UN calls for ‘urgent’ solutions to Iraq political crisis

UN calls for ‘urgent’ solutions to Iraq political crisis
Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr hold posters with his photo during a sit-in protest, in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 04 August 2022

UN calls for ‘urgent’ solutions to Iraq political crisis

UN calls for ‘urgent’ solutions to Iraq political crisis
  • Nearly 10 months on from elections, the oil-rich country still has no government and no new prime minister or president

BAGHDAD: The UN mission in Iraq called on leaders on Wednesday to put their country first and end a long-running political power struggle, as tensions soar in the war-scarred nation.

Nearly 10 months on from elections, the oil-rich country still has no government and no new prime minister or president.

“We appeal to all actors to commit, actively engage and agree on solutions without delay,” the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq said in a statement.

“Leaders must prioritize (the) national interest,” it said.

On Wednesday, followers of powerful Shiite preacher and political kingmaker Muqtada Al-Sadr continued a mass sit-in at parliament for a fifth day.

The Sadr bloc opposes a nomination for prime minister by the Coordination Framework, a rival, Iran-backed Shiite faction.

Outgoing Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has called for a “national dialogue” in a bid to bring all sides together to talk, and on Wednesday spoke with President Barham Saleh.

Both men stressed the importance of “guaranteeing security and stability” in the country, according to the Iraqi News Agency.

“Meaningful dialogue among all Iraqi parties is now more urgent than ever, as recent events have demonstrated the rapid risk of escalation in this tense political climate,” the UN mission warned.

On Tuesday, a top Sadrist official gave followers 72 hours to shift their protests from the main meeting halls of parliament to the entrance of the building and a surrounding encampment.

“Iraq is facing an extensive list of outstanding domestic issues: It is in desperate need of economic reform, effective public service delivery as well as a federal budget — to name a few,” the UN added.

“Hence, it is past time for political stakeholders to assume their responsibilities and act in the national interest.”

Iraq is the second largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and derives 90 percent of federal revenue from oil.

But it has still not adopted its budget for 2022.

In June, parliament passed an emergency finance bill, to ensure gas supplies and buy grain for “food security.”


Depositors storm Lebanon banks to demand their frozen money

Depositors storm Lebanon banks to demand their frozen money
Updated 23 min 51 sec ago

Depositors storm Lebanon banks to demand their frozen money

Depositors storm Lebanon banks to demand their frozen money
  • Banks shuttered their branches last week after a spate of holdups by angry depositors

BEIRUT: Outraged bank clients, at least two of them armed, stormed four commercial banks across Lebanon on Tuesday over withdrawal limits that have been imposed throughout the country amid a financial meltdown.

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

On Tuesday morning, a Lebanese man armed with a pistol and a grenade entered the Chtaura branch of BLC Bank, demanding access to his $24,000 in savings, according to Depositors’ Outcry, a group campaigning for angry depositors.

The group said in a statement that the man, identified as Ali Al-Sahli, was in deep debt and also needed to wire money to his son, who was studying in Ukraine.

Al-Sahli, a retired officer who served in Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces, demanded $24,000 in trapped savings to transfer to his son, who owes rent and tuition fees in Ukraine.

“Count the money, before one of you dies,” Al-Sahli said in a video he recorded with one hand while waving a gun in the other.

“He had been trying to sell his kidney,” the group’s statement said.

Security forces later entered the bank and arrested Saheli before he could access any money, the group said.

BLC had no immediate comment.

 

 

Also on Tuesday, a group of people employed at a state power station in Lebanon’s north stormed the First National Bank Branch in the port city of Tripoli, according to witnesses.

They were angry over delays in having access to their salaries and fees they were being charged for the process, said their union representative Talal Hajjer from outside the bank.

In a third incident, an armed depositor briefly took hostages at Byblos Bank in the southern city of Tyre, according to the Depositors’ Association, another advocacy group.

It said he was carrying a pistol and demanding access to his savings amounting to $44,000.

After negotiations with the bank, he agreed to take 350 million Lebanese pounds in cash — worth nearly $9,000 at Tuesday’s market rate — which he handed to a relative before being taken into custody, the Depositors’ Association said. There was no immediate comment from Byblos Bank.

A fourth depositor staged a sit-in at IBL Bank in the Beirut suburb of Hazmieh, saying he would not leave until he was granted unfettered access to his account, Depositors’ Outcry said. It was not immediately clear if he was armed.

Last month, a spree of seven hold-ups in a single week saw the banking association announce a closure for about a week.

Five incidents have already rocked banks this week. On Monday, Lebanese depositor Zaher Khawaja and some associates managed to withdraw $11,750 from an account with more than $700,000 at the Haret Hreik branch of BLOM Bank.

BLOM said he was not armed and that it would investigate the incident.

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Iran launches test ‘tug’ into suborbital space

Iran launches test ‘tug’ into suborbital space
Updated 04 October 2022

Iran launches test ‘tug’ into suborbital space

Iran launches test ‘tug’ into suborbital space
  • Saman test spacecraft was built by the country’s Space Research Center
  • Iran has long pursued a space program saying it is aimed at peaceful purposes

TEHRAN, Iran: Iranian state media said Tuesday the government has launched a space tug capable of shifting satellites between orbits.
State TV said the Saman test spacecraft was built by the country’s Space Research Center and launched Monday by the Defense Ministry.
Hassan Salarieh, chief of the Islamic Republic’s space agency, told state TV that officials “hope to use and test the main tug in near future.” Iran unveiled the craft in 2017. A space tug can transfer a satellite from one orbit to another.
Iran has long pursued a space program saying it is aimed at peaceful purposes. The country has both a civilian and a military space program, which the US fears could be used to advance its ballistic missile program.
In June Tehran had launched a solid-fuel rocket into space and in August a Russian rocket successfully launched an Iranian Khayyam satellite into orbit. It’s named after Omar Khayyam, a Persian scientist who lived in the 11th and 12th centuries.
However, Iran has seen a series of mishaps and failed satellite launches over recent years
Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in April 2020 revealed its own secret space program by successfully launching a satellite into orbit. The Guard operates its own military infrastructure parallel to Iran’s regular armed forces.


Yemen seeks to implement developmental projects in Taiz

Yemen seeks to implement developmental projects in Taiz
Updated 04 October 2022

Yemen seeks to implement developmental projects in Taiz

Yemen seeks to implement developmental projects in Taiz
  • Work plans and challenges were reviewed ahead of finalizing projects under the Saudi Program for Yemen’s Development and Reconstruction

ADEN: Yemeni officials reviewed plans with charity organizations to implement developmental projects in Taiz as part of ongoing reconstruction efforts in the province.

On Monday, Taiz Governor Nabil Shamsan discussed work plans and challenges ahead of finalizing projects under the Saudi Program for Yemen’s Development and Reconstruction.
Yemen is working closely with Saudi Arabia to establish a college of medicine in Taiz University, construct a center to treat cancer and rehabilitate a road linking Taiz with Makha.
Shamsan said these sustainable projects aim to serve the people of Taiz, which remains under Houthi siege, and mitigate the effects that the war has left on vulnerable communities.
Meanwhile, Major General Abdul Karim Al-Sabri, the Undersecretary of Taiz Governorate for Defense and Security Affairs, discussed de-mining efforts with the HALO Trust, a Scottish charity organization specialized in clearing mines in war zones.
He vowed collaboration with the organization in surveying targeted areas, detecting the type of mines implanted and raising awareness among citizens on dealing with mines that might be encountered.
He said local authorities would facilitate the work with the organization to de-mine high-priority targeted areas and save lives.


Iran arrests prominent rights activists

Iran arrests prominent rights activists
Updated 04 October 2022

Iran arrests prominent rights activists

Iran arrests prominent rights activists
  • Iranian government has been referring to the protests as ‘riots’ and ‘sedition’ to suppress them

DUBAI: Iran’s crackdown against prominent individuals linked to ongoing protests in the country continues with the arrest of prominent human rights activists in Tehran.

Bahareh Hedayat, a university student, was detained early on October 3, Radio Farda reported, as the unrest hit a crescendo in Tehran and has hit far-flung provinces in open demonstration of grievances against rigid social restrictions, political repression and a failing economy.

Hedayat is a former political prisoner who has been arrested and imprisoned several times, the report noted, quoting the BBC.

Hossein Masumi, another political activist, was arrested on October 2 with his whereabouts unknown according to his family.

Meanwhile, a group of Iranian school girls were seen in viral footage expelling an education ministry official from their school premises, according to Iran International.

The London-based TV station shared the video saying the footage was taken at a school in Gohardasht of Karaj, west of Tehran. 

The protest actions, spurred by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while under detention by Iran’s morality police for alleged violations of the Islamic dress code, are on their third week despite government efforts to quell them.

The Iranian government has been referring to the protests as ‘riots’ and ‘sedition’ to suppress them, and being used as basis for the detention of key personalities.

 


UNRWA director visits Jenin refugee camp days after Israeli assault

UNRWA director visits Jenin refugee camp days after Israeli assault
Updated 04 October 2022

UNRWA director visits Jenin refugee camp days after Israeli assault

UNRWA director visits Jenin refugee camp days after Israeli assault
  • Adam Bouloukos said: ‘I witnessed the extent of the damage caused by the recent Israeli military operation. I saw fear and concern in school children’s eyes’
  • He added that the current level of violence in the camp, and across the West Bank, is at the highest level the agency has seen in years

JERUSALEM: Adam Bouloukos, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s director in the West Bank, has visited Jenin refugee camp, the Palestine News and Info Agency reported on Monday.

His visit came just days after a large-scale Israeli military assault on the camp last Wednesday that left four people dead and 44 injured.

During his visit to the camp, Bouloukos was shown an UNRWA clinic that was hit by bullets during the attack, which took place while patients and medical staff were inside. It provides healthcare services to about 35,000 people. He also visited a UNRWA school, where he met students and teachers.

“I witnessed the extent of the damage caused by the recent Israeli military operation,” Bouloukos said. “I saw fear and concern in schoolchildren’s eyes.

“The level of violence in Jenin camp, and across the West Bank, is the highest we have seen in years. Many Palestinians, including refugees, were killed or injured. Violence only brings loss of life, grief for families and instability.

“All parties to the conflict should protect civilians, including Palestine refugees. UN staff and facilities and civilian infrastructure must be kept out of harm’s way. I specifically call on the Israeli security forces to limit the use of excessive force and spare the loss of civilian life in Jenin and across the West Bank.”