Norway’s election winners to meet in bid to form majority government

Norway’s election winners to meet in bid to form majority government
In this photo taken from video shown at United Nations headquarters, Norway's outgoing Prime Minister Erna Solberg remotely addresses the 76th session of the U.N. General Assembly, Wednesday Sept. 22, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 23 September 2021

Norway’s election winners to meet in bid to form majority government

Norway’s election winners to meet in bid to form majority government
  • Norway’s incumbent government, led by Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg, conceded the election on Sept. 13

OSLO: Norway’s center-left election winners meet on Thursday for three-way talks to determine whether they can form a majority coalition government, with oil, taxes and EU relations among the sticking points.
Labour, the Socialists and the Center Party won a majority of seats in Norway’s parliament on Sept. 13, beating the ruling Conservative-led government, with a transfer of power likely to take place next month.
Labour leader Jonas Gahr Stoere, who is expected to become Norway’s next prime minister, has during the last week held individual meetings with Center Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum and the Socialist Left’s Audun Lysbakken.
But Thursday’s gathering at a resort an hour’s drive north of Oslo is believed to be the first time the three will sit down together since the election.
Billed as exploratory talks, the initial phase is set to determine whether detailed negotiations should be opened next week, or if Stoere has to settle for ruling in a minority.
Norway’s status as an oil and gas producer, contributing to climate change, was at the heart of the election campaign, although a transition away from petroleum is likely to be gradual despite progress by pro-environment parties.
Norway’s oil and gas industry pumps around 4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, accounting for over 40 percent of export revenues, although output is projected to fall from 2030 onwards.
The Socialist Party wants to halt all exploration for new resources, which would hasten the oil industry’s decline, but Labour and Center have rejected this position.
Labour is wary of potential job losses from petroleum’s demise, and champions state-sponsored policies to encourage a transfer of engineering know-how from oil production to renewable energy.
Norway’s incumbent government, led by Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg, conceded the election on Sept. 13 and will step down as soon as Labour is ready to form a cabinet.


India marks administering more than 1bn COVID-19 jabs

India marks administering more than 1bn COVID-19 jabs
Updated 22 October 2021

India marks administering more than 1bn COVID-19 jabs

India marks administering more than 1bn COVID-19 jabs
  • PM Narendra Modi hails achievement as ‘triumph of Indian science’

NEW DELHI: India on Thursday hailed administering 1 billion coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine doses as a milestone in its fight against the Delta variant of the virus that caused a deadly surge earlier this year.
The country started its immunization drive in January with two Indian-made vaccines — Covishield, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, and locally developed Covaxin produced by the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech — and plans to fully vaccinate 944 million of its adult population by the year’s end.
COVID-19 cases have recently fallen sharply in India since a devastating second wave of infections between March and May claimed the lives of more than 450,000 people, when the highly transmissible Delta variant, first detected in India a year ago, was infecting hundreds of thousands daily.
While only 30 percent have so far been fully vaccinated with two vaccine doses, the 1 billion mark was welcomed by the government as a “triumph.”
In a tweet on Thursday, as he marked the occasion with a visit to a government hospital in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “India scripts history. We are witnessing the triumph of Indian science, enterprise, and the collective spirit of 130 crore (1.3 billion) Indians. Congrats India on crossing 100 crore vaccinations.”
The PM also expressed his “gratitude to our doctors, nurses, and all those who worked to achieve this feat.”
Dr. Vinod Kumar Paul, the man in charge of India’s vaccination drive, described the 1 billion jabs mark as “an achievement” and highlighted the consistency in the vaccination drive. “It’s remarkable to reach the 1 billion dose mark for any nation, an achievement in just over nine months since the vaccination program started in India,” he said in a tweet.
To mark the achievement, the government was holding a series of cultural events throughout the country.
However, some health experts warned that only fully vaccinated people were protected from COVID-19.
Prof. Rama Baru, from Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Center of Social Medicine and Community in New Delhi, told Arab News: “The completion of two doses for protection from the virus has not yet been achieved. And coverage of the second dose is very poor in relatively poor states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
“If you look at the age-related data, we still have 18-plus population in several rural areas like Uttar and Bihar who have not got the first shot yet.
“Besides the vaccination drive the focus should also have been on the drastic improvement of the public health infrastructure. After the second wave you would have expected the government to enhance its investment in the public health service, but in fact that has not happened,” she said.


Duterte thanks Saudi Arabia for hospitality, support for Filipinos

Duterte thanks Saudi Arabia for hospitality, support for Filipinos
Updated 22 October 2021

Duterte thanks Saudi Arabia for hospitality, support for Filipinos

Duterte thanks Saudi Arabia for hospitality, support for Filipinos

MANILA: President Rodrigo Duterte thanked Saudi Arabia for its hospitality toward Filipinos in the Kingdom, as he welcomed the new Saudi ambassador to Manila.
The new Saudi envoy, Hisham bin Sultan Al-Qahtani, presented his credentials to the Philippine president on Wednesday.
“I thank the Saudi Arabian government for the hospitality extended to the almost a million Filipinos in the Kingdom, including the free COVID-19 vaccination offered by your government,” Duterte told the envoy during a livestreamed ceremony at the presidential palace, Malacanang.
He also expressed his gratitude to Saudi authorities for repatriating hundreds of overseas Filipino workers stranded in the Kingdom by the coronavirus disease pandemic.
“The repatriation of the 645 distressed Filipinos in June shows the continuing partnership between our countries in upholding the welfare of OFWs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I am hopeful that Your Excellency will continue to strengthen this most important pillar of our bilateral relations,” Duterte said.
He added he was also looking forward to expanding cooperation with Saudi Arabia, particularly in trade and investment during Al-Qahtani’s tenure.
“We hope to improve the bilateral trade and investment exchanges as well as the transportation and travel cooperation between the Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during your tenure,” he said.
Saudi Arabia has been providing aid to the Philippines to help it fight the pandemic and also to rebuild Marawi City, and Duterte conveyed his appreciation for the support.
“I convey my appreciation for the pledge of support for our efforts against COVID-19 and in the rehabilitation of Marawi City,” he said.
Marawi, a predominantly Muslim lakeside town on the island of Mindanao, was taken by pro-Daesh militants in May 2017 and suffered widespread damage during five months of fighting as government forces tried to regain control. The conflict between government forces and the militants left at least 1,200 people dead, while the once-bustling city was flattened, displacing more than 100,000 residents.
As he presented his credentials, the Saudi envoy vowed to take Philippine-Saudi ties to a new height.
“During my term, I would exert my efforts to expand and deepen friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation, enhance the mutual understanding and friendship between the governments and the peoples, and bring the relations of the Philippines and Saudi Arabia to a new height,” Al-Qahtani told Duterte.
Al-Qahtani’s appointment comes as Manila and Riyadh celebrate 52 years of diplomatic relations on Sunday.
Aside from Al-Qahtani, Duterte also received the credentials of the new ambassadors of the UK, UAE, Italy, Sweden, Israel, and Malta.


Syrian jailed for anti-Semitic attacks in Austria

Syrian jailed for anti-Semitic attacks in Austria
Updated 21 October 2021

Syrian jailed for anti-Semitic attacks in Austria

Syrian jailed for anti-Semitic attacks in Austria
  • The man was arrested after he threw stones and scrawled pro-Palestinian slogans on the town synagogue
  • In court the man said he regretted actions that the prosecutor said were motivated by ‘hatred of Jews’

VIENNA: An Austrian court on Thursday handed a Syrian aged 32 a three-year jail term for vandalising a synagogue and other anti-Semitic attacks.
The court in the southeastern city of Graz was placed in a care institution after finding the man, who committed the offenses in August 2020, to be psychologically disturbed, a spokesperson told AFP.
He was arrested after he threw stones and scrawled pro-Palestinian slogans on the town synagogue before threatening the head of the local Jewish community and also damaged a local facility used by an LGBT group.
In court the man said he regretted actions that the prosecutor said were motivated by “hatred of Jews, homosexuals and prostitutes,” the APA news agency reported.
At the time of the arrest, President Alexander Van der Bellen stressed anti-Semitism had no place in a country whose 192,000-strong pre-war Jewish population was decimated during the Holocaust under Nazi rule.
The country registered 585 anti-Semitic acts last year alone, according to Vienna’s Jewish IKG community association.
Graz’s synagogue was notably destroyed in the 1938 anti-Jewish Kristallnacht — or the Night of Broken Glass — pogrom. A new one was built in 2000.


Afghan refugees may be housed in hotels for up to a year, say UK councils

Afghan refugees may be housed in hotels for up to a year, say UK councils
Updated 21 October 2021

Afghan refugees may be housed in hotels for up to a year, say UK councils

Afghan refugees may be housed in hotels for up to a year, say UK councils
  • Charity workers warn conditions are unsafe for children and can affect their mental wellbeing
  • Around 8,500 Afghans were evacuated to the UK by British forces earlier this year

LONDON: Local politicians across the UK are making contingency plans to house Afghan refugees in hotels for up to a year, as progress on finding them long-term accommodation slows.

So far, around 1,500 of the 8,500 Afghans airlifted out of Kabul by British forces more than two months ago have been provided long-term accommodation, leaving roughly 7,000 without a permanent home in the UK, and with no guidance on when they will be provided, the Guardian reported.

Many of those brought to the UK had worked alongside British or coalition forces as interpreters or in other support roles.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously committed to supporting them, saying: “We will never forget the brave sacrifice made by Afghans who chose to work with us, at great risk to themselves.”

But local councils across Britain are struggling to deal with the influx of refugees and the logistical challenges they pose.

Some councils, the Guardian reported, said they had received no support from the Home Office in providing immediate needs assessment on arrivals, and an official from one said they were given no notice that the government was block-booking hotels in the area for refugees.

“We’re planning for a year, to be honest,” said one unnamed central London hotel official. “We don’t think it will be quick.”

Nick Forbes, the leader of Newcastle City Council, who heads the UK’s Local Government Association Asylum, Refugees and Migration Task Group, told the Guardian: “I get no sense that the government sees this as an urgent priority. I’m concerned that now they are in hotels they are out of sight and out of mind.”

There have also been warnings that hotel conditions are not suitable for the many children to have been evacuated to Britain.

“There are kids in lots of hotels with nothing to do; their mental health wellbeing is not being met, they are becoming frustrated and playing up. We could and should be doing better,” one charity worker said after visiting several London hotels, where 4,000 people are being housed.

Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, told the Guardian that finding long-term accommodation for 7,000 people would be possible if just half of the UK’s 343 local authorities offered to house 60 people, adding: “That’s just 12 homes each — that should be doable, shouldn’t it?”


Nigeria seizes $11 mln worth of amphetamine pills in shipment from Lebanon

Nigeria seizes $11 mln worth of amphetamine pills in shipment from Lebanon
Updated 21 October 2021

Nigeria seizes $11 mln worth of amphetamine pills in shipment from Lebanon

Nigeria seizes $11 mln worth of amphetamine pills in shipment from Lebanon
  • The 451,807 captagon tablets were seized at the Apapa sea port in September

ABUJA: Nigerian authorities intercepted nearly half a million amphetamine pills hidden in machinery coming into a Lagos port, an official said on Thursday.
The 451,807 captagon tablets were seized at the Apapa sea port in September, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Chairman Mohamed Marwa told reporters.
“This was traced to have come from Lebanon,” he said. “We have arrested one of those involved in the importation and he is helping us to trace all those involved.”
Marwa estimated the tablets were worth $11 million, or roughly 6 billion naira.
In April, Saudi Arabia announced a ban on imports of fruits and vegetables from Lebanon, blaming an increase in drug smuggling.