US calls on Houthis to ‘immediately release’ Sanaa embassy staff

US calls on Houthis to ‘immediately release’ Sanaa embassy staff
A Houthi militant during a demonstration in front of the closed US embassy in Sanaa in January. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 11 November 2021

US calls on Houthis to ‘immediately release’ Sanaa embassy staff

US calls on Houthis to ‘immediately release’ Sanaa embassy staff
  • Iran backed group raided the shuttered compound and seized property
  • At least 25 employees for the embassy were detained

LONDON: The US on Thursday called for the Houthi militia in Yemen to immediately release American embassy staff recently detained in Sanaa.

At least 25 local employees for the embassy and the US Agency for International Development were detained in recent weeks by the Iran-backed group, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

The embassy was shuttered in 2015 shortly after the Houthis seized the capital and much of northern Yemen, sparking the conflict.

The Houthis recently raided the embassy compound and removed some of the property.

A State Department spokesperson said most of the staff had been released but some remained detained.

“We are concerned that Yemeni staff of the US Embassy in Sanaa continue to be detained without explanation and we call for their immediate release,” the spokesperson said.

The Houthis must “immediately vacate” the embassy and “return all seized property,” they added. “The US government will continue its diplomatic efforts to secure the release of our staff and the vacating of our compound, including through our international partners.”
On Tuesday, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said he did not have details on why the staff had been detained at this time.

“We are extremely concerned by reports of detentions of some of our local Yemeni employees in Sanaa, and we call for their immediate release,” he said during a press briefing.

The detentions emerged as Cathy Westley, the top American diplomat at the Yemen embassy, which is now based in Saudi Arabia, visited government held Aden on Monday.
She traveled with the US special envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking, who was on his first trip to the country.
They met Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalek Saeed and several other officials for talks on the conflict.

Lenderking has been tasked with finding a resolution to the war between the Iran-backed Houthis and government troops supported by an Arab coalition.


Lebanon risks plunge into darkness as govt races for fuel deal

Lebanon risks plunge into darkness as govt races for fuel deal
Updated 10 sec ago

Lebanon risks plunge into darkness as govt races for fuel deal

Lebanon risks plunge into darkness as govt races for fuel deal
  • UN spokesman calls on Nasrallah to halt ‘incitement,’ threats

BEIRUT: Lebanon could plunge into total darkness by the end of August if an agreement with Iraq to supply Electricite du Liban with fuel is allowed to expire.

With fuel stocks falling to critically low levels, the Lebanese government is looking for ways to avert a major power crisis.

Fears of an energy shortfall grew on Tuesday amid threats by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.

“Hezbollah is ready for war if the Israeli side decides to start drilling for gas in the Karish field on Sept. 1, in the event that no agreement is reached between Lebanon and Tel Aviv during the remaining few weeks,” he said.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric called on Nasrallah to avoid incitement and adding fuel to the fire in the region.

Lebanon’s last shipment of oil from Iraq in July was insufficient, EDL said, adding that it was “barely 28,000 metric tons.”

It said: “We are prioritizing vital facilities in Lebanon, namely the airport, the port, water pumps, sewage systems and basic state headquarters.”

EDL also warned of low production capacity, which will reach a maximum of 250 megawatts within days. “This will negatively affect the stability of the network, which sometimes exposes it to blackouts that may be repeated several times per day, despite the exceptional efforts to stabilize the electrical network as much as possible.”

The Ministry of Energy, under the government of caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, has been actively searching for an alternative to Iraqi oil, focusing on Algeria and Iran as potential sources.

Nasrallah suggested in July accepting an Iranian donation of fuel to address the crisis, provided that it reaches Lebanese and not Syrian ports, adding: “This, however, requires an official Lebanese decision.”

Caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayyad said: “The Iraqi side is positive regarding the fuel file, and we are counting on extending the agreement between Lebanon and Iraq. The Iraqis did not refuse to extend the agreement, but rather wished to reexamine it before reaching a solution in the next few days.”

Fayyad said that an Iraqi delegation will visit Lebanon to discuss several issues. “We are seeking a great understanding with the Iraqi government,” he said.

Iraq was reportedly hesitant to extend the contract over concerns that Lebanon could fail to pay for the imported fuel in the future.

Speaking on the potential Iranian donation, and if sanctions would prevent Beirut accepting it, Fayyad said that Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mojtaba Amani stressed Tehran’s readiness to offer free fuel to Lebanon.

“The Iranian donation would help Lebanon to cross this difficult stage, and the ministry has sent the Iranian side the specifications of the required fuel. The Iranian side requested that a team be formed to discuss this donation, and we are waiting for Mikati’s word to proceed,” Fayyad said.

Mikati’s media office said: “Amani has voiced his country’s readiness to provide the donation of fuel. Mikati thanked Iran for the offer and requested follow-up on this issue with the Ministry of Energy to ensure the technical specifications of the fuel. No official steps have been taken in this regard.”

Some analysts have warned that Iranian fuel is incompatible with Lebanon’s power plants, and that the donated fuel would need to be swapped with a third country for domestic use.  

According to an informed source, the Ministry of Energy is seeking to meet with Algerian energy companies to reach an agreement to supply fuel on concessional terms, but progress has stalled.

The process of importing Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity is still stumbling as a result of the World Bank’s delay in approving a loan to finance the project, owing to Lebanon’s failure in implementing conditions of the deal.


Israeli transport firm apologizes after Palestinians kicked off bus

Israeli transport firm apologizes after Palestinians kicked off bus
Updated 19 min 21 sec ago

Israeli transport firm apologizes after Palestinians kicked off bus

Israeli transport firm apologizes after Palestinians kicked off bus
  • 3 Jewish passengers refused to travel with Arabs
  • Company: Driver swayed by ‘racist manipulation’

LONDON: An Israeli public transport firm has issued an apology after a racist incident in which 50 Palestinian workers were removed from a bus following complaints from Jewish customers. 

The incident in Tel Aviv sparked controversy after reports that three Jewish passengers boarded in an ultra-Orthodox suburb of the city and refused to share the bus with Arabs. 

The bus firm, Tnufa, said one of the Jewish passengers conned the driver into believing that he was an official from the Transport Ministry, and threatened the driver.

Israelis and Palestinians use the bus to go to and from the West Bank, the BBC reported, adding that Israeli law prohibits segregated services.

Tnufa said the driver was inexperienced and had been swayed by “racist manipulation.” It added that one of the Jewish passengers falsely claimed that the Transport Ministry had ordered that Arabs needed to be kicked off the route.

“The new driver said he argued with the imposter, but he told him that he could lose his job or receive a large fine if he did not follow the instructions immediately,” Tnufa said.

“The company apologises to the passengers for the unfortunate incident,” Tnufa’s CEO Mikhael Kopilovsky said in a statement, adding that “many of our drivers and workers at the company are Arabs.”


Iraq’s Sadr tells judiciary to dissolve parliament in a week

Iraq’s Sadr tells judiciary to dissolve parliament in a week
Updated 10 August 2022

Iraq’s Sadr tells judiciary to dissolve parliament in a week

Iraq’s Sadr tells judiciary to dissolve parliament in a week
  • Muqtada Al-Sadr said on Twitter that the judiciary has one week to dissolve the legislature

BAGHDAD: Powerful Iraqi Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr on Wednesday called on the country’s judiciary to dissolve parliament by end of next week, threatening unspecific consequences if it does not do what he says.
The populist leader has helped inflame tensions in Iraq over the last two weeks by commanding thousands of followers to storm and occupy parliament, preventing the formation of a government nearly 10 months after elections.
His political opponents, mostly fellow Shiites backed by Iran, have refused to accede to Sadr’s demands, raising fears of fresh unrest and violence in a conflict-weary Iraq.
The judiciary “must dissolve parliament by the end of next week... if not, the revolutionaries will take another stance,” Sadr said in a statement on his Twitter account, without elaborating.
Sadr has called for early elections and unspecified changes to the constitution after withdrawing his lawmakers from parliament in June.
The withdrawal was a protest against his failure to form a government despite holding nearly a quarter of parliament and having enough allies to make up more than half the chamber.
Sadr blames Iran-aligned parties for the failed government formation and accuses them of corruption, but his followers also control some of the worst-managed government departments.
Experts are divided on whether Al-Sadr has any legal basis for his demands. He won the largest share of seats in the election last October, but failed to form a majority government that excluded his Iran-aligned rivals.
Al-Sadr called his followers “revolutionaries” and said “they will take another position” if his demands were not met, hinting at possibly escalating the protest.
The judiciary stated previously it does not have the constitutional right to dissolve parliament and that only lawmakers can vote to dissolve the legislature. Because the parliament has exceeded the constitutional timeline for forming a government following the October elections, what happens next is not clear.
Al-Sadr’s political rivals in the Coordination Framework, an alliance of Iran-backed parties, said earlier that the parliament would have to convene to dissolve itself.
Last week, thousands of Al-Sadr’s followers stormed the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses Iraq’s parliament, government buildings and foreign embassies. They overran and occupied the parliament, after which all sessions of the assembly were canceled until further notice. The takeover also effectively halted efforts by the Coordination Framework to try and form the next government after Al-Sadr failed to do so.
Iraq’s political impasse, now in its tenth month, is the longest in the country since the 2003 US-led invasion reset the political order.
In their takeover of parliament, Al-Sadr’s followers stopped short of overrunning the Judicial Council building next door — an act that many consider a coup as the judiciary is the highest legal authority in the country.
(With Reuters and AP)


New buyer sought for first grain to leave Ukraine under deal

New buyer sought for first grain to leave Ukraine under deal
Updated 10 August 2022

New buyer sought for first grain to leave Ukraine under deal

New buyer sought for first grain to leave Ukraine under deal
  • The Sierra Leone-flagged vessel Razoni left the Ukrainian port of Odessa on August 1
  • A five-month delay after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “prompted the buyer and the shipping agent to reach agreement on the cancelation of the order”

BEIRUT: A new buyer is being sought for the first grain shipment to leave Ukraine under a hard-won deal with Russia after the original Lebanese buyer canceled its order, the Ukrainian embassy said.
The Sierra Leone-flagged vessel Razoni left the Ukrainian port of Odessa on August 1 carrying 26,000 tons of maize and had been expected to dock in the Lebanese port of Tripoli at the weekend.
But now the keenly anticipated shipment is looking for a buyer after the shipping agent agreed to a request to cancel the original order in the light of the long delay in delivery.
A five-month delay after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “prompted the buyer and the shipping agent to reach agreement on the cancelation of the order,” the Ukraine embassy said in a statement late Tuesday.
The agent is now studying alternative bids for the maize before deciding on its destination, the embassy added.
The Razoni is currently anchored off the Turkish port of Mersin, according to the Marine Traffic website.
Another ship docked in Turkey Monday with a cargo of 12,000 tons of Ukrainian maize, becoming the first to reach its destination under the deal with Russia brokered by the United Nations and Turkey.
The agreement lifted a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports and established safe corridors through the naval mines laid by Kyiv to ward off any amphibious assault by Moscow on its coast.
Ukraine said Monday it was “optimistic” that the millions of tons of wheat and other grain that had been trapped in its silos and ports could now be exported, in a major boost for world food supplies.


Iraq launches Mosul airport reconstruction

Iraq launches Mosul airport reconstruction
Updated 10 August 2022

Iraq launches Mosul airport reconstruction

Iraq launches Mosul airport reconstruction
  • The airport, which was heavily damaged in the battle, had been disused since the extremists seized Mosul and adjacent areas in 2014

MOSUL: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi on Wednesday inaugurated the reconstruction of Mosul international airport, still in disrepair five years after the battle that expelled Daesh from the city.
Entire sectors of the northern metropolis have remained in ruins since the July 2017 recapture of Mosul by Iraqi forces backed by a US-led multinational coalition.
The airport, which was heavily damaged in the battle, has been disused since the extremists seized Mosul and adjacent areas in 2014.
Kadhemi, in an official ceremony at the airport on the southern outskirts of Mosul, laid the foundation stone for its renovation.
Airport director Haider Ali told AFP that the reconstruction has been assigned to two Turkish companies and is expected to take 24 months.
Despite the slow pace of reconstruction, the city of 1.5 million inhabitants has regained a semblance of normality: shops have reopened, traffic jams are back and international agencies have been funding restoration projects for historic sites.
But huge challenges remain.
At the end of 2021, the Red Cross estimated that 35 percent of west Mosul residents and less than 15 percent in east Mosul, which bore the brunt of the fighting, have enough water to meet their daily needs.
Kadhemi, quoted in a statement issued by his office, said that “huge efforts” were being made to rebuild the city.
In January, a provincial official spoke of a $266-million budget for major reconstruction projects, notably in the health, education and transport sectors for 2021-2022, according to the state news agency INA.