For the 105th time, UN calls on Syrian regime to come clean about its chemical weapons

For the 105th time, UN calls on Syrian regime to come clean about its chemical weapons
In October 2013, Syria submitted to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons a formal initial declaration about its chemical weapons program, including a plan for the destruction of its stockpiles. (UN)
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Updated 21 July 2022

For the 105th time, UN calls on Syrian regime to come clean about its chemical weapons

For the 105th time, UN calls on Syrian regime to come clean about its chemical weapons
  • The UN’s disarmament chief said Damascus continues to refuse to cooperate and answer questions related to its alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people
  • Russia’s envoy accused the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons of being unprofessional and guilty of “longstanding bias” against the Syrian regime

NEW YORK: The Syrian regime is still failing to comply with a Security Council resolution ordering the destruction of its chemical weapon stockpiles, the UN said on Wednesday.

Damascus also continues to withhold information related to its alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people, has failed to give a consistent explanation for the presence of traces of chemical warfare nerve agents at the sites of several attacks, and refuses to grant an entry visa to a key member of a UN assessment team, said Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN’s under-secretary-general and high representative for disarmament affairs.

She was delivering her 105th briefing to the Security Council on the implementation of Resolution 2118, which was unanimously adopted in September 2013 following a UN investigation that confirmed the use of chemical weapons against civilians in a Damascus suburb the previous month. Images of people, including children, suffocating after breathing in the nerve agent caused outrage worldwide.

The resolution called on the Syrian regime to destroy its stockpiles of chemical weapons by mid-2014 and set out punitive measures in the event of non-compliance. It also banned Syria from using, developing, producing, acquiring, stockpiling or retaining chemical weapons, or transferring them to other states or non-state actors.

In October 2013, Syria submitted to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons a formal initial declaration about its chemical weapons program, including a plan for the destruction of its stockpiles.

Nine years later, Nakamitsu said, the declaration and responses to 20 outstanding issues with it remain riddled with gaps and inconsistencies and still cannot be considered accurate.

One of those issues concerns a facility Syrian authorities said has never been used to produce chemical weapons. However, information and evidence gathered by the OPCW since 2014 indicates that the production or weaponization of chemical warfare nerve agents did indeed take place there.

Nakamitsu once again called on the Syrian government to disclose the types and quantities of chemical agents produced or weaponized at the site. It has not responded to repeated demands for this information.

Another issue, Nakamitsu said, is the Syrian government’s “unauthorized movement” of two chlorine cylinders found at the scene of a chemical weapon attack in the city of Douma in April 2018. The regime has said the cylinders were destroyed as a result of the purported attack, but Nakamitsu again urged Damascus to disclose the whereabouts of the cylinders “with the necessary urgency.”

She added that full cooperation with the OPCW is required to resolve the outstanding issues, and lamented the regime’s refusal to grant an entry visa to a prominent member of the Declaration Assessment Team, which has stalled the 25th round of consultations in Damascus between the team and the Syrian government.

“I urge the government of the Syrian Arab Republic (to) facilitate arrangements for the deployment of the DAT (by) allowing immediate and unfettered access for all personnel designated by the OPCW Secretariat as soon as possible,” she said.

Dimitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, described Nakamitsu’s remarks as part of a “pattern” designed to create the impression that Syrian authorities are not being cooperative.

He said the regime is in full compliance with its obligations to the OPCW. The envoy accused the organization of “longstanding bias against Damascus,” and its fact-finding mission of spreading misinformation and shaping its reports “to fit the narrative of Damascus guilt.” He also rejected “any report” it produces as “an illegitimate product of an illegitimate body.”

Polyanskiy accused western countries of politicizing the OPCW and undermining its ability to “confront real threats,” including “evidence of terrorist groups in the Middle East having access to chemical warfare agents,” saying: “(Daesh) has a full-fledged chemical program but no measure to counter it is ever heard about.”

The UAE’s Shahad Matar reiterated her country’s “explicit rejection and condemnation of the use of chemical weapons under any circumstances, by anyone and in any place, where its use constitutes a flagrant violation of the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention and intentional law.”

She told members of the Security Council that “engaging in constructive dialogue is essential to assess the status of the outstanding issues and make progress in this file, which requires the concerned authorities to find a consensual solution.”

Matar stressed the need to completely eradicate chemical weapons and prevent any party from obtaining or using them, “whether in Syria or outside it,” warning of the danger that such weapons could fall into the hands of terrorist groups that seek to acquire them for “dangerous ends.”

She also called the council to strengthen its efforts to combat Daesh and “prevent it from regrouping and acquiring chemical weapons,” as the terrorist group attempts to develop its combat capability.


Iran judiciary opens probe into death of teenage girl

Iran judiciary opens probe into death of teenage girl
Updated 9 min 44 sec ago

Iran judiciary opens probe into death of teenage girl

Iran judiciary opens probe into death of teenage girl
  • The street violence has led to the deaths of dozens of people

TEHRAN: Iran’s judiciary has opened an investigation into the death of a teenage girl, who was reportedly killed during protests over the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
A wave of unrest has rocked Iran since Amini died on September 16 after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly failing to observe the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.
The street violence has led to the deaths of dozens of people — mostly protesters but also members of the security forces.
“A case has been filed in the criminal court to investigate the cause of Nika Shakrami’s death,” Tehran prosecutor Ali Salehi was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency late Tuesday.
“An order to investigate the case has been issued and necessary measures are being taken in this regard,” he added.
Earlier, the prosecutor said 400 protesters were released from prison “on condition of not repeating their actions.”
He stressed, however, that those “who acted against national security” will be dealt with “decisively, seriously and without leniency.”


Lebanese MP Cynthia Zarazir enters Byblos Bank north of Beirut to demand frozen savings

Lebanese MP Cynthia Zarazir enters Byblos Bank north of Beirut to demand frozen savings
Updated 31 min 38 sec ago

Lebanese MP Cynthia Zarazir enters Byblos Bank north of Beirut to demand frozen savings

Lebanese MP Cynthia Zarazir enters Byblos Bank north of Beirut to demand frozen savings
  • First-time parliamentarian enters bank unarmed and demands $8,500 in cash
  • Bank offers a rate of 8,000 pounds to the dollar, an 80 percent cut on the value of her funds

A Lebanese member of parliament entered a branch of Byblos Bank north of Beirut on Wednesday with a group of associates to demand access to her frozen savings to pay for surgery.

Cynthia Zarazir, a first-time parliamentarian who was elected in May to represent Beirut, entered the bank unarmed and demanded $8,500 in cash, she said.

“We’ve spent a few days going back and forth to the bank and bringing my (medical) reports and they don’t answer us. I can’t delay this any more. I came to take my money,” Zarazir said by telephone from the bank.

“Today, I came as a I don’t care what my colleagues in the parliament will think. I see right from wrong,” she said.

 

 

A citizen also opened fire on a Bank of Beirut branch in Jbeil after guards prevented him from getting into the bank without a prior appointment, the Lebanese State Agency reported.

The man reportedly pulled out a machine gun from his car and opened fire on the bank, causing damage to the glass door. Security forces arrested him on the scene for further investigations.

Cases of bank hold-ups and protests have snowballed across Lebanon recently as depositors have grown exasperated over informal capital controls that banks have imposed since an economic downturn began in 2019.

Depositors can only withdraw limited amounts in US dollars or the Lebanese pound, which has lost more than 95 percent of its value since the crisis began.

The bank branch shut down after Zarazir entered and a spokesperson for Byblos Bank at its headquarters was not immediately available for comment.

Zarazir said she had rejected an offer from the bank to withdraw an unlimited amount in Lebanese pounds at a rate of 8,000 pounds to the dollar — which would represent a roughly 80 percent haircut on the value of her funds.

“She has not broken the law in any way. She went into her bank to ask for her money. She didn’t even shut the bank down — the management did that,” said Fouad Debs, her lawyer and a founder of the Depositors’ Union advocacy group.

He accompanied Zarazir and spoke to Reuters from the bank, saying the sit-in would continue until the lawmaker had access to her funds.

Tuesday saw four hold-ups across Lebanon, two of them involving armed men demanding their deposits.

Another incident took place on Monday.

Separately, an unidentified assailant fired shots at a Beirut Bank branch in the northern town of Byblos on Wednesday, a security source said.

There were no injuries and the assailant fled, the source said.

Lebanon’s banking association has expressed outrage over the hold-ups. A similar surge last month prompted banks to close for about a week.


Newest Hindu temple officially opens its doors to UAE residents

Newest Hindu temple officially opens its doors to UAE residents
Updated 05 October 2022

Newest Hindu temple officially opens its doors to UAE residents

Newest Hindu temple officially opens its doors to UAE residents

DUBAI: The newest Hindu temple in Dubai opened its doors to worshippers on Tuesday following an official ceremony. 
The new Hindu House of Worship officially welcomed worshippers for the first time following its inaugural by the UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence. 
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan inaugurated the temple by lighting a lantern in the temple’s multi-purpose hall on the ground floor, Al-Khaleej Times reported. 

People visit the newly inaugurated Hindu Temple in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, October 4, 2022. (Reuters)


The new temple in Jebel Ali is the latest addition to what is locally known as “village of worship” which already houses nine religious shrines, including seven churches, the Guru Nanak Darbar and Sikh Gurudwara. 
The ceremony was also attended by the Indian ambassador to UAE and over 200 dignitaries, including officials, faith leaders, and members of the Indian community in UAE.

 


Yemen reviews humanitarian projects amid renewed Houthi attacks

Yemen reviews humanitarian projects amid renewed Houthi attacks
Updated 05 October 2022

Yemen reviews humanitarian projects amid renewed Houthi attacks

Yemen reviews humanitarian projects amid renewed Houthi attacks
  • Saudi Arabia is implementing a project to drill and operate 10 replacement wells using solar energy in Aden
  • Kuwait-funded projects are being established under Altwasul for Human Development to serve the displaced in Marib

ADEN: Yemeni officials reviewed humanitarian projects as the government seeks to intensify relief efforts amid a renewed escalation in conflict after the Houthis refused to extend the United Nations-brokered truce.
On Tuesday, Saudi Program for Yemen’s Development and Reconstruction briefed officials on a project to drill and operate 10 replacement wells using solar energy in Aden.
The team also reviewed the proposed sites for a solar-powered seawater desalination plant with a capacity of 10,000 cubic meters a day.
“Such projects will largely contribute to enhancing water security in Aden,” said Engr. Mohammed Bakhbeira, director general of the Local Water and Sanitation Corporation in Aden.
Abd Rabbo Muftah, the Undersecretary of Marib governorate, also reviewed some ongoing Kuwait-funded projects being established under Altwasul for Human Development to serve the critical needs of the displaced and the host community in the province.
He was briefed on the progress of a women and children hospital north of Marib, which was 20 percent complete, and the efforts to install a $500,000 oxygen plant in a public hospital with a capacity of 300 cylinders a day.
Badr Ma’awn, Secretary-General of the Local Council in Aden, meanwhile reviewed the implementation of humanitarian projects under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He praised the UN’s efforts in assisting war-affected families and the displaced in Aden amid the current situation in Yemen.
Heavy fighting has earlier erupted between government troops and Houthis across Yemen after the Iran-backed group refused to renew a UN-brokered truce that expired on Sunday.
The fiercest battles took place outside the central city of Marib and in Al-Fakher area of Dhale province, according to officials.


Iran summons British ambassador after ‘interventionist comments’

Iran summons British ambassador after ‘interventionist comments’
Updated 05 October 2022

Iran summons British ambassador after ‘interventionist comments’

Iran summons British ambassador after ‘interventionist comments’
  • Britain’s foreign ministry had summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires over crackdown on protests

DUBAI: Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the British ambassador in Tehran in reaction to “interventionist comments” from the British foreign ministry, the semi-official news agency Tasnim reported on Wednesday.
“The British side, by issuing unilateral statements, shows that it has a role in the belligerent scenarios of terrorists active against the Islamic Republic,” the director general of Western Europe at Iran’s foreign ministry added, after saying that London’s remarks on Iran’s internal affairs were “based on fake and provocative interpretations.”
Britain’s foreign ministry said on Monday it had summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires, Iran’s most senior diplomat in Britain, over the crackdown on protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in custody.
The British envoy in Tehran was summoned on Tuesday.
The Iranian official added Tehran will consider possible options in response to any unusual actions from Britain.
A 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman, Amini was arrested on Sept. 13 by the morality police in Tehran for wearing “unsuitable attire.”