Israel urges hard line against Iran at nuclear talks

Israel urges hard line against Iran at nuclear talks
Israel has long opposed the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, saying it didn’t go far enough to halt the country’s nuclear program and doesn’t address Iran’s military involvement in countries bordering Israel. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 05 December 2021

Israel urges hard line against Iran at nuclear talks

Israel urges hard line against Iran at nuclear talks
  • Israel has been watching with concern as world powers sit down with Iran to jump-start talks on the tattered nuclear deal
  • Talks in Vienna aimed at re-imposing curbs on Iran’s nuclear program restarted last week after a more than five-month hiatus

TEL AVIV: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday urged world powers to take a hard line against Iran in negotiations to curb the country’s nuclear program, as his top defense and intelligence officials headed to Washington amid the flailing talks.
Israel has been watching with concern as world powers sit down with Iran to jump-start talks on the tattered nuclear deal. Iran last week struck its own hard line as talks resumed in Vienna, suggesting everything discussed in previous rounds of diplomacy could be renegotiated. Iran also isn’t slowing down the advances in its atomic program, further raising the stakes in the talks, which are crucial to cooling years of tensions boiling in the wider Mideast.
Talks in Vienna aimed at re-imposing curbs on Iran’s nuclear program restarted last week after a more than five-month hiatus.
Israel has long opposed the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, saying it didn’t go far enough to halt the country’s nuclear program and doesn’t address Iran’s military involvement in countries bordering Israel.
“I call on every country negotiating with Iran in Vienna to take a strong line and make it clear to Iran that they cannot enrich uranium and negotiate at the same time,” Bennett told a meeting of his Cabinet. “Iran must begin to pay a price for its violations.”
Israel is not a party to the negotiations but it has made a point of keeping up lines of communication with its European and American allies during the talks, which are set to resume this week.
Israeli spy chief David Barnea headed to Washington late Saturday on a previously unannounced trip and Defense Minister Benny Gantz leaves Wednesday for meetings with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was in London and Paris last week to discuss the talks with Israel’s European allies.


Algeria closes schools for ten days over omicron

Algeria closes schools for ten days over omicron
Updated 5 sec ago

Algeria closes schools for ten days over omicron

Algeria closes schools for ten days over omicron
ALGIERS: Algeria has decided to close its schools for ten days after it registered a rise in Omicron cases, an official statement said on Wednesday.
Algeria encouraged citizens to get vaccinated to counter the pandemic.

UN launches $1.6bn appeal to support Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

UN launches $1.6bn appeal to support Palestinian refugees in Lebanon
Updated 28 min 3 sec ago

UN launches $1.6bn appeal to support Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

UN launches $1.6bn appeal to support Palestinian refugees in Lebanon
  • The number of Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria to Lebanon had decreased from more than 40,000 to 18,000, according to a census by the Palestine Liberation Organization

BEIRUT: The UN on Wednesday launched a special international appeal for $1.6 billion to help improve living conditions for Palestinian refugees in crisis-hit Lebanon.

Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, made the donations plea for “vital humanitarian assistance” as part of the agency’s focus on this year’s “funding requirements and priorities.”

Addressing a press conference at the UN’s Beirut office, he said: “UNRWA is seeking to obtain $1.6 billion from the international community in 2022 to support Palestinian refugees.

“This funding will enable UNRWA to cover the needs of millions of Palestine refugees and provide them with vital lifesaving services and programs, which include education, health, and food aid, as well as additional emergency funding to meet the humanitarian needs arising from crises in Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem, Syria, and Lebanon,” he added.

The appeal came in the wake of an open sit-in carried out by dozens of Palestinian refugees in front of the UNRWA headquarters in the Lebanese capital. The demonstrators have been protesting the agency’s decision to cancel a rental allowance for Palestinians displaced from Syria to Lebanon during the Syrian war.

They set up a tent dubbed Tent 194, in reference to the international resolution that stipulates the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes.

The number of Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria to Lebanon had decreased from more than 40,000 to 18,000, according to a census by the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Some had returned to Syria, while others had legally migrated from Lebanon to Europe, specifically in the context of family reunification, and a number had drowned off the Lebanese coast while trying to escape by boat.

Lazzarini said: “UNRWA is facing a chronic funding shortfall that undermines its efforts to provide humanitarian support to some of the most vulnerable refugees in the world, whose needs are constantly increasing, while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose serious health risks and exacerbate economic difficulties across the region.

“An estimated 2.3 million Palestinian refugees are now believed to live in poverty. Anguish and despair prevail among the Palestinian refugees, and many in Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon have expressed their willingness to use any means to try to emigrate outside the region,” he added.

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, similar to Lebanese citizens, are having to contend with the fallout from the country’s economic collapse.

Hisham Debsi, director of the independent Palestinian center Tatweer for Strategic Studies and Human Development, told Arab News: “There is no food crisis in the Palestinian refugee camps because more than 16,000 Palestinians receive their salaries from the PLO in US dollars, and employees of UNRWA and Islamic organizations in the camps receive high salaries in US dollars.

“A large number of refugees receive social benefits in US dollars, and those who are not paid by the Palestinian factions, are provided financial assistance by the active Palestinian civil society organizations.

“Refugees struggle with health and educational services. The beds allocated to UNRWA in hospitals in various Lebanese areas are limited, and the Palestinian health insurance is limited to Red Crescent hospitals, whose health services the refugees find questionable, and the UNRWA budget, as it claims, does not allow it to increase health coverage.

“The greatest harm is in the education sector because UNRWA services do not cover all tuition fees, so schools are being merged, which leads to overcrowding, thus resulting in a decline in the educational services,” he said.

The biggest issue being faced by the latest generation of Palestinians has been a lack of job opportunities. Debsi noted that a Tatweer study had found that most young Palestinians were looking to immigrate to a third country to obtain another nationality that would secure them a better life, while many no longer had plans to return to Palestine.

“These young people have recently launched movements in search of resettlement in a third country. They succeeded in collecting the files of 10,000 Palestinian youth, and they delegated a group on their behalf to transfer their files from the UNRWA to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees as individuals who want to emigrate and not as Palestinian refugees.

“This action has provoked the Palestinian factions, that tried to suppress these movements,” Debsi added.

Ayham Sahli, an assistant researcher at the Institute for Palestinian Studies in Lebanon and an activist for Palestinian refugees who fled from Syrian to Lebanon, told Arab News: “The reduction in the UNRWA budget allocated to Palestinian refugees who fled from Syria to Lebanon was unjustified. It reduced the aid from $115 per person to $25, citing lack of funding.

“Not all Palestinian refugees in Lebanon receive aid; many suffer under extreme poverty, especially those who are not affiliated with any Palestinian faction and are not in contact with any civil society organization.”


Abu Dhabi crown prince, US defense secretary discuss boosting military cooperation after Houthi attack

Abu Dhabi crown prince, US defense secretary discuss boosting military cooperation after Houthi attack
Updated 19 January 2022

Abu Dhabi crown prince, US defense secretary discuss boosting military cooperation after Houthi attack

Abu Dhabi crown prince, US defense secretary discuss boosting military cooperation after Houthi attack
  • They also discussed the need to take a firm international stance toward the Houthis’ aggressive practices
  • Lloyd Austin reiterated US condemnation of the attacks

RIYADH: Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed held a phone call with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to discuss the recent Houthi attacks on the UAE and boosting defense coordination, Emirates News Agency reported on Wednesday.
The Iran-backed militia launched a number of explosive-laden drones and ballistic missiles targeting a key oil facility and an airport in Abu Dhabi on Monday, killing three people and injuring seven.
Sheikh Mohammed and Austin discussed military and security cooperation and coordination in different areas of defense between the two countries following the terrorist attacks.
The two sides also discussed the threat the Houthis pose to regional security and stability, and “the need to take a firm international stance toward such aggressive practices,” the statement said.
During the call, Austin reiterated US condemnation of the attacks and said his country stood by the UAE against threats to its security and territorial integrity.
They also spoke about the strategic bilateral relations, as well as regional and international developments of common concern.


UAE embassy calls on Biden administration to support re-designating Houthis as foreign terrorist organization

UAE embassy calls on Biden administration to support re-designating Houthis as foreign terrorist organization
Updated 58 min 52 sec ago

UAE embassy calls on Biden administration to support re-designating Houthis as foreign terrorist organization

UAE embassy calls on Biden administration to support re-designating Houthis as foreign terrorist organization
  • Ambassador will join UAE Director of National Intelligence for meetings with White House, Congress
  • Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and US Defence Secretary discussed urgent steps to tighten air defenses

LONDON: The UAE embassy in the US on Wednesday called on the Biden administration and Congress to support the re-designation of the Houthi militia as a foreign terrorist organization.

Three people were killed and eight wounded after a Houthi missile and drone attack set off an explosion next to oil giant ADNOC's storage facilities and started a fire at Abu Dhabi airport, police said. 

The UAE’s ambassador to the US, Yousef Al-Otaiba, also summarized a phone call between the US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the embassy said.

The two officials agreed on unity of action in response to the Houthi terror attack and discussed urgent steps to tighten air defenses against missiles and drones and enhanced maritime security to stop weapons flows, the embassy said.

The ambassador will join the UAE Director of National Intelligence, Ali Al-Shamsi, for meetings with the White House and Congress later on Wednesday in Washington DC, the embassy added.


Family seeks to sue Lebanon over dead father's captivity

Family seeks to sue Lebanon over dead father's captivity
Updated 19 January 2022

Family seeks to sue Lebanon over dead father's captivity

Family seeks to sue Lebanon over dead father's captivity
  • His family’s suit says he developed the illness and other serious medical issues while imprisoned during a visit to Lebanon
  • The Fakhourys’ lawyer, Robert Tolchin, has asked a judge for permission to formally sue Lebanon, along with Iran

CONCORD, N.H.: A Lebanese American man’s survivors, who filed an ambitious lawsuit last year alleging Lebanon’s security agency kidnapped and tortured him before he died in the U.S., hope to find an opening after the agency recently responded in an American court.
Amer Fakhoury died in the United States in August 2020 at age 57 after suffering from stage 4 lymphoma. His family’s suit says he developed the illness and other serious medical issues while imprisoned during a visit to Lebanon over decades-old murder and torture charges that he denied.
Fakhoury’s detention in 2019 and release in 2020 marked another strain in relations between the United States and Lebanon, which finds itself beset by one of the world’s worst economic disasters and squeezed by tensions between Washington and Iran.
Recently, lawyers representing Lebanon’s security agency, the General Directorate of General Security, asked to intervene in the Fakhoury family’s wrongful death lawsuit to have the allegations against it stricken. Lebanon is not named as a defendant in the suit, which targets Iran.
In its filing, the Lebanese security agency claimed the lawsuit falsely accuses it and its director of “serious crimes of kidnapping, torture and killing at the direction or aid of alleged terrorist organizations.”
In turn, the Fakhourys’ lawyer, Robert Tolchin, has asked a judge for permission to formally sue Lebanon, along with Iran. He referred to Lebanon’s action in the family’s response as “a very strange and unusual motion filed by a nonparty.”
The family’s lawsuit filed in Washington in May initially argued it was possible to sue Iran under an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act as it has been designated as a “state sponsor of terrorism” since 1984. The suit also described Hezbollah, now both a dominant political and militant force in Lebanon, as an “instrument” of Iran.
Iran has yet to respond to the lawsuit. It has ignored others filed against it in American courts in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and U.S. Embassy hostage crisis. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment.
Similar lawsuits against Iran have won financial judgments, though receiving a payout can be complicated. Any award could come from the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which has distributed funds to those held and or affected by the hostage crisis.
Regarding Lebanon, Tolchin said the Fakhourys’ lawsuit would not make sense without the allegations against Lebanon's security agency.
“We interpret that as a waiver of sovereign immunity,” he said to The Associated Press of the agency’s request. “You can’t come in and ask for affirmative relief on the merits, and, at the same time, claim to be immune.”
In a statement provided to The AP, an attorney for the agency, David Lin, said the Fakhourys’ position “that Lebanon or our client somehow waived sovereign immunity by seeking to strike baseless material from the complaint is baffling and wrong as a matter of law.”
A judge pushed back a deadline for the lawyers representing the security agency to respond to the Fakhoury’s request to sue by Jan. 26.
Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor at the Notre Dame Law School, said it may be challenging for a case to be brought against Lebanon, which is not designated a “state sponsor of terrorism."
“Not having that listing will be difficult to go after Lebanon, as opposed to Iran,” she said.
O’Connell also said a move like Lebanon's to strike the allegations “is usually not accepted by the courts as a waiver” of sovereign immunity.
Fakhoury’s imprisonment in Lebanon took place in September 2019, not long after he became an American citizen. Fakhoury visited his home country on vacation for the first time in nearly 20 years. A week after he arrived, he was jailed and his passport was seized, his family has said.
The day before he was taken into custody, a newspaper close to the Iranian-backed Shiite group Hezbollah published a story accusing him of playing a role in the torture and killing of inmates at a prison run by an Israeli-backed Lebanese militia during Israel’s occupation of Lebanon two decades ago. Fakhoury was a member of the South Lebanon Army.
The article dubbed him the “butcher” of the Khiam Detention Center, which was notorious for human rights abuses. Fakhoury’s family said he had worked at the prison as a member of the militia, but that he was a clerk who had little contact with inmates. When Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, Fakhoury left the country like many other militia members who feared reprisals.
Upon his return to Lebanon in 2019, Fakhoury was held for five months before he was formally charged, his family said. By then, he had dropped more than 60 pounds, was suffering from lymphoma, and had rib fractures, among other serious health problems, they said.
In its request to intervene, the security agency said Fakhoury was not kidnapped, but was “lawfully detained” for investigative purposes and then “handed off” to another agency responsible for prosecuting the alleged crimes. It called the allegations “scandalous, impertinent, and highly damaging.”
The family's suit alleges security personnel made him watch as they beat prisoners and kept him isolated in an interrogation room, where he faced verbal and physical abuse with a black sack placed over his head. The lawsuit also claims Fakhoury was threatened with execution unless he signed a declaration saying he was guilty of the accusations mentioned in the newspaper article.
Eventually, the Lebanese Supreme Court dropped the charges against Fakhoury. He was returned to the United States on March 19, 2020, on a U.S. Marine Corps Osprey aircraft. He died five months later.
The lawsuit also linked Fakhoury’s eventual release to the U.S. government's decision in June 2020 to free Kassim Tajideen, a Lebanese businessman who was sentenced to five years in prison for providing millions of dollars to Hezbollah.
The Fakhourys' suit called it a “quid-pro-quo prisoner exchange.” However, Tajideen’s lawyer and the U.S. State Department at the time denied he was part of a prisoner exchange.
Fakhoury first arrived in the United States in 2001. He started a restaurant in Dover, New Hampshire, with his wife and put their four daughters through college. But his family said he felt Lebanon was still home, even though other members of his militia had been targeted in the years after the war.
As early as 2018, Fakhoury had sought assurances from the U.S. State Department and the Lebanese government that he could visit Lebanon freely. His family said he was told there were no accusations against him in Lebanon or no legal matters that might interfere with his return.
After his death, the Fakhourys started a foundation in his name dedicated to helping the families of hostages.
“This is a fight not just for us,” Guila Fakhoury, the oldest of Fakhoury’s four daughters, said in an interview about the lawsuit. “This a fight for our father and a fight for every American who is illegally detained, and for every person who is illegally detained.”
The lawsuit seeks financial damages and a jury trial.
“I know my dad will not rest in peace until we have justice for what has been done to him,” Fakhoury said.