Pope postpones trip to Lebanon for health reasons: Minister

Pope postpones trip to Lebanon for health reasons: Minister
Pope Francis arrives in a wheelchair to attend an audience with nuns and religious superiors in the Paul VI Hall at The Vatican, May 5, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 09 May 2022

Pope postpones trip to Lebanon for health reasons: Minister

Pope postpones trip to Lebanon for health reasons: Minister
  • Pope has suffered from knee pain, was seen using a wheelchair for the first time at a public event on Thursday
  • Lebanon’s presidency in April said that the 85-year-old pontiff would visit Lebanon in June

BEIRUT: Pope Francis has postponed a trip to Lebanon initially planned for June over health concerns, Lebanon’s tourism minister Walid Nassar said Monday.
Nassar did not elaborate on the “health reasons” behind the postponement, but the pope who has suffered from pain in his knee was seen using a wheelchair for the first time at a public event on Thursday.
“Lebanon received a letter from the Vatican officially informing it of the decision to postpone the scheduled visit of the Pope to Lebanon,” Nassar said in a statement published by the official National News Agency.
The pope’s “foreign visits and scheduled appointments... have been postponed for health reasons,” said Nassar, who heads a committee tasked with preparing for the trip.
The Vatican had never confirmed the visit but Lebanon’s presidency in April said that the 85-year-old pontiff would visit Lebanon in June.
Francis has been suffering for months with pain in his right knee, that forced him to cancel numerous engagements and from presiding over some religious celebrations.
The Vatican has not said officially what the problem is, although sources have told AFP he has chronic arthritis.
The pope himself has also spoken of an injured ligament in his knee.
He told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview published last week that he would undergo an “intervention with infiltration.”
And in April, the pontiff told a newspaper in Argentina that he was treating his knee pain by putting ice on it and taking some painkillers.
His visit to Lebanon, following Lebanon’s May 15 parliamentary elections, would have been the third by a pope to the country since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2012, to appeal for peace months after the start of the civil war in neighboring Syria, while Pope John Paul II came in 1997.
Lebanon, home to one of the largest Christian communities in the Middle East, has been gripped by an unprecedented economic downturn since 2019, with more than 80 percent of the population now living in poverty.
Francis, who has received Lebanon’s president and prime minister in the Vatican in recent months, had previously promised to visit the country and repeatedly expressed concern over its worsening crises.


France repatriates 35 children, 16 mothers from Syria camps

France repatriates 35 children, 16 mothers from Syria camps
Updated 54 min 23 sec ago

France repatriates 35 children, 16 mothers from Syria camps

France repatriates 35 children, 16 mothers from Syria camps
  • Minors were handed over to child protection services while the mothers would face judicial proceedings

PARIS: France has repatriated 35 children and 16 mothers from camps in Syria where family members of suspected Daesh terrorists have been held, the foreign ministry said in Paris.
“France has today undertaken the return to the country of 35 French minors who were in camps in northeast Syria. This operation also includes the return of 16 mothers from these same camps,” a statement said, adding that the minors were handed over to child protection services while the mothers would face judicial proceedings.


Israeli PM to press France on Iran, warn Hezbollah ‘playing with fire’

Israeli PM to press France on Iran, warn Hezbollah ‘playing with fire’
Updated 05 July 2022

Israeli PM to press France on Iran, warn Hezbollah ‘playing with fire’

Israeli PM to press France on Iran, warn Hezbollah ‘playing with fire’
  • France is among world powers trying to revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran
  • Iran has itself been in breach of the deal, ramping up projects with bomb-making potential

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid will press French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday for a tougher and time-limited tack on the Iranian nuclear negotiations, and warn that the Tehran-backed Hezbollah group is “playing with fire,” an official said.
Lapid’s visit to France, his first abroad since becoming caretaker premier last week, is also a chance to flex diplomatic muscles as Israelis gear up for a snap election in November.
France is among world powers trying to revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that the previous US administration quit and which Israel opposed, deeming its caps insufficient.
As Lebanon’s former colonial administrator, France has additional clout in Beirut — whose economic crisis-hit leaders were jarred on Saturday when Israel shot down three Hezbollah drones launched toward one of its Mediterranean gas rigs.
“The French are very, very active on the Iranian issue,” a senior Israeli official told reporters.
“It is important for us to make our case ... Israel opposes a return to the JCPOA (2015 nuclear deal). In the same breath, we do not oppose a deal. We seek a very strong deal.”
Israel is not a party to the nuclear negotiations. But Western capitals have been attentive to its worries about its arch-enemy and worried it might take preemptive military action if it deems diplomacy a dead end.
Since the US walkout, Iran has itself been in breach of the deal, ramping up projects with bomb-making potential — though it denies having such designs. Its technical advancements have set a ticking clock on the so-far fruitless negotiations.
“We want an end to the unending talks,” said the senior Israeli official, calling for “coordinated pressure” on Iran and offering help on “drafting an appropriate framework” for that.
Israel has de facto front with Iran in Lebanon, home to Hezbollah. The senior Israeli official, alluding to Saturday’s shoot-downs, accused the group of “playing with fire.”
The official declined to elaborate on that warning, but said Lapid would share with Macron “new material explaining how Hezbollah is endangering Lebanon.”
Hezbollah and Israel fought a war across Lebanon’s border in 2006 but have been in a largely stable standoff since.
The Karish rig near Lebanon’s coast will produce gas not only for Israel, but eventually also for the European Union, the official said, tapping into EU countries’ quest to replace Russia as an energy supplier since it invaded Ukraine.


Egypt FM in London to inaugurate partnership council

Egypt FM in London to inaugurate partnership council
Updated 04 July 2022

Egypt FM in London to inaugurate partnership council

Egypt FM in London to inaugurate partnership council

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry headed to London to inaugurate the first partnership council between his country and the UK.

The council will be co-chaired by Shoukry and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. It will include political consultations and discussions on economic and trade issues, with the participation of British Trade Policy Minister Penny Mordaunt.

A spokesman for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said the launch of the council comes in light of strengthening cooperation between the two countries in various fields.

While in London, Shoukry met with Lord Tariq Ahmad, British minister for South Asia, North Africa, the UN and the Commonwealth, to discuss bilateral relations.


Woman stabbed by husband in front of court in Jordan

Woman stabbed by husband in front of court in Jordan
Updated 04 July 2022

Woman stabbed by husband in front of court in Jordan

Woman stabbed by husband in front of court in Jordan
  • The woman, who was rushed to the hospital and admitted to the intensive care unit, was listed in fair condition.

AMMAN: A woman was stabbed by her husband in a public street in Karak in front of the Karak Sharia Court on Monday, according to a Jordanian security source.

The unidentified man pulled out a knife and stabbed his wife in the back, chest and right hand, according to a source at Al Karak Public Hospital.

She was rushed to the hospital shortly after and admitted to the intensive care unit. She was described as in fair condition.

The attacker has since been apprehended, and police are currently investigating the incident.

According to eyewitnesses, family disputes between the couple led them to review the case at Sharia court before the situation escalated and the husband attacked the victim.

Following the death of 18-year-old Iman Ersheid, who was shot dead on campus, public outrage in Jordan has fueled calls for the death penalty to be enforced in such cases.

Last week, the High Criminal Court in Jordan sentenced a 50-year-old to death for stabbing his ex-wife before the Northern "Rusaifa" Sharia Court in a similar incident.


US offers cash rewards to curb Iran smuggling

US offers cash rewards to curb Iran smuggling
Updated 05 July 2022

US offers cash rewards to curb Iran smuggling

US offers cash rewards to curb Iran smuggling
  • Navy targets weapons and drugs in Arabian Gulf and Red Sea

JEDDAH: The US Navy is offering cash rewards of up to $100,000 for information leading to the interception of smuggled weapons and narcotics in the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea.

The initiative by the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet does not directly name Iran but analysts said it was clearly aimed at curbing the flow of Iranian arms to the Houthi militia in Yemen and restricting the lucrative regional drugs trade operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“Any destabilizing activity has our attention,” 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins said. “Definitely we have seen in the last year skyrocketing success in seizing both illegal narcotics and illicit weapons. This represents another step in our effort to enhance regional maritime security.”
Operators fluent in Arabic, English and Farsi will staff a phone hotline, and the Navy will also take tips online in Dari and Pashto. Payouts can be as high as $100,000 or the equivalent in vehicles, boats or food for tips that include information on planned attacks targeting Americans.
Asked whether new seizures could increase tensions with Iran, Hawkins listed the weapons and drugs the Navy hoped to intercept under the program. “That’s what we’re after,” he said. “That’s not in the interest of regional stability and security.”

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The fleet and its allies seized $500 million in drugs alone in 2021, more than the four previous years combined, and intercepted the shipment of 9,000 weapons, three times the number in 2020.
Despite a UN Security Council arms embargo on Yemen, Tehran has long been transferring rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, missiles and other weapons to the Houthis in Yemen. UN experts have examined missiles aimed at civilian targets and oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and traced the components back to Iran.
The rewards program is the latest initiative under 5th Fleet Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, who also launched a drone task force last year amid rising tension with Iran. The US Navy and Revolutionary Guard naval forces have had several encounters in the Strait of Hormuz.
The Houthis said last week they were monitoring increased US activity in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.“Because of this, defense and confrontation options are open,” a spokesman said.