Egypt FM meets with UK business community

Egypt FM meets with UK business community
Shoukry expressed his aspiration to enhance British investments in Egypt in general. (FILE/AFP)
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Updated 07 July 2022

Egypt FM meets with UK business community

Egypt FM meets with UK business community

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has met with representatives of the British business community as part of his visit to London.

During the meeting, he reviewed the economic reforms that Egypt has embarked on since 2014, and the challenges they are facing due to international developments. 

He also reviewed his government’s steps to restructure Egypt’s economy, especially in terms of attracting more foreign investments and providing opportunities for private sector companies to enter various sectors.

Shoukry expressed his aspiration to enhance British investments in Egypt in general, and in the green economy in particular.

He also expressed his confidence in the Egyptian economy’s ability to overcome the negative repercussions of the war in Ukraine, as it did with the coronavirus pandemic.

The meeting also discussed Egypt’s hosting of the 27th session of the UN Climate Change Conference in November.


Lebanon ‘following in Venezuela’s footsteps’

A customer wearing gloves holds Lebanese pounds at a currency exchange store in Beirut. (REUTERS)
A customer wearing gloves holds Lebanese pounds at a currency exchange store in Beirut. (REUTERS)
Updated 8 sec ago

Lebanon ‘following in Venezuela’s footsteps’

A customer wearing gloves holds Lebanese pounds at a currency exchange store in Beirut. (REUTERS)
  • Economist Jassem Ajaka told Arab News: “We are following in the footsteps of Venezuela. The central bank’s intervention to stop the local currency from depreciating this fast will not work as long as there is no government action”

BEIRUT: In less than 24 hours, Lebanon’s currency dropped in value by over 10,000 Lebanese pounds, with the exchange rate nearing 70,000 to the dollar — a plunge that comes at a time when Lebanese were dreading the exchange rate reaching 50,000 to the dollar.

Economist Jassem Ajaka told Arab News: “We are following in the footsteps of Venezuela. The central bank’s intervention to stop the local currency from depreciating this fast will not work as long as there is no government action.”

Ajaka said he believed that the problem lay in the Lebanese structure, lack of confidence in politics and judges, and the conflict with the international community over Lebanon’s failure to pay its debts.

To avoid losses, commercial and service institutions priced their products based on a much higher exchange rate, in anticipation of further devaluation. Such action significantly decreased citizens’ purchasing power.

The price of a 20-liter canister of fuel jumped by 147,000 Lebanese pounds within 24 hours, reaching 1,147,000 LBP ($19 based on the exchange rate of 60,000 LBP/USD), which is equivalent to the salary of a public sector employee.

The unstable exchange rate pushed the owners of grocery stores to either close for the day or stop selling certain products.

More protesters took to the streets in rural Lebanese areas on Friday, blocking roads with burning tires. The Baalbek International Road was completely cut off in protest against the economic situation. Protesters also blocked Al-Minya International Road in northern Lebanon in both directions, in protest against the deteriorating living conditions.

The Ministry of Economy issued a decision raising the price of a big bundle of Arab bread to 29,000 LBP (48 cents).

With prices soaring, some taxi drivers opted to stay in one region to avoid wasting fuel in traffic jams, constantly changing their fares depending on the exchange rate.

For the first time ever, the pharmacists’ syndicate in Lebanon called on its members to close their pharmacies in protest against the current situation.

“Pharmaceutical suppliers and warehouse owners completely stopped delivering medicines nearly a week ago. The syndicate of pharmaceutical importers will only deliver medicines now based on a daily issued price list, similar to gas stations,” the syndicate said in a statement.

Joe Salloum, head of the syndicate, said: “The price differences between the Ministry of Health index and the exchange rate on the black market are among the reasons that almost led to the sector completely collapsing.”

Robert, a pharmacist in Beirut, said that he sold a medicine based on the exchange rate of 50,000 LBP/USD, according to the Ministry of Health index, but the exchange rate on the black market later reached 61,000 LBP/USD, which means he can no longer buy the same medicine without incurring losses.

“Whatever I sell, I can no longer buy. Suppliers are barely delivering drugs and the exchange rate is always changing. Meanwhile, the list of missing medicines keeps getting longer,” he added.

Last week, the hospitals’ syndicate resorted to adopting a procedure that requires patients registered with the National Fund of Social Security to pay for the required medicines, because the state is unable to cover their costs for hospitals due to the unstable exchange rate.

Antoine Yammine, head of the syndicate of owners and investors of domestic gas cylinder filling plants, warned on Friday of the forced closure of plants due to the insane devaluation of the Lebanese pound, as the price of a domestic gas cylinder exceeded 730,000 LBP, about $12 (based on the exchange rate of 60,000 LBP/USD).

Yammine said: “Yesterday, the price list was priced according to the exchange rate of 60,600 LBP/USD, but it jumped to 64,000 LBP/USD on the back market today, which means that yesterday’s sales were all losses. Our capital is eroding by the day. The authorities must put an end to this farce.”

Meanwhile, parliamentary blocs are yet to agree on the election of a new Lebanese president.

Opposition MPs met on Friday after they had participated in Thursday’s protests of the families of the victims of the port explosion in front of the Ministry of Justice after Public Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oueidat released all those that Judge Tarek Bitar had had arrested.

The MPs issued a statement, saying: “We support the demand for holding Judge Oueidat accountable for the flagrant violations he has committed,” expressing their rejection of removing Judge Bitar and assigning another judge to handle the probe.

They also warned against the dangers created by the presidential vacuum. They reiterated their call and commitment to the provisions of the constitution, which stipulate that parliament is an electoral body that convenes regularly until a president is elected.

Judge Bitar is expected to proceed with his investigations, despite all the judicial objections to the legal study that he referred to in order to resume his work after a 13-month hiatus.

Next week’s interrogation sessions are scheduled to begin on Feb. 6 with MP Ghazi Zeaiter and former minister Mohad Al-Machnouk.

Members of the Supreme Judicial Council and its head Judge Suhail Abboud are still at odds over the fate of Bitar, who is in charge of the probe into the Beirut Port explosion.

 


Algeria, Jordan parliament speakers discuss cooperation

Algeria, Jordan parliament speakers discuss cooperation
Updated 7 min 33 sec ago

Algeria, Jordan parliament speakers discuss cooperation

Algeria, Jordan parliament speakers discuss cooperation
  • Jordanian official said MPs must overcome legislative obstacles to boost cooperation between the two countries

AMMAN: Jordan’s lower house speaker Ahmed Safadi and Algeria’s lower assembly speaker Ibrahim Boghali met in Algeria to discuss enhancing cooperation.
Safadi said: “We are proud of the level of strong relations between the two countries, which culminated in a summit that brought together King Abdullah II and his brother President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, last month in Algiers.”
He noted the importance of building on the summit recommendations and that MPs must overcome legislative obstacles to further cooperation, Jordan’s News Agency reported on Friday.
Boghali said Algeria supported the Hashemite Custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites in occupied Jerusalem. He said issues discussed in the summit between Tebboune and King Abdullah demonstrated the importance of the Palestinian cause for both countries.


US charges three in Iran-backed effort to assassinate journalist

US charges three in Iran-backed effort to assassinate journalist
Updated 23 min 49 sec ago

US charges three in Iran-backed effort to assassinate journalist

US charges three in Iran-backed effort to assassinate journalist
  • Rafat Amirov, Polad Omarov and Khalid Mehdiyev were charged with murder-for-hire and money laundering

NEW YORK: US prosecutors have charged three members of an Eastern European criminal organization which has ties to Iran’s government with conspiring to assassinate a journalist and activist who is a US citizen, Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Friday.
Rafat Amirov, Polad Omarov and Khalid Mehdiyev were charged with murder-for-hire and money laundering for their role in the thwarted Tehran-backed plot, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
“The victim publicized (the) Iranian government’s human rights abuses, discriminatory treatment of women, suppression of democratic participation and expression and use of arbitrary imprisonment, torture and execution,” Garland said.
Garland did not name the alleged victim, but Mehdiyev was arrested last year in New York for having a rifle outside the Brooklyn home of journalist Masih Alinejad, a longtime critic of Iran’s head-covering laws who has promoted videos of women violating those laws on social media.
Mehdiyev pleaded not guilty to one count of possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number. He is being held at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center pending trial.
Iran’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
US prosecutors in 2021 charged four Iranians alleged to be intelligence operatives for Tehran with plotting to kidnap a New York-based journalist and activist. While the target of the plot was not named, Reuters confirmed she was Alinejad.
Amirov was arrested on Thursday and will have a pretrial hearing in federal court in Manhattan later on Friday. Omarov was arrested in the Czech Republic earlier this month, and the US is seeking his extradition.
The US in 2011 arrested one man it said was linked to an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington at the time at a restaurant he frequented in the capital.
Washington accuses Tehran of backing terrorism and pursuing nuclear arms, charges Iran denies.


Protests against Qur’an burning held across the Middle East

Protests against Qur’an burning held across the Middle East
Updated 27 January 2023

Protests against Qur’an burning held across the Middle East

Protests against Qur’an burning held across the Middle East
  • The protests in countries including Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon ended with people dispersing peacefully
  • Swedish officials have stressed that freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Swedish Constitution

BEIRUT: Protests were held Friday in several predominantly Muslim countries to denounce the recent desecration of Islam’s holy book by far-right activists in Sweden and the Netherlands.
The protests in countries including Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon ended with people dispersing peacefully. In Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad, police officers stopped some demonstrators trying to march toward the Swedish Embassy.
About 12,000 Islamists from the Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan party rallied in Lahore, the capital of the eastern Punjab province to denounce the desecration of the Qur’an in the two European countries. In his speech to the demonstrators, Saad Rizvi, the head of the TLP, asked the government to lodge a strong protest with Sweden and the Netherlands so that such incidents don’t happen again.
Similar rallies were also held in the southern city of Karachi and in the northwest.
Friday’s rallies dispersed peacefully. However, Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan in recent years has held violent rallies over the publication of caricatures of Islam’s prophet in France and elsewhere in the world.
In the Iranian capital of Tehran, hundreds of people marched after Friday prayers during which they burned a Swedish flag.
In Beirut, about 200 angry protesters burned the flags of Sweden and the Netherlands outside the blue-domed Mohammed Al-Amin mosque at Beirut’s central Martyrs Square.
Earlier this month, Rasmus Paludan, a far-right activist from Denmark, received permission from police to stage a protest outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm where he burned the Qur’an.
Days later, Edwin Wagensveld, Dutch leader of the far-right Pegida movement in the Netherlands, tore pages out of a copy of the Qur’an near the Dutch Parliament and stomped on them.
The moves angered millions of Muslims around the world and triggered protests.
On Friday, Paludan, who holds both Danish and Swedish citizenship, told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that he would replicate the protest in front of the Turkish Embassy in Copenhagen every Friday until Sweden is admitted into NATO.
Turkiye’s state-run Anadolu Agency said the Danish ambassador was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry where Turkish officials “strongly condemned the permission given to this provocative act which clearly constitutes a hate crime.”
Swedish officials have stressed that freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Swedish Constitution and gives people extensive rights to express their views publicly, though incitement to violence or hate speech isn’t allowed. Demonstrators must apply to police for a permit for a public gathering. Police can deny such permits only on exceptional grounds, such as risks to public safety.
Iraq’s powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr asked in comments released Friday whether freedom of speech means offending other people’s beliefs. He asked why “doesn’t the burning of the gays’ rainbow flag represent freedom of expression.”
The cleric added that burning the Qur’an “will bring divine anger.”
Hundreds of his supporters gathered outside a mosque in Baghdad waving copies of the Qur’an.


Cybersecurity expert stresses need for measures to combat cybercrime

Cybersecurity expert stresses need for measures to combat cybercrime
Updated 27 January 2023

Cybersecurity expert stresses need for measures to combat cybercrime

Cybersecurity expert stresses need for measures to combat cybercrime
  • Prevention most efficient, least expensive method said former CIA member Christensen Guillermo
  • The US is the country most vulnerable to digital crimes of all kinds

KUWAIT: A US cybersecurity expert says preventive measures must be developed to combat increasing rates of cybercrime that poses a real threat to companies and institutions worldwide.
“Prevention is the most efficient and least expensive method, financially and morally, compared to reaction measures after the occurrence of a cybercrime,” Guillermo Christensen, a former US Central Intelligence Agency member and diplomat, told Kuwait’s News Agency in an interview on Friday.
He pointed out that the US is the country most vulnerable to digital crimes of all kinds, due to its large number of access points and computers.
Protecting networks in different countries, especially Kuwait, and supporting its security will positively affect the cybersecurity of the US directly, added Christensen.
During a weeklong visit, the former CIA officer has been presenting lectures and workshops directed at specialists in the field of cybersecurity across various sectors.
He stressed that sharing knowledge and experiences and discussing different cybercrime scenarios will help countries and their institutions avoid crises that may be posed by the penetration of digital space and data.
Cybercrimes are on the increase, as a report issued in 2020 by the US Federal Bureau of Investigations indicates that the number of cyberattacks daily exceeds 2,000 around the world, and that the total material losses over the past year amounted to $4.2 billion, he pointed out.
Christensen referred to a number of documented cyberattacks around the world, through which cybercriminals were able to paralyze the movement of fuel and energy pipelines, in addition to attacks on a number of hospitals, indicating that these attacks caused severe damage in various fields and caused the loss of many lives.
He advised people not to use the same password in different accounts such as email and social media, and to make it more difficult and complex by adding non-sequential numbers in addition to using the two-step verification technology provided by many digital services and programs.