Morocco’s king names businessman Akhannouch to head government

Morocco’s king names businessman Akhannouch to head government
Morocco's King Mohammed VI, right, receives Aziz Akhannouch at the Royal Palace in Fez, Morocco, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 10 September 2021

Morocco’s king names businessman Akhannouch to head government

Morocco’s king names businessman Akhannouch to head government
  • The RNI won 102 of parliament's 395 seats, thrashing the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party
  • Akhannouch, a billionaire businessman, has led the RNI since 2016

RABAT: Morocco's King Mohammed VI on Friday named businessman Aziz Akhannouch to lead a new government after the victory of his National Rally of Independents (RNI) in parliamentary elections.

The king appointed Akhannouch "head of the government and tasked him with forming a new government", following Wednesday's polls, a statement from the palace said.

The RNI won 102 of parliament's 395 seats, thrashing the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), which had headed the governing coalition for a decade but took just 13 seats, according to results released by the interior ministry after all the ballots were counted.

Akhannouch, a billionaire businessman, has led the RNI since 2016.

His party is considered close to the palace and has been part of all coalition governments for the past 23 years except during a brief period between 2012 and 2013.

Akhannouch has hailed "the popular will for change", calling the results "a victory for democracy".

Changes to the voting system meant it was the first time Morocco's 18 million voters cast ballots in both parliamentary and local elections on the same day, in an effort to boost turnout.

Akhannouch's party also came first in the local elections, winning 9,995 of the 31,503 seats, and the regional poll with 196 of the 678 positions.


UN envoy: UAE has important role in supporting a Yemen-led political settlement

UN envoy: UAE has important role in supporting a Yemen-led political settlement
Updated 59 min 27 sec ago

UN envoy: UAE has important role in supporting a Yemen-led political settlement

UN envoy: UAE has important role in supporting a Yemen-led political settlement
  • The envoy held meetings with senior Emirati officials and Yemenis from various political components
  • Grundberg expressed his concern over the rapidly deteriorating situation in Yemen

LONDON: The UAE has an important role in supporting a Yemen-led, inclusive, political settlement to the conflict, the UN’s envoy for the country said.

“In that same spirit, progress in the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement would also contribute to strengthening political partnerships, supporting basic service delivery and stabilizing the economy,” Hans Grundberg added as he ended his visit to the UAE on Thursday.

The envoy held meetings with senior Emirati officials and Yemenis from various political components and the private sector during the visit, his office said.

He met with the diplomatic adviser to the UAE’s president Anwar Gargash and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khalifa Shaheen.

The diplomats discussed the latest developments in Yemen and ongoing UN efforts to resume a comprehensive and sustained political dialogue among Yemeni parties. 

Grundberg expressed his concern over the rapidly deteriorating situation in Yemen, including intensification of the war, fragmentation of state institutions, the impact of the conflict on the economy, and delivery of basic services.

“It is high time that progress be made toward immediate and longer term political, economic and security priorities in the best interest of Yemenis,” he said.


Criticism over Israeli ‘terror’ label for Palestinian groups

Criticism over Israeli ‘terror’ label for Palestinian groups
Updated 28 October 2021

Criticism over Israeli ‘terror’ label for Palestinian groups

Criticism over Israeli ‘terror’ label for Palestinian groups
  • Move by Defense Minister Benny Gantz has even drawn fire from within Israel’s government, an unwieldy eight-party alliance that includes left-wing politicians
  • Representatives from 25 Israeli civil society groups traveled to Ramallah Wednesday to show solidarity with their Palestinian colleagues

JERUSALEM: Israel’s surprise “terrorist” designation of six Palestinian civil society groups has divided its ruling coalition and thrown a spotlight on Marxist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The move announced last Friday by Defense Minister Benny Gantz caused shockwaves, including among European donors who support the targeted groups and from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Israeli non-government organizations, or NGOs, which partner with the implicated Palestinians also voiced astonishment.
So did some in the media, given the prominence of the groups involved — especially Al-Haq, a rights group founded in 1979 by writer Raja Shehadeh, a New Yorker magazine contributor.
Gantz has also taken fire from within Israel’s government, an unwieldy eight-party alliance that includes left-wing politicians.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, leader of the dovish Meretz, warned that as an occupying military power Israel needed to be “very careful in imposing sanctions on Palestinian civil organizations because there are political, diplomatic and, more importantly, human rights consequences.”
Transport Minister and Labor leader Merav Michaeli said the way the announcement was made “caused Israel great damage with our greatest and most important friends.”
But Gantz’s office has not wavered, insisting that a joint security establishment investigation had proved the six groups operated “as an organized network under the leadership of the PFLP,” as the Marxist group is known.
The PFLP was founded in 1967 by George Habache — mixing Marxist-Leninism, Arab nationalism and virulent anti-Zionism — ultimately becoming the second most powerful Palestinian armed group after Yasser Arafat’s Fatah.
It currently does not have firepower matching the arsenal of rockets held by Gaza’s rulers Hamas or Islamic Jihad, but it is active in the international campaign to boycott Israel known as BDS, short for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions.
The PFLP has been declared a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, and Israel says it is responsible for a 2019 bomb attack in the occupied West Bank that killed 17-year-old Israeli Rina Schnerb.
The PFLP leader in Israeli-blockaded Gaza told AFP the designated organizations have “no link” with his group beyond a shared ideology opposing the occupation.
“These NGOs work in complete independence,” Jamil Mazher said.
The PFLP has been a prime target of the Israeli organization NGO Monitor, which tracks funding and activities of non profit groups engaged in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with specific focus on European donors.
Its president Gerald Steinberg told AFP the designations last week “appears to reflect the impact of NGO Monitor’s ongoing research.”
NGO Monitor wrote to the European anti-fraud office OLAF in November 2020 to share what it said was evidence of EU funds being given to Palestinian NGOs with links to terrorist organizations.
OLAF replied in January that it had “dismissed the case on the grounds that there is no sufficient suspicion to open an investigation,” according to a letter seen by AFP.
Israel is not obligated to disclose the evidence it used to support the terrorism designation, with secrecy allowed under the 2016 counter-terrorism act.
The defense ministry has said the groups had hosted PFLP meetings, employed “convicted terrorists” and operated as a “lifeline” for the PFLP through “fundraising, money laundering and recruitment of activists.”
Tel Aviv University law professor Eliav Lieblich, writing on the Just Security website this week, argued that “it simply cannot be accepted that well-known and widely respected Palestinian human rights groups be designated as ‘terrorist organizations’ by executive fiat and on the basis of classified intelligence.”
An Israeli official told AFP that an envoy would soon head to Washington to share evidence after the US said it would be seeking “more information” about the designations.
Meanwhile, pushback persists against the decision.
Representatives from 25 Israeli civil society groups traveled to Ramallah Wednesday to show solidarity with their Palestinian colleagues.
“This attack on Palestinian civil society, on Palestinian organizations, is not new,” Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of Israeli rights group B’Tselem, told AFP at the demonstration.
“What is new,” he added, is that “they’re targeting some of the most respected and oldest civil society organizations in Palestine, like Al-Haq,” and that growing international outrage means Israel may no longer be able to act with “impunity.”


Arab coalition says 95 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah

Arab coalition says 95 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah
Updated 28 October 2021

Arab coalition says 95 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah

Arab coalition says 95 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah
  • On Thursday, the Arab coalition destroyed five Houthi ballistic missiles fired toward Jazan, Saudi Arabia
  • 11 military vehicles were destroyed in the 22 strikes carried out on Juba and Al-Kasarah

RIYADH: The Arab coalition said on Thursday that 95 Houthis were killed during air strikes on two districts near the central Yemeni city of Marib.
The coalition added that 11 military vehicles had also been destroyed in the 22 strikes carried out on Juba and Al-Kasarah during the last 24 hours.
Juba is some 50 km south of Marib, whilst Al-Kasarah is 30 km northwest of the city.
The coalition has reported heavy strikes around Marib in recent weeks.
Earlier on Thursday, the Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed five Houthi ballistic missiles fired toward the southwestern Saudi city of Jazan.


UN Security Council calls for ‘utmost restraint’ from all parties in Sudan

UN Security Council calls for ‘utmost restraint’ from all parties in Sudan
Updated 2 min 42 sec ago

UN Security Council calls for ‘utmost restraint’ from all parties in Sudan

UN Security Council calls for ‘utmost restraint’ from all parties in Sudan
  • Statement followed several attempts by council members to agree a unified position in the face of Russian objections
  • Moscow’s envoy refused to describe the military takeover as a coup, said “all parties” are guilty of violent acts

NEW YORK: The Security Council on Thursday condemned the “military takeover” in Sudan on Oct. 25, including the suspension of some transitional institutions, the declaration of a state of emergency, and the detention of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other members of the transitional government.

Council members noted that Hamdok has now returned to his residence, where he remains under guard, after initially being detained at the home of Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, the head of the armed forces. They demanded the immediate release of all others detained by the military authorities.

They also called on “all parties to exercise the utmost restraint (and) refrain from the use of violence,” and underscored the necessity of respecting human rights, including the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

The statement was the Security Council’s fourth attempt at agreeing a unified position on the situation in Sudan, after the Russian representative objected to calling the takeover a coup and insisted that protesters as well as the military are guilty of violence.

Asked on Wednesday whether Russia was prepared to condemn the coup, Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy said: “These formulas are tricky.

“It’s difficult to say (whether or not) it is a coup because a coup has a specific definition. There are many (similar) situations around the world but they’re not being called a coup. It’s not our task to label such a situation as a coup. It’s up to the Sudanese to decide whether or not it’s a coup.”

Polyanskyi criticized the US decision to halt aid to Sudan that was intended to assist the political transition to civilian rule, and said that the violence in the country is not restricted to the military.

While opinions may differ on the definition of a coup, he said, “I don’t think there are differences in the definition of violence. When people are being killed, when there are demonstrations, when there are attacks, (it) doesn’t matter (if it’s against) military, policemen, civilian population … violence is violence.

“Violence should stop, from all sides. As far as I see they’re not peacefully protesting. There are violent protests.”

The Security Council urged Sudan’s military authorities to restore the civilian-led transitional government, and all stakeholders to return to negotiations “without preconditions, in order to enable the full implementation of the Constitutional Document and the Juba Peace Agreement, which underpin Sudan’s democratic transition.”

Council members expressed their support for the hopes and democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people, and reiterated “their strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and national unity of Sudan.”

They also voiced support for regional and sub-regional efforts to address the situation, including those by the League of Arab States and the African Union. The latter suspended Sudan’s membership of the organization following the coup.


US sanctions two Lebanese businessmen and a member of parliament

US sanctions two Lebanese businessmen and a member of parliament
Updated 28 October 2021

US sanctions two Lebanese businessmen and a member of parliament

US sanctions two Lebanese businessmen and a member of parliament
  • Jihad Al-Arab and Dany Khoury were sanctioned for alleged corruption related to state contracts
  • Lawmaker Jamil Sayyed was sanctioned for allegedly seeking to transfer $120 million abroad

BEIRUT: The US Treasury on Thursday imposed sanctions on two top Lebanese contractors and a lawmaker close to the Hezbollah movement over alleged large-scale corruption that undermined the rule of law in Lebanon.
Businessmen Jihad Al-Arab and Dany Khoury, close to former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri and Christian politician Gebran Bassil respectively, were sanctioned for alleged corruption related to state contracts.
Lawmaker Jamil Sayyed was sanctioned for allegedly seeking to “skirt domestic banking policies and regulations” and transfer $120 million abroad, “presumably to enrich himself and his associates,” a Treasury statement said.