Libya parliament speaker submits papers to stand in presidential vote

Libya parliament speaker submits papers to stand in presidential vote
Aguila Saleh, Libya's parliament president, speaks during the first session at parliament headquarters in Benghazi, Libya April 13, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 November 2021

Libya parliament speaker submits papers to stand in presidential vote

Libya parliament speaker submits papers to stand in presidential vote

CAIRO: The speaker of the eastern-based Libyan parliament, Aguila Saleh, submitted papers on Saturday to stand in presidential elections.
The elections, scheduled for Dec. 24, remain in doubt amid disputes over the rules.
“I came today to the headquarters of the High Elections Commission in Benghazi to submit the required documents for the nomination to the position of president of the Libyan Republic,” he said on Libya Votes TV.

Iran firefighters protest living conditions on deadly blaze anniversary

Updated 8 sec ago

Iran firefighters protest living conditions on deadly blaze anniversary

Iran firefighters protest living conditions on deadly blaze anniversary
TEHRAN: Dozens of firefighters rallied in Tehran to protest their living conditions, local media reported on Wednesday, marking the fifth anniversary of a tower blaze that caused the death of many of their colleagues.
Sixteen firefighters died when Plasco, the oldest high-rise in Iran’s capital, collapsed on January 19, 2017 after a blaze engulfed the building.
Four civilians also lost their lives, state media reported at the time.
The 15-story building, home to a shopping center and hundreds of clothing suppliers, collapsed while emergency services personnel were still evacuating people from the inferno.
More than 100 firefighters and their family members gathered in front of the municipality and city council in central Tehran to mark the anniversary, ISNA news agency reported.
The firefighters, many wearing their red uniforms, chanted: “Adequate livelihood is our inalienable right,” and “We are tired of promises and lies, not of fire and smoke,” the agency said.
They held placards reading, “discrimination, mismanagement, low pensions, welfare problems,” it added.
The protesters also demanded that parliament address their issues including providing proper housing for firefighters in Tehran and increasing their salaries, according to the report.
Hit by severe economic sanctions imposed since 2018 by the United States, Iran has seen its inflation rate surge to close to 60 percent.
Other professions have also rallied over the past few days.
Hundreds of teachers across Iran protested changes to their pay and pensions. Civil servants in the judicial sector also demonstrated, after the government refused to increase their pay.
The Plasco disaster sent shock waves across Iran. Rescue teams worked for days to recover bodies from under the rubble.
The owners and city officials were criticized for failing to prevent the disaster at the building, which according to the fire brigade was known to breach multiple safety regulations.
A new building replacing the old tower has been completed with 20 floors, five of which are underground.
But it “has not yet received the approval from the fire department,” the department’s spokesman Jalal Maleki told state TV on Wednesday.
The building’s management have “promised us not to inaugurate it until they get the fire department’s approval and they have so far kept their promise,” he added.

Tunisian police killed man in first death of protests, activists say

Tunisian police killed man in first death of protests, activists say
Updated 14 min 50 sec ago

Tunisian police killed man in first death of protests, activists say

Tunisian police killed man in first death of protests, activists say
  • A Tunis court investigating the death said the man was taken to the hospital on Friday and died on Wednesday
  • The court said the man's body bore no visible signs of violence

TUNIS: A Tunisian man died in hospital on Wednesday from injuries inflicted by police, activists said, in what would be the first death from protests against President Kais Saied’s assumption of extra powers.
A Tunis court investigating the death said the man, found in a coma on Mohamed V Street in the capital, was taken to the hospital on Friday and died on Wednesday. A court statement made no mention of whether the man was one of the demonstrators.
The court said the man’s body bore no visible signs of violence and would be handed to forensic examiners to determine cause of death. An investigation had been opened, it added.
There was no immediate comment from the interior ministry.
Police deployed water cannons and batons against protesters on Friday, as Saied faced growing discontent over his suspension of parliament last July and subsequent rule by decree.
“Ridha Bouziane, who took part in the January 14 protest died in a hospital in the capital after suffering serious injuries as a result of the excessive violence by police in the demonstration,” the Citizens Against the Coup coalition said.
Samir Dilou and Samir Ben Amor, lawyers for arrested protesters, also said Bouziane died due to police violence, though no more specifics were given.
Saied has said he will uphold all freedoms during a transitional period to a new constitution later this year.
Friday’s protest defied a COVID-19 ban on gatherings.

Impoverished Lebanese, Syrians struggle to survive cold

Impoverished Lebanese, Syrians struggle to survive cold
Updated 37 min 51 sec ago

Impoverished Lebanese, Syrians struggle to survive cold

Impoverished Lebanese, Syrians struggle to survive cold
  • The storm, dubbed “Hiba” in Lebanon, began Tuesday night and is expected to peak Thursday
  • Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan and others displaced by Syria’s war are sheltering in poorly heated tents

BEIRUT: A snowstorm in the Middle East has left many Lebanese and Syrians scrambling to find ways to survive, burning old clothes and plastic.
In some cases even sheep manure to keep warm as temperatures plummet and poverty soars.
The storm, dubbed “Hiba” in Lebanon, began Tuesday night and is expected to peak Thursday. Lebanon’s economic collapse and currency crash have meant an increasing number of families are unable to afford fuel to heat their homes this winter.
Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan and others displaced by Syria’s war are sheltering in poorly heated tents, relying mostly on layers of blankets to keep warm.
“The situation is very, very difficult,” said social activist Baseem Atrash, speaking from the snowcapped northeastern Lebanese town of Arsal near the Syrian border. Arsal is home to one of the largest Syrian refugee concentrations in Lebanon, with some 50,000 people, most of them living in flimsy tents.
Atrash said Syrian refugees, as well as some Lebanese who have fallen into poverty since the country’s financial meltdown began in October 2019, lack diesel for heaters, while constant power cuts make electric heaters useless.
“They are burning anything to keep their heaters on, from plastic to old clothes,” Atrash said. Earlier this month, a Syrian mother and her three children died in their sleep after inhaling toxic fumes from burning coal to heat their room in a village in southern Lebanon.
Lebanon, a country of 6 million people, is home to 1.5 million Syrians who fled the now decade-old civil war in their country. The United Nations estimates that 90 percent of Syrian refugee households live in extreme poverty. But as Lebanon grapples with an unprecedented economic crisis, the poverty has deepened for both Lebanese and Syrians. Sky-rocketing fuel prices coupled with a currency collapse has meant many essential commodities are now out of reach for the average Lebanese.
Nadim Attieh, a Lebanese, decided to donate some of his firewood to needy families after he heard of how cold it will get. He used Twitter to spread the word of his in-kind donation: a ton of wood — enough to last five or six families through the coldest three days ahead.
“I have stocked up on wood during summer and I have a good quantity. So why not share with people who are underprivileged,” asked Attieh, himself out of work since losing his job in the Gulf a couple of years ago.
The cost of a ton of wood is now equivalent to five times the minimum wage, selling for 3 million Lebanese pounds ($120) while some 20 liters of diesel now going for about 300,000 — nearly 10 times what it cost three years ago.
In Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, where many of the 3 million residents are displaced, Yassin Al-Yassin was fortifying his tent with extra tarps and supports as the weather worsened.
Al-Yassin, who lives in the tent with his wife, two daughters and son, couldn’t afford wood or diesel for heating, so he’ll be burning dried sheep manure that’s been piled up since summer.
“All we have to protect us is tarp and blankets,” he said by telephone from the tent, surrounded by mountains near the Turkish border. He said only those receiving hard currency from relatives abroad can afford to buy diesel and wood for heating.
Aid group CARE International said temperatures are expected to drop in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria to well below freezing, endangering the lives of millions already living in precarious circumstances.
“People can see their own breath when lying on their thin mattresses, you will see children walk around in flipflops and ripped shirts. Families are afraid that they will freeze to death,” said Jolien Veldwijk, CARE Syria Country Director.
Cold and respiratory illnesses are rising and spreading, as is the threat of COVID-19 in overcrowded camps without sufficient health care, CARE said.
Ahamd Rakan, displaced nearly two years ago from his hometown of Kfar Nabel in the last rebel-held stronghold in northwest Syria and now living in a tent, said he has been gathering wood, olive seeds, papers and old clothes for months in order to use them for heating.
“I am luckier than others. I have a heater so I can keep my children warm,” he added.
Heavy snow also blanketed the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria during the 1967 Mideast war. Bulldozers could be seen clearing snow drifts on Mount Hermon, where the area’s only ski resort was closed to visitors because of the stormy weather. The snow began falling early Wednesday and more is expected.
In eastern Turkey, heavy snowfall closed a major highway linking the cities of Tarsus, Adana and Gaziantep, stranding thousands of people and vehicles in snow that was half a meter (yard) high, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Gendarmerie forces distributed food overnight while authorities worked to clear the snow and reopen the highway. Access to thousands of villages was also blocked.
Meanwhile, authorities closed schools in 55 of Turkey’s 81 provinces.

Egyptian, French navies carry out joint training

Egyptian, French navies carry out joint training
Updated 19 January 2022

Egyptian, French navies carry out joint training

Egyptian, French navies carry out joint training

CAIRO: The Egyptian and French navies have carried out joint training in the Red Sea, as part of the Egyptian military’s plan to arrange training and exchange experiences with the armed forces of friendly countries.

The training included naval combat activities, tactical sailing formations and transportation exercises, said an Egyptian military spokesman.

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week: Saudi, UAE energy ministers outline paths to net-zero future

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week: Saudi, UAE energy ministers outline paths to net-zero future
Updated 19 min 7 sec ago

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week: Saudi, UAE energy ministers outline paths to net-zero future

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week: Saudi, UAE energy ministers outline paths to net-zero future
  • The GCC’s two biggest economies have launched pioneering green initiatives without disrupting energy security
  • Prince Abdul Aziz, the Saudi energy minister, tells summit he is confident the Kingdom will reach emissions targets

As the global energy transition takes center stage at this year’s Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in the UAE, concerns around energy security, both in the Middle East and the world at large, are high on the agenda.

In light of this, both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have taken the lead on pioneering green initiatives, setting a road map for other nations looking to adopt more sustainable energy sources without causing economic harm.

“Energy security is a concerning topic,” said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s minister of energy and chair of OPEC Plus, during a summit discussion titled “Energy Transition in the GCC — Net Zero on the Horizon?”

“We believe, as OPEC Plus, that we have done a lot in bringing about stability. There is nothing more profound or important for energy security than having a stable market and those who are not copying us as OPEC Plus need to copy us.”

The key to energy security is to embrace many different energy sources, he said, as “tabooing” a specific source or being too selective could prove damaging to a nation’s economy.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have focused attention on building a more sustainable energy model, while also working to ensure they remain reliable global suppliers of oil and gas.

“We came up with a strategy in 2017 of going 50 percent green by 2050 and reducing 70 percent of our emissions,” Suhail Mohamed Al-Mazrouei, the UAE minister of energy and infrastructure, told summit delegates.

“But what is important as well is that (going 50 percent green) would save us around $191 billion of the $353 billion of our budget, so almost 60 percent, and that was an eye-opener for many countries.”

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, at the opening ceremony of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW). (AFP)

Energy officials from Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been working with advanced economies to help diversify their energy mix, while encouraging other countries to adopt renewables, Al-Mazrouei said, adding: “This is what the world was not expecting from us, as conventional producers.”

The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week Summit will run from Jan. 15-19 is one of the biggest gatherings concerned with exploring sustainability issues, and providing a global platform for cooperation, knowledge exchange, investment and innovation.

Besides launching renewable-energy initiatives and embracing green fuels, Saudi Arabia and the UAE participated enthusiastically in COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, in November, where nations committed to cutting their emissions.

The previous month, Saudi Arabia launched its Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives, committing the Kingdom to reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2060, and to planting 10 billion trees over the coming decades, rehabilitating 8 million hectares of degraded land and establishing new protected areas.

“These initiatives are ideas that the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself put together,” Prince Abdul Aziz told the panel, adding that the commitments are genuine and not mere “greenwashing” as suggested by critics.

“It is not trying to take Saudi Arabia to a beauty shop. It has more to do with conviction that we need to do all the above because there is a solid economic case for all of us.” 

Referring to two megaprojects taking shape on the Kingdom’s northwest coastline, he said: “We cannot have a place like the Red Sea project or NEOM without being too careful about what you do to the environment.”

Saudi and Emirati ministers at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2022. (WAM)

Prince Abdul Aziz added: “We have been advocating the circular carbon economy and we will be demonstrating (it). The circular carbon economy is a closed-loop system designed to promote the reuse of resources that would otherwise have been wasted or discarded.”

Technology is expected to play a core role in the region’s plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in an efficient and cost-effective way, including carbon capture, utilization and storage tools. Scaling these technologies presents many lucrative business opportunities.

“There will be money that will be made because, in the concept of reusing and recycling, carbon and gasses will become a material that will be monetized,” Prince Abdul Aziz said.

Al-Mazrouei drew attention to circular economy’s potential for creating jobs by enabling and incentivizing the private sector.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (R), UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai with Minister of Defence, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (C), UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs and Armen Sarkissian, President of Armenia, at the ADSW opening ceremony. (AFP)

“Others are watching and copying and catching up, so it has been a positive movement,” he said. “And whenever they see us as the largest two economies in the Middle East doing these things, others are adapting and learning, and we are spreading that learning as much as we can.”

Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a far-reaching economic and industrial transformation under the umbrella of Vision 2030, a diversification plan that is creating jobs in a variety of new industries, while encouraging more young people to seek careers in the rapidly evolving energy sector.

“Some of these technologies are challenging and they will continue to be,” said Prince Abdul Aziz. “But with challenge and creativity, you will see serious men and women approaching this sector with excitement. Because, to them, it is making them look like models — in their  ambition of having economic prosperity and monetizing their natural resources, including wind and sun, and advancing the diversity of the economy.”

Prince Abdul Aziz said he is confident that Saudi Arabia will achieve its goal of eliminating 278 million tons of emissions, almost equivalent to the emissions of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman combined.

“If we are not proud and willing to show that, I don’t know what else we would show,” he said.

Hydrogen has emerged as one potentially game-changing source of renewable energy. The UAE is working on seven hydrogen projects in the hopes of capturing 25 percent of the market share.

“We think we can export hydrogen to some of our partners and we’re already in discussions with many countries that we supply hydrocarbons to today,” Al-Mazrouei said. “We will work on both blue and green hydrogen; we have built the first Middle East green hydrogen plant and we are now testing the utilization.”

Green hydrogen is produced using solar energy, and is a major feature of the energy equation at Saudi Arabia’s planned NEOM megacity. Although hydrogen presents its own set of challenges, research and development will be a crucial step in the transition.

Workers plant trees next to a highway in Riyadh, on March 29, 2021. The Saudi Green Initiative aims to reduce emissions by generating half of the Kingdom’s energy from renewables by 2030. (AFP)

“We will spare no effort in ensuring we make this a viable option for us, and we think that because we are big in hydrocarbons, both of our countries will be big in hydrogen and hydrogen export,” Al-Mazrouei said.

In his concluding remarks, Prince Abdul Aziz pressed home the need for all nations to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

“We owe it to ourselves, as Saudi Arabia; I owe it to our friends in the UAE, that if you look at our commitments when it comes to emission reduction, we are doing way beyond our share.”


Twitter: @CalineMalek