UN rights chief concerned about Tunisia turmoil, offers help

UN rights chief concerned about Tunisia turmoil, offers help
A woman receives the COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Tunis, Tunisia August 1, 2021. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 03 August 2021

UN rights chief concerned about Tunisia turmoil, offers help

UN rights chief concerned about Tunisia turmoil, offers help
  • Tunisia has plunged into political turmoil, adding to the crippling economic crisis as well as a wave of COVID-19 infections

GENEVA: UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet voiced her concerns about the political turmoil in Tunisia in a phonecall with the foreign minister, and offered her assistance if required, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi called the high commissioner for human rights after President Kais Saied seized power on July 25 following violent demonstrations against the government.
“It’s a worrying situation. We are following really closely and we know the challenges the country is facing,” Marta Hurtado, a spokeswoman for Bachelet’s office, told reporters in Geneva.
“What we hope is that all the achievements toward democratic reform that they have been doing over the last 10 years can be maintained and preserved, and that there’s no regression in any way.”
Tunisia has often been praised as a rare success story for its democratic transition after the Arab Spring regional uprisings sparked by its 2011 revolution.
But many Tunisians are angered at a political class seen as obsessed with power struggles and disconnected from the suffering of the poor, amid high unemployment and spiralling prices.
In a surprise move, Saied sacked prime minister Hichem Mechichi late last month and suspended parliament for 30 days. He ordered a graft crackdown targeting 460 businessmen and an investigation into alleged illegal funding of political parties.
The move plunged Tunisia into political turmoil, adding to the crippling economic crisis as well as a wave of COVID-19 infections.
Hurtado said former Chilean president Bachelet told Jerandi “that we are here to support them — we have an office on the ground in Tunisia — and we are closely following the situation and we are there to help, should they ask for it.
“We are concerned at what is happening but we trust that the authorities have the capacity to deal with it,” Hurtado added.
“But we are open to any request that they might have for help.”

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization said that the country may be over the peak of the latest wave but the government must still speed up inoculations.
“The epidemiological data are going in the right direction,” WHO representative in Tunisia Yves Souteyrand told a press conference.
“We have the feeling that the peak of the epidemic may have passed.”
But with vaccines in short supply, overwhelmed hospitals, shortages of oxygen and the highly contagious Delta variant rampaging through the country’s 12 million population mean the risk of a health disaster remains, the WHO warned.
The Delta variant was responsible for “more than 90 percent” of cases, and the impact of family gatherings during a recent religious holiday was hard to evaluate but could set back progress made, Souteyrand said.
“The challenge is to speed up the vaccination campaign,” he said.
The country had “in 10 days received around seven million vaccine doses and will receive perhaps two or three million more” soon, he said.
The WHO has also provided 400 oxygen concentrators and four oxygen generators to Tunisia.
Since the shock move late last month, Saied has established a coronavirus crisis unit, supervised by a high-level military official, to help manage the country’s outbreak.
Souteyrand said that “relations between the WHO and the health ministry have not been affected by the political crisis.”
The health ministry on Monday announced the start of a mobile vaccination campaign in several regions.
Authorities have also announced a vaccination drive across the country on Sunday for Tunisians aged over 40.
Over the past seven days, the North African country has registered the worst official Covid-19 mortality rate in the world, with 10.64 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, an AFP tally based on officially reported data shows.
On the other hand, Tunisia shares its coronavirus data more transparently than many other countries, the WHO said.


Algerians rue ‘missed opportunities’ of Bouteflika era

Algerians rue ‘missed opportunities’ of Bouteflika era
Updated 20 min 36 sec ago

Algerians rue ‘missed opportunities’ of Bouteflika era

Algerians rue ‘missed opportunities’ of Bouteflika era
  • The long-time leader had risen to power in 1999 on a wave of popular support as his amnesty offer to Islamist militants helped bring an end to a devastating decade-long civil war

TUNIS: Algerians looked back on two decades of “missed opportunities” as flags flew at half mast Sunday ahead of the funeral of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
His death at age 84 was announced late Friday, more than two years after the former strongman quit office.
The long-time leader had risen to power in 1999 on a wave of popular support as his amnesty offer to Islamist militants helped bring an end to a devastating decade-long civil war.
But 20 years later, mass protests broke out in response to his announcement that he intended to stand for a fifth term, and the army stepped in to force his resignation.
Bouteflika, a fighter in the war for independence from France, had suffered a mini-stroke in 2013 that affected his speech, and he was forced to use a wheelchair.
Dubbed “Boutef” by Algerians, he had won respect as a foreign minister in the 1970s to his mentor, Algeria’s second president Houari Boumediene.
Algerian journalist Adlene Meddi said it was nostalgia for the heady Boumediene days of the late 60s and 70s that had given Bouteflika his initial honeymoon period as president.
“For some, he was a reassuring presence, reviving memories of the ‘glorious’ years under Boumediene, when Algeria was the leader of the developing world — all in sharp contrast with the smoldering ruins of Algeria of the late 1990s,” Meddi wrote on online news outlet Middle East Eye.


Hasni Abidi, head of the CERMAM studies center in Geneva, said Bouteflika had also benefited from high oil prices of the era which had inflated government coffers.
“His popularity was guaranteed by a high (price of a) barrel and a ‘civil concord’ law negotiated by the army” that put an end to the war with the Islamists, he said.
“Unfortunately, Bouteflika missed his rendezvous with history — he was the president of missed opportunities.
“He became a man of power and intrigue and not a statesman.”
University of Algiers politics lecturer Louisa Dris Ait Hamadouche said the nation had suffered a “litany of missed opportunities” as Bouteflika “failed to achieve his own ambitions or those of the Algerian state.”
He wanted “to surpass Boumediene, enshrine the presidency, bring all military institutions under its command, boost Algeria’s influence on the regional stage, be the one to turn the page on the black decade (of civil war),” which killed around 200,000 people, Dris Ait Hamadouche said.
“But the outcome has been that in 2021, the institutions of the state have never been so weakened, so divided or so discredited.”
Dris Ait Hamadouche said that for many younger Algerians, the only memory they would keep of their former president would be the “distressing image of an old man in a wheelchair.”
More than half the country’s population is younger than 30.
She said she regretted that death had spared him having to answer for “the mistakes committed during the exercise of his duties.”
Bouteflika faced criticism from rights groups and opponents who accused him of being authoritarian.
Samir Yahiaoui, a Hirak reform movement activist in the Algerian diaspora in France, said he too regretted that Bouteflika had “taken so many secrets with him.”
“It’s just unacceptable,” he said. “It shows that he served a clan, a regime, and was never a statesman.”


Abu Dhabi Police lead convoy of vehicles after COVID-19 Dubai border checks lifted

Abu Dhabi Police lead convoy of vehicles after COVID-19 Dubai border checks lifted
Updated 6 sec ago

Abu Dhabi Police lead convoy of vehicles after COVID-19 Dubai border checks lifted

Abu Dhabi Police lead convoy of vehicles after COVID-19 Dubai border checks lifted

DUBAI: A fleet of cars entered Abu Dhabi Sunday shortly after midnight as the emirate’s new decision to ease entry COVID-19 testing requirements came into effect. 

Jubilant drivers could be heard honking and cheering as they drove behind police cars to cross the Dubai-Abu Dhabi border.

Over the past year, people have reduced their visits to Abu Dhabi due to stringent border testing requirements, which restricted entry into the emirate to those with a negative PCR test.

But on Saturday Abu Dhabi canceled COVID-19 testing requirements to enter the emirate for travelers from within the UAE, for all citizens, residents and tourists.  

Earlier, the emirate removed the need to quarantine for all vaccinated travelers arriving from international destinations.


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

Motegi hails UAE’s role in evacuating Japanese nationals from Afghanistan
Updated 19 September 2021

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.


Last two prison-break Palestinian fugitives recaptured: Israeli army

Last two prison-break Palestinian fugitives recaptured: Israeli army
Updated 2 min 26 sec ago

Last two prison-break Palestinian fugitives recaptured: Israeli army

Last two prison-break Palestinian fugitives recaptured: Israeli army
  • 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.