G7 nations urge return to constitutional order in Tunisia

G7 nations urge return to constitutional order in Tunisia
Tunisia's President Kais Saied in the capital Tunis. Ambassadors of the G7 group of advanced economies urged Saied to appoint a new head of government as a matter of urgency and return to a constitutional order. (AFP)
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Updated 06 September 2021

G7 nations urge return to constitutional order in Tunisia

G7 nations urge return to constitutional order in Tunisia
  • "We underline the urgent need to appoint a new head of government to form a capable government," said the British Embassy
  • Western democracies have been among the most important donors helping to support Tunisian public finances

TUNIS: The ambassadors of the G7 group of advanced economies urged Tunisia’s president on Monday to appoint a new head of government as a matter of urgency and return to a constitutional order in which an elected parliament plays a significant role.
The statement, put out by the British Embassy on social media, is the most significant public expression of unease by major democracies since President Kais Saied seized governing powers in July in moves his opponents called a coup.
“We underline the urgent need to appoint a new head of government to form a capable government able to address the immediate economic and health crises facing Tunisia,” the statement said.
Western democracies have been among the most important donors helping to support Tunisian public finances over the past decade as the economy has slumped since the 2011 revolution that introduced democracy.
Saied, who was elected in 2019, said on July 25 he was freezing parliament, lifting the immunity of its members, dismissing the prime minister and that he would assume executive authority alongside a new premier.
He said his intervention was in line with the constitution and necessitated by a national emergency due to political paralysis, high COVID-19 rates, and protests. He has vowed that rights will not be affected.
Six weeks on, however, he has not named a prime minister or said what he plans to do, has indefinitely rolled over the emergency measures and said there can be “no going back,” while Tunisians speculate about whether he will amend the constitution.
The G7 statement said appointing a prime minister would “create space for an inclusive dialogue about proposed constitutional and electoral reforms” and added that democratic values would remain central to their relations with Tunisia.


Morocco state schools face ‘crisis’

Morocco state schools face ‘crisis’
Updated 58 min 31 sec ago

Morocco state schools face ‘crisis’

Morocco state schools face ‘crisis’
  • Just nine percent of students in state secondary schools pass exams in French, Arabic and mathematics — against 62, 38 and 49 percent respectively in private schools

RABAT: Morocco’s state schools are failing students and “deepening inequality,” a supervisory body has warned, as authorities scramble to raise the quality of teaching after years of neglect
The High Council for Education (CSE) has warned of a “crisis” in public education and said that government schools “are not giving the majority of pupils basic skills or a fundamental education.”
Despite a string of reforms, state schools “are becoming a machine for reproducing inequalities in society,” said the CSE in a report last month, cautioning that this “poses a serious threat.”
The situation has pushed many, including middle class families, to tighten their belts so they can scrape together fees for private schools.
“I pay almost 400 euros a month,” says Siham, an employee in the private sector. “It’s a lot, but it’s essential to guarantee that my two children get a better French and English education, which public school can’t give them.”
Just nine percent of students in state secondary schools pass exams in French, Arabic and mathematics — against 62, 38 and 49 percent respectively in private schools.
“These figures are distressing; they show that we’re raising illiterate citizens,” said Abderazzak Drissi, head of the kingdom’s National Teachers’ Federation.
The situation contrasts with the lofty goals of Morocco’s “New Development Model” presented by a royal commission in May and laying out a string of targets to be met by 2035.
The council’s warning is just the latest in a string of official reports to raise the alarm over problems in the education system and the resulting high unemployment rate among youth, the age group hardest hit by social inequality.
Chakib Benmoussa, who took office as education minister in October, described the system as “painful.”
“Improving the quality of public education depends first of all on the quality of teacher training,” he told parliament this month.
The CSE report agreed, adding that some choose the profession for “lack of alternatives.”
According to ministry figures, this year more than 100,000 candidates applied for fewer than 17,000 teaching jobs.
Under Benmoussa, the ministry has brought in new rules requiring prospective teachers to be aged under 30 and have a university degree with distinction.
The aim is “to select the best candidates who really want to practice this profession, as is the case at medical or engineering schools,” a ministry official told AFP.
But while there is agreement on the problems, opinions vary on the solutions.
The new conditions sparked a backlash from the teachers’ union and trainee teachers, with street demonstrations erupting last month.
Drissi, the union member, said what was needed was “a tougher entrance exam, not an age limit.”
But the ministry official said that “now it is urgent to reform the education system. We’ve delayed too much.”


Israel police arrest teenage suspect after Jerusalem stabbing

Israel police arrest teenage suspect after Jerusalem stabbing
Updated 08 December 2021

Israel police arrest teenage suspect after Jerusalem stabbing

Israel police arrest teenage suspect after Jerusalem stabbing
  • The stabbing took place in Sheikh Jarrah, where several Palestinian extended families are at risk of being evicted by Jewish settlers
  • The attack came days after a Palestinian stabbed and wounded an Israeli man

JERUSALEM: Israeli officers arrested a young woman after a Wednesday stabbing in a tense neighborhood of annexed east Jerusalem, police said.
“In the last few minutes, police forces arrested a suspect, a minor, who was located by the police inside an educational institution near the scene of the incident,” police said.
The victim, 26, was taken to hospital after the knife attack on the road into the flashpoint neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and was being treated for “mild” injuries, police said.
Police deployed helicopters as part of a massive manhunt following the 7:30 am (0530 GMT) stabbing.
Sheikh Jarrah has been hit by waves of unrest linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The neighborhood is home to at least seven Palestinian families who have been waiting for a Israeli legal ruling on whether they must surrender their homes to Jewish settlers in a case that exploded into armed conflict in and around Gaza in May.
There have been sporadic attacks on Israeli targets in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank in recent months, most of them carried out by lone wolf assailants apparently unconnected to established Palestinian militant groups.
A Palestinian teenager rammed his car into an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank early Monday before being shot dead by a security guard, officials said.
On Saturday, a Palestinian assailant stabbed an Israeli civilian and attempted to attack police near the Damascus Gate entry to east Jerusalem’s Old City.
The assailant was shot dead by officers, who appeared to fire on the suspect after he was on the ground, stirring debate about excessive force.
Israeli authorities have insisted the officers acted appropriately.
Last month, a civilian was killed and three people wounded when a Palestinian opened fire in the Old City in a rare gun attack by a militant of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.
Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.
The Palestinians claim the city’s eastern sector as the capital of their future state.


Renewed Iran nuclear talks seen Thursday, but France believes Tehran playing for time

Renewed Iran nuclear talks seen Thursday, but France believes Tehran playing for time
Updated 08 December 2021

Renewed Iran nuclear talks seen Thursday, but France believes Tehran playing for time

Renewed Iran nuclear talks seen Thursday, but France believes Tehran playing for time

DOHA: Talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are expected to resume on Thursday, France’s foreign minister said, although he added that he feared Iran was playing for time.

“The elements... are not very encouraging,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a French parliament committee, referring to the seventh round of nuclear talks between Iran and major powers that began on Nov. 29 and paused on Friday.

“We have the feeling the Iranians want to make it last and the longer the talks last, the more they go back on their commitments ... and get closer to capacity to get a nuclear weapon,” Le Drian said.

Under the 2015 deal struck by Tehran and six major powers, Iran limited its nuclear program in return for relief from US, European Union and UN sanctions.

Then-President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh US sanctions, and Iran began violating the nuclear restrictions a year later.

While Le Drian and Iranian media reports said talks were expected to resume Thursday, a senior US State Department official said Washington did not yet have a confirmed date.

The indirect US-Iranian talks in Vienna, in which other diplomats shuttle between them because Tehran refuses direct talks with Washington, aim to get both sides to resume compliance with the deal.

However, last week’s discussions broke off with European and US officials voicing dismay at sweeping demands by Iran’s new, hard-line government under anti-Western President Ebrahim Raisi, whose June election caused a five-month pause in the talks.

A senior US official on Saturday said Iran abandoned any compromises it had made in the previous six rounds of talks, pocketed those made by others, and demanded more last week.

Each side appears to be trying to blame the other for the lack of progress.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the presidents of the United States and Russia — two of the six major powers in the deal along with Britain, China, France, and Germany — had a “productive” discussion about Iran on Tuesday.

“The more Iran demonstrates a lack of seriousness at the negotiating table, the more unity there is among the P5+1 and the more they will be exposed as the isolated party in this negotiation,” he told reporters, referring to the six powers.

Speaking on Monday, Central Intelligence Agency Director Bill Burns said the agency does not believe Iran’s supreme leader has decided to take steps to “weaponize” a nuclear device but noted that it has made advances in its ability to enrich uranium, one pathway to the fissile material for a bomb.

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying it only wants to master nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

“We don’t see any evidence as an agency right now that Iran’s supreme leader has made a decision to move to weaponize,” Burns told the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit.

Burns described Iran’s challenge as “a three-legged race” to obtain fissile material, to “weaponize” by placing such material into a device designed to cause a nuclear explosion, and to mate it to a delivery system such as a ballistic missile.

On weaponization, Burns said “the Iranians still have a lot of work to do there as far as we judge it.”


Kuwaiti people look forward to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit

Kuwaiti people look forward to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit
Updated 08 December 2021

Kuwaiti people look forward to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit

Kuwaiti people look forward to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit
  • Al-Mohammad clarified that the visit will be an addition to the strong bilateral ties between both nations

DUBAI: Kuwaiti people are looking forward to the scheduled visit of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, due to take place on Wednesday.

The crown prince will hold talks with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah as well as Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah during his visit, a report from state news agency KUNA said quoting Kuwaiti foreign minister Sheikh Ahmad Naser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah.

Al-Mohammad clarified that the visit will be an addition to the strong bilateral ties between both nations. 

On Tuesday evening, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in the UAE for the second leg of his official tour of the Gulf Cooperation Council nations. 

He was welcomed by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, marking his first visit to the UAE since November 2019. 

This came after Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s overnight visit in Muscat earlier, where he met with Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, the ruler of Oman, as well as other senior Omani officials.


US thwarts smuggling attempt of Iranian arms in Arabian Sea bound for Yemen’s Houthis

US thwarts smuggling attempt of Iranian arms in Arabian Sea bound for Yemen’s Houthis
Updated 08 December 2021

US thwarts smuggling attempt of Iranian arms in Arabian Sea bound for Yemen’s Houthis

US thwarts smuggling attempt of Iranian arms in Arabian Sea bound for Yemen’s Houthis
  • The operation represents the US ‘government’s largest-ever forfeitures of fuel and weapons shipments from Iran’

DUBAI: The US seized two large caches of Iranian arms, including 171 surface-to-air missiles and eight anti-tank missiles, intended for the Houthi militia in Yemen. 
The US justice department on Tuesday said navy troops seized the weapons from two vessels in the Arabian Sea while conducting routine maritime security operations. 
“Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization, orchestrated the arms shipments, which were destined for Houthi militants in Yemen,” the statement added. 
Approximately 1.1 million barrels of Iranian petroleum products were also seized from four foreign-flagged tankers in or around the Arabian Sea while en route to Venezuela, the justice department said. 
“The actions of the United States in these two cases strike a resounding blow to the Government of Iran and to the criminal networks supporting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
The seized petroleum products were sold for over $26 million, pursuant to a court order, with the proceeds directed, “in whole or in part, to the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.” 
The operation represents the US “government’s largest-ever forfeitures of fuel and weapons shipments from Iran,” the statement noted.