UN team monitoring Iraqi elections will be ‘world’s largest,’ says US envoy

UN team monitoring Iraqi elections will be ‘world’s largest,’ says US envoy
US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the UN team to monitor Iraq's elections would be big enough to deter fraud. (AFP/File)
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Updated 12 May 2021

UN team monitoring Iraqi elections will be ‘world’s largest,’ says US envoy

UN team monitoring Iraqi elections will be ‘world’s largest,’ says US envoy
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield also condemned the recent assassination of protest leader Ehad Al-Wazni as an attempt ‘to silence independent voices’
  • Iraqis will go to the polls in October, three years after the last election and more than a year after the government collapsed following sustained protests

NEW YORK: The UN team that monitors the elections in Iraq in October will be the largest of its kind to date, the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said on Tuesday.

She thanked the Iraqi government for requesting additional UN support for the vote and said her country is seeking to bolster the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), which will send a “robust and visible” team to monitor the elections.

“UNAMI’s increased technical electoral-assistance team will be larger, more advanced, and better equipped than prior election teams — and it will be the largest UN technical electoral assistance mission in the world,” said Thomas-Greenfield. “Combined, this enhanced electoral support will eclipse the UN’s 2018 efforts (in Iraq).”

Iraqis are due to go to the polls in October, more than three years after the previous national vote to elect members of the Council of Representatives, who in turn choose the prime minister and president.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi took office a year ago after months of protests led to the collapse of the government of his predecessor, Adel Abdul Mahdi, which was formed after the 2018 elections.

Thomas-Greenfield thanked Al-Kadhimi for the efforts he has made to restore trust in the government, which she said was needed for progress to be made on the economy and holding elections.

She also condemned the assassination on May 9 of protest leader Ehad Al-Wazni, and said his murder is part of a “disturbing and unacceptable trend of violence attempting to silence independent voices in Iraq.”

She added: “Some of these perpetrators are Iran-aligned militias. They attack Iraqi bases hosting Defeat ISIS Coalition forces and supply convoys — there at Iraq’s invitation — killing and injuring Iraqi citizens.”

READ MORE

October 2019 marked the beginning of the biggest grassroots social movement in Iraq’s modern history. But, facing death threats and persecution at the hands of Iranian-aligned militia, many protest leaders have gone into hiding or into exile. Click here for more.

The US remains committed to Iraq’s economic development, said Thomas-Greenfield, who was speaking during a Security Council meeting to discuss the implementation of resolutions 2107 and 2522, which relate to the work of UNAMI.

While she commended the passage of the 2021 Federal Budget Law in Iraq, she lamented the fact that the “corruption endemic to so much of” the country is undermining economic progress.

“Ultimately, real economic recovery — like real elections — is about trust,” she added. “Robust reforms to end corruption are the key to restoring trust in Iraq’s political bodies.”

Speaking from Baghdad, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert — special representative of the UN secretary-general for Iraq, and head of UNAMI — said that the Iraqi people had spoken “loudly and clearly” in their call for free and fair elections.

She also warned of the “political pressure and interference, intimidation and illicit financial flows” that could jeopardize the credibility of elections.


Algeria's FLN wins most seats in parliament, election authority says

Algeria's FLN wins most seats in parliament, election authority says
Updated 6 sec ago

Algeria's FLN wins most seats in parliament, election authority says

Algeria's FLN wins most seats in parliament, election authority says

ALGIERS: Algeria's FLN, long the country's biggest political party, won the most seats in Saturday's parliamentary election, the head of the electoral authority said on Tuesday.
However, its 105 seats were far short of the 204 needed to secure a majority in the 407-seat parliament, with the Islamist MSP winning 64 seats and independent candidates winning 78 seats.


Egypt, Qatar agree to settle outstanding issues

Egypt, Qatar agree to settle outstanding issues
Updated 50 min 32 sec ago

Egypt, Qatar agree to settle outstanding issues

Egypt, Qatar agree to settle outstanding issues
  • Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani receives written message from Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi
  • Egypt and Qatar FMs also meet in Doha to discuss the re-activation of bilateral cooperation between countries

CAIRO: Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on Tuesday held talks with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who visited Doha to deliver a message from Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

The Qatari news agency reported: “The emir received a written message from the president of Egypt on enhancing relations between the two countries and means of strengthening bilateral relations in a way that serves the interests of the two brotherly countries and peoples.”

Shoukry arrived in Doha on Sunday carrying El-Sisi’s message on the positive developments in Egyptian-Qatari relations following the AlUla Declaration.

The declaration “strengthens the bonds of friendship and brotherhood among our countries and peoples in order to serve their aspirations,” Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the GCC Summit when the AlUla Declaration was signed on Jan. 5.

El-Sisi said in his letter that Egypt looks forward to taking more measures during the upcoming period to enhance bilateral cooperation in a way that serves the interests of both peoples and countries, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez said.

Shoukry also held talks with Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani as they discussed the re-activation of bilateral cooperation and means of settling all the outstanding issues between both countries.

Hafez said the meeting also covered the most prominent challenges facing the Arab countries and the region.

Both ministers also discussed the Arab League meeting held on Tuesday about the most prominent regional issues and ways to deal with external interventions harmful to Arab national security, Hafez said.

They highlighted the importance of stressing Arab solidarity with Egypt and Sudan during a session scheduled to be held on the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, he said.

Shoukry will attend the meeting, following a request from Egypt and Sudan.


Dubai authorities say cracking down on owners of illegal wildlife

Dubai authorities say cracking down on owners of illegal wildlife
Updated 15 June 2021

Dubai authorities say cracking down on owners of illegal wildlife

Dubai authorities say cracking down on owners of illegal wildlife
  • Joint task force of Dubai police and municipal authorities responded to many cases of violation during the past weeks
  • Authorities are working to curb violators and confiscate wild and dangerous animals to keep them away from residential areas

DUBAI: Dubai authorities said Tuesday a joint task force was cracking down on the illegal possession of dangerous animals in the Gulf emirate, where owning exotic wildlife remains popular in some circles.
The joint task force of Dubai police and municipal authorities “has responded to many cases of violation during the past weeks,” a police statement said.
Authorities are working “around the clock to curb violators and confiscate wild and dangerous animals to keep them away from residential areas,” it said, urging members of the public to report and hand over such animals.
In mid-May, Dubai police said a hunt was underway for a wild animal on the loose in a residential neighborhood, after reports of an escaped big cat.
A video of what appeared to be a big black cat circulated on social media groups, and residents of The Springs community were warned to “exercise all necessary caution.”
Local media later reported that animal turned out to be a domestic cat.
A 2016 federal law prohibits people “from owning, possessing, trading or breeding dangerous animals,” with a maximum penalty of six months in prison and/or a 500,000 dirham ($136,000) fine, according to the statement.
Despite the penalties, private zoos are not uncommon in the United Arab Emirates.


Treasures of ancient Iraq go on display at Getty Villa Museum, Los Angeles

Treasures of ancient Iraq go on display at Getty Villa Museum, Los Angeles
Updated 15 June 2021

Treasures of ancient Iraq go on display at Getty Villa Museum, Los Angeles

Treasures of ancient Iraq go on display at Getty Villa Museum, Los Angeles
  • Exhibits showcase pieces from across Mesopotamia and relief sculptures from the palaces of Assyria

LOS ANGELES: The Getty Villa Museum in Los Angeles is reopening with two exhibits on ancient Iraq: a showcase of pieces from across Mesopotamia organized by the Louvre and, on loan from the British Museum, relief sculptures from the palaces of Assyria.

“The late Assyrian empire rose around 900 B.C. and dominated the entire Middle East for about 300 years,” explained Jeffrey Spier, the museum’s senior curator of antiquities.

“We have some of the reliefs of Ashurnasirpal II hunting lions which was a popular pastime of the kings to glorify the kings. We have scenes of battles, rather gruesome scenes, very graphic scenes of battles. And we end at the time of Ashurbanipal, the most famous of the kings in the 7th Century BC who defeated the Elamites in Iran, is shown and is shown at a banquet, one of his famous scenes is here.”

The importance of these sculptures has increased after several of those in Iraqi museums were destroyed or damaged by Daesh extremists during their occupation of large parts of the country. 

“The ones still in Iraq are being preserved now,” Spier said. “I know they’re doing very good work at restoring what was damaged.”

The Louvre’s Mesopotamian artifacts will be on display until August 2021, and the Assyrian relief sculptures until 2022. In that time, the Getty Villa is excited to show the culture of ancient Iraq to everyone traveling to Southern California.

“Los Angeles has become a place for tourism again,” Spier said. “We look forward to welcoming visitors especially from the Middle East.”


International community key to solving Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Envoy

International community key to solving Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Envoy
Updated 15 June 2021

International community key to solving Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Envoy

International community key to solving Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Envoy
  • Palestinian ambassador to UK: ‘Leaving two sides to sort it out … is like leaving the wolf with the lamb’
  • With sufficient global support, ‘transformation is imminent,’ Husam Zomlot tells event attended by Arab News

LONDON: The key to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “a very clear message from the international community,” the Palestinian ambassador to Britain told a London think tank on Tuesday.

In a conversation hosted by Chatham House and attended by Arab News, Husam Zomlot told the audience that the Palestinians have fulfilled their part “in making sure that we enforce ourselves into the Israeli public so that apathy doesn’t continue.”

He added that the biggest factor for increasing awareness and forcing change in the region will be “what our youth do,” pointing to the intensity of the next generation’s campaigning over the last month.

Zomlot said youth campaigns “have been very intense,” adding: “Our message was delivered to every Israeli household. It has cost us a lot, a lot of bravery and heroism. I’m following these kids in Jerusalem on social media, speaking to the media with such beautiful eloquence, framing the issue. It’s hitting the Israeli public and the world.”

However, he said despite this energy and enthusiasm from youth activists, the lack of a clear message from the international community has limited the efficacy of their efforts.

“What’s missing isn’t the Palestinian readiness to stand up — we’ve proved that 100 times in the last 100 years … All the way to the Jerusalem uprising, we’ve been delivering the message. What’s missing is a very clear message from the international community,” he added.

“Leaving two sides to sort it out … is like leaving the wolf with the lamb. What we can do is to resist, but resistance on its own won’t tilt the balance. We need the force of the third party that created the situation.”

Zomlot said with sufficient international support following the latest wave of global attention, “transformation is imminent.”