This is no coup, says Tunisia’s president

This is no coup, says Tunisia’s president
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Demonstrators gather in front of police officers standing guard during an anti-government protest in Tunis, Tunisia, July 25, 2021. (AFP)
Tunisian President Kais Saied addresses the nation in this screengrab taken from Tunisian President's office footage on July 25, 2021. (Reuters TV)
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Tunisian President Kais Saied addresses the nation in this screengrab taken from Tunisian President's office footage on July 25, 2021. (Reuters TV)
Tunisian police detain a demonstrator in Tunis on July 25, 2021. (REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi)
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Tunisian police detain a demonstrator in Tunis on July 25, 2021. (REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi)
Tunisian police run towards demonstrators to quell an anti-government protest in Tunis on July 25, 2021. (REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi)
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Tunisian police run towards demonstrators to quell an anti-government protest in Tunis on July 25, 2021. (REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi)
Tunisian police run towards demonstrators to quell an anti-government protest in Tunis on July 25, 2021. (REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi)
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Tunisian police run towards demonstrators to quell an anti-government protest in Tunis on July 25, 2021. (REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi)
A man reacts as police officers detain a demonstrator during an anti-government protest in Tunis, Tunisia, on July 25, 2021. (REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi)
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A man reacts as police officers detain a demonstrator during an anti-government protest in Tunis, Tunisia, on July 25, 2021. (REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi)
Tunisian security officers hold back protesters outside the parliament building in the capital Tunis on July 26, 2021, following a move by the president to suspend the country's parliament and dismiss the Prime Minister. (AFP)
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Tunisian security officers hold back protesters outside the parliament building in the capital Tunis on July 26, 2021, following a move by the president to suspend the country's parliament and dismiss the Prime Minister. (AFP)
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Updated 28 July 2021

This is no coup, says Tunisia’s president

Tunisian security officers hold back protesters outside the parliament building in the capital Tunis on July 26, 2021, following a move by the president to suspend the country's parliament and dismiss the Prime Minister. (AFP)
  • President Saied sacked defense minister and acting justice minister on Monday
  • Saudi FM receives phone call from Tunisian counterpart during which he was informed of developments

JEDDAH: Tunisian President Kais Saied dismissed Islamist claims of a “coup” on Monday after he removed the government and suspended parliament.

The president invoked emergency powers under the constitution after months of deadlock and disputes with the Islamist Ennahda party.

Saied said he had “taken the necessary decisions to save Tunisia, the state and the Tunisian people,” following street protests against the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The president also dismissed Defense Minister Ibrahim Bartaji and Hasna Ben Slimane, the acting justice minister, and ordered a nightly curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.




Crowds gather on the street after Tunisia's president suspended parliament, in La Marsa, near Tunis on July 26, 2021. (Social media via Reuters)

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan spoke to his Tunisian counterpart and said the Kingdom supported any measures that achieved security and stability in Tunisia.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by telephone with Saied to urge respect for democracy, and urged him to “maintain open dialogue with all political actors and the Tunisian people,” the State Department said in a statement.
“He encouraged President Saied to adhere to the principles of democracy and human rights that are the basis of governance in Tunisia,” it said.
Blinken also promised US support on Tunisia’s economy and fight against COVID-19.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: “We are in touch at a senior level, and urge calm and support Tunisian efforts to move forward in line with democratic principles.”

The French Foreign Ministry urged a return “as soon as possible” to the “normal functioning” of government in Tunisia. It called “on all of the country’s political forces to avoid any form of violence and to preserve the country’s democratic gains.”

Dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said he would not be a disruptive element, and would hand the responsibility to whoever the president chose. He was ready to serve Tunisia in any role, Mechichi said.



Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan received a phone call from his Tunisian counterpart to discuss the situation in Tunisia. (AFP/File Photo)

Crowds poured on to the streets of Tunis in support of the president’s actions. Soldiers blockaded the parliament building in Tunis and surrounded Mechichi’s offices. Outside the building, rival supporters of Saied and Ennahda hurled insults and bottles at
each other.

“We are here to protect Tunisia. We have seen all the tragedies under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Ayman, one of the president’s supporters.

Saied took office in 2019 after campaigning as the scourge of a corrupt, incompetent elite.

He said his actions were a constitutional and popular response to years of economic and political paralysis, and the constitution gave him power to dismiss the government, appoint a temporary administration, freeze parliament and lift the immunity of its members.

The president, who under the constitution controls the armed forces, warned his opponents against violence. “If anyone fires a single bullet, our forces will respond with a rain of bullets,” he said. 




Tunisian police run towards demonstrators to quell an anti-government protest in Tunis on July 25, 2021. (Reuters)

 




A man reacts as police officers detain a demonstrator during an anti-government protest in Tunis, Tunisia, on July 25, 2021. (Reuters)

An Arab League statement said the Tunisian foreign minister fully briefed its secretary general on the situation in Tunisia and added: “The...League urges Tunisia to quickly get through the current turbulent phase, restore stability and calm and the state's ability to work effectively to respond to the aspirations and requirements of the people.”
The United Nations called on all parties in Tunisia “to exercise restraint, refrain from violence and ensure that the situation remains calm,” a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday.
“All disputes and disagreements should be resolved through dialogue,” UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said.
Haq declined to comment on whether the United Nations viewed the situation in Tunisia as a coup or not. 
The International Monetary Fund stands ready to continue to help Tunisia cope with the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, achieve a "job-rich" recovery and restore finances to a sustainable footing, a spokesperson said on Monday.

— With input from agencies 


Motegi hails UAE’s role in evacuating Japanese nationals from Afghanistan

Motegi hails UAE’s role in evacuating Japanese nationals from Afghanistan
Updated 34 min 33 sec ago

Motegi hails UAE’s role in evacuating Japanese nationals from Afghanistan

Motegi hails UAE’s role in evacuating Japanese nationals from Afghanistan
  • Motegi said he hopes for the success of Expo 2020 Dubai
  • Motegi and Al Nahyan exchanged views on global issues such as climate change

TOKYO: Japanese Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu said he appreciated the United Arab Emirates’ support provided during the evacuation of staff members at the Embassy of Japan in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

According to a statement released by Japan’s Foreign Ministry, the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Motegi had a telephone conversation on Friday. Japan’s FM stated that the Asian country highly praised the crucial role the UAE has taken with regards to Afghanistan, such as temporarily accepting evacuees and providing humanitarian support.

In addition, Motegi said he hopes for the success of Expo 2020 Dubai, which will take place on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE, and will be the first International Registered Exhibition to be held in the Middle East region. 

The two ministers confirmed that they will continue to further promote cooperation in a variety of fields towards the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the UAE in 2022. 

Motegi and Al Nahyan exchanged views on global issues such as climate change and agreed to continue close coordination, according to the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This story originally appeared in Japanese on Arab News Japan


Last 2 of 6 Palestinian inmates who escaped maximum-security Israeli prison recaptured

Last 2 of 6 Palestinian inmates who escaped maximum-security Israeli prison recaptured
Updated 19 September 2021

Last 2 of 6 Palestinian inmates who escaped maximum-security Israeli prison recaptured

Last 2 of 6 Palestinian inmates who escaped maximum-security Israeli prison recaptured
  • The two were captured during an Israeli army raid in their hometown of Jenin in the occupied West Bank
  • The six tunneled out of their cell on Sept. 6, exposing security flaws from the vaunted "Israeli Guantanamo"

JERUSALEM: The last two of six Palestinian prisoners who escaped a maximum-security Israeli prison two weeks ago were rearrested early Sunday, the Israeli military said.
The two were captured during an Israeli army raid in their hometown of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, closing an intense, embarrassing pursuit that exposed security flaws after the six tunneled out of their cell on Sept. 6.
Palestinian media reported that clashes erupted in Jenin when Israeli troops entered the city, but a spokesperson for Israeli police said the two escapees, Munadil Nafayat and Iham Kamamji, were arrested without resistance from a house where they had taken refuge and were taken for questioning.
Fouad Kamamji, Iham’s father, told The Associated Press that his son had called him when the Israeli troops surrounded the house and said he will surrender “in order not to endanger the house owners.”
The escapes set off a massive pursuit operation that captured the first four inmates in two separate operations in northern Israel. All six inmates come from Jenin.
Five of the prisoners are from the Islamic Jihad militant group, with four of them serving life sentences, and the sixth is a member of the secular Fatah group of President Mahmoud Abbas.
For the Palestinians, the prisoners who dug the tunnel for months and escaped were “heroes.” For Israel, they were “terrorists” who took part or planned attacks that targeted the Israeli military and civilians.


Iran’s fuel shipments violate Lebanon’s sovereignty: PM

Lebanon's Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati. (Reuters)
Lebanon's Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati. (Reuters)
Updated 19 September 2021

Iran’s fuel shipments violate Lebanon’s sovereignty: PM

Lebanon's Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati. (Reuters)
  • The National News Agency said security forces raided a fertilizer warehouse in the eastern Bekaa Valley, considered a hub for smuggling operations between Lebanon and Syria

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Iranian fuel shipments imported by the Hezbollah movement constitute a breach of Lebanon’s sovereignty, according to comments published by his office.
“The violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty makes me sad,” Mikati told CNN in an interview, his office said in a posting on Twitter.
He added: “But I’m not concerned that sanctions can be imposed” on Lebanon “because the operation was carried out without the involvement of the Lebanese government.”
The Tehran-aligned group on Thursday began bringing tanker trucks carrying fuel from Iran, a move it says should ease a crippling energy crisis in Lebanon.
A tanker ship carried the fuel to Syria and from there it crossed into Lebanon. Both Syria and Iran are under US sanctions.
Meanwhile, authorities have seized 20 tons of ammonium nitrate — the same chemical behind a deadly explosion last year at Beirut’s port — in the eastern Bekaa Valley, state media said.
Ammonium nitrate is an odorless crystalline substance commonly used as a fertilizer that has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades.
The National News Agency said security forces raided a fertilizer warehouse in the eastern Bekaa Valley, considered a hub for smuggling operations between Lebanon and Syria.
Authorities seized 20 tons of the dangerous chemical stored inside a truck parked at the warehouse, the NNA said, adding the material was transported to a “safe place.”
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi called on security forces to conduct a sweep of the area. He said: “We must do our best to move these materials to a safer place away from exposure to heat and sun” to avoid a “catastrophe.”
The company that owns the ammonium nitrate said that the fertilizer was intended for agricultural use.


Iran leader reasserts ban on sports with Israel

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him during a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP file photo)
A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him during a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP file photo)
Updated 19 September 2021

Iran leader reasserts ban on sports with Israel

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him during a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP file photo)
  • Khamenei instructed “the sports and foreign ministries, as well as the judiciary, to deploy their legal resources to support athletes from this and other Muslim countries, like the Algerian who was recently disciplined”

TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday reasserted the Islamic republic’s longstanding ban on competitive sport with Israelis, and promised support for athletes disciplined by international bodies for respecting it.
Iran does not recognize Israel and its athletes usually refrain from facing Israeli opponents, whether by forfeiting the match or by simply not participating.
“Any Iranian athlete worthy of the name cannot shake hands with a representative of the criminal regime in order to win a medal,” Khamenei told a reception for Iran’s medallists from the Tokyo 2020 Games.
“The illegitimate, bloodthirsty ... Zionist regime tries to win legitimacy by taking part in international sporting events attended by the world arrogance (Washington and the West), and our athletes cannot just stand idly by,” he added, in comments posted on his official website.

BACKGROUND

In Tokyo, Iran won seven Olympic medals, three of them gold, as well as 24 Paralympic medals.

Khamenei instructed “the sports and foreign ministries, as well as the judiciary, to deploy their legal resources to support athletes from this and other Muslim countries, like the Algerian who was recently disciplined.”
He was referring to Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine, who withdrew from the Tokyo Games after the draw set him on course for a possible matchup against an Israeli opponent, prompting his suspension from international competition.


North Africa COVID-19 cases plummet after summer spike

A woman walks past members of the Tunisian military standing guard during a protest against President Kais Saied in the capital Tunis on September 18, 2021. (AFP)
A woman walks past members of the Tunisian military standing guard during a protest against President Kais Saied in the capital Tunis on September 18, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2021

North Africa COVID-19 cases plummet after summer spike

A woman walks past members of the Tunisian military standing guard during a protest against President Kais Saied in the capital Tunis on September 18, 2021. (AFP)
  • Morocco has seen 13,800 COVID-19 deaths in its population of around 36 million

TUNIS: Weeks after a spike in coronavirus cases overwhelmed intensive care units across North Africa with severe oxygen shortages sparking public anger, case numbers are sharply declining.
Images of intensive care units overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients in July sparked outrage in Tunisia, which has suffered the region’s highest number of deaths per head from the virus, with around 24,500 in a population of 11.7 million.
Authorities responded to the surge with a strict early evening curfew and travel restrictions. Neighboring Libya closed its border with Tunisia. Those measures have now been eased.
“There’s the effect of mass vaccination of the population,” said Hechmi Louzir, director of the Pasteur Institute in Tunis, who is a member of the country’s scientific committee on the pandemic.
More than a quarter of Tunisians are now fully inoculated.
Morocco has seen 13,800 COVID-19 deaths in its population of around 36 million. The kingdom is ahead of its Maghreb neighbors in inoculations, with 46.7 percent fully vaccinated.
Health Ministry official Abdelkrim Meziane Bellefquih said this week that infections were down for a fifth straight week. But in comments carried by the official MAP news agency, he warned that “high rates of critical cases and deaths continue to be recorded.”
With an official toll of 5,650 deaths, Algeria announced a target in September to vaccinate 70 percent of its 43.9 million population by the end of the year.
But AFP figures show that this week, barely 13 percent of the population had received a first vaccine jab, with fewer than 10 percent fully vaccinated.
The country’s caseload peaked in the last week of July with over 10,000 infections, but has since plummeted. While the first week of August saw 268 deaths, the last seven days saw 132.