Tunisia’s president defends constitution from ‘dictatorship’ accusations

Tunisia’s president defends constitution from ‘dictatorship’ accusations
Saied’s office published an open letter arguing that ‘this draft was built on what the Tunisian people have expressed from the start of the revolution up until the correction of its path on July 25, 2021.’ (Reuters)
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Updated 05 July 2022

Tunisia’s president defends constitution from ‘dictatorship’ accusations

Tunisia’s president defends constitution from ‘dictatorship’ accusations

TUNIS: Tunisia’s President Kais Saied on Tuesday defended a draft constitution set for a referendum this month, after the drafting committee’s chief disavowed a document he said could return the country to dictatorship.

The new constitution is the centerpiece of Saied’s plan to remake the North African country’s political system, over a decade after its pro-democracy revolt which sparked copycat uprisings across the region.

But Sadeq Belaid, the legal expert who oversaw the drafting of the new constitution, said the final version Saied published last week was “completely different” from his committee’s draft, and warned that some articles could “pave the way for a dictatorial regime.”

On Tuesday, Saied’s office published an open letter arguing that “this draft was built on what the Tunisian people have expressed from the start of the revolution (in late 2010) up until the correction of its path on July 25, 2021.”

That was the day Saied sacked the government, suspended parliament and seized wide-ranging powers in moves opponents have called a coup against the only democratic system to have emerged from the Arab Spring revolts.

Saied wants a presidential system to replace the country’s 2014 constitution, which enshrined a mixed presidential-parliamentary system often beset by deadlock and marred by corruption. “This draft which is proposed to you expresses the spirit of the revolution, and in no way threatens rights or freedoms,” Saied’s letter read.

He dismissed “those who slander and pretend” the document could return the country to tyranny, saying they had not read it in detail.

He urged Tunisians to vote to approve the new draft in the vote set for July 25, the first anniversary of his power grab.

“Say ‘yes’ so the state does not fail, so the revolution’s aims are achieved, so there will be no misery, terrorism, hunger, injustice and suffering,” he wrote.

Wheat crisis

Tunisian farmer Mondher Mathali surveys a sea of swaying golden wheat and revs his combine harvester, a rumbling beast from 1976 which he fears could break down at any moment.

Since the Ukraine war sent global cereal prices soaring, import-dependent Tunisia has announced a push to grow all its own durum wheat, the basis for local staples like couscous and pasta.

The small North African country, like its neighbors, is desperate to prevent food shortages and social unrest — but for farmers on the sun-baked plains north of Tunis, even the basics are problematic.

“I’d love to buy a new combine harvester, but I could only do it with help from the government,” said Mathali, 65. He reckons his outdated machine wastes almost a third of the crop. With spare parts hard to find, he fears a breakdown could cost him his entire harvest.

But even a second-hand replacement would cost him an unimaginable sum: $150,000.

“Our production and even the quality would go up by maybe 50 percent, even 90 percent” with government help, he said. “But our situation is getting worse and the state isn’t helping us.”

Tunisia’s wheat production has suffered from years of drought and a decade of political instability, with 10 governments since the country’s 2011 revolution.


Yemeni presidential council discusses with UN envoy extension of truce

Yemeni presidential council discusses with UN envoy extension of truce
Updated 02 October 2022

Yemeni presidential council discusses with UN envoy extension of truce

Yemeni presidential council discusses with UN envoy extension of truce

DUBAI: The Chairman of the Yemeni Presidential Council has met on Sunday the United Nation’s ambassador to Yemen to discuss the extension of the UN-brokered truce.  

The council, led by chairman Rashad al-Alimi, said the Houthi positions are hostile to peace efforts. 

Al-Alimi renewed calls for doubling international pressure on the Houthis. 

The British Ambassador to Yemen said we encourage the Houthis to work with the UN to extend the armistice. 


Israeli security forces dismantle cell linked to Daesh

Israeli security forces dismantle cell linked to Daesh
Updated 02 October 2022

Israeli security forces dismantle cell linked to Daesh

Israeli security forces dismantle cell linked to Daesh
  • Israeli security said the individuals had “met to prepare attacks”

JERUSALEM: Israel’s internal security agency said Sunday it dismantled in the north of the country a cell linked to Daesh, whose alleged sympathizers staged deadly attacks earlier this year.
“Six residents of Nazareth were arrested several weeks ago and interrogated by the Shin Bet on suspicion of seeking to carry out terrorist activities on behalf of (Daesh) inside Israel,” the agency said in a statement.
It added that the individuals had “met to prepare attacks.”
The Shin Bet agency said the probe “highlights the influence of Daesh in Israel.”
In March, four people were killed when a convicted Daesh sympathizer went on a stabbing and car-ramming rampage in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba.
Days later, two policemen were shot dead and several others wounded in the northern Israeli city of Hadera, in an attack that was later claimed by the jihadist group.
The Beersheba and Hadera attacks renewed long-standing concern in Israel about Daesh efforts to recruit Arab citizens, who account for roughly a fifth of the Israeli population.


Kuwait Crown Prince accepts cabinet resignation

Kuwait Crown Prince accepts cabinet resignation
Updated 02 October 2022

Kuwait Crown Prince accepts cabinet resignation

Kuwait Crown Prince accepts cabinet resignation

DUBAI: A Kuwaiti Emiri decree accepted the government’s resignation, the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported on Sunday. 

The Emir has asked the government to stay on in a caretaker capacity, the statement on KUNA added. 

Kuwait’s government submitted its resignation on Sunday, state news agency (KUNA) reported, following a parliamentary election in the country.

Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah received the government’s letter of resignation from Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Sabah, KUNA reported.


Iran says awaits unfreezing of $7 billion after releasing Americans

Iran says awaits unfreezing of $7 billion after releasing Americans
Updated 02 October 2022

Iran says awaits unfreezing of $7 billion after releasing Americans

Iran says awaits unfreezing of $7 billion after releasing Americans
  • Baquer Namazi, 85, was permitted to leave Iran for medical treatment abroad
  • Billions of dollars in Iranian funds have been frozen in several countries since US imposed sanctions

TEHRAN: Iran is awaiting the release of about $7 billion in funds frozen abroad, state media said Sunday, after it allowed an Iranian-American to leave the country and released his son from detention.
Baquer Namazi, 85, was permitted to leave Iran for medical treatment abroad, and his son Siamak, 50, was released from detention in Tehran, the United Nations said on Saturday.
“With the finalization of negotiations between Iran and the United States to release the prisoners of both countries, $7 billion of Iran’s blocked resources will be released,” the state news agency IRNA said.
Billions of dollars in Iranian funds have been frozen in a number of countries — notably China, South Korea and Japan — since the US reimposed biting sanctions on the Islamic republic in 2018 after unilaterally withdrawing from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
Tehran has accused Seoul of holding $7 billion of its funds “hostage,” repeatedly calling on South Korean authorities to release it.
IRNA on Sunday said that “Washington is pursuing at the same time the release of its citizens detained in Tehran and the release of Iranian funds in South Korea.”
The development comes as on-off talks have been underway since April 2021 to revive the 2015 deal that gave Iran much-needed sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
Iran has repeatedly called for the lifting of sanctions, as well as guarantees that the United States will not again pull out of a revived deal.
Baquer Namazi is a former UNICEF official who was detained in February 2016 when he went to Iran to press for the release of his son Siamak, who had been arrested in October of the previous year.
Both were convicted of espionage in October 2016 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The father was released on medical leave in 2018 and had been serving his sentence under house arrest.


Egypt’s population hits 104 million with a child born every 19 seconds

Egypt’s population hits 104 million with a child born every 19 seconds
Updated 02 October 2022

Egypt’s population hits 104 million with a child born every 19 seconds

Egypt’s population hits 104 million with a child born every 19 seconds
  • Egypt witnessed 4,525 newborns every day over seven months and 11 days
  • Egyptian authorities have intensified efforts to raise awareness on the risks of overpopulation

CAIRO: Egypt’s population has reached 104 million after an increase by one million people in 221 days, revealed the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).
Over seven months and 11 days, the country recorded a newborn every 19 seconds, with the population increasing by 4,525 people per day. Meanwhile, 1,566 deaths were recorded.
Earlier in February, the domestic population reached 103 million with an increase of one million people over seven months and 22 days, recording an average of 1,858 deaths daily.

A previous study by CAPMAS ranked Egypt as the most populous country in the Arab world and the third in Africa after Nigeria and Ethiopia.

Egyptian authorities have intensified efforts to raise awareness, especially in rural areas, on the challenges that overpopulation pose on the economy and development.

In an earlier statement, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said population growth is one of the biggest threats facing the country, which has been reeling from major economic challenges.