Lebanon’s power blackouts halt COVID-19 vaccine drive

Lebanon’s power blackouts halt COVID-19 vaccine drive
The Electricite du Liban company building in Beirut. Lebanon was plunged into darkness as the country faces power shortage and economic crisis. (AFP/File)
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Updated 11 July 2021

Lebanon’s power blackouts halt COVID-19 vaccine drive

Lebanon’s power blackouts halt COVID-19 vaccine drive
  • Protesters complain about lack of food, water and fuel in the country

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s power cuts have stopped the country’s vaccination campaign and also led to health warnings about a spike in food poisoning.

The country suffered a total blackout for the second consecutive day after all electricity plants stopped operating due to a lack of fuel. 

Electricite du Liban said it would put the Zahrani plant back in service from Sunday morning after having unloaded a fuel shipment in the plant’s tanks.

The deteriorating situation led to a number of doctors warning of an increase in food poisoning cases at hospitals because of the “collapse of food safety control, fraud, and poor food preservation in storage, sales centers, restaurants, and even houses during long hours of electricity outage.”

On Saturday the Ministry of Health suspended its COVID-19 vaccination campaign because of the electricity and internet outage. But Rafik Hariri University Hospital denied that the refrigeration of stored vaccines had stopped.

“The hospital, and other governmental and nongovernmental hospitals, have suffered from extreme electricity outages of more than 21 hours per day, which necessitated using seven generators available at the hospital,” it said. “Upon instructions by the Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri the hospital was supplied with quantities of diesel that could help it continue operating for a whole week without having to close some of its departments.”

Dire living conditions have pushed people out onto the streets to protest, blocking the Corniche Mazraa road.

“Nobody is responding to us or to our shouts,” one woman told Arab News. “We are hungry. There is no electricity, water, food, nor diesel. Officials are evading their responsibilities and they do not hear us.”

FASTFACTS

• The country suffered a total blackout for the second consecutive day after all electricity plants stopped operating due to a lack of fuel.

• Electricite du Liban said it would put the Zahrani plant back in service from Sunday morning after having unloaded a fuel shipment in the plant’s tanks.

The owner of an electrical tools store said poverty was increasing and services were collapsing and “officials put the blame on us if we protest.” 

On Friday, protesters stormed a restaurant where former minister May Chidiac was dining. They verbally attacked her for dining in a restaurant “while people are starving outside.”

The price of a bundle of bread increased to LBP4,250 ($3 according to the official exchange rate) on Saturday. 

The Ministry of Economy explained that this rise was due to the increase in the US dollar exchange rate, prices of fuel oil, and transport expenses, in addition to the increase of wheat prices on the international market.

A delegation of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists said the governor of the Central Bank, Riad Salameh, had told them they should prepare “for the upcoming phase and search for other sources to finance the import of raw material, as the Central Bank is heading toward stopping all sorts of subsidies.”

Salameh said the credits allocated by the Central Bank during the first six months of 2021 to buy fuel oil was “equal to the consumption during 2020 and 2019, and that the same applies to medicines and other subsidized items.”

Salameh explained the increase in demand for gasoline and diesel “either to citizens who are storing them or smuggling them and that, in both cases, this led to huge damage to the Lebanese economy.”

In an attempt to show a different image of Lebanon, the executive committee of the Baalbeck International Festival organized a concert but without an audience. “Shine on Lebanon” was dedicated to young talent and was shown on TV and social media.

The concert was filmed across the historical sites of Ain Hircha in Rachaiya, Niha Bekaa in Qasarnaba, and Majdal Anjar.

Young participants criticized the authorities during the show for the country’s current crisis.

The songs reflected the suffering of the Lebanese people, especially since the deadly Beirut explosion last August.


Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 7 -official

Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 7 -official
Updated 15 sec ago

Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 7 -official

Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 7 -official

MOGADISHU: A suicide car bomb killed at least seven people in the Somali capital on Saturday at a street junction near the president's residence, an official said.
"A suicide car bomb that exploded at Ceelgaab junction killed seven people and injured eight others," Muawiye Mudeey, district commissioner of Mogadishu's Hamarjajab district told Reuters.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, but al Shabaab, which wants to overthrow the government and impose its interpretation of Islamic law, frequently carries out such bombings.
A Reuters witness at the scene of the blast reported seeing seven cars and three rickshaws destroyed by the blast, and the whole junction covered in blood. 


Iraqi Kurdistan conference pushes Baghdad-Israel normalization

Iraqi Kurdistan conference pushes Baghdad-Israel normalization
Updated 5 min 18 sec ago

Iraqi Kurdistan conference pushes Baghdad-Israel normalization

Iraqi Kurdistan conference pushes Baghdad-Israel normalization
  • Iraqi Kurdistan maintains cordial contacts with Israel, but the federal government in Baghdad does not have diplomatic ties with the Jewish stat

IRBIL: More than 300 Iraqis, including tribal leaders, attended a conference in autonomous Kurdistan organized by a US think-tank demanding a normalization of relations between Baghdad and Israel, organizers said Saturday.
The first initiative of its kind in Iraq, where Israel’s sworn enemy Iran has a very strong influence, the conference took place on Friday and was organized by the New York-based Center for Peace Communications (CPC).
The CPC advocates for normalizing relations between Israel and Arab countries, alongside working to establish ties between civil society organizations.
Iraqi Kurdistan maintains cordial contacts with Israel, but the federal government in Baghdad does not have diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.
Four Arab nations — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — last year agreed to normalize ties with Israel in a US-sponsored process dubbed the Abraham Accords.
“We demand our integration into the Abraham Accords,” said Sahar Al-Tai, one of the attendees, reading a closing statement in a conference room at a hotel in the Kurdish regional capital Irbil.
“Just as these agreements provide for diplomatic relations between the signatories and Israel, we also want normal relations with Israel,” she said.
“No force, local or foreign, has the right to prevent this call,” added Tai, head of research at the Iraqi federal government’s culture ministry.
The 300 participants at the conference came from across Iraq, according to CPC founder Joseph Braude, a US citizen of Iraqi Jewish origin.
They included Sunni and Shiite representatives from “six governorates: Baghdad, Mosul, Salaheddin, Al-Anbar, Diyala and Babylon,” extending to tribal chiefs and “intellectuals and writers,” he told AFP by phone.
Other speakers at the conference included Chemi Peres, the head of an Israeli foundation established by his father, the late president Shimon Peres.
“Normalization with Israel is now a necessity,” said Sheikh Rissan Al-Halboussi, an attendee from Anbar province, citing the examples of Morocco and the UAE.
Kurdish Iraqi leaders have repeatedly visited Israel over the decades and local politicians have openly demanded Iraq normalize ties with the Jewish state, which itself backed a 2017 independence referendum in the autonomous region.


Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report

Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report
Updated 41 min 34 sec ago

Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report

Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report
  • Morocco already uses drones for intelligence and surveillance operations along its borders

RABAT: Morocco took delivery earlier this month of Turkish combat drones, the Far-Maroc unofficial website dedicated to military news reported.
The report, also carried by several local media outlets, comes as tensions have spiked between Morocco and neighboring Algeria in recent weeks.
The two countries are mainly at odds over the disputed Western Sahara territory, and Algeria severed ties with Morocco in August claiming “provocations and hostile” action by its neighbor.
Relations took another blow this week when Algeria on Wednesday said it has closed off its airspace to all Moroccan civilian and military traffic.
According to Far-Maroc, the North African kingdom ordered 13 Bayraktar TB2 drones from Turkey in April and a first batch of the unmanned aircraft arrived this month.
Rabat, said the report, seeks to “modernize the arsenal of the Moroccan Armed Forces (FAR) in order to prepare for any danger and recent hostilities,” but did not elaborate on these topics.
It did however add that Moroccan military personnel have trained in Turkey in recent weeks to work with the drones.
Media reports said Morocco signed a $70 million contract with the private Turkish company Baykar.
The firm is run by one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-laws and has been exporting its Bayraktar TB2 model to Ukraine, Qatar and Azerbaijan for some years.
According to the company’s website, the Bayraktar TB2 is a “medium altitude long endurance tactical unmanned aerial vehicle capable of conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and armed attack missions” with a range of up to 27 hours.
Morocco already uses drones for intelligence and surveillance operations along its borders, according to military experts.
The Western Sahara dispute pits Morocco against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front which fought a war of independence with Rabat from 1975 to 1991.
Morocco laid claim to the former Spanish colony with rich phosphate resources and offshore fisheries after Spain withdrew in 1975, and controls around 80 percent of it.
Rabat has offered autonomy there and maintains the territory is a sovereign part of the kingdom but the Polisario is demanding a referendum on self-determination, in line with the terms of a 1991 UN-backed cease-fire deal.
Tensions rose sharply in November when Morocco sent troops into a buffer zone to reopen the only road linking Morocco to Mauritania and the rest of West Africa. The road had been blocked by the separatists.


UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff

UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff
Updated 53 min 7 sec ago

UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff

UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff
  • The country’s COVID-19 total number of cases recorded since the start of the pandemic now stands at 734,275

DUBAI: The UAE’s daily coronavirus cases continue to decline, with health officials on Friday confirming 303 new infections and three virus-related deaths.

The country’s COVID-19 total number of cases recorded since the start of the pandemic now stands at 734,275 with 2,086 fatalities related to the disease. 

The government’s inoculation program, coupled with an active testing policy for the early detection and intervention for coronavirus cases, has provided at least a dose of COVID-19 vaccines to 90.8 percent of the UAE population.

The recent decline in daily infections comes just days before the opening of the Expo 2020 Dubai, which the emirate hopes will draw millions from around the globe.


’Soon’ in Iranian parlance differs from West’s in nuclear talks, Iran’s top diplomat says

’Soon’ in Iranian parlance differs from West’s in nuclear talks, Iran’s top diplomat says
Updated 25 September 2021

’Soon’ in Iranian parlance differs from West’s in nuclear talks, Iran’s top diplomat says

’Soon’ in Iranian parlance differs from West’s in nuclear talks, Iran’s top diplomat says
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Saturday that when his government says it will return soon to talks on resuming compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, it means when Tehran has completed its review of the nuclear file.
On Friday, Amirabdollahian told reporters in New York that Iran would return to talks “very soon,” but gave no specific date.
In remarks broadcast on state TV channel IRINN on Saturday, Amirabdollahian said, “People keep asking how soon is soon. Does it mean days, weeks or months?”
“The difference between Iranian and Western ‘soon’ is a lot. To us,‘soon’ means really in the first opportune time — when our reviews (of the nuclear file) have been completed. What is important is our determination to return to the talks, but those that are serious and guarantee the Iranian nation’s rights and interests,” Amirabdollahian said.
He was speaking to IRINN in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
On the other hand, he said: “I remind you of the West’s promises, such as repeatedly promising they would ‘soon’, ‘in a few months,’ implement the Instex” — a trade mechanism set up to barter humanitarian goods and food after the US withdrawal from the deal.
Iran has said the channel with Europe has been ineffective.
Under the 2015 deal that Iran signed with world powers, it agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions. Washington abandoned that deal in 2018 and unilaterally reimposed financial sanctions.
Talks that began in April between Iran and the five other nations — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — to revive the deal have been stalled since hard-line cleric Ebrahimi Raisi was elected president in June.
European diplomats have served as chief intermediaries between Washington and Tehran, which has refused to negotiate directly with US officials.