Basra locals float plan to display Saddam Hussein’s luxury yacht

The Basrah Breeze, pictured in 2008, when it was moored in Nice in southern France (AFP/File Photo)
The Basrah Breeze, pictured in 2008, when it was moored in Nice in southern France (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 28 June 2021

Basra locals float plan to display Saddam Hussein’s luxury yacht

The Basrah Breeze, pictured in 2008, when it was moored in Nice in southern France (AFP/File Photo)
  • Local experts disagree on whether plan to feature boat as museum viable
  • The Iraqi dictator’s 82 meter yacht was seized by Iraq in 2008, after going up for sale in Nice, France

LONDON: A luxury yacht once owned by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could be repurposed as a floating museum in Basra, Iraq.

Built in 1980 by a Danish shipyard, the 82 meter motor-yacht was, at the time, one of the largest of its kind in the world.

After Hussein’s fall from grace it was abandoned, before eventually being recovered by the Iraqi government in 2008 and donated to Basra University for use as a maritime research vessel.

But operating it as a research tool became prohibitively expensive, and now senior museum officials are reportedly seeking to feature it as part of a new exhibition.

Qahtan Alabeed, the director of Basra’s Museum — housed in Hussein’s former palace — wants to feature the yacht in a new project dedicated to Iraq’s nautical past.

“We want to reactivate work to rebuild a number of types of boats that sailed in the (Shatt Al-Arab) river and marshes. We already have around 16,” he told Boat International, a yachting website, adding that Basra’s mayor backed the plan.

The ship was named Qadissiyat Saddam by the disgraced dictator, in reference to a historical battle between Persians and Arabs in which the Arabs are said to have emerged victorious against all odds. Hussein went to great lengths to draw comparisons between that ancient battle and the brutal war that took place between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s.

The vessel passed through many hands before emerging for sale in Nice in 2007. The government of Iraq, working through the French courts, then seized and repatriated it.

Now renamed Basrah Breeze, experts have warned that the museum’s plan for a floating exhibit could be prohibitively expensive. 

The hull alone could cost as much as $1.5 million to restore, said one local academic, and others doubt whether anyone in Iraq has a solid and sustainable plan in place to make use of it. 

Ali Douabul, the former head of the Marine Science Center where the boat was donated to, told Boat International: “If you ask me, the government has been misled to take this yacht, because they don’t have the ability to use it properly or commercially.

“They thought it might be worth $200 million — I don’t know where they got their figures from.”

The solution, he said, may lie outside of Iraq.

 “Perhaps an international organization like the International Maritime Organization should take care of it, because Iraqis will not. Then it becomes world heritage.”


Israel stops plan for contentious east Jerusalem settlement

Israel stops plan for contentious east Jerusalem settlement
Updated 19 sec ago

Israel stops plan for contentious east Jerusalem settlement

Israel stops plan for contentious east Jerusalem settlement
  • The decision to halt the Atarot settlement plan came in the wake of heavy US opposition to the project
  • Plans for the Atarot settlement called for building 9,000 housing units marketed to ultra-Orthodox Jews

JERUSALEM: Jerusalem municipal officials on Monday froze plans to build a contentious large Jewish settlement at an abandoned airport in east Jerusalem.
The decision to halt the Atarot settlement plan came in the wake of heavy US opposition to the project.
Plans for the settlement called for building 9,000 housing units marketed to ultra-Orthodox Jews in an open area next to three densely populated Palestinian communities, one of which is behind Israel’s controversial separation barrier.
The municipality’s planning commission said that it had been favorably impressed with the plan but that an environmental impact survey should first be conducted before it could be approved.
Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, a deputy mayor, said the process is expected to take about a year.
The anti-settlement group Peace Now had waged a public campaign against the plan, citing the proposed settlement’s problematic location.
“Let’s hope they will use the time to understand how illogical this plan is for the development of Jerusalem and how much it damages the chances for peace,” said Hagit Ofran, a Peace Now researcher who attended the meeting.
Earlier on Monday, Israel’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, indicated the Israeli government was in no hurry to approve the plan.
Speaking to reporters, Lapid said the plan ultimately requires approval by the national government, with “full consensus” of the various parties in the coalition.
“This will be dealt with at the national level and we know how to deal with it. It is a process and will make sure it doesn’t turn into a conflict with the (US) administration,” he said.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of a future state including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which Israel also seized in that war.
Israel views all of Jerusalem as its unified capital and says it needs to build housing to address the needs of a growing population.
The Palestinians view the continual expansion of Israeli settlements as a violation of international law and an obstacle to peace, a position with wide international support. The Atarot project is considered especially damaging because it lies in the heart of a Palestinian population center.
The Biden administration has repeatedly criticized settlement construction, saying it hinders the eventual resumption of the peace process, but Israel has continued to advance settlement plans.
More than 200,000 Israeli settlers live in east Jerusalem and nearly 500,000 live in settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank. Israel’s current prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is a strong supporter of settlements and is opposed to Palestinian statehood.
There have been no substantive peace talks in more than a decade.


Mikati holds key meetings in effort to restore Arab trust in Lebanon

Mikati holds key meetings in effort to restore Arab trust in Lebanon
Updated 14 min 20 sec ago

Mikati holds key meetings in effort to restore Arab trust in Lebanon

Mikati holds key meetings in effort to restore Arab trust in Lebanon
  • Interior minister says steps will be taken to prevent smuggling and combat the drugs threat

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Monday held a number of meetings designed to help restore Arab trust in Lebanon, and the country’s diplomatic and economic relationships with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

It followed an agreement, announced in Jeddah on Saturday, by French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to work together to help the people of Lebanon.

The participants in extended meetings at the Grand Serail, the prime minister’s headquarters, included Defense Minister Maurice Selim, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullah Bou Habib, Agriculture Minister Abbas Hajj Hassan and Industry Minister George Boujikian.

Other officials who took part included Acting Director-General of Lebanon Customs Raymond Al-Khoury, Mohammed Choucair, the head of the Lebanese Economic Organizations, and representatives of the Federation of Lebanese-Gulf Businessmen Councils.

Choucair, who is also a former minister, stressed the need for the organizations to work on resuming exports to Saudi Arabia and said: “We discussed new ways of doing that.”

During the meeting, Mikati said that “Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are fed up of hearing slogans that are not implemented.”

A number of people who were present told Arab News that Mikati stressed the “need to address the gaps,” and that “some issues the Gulf states are complaining about are right. We must recommend measures to address them, such as the establishment of additional towers on the borders with Syria in order to control the border.”

Mawlawi said that discussions had focused on the issue of exports to Saudi Arabia and concerns about smuggling.

He said: “We will take practical measures for anything that might pose a threat to our relations with the Arab states, and I will follow up on all judicial proceedings related to smuggling and combating drugs and captagon.

“We must all take prompt action to control the borders, airport, port and all crossing points, and we must (address) the smuggling happening through Lebanon. We do not disclose all smuggling operations we bust.”

Mawlawi added: “We intercepted a captagon-smuggling operation on Saturday. We are following up on it, and the people involved have been arrested.

“We will give practical answers to the smuggling taking place, and what might pose a threat to our relations with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states in this regard.”

He also noted that “in the case of seized narcotic substances, even if they are manufactured outside of Lebanon and brought to Lebanon to change the manufacturing company’s name and repackage them, the company’s license will be revoked, its work discontinued and its name announced.”

Regarding a call for the restriction of weapons to Lebanese state institutions as a condition for the restoration of Saudi-Lebanese relations, Mawlawi said: “We are implementing the Lebanese state’s policy and highlighting its interests.”

Nicolas Chammas, head of the Beirut Traders’ Association, said that “the biggest problem remains contraband.” He added: “We will work to make Lebanon, once again, a platform for the export of goods, not contraband. We are required to take swift, serious measures and we will take successive measures in this regard.”

Fouad Siniora, a former president of Lebanon, described Saturday’s Saudi-French statement as being “of exceptional importance in these delicate circumstances.”

It “resolves the controversy regarding many issues raised in the Arab region, especially with regard to Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon,” he added.


Egypt to avoid future water crises through investment, minister says

Egypt to avoid future water crises through investment, minister says
Updated 06 December 2021

Egypt to avoid future water crises through investment, minister says

Egypt to avoid future water crises through investment, minister says

CAIRO: Egypt will avoid water crises through investment and construction, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel-Aty has said.

In a presentation of the ministry’s strategy through 2050, Abdel-Aty also denied the “black propaganda” which asserts that “Egypt takes the lion’s share of Nile water.”

He said: “97 percent of our water resources come from the Nile and the rest is low percentages of rain and other outlets. Everyone must be aware of the importance of preserving water.”

As part of state efforts to avoid future water crises, the 2017-2037 strategy requires $50 billion in investment and financing, he added, saying that due to population growth, that figure could exceed $100 billion over the coming decades.

Abdel-Aty said: “The new legislation for the Water Resources Law was very necessary, and the executive regulations for this law are being prepared, and they may be completed for issuance within two or three months.”

Egypt’s water needs exceed 114 billion cubic meters annually, according to ministry statistics. Total water resources accounting for reused water numbers 80 billion cubic meters per year, while the total amount of water from renewable resources measures 60 billion cubic meters.

The ministry’s strategy will involve four main areas: Rationalizing water use, improving water quality, providing additional water sources and creating a climate for optimal water management.

“There is no doubt that the water crisis will worsen with time, but the state will not allow a water crisis to occur in Egypt. We will contribute to raising awareness of the importance of rationalizing consumption. There is an optimal utilization of water resources,” Abdel-Aty said.

“We are facing black propaganda that Egypt takes the lion's share of the waters of the Nile, and this is not true.”

He added that Egypt’s climate means that it does not have sufficient access to green water, unlike Ethiopia. “They also have more blue water, and there are lakes in Ethiopia that contain 50 billion cubic meters of water.”

Abdel-Aty said: “Efforts made by the state on the issues of good water management and rationalization have not happened since the days of Muhammad Ali. The political leadership is keen to take all measures aimed at the good management of water resources.”


Arab coalition carries out biggest operation in Marib in 24 hours

Arab coalition carries out biggest operation in Marib in 24 hours
Updated 06 December 2021

Arab coalition carries out biggest operation in Marib in 24 hours

Arab coalition carries out biggest operation in Marib in 24 hours
  • Action comes as the Arab coalition forces have been eliminating militia assets in recent weeks

RIYADH: More than 280 Houthi militia members were killed in one of the largest operations targeting the Iran-backed group in Marib in just 24 hours, the Arab coalition said Monday. 
The Arab coalition said it conducted 47 operations against the Houthi militants in Marib, during which34 Houthi vehicles were destroyed as well as ammunition storage sites, Al Arabiya TV reported.  
The action comes as the Arab coalition forces have been eliminating militia assets in recent weeks, including weapons and personnel.


UAE’s Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed meets with Iranian leader

UAE’s Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed meets with Iranian leader
Updated 06 December 2021

UAE’s Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed meets with Iranian leader

UAE’s Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed meets with Iranian leader

TEHRAN: Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE’s National Security Adviser, met with Iranian president Ibrahim Raisi on Monday, state news agency WAM said in a report.
During the meeting, both sides discussed bilateral relations between the two nations and potential ways to enhance these ties. 
Al-Nahyan and Raisi also exchanged views on several issues of common interest.