Senegal signs peace deal with rebels in country’s south

Senegal signs peace deal with rebels in country’s south
Senegal’s President Macky Sall speaks during a press conference at the presidential palace in Dakar, Senegal. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 05 August 2022

Senegal signs peace deal with rebels in country’s south

Senegal signs peace deal with rebels in country’s south
  • The signed document remains confidential for the time being

BISSAU: Senegal signed an agreement on Thursday with rebels from the country’s south who pledged to lay down their arms and work toward a permanent peace in the home of one of Africa’s oldest active rebellions.
Rebel leader Cesar Atoute Badiate, head of a unit of the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), and an emissary of Senegalese President Macky Sall signed the peace deal in Guinea-Bissau.
Sall had made a “definitive peace” in the Casamance region one of the priorities of his second term.
“How many people died, (were) mutilated or left their village? We will accompany you in the search for peace,” Guinea-Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embalo told Badiate during the signing ceremony.
Embalo, who is also head of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), added: “I can assure you that we will be the guarantors of this agreement.”
The signed document remains confidential for the time being.
“I welcome the peace agreement and laying down of arms signed this August 4 in Bissau between Senegal and the provisional committee of the political and combatant wings of the MFDC,” Sall said on Twitter.
“I remain committed to the consolidation of lasting peace in Casamance,” he added, thanking Embalo for his mediation.
Casamance, Senegal’s southernmost region, is almost separated from the rest of the country by the tiny state of The Gambia. It has a distinct culture and language derived from its past as a former Portuguese colony.
The MFDC has led a low-intensity separatist campaign since 1982 that has claimed several thousand lives.
But the conflict was mostly dormant until Senegal launched a major offensive last year to drive out the rebels.
In a clash on January 24, four Senegalese soldiers were killed and seven were captured alive and taken across the border to The Gambia. The rebels released the hostages the following month.
In March, the army launched a new operation in which it claimed to have destroyed several rebel bases for the loss of one soldier and eight wounded.


Ukraine’s Zelensky hosts talks with UN chief, Turkey leader

Ukraine’s Zelensky hosts talks with UN chief, Turkey leader
Updated 56 min 44 sec ago

Ukraine’s Zelensky hosts talks with UN chief, Turkey leader

Ukraine’s Zelensky hosts talks with UN chief, Turkey leader
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is hosting both men Thursday far away from the front lines
  • UN spokesman: Three leaders will discuss situation at Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

LVIV, Ukraine: As a potential power broker, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will use his first visit to Ukraine since the war started nearly six months ago to seek ways to expand grain exports fom Europe’s breadbasket to the world’s needy. UN Secretary-General António Guterres will use his visit to focus on containing the volatile situation at a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is hosting both men Thursday far away from the front lines, in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, where diplomatic efforts to help end the war will also be on the agenda.
Meanwhile, the screams of incoming shells are still overpowering the whispers of diplomacy.
At least 11 people were killed and 40 wounded in massive Russian missile strikes on Ukraine’s Kharkiv region on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. The late Wednesday attack on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, killed at least seven people, wounded 20 others and damaged residential buildings and civilian infrastructure, authorities said.
The Russian Defense Ministry on Thursday claimed it targeted “a temporary base of foreign mercenaries” in Kharkiv, killing 90 of them.
Further heightening international tensions, Russia has deployed warplanes carrying its state-of-the-art hypersonic missiles to the country’s Kaliningrad region, an enclave surrounded by two NATO nations.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the three leaders will also discuss the situation at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, which is Europe’s largest nuclear plant. Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling the complex.
In his nightly video address, Zelensky reaffirmed his demand for the Russian military to leave the plant, emphasizing that “only absolute transparency and control of the situation” by, among others, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, could guarantee a return to nuclear safety.
Russia played up the threats the plant posed in wartime. Lt. Gen. Igor Kirillov, the commander of the Russian military’s radiological, chemical and biological protection forces, charged that the Ukrainian troops were planning to strike the plant again Friday while Guterres will still be visiting Ukraine in order to accuse Russia of nuclear terrorism. Ukraine has steadfastly denied that it’s targeting the plant.
Kirillov said an emergency at the plant could see “a discharge of radioactive substances into the atmosphere and spreading them to hundreds of kilometers away ... An emergency of this kind will cause massive migration and will have more catastrophic consequences than the looming gas energy crisis in Europe.”
With such stakes, the role of a go-between like Erdogan could become ever more important.
Erdogan, whose nation is a member of NATO, which backs Ukraine in the war, also oversees a wobbly economy that has been increasingly reliant on Russia for trade. That backdrop turns Thursday’s meetings in Lviv into a walk on a diplomatic tightrope. Earlier this month, the Turkish leader met in southern Russia on the same issues with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Erdogan is to have a one-hour meeting with Zelensky before both are joined by Guterres.
Last month, Turkey and the UN helped broker an agreement clearing the way for Ukraine to export 22 million tons of corn and other grain stuck in its Black Sea ports since Russia invaded on Feb. 24. A separate memorandum between Russia and the UN aimed to clear roadblocks to shipments of Russian food and fertilizer to world markets.
The war and the blocked exports have significantly exacerbated the global food crisis because Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers.
Grain prices peaked after Russia’s invasion. They have since dropped but remain significantly higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Developing countries have been hit particularly hard by supply shortages and high prices and the UN has declared several African nations at risk of famine.
Yet even with the deal, only a trickle of Ukrainian grain exports have made it out so far. Turkey’s Defense Ministry said more than 622,000 tons of grain have been shipped from Ukrainian ports since the deal.
If grain transports and nuclear security are issues where some progress could be made Thursday, talks about an overall end to the war that has killed untold thousands and forced over 10 million Ukrainians to flee their homes weren’t expected to yield anything substantive.
In March, Turkey hosted a round of talks in Istanbul between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators, who discussed a possible deal to end the hostilities. The talks fell apart, with both sides blaming each other.
Erdogan has engaged in a delicate balancing act, maintaining good relations with both Russia and Ukraine. Turkey has provided Ukraine with drones, which played a significant role in deterring a Russian advance early in the conflict, but it has refrained from joining Western sanctions against Russia over the war.
Turkey, facing a major economic crisis with official inflation near 80 percent, increasingly relies on Russia for trade and tourism. Russian gas covers 45 percent of Turkish energy needs, and Russia’s atomic agency is building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.
Sinan Ulgen of the Istanbul-based EDAM think thank characterized Turkey’s diplomatic policy as being “pro-Ukraine without being anti-Russia.”
During their meeting in Sochi this month, Putin and Erdogan agreed to bolster energy, financial and other ties between their countries, raising concerns in the West that Ankara could help Moscow bypass the US and European Union sanctions.
“Turkey believed that it did not have the luxury to totally alienate Russia,” Ulgen said noting that Turkey also needed Russia’s support in Syria to avert a new refugee crisis. “Turkey has a dependence on Russia in the area of national security.”
He noted that Turkey has not recognized Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimea Peninsula from Ukraine but “at the same time it’s the only NATO country not to have implemented sanctions against Russia.”


Salman Rushdie attack suspect to appear in court Thursday

Salman Rushdie attack suspect to appear in court Thursday
Updated 18 August 2022

Salman Rushdie attack suspect to appear in court Thursday

Salman Rushdie attack suspect to appear in court Thursday
  • The suspect earlier appeared in a county court and pleaded not guilty to one count of second-degree attempted murder

MAYVILLE, New York: The man suspected of stabbing novelist Salman Rushdie last week in western New York will appear in court for arraignment on Thursday afternoon, the prosecutor said.
Hadi Matar, 24, is accused of wounding Rushdie, 75, on Friday just before the “The Satanic Verses” author was to deliver a lecture on stage at an educational retreat near Lake Erie.
He is scheduled for an arraignment at 1 p.m. EDT, Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt said in an email.
The suspect appeared in a county court on Saturday and pleaded not guilty to one count of second-degree attempted murder and an additional count of assault in the second degree after a criminal complaint filed by prosecutors.
He was remanded without bail.
The attack comes 33 years after Iran’s then-supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling on Muslims to assassinate Rushdie the year after “The Satanic Verses” was published.
The Indian-born writer has since lived with a bounty on his head over the book, which some Muslims say contains blasphemous passages about Islam.
In 1998, Iran’s pro-reform government of President Mohammad Khatami distanced itself from the fatwa, saying the threat against Rushdie — who had lived in hiding for nine years — was over. But in 2019, Twitter suspended Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s account over a tweet that said the fatwa against Rushdie was “irrevocable.”
Political leaders, including in those in the United States and Britain, have called last week’s attack an assault on free speech.
In an interview published by the New York Post on Wednesday, Matar said he respected Khomeini but would not say if he was inspired by the fatwa. He said he had “read a couple of pages” of “The Satanic Verses” and watched YouTube videos of the author.
“I don’t like him very much,” Matar said of Rushdie, as reported in the Post. “He’s someone who attacked Islam, he attacked their beliefs, the belief systems.”
Iran’s foreign ministry on Monday said that Tehran should not be accused of being involved in the attack. Matar is believed to have acted alone and the motive was not known, police have said.
His defense attorney, Nathaniel Barone, said he was left in the dark about the Post interview and had not authorized any conversation with outside sources.
Matar, who is of Lebanese descent, is a Shiite Muslim American who was born in California.
Prosecutors say he took a bus to Chautauqua Institution, a retreat about 12 miles (19 km) from Lake Erie, where he bought a pass to Rushdie’s lecture, according to the New York Times.
Witnesses said there were no obvious security checks and that Matar did not speak as he attacked the author. He was arrested at the scene by a state trooper after being wrestled to the ground by audience members.
Rushdie sustained severe injuries in the attack, including nerve damage in his arm, liver wounds and the likely loss of an eye, his agent said.


Russia says Ukraine planning ‘provocation’ at nuclear plant; Kyiv dismisses accusation

Russia says Ukraine planning ‘provocation’ at nuclear plant; Kyiv dismisses accusation
Updated 18 August 2022

Russia says Ukraine planning ‘provocation’ at nuclear plant; Kyiv dismisses accusation

Russia says Ukraine planning ‘provocation’ at nuclear plant; Kyiv dismisses accusation
  • A Ukrainian official dismissed what he depicted as a cynical assertion by Moscow
  • Russian forces should leave the plant they captured soon after invading Ukraine nearly six months ago

LONDON: Russia said on Thursday there was a risk of a manmade disaster at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and accused Kyiv and the West of planning “provocation” there on Friday during a visit to Ukraine by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
A Ukrainian official dismissed what he depicted as a cynical assertion by Moscow and said Russian forces should leave the plant they captured soon after invading Ukraine nearly six months ago, demine it and remove any munitions stored there.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor complex (ZNPP), the largest in Europe, has come under repeated shelling, with both Moscow and Kyiv trading blame.
Russia says Ukrainian forces are recklessly firing at the plant, but Ukraine says Russia is deliberately using the reactor complex as a base to launch attacks against its population.
Russia’s foreign ministry said at a news briefing that a proposal from Guterres to demilitarise the area around the plant was “unacceptable.”
Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters Moscow was taking measures to ensure safety at the complex and denied it had deployed heavy weapons in and around the plant.
However, the ministry said a shutdown of the plant might be attempted if shelling continued.
Yevgeny Balitsky, head of the Russian-installed administration in Zaporizhzhia region, said earlier there was a risk that shelling could damage the cooling system of the reactor complex and was quoted as saying the plant was operating with only one unit.
It is not clear how the plant would be shut down, but the ministry said two of the plant’s six units may be put into “cold reserve.” The plant accounts for one-fifth of Ukraine’s annual electricity production.
Ukrainian state nuclear energy company Energoatom said shutting down the plant would increase the risk of “a radiation disaster at the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.” Disconnecting the complex’s generators from Ukraine’s power system would prevent them being used to keep nuclear fuel cool, in the event of a power outage at the plant, it said on the Telegram messaging app.

’PROVOCATION’
The Russian defense ministry accused Ukraine and what it called its “US handlers” of trying to stage a “minor accident” at the plant in southern Ukraine to blame Russia.
It said the “provocation” was timed to coincide with a visit to Ukraine by UN chief Guterres, who arrived in Lviv or Wednesday and was due to visit the Black Sea port of Odesa on Friday, and that it may involve a radiation leak.
Reuters could not verify Russia’s assertion.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, dismissed the Russian defense ministry’s remarks, saying it “laughs cynically.”
“There is a solution. You just need to take the (munitions)out of the halls, demine the buildings, release the plant’s personnel from cells, stop shelling (the southern city of) Nikopol from (the plant’s) territory and leave the station,” he wrote on Twitter.
In a briefing, Igor Kirillov, head of Russia’s radioactive, chemical and biological defense forces, said the plant’s back-up support systems had been damaged as a result of shelling.
Kirillov presented a slide, showing that in the event of an accident at the plant, radioactive material would cover Germany, Poland and Slovakia.
Guterres, who is set to meet Zelensky later on Thursday, has called for a halt to all fighting near the plant.


Former CIA station chief urges Biden to block Iran leader from attending UN General Assembly

Former CIA station chief urges Biden to block Iran leader from attending UN General Assembly
Updated 18 August 2022

Former CIA station chief urges Biden to block Iran leader from attending UN General Assembly

Former CIA station chief urges Biden to block Iran leader from attending UN General Assembly
  • Rogue nation attacks Saudi Arabia and US, says Norman Roule
  • Salman Rushdie assault ‘part of Tehran’s global terror’ plans

CHICAGO: Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi should be prevented from attending next month’s UN General Assembly because Tehran is complicit in the attack on novelist Salman Rushdie in New York on Aug. 12, and continues to foment violence and terrorism across the world.

This is the view of Norman Roule, the CIA’s former national intelligence manager for Iran, who said that President Joe Biden and the UN must send a strong message that Tehran’s actions will not be tolerated in an interview with Arab News’ Ray Hanania Show.

Roule said the attack on Rushdie by 24-year-old Hadi Matar, a Lebanese American from Fairview, New Jersey, was a “clear act of terrorism” that reflects a wider campaign of Iranian-sponsored violence that demands a forceful response from the US, its European allies and the UN.

 

“But I think because of the actions against the United States at this very sensitive time we need to send a message to the Iranian government that this will not be tolerated,” Roule told Arab News.

“It (banning Raisi from the UNGA) would also send a message to other adversaries and rogue states that there is a consequence to actions. And if you undertake these sorts of actions this is how you will have to endure diplomatic isolation. If Raisi comes to the United States (for the UNGA) it sends the reverse message. It sends the message that you can conduct these sorts of actions. You’ll get a statement by the state department spokesman. Maybe a tweet from a US official. Maybe a sanction against an organization that has no financial assets in the United States. But otherwise it is pretty much cost free. I think we really want to avoid that.”

If this had been an act of Al-Qaeda, Roule said, the reaction from the US and other European allies “would be different.” In the past, Roule noted, the US had a “robust program” to punish any action by Al-Qaeda for its terrorism, especially in the US.

If Biden does not ban Raisi from entering the US to attend the UNGA meeting in mid-September, then the next option would be to boycott Raisi’s speech, argued Roule, who is a non-resident fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

 

“It is a campaign of violence throughout the world by Iran. There have been actions in Argentina recently. There have been missiles fired, Iranian missiles fired from Yemen against the international population of Saudi Arabia. One other aspect that could happen is that when President Raisi speaks, representatives from those countries who are partners and allies could walk out of the room. That has been done also in the past,” said Roule who served in his post at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from 2008 until 2017.

“We cannot allow them to get away with this cost-free or it encourages further violence.”

Roule argued that past administrations have taken very decisive actions in response to terrorism including when former President Ronald Reagan launched an attack against Libya’s strongman Muammar Gaddafi after American personnel were targeted in Germany.

 

“We have had a series of Iranian actions almost always involving other nationals beyond Iranian officials because it allows Iran to conduct actions that are attributable to Iran so it gets its message (across) but in a sense it is deniable,” Roule said.

“What the United States and also Europe have done is I think a dangerous strategy. They are following a dangerous strategy. In essence we pursue the local actor under law enforcement aspects and then we make public statements ascribing the action to Iran and threatening privately or publicly severe consequences if someone succeeds. In most cases, Iran’s actions fail.

“But in essence we are sending a message that they are swinging the bat at killing Americans and we have had a number of attempts by Iran this year that have been frustrated per press reports. But we don’t punish them for the effort, which in essence encourages them to continue to try these actions. But also to put out propaganda on Twitter, (and on) the Supreme Leader’s account and other places, which encourage people to undertake actions that in essence satisfy Iran’s political goal.”

Roule said that Iran clearly is not only behind the attack on Rushdie, but also attempted to harm others including former UN Ambassador and US National Security Adviser John Bolton, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and leaders in other countries including Adel Al-Jubeir, the former Saudi foreign minister, who is currently the minister of state for foreign affairs and the Kingdom’s new climate envoy.

 

“Certainly Iran is responsible for creating a worldwide atmosphere, propagating an atmosphere that encouraged this action. Iran not only put out a fatwa which has been reaffirmed, not recently but not often but it has been reaffirmed. But Iran has actually increased the money in the pot it would pay for the violence against Salman Rushdie,” Roule said, noting that the passage of 33 years does not undermine the original death fatwa which was issued in 1989 but has never been revoked by Iran’s leaders.

“Iran is responsible for creating this sense that this (Rushdie attack) is a necessary action. I think we have got something that is identical to what Al-Qaeda did with its worldwide propaganda campaign instigating other acts of violence. So maybe Al-Qaeda didn’t undertake the specific act but actions were undertaken because people were informed on social media by a specific line of propaganda.”

Roule noted that Biden has threatened to pursue other actions to stop Iran’s terrorism but “hasn’t provided a lot of details” on this policy.

“It even underscores that when Iran makes a threat, that threat may eventually be achieved over time. There is a lesson there that the United States and the international community should have dealt with this fatwa differently, should not have tolerated the fact that the fatwa remained (intact), should not have tolerated the fact that Iran did not withdraw this. But we did, hoping that it sort of would drift into obscurity whereas there are plenty of people who follow the propaganda that Iran puts in social media and this individual acted accordingly,” Roule said.

Failure to respond to Iran over the Rushdie attack, and the other attacks, sends a “dangerous message,” Roule argued.

 

“In essence what we got is a situation in which we punish people we capture under law enforcement. We tell Iran privately and publicly we will respond to a successful attack,” Roule said.

“But failed attacks seem to provoke no response from not only the United States but also friends and our European partners. And I think this encourages individuals in Iran to think that there is no penalty for their efforts to conduct terrorism in the United States and elsewhere.”

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington D.C. including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.


Wildfires in Portugal, Spain contained

Wildfires in Portugal, Spain contained
Updated 18 August 2022

Wildfires in Portugal, Spain contained

Wildfires in Portugal, Spain contained
  • The fires in both countries followed punishing heatwaves and long dry spells, leaving forests parched and primed to burn
  • With more hot weather forecast, however, there were fears it could flare up again

LISBON: Massive wildfires in Portugal and Spain were largely under control Thursday after forcing thousands from their homes and destroying large swathes of land.
The fires in both countries followed punishing heatwaves and long dry spells, leaving forests parched and primed to burn.
In Portugal, over 1,000 firefighters were still deployed in the Serra da Estrela national park, but the blaze was mostly contained after days of burning out of control.
With more hot weather forecast, however, there were fears it could flare up again.
“The fire is under control, but it is not extinguished. Consolidation work will continue in the coming days,” civil protection commander Miguel Oliveira told TSF radio.
“It is always possible, and very likely, that there will be new reactivations, but we hope that they do not take on worrying proportions,” he said.
The huge fire in central Portugal was brought under control last week, only to restart again Monday.
More than 25,000 hectares (nearly 61,800 acres) of land is estimated to have been scorched by the fire in the UNESCO-listed park, home to diverse wildlife species including wildcats and lizards.
Forecasts are predicting a fresh heatwave on Saturday, the latest in a string of hot spells in Portugal this year. July was the hottest on record in nearly a century.
Interior Minister Jose Luis Carneiro said Wednesday “we will experience increased risks” of fires in the coming days due to hot and dry conditions.
In neighboring Spain, rain and lower temperatures eased pressure on firefighters who for days have been battling two major fires in the eastern Valencia region, officials said Thursday.
“Finally, some good news: the rain and the drop in temperatures have helped to contain the fire in Vall d’Ebo,” regional leader Ximo Puig tweeted late Wednesday.
He hoped the conditions would also “help stabilize the fire in Bejis” further north.
By Thursday morning, there were “few visible flames left,” Puig told Cadena Ser radio, as the emergency services said the rain had almost completely put out the fires.
The two wildfires had forced the evacuation of 3,000 people and burnt their way through some 25,000 hectares.
So far this year, Spain has been hit by 391 wildfires, which have destroyed over 283,000 hectares of land in total, the latest figures from the European Forest Fire Information System show.
This year’s fires in Spain have been particularly devastating, destroying more than three times the area consumed by wildfires in the whole of 2021, which totalled over 84,000 hectares, the figures show.
In Portugal, some 92,000 hectares have burned this year, according to the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests, in the worst fires since 2017 when around 100 people were killed.
Experts say climate change driven by human activity is boosting the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts and wildfires.