Mikati urges Lebanese expats to have their voices heard in elections

Special Mikati urges Lebanese expats to have their voices heard in elections
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati. (AFP)
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Updated 05 May 2022

Mikati urges Lebanese expats to have their voices heard in elections

Mikati urges Lebanese expats to have their voices heard in elections
  • Expat voting is ‘a key moment during this round of elections,’ says PM
  • Opposition political groups are relying heavily on overseas votes to achieve change

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati has urged expats to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections to ensure their voices are heard and they can achieve the changes they want.

Mikati’s appeal came as he inaugurated the operations room for managing and monitoring parliamentary elections abroad.

“It is a key moment during this round of elections,” he said.

The parliamentary elections, which will be held on May 6 and 8 abroad, and on May 15 at home, are the first since the economic collapse began in late 2019.

The authorities have permitted 225,114 Lebanese expats to vote after 244,442 overseas registered voters were reviewed. They will vote at 205 polling stations in 59 countries around the world, except in Ukraine.

Overseas voters constitute a significant proportion of the 3,967,507 total Lebanese voters.

The political movements seeking changes in the crisis-hit country are relying heavily on expat voting to make a difference.

The government, mired by a political impasse, has taken limited steps to address the national collapse, leaving the Lebanese to struggle with the crisis on their own while plunging into poverty, without electricity or medicines.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the election arrangements as “the largest logistical operation in Lebanon's modern history.”

A total of 103 lists made up of 1,044 candidates are competing in the elections, some of whom withdrew after the deadline.

Political groups seeking radical change and some opposition parties believe the majority of expat voters resent the ruling authority and are victims of its corruption, and their presence abroad makes them immune to the pressures that internal voters are subjected to and the pressure to re-elect the same faces.

These groups are hoping for a strong turnout from the Lebanese who left after the Beirut port explosion in 2020 and the popular protests in 2019.

As of Thursday, all candidates and political parties are no longer allowed to address voters and media outlets can no longer interview them until polling stations close on Sunday night.

The Supervisory Commission for Elections prohibits electoral teams from sharing their estimations on the number of votes.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib said Lebanon “has made all possible efforts, within our modest capabilities, to facilitate the voting process, and set up the largest possible number of polling stations, as allowed by the laws governing the countries in which the Lebanese abroad reside.”

He added: “We insist on organizing the voting process abroad professionally while steering clear of political agendas.”

Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said that the government is committed to its ministerial statement and will indeed hold the elections.

He added: “To those who took to the streets to demand that elections are held, I tell you this is your chance to voice your opinion.”

He stressed: “Failing to vote serves no one, especially not the country.”

Mawlawi added that all logistical and security preparations had been secured.

“Grants to the military forces participating in the elections, and compensation to employees, professors, and judges who will participate in the elections will be sufficient and appropriate,” he added.

He said: “The elections will be held successfully, there is no reason for them not to. We are attentive to all details.”

While the UN has been following up on all the election arrangements, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka met with Mikati on Thursday.

“It seems that all measures have been taken from an administrative and security point of view, and this is an important matter,” Wronecka said.

She added: “I asked the prime minister what can be expected before and even after the elections, and I sensed the seriousness and interest on his part to follow up on every detail.”

In a new report to the Security Council, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for “free, fair, transparent and inclusive parliamentary elections in Lebanon.”

He further urged “the quick formation of a government afterward that gives priority to implementing reforms addressing the country’s multiple crises.”

Guterres said that the political polarization in the country has deepened and the Lebanese “are struggling daily to meet basic needs,” pointing out the frequent protests across the country sparked by “public frustration with the political situation and the economic and financial crisis.”

He noted that proposals submitted in the past two years for a women’s quota were still pending in parliament, and he urged that the new government be quickly formed “with full participation of women and young people.”

Guterres said Hezbollah’s maintenance “of sizeable and sophisticated military capabilities outside the control of the Lebanese government remains a matter of grave concern.”


Iraq launches Mosul airport reconstruction

Iraq launches Mosul airport reconstruction
Updated 7 sec ago

Iraq launches Mosul airport reconstruction

Iraq launches Mosul airport reconstruction
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.

Iran scoffs at claims Russia-launched satellite for ‘spying’

Iran scoffs at claims Russia-launched satellite for ‘spying’
Updated 22 min 36 sec ago

Iran scoffs at claims Russia-launched satellite for ‘spying’

Iran scoffs at claims Russia-launched satellite for ‘spying’
  • The satellite, called Khayyam, was launched into space from the Russian-controlled Baikonur Cosmodrome
  • Iran insists its space program is for civilian and defense purposes only, and does not breach the 2015 nuclear deal

TEHRAN: Iran dismissed as “childish” Wednesday claims by the United States that an Iranian satellite launched by Russia is intended for spying.
The satellite, called Khayyam, was launched into space on a Soyuz-2.1b rocket from the Russian-controlled Baikonur Cosmodrome in neighboring Kazakhstan on Tuesday.
Responding to the launch, Washington said Russia’s growing cooperation with Iran should be viewed as a “profound threat.”
“We are aware of reports that Russia launched a satellite with significant spying capabilities on Iran’s behalf,” a US State Department spokesperson said.
The head of Iran’s Space Agency, Hassan Salarieh, told reporters Wednesday that the spying allegation was “basically childish.”
“Sometimes, some comments are made to incite tensions; saying that we want to spy with the Khayyam satellite... is basically childish,” he said.
“The Khayyam satellite is entirely designed and built to meet the needs of the country in crisis and urban management, natural resources, mines, agriculture and so on.”
Ahead of the launch, there was speculation that Russia might borrow Iran’s satellite temporarily to boost its surveillance of military targets in Ukraine.
Last week, The Washington Post quoted anonymous Western intelligence officials as saying that Russia “plans to use the satellite for several months or longer” to assist its war effort before allowing Iran to take control.
Iran’s space agency stressed on Sunday that it would control the satellite “from day one” in an apparent reaction to the Post’s report.
The purpose of Khayyam is to “monitor the country’s borders,” enhance agricultural productivity and monitor water resources and natural disasters, according to the space agency.
Khayyam is not the first Iranian satellite that Russia has put into space.
In 2005, Iran’s Sina-1 satellite was deployed from Russia’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome.
Iran insists its space program is for civilian and defense purposes only, and does not breach the 2015 nuclear deal, or any other international agreement.
Western governments worry that satellite launch systems incorporate technologies interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, something Iran has always denied wanting to build.
Iran successfully put its first military satellite into orbit in April 2020, drawing a sharp rebuke from the United States.


Death and destruction: Israel’s strike on Palestine Tower

Death and destruction: Israel’s strike on Palestine Tower
Updated 10 August 2022

Death and destruction: Israel’s strike on Palestine Tower

Death and destruction: Israel’s strike on Palestine Tower
  • ‘There were screams and we heard explosions from every direction,’ survivor tells Daily Telegraph
  • 3-day bombing of Gaza last week killed 44 Palestinians, including 15 children, and injured hundreds

LONDON: An Israeli missile strike on a block of offices and apartments in Gaza City destroyed homes and killed innocents, the Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday.

The newspaper’s on-the-ground correspondents James Rothwell and Siham Shamalakh reported from Palestine Tower, where residents were forced to “move in darkness” following an Israeli airstrike on Friday that left death and destruction.

The reporters found “clothes, sofas and other fragments of their lives … buried under collapsed walls.”

They added: “In one room, which belonged to a family of eight, blood is smeared across a wall. The air is heavy with smoke and an acrid, chemical smell which residents suspect was left by the missiles.”

The destruction came as Israel launched its biggest attack on the Palestinian territory since May 2021. The missile strike on Friday assassinated Tayseer Al-Jabari, a commander with Islamic Jihad.

Khalil Kanoon, who lives in the tower, told the Telegraph that he and his family were sitting down for lunch when the missiles hit. He reported seven missiles slamming into the building, where he lives with his family.

“My mother, my wife and I were in the kitchen and my children were playing in the bedroom,” said Kanoon.

“I was telling my wife that it seemed Israel was about to strike Gaza, and before I finished the sentence we heard a very big explosion and the windows blew out. There were screams and we heard explosions from every direction.”

Kanoon told the Telegraph that he and his family escaped the destruction, running through shattered glass barefoot, but his mother was wounded in the hand.

He added that the residents, left homeless and with little hope of urgent rehousing, were unaware that Al-Jabari was in the tower and were not pre-warned of the attack.

The airstrike on the tower was the opening attack in a three-day bombardment that killed 44 Palestinians, including 15 children, and injured hundreds.

Israel said it had intelligence of imminent attacks so had to launch the airstrike to stop Islamic Jihad from assaulting Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip.

The ceasefire, introduced on Sunday night, has done little to calm the frayed nerves of the tower’s residents.

Kanoon told the Telegraph: “We condemn this unjustified Israeli strike with so many bombs targeting civilians on a weekend, where they were not pre-warned. We are calling for the buildings to be rebuilt so we can go back to our apartments.”

He added: “The situation is very hard, some families will have to rent (elsewhere), some are staying with relatives and some have nowhere to go. We also want psychological support.”

The Telegraph also visited Shifa hospital in Gaza City, where doctors told the reporters that they were mostly treating lower-limb wounds and head injuries.

“The healthcare system is exposed to collapse, even if there had been no aggression. Every year it is worse,” said Dr. Hani Sami Al-Haytham, chairman of Shifa’s accident and emergency department.

He added: “The ultrasound was donated by the Red Cross, but it is out of order and we have no alternative because of the repeated power cuts ... If the power keeps going off this causes malfunctions.”

The Telegraph said several children had been left with life-changing injuries, including 11-year-old Rahaf Suleiman, whose feet and arm had to be amputated.

Ghassan Abu Ramadan, a 65-year-old retired engineer who was injured in the strikes, said: “You can’t imagine the explosion. We can’t believe we survived.”


UAE urges UN to drop ‘Islamic State’ name when referring to Daesh

UAE urges UN to drop ‘Islamic State’ name when referring to Daesh
Updated 10 August 2022

UAE urges UN to drop ‘Islamic State’ name when referring to Daesh

UAE urges UN to drop ‘Islamic State’ name when referring to Daesh

The UAE has called on United Nations organizations to stop using the term ‘Islamic State’ when referring to Da’esh, during the UN Security Council in New York, arguing that the extremists should not be associated with the religion. 
UAE Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative and Chargé d’Affaires, Mohamed Abushahab said ijn his address that organizations should not “permit Daesh and other groups to hijack a religion of tolerance and give credence to their pretences.”  
“There is nothing Islamic about terrorism,” he added. 

Abushahab’s statement came as the UN recognized that the threat posed by Daesh and its affiliates remained ‘global and evolving’. 
“Daesh and its affiliates continue to exploit conflict dynamics, governance fragilities and inequality to incite, plan and organize terrorist attacks,” said UN counter-terrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov, as he presented the Secretary-General’s fifteenth report. 
Abushahab stressed that the fight against terrorism went beyond Daesh, as the ‘fight against Al-Qaeda remains a global priority’ especially after ‘the organization enters a leadership vacuum, following the death of Ayman Al-Zawahiri.’ 
During his address, he said technology could be a “double-edged sword” that can be used to improve people’s quality of life in one respect, but misused by terrorist groups in the other. 
Abushahab said ‘emerging technologies have tremendous potential to aid in efforts to prevent counter, and address terrorism.’ 
And he said the council ‘must focus on preventing the emergence of the next generation of terrorists and extremists,’ referring to the recruitment of children at refugee camps. 
“At Al-Hol camp, more than 25,000 children are at potential risk of radicalization,” said Abushahab. “Genuine efforts must be made to give these children hope for a more peaceful and prosperous future.” 
He concluded his remarks by calling on the international community to ‘seize this opportunity and act now’ to eliminate Daesh and other terrorist groups.


Egyptian, Qatari leaders hold talks

Egyptian, Qatari leaders hold talks
Updated 10 August 2022

Egyptian, Qatari leaders hold talks

Egyptian, Qatari leaders hold talks

CAIRO: Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi discussed the latest regional developments, particularly the situation in the Gaza Strip, where Cairo brokered a truce that ended last week’s fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad.

During the phone call, Sheikh Tamim and El-Sisi also discussed measures to strengthen bilateral ties.

The emir expressed his gratitude for Egypt’s efforts to strengthen regional peace and security.