Lebanese cleric steps up criticism of Hezbollah

Lebanese cleric steps up criticism of Hezbollah
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai has called for Lebanon to remain neutral, referring to Hezbollah’s role fighting in neighboring Syria. (AFP)
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Updated 02 April 2021

Lebanese cleric steps up criticism of Hezbollah

Lebanese cleric steps up criticism of Hezbollah
  • ‘I want to tell them ... Do you want to force (Lebanon) to go to war?’

BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi has made unusually direct comments criticizing the Hezbollah movement, accusing it of harming Lebanon by dragging it into regional conflicts.

Addressing the Lebanese in the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, Al-Rahi asked Hezbollah in a hypothetical dialogue: “Why are you standing against neutrality? Do you want to force me to go to war? Do you want to keep Lebanon in a state of war? Would you ask for my opinion when you do go to war? Did you ask for my approval to go to Syria, Iraq and Yemen? Would you ask for the government’s opinion when declaring war and peace with Israel? Although the constitution says that declaring war and peace is upon the decision of two-thirds of the government’s votes.”

"You’re not looking out for (our) interests, nor the interests of your people," he said, apparently addressing Hezbollah.

Al-Rahi said he had received visits from Hezbollah supporters who were privately critical of the group as they felt the effects of Lebanon’s financial collapse.

He said: “Delegations from Hezbollah are visiting me in Bkerke to complain that they are also suffering . . . and this means that they, in Hezbollah, are hungry like us.”

The patriarch's comments come at a time when domestic and foreign pressure continues on those accused of obstructing the formation of the Lebanese government.

Al-Rahi’s progressive stance has previously received support from Lebanese groups.

His comments coincided with a speech by Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday evening, when he warned that “the country has run out of time, and the time has come to put everything aside and go for a real solution to the situation in the country.”

Nasrallah spoke about the “complications” in the formation of the government.

On Thursday, there was a discussion of an initiative led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to abandon a government of 18 ministers and form a de facto government of 22 to 24 ministers to manage internal affairs pending a comprehensive solution in the region.

The seriousness of the efforts made reflected on the dollar exchange rate on the black market, reducing it to 11,300 Lebanese pounds for purchase and 11,400 Lebanese pounds for sale.

A political source close to the prime minister-designate told Arab News: “The essence of Berri’s initiative is based on the French initiative, and this means that there is no blocking third in the government, and the ministers should be non-partisan.”

Regarding the possibility of Hariri agreeing to a government of more than 18 ministers, as he demands, the political source said: “Regardless of the number, if the president of the republic says that he approves a government without a blocking third and a government of specialists, it will be formed quickly.”

Meanwhile, the Banque du Liban announced its cooperation “with Alvarez & Marsal, putting accounts related to all state accounts and bank accounts at the disposal of the minister of finance” for forensic audit.

A virtual meeting will be held on April 6, bringing together the company, the Banque du Liban and the Ministry of Finance.

In a statement on Thursday, the Banque du Liban stressed its “readiness to secure the facilities that would allow the concerned company to start the audit process.”

However, the optimistic outlook promoted on Thursday was doubted by protesters on the streets.

Groups of them returned to blocking roads in Beirut and some areas.

Bechara Al-Asmar, leader of the General Labor Union, highlighted that preparations will continue for a wave of protests aimed at forming a rescue government to save the country from its accumulated crises.

He said that the first protest would take place on Wednesday.


Tunisia in political turmoil as president dismisses more officials

Tunisia in political turmoil as president dismisses more officials
Updated 45 min 39 sec ago

Tunisia in political turmoil as president dismisses more officials

Tunisia in political turmoil as president dismisses more officials
  • Late Tuesday, Saied issued decrees sacking a list of government officials, including the army’s chief prosecutor
  • He has also lifted the parliamentary immunity of lawmakers, and assumed judicial powers

TUNIS: Tunisia lurched further into political uncertainty Wednesday, as President Kais Saied sacked more officials, days after he suspended parliament and assumed executive powers in what opponents labelled a “coup.”
Key civil society groups warned against any “illegitimate” extension of Saied’s 30-day suspension of parliament, and demanded in a joint statement a timeline for political action.
After suspending parliament and sacking Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi on Sunday, and firing the defense and justice ministers on Monday, Saied then ordered the dismissal of several top officials.
Late Tuesday, 63-year-old Saied, a former law lecturer who was a political newcomer when he won a landslide 2019 presidential election victory, issued decrees sacking a long list of senior government officials, including the army’s chief prosecutor.
He has also lifted the parliamentary immunity of lawmakers, and assumed judicial powers.
Saied say his actions are justified under the constitution, which allows the head of state to take unspecified exceptional measures in the event of an “imminent threat.”
On top of the political turmoil, the North African nation is beset by a crippling economic crisis including soaring inflation and high unemployment, as well as surging Covid-19 infections.
The moderate Islamist Ennahdha party, which was the largest faction in the coalition government, has labelled the power grab a “coup d’etat,” while the US, EU and other powers have voiced strong concern.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Wednesday urged Tunisia to rapidly appoint a new prime minister and government.
Further ramping up tensions, the Tunisian prosecutor’s office announced on Wednesday the judiciary has opened an investigation into allegations that Ennahdha and two other political parties received illegal funding ahead of elections in 2019.
The financial arm of the judiciary opened the probe on July 14, focusing on “the foreign financing and acceptance of funds of unknown origin,” prosecution spokesman Mohsen Dali said.
Tunisians are waiting anxiously for clarity on the next political steps.
Saied, an austere law academic who has said he is determined to revolutionize the political system through the law, said he would assume executive power “with the help” of a government whose new chief he would appoint himself.
Names of possible candidates circulated Wednesday after Saied met with representatives of national organizations late Monday.
“President Saied will be very careful in choosing the future head of government, because he wants a trustworthy and loyal person who would adopt the same policies as him,” said political scientist Slaheddine Jourchi.
The young democracy had often been cited as the sole success story of the Arab Spring.
But, a decade on, many in the nation of 12 million people say they have seen little improvement in living standards, and have grown infuriated by protracted political deadlock with infighting among the elite.
The ousted government had also been criticized for its handling of the Covid pandemic. Tunisia has one of the world’s highest official per-capita death tolls.
“President Saied is faced with a great challenge: to show Tunisians and the world that he made the right decisions,” added Jourchi.
After violent clashes outside the army-blockaded parliament on Monday, the Ennahdha party said “organized thugs” were being used to “provoke bloodshed and chaos.”
On Tuesday Ennahdha said that, “for the sake of the democratic path,” it is “ready to go to early legislative and presidential elections” while demanding “that any delay is not used as a pretext to maintain an autocratic regime.”
Noureddine B’Hiri, a senior Ennahdha leader, said the party had “decided to campaign peacefully to defeat” the president’s plans.
But before any elections, “parliament should resume its activities and the military end its control,” B’Hiri told AFP.
In the 10 years since Tunisia’s popular revolution toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has had nine governments.
Some have lasted just months, hindering the reforms needed to revamp the country’s struggling economy and poor public services.


US imposes sanctions on Syrian prisons, officials

US imposes sanctions on Syrian prisons, officials
Updated 33 min 22 sec ago

US imposes sanctions on Syrian prisons, officials

US imposes sanctions on Syrian prisons, officials
  • The prisons “have been sites of human rights abuses against political prisoners and other detainees,” the statement said
  • The Treasury Department also put sanctions on Syrian armed group Ahrar Al-Sharqiya

WASHINGTON: The US Treasury Department said on Wednesday it had imposed sanctions on eight Syrian prisons run by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s intelligence apparatus and five senior officials who control the sites, where human rights abuses have taken place.
The Treasury Department also put sanctions on Syrian armed group Ahrar Al-Sharqiya, which operates in northern Syria, for abuses against civilians, as well as on two of the group’s leaders, it said in a statement.
“Today’s designations promote accountability for abuses committed against the Syrian people and deny rogue actors access to the international financial system,” said Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Director Andrea Gacki. “This action demonstrates the United States’ strong commitment to targeting human rights abuses in Syria, regardless of the perpetrator.”
The prisons “have been sites of human rights abuses against political prisoners and other detainees,” the statement said. It accused Ahrar Al-Sharqiya of numerous crimes against civilians, especially Syrian Kurds, “including unlawful killings, abductions, torture, and seizures of private property.”
In a separate statement, the Treasury said it had imposed sanctions on one Turkey-based Al-Qaeda financial facilitator for materially assisting the militant group as well as one Syria-based terrorist fundraiser and recruiter for providing material support to Hay’et Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), a militant group previously sanctioned under US counter-terrorism authorities.


Schools in Egypt flourishing with Tokkatsu system

Schools in Egypt flourishing with Tokkatsu system
Updated 28 July 2021

Schools in Egypt flourishing with Tokkatsu system

Schools in Egypt flourishing with Tokkatsu system
  • Japanese system develops all the skills of the student, focusing on creativity and thinking rather than conservation and indoctrination
  • Egyptian-Japanese schools in Egypt are preparing for the new academic year, which begins in October

CAIRO: The Japanese education system, Tokkatsu, continues to flourish in Egypt as the country had 48 schools that used the system during the last academic school year. 

These Egyptian-Japanese schools teach Egyptian curriculum in addition to the Japanese Tokkatsu educational system, which develops all the skills of the student, focusing on creativity and thinking rather than conservation and indoctrination.

Safwat Al-Jamai, an educationist, told Arab News the Tokkatsu method relies on activities that help the students with daily life, self-development, health, safety, and creativity.

“It encourages students to help with the management and planning of the activities, and there are cultural exchange programs for different age groups within the school,” Al-Jamai said.

“It also entails activities that develop a sense of belonging and solidarity toward others and working for the public interest through practical activities carried out by students."

These activities, according to Al-Jamai, transform the role of the teacher into that of a facilitator. They no longer merely teach facts and concepts leading students to a right-or-wrong answer, but rather facilitate social and emotional learning for the student through trial and error in an individual or group environment.

The activities also enable the development of the personal and social skills needed when students enter the real world, and it requires them to share tasks, set rules, experience leadership as well as follow rules and adhere to order.

Egyptian-Japanese schools in Egypt are preparing for the new academic year, which begins in October. One of them is in Sharm El-Sheikh, which was inaugurated by the Egyptian Minister of Education, Tariq Shawky, and the Governor of South Sinai, Maj. Gen. Khaled Fouda, last March.

The Egyptian-Japanese School in Sharm El-Sheikh is located near King Salman University and consists of 28 classrooms from kindergarten to secondary school. It is the second such school in the governorate after another that was established in Tur Sinai in October 2018.

The Egyptian-Japanese School finished conducting personal interviews for students initially accepted to the school for the academic year 2021-2022. Prospective students applied to enroll in the school through the school's website, under the supervision of the Egyptian-Japanese Schools Administration Unit at the Ministry of Education.

They canceled paper submissions due to coronavirus (COVID-19) safety precautions. 

The admission process for students included a personal interview with parents, submission of supporting documents with the application, a math test, and a cognitive skills test for the child. Personal interviews were also conducted for students applying for kindergarten.

Mahmoud Abdel-Aal, director of the Egyptian-Japanese School, said interview results will be announced after they are completed in all schools nationwide.


Lebanon's Mikati hopes to form government soon

Lebanon's Mikati hopes to form government soon
Updated 28 July 2021

Lebanon's Mikati hopes to form government soon

Lebanon's Mikati hopes to form government soon
  • Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati said he hoped to form a government in the "near future"

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati said on Wednesday that he hoped to form a government shortly after securing the approval of President Michel Aoun for most of his nominees.
Mikati, a businessman, is the third potential prime minister to be nominated since Hassan Diab's government resigned after an explosion in Beirut's port area on Aug. 4 last year that killed more than 200 people and flattened large areas of the city. He spoke to reporters after meeting Aoun.
Diab's government has stayed on in a caretaker capacity, but Lebanon's currency has collapsed, jobs have vanished and banks have frozen accounts in the country's worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
"I gave my proposals, President Aoun approved most of them and he made some remarks which are acceptable; God willing ... we will be able to form a government soon," Mikati said.
Mikati has been prime minister twice before and, unlike many Lebanese leaders, does not represent a political bloc or hail from a dynasty.
Like the previous nominee, Saad Al-Hariri, he must navigate the sectarian, power-sharing structure and secure agreement on a cabinet equipped to address the financial meltdown in Lebanon, one of the world's most heavily indebted states. 


UAE starts granting golden visas to doctors

UAE starts granting golden visas to doctors
Updated 28 July 2021

UAE starts granting golden visas to doctors

UAE starts granting golden visas to doctors
  • All doctors licensed by the UAE health regulatory bodies can apply for the golden visa between July 2021 to September 2022

DUBAI: The UAE has started to grant golden visas to doctors in what the government described as “recognition of their efforts and sacrifices and being the frontline heroes.”

The golden visa will grant doctors and their families a 10-year residency, ensuring stability in their jobs and livelihood in the UAE as well as the development of the health care sector.

“This initiative promotes a motivational work environment and high-quality living standards by attracting and retaining the top talents in the medical field, and providing opportunities for medical staff to work and reside in the UAE,” a report from state news agency WAM said.

All doctors licensed by the UAE health regulatory bodies can apply for the golden visa between July 2021 to September 2022 online through smartservices.ica.gov.ae.

Dubai-licensed doctors meanwhile may apply via smart.gdrfad.gov.ae.

Seven offices across the Emirates affiliated with the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship will accept applications from doctors who wish to apply for the golden visa personally.