah state and to use its diplomats to threaten the security of Europe and the life of its citizens must be met with maximum pressure and not maximum diplomacy by the EU and UK,” the MPs and Lord Alton of Liverpool said in the letter.

In a separate statement, Lord Alton said the Assadi ruling and investigation “show beyond any doubt that this was an act of state terrorism by the regime in Iran against the country’s organised pro-democracy opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), by targeting their conference, leader and supporters on European soil.”

Lord Alton denounced the invitation extended to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to speak at the virtual Europe-Iran Business Forum in March, and urged the UK to downgrade relations with Tehran and investigate its diplomatic mission in London for evidence of terrorist activity.

“A Global Britain must have the courage to take the lead in Europe to address the serious threats of Iran’s state terrorism,” the BCFIF said.

It added that until the UK has confronted the Iranian threat within the county, it should proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization and sanction senior Iranian leaders such as Zarif and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Ali Safavi, an official with the NCRI’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told Arab News that “the concern over the Iranian regime’s illicit and dangerous nuclear weapons program shouldn’t dwarf other aspects of its malign and sinister behavior,” including “its renewed intelligence gathering and terrorist schemes on European soil.” 

He said Tehran’s terrorism in Europe, its pursuit of nuclear weapons, its human rights abuses at home and its expansionism across the Middle East “are part and parcel of the same policy and, as such, must be dealt with in their entirety. A piecemeal approach to all these nefarious actions will be to no avail.”

He added: “It’s time for the EU to revise its policy vis-a-vis the ruling theocracy, and stand with the Iranian people and not with their oppressors.”

Soleimani’s shadow
Qassem Soleimani left a trail of death and destruction in his wake as head of Iran’s Quds Force … until his assassination on Jan. 3, 2020. Yet still, his legacy of murderous interference continues to haunt the region

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Explosion rocks southern Iraqi city of Basra, local reports say

Explosion rocks southern Iraqi city of Basra, local reports say
Updated 6 sec ago

Explosion rocks southern Iraqi city of Basra, local reports say

Explosion rocks southern Iraqi city of Basra, local reports say

BAGHDAD: Explosion rocks southern Iraqi city of Basra; local reports say multiple casualties from what was likely a car bomb


UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022

UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022
Updated 33 min 50 sec ago

UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022

UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022
  • The decision is aimed at boosting productivity and improving work-life balance, WAM reported

DUBAI: The UAE government will transition to a four-and-a-half-day working week, with Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday forming the new weekend starting Jan. 1, 2022 for all federal departments, state news agency WAM reported. 
The new system will be applied in all federal government entities with working hours from 7:30 a.m. till 3:30 p.m., it added.
Working hours on Fridays will start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 12 noon, with the possibility of flexible working hours or work from home options during those days. Friday sermons and prayers will be after 1:15 p.m. all year long in the UAE. 
The decision is aimed at boosting productivity and improving work-life balance, WAM reported.


UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed
Updated 27 min 47 sec ago

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed
  • It is the first polymer banknote to be circulated in the country
  • The current 50- dirham note will continue to be used

DUBAI: UAE rulers witnessed the launch of a new 50-dirham banknote on Tuesday, in celebration of the country’s 50th National Day. 
The initiative comes in honor of the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, and the country’s first generation of rulers to commemorate their dedication and historical role in uniting the country.
It is the first polymer banknote to be circulated in the country.
“We see in this issuance the new phase that UAE will enter, and a renewed pledge to continue its growth path. The occasion also allowed us to express our appreciation and gratitude to our founding fathers by issuing a new AED50 banknote to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the UAE,” said Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of the UAE. 
The front of the new banknote features a portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed on the right, and the memorial picture of the founding fathers after signing the union document. 
Meanwhile, the back side includes a picture of the late Sheikh Zayed signing the union agreement as well as illustration of the Etihad Museum, which witnessed the establishment of the union and the raising of the UAE flag for the first time.
According to state news agency WAM, the new banknote will be available in Central Bank branches and ATMs ‘in the near future’.
The current 50- dirham note will continue to be used.
Polymer banknotes are said to be more durable and sustainable than traditional cotton paper banknotes, lasting two or more times longer in circulation. They can also be completely recycled, thus reducing their environmental footprint.


Syria says fires extinguished at Latakia’s port following Israeli ‘aggression’

 Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 07 December 2021

Syria says fires extinguished at Latakia’s port following Israeli ‘aggression’

 Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
  • Israel has mounted frequent attacks against what it has described as Iranian targets in Syria

CAIRO: Fires caused by an Israeli “aggression” at Syria’s Latakia port on Tuesday had been extinguished, leaving material damage, but the status of any casualties was unclear, Syria’s state media reported.

Five explosions rocked the port city after an Israeli “aggression” hit the port’s container yard, sending fire trucks racing to the site, Syrian state TV said.

Israel has mounted frequent attacks against what it has described as Iranian targets in Syria, where Tehran-backed forces including Lebanon’s Hezbollah have deployed over the last decade to support President Bashar Assad.

The Mediterranean port of Latakia is the country’s main port, through which food and other crucial supplies flow into war-torn Syria, and is close to Russia’s main air base of Hmeimim.


Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli guard

Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli guard
Updated 07 December 2021

Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli guard

Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli guard

RAMALLAH: A Palestinian teenager who drove his car into an Israeli security checkpoint in the occupied West Bank was shot dead on Monday by a security guard at the scene, officials said.

The car-ramming occurred after 1 a.m. at the Te’enim checkpoint near the Palestinian city of Tulkarem, an Israeli Defense Ministry statement said, adding that the assailant had been “neutralized.”

It was not immediately clear if the alleged attacker was killed, but the official Palestinian news agency Wafa later reported that 15-year-old Mohammed Nidal Yunes died from injuries after being fired on at a checkpoint.

An Israeli security official confirmed to AFP that the driver of the vehicle was killed.

The Defense Ministry said that a security guard was “seriously injured” in the attack.

Israel’s Sheba Hospital said the guard’s injuries were not life threatening.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 and the Palestinian territory is now home to roughly 475,000 Jewish settlers living in communities widely considered illegal under international law.

Attacks on checkpoints are common, often carried out by individual Palestinians armed with knives, as well as attempted car-rammings and occasional shootings.

Monday’s incident came after a Palestinian assailant stabbed an Israeli civilian and attempted to attack police on Saturday near the Damascus Gate entry to the Old City in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.

The assailant was shot dead by officers who appeared to fire on the suspect after he was on the ground, stirring debate about excessive force.

Israeli authorities have insisted the officers acted appropriately.

BACKGROUND

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 and the Palestinian territory is now home to roughly 475,000 Jewish settlers living in communities widely considered illegal under international law.

On Sunday, Israeli authorities freed a prominent Palestinian prisoner, two weeks after striking a release deal that ended his marathon 131-day hunger strike.

Kayed Fasfous, 32, had remained in an Israeli hospital since ending his strike on Nov. 23.

He was the symbolic figurehead of six hunger strikers protesting Israel’s controversial policy of “administrative detention,” which allows suspects to be held indefinitely without charge.

Israel claims the policy is necessary to keep dangerous suspects locked away without disclosing sensitive information that could expose valuable sources.

Palestinians and rights groups say the practice denies the right of due process, allowing Israel to hold prisoners for months or even years without seeing the evidence against them.  The law is rarely applied to Israelis.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club, a group representing former and current prisoners, confirmed Fasfous had returned home to the occupied West Bank through a military checkpoint near the southern city of Hebron on Sunday afternoon.

Online footage showed the former prisoner in a wheelchair celebrating his return to his southern hometown of Dura before being taken to a hospital in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The plight of the six hunger strikers ignited solidarity demonstrations across the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza in November mounting pressure on Israel to release the detainees.

At least four of the five other hunger strikers have since ended their protests after reaching similar deals with Israeli authorities. They are expected to be released in the coming months.

Hunger strikes are common among Palestinian prisoners and have helped secure numerous concessions from Israeli authorities.

The nature of these strikes vary from individuals protesting detention without charge to groups calling for improved cell conditions.

Around 500 of the 4,600 Palestinians detained by Israel are held in administrative detention according to Addameer, a Palestinian prisoner rights group.