US envoy meets Saudi crown prince in fresh Yemen peace push

US envoy meets Saudi crown prince in fresh Yemen peace push
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received Tim Lenderking. (SPA)
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Updated 30 April 2021

US envoy meets Saudi crown prince in fresh Yemen peace push

US envoy meets Saudi crown prince in fresh Yemen peace push
  • Lenderking called the battle for the Marib region the single biggest threat to peace efforts
  • Lenderking is expected to also travel to Oman

AL-MUKALLA: US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking met Saudi Arabia’s crown prince as he pushes efforts to end Yemen’s civil war.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the diplomat discussed the latest Yemeni developments and reviewed the joint efforts exerted by both countries to reach a comprehensive political solution for the Yemeni crisis.
The meeting was attended by the Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi Ambassador to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, and the Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Al-Jaber.
They were also joined by the chargé d’affaires of the US Embassy in Riyadh, Martina Strong, and the US Ambassador to Yemen, Christopher Henzel.
Lenderking is expected to also travel to Oman, the US State Department said in a statement.
Lenderking’s “discussions will focus on ensuring the regular and unimpeded delivery of commodities and humanitarian assistance throughout Yemen, promoting a lasting ceasefire, and transitioning the parties to a political process,” the statement said.
Lenderking “will build on the international consensus to halt the Houthi offensive on Marib, which only worsens the humanitarian crisis threatening the Yemeni people,” the State Department said.
Last week, Lenderking called the battle for the Marib region the single biggest threat to peace efforts. He said Iran’s support for the Houthi movement was “quite significant and it’s lethal.”
Separately, a team of US envoys is traveling to the Middle East this week for talks with key allies, a senior US official said, amid simmering concerns in the region about President Joe Biden’s attempt to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal.
“A senior interagency delegation will be traveling over the coming week to discuss a number of important matters related to US national security and ongoing efforts toward a de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East region,” the official said.
The delegation will be led by Brett McGurk, the White House National Security Council’s Middle East policy coordinator, and State Department counselor Derek Chollett, a source familiar with the trip said.
While the final itinerary was unclear, there were tentative plans for the team to visit Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Jordan. Bloomberg News was first to report the news of the trip.
Meanwhile, the Houthis dismissed a prosecutor who ordered the release of the abducted Yemeni model Entesar Al-Hammadi as they intimidated her lawyer to quit the case.
Khaled Mohammed Al-Kamal said the Houthi judicial authorities on Wednesday replaced Riyadh Al-Aryani, a prosecutor who questioned the model and found out she was not guilty of a crime and ordered her release, and threatened to put her on trial.
“They want to tell him that he should say she committed a crime instead of ordering her release,” Al-Kamal said, adding that an unidentified man stopped him in the street and threatened to punish him if he continued to defend the model.
“I alerted my colleagues at Yemen Lawyers Union about the death threat. My client is not a criminal and was arrested on the street,” he said.


Not guilty pleas entered in Jordan sedition trial

Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hasan bin Zeid escorted to state security court by security guards for their high-profile sedition case. (Supplied)
Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hasan bin Zeid escorted to state security court by security guards for their high-profile sedition case. (Supplied)
Updated 3 min 18 sec ago

Not guilty pleas entered in Jordan sedition trial

Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hasan bin Zeid escorted to state security court by security guards for their high-profile sedition case. (Supplied)
  • The court also heard testimonies of two prosecution witnesses related to leaked audio clips
  • The court is scheduled to hold another closed-door session on Tuesday

AMMAN – The suspects in Jordan’s high-profile “sedition case,” former minister Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, appeared in court on Monday over their alleged roles in a plot to “destabilize the country.”

Dozens of reporters had been outside the State Security Court (SSC) since the early hours on Monday waiting for permits to enter the heavily-guarded court but were told it was a closed-door hearing.

Images on social media showed Awadallah, a former royal court chief, and bin Zaid both wearing blue prison uniforms as they were escorted by security guards to the SSC building.

Sources who attended the session said that the judges read out the charge sheet against the defendants, who pleaded not guilty. The court also heard testimonies of two prosecution witnesses related to leaked audio clips.

The court is scheduled to hold another closed-door session on Tuesday.

Last week, the SSC prosecution office leveled sedition and incitement charges against Awadallah and bin Zaid and accused them of conspiring with former crown prince Hamzah to destabilize the country and fuel unrest against the monarch in collaboration with foreign parties.

Bin Zaid was also charged with possessing illegal narcotics (hashish).


Sharjah Honours Kenyan Humanitarian Outfit, RefuSHE, for Pioneering Contributions in Child and Girl-Focused Refugee Development

Sharjah Honours Kenyan Humanitarian Outfit, RefuSHE, for Pioneering Contributions in Child and Girl-Focused Refugee Development
Updated 21 June 2021

Sharjah Honours Kenyan Humanitarian Outfit, RefuSHE, for Pioneering Contributions in Child and Girl-Focused Refugee Development

Sharjah Honours Kenyan Humanitarian Outfit, RefuSHE, for Pioneering Contributions in Child and Girl-Focused Refugee Development
  • The $136,000 award is given annually by The Big Heart Foundation in collaboration with UNHCR
  • RefuSHE was acknowledged for its efforts in protecting, educating and empowering refugee girls, children and young women (13-21)

SHARJAH: RefuSHE, a Nairobi-based humanitarian agency, was conferred with the 2021 Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA) at a virtual ceremony.
Founded in 2008, RefuSHE addresses the significant, unmet needs for child and girl-focused refugee services in Kenya.
The $136,000 award, now in its fifth edition, is given annually by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a UAE-based global humanitarian organization dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide, in collaboration with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
With the COVID-19 pandemic deepening the vulnerabilities of marginalized women and girls, the SIARA selection committee acknowledged the leading contributions of RefuSHE, a girl- and woman-centric humanitarian organization, for its efforts in protecting, educating, and empowering orphaned, unaccompanied, and separated refugee girls, children and young women aged 13 — 21 in the Great Lakes region of East Africa.
Through a holistic model comprising of trauma-informed and girl-centric interventions and long-term programs that address urgent safety, shelter and health care concerns to economic empowerment, vocational training, and mental health initiatives, among others, RefuSHE has enabled 5,000 individuals, and around 20,000 indirect beneficiaries build healthier and more resilient futures for themselves and their children.
Three entities shortlisted for SIARA 2021, namely, RefuSHE from Kenya, International Network for Aid Relief and Assistance (INARA), which works for forcibly displaced children and youth in Lebanon and Turkey, and Iraq’s The Lotus Flower from Kurdistan which economically empowers vulnerable women and girls through innovative projects.
They are also recipients of a special grant this edition instituted by TBHF, in collaboration with UAE-based NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA). The $300,000-grant will be divided evenly among the three non-profit organizations.


Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant shut down over ‘technical fault’

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant shut down over ‘technical fault’
Updated 21 June 2021

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant shut down over ‘technical fault’

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant shut down over ‘technical fault’
  • The shutdown comes as Tehran and world powers attempt to revive a hobbled 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna talk
  • The statement said the plant will be reconnected to the grid and the issue will be resolved “in a few days”

TEHRAN: Iran’s only nuclear power plant has been temporarily shut down over a “technical fault,” the country’s atomic energy body said in a statement.
The Bushehr plant and its 1,000-megawatt reactor, on Iran’s southern coast, were completed by Russia after years of delay and officially handed over in September 2013, raising regional concerns in what is an earthquake prone area.
The shutdown comes as Tehran and world powers attempt to revive a hobbled 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna talks, which an EU negotiator said Sunday were moving “closer to a deal.”
That agreement is staunchly opposed by Israel, which Tehran has accused in the past of sabotage against its nuclear enrichment efforts.
“Following a technical fault at Bushehr power plant, and after a one-day notice to the energy ministry, the plant was temporarily shut down and taken off the power grid,” the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said on its website around Sunday midnight.
The statement said the plant will be reconnected to the grid and the issue will be resolved “in a few days,” but did not elaborate further.
Iran’s national electricity company had in a statement on Sunday called on Iranians to minimize consumption during peak hours due to a “predicted rise in temperature” and “limitations in power generation due to ongoing repairs” at Bushehr.
The company said that the repairs may continue until the end of the week, which is Friday in Iran.
In 2016, Russian and Iranian firms began building two additional 1,000-megawatt reactors at Bushehr. Their construction was expected to take 10 years.
Iran’s Gulf Arab neighbors have often raised concerns about the reliability of the facility and the risk of radioactive leaks in the event of a major earthquake.
In April, Bushehr province was shaken by a 5.9-magnitude earthquake, leaving five people injured but causing “no damage” to the nuclear complex, according to authorities.
Also in April, Iran accused Israel of being behind a “terrorist” attack on its Natanz uranium enrichment plant, after a “small explosion” at that facility’s electricity distribution center.
Iran started rolling blackouts in May this year after Tehran and several other cities were hit by unannounced power cuts that sparked complaints from consumers and an apology from the energy minister.
The shortages were blamed on heat, drought impacting hydropower generation, and surging electricity demand blamed in part on crypto-currency mining.
Power cuts in the peak summer months are not uncommon in Iran, but a government report last month said precipitation was down 34 percent compared to the country’s long-term average, and warned of reduced water supplies for the year.
Since late May, the energy ministry regularly notifies citizens of “potential blackouts” lasting at least two hours, unless consumption in their area drops.
Iran’s outgoing President Hassan Rouhani last month announced a ban on all crypto-currency mining until September to reduce the pressure on the power grid.
The Islamic republic has announced plans to construct 20 nuclear power plants in the long-term in order to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.
The 2015 nuclear deal promised Iran sanctions relief in return for limits on its nuclear program.
The deal was torpedoed in 2018 after the former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it and reimposed punishing sanctions on the Islamic republic.
But Trump’s successor Joe Biden favors rejoining the accord and the remaining parties are engaged in negotiations in Vienna to try to salvage it.
On May 23, nine people were injured in a blast at a plant producing explosive materials in central Iran, local media reported, and three days later, a pipeline explosion at a petrochemical complex near Iran’s Gulf coast left one dead.
Some in the Islamic republic see the various events as the result of attacks by Israel’s security forces. Others consider US sanctions — which almost completely isolate Iran from the rest of the world, complicating the maintenance of industrial facilities — as a more likely cause.
In July last year, a “worn out transformer” was blamed by a provincial electricity company for an explosion that hit a thermal power plant in the central province of Isfahan.


UAE public schools to fully reopen with remote learning option

UAE public schools to fully reopen with remote learning option
Updated 21 June 2021

UAE public schools to fully reopen with remote learning option

UAE public schools to fully reopen with remote learning option
  • Given the rapid vaccination program, the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee also recommended Monday the easing of restrictions for nurseries

DUBAI: UAE public schools will fully reopen in September with a remote option, the country’s Emirates Schools Establishment (ESE) announced.
A special protocol for returning to school will be developed in coordination with the Ministry of Education, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, ESE said, aimed at ensuring the safety of students and faculty.
The announcement comes as more than 72 percent of the staff at public schools have been inoculated against the coronavirus, paving the way for in person learning, according to authorities.
Given the rapid vaccination program, the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee also recommended Monday the easing of restrictions for nurseries.
Nurseries, which have been operating at limited capacity, can now increase the number of children in each group or “bubble.”
For those aged between 45 days and two-years-old, a bubble can now include 12 children, up from eight, while for the age group of two-years-old to four, a bubble can include 16 children, up from 10.
Nurseries, however, must continue ensuring a minimum space requirement of 3.5 square meters per child in each classroom and an area of 5 square meters in open areas.
The decision came following a review of COVID-19 statistics related to cases in children’s nurseries in Abu Dhabi, which showed a consistently low infection rate, authorities said. 
The latest developments in the sector will be a welcoming sight for parents, more than a year after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic that disrupted education procedures globally.


UN experts urge Tehran to release female human rights defender

UN experts urge Tehran to release female human rights defender
Updated 21 June 2021

UN experts urge Tehran to release female human rights defender

UN experts urge Tehran to release female human rights defender
  • Nasrin Sotoudeh, one of Iran’s top lawyers, faces 38 years behind bars
  • ‘The severe sentences she has received appear to be intended to silence her work and to intimidate other human rights defenders’

LONDON: Independent human rights and political experts working on behalf of the UN have urged Tehran to release Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer and outspoken defender of human rights in Iran, and decried her recent transfer to another prison under “dire conditions.”

Sotoudeh has been detained since June 2018 and faces a total of 38 years behind bars on nine charges, including “encouraging corruption and prostitution.” 

UN experts — including Dubravka Simonovic, special rapporteur on violence against women; and Javaid Rehman, special rapporteur on human rights in Iran — have called on Tehran to release Sotoudeh “as a matter of urgency.”

They said in a joint statement: “Iran must put an end to the criminalisation of Nasrin Sotoudeh for her legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights.”

They added: “Despite our many calls over the years to release Ms. Sotoudeh, Iranian authorities have failed to do so, and instead they have transferred her to another prison, farther away from her family and under dire conditions.”

Sotoudeh was one of Iran’s top lawyers, and previously represented Nobel Peace Prize winners, former senior government officials and many human rights defenders in court.

Since October 2020, she has been detained in the overcrowded and unsanitary Qarchak prison — Iran’s most feared women’s prison.

The facility suffers from a lack of access to healthcare for inmates, insufficient and unhealthy food, and rodent and insect infestations.

While detained, the UN experts said, Sotoudeh’s health has seriously deteriorated and she has tested positive for COVID-19.

They added: “Nasrin Sotoudeh’s case is sadly not isolated, and the severe sentences she has received appear to be intended to silence her work and to intimidate other human rights defenders, including her family.”