Houthis renege on new deal to prevent Red Sea oil spill disaster

Houthis renege on new deal to prevent Red Sea oil spill disaster
This satellite image shows a close up view of the FSO Safer oil tanker off the port of Ras Isa. (File/AFP)
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Updated 07 February 2022

Houthis renege on new deal to prevent Red Sea oil spill disaster

Houthis renege on new deal to prevent Red Sea oil spill disaster
  • Houthis first said they supported new plan by UN officials to pump one million barrels of oil out of the vessel
  • They then backtracked and said the UN was guilty of “continued disregard of its obligations” over the tanker

AL-MUKALLA: The Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen on Sunday reneged on a deal to head off an environmental disaster in the Red Sea, only hours after reaching an agreement with the UN.

The Houthis first said they supported a new plan by UN officials to pump one million barrels of oil out of the decaying oil storage vessel Safer, which is moored off the port of Hodeidah.

But as the UN’s Yemen coordinator David Gressly hailed “constructive” talks on the plan, which is also supported by Yemen’s government, the Houthis backtracked. They said the UN was guilty of “continued disregard of its obligations” over the tanker and accused the UN mission of wasting funds allocated for maintaining the vessel.

The rusting storage tanker is more than 40 years old and has not been maintained since early 2015, when international experts fled as the Houthis took control of swaths of Yemen in a coup. 

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The Safer crisis erupted again as the top US military officer in the Middle East arrived in the UAE for defense talks after a series of Houthi missile attacks on Abu Dhabi.

Environmentalists have issued a series of warnings about the danger. The Safer has neither power nor a functioning fire-fighting system, and volatile gases are thought to be building up inside. “The risk of imminent catastrophe is very real,” Gressly said. “We need … action as soon as possible.”

Greenpeace said last week that the Safer posed a “grave threat.” An oil spill would prevent access to Yemen’s main ports of Hodeidah and Salif, affecting food aid supplies for up to 8.4 million people.
The environmental group said desalination plants on the coast could be affected, which would interrupt the drinking water supply for about 10 million people. Yemeni fisheries would probably shut down and ecosystems in the Red Sea would be destroyed, it said, with the impact reaching Saudi Arabia, Djibouti and Eritrea.

The Safer crisis erupted again as the top US military officer in the Middle East arrived in the UAE for defense talks after a series of Houthi missile attacks on Abu Dhabi.

Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of Central Command, said: “I think it’s a very worrisome time for the UAE. They’re looking for support. We’re here to help provide that support.” Last week the Pentagon deployed advanced F-22 fighter jets and the guided missile destroyer USS Cole to the UAE.

McKenzie blamed Iran for the attacks on Abu Dhabi. “Medium-range ballistic missiles that were fired from Yemen and entered the UAE were not invented, built, designed in Yemen,” he said. “All that happened somewhere else. So I think we certainly see the Iranian connection to this.” 


Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle
Updated 13 August 2022

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle
  • Secretary-General of the House of Representatives Ahmed Manaa invited Parliament’s 596 MPs to attend the meeting without disclosing further information

CAIRO: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt announced a Cabinet reshuffle Saturday to improve his administration's performance as it faces towering economic challenges stemming largely from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Cabinet shake-up, which was approved by parliament in an emergency session, affected 13 portfolios, including health, education, culture, local development and irrigation ministries.
Also included in the reshuffle was the tourism portfolio, a key job at a time when Egypt is struggling to revive the lucrative sector decimated by years of turmoil, the pandemic and most recently the war in Europe.
The changes, however, didn’t affect key ministries including foreign, finance, defense and the interior, which is responsible for the police force.
El-Sisi said the shake-up came in consultation with Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly. He said in a Facebook post that the changes aimed at “developing the governmental performance in some important files ... which contribute to protecting the state’s interests and capabilities.”
The new ministers are expected to be sworn in before el-Sissi later Saturday or early Sunday.
Egypt’s economy has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine, which rattled global markets and hiked oil and food prices across the world.


Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18
Updated 13 August 2022

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

CAIRO: A vehicle accident involving an overturned microbus in southern Egypt killed at least nine people and injured eight, authorities said Saturday.
The crash took place Friday when the passenger vehicle overturned following a tire blowout on a highway in Minya province 273 kilometers (170 miles) south of the capital Cairo, provincial authorities said in a statement.
The microbus, a sort of mass transit minivan, was transporting people from Sohag province to Cairo, the statement said.
Ambulances rushed to the site and moved the injured to hospitals in Minya, the statement added.
Deadly traffic accidents claim thousands of lives every year in Egypt, which has a poor transportation safety record. The crashes and collisions are mostly caused by speeding, bad roads or poor enforcement of traffic laws.
Earlier this month, a microbus collided with a truck in Sohag, killing at least 17 people and injuring four others. In July, a passenger bus slammed into a parked trailer truck in Minya, leaving 23 dead and a least 30 wounded.


UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations
Updated 13 August 2022

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

DUBAI: The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, discussed on Friday with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, bilateral relations between their countries, the prospects for cooperation and ways to enhance them.

Both officials also reviewed the latest developments in the Ukraine, in addition to a number of regional and international issues of common interest, UAE state news agency WAM reported. 

During the phone call, Sheikh Abdullah praised the United Nations-backed agreement recently signed in Istanbul between Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, which provides for the safe export of grain through the Black Sea to global markets.

He reiterated the UAE's commitment to support all efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine and reach a political settlement of the crisis.


Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 
Updated 13 August 2022

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 
  • Mohammad Marandi: ‘I wont be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam’

Iran’s advisor to the nuclear negotiating team, Mohammad Marandi, said he will not be “shedding tears” over Salman Rushdie who was fatally stabbed on Friday at a literary event in New York state. 

“I wont be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam,” Marandi said in a tweet following the incident. 

Salman Rushdie, who spent years in hiding after an Iranian fatwa ordered his killing, was on a ventilator and could lose an eye following the attack. The British author of “The Satanic Verses,” which sparked fury among some Muslims, had to be airlifted to hospital for emergency surgery following the attack.

Marandi also expressed his surprise at the timing of the attack on Rushdie, which followed Washington’s thwarting of an assassination attempt targeting the former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, calling it “odd.”

The Department of Justice charged an Iranian military operative on Wednesday with plotting to assassinate Bolton.


Tunisian government, unions agree to talks on IMF reform program

Tunisian government, unions agree to talks on IMF reform program
Updated 12 August 2022

Tunisian government, unions agree to talks on IMF reform program

Tunisian government, unions agree to talks on IMF reform program
  • Prime Minister Najla Bouden, UGTT labour union chief Noureddine Taboubi and UTICA commerce union chief Samir Majoul had agreed a "social contract" to tackle national challenges
  • The UGTT reposted the statement on its Facebook page

TUNIS: Tunisia’s government and both its main labor and commerce unions agreed on Friday to start talks on Monday over economic reforms required by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a rescue program.
State news agency TAP reported that Prime Minister Najla Bouden, UGTT labor union chief Noureddine Taboubi and UTICA commerce union chief Samir Majoul had agreed a “social contract” to tackle national challenges, citing a government statement.
The UGTT reposted the statement on its Facebook page.
The labor union, which represents a vast syndicate of workers, has been a staunch critic of IMF economic reforms proposed by the government, including subsidy cuts, a public sector wage freeze and the restructuring of state-owned companies.
It previously said, such reforms would increase the suffering of Tunisians and lead to an imminent social implosion.
Tunisia is seeking $4 billion in IMF support amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, though diplomat sources told Reuters any IMF program approved would be unlikely to reach that level.
The IMF wants the UGTT, a powerful union that has a million members and has previously paralyzed parts of the economy in protest, to formally agree to government reforms.
Efforts to secure the IMF bailout have been complicated by Tunisia’s political upheavals since President Kais Saied seized most powers a year ago, shutting down parliament and moving to rule by decree.
Last month, he pushed through a new constitution formalising many of the expanded powers he has assumed in a referendum. Official figures showed that 31 percent of Tunisians took part, but opposition groups have rejected the figure, calling it inflated.