Malaysian king picks ex-deputy PM as nation’s new leader

Malaysian king picks ex-deputy PM as nation’s new leader
Former Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob waves to media as he leave after meeting with the King at national palace in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. (File/AP)
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Updated 21 August 2021

Malaysian king picks ex-deputy PM as nation’s new leader

Malaysian king picks ex-deputy PM as nation’s new leader
  • Ismail was the deputy prime minister under the government of Muhyiddin Yassin
  • Many believe Ismail’s choice will restore the status quo, with its perceived failed response to a worsening pandemic

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah on Friday named the country’s new prime minister and brought back to power the longest-ruling political party, which lost the premiership in 2018 amid a multibillion-dollar graft scandal.

Ismail Sabri Yaakob was appointed the new prime minister, replacing Muhyiddin Yassin, who lost his parliamentary majority and stepped down on Aug. 16 after 17 months in office marred by power struggles within his ruling alliance, a reeling economy and a worsening COVID-19 situation.

Istana Negara, the royal palace, said in a statement that the king had consented to appoint Yaakob following the backing of a majority of lawmakers in accordance with the constitution. The decision was made after a special conference with other Malay state rulers secured a consensus.

“The king expresses hope that with the appointment of the new PM, the political tussle can immediately end and all MPs can put aside their political differences to focus on collective efforts to combat the pandemic,” Ahmad Fadil, the comptroller of the royal household said.

Yaakob, who will be sworn in on Saturday afternoon, was Muhyiddin’s deputy from the rival United Malays National Organization, which ruled the country since independence from Britain in 1957 and lost the 2018 election following a graft scandal at government-owned investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

In the wake of the scandal, authorities alleged that $4.5 billion was diverted into private pockets. Several UMNO lawmakers were charged with corruption after the 2018 election defeat, including former Premier Najib Razak, who last year was sentenced to 12 years in jail. Malaysia has been in a state of political turmoil since 2018.

That year, Mahathir Mohamad, the former UMNO leader who dominated Malaysian politics as prime minister from 1981 to 2003, led the opposition to election victory, but his alliance soon collapsed. After his resignation, Muhyiddin — serving as home affairs minister in Mahathir’s Cabinet — was appointed by the king as prime minister and entered a coalition with UMNO. But the alliance fell apart amid public anger over the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite a series of lockdowns, Malaysia, a country of 33 million people, has one of the highest COVID-19 infection and death rates in the world.

Daily new infections have more than doubled since June and hit a record 23,564 on Friday, with COVID-19-related deaths surging above 13,700.


Malaysia detects first omicron case in quarantined traveler from South Africa

Malaysia detects first omicron case in quarantined traveler from South Africa
Updated 58 min 32 sec ago

Malaysia detects first omicron case in quarantined traveler from South Africa

Malaysia detects first omicron case in quarantined traveler from South Africa
  • The 19-year-old woman was asymptomatic and had been vaccinated
  • Five other people who shared a vehicle with her prior to her quarantine all tested negative

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has detected its first case of the omicron coronavirus variant in a foreign student who was quarantined after arrival from South Africa two weeks ago, its health minister said on Friday.
Authorities had re-tested earlier positive samples after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced omicron as a variant of concern on Nov. 24, minister Khairy Jamaluddin said.
The 19-year-old woman, who was asymptomatic and had been vaccinated, had tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival in Malaysia, via Singapore, and was quarantined for 10 days before being released on Nov. 29, Khairy said.
Five other people who shared a vehicle with her prior to her quarantine all tested negative.
Authorities, however, have asked the student along with eight close contacts to undergo further testing after her earlier test samples were confirmed to be the new variant, Khairy added.
An increasing number of countries are reporting cases of the omicron variant, which the WHO has said carries a very high risk of causing surges of infection.
Neighbouring Singapore confirmed two imported cases on Thursday.
This week, Malaysia temporarily banned the entry of travelers from eight southern African countries that have reported the presence of the variant or are considered high-risk.
On Friday, Khairy said Malaysia would immediately imposed further restrictions, including additional tests for vaccinated travelers from Singapore, who are allowed to enter Malaysia without quarantine.


Taliban: Several Iranian guards dead after Nimroz border clashes 

Taliban: Several Iranian guards dead after Nimroz border clashes 
Updated 03 December 2021

Taliban: Several Iranian guards dead after Nimroz border clashes 

Taliban: Several Iranian guards dead after Nimroz border clashes 
  • Local reports claim Taliban fighters seized Iranian border checkpoints 

KABUL: Taliban authorities said on Thursday that Iranian forces had suffered at least nine casualties during clashes on the Afghanistan-Iran border after fuel smuggling attempts from the Iranian side.

Fighting between the two countries’ respective security forces broke out in Konjak, Nimroz province in southwestern Afghanistan on Wednesday at around midday, and continued until the late evening. Local authorities and witnesses said the Taliban seized three Iranian check posts.

In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the clashes were triggered by “a misunderstanding at the local level” and that “the situation is now under control with the understanding of both sides.”

The spokesperson for the governor of Nimroz, Salahudin Ayobi, told Arab News tensions had been resolved and the “misunderstanding” had been over fuel smuggling.

“The main issue of this misunderstanding was smuggling fuel to Afghanistan. During this battle at least nine Iranian border forces were killed and injured,” he said, adding that one Taliban fighter was wounded. 

Iranian authorities did not confirm the numbers.

FASTFACT

Nimroz governor spokesperson says clashes erupted over fuel smuggling from Iranian side.

Qiam Mawlawi, a Taliban commander in the Konjak district of Nimroz, said the clash was prompted by the Iranians.

“We responded to their misbehavior,” he said. “Currently the situation has turned back to normal, but we are on standby.”

While Iranian media reported the fighting started following a dispute among residents and denied the capture of border check posts, locals said Taliban forces had crossed the border into Iran.

“The Taliban were able to capture Borjak, Melak and Shah Balak check posts from Iranian forces, and heavy (gun)fire (took place) between both sides,” Abdul Satar, Konjak resident, told Arab News.

Sabrina Zory, a civil activist in Nimroz, said the clashes started when Taliban forces stopped a fuel tanker crossing through Borjak. “

After the fighting began, (the) Taliban entered Iranian soil, and the Taliban fighters were able to capture three (Iranian) check posts,” she said. “According to the reports from the local Taliban who participated in this cross-border fighting, five Iranian border police were killed.”

Iran was among the few countries to keep its embassy in Kabul open after the Western-backed administration collapsed in mid-August, leading to the Taliban seizing control of the country.

Tension on the border between the two, an active smuggling and human trafficking route, has been a long-standing issue.


Attacker dressed like ninja wounds two French policewomen with sword – police

Attacker dressed like ninja wounds two French policewomen with sword – police
Updated 03 December 2021

Attacker dressed like ninja wounds two French policewomen with sword – police

Attacker dressed like ninja wounds two French policewomen with sword – police
  • A police spokeswoman said there were no immediate signs that the attack was terrorism-related

PARIS: A man dressed like a ninja attacked and wounded two policewomen with a sword in Cherbourg in northwestern France on Thursday before being shot and captured, a police spokeswoman said.
She said there were no immediate signs that the attack was terrorism-related.
She said the attacker had stolen a vehicle and caused an accident, after which he assaulted two policewomen who had been called to the scene, wounding one in the face and the other in the chin.
The assailant — dressed in black in the style of traditional Japanese ninja fighters — was shot three times by the officers and was flown to hospital by helicopter in serious condition.
The attack happened around 3:45 p.m. (1445 GMT) near a gas station of the Leclerc supermarket chain.
The name and nationality of the attacker were not immediately known.


Armed man outside UN arrested after standoff, lockdown

Armed man outside UN arrested after standoff, lockdown
Updated 03 December 2021

Armed man outside UN arrested after standoff, lockdown

Armed man outside UN arrested after standoff, lockdown
  • During the standoff, the man held an object pointed at his own throat, possibly a firearm
  • The man, who appeared to be in his 60s, was taken into custody without incident

NEW YORK: The United Nations headquarters in New York City was locked down for several hours Thursday after a man was seen pacing outside one of its main gates with what police said appeared to be a shotgun.
The man, who appeared to be in his 60s, was taken into custody without incident at around 1:30 p.m., about three hours after police said he was first spotted outside a security checkpoint on Manhattan’s First Avenue.
During the standoff, the man held an object pointed at his own throat, possibly a firearm. The gates on the fence that rings the UN complex were closed, and the man didn’t appear to be trying to breach the security perimeter. Police said there was no danger to the public.
People inside UN headquarters were initially told to shelter in place, but were later allowed to move about the complex and come and go from other entrances. The UN General Assembly and Security Council were both in session Thursday.
UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement, “We thank the NYPD for their quick response to the incident and we remain in contact with them as they conduct their investigation.” Dujarric said earlier there was “zero indication” the man was a current or former UN employee.
Details including criminal charges weren’t immediately available.


‘No cause for optimism’ on Iran nuclear deal: US

Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses a press conference during a ministerial council meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Stockholm. (Reuters)
Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses a press conference during a ministerial council meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Stockholm. (Reuters)
Updated 03 December 2021

‘No cause for optimism’ on Iran nuclear deal: US

Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses a press conference during a ministerial council meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Stockholm. (Reuters)
  • ‘We’re going to know very, very quickly, I think in the next day or two, whether Iran is serious or not,’ Blinken says
  • In a phone call with Blinken, Israeli PM Naftali Bennett had called for the ‘immediate cessation’ of talks

STOCKHOLM: The United States appeared Thursday to play down the possibility of reviving a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, even as Tehran tabled draft proposals following the resumption of talks in Vienna.
“We’re going to know very, very quickly, I think in the next day or two, whether Iran is serious or not,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Stockholm on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
“In the very near future, the next day or so, we will be in a position to judge whether Iran actually intends now to engage in good faith.”
But he cautioned: “I have to tell you, recent moves, recent rhetoric, don’t give us a lot of cause for optimism.”
In a phone call with Blinken on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had called for the “immediate cessation” of talks, which resumed on Monday.
Blinken declined to comment directly on the request.
“But even though the hour is getting very late, it is not too late for Iran to reverse course,” Blinken said.
“What Iran can’t do is sustain the status quo of building their nuclear program while dragging their feet on talks. That... will not happen.”
“That’s also not our view alone. It’s very clearly the view of our European partners. I have to say I had a good conversation as well” with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“I think Russia shares our basic perspective on this.”
The 2015 agreement — known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA — offered Iran a lifting of economic sanctions in return for strict curbs on its nuclear activities.
The goal was to make it practically impossible for Iran to build an atomic bomb, while allowing it to pursue a civilian nuclear program.
But the deal started to unravel in 2018 when then US president Donald Trump pulled out and began imposing sanctions on the Islamic republic.
In turn, Iran, which denies it wants to acquire a nuclear arsenal, has gradually abandoned its commitments since 2019.
US President Joe Biden has said he is willing to return to the deal as long as Iran also resumes the original terms.
Iran said on Thursday it had handed European powers two draft proposals to try to revive the JCPOA.
Lead negotiator Ali Bagheri told Iranian state television the proposals — submitted on Wednesday, the third day of the talks in Vienna — concerned two main issues facing the pact: the lifting of sanctions and Iran’s nuclear commitments
“The first document sums up the Islamic republic’s point of view concerning the lifting of sanctions, while the second is about Iran’s nuclear actions,” Bagheri told IRIB TV.
“Now the other side must examine these documents and prepare itself to hold negotiations with Iran based on these documents,” said Bagheri.
Bagheri, echoing Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said Iran was in Vienna to resume talks but said it was up to the West.
“We have told the other side that we are in Vienna to pursue the talks... If they are ready to pursue the talks, we agree to pursue them,” he told journalists in Vienna.
He said a timetable for the resumption of negotiations would be set up on Thursday.