Vatican foundation announces program to support Christians in Iraq

Pope Francis will visit Erbil on March 7, where he will meet religious and civil authorities of the autonomous region. (AFP)
Pope Francis will visit Erbil on March 7, where he will meet religious and civil authorities of the autonomous region. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 03 March 2021

Vatican foundation announces program to support Christians in Iraq

Vatican foundation announces program to support Christians in Iraq
  • Scholarships will be funded for students of Catholic University of Erbil
  • ‘This program will help Christians build a better future for themselves and their country,’ foundation official tells Arab News

ROME: In the run up to the pope’s visit to Iraq on March 5-8, a Vatican foundation has announced a new program worth €1.5 million ($1.8 million) to support young Christians living in the country.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACS) will fund scholarships for 150 students of the Catholic University of Erbil for the next four years. It is the only Catholic university in Iraq, and 54 percent of its 170 students are women.

Bashar Warda, Chaldean archbishop of Erbil and founder of the university in the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, described the scholarships as “a strong gesture of solidarity towards Christians, but also towards other minorities in the region who are marginalized.” He said around 150,000 Christians fled to Iraqi Kurdistan in 2014 to escape Daesh.

“The Catholic University of Erbil represents a true symbol of hope, especially for younger generations living in Kurdistan and in Iraq,” he added.

“We believe that our scholarships will ensure tremendous support to young people who hope for a better future.”

Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive chairman of ACS International, said: “This project aims to promote social cohesion between the different religious communities, and to ensure better employment prospects for Christian students.”

Most students of the university are either refugees or internally displaced. “We believe this project can support the pope’s message of social cohesion and reconciliation,” said Heine-Geldern.

“That university is built around diversity, with 72 percent Christians, 10 percent Muslims and 18 percent Yazidis.”

Alfredo Mantovano, president of ACS Italia, told Arab News: “In Iraqi Kurdistan the Christian minority lives in relative safety, but the region’s economic situation is precarious. For this reason, many young people decide to emigrate.”

He added: “Not surprisingly, in the last 10 years the Christian presence has dramatically decreased. This program will help young Christians to stay there, receive an education and build a better future for themselves and their country.”

Pope Francis will visit Erbil on March 7, where he will meet religious and civil authorities of the autonomous region.
 


Police: Israeli stabbed in Jerusalem, suspect flees on foot

Police: Israeli stabbed in Jerusalem, suspect flees on foot
Updated 5 sec ago

Police: Israeli stabbed in Jerusalem, suspect flees on foot

Police: Israeli stabbed in Jerusalem, suspect flees on foot
  • The stabbing took place in Sheikh Jarrah, where several Palestinian extended families are at risk of being evicted by Jewish settlers
  • The attack came days after a Palestinian stabbed and wounded an Israeli man
JERUSALEM: An Israeli woman was stabbed and lightly wounded in a tense neighborhood in east Jerusalem on Wednesday, and the suspect fled, Israeli police and medics said.
The woman was evacuated to the trauma unit of the nearby Hadassah Mt. Scopus Hospital, which said the 26-year-old was conscious and in stable condition. Emergency medics had earlier given her age as 30 and said she was seriously wounded.
The stabbing took place in Sheikh Jarrah, where several Palestinian extended families are at risk of being evicted by Jewish settlers amid a decades-long legal battle. Protests and clashes with police there last spring helped ignite the 11-day Gaza war.
Sirens could be heard echoing across the neighborhood as traffic was heavy with morning commuters.
The attack came days after a Palestinian stabbed and wounded an Israeli man and tried to stab a member of the paramilitary Border Police just outside Jerusalem’s Old City, about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from Sheikh Jarrah. The Border Police shot and killed the attacker.
Last month, a Hamas militant opened fire in Jerusalem’s Old City, killing one Israeli and wounding four others before being fatally shot by police.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, including the Old City and major holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. It considers the entire city its unified capital.
The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state. The city’s fate was one of the thorniest issues in peace talks that ground to a halt more than a decade ago.

Renewed Iran nuclear talks seen Thursday, but France believes Tehran playing for time

Renewed Iran nuclear talks seen Thursday, but France believes Tehran playing for time
Updated 4 min 35 sec ago

Renewed Iran nuclear talks seen Thursday, but France believes Tehran playing for time

Renewed Iran nuclear talks seen Thursday, but France believes Tehran playing for time

DOHA: Talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are expected to resume on Thursday, France’s foreign minister said, although he added that he feared Iran was playing for time.

“The elements... are not very encouraging,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a French parliament committee, referring to the seventh round of nuclear talks between Iran and major powers that began on Nov. 29 and paused on Friday.

“We have the feeling the Iranians want to make it last and the longer the talks last, the more they go back on their commitments ... and get closer to capacity to get a nuclear weapon,” Le Drian said.

Under the 2015 deal struck by Tehran and six major powers, Iran limited its nuclear program in return for relief from US, European Union and UN sanctions.

Then-President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh US sanctions, and Iran began violating the nuclear restrictions a year later.

While Le Drian and Iranian media reports said talks were expected to resume Thursday, a senior US State Department official said Washington did not yet have a confirmed date.

The indirect US-Iranian talks in Vienna, in which other diplomats shuttle between them because Tehran refuses direct talks with Washington, aim to get both sides to resume compliance with the deal.

However, last week’s discussions broke off with European and US officials voicing dismay at sweeping demands by Iran’s new, hard-line government under anti-Western President Ebrahim Raisi, whose June election caused a five-month pause in the talks.

A senior US official on Saturday said Iran abandoned any compromises it had made in the previous six rounds of talks, pocketed those made by others, and demanded more last week.

Each side appears to be trying to blame the other for the lack of progress.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the presidents of the United States and Russia — two of the six major powers in the deal along with Britain, China, France, and Germany — had a “productive” discussion about Iran on Tuesday.

“The more Iran demonstrates a lack of seriousness at the negotiating table, the more unity there is among the P5+1 and the more they will be exposed as the isolated party in this negotiation,” he told reporters, referring to the six powers.

Speaking on Monday, Central Intelligence Agency Director Bill Burns said the agency does not believe Iran’s supreme leader has decided to take steps to “weaponize” a nuclear device but noted that it has made advances in its ability to enrich uranium, one pathway to the fissile material for a bomb.

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying it only wants to master nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

“We don’t see any evidence as an agency right now that Iran’s supreme leader has made a decision to move to weaponize,” Burns told the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit.

Burns described Iran’s challenge as “a three-legged race” to obtain fissile material, to “weaponize” by placing such material into a device designed to cause a nuclear explosion, and to mate it to a delivery system such as a ballistic missile.

On weaponization, Burns said “the Iranians still have a lot of work to do there as far as we judge it.”


Kuwaiti people look forward to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit

Kuwaiti people look forward to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit
Updated 08 December 2021

Kuwaiti people look forward to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit

Kuwaiti people look forward to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit
  • Al-Mohammad clarified that the visit will be an addition to the strong bilateral ties between both nations

DUBAI: Kuwaiti people are looking forward to the scheduled visit of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, due to take place on Wednesday.

The crown prince will hold talks with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah as well as Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah during his visit, a report from state news agency KUNA said quoting Kuwaiti foreign minister Sheikh Ahmad Naser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah.

Al-Mohammad clarified that the visit will be an addition to the strong bilateral ties between both nations. 

On Tuesday evening, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in the UAE for the second leg of his official tour of the Gulf Cooperation Council nations. 

He was welcomed by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, marking his first visit to the UAE since November 2019. 

This came after Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s overnight visit in Muscat earlier, where he met with Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, the ruler of Oman, as well as other senior Omani officials.


US thwarts smuggling attempt of Iranian arms in Arabian Sea bound for Yemen’s Houthis

US thwarts smuggling attempt of Iranian arms in Arabian Sea bound for Yemen’s Houthis
Updated 10 min 26 sec ago

US thwarts smuggling attempt of Iranian arms in Arabian Sea bound for Yemen’s Houthis

US thwarts smuggling attempt of Iranian arms in Arabian Sea bound for Yemen’s Houthis
  • The operation represents the US ‘government’s largest-ever forfeitures of fuel and weapons shipments from Iran’

DUBAI: The US seized two large caches of Iranian arms, including 171 surface-to-air missiles and eight anti-tank missiles, intended for the Houthi militia in Yemen. 
The US justice department on Tuesday said navy troops seized the weapons from two vessels in the Arabian Sea while conducting routine maritime security operations. 
“Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization, orchestrated the arms shipments, which were destined for Houthi militants in Yemen,” the statement added. 
Approximately 1.1 million barrels of Iranian petroleum products were also seized from four foreign-flagged tankers in or around the Arabian Sea while en route to Venezuela, the justice department said. 
“The actions of the United States in these two cases strike a resounding blow to the Government of Iran and to the criminal networks supporting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
The seized petroleum products were sold for over $26 million, pursuant to a court order, with the proceeds directed, “in whole or in part, to the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.” 
The operation represents the US “government’s largest-ever forfeitures of fuel and weapons shipments from Iran,” the statement noted.


French ambassador to Lebanon’s Aoun: Implement Jeddah Agreement

French ambassador to Lebanon’s Aoun: Implement Jeddah Agreement
Updated 08 December 2021

French ambassador to Lebanon’s Aoun: Implement Jeddah Agreement

French ambassador to Lebanon’s Aoun: Implement Jeddah Agreement
  • Judiciary challenges political pressures, returns Beirut blast file to judicial investigator

BEIRUT: On Tuesday, at the request of President Emmanuel Macron, French Ambassador to Lebanon Anne Griot briefed Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Macron’s Gulf tour, especially his visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which “expressed its commitment to helping Lebanon, pointing out the need to implement the commitments that have been undertaken,” as stated by the media office of the Lebanese presidency.

During the meeting, Griot stressed that “Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries are ready to undertake the required steps, and that for its part, Lebanon should undertake what is required from it and prove its credibility in its commitment to reforms, especially the structural reforms that require new work tools to confront the deep crisis.”

The meeting held last Saturday in Jeddah between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Macron saw the issuing of a statement concerning Lebanon, in which the pair stressed the “need (for) the Lebanese government to undertake comprehensive reforms.”

The two sides also stressed the “need to limit possession of arms to legitimate state institutions,” and that “Lebanon should not serve as a base for terrorist acts that destabilize the security and stability of the region, or a base for drug trafficking,” further stressing “the importance of strengthening the role of the Lebanese Army in maintaining the security and stability of Lebanon.”

The pair had made a joint phone call during the meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

During her talks with Aoun, Griot stressed the importance placed by the international community and France in the legislative, municipal, and presidential elections due next year.

In response to the Saudi-French statement, on behalf of Hezbollah, former minister Mohammed Fneish said on Tuesday that the group “will not … substitute the symbol of our dignity and freedom with bare essentials of living conditions.

“The attempts to make us relinquish the resistance and its arms in return of resolving the economic crisis is something unacceptable to us,” he added.

BACKGROUND

The meeting held last Saturday in Jeddah between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Macron saw the issuing of a statement concerning Lebanon, in which the pair stressed the ‘need (for) the Lebanese government to undertake comprehensive reforms.’

Cabinet sessions have been suspended since Oct. 12 over Hezbollah’s stubbornness over the  investigation into the Port of Beirut explosion. Judicial investigator Tariq Bitar is accused by the group of being biased against it, according to its chief, Hassan Nasrallah.

On Tuesday, the Civil Court of Appeal of Beirut, headed by Judge Randa Harrouq, rejected a lawsuit submitted by former minister Youssef Fenianos against Bitar “for lack of qualitative jurisdiction.”

Harrouq decided to “fine the plaintiff an amount of 800,000 Lebanese pounds ($530) and inform Judge Bitar of the content of the decision, which entails that he continues his investigations related to the file of the Port of Beirut explosion.”

A judicial source told Arab News that the defendants have exhausted all the steps that could be undertaken at the Court of Appeal, and that they might resort to the Court of Cassation to obstruct the interrogation of 4 former ministers in addition to former Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

Bitar has not yet undertaken any indictments despite the fact that nearly 16 months have passed since the disaster.

According to another judicial source, Bitar has rejected all attempts to remove the brief from him and to refer the ministers and the prime minister to a court that would be formed by Parliament to try presidents and ministers, a request made by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement.