Information minister resigns from Lebanon government

Information minister resigns from Lebanon government
Lebanon's Information Minister George Kordahi speaks during a press conference to announce his resignation at the Ministry of Information in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 03 December 2021

Information minister resigns from Lebanon government

Information minister resigns from Lebanon government
  • Kordahi hopes his move will allow better relations with Gulf states; says he “didn’t mean to offend anyone”

BEIRUT: Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi announced on Friday that he had decided to “give up” his position in Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government, which was formed on Sept. 10.

“Staying in the government has become absurd because I have been asked to resign and it is better to make way for other endeavors,” he said.

Kordahi signed his letter of resignation, a copy of which was handed to President Michel Aoun and another to Mikati.

Hezbollah and the Amal Movement have paralyzed the Cabinet’s work since Oct. 12 by preventing their ministers from attending sessions for several reasons, one of which is their objection to Kordahi resigning due to his offensive statements toward Saudi Arabia.

In a press conference at the Ministry of Information, Kordahi said: “In light of the new developments and French President Emmanuel Marcon’s visit to Saudi Arabia, I understood from Mikati, whom I met three days ago, the importance of my resignation prior to Macron’s visit to Riyadh to pave the way for talks about the future of Saudi-Lebanese ties.”

He said that he had spoken to “the head of the Marada Movement, Suleiman Frangieh, and the allies, and they said I was free to take whichever decision I see fit.”

Kordahi said: “I have thought about this long and hard, and I have called you all here to say that I will not accept to be used as a cause for harm.”

“I prefer that my position be in the interest of Lebanon, not my own, so I decided to give up my ministerial position,” he said.

“I hope that my resignation will allow better relations with the Gulf states.”

Kordahi stressed that what he said before he became a minister was “out of good faith and love; I did not mean to offend anyone.”

Following Kordahi’s resignation, the exchange rate dropped by more than 2,500 Lebanese pounds in less than 24 hours. (It is currently trading at 22,500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar.)

Mikati had asked Kordahi, who is the representative of the Marada movement in the government, several times to submit his resignation, but the latter demanded “guarantees” before doing so, based on the position of Frangieh and his ally Hezbollah, citing “national dignity.”

Kordahi’s statements, made against the backdrop of the Yemen war, in addition to Hezbollah’s dominance in Lebanon and the continued smuggling of drugs to Saudi Arabia, pushed the Kingdom and several Gulf countries to sever diplomatic and economic ties with Lebanon.

Observers in Beirut believed that Kordahi’s decision was “the culmination of internal and external contacts, in which Macron and his adviser Patrick Dorrell participated, to strengthen any proposal regarding the Lebanese issue with the Saudi leadership.”

However, some political observers said that Kordahi’s resignation would “not have potential effects on Riyadh’s position because the issue goes beyond Kordahi himself; it is rather about Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon and the region.”

However, resuming Cabinet sessions is not a given, since Hezbollah and the Amal movement insist on dismissing Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the Beirut port blast investigation.

They have accused him of politicizing the investigation and Hezbollah fears Bitar is trying to implicate the party in the blast.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called on parliament’s general assembly to hold a legislative session next Tuesday to discuss items postponed from the previous session that lacked a quorum, in addition to proposals for new and urgent laws.

It remains unclear whether parliament will discuss forming a parliamentary investigation committee that will refer the former PM and ministers who are accused of being involved in the port explosion to the Supreme Council for the Trial of Presidents and Ministers, thus separating the investigation into the politicians from the one conducted by Bitar.

This is what Hezbollah and the Amal movement want but Bitar is against this because it affects the confidentiality of the investigation, and too many courts will have to get involved, especially since some judges are being prosecuted as well and they will have to be tried before a court of their own.


Egypt, Algeria discuss foreign interference in Libyan affairs

Egypt, Algeria discuss foreign interference in Libyan affairs
Updated 55 min 52 sec ago

Egypt, Algeria discuss foreign interference in Libyan affairs

Egypt, Algeria discuss foreign interference in Libyan affairs
  • FMs call for exit of all mercenaries and foreign fighters from Libyan territory during talks held in Cairo
  • Meeting touched on several issues of mutual interest, including developments in Sudan, Mali, and the Sahel and Sahara region

CAIRO: Egypt and Algeria agreed on the necessity of stopping any foreign interference in the affairs of Libya and the exit of all mercenaries and foreign fighters from Libyan territory during talks held in Cairo between Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Algerian counterpart Ramtane Lamamra.

Lamamra’s visit to Cairo, which began on Sunday, is the second in his capacity as a special envoy of Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

Egypt is the third Arab stop in the Algerian foreign minister’s Arab tour, which he began in Saudi Arabia with the delivery of a written message from Tebboune to King Salman. Abu Dhabi was the second Arab capital Lamamra visited.

During the meeting, Ambassador Ahmed Hafez, the official spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, stated that the two ministers expressed pride in the relations between Egypt and Algeria and a desire to continue strengthening cooperation across various fields, including in economic and investment opportunities.

He added that the meeting touched on several issues of mutual interest, including developments in Sudan, Mali, and the Sahel and Sahara region. The two ministers stressed the need to coordinate within a framework of joint African action in a way that enhances efforts to achieve peace, security and prosperity on the continent, especially in light of the various security challenges.

They also stressed the importance of advancing Arab efforts in a similar way within the framework of the Arab League.


Iran hostage crisis victim to hunger strike for release of others detained by Tehran

Iran hostage crisis victim to hunger strike for release of others detained by Tehran
Updated 54 min 22 sec ago

Iran hostage crisis victim to hunger strike for release of others detained by Tehran

Iran hostage crisis victim to hunger strike for release of others detained by Tehran
  • Barry Rosen was one of 52 Americans seized by extremists at US embassy in 1979
  • Iran has long used hostage-taking of dual nationals as a tool of its foreign affairs

LONDON: A man held as a hostage for over a year by Iranian extremists in the turmoil following Iran’s Islamic Revolution has pledged to initiate a hunger strike to demand the release of all existing hostages in Iran. 

Barry Rosen was one of 52 Americans held as hostages for 444 days by Iranian extremists who stormed the US Embassy in Tehran after a coalition of Islamists and other protestors deposed the Shah of Iran in 1979.

He announced Monday on Twitter that he will travel to Vienna and initiate a hunger strike aimed at pressuring the US into prioritizing the release of foreign hostages during ongoing talks with Tehran.

The Vienna talks are currently aimed primarily at curbing Iran’s nuclear arms program, but many, such as Rosen, have urged the US to broaden the scope of talks to curtailing Iran’s other belligerent behavior, such as its taking of foreign hostages.

In a video statement, Rosen said: “This week marks the 41st anniversary of my release from captivity. But the hostage crisis hasn’t ended for many others, Americans and Westerners, who are currently being held as bargaining chips in Iran.

“There are at least two dozen of them. It is clear to me that the release of hostages can only take place if the United States, and countries like the United States, put pressure on Iran,” said Rosen, who worked in the US press attaché during the 1979 hostage crisis.

He pledged to stage a hunger strike in Vienna.

“My message is simple: no deal with Iran unless the hostages are free,” said Rosen, adding that he will deliver the message to both the American and Iranian delegations in Vienna.

He said his hunger strike will take place despite concerns over his health due to his age because it is “the right thing for the hostages and their family.”

Iran has long been accused of detaining foreigners, particularly those with dual Iranian nationality, in order to use them as bargaining chips in negotiations later.

High-profile individuals currently detained include Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual British-Iranian national who has been held in Iran for nearly six years.

Her family believes she is being held as a hostage to use as a negotiation tool in a separate issue between London and Tehran that has been simmering for decades.

Rights group Amnesty International said that Nazanin continues to be used as a “bargaining chip” at the hands of an authority who has “played cruel political games with her life.”

In a separate statement, Amnesty also decried Tehran’s entire hostage-taking strategy.

“In recent years, the Iranian authorities have arrested and detained dozens of dual nationals, including prisoners of conscience such as journalists, academics and human rights defenders,” said the group.

But the approach has, in the past, paid off for Iran. During the Obama administration, the US transferred $1.7 billion in cash to Iran in exchange for the release of several Iranian-American citizens.

Many believe that Tehran is again hoping to use hostages as bargaining chips, this time to pressure the US and its Western partners into a more favorable deal in Vienna.


Tear gas in Sudan as thousands protest coup: AFP

Tear gas in Sudan as thousands protest coup: AFP
Updated 17 January 2022

Tear gas in Sudan as thousands protest coup: AFP

Tear gas in Sudan as thousands protest coup: AFP
  • Sudanese security forces fire tear gas at thousands in Khartoum

KHARTOUM Thousands in Sudan took to the streets Monday to protest a military coup nearly three months ago, and were quickly met by tear gas fired by security forces, according to an AFP correspondent.
Security officers had deployed in large numbers as the demonstrators carrying the Sudanese flag gathered in the capital, Khartoum, as well as other cities.


Three killed, six wounded after fuel tanker explosion in Abu Dhabi

Three people have been killed and six injured in a fuel tanker explosion in Abu Dhabi. (Reuters/ File)
Three people have been killed and six injured in a fuel tanker explosion in Abu Dhabi. (Reuters/ File)
Updated 33 min ago

Three killed, six wounded after fuel tanker explosion in Abu Dhabi

Three people have been killed and six injured in a fuel tanker explosion in Abu Dhabi. (Reuters/ File)
  • A fire also broke out at the construction site of the UAE capital’s new airport extension
  • Investigations indicate that fragments, possibly belonging to drones, may have caused explosion and fire

DUBAI: Three people – one Pakistani and two Indian - were killed and six others injured after three fuel tankers exploded in the industrial area of Musaffah ICAD 3 near an ADNOC storage unit in Abu Dhabi, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.

A fire also broke out at the construction site of the UAE capital’s new airport extension, which was potentially caused by drones, Abu Dhabi police said in a statement carried by WAM.

Ongoing investigations indicate that fragments, possibly belonging to drones, that fell in both locations may have caused the explosion and the fire.

“Initial investigations found parts of a small plane that could possibly be a drone at both sites that could have caused the explosion and the fire,” Abu Dhabi police said, adding there was no significant structural damage.

A spokesperson for Etihad Airways said a small number of flights were briefly disrupted at Abu Dhabi airport due to “precautionary measures,” but normal operations quickly resumed.

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement later said it had carried out an attack on the UAE, Reuters reported.

Saudi Arabia has led international condemnation of the incident, with the Kingdom calling it a “cowardly terrorist attack.”

The Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi later confirmed in a tweet that it was aware of the incident and was awaiting further details.

Earlier this month, a UAE-flagged cargo ship, “Rwabee,” was hijacked by the Houthis, in a plan the coalition has said was backed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. 

The ship was on its way from Socotra Island in Yemen to the port of Jazan in Saudi Arabia, carrying medical equipment used in a field hospital on the island, the coalition added.


Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei’s niece arrested in Tehran

Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei’s niece arrested in Tehran
Updated 17 January 2022

Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei’s niece arrested in Tehran

Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei’s niece arrested in Tehran
  • Farideh Moradkhani was arrested on Thursday

DUBAI: The niece of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei was arrested Thursday, Jan. 16 as she was making her way home in Tehran, Al Arabiya reported on Monday.

Farideh Moradkhani’s brother, Mahmoud, who lives in exile in France, confirmed the news in an interview with UK-based media organization Iran International.

Mahmoud Moradkhani said the Iranian regime was oppressive.

He said in the interview: “She wasn’t a political activist. There is no freedom to become a political activist in Iran in the first place. She was a human rights defender who participated in charity work and peaceful demonstrations.”

He added: “Of course, my uncle Ali Khamenei is aware of our opposition to the regime since it was first established decades ago.”

And he said his family “would not be silenced.”

Speaking with her family on the phone on Friday, Farideh said she was being moved to Evin prison.

She had been previously called by Iranian intelligence for her criticism of the regime. Farideh campaigns for the abolition of the death penalty and for the rights of prisoners.

No news on the cause of her arrest was provided.