Kuwait’s emir holds talks with Palestinian prime minister

Kuwait’s emir holds talks with Palestinian prime minister
Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Nawaf Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah holds talks with Palestinian PM Mohammed Shtayyeh in Kuwait City. (WAFA)
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Updated 02 June 2021

Kuwait’s emir holds talks with Palestinian prime minister

Kuwait’s emir holds talks with Palestinian prime minister
  • Shtayyeh thanked Kuwait for its efforts and unlimited support for the Palestinian cause
  • He also met with Kuwait’s PM to discuss enhancing coordination in support of diplomatic efforts

AMMAN: Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Nawaf Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on Tuesday held talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh in the Kuwaiti capital, during his official visit to the country.

Shtayyeh thanked Kuwait for its efforts and unlimited support for the Palestinian cause and its people, state news agency Wafa reported.

The premier briefed the emir on the latest political developments and the Israeli violations against Palestinians, especially in Jerusalem, in addition to the efforts made to achieve national reconciliation, mobilize support for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, and to create a political path toward ending the occupation and establishing an independent Palestinian state.

Sheikh Nawaf affirmed that the Palestinian cause remained Kuwait’s foremost issue and that the Palestinian people could rely on its continued backing.

The meeting was attended by Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki.

Shtayyeh also met with Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah to discuss ways to step up the diplomatic drive to achieve peace and stability in the region, Kuwait News Agency reported.

Sheikh Sabah also affirmed his country’s “commitment to its principled and firm stance toward the Palestinian cause and its support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with international resolutions.”

The Kuwaiti PM stressed the need “for concerted Arab and international efforts to resume the peace process in the Middle East, to ensure that the violations of the Israeli authorities are not repeated, and to end violent operations against the Palestinian people in order to achieve the desired peace and stability.”

Kuwait’s foreign minister also held talks with his Palestinian counterpart.


UK urged to stand with Iranian people, reject new president

UK urged to stand with Iranian people, reject new president
Updated 21 min 31 sec ago

UK urged to stand with Iranian people, reject new president

UK urged to stand with Iranian people, reject new president
  • British Committee for Iran Freedom: ‘Elections in Iran neither free, fair nor representative’
  • Conservative MP urges UK govt to hold Tehran ‘to account for its support of terrorism, systematic human rights abuses’

LONDON: The British Committee for Iran Freedom (BCFIF) on Tuesday urged the UK government to reject newly elected Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and campaign for him to face justice for human rights abuses. 

Raisi won the presidential election on June 18, but the BCFIF said in a statement: “Elections in Iran are neither free, fair nor representative. It reflects the will of the unelected Supreme Leader and serves as a process to further strengthen the theocracy’s grip on power to the detriment of the Iranian people.”

It added: “This was made clear again on June 18 as the Iranian people rejected the theocracy in its entirety with a widespread national boycott of the presidential election farce.”

The BCFIF said Raisi “had an extensive role in the regime’s current and past crimes against humanity, including the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners and PMOI (People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran) members and supporters in Iran as well as the killing of 1,500 protesters and torture of thousands of arrested protesters during and after the nationwide protests in November 2019.”

In the week after Raisi’s election victory, Sir David Amess, a Conservative MP and co-chairman of the BCFIF, said: “The people of Iran answered the call by the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) Mrs Maryam Rajavi and completely boycotted the election farce in Iran.” 

He added that the BCFIF supports Rajavi’s call “for Raisi to be investigated and face justice in an international tribunal. This issue must be a priority for the UK Government during the 47th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.”

Andrew Rosindell, a Conservative MP and member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said: “With Raisi as president, the regime is signalling that it will continue its repression, persecution of popular dissent and export of terrorism.”

He added: “It is time for our government to follow the recommendations in our report which includes proscribing the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) in its entirety and taking steps to end the impunity of Iranian officials by holding the regime to account for its support of terrorism and systematic human rights abuses.”


EU threatens sanctions over Libya political gridlock

EU threatens sanctions over Libya political gridlock
Updated 22 June 2021

EU threatens sanctions over Libya political gridlock

EU threatens sanctions over Libya political gridlock
  • Warning comes ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers to oversee the withdrawal of foreign forces from the war-torn country
  • Some groups in Libya’s Parliament have engaged in what the EU now views as a delaying tactic

LONDON: The EU has warned that any country or group that delays Libya’s planned elections on Dec. 24 this year will face harsh sanctions.

The warning comes ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers to oversee the withdrawal of foreign forces from the war-torn country.

The Berlin talks will look to outline guidelines for the withdrawal of foreign fighters, and again demand that elections take place at the end of the year. However, previous deadlines set for military withdrawals have been ignored.

The UN has proposed a meeting in Geneva next week of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum to discuss election details. 

But some groups in Libya’s Parliament have engaged in what the EU now views as a delaying tactic, by blocking elections or demanding referendums on a new constitution prior to any nationwide vote. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to attend the Berlin meeting, which follows talks last December that outlined an in-depth roadmap to take Libya toward democracy and end the civil war.

A national unity government was set up in February, but has been hampered by politicians privately seeking election delays.

Many in the country’s elite political class, labeled as oligarchs by critics, are said to fear the loss of power and financial clout that could result from an election.

The Berlin meeting has been urged by the group Lawyers for Justice in Libya to protect human rights in the country and punish those breaching the UN arms embargo, including some states that took part in the last conference. 

The advocacy group also warned that freedom of expression, assembly and association must be protected in order for free and fair elections to be held. 

The House of Representatives, Libya’s existing Parliament, has proved to be the main source of delays, despite its Speaker Aguila Saleh claiming that a national election is a prerequisite for reconciliation in the country.

The Parliament was ordered by the UN to agree to the idea of a constitution-based election and adopt legislation by July 1.

But Libya has descended into a political stalemate, with disagreements about the constitution that would control any future elected president.

Former Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga is a favorite to win, but there are rumors that Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif Al-Islam will also stage a bid for the presidency.


Lebanon again raises price of bread amid crippling crisis

Lebanon again raises price of bread amid crippling crisis
Updated 22 June 2021

Lebanon again raises price of bread amid crippling crisis

Lebanon again raises price of bread amid crippling crisis
  • 18% hike from the last raise in February was after the central bank's ending of sugar subsidies
  • Lebanon is grappling with the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s economy ministry on Tuesday raised the price of subsidized bread for the fifth time in a year as the country’s multiple crises worsen with no resolution in sight.
The ministry said the reason behind the latest increase — an 18 percent hike from the last raise in February — was the central bank’s ending of sugar subsidies, which in turn adds to the cost of bread production.
Lebanon is grappling with the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history — one that the World Bank has said is likely to rank as one of the worst the world has seen in the past 150 years. The currency has lost 90 percent of its value, breaking a record low earlier this month of 15,500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar on the black market. The official exchange rate remains 1,507 pounds to the dollar.
The World Bank said in a report this month that Lebanon’s gross domestic product is projected to contract 9.5 percent in 2021, after shrinking by 20.3 percent in 2020 and 6.7 percent the year before.
The central bank has been cutting back on financing imports at subsidized dollars, as foreign currency reserves have dropped dangerously low, from $30 billion at the start of the crisis in late 2019, to nearly $15 billion currently. That has prompted merchants to either raise prices or stop imports.
Most Lebanese have seen their purchase power drop and their savings evaporate, and more than half the tiny country’s population now lives below the poverty line.
The government in June last year raised the price of flatbread, a staple in Lebanon, by more than 30 percent — for the first time in a decade. It has since raised the price three times before Tuesday.
The Ministry of Economy says 910 grams (2 pounds) of bread will be sold for 3,250 pounds. It used to be sold for 2,750 pounds before the latest increase.
Lebanon is going through severe shortages in gasoline, medicines — both still subsidized by the state — and other vital products. Electricity cuts last for much of the day and people wait in line for hours to fill up their cars. Shootings and fistfights have broken out at gas stations, leaving several people injured.
One of the reasons behind the gasoline shortage is smuggling to neighboring Syria, which struggles with its own gasoline shortage but where the price is nearly five times that in Lebanon.
A fuel distributors representative, Fadi Abu Shakra, said 140 gas station owners refused to receive gasoline on Tuesday because of the problems they are facing, including threats, blackmail and beatings.
“They cannot protect themselves,” he said, and called on security forces to protect gas stations, according to state-run National News Agency.


UK’s new aircraft carrier launches first strikes against Daesh

UK’s new aircraft carrier launches first strikes against Daesh
Updated 22 June 2021

UK’s new aircraft carrier launches first strikes against Daesh

UK’s new aircraft carrier launches first strikes against Daesh
  • Latest attacks come amid warnings of terror group’s resurgence in Syria, Iraq

LONDON: The British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has launched its first direct military operation against Daesh.
British and American F-35B Stealth jets took off from the decks of the new carrier to strike the terror group’s positions in Syria and Iraq. Defense officials said several Daesh positions were destroyed.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace described the role of the £3.5 billion ($4.8 billion) HMS Queen Elizabeth in the operation as “a physical embodiment of global Britain.”
Kurdish groups have warned that the number of Daesh attacks is rising. More than 20 Iraqi and Kurdish security force members have been killed by the group in the last few months.
On Jan. 21, Baghdad suffered its deadliest suicide bombing in three years, with 32 people killed and over 100 injured after an explosion ripped through a market.
Warnings have also come from European allies, with French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly recently saying his country “considers Daesh is still present, we could even say that there is a resurgence of Daesh in Syria and Iraq.”
Wallace said: “The ability to operate from the sea with the most advanced fighter jets ever created is a significant moment in our history, offering reassurance to our allies and demonstrating the UK’s formidable air power to our adversaries.”
Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group Cdre Steve Moorhouse said: “HMS Queen Elizabeth’s first missions against Daesh will be remembered as a significant moment in the 50-year lifespan of this ship. It also marks a new phase of our current deployment ... Now we are ready to deliver the hard punch of maritime-based air power against a shared enemy.”


How scrap metal scavengers have revived Lebanon’s garbage crisis

 How scrap metal scavengers have revived Lebanon’s garbage crisis
Updated 22 June 2021

How scrap metal scavengers have revived Lebanon’s garbage crisis

 How scrap metal scavengers have revived Lebanon’s garbage crisis
  • The hunt for metal is taking place amid soaring unemployment and a dollar shortage in the small Mediterranean country

Lebanon’s waste management system is the newest target in a trend of metal thefts that officials believe are being carried out by residents rendered desperate by the country’s unprecedented economic collapse.

The latest casualty? One of two landfills servicing the greater Beirut area was forced to shut down over the past week because of rogue scavengers.

The landfill, located in Jdeideh, on the outskirts of the capital, had become a hunting ground for residents scouring for metal and other valuables that can fetch a hefty price on the market.

For decades, Lebanon has been producing more waste than it could manage, culminating in mountains of trash filling streets in 2015 as mass protests erupted condemning the government’s failure to come up with an effective waste management strategy.

Built in 2018 for what was supposed to be a temporary fix to the region’s endemic garbage problem, the landfill has undergone numerous expansions as authorities failed to conjure up a sustainable solid waste management plan.

Instead, successive governments have elected to keep piling trash higher, reaching a height of some 20 meters.

Toufic Kazmouz, the project manager at a local contracting company managing the landfill, told Arab News that the landfill was being expanded while still receiving 1,200 tons of garbage per day before being forced to shut down.

“This is definitely not a sustainable solution to the garbage problem, but the scavengers have made it even worse and have forced us to close shop,” Kazmouz said.

Hundreds of people were trespassing into the landfill daily, he said, forcing the company to halt both construction and operations last week.

According to Kazmouz, scavengers would wait patiently for a dump truck to empty its load before entering the site, armed with plastic bags.

Several scuffles had erupted between scavengers and workers in an environment filled with heavy machinery and equipment.

“It’s simply become an unsafe work environment for everyone involved,” Kazmouz said.

With the landfill shut down, piles of garbage have lined the streets of the Metn and Kesourwan districts after the waste management company Ramco stopped collecting trash.

“We stopped collecting trash because we had nowhere to dispose of it,” Walid Bou Saad, director of Ramco, told Arab News.

Scavengers have forced Kazmouz to shut down the landfill twice since April, despite both the “Internal Security Forces and Lebanese intelligence sending patrols to cordon off the area.”

Discussions are currently ongoing with the Interior Ministry to increase security, he said.

“Municipality workers are expected to be stationed at the site starting today, but we’ll face the same problem again later,” Kazmouz noted.

The hunt for metal is taking place amid soaring unemployment and a dollar shortage in the small Mediterranean country that has caused the local currency to lose some 90 percent of its value while the prices of basic goods and commodities skyrocket.

“It’s metal,” Kazmouz pointed out. “People are really suffering and looking for any means to make some money.” 

Metal has become an increasingly valuable commodity in Lebanon, with desperate residents even stealing manhole covers and metal supports from electricity pylons.

Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud told AFP in February that he attributed the theft of manhole covers to the fact that they “are made out of cast iron, which has become much more expensive.”

The covers, weighing up to 60 kg, can fetch up to $100 when sold for scrap. At the current black-market rate, this is equivalent to some LL1.5 million, or more than double the current monthly minimum wage.

The dire situation has also pushed thieves to target Lebanon’s already deficient electricity grid, causing the collapse of a 55-meter pylon connecting one of the country’s four power plants to the region of the Bekaa.

After its metal supports had been stolen, the pylon was no match for the high winds that blew across Lebanon in the winter season.