Iraq powers agree to work toward snap elections following unrest

Iraq powers agree to work toward snap elections following unrest
A handout picture released on Sept. 5, 2022, shows (L to R) former PM Nouri al-Maliki, head of Iraq's al-Fateh Alliance Hadi Al-Amiri, PM Mustafa Kadhimi, President Barham Salih and Parliament Speaker Muhammad al-Halbousi attend a political meeting at the Governmental palace in Baghdad's Green Zone. (AFP)
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Updated 06 September 2022

Iraq powers agree to work toward snap elections following unrest

Iraq powers agree to work toward snap elections following unrest

JEDDAH: Iraq on Monday moved closer to a snap parliamentary election after crisis talks in Baghdad.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi chaired a meeting with President Barham Salih, UN representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and representatives from the Iran-backed Coordination Framework political bloc.

They “agreed to form a technical committee comprising the various political forces ... to bridge differences with the aim of reaching early elections,” Al-Kadhimi’s office said after the talks.

Representatives of the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr failed to attend the meeting, but the dissolution of parliament and an immediate election are key demands of Al-Sadr and his bloc.

Al-Sadr and his Iran-backed political rivals have been at odds since parliamentary elections in October last year. Al-Sadr won the largest share of seats but failed to form a majority government. Since then Iraq has been mired in political deadlock without a new government, president or prime minister.

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Al-Sadr’s rivals agree in principle to holding early polls but disagree on the mechanism. The cleric is demanding that the judiciary dissolve the legislature but the Coordination Framework insist parliament should convene to do this. The rival camps are also at odds over the electoral law that would govern the polls, which the Coordination Framework wants amended.

Monday’s talks came a week after Al-Sadr’s supporters stormed government headquarters in the capital’s fortified Green Zone and clashed with fighters from the Iran-backed Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi militia. More than 30 Sadrists were killed and hundreds injured in nearly 24 hours of violence that ended when the cleric called on his supporters to pull out.

However, Al-Sadr supporters in the central city of Najaf on Monday pledged allegiance to the cleric and said the fight was far from over. “Blood was spilt, but there is plenty more where that came from,” said Al-Sadr loyalist Moussa Abbas, 21. “For every martyr we lose, 10 will come in his place. The same way they sacrificed themselves for us, we will stand up for them.”

Another Sadrist, Sadeq Jaber, said: “We obey the orders of our leader and commander — whatever he wants, we are ready. All of us, with our children, houses and families, we are all under his command. There will continue to be martyrs as long as this ruling class is in power.”

Fadel Al-Bdeiri, a cleric in Najaf who supports Al-Sadr, said: “The people will either side with the Sadrist movement and wage this battle and secure their demands, or they side with the Framework and remain mired in the status quo. There can’t be a reconciliation between them.”


Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal launches first edition of Arab Climate Forum

Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal launches first edition of Arab Climate Forum
Updated 8 sec ago

Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal launches first edition of Arab Climate Forum

Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal launches first edition of Arab Climate Forum
  • AGFUND president says Arab countries are among most vulnerable to climate change

RIYADH: Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal, president of the Arab Gulf Program for Development (AGFUND), launched the first edition of the Arab Climate Forum on Sunday, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The forum, titled “Together to Strengthen Civil Society’s Contribution to Climate Action and Sustainability,” will assess the social, economic and environmental consequences of climate change.

Over two days, the agenda will include six axes: Climate change and sustainability, climate change and its impact on the most vulnerable groups, encouraging innovation for the benefit of adaptation and mitigation, climate change and fragile economic activities, integrating citizens and local communities in climate action, and the role of systemic change in green transformation.

As part of the ongoing preparations for COP27 in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh in November, the forum is being held in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Environment, the League of Arab States, AGFUND, the Arab Council for Childhood and Development and the Arab Network for NGOs.

Egyptian Minister of Environment Dr. Yasmine Fouad and Head of Social Affairs at the Arab League Ambassador Haifa Abu Ghazaleh are also taking part in the forum.

In his opening speech, Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal said that the world’s unprecedented climatic phenomena were not a coincidence. He argued that climate change should be fought by increasing the use of renewable energy sources as well as adaptation through proactive transformations.

The AGFUND president added that Arab countries are among the most vulnerable and affected regions in the world as a result of climate change and that effective climate action has become a common moral commitment for all, urging all development parties to take their responsibilities seriously and responsibly in order to keep the planet fit for sustainable living.

He lauded efforts to address climate challenges, including the Prince Talal International Prize for Development 2021, which has four branches dedicated to climate change. He noted that the four winners would be honored at COP27.
 


Hundreds protest in Turkey in support of Iranian women

Hundreds protest in Turkey in support of Iranian women
Updated 02 October 2022

Hundreds protest in Turkey in support of Iranian women

Hundreds protest in Turkey in support of Iranian women
  • In Istanbul, many Iranians were among the hundreds of people who chanted slogans against the Tehran regime and in support of Iranian women
  • Women held red roses, Iranian flags and signs bearing the words “women, life, freedom”

ISTANBUL: Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Turkey on Sunday to condemn Iran’s crackdown on women-led demonstrations sparked by a young woman’s death after her arrest by the country’s notorious morality police.
In Istanbul, many Iranians were among the hundreds of people who chanted slogans against the Tehran regime and in support of Iranian women.
Women held red roses, Iranian flags and signs bearing the words “women, life, freedom,” the battle cry of the protest movement that has rocked Iran and was triggered last month by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd.
In Diyarbakir, a southeastern city with a majority Kurdish population, around 200 people gathered brandishing photographs of Iranian women killed in the crackdown and a large banner with the slogan “women, life, freedom” in Kurdish, an AFP correspondent reported.
A demonstration in solidarity with Iranian women attended by hundreds of people was also held in the western city of Izmir on Saturday evening, according to images published on social media and verified by AFP.
At least 92 people have been killed in Iran since the start of the protests two weeks ago, Norway-based NGO Iran Human Rights said on Sunday.


Tehran seals border with Pakistan amid deadly crackdown in neighboring Iranian city

Tehran seals border with Pakistan amid deadly crackdown in neighboring Iranian city
Updated 02 October 2022

Tehran seals border with Pakistan amid deadly crackdown in neighboring Iranian city

Tehran seals border with Pakistan amid deadly crackdown in neighboring Iranian city
  • Iranian state media say five IRGC and Basiji personnel killed in Zahedan
  • Local journalists and activists estimate at least 50 protesters killed by security forces

QUETTA: Iran sealed a main crossing point with Pakistan on Sunday amid deadly unrest and a crackdown on protesters in Zahedan, a southeastern Iranian city near the border.

Violence broke out in the capital of the Iranian Sistan and Balochistan province during Friday prayers, after worshipers in the city’s Makki Mosque called for a protest over the rape of a 15-year-old girl, allegedly by a local military commander.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps provincial intelligence chief Ali Mousavi was shot during the clashes on Friday and pronounced dead at a hospital.

The killing was claimed by the Jaish Al-Adl militant group, which says it is fighting for the independence of Sistan and Balochistan, and greater rights for Baloch people, who are the main ethnic group in the province.

A Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency official told Arab News the border crossing in Taftan, about 90 km from Zahedan, was sealed off by Iranian authorities.

“They are not allowing departure movement from Pakistan into Iran,” he said on condition of anonymity.

“On Saturday, they allowed 780 people, including foreigners who wanted to cross into Pakistan, but on Sunday they completely halted all kinds of trade and pedestrian movement.”

Sardarzada Umair Muhammad Hassani, former adviser to the chief minister of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, said the border closure would affect Iran itself, as food supplies to Iran pass through Pakistan.

“The border closure decision by Iranian forces wasn’t fair in the better interest of Iran,” he told Arab News, adding that he had backtracked on his earlier opinion that Pakistani-Iranian ties should be enhanced, as the killings in Zahedan have affected the Baloch community on the Pakistani side.

“Baloch tribes have been living on both sides of the border,” Hassani said. “The recent brutality toward the people of Zahedan by the Iranian forces has hurt the sentiments and emotions of the Baloch.”

Footage emerging from the city showed people carrying dead and wounded protesters amid heavy gunfire. The administration of Sistan and Balochistan said 19 people have been killed in the clashes, but journalists in the province and activists estimate the number of deaths to be at least 50, as clashes continue.

“According to local media in Zahedan, the death toll has risen to 50, because the majority of the injured who were shot by Iranian forces were being treated in their homes instead of hospitals due to fear of arrest by the Iranian forces,” Asif Burhanzai, a journalist in Taftan, told Arab News.

The Baloch Activists Campaign said at least 58 people have died and 270 have been wounded.

Communication services were down in Zahedan and surrounding areas over the weekend. On Sunday, mobile networks were partially restored, but access to the internet remained blocked.

Iran’s Mehr News Agency reported on Sunday that the number of personnel from the IRGC and its volunteer Basiji force killed in Zahedan had risen to five.

Their deaths, and that of the provincial IRGC intelligence chief, represent a major escalation in the antigovernment demonstrations that began in mid-September, triggered by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of the Iranian morality police.

The IRGC’s chief, Gen. Hossein Salami, pledged revenge for the killing of its forces.

“We consider revenge for the blood of the IRGC and Basiji martyrs and the people who were victims of the Black Friday crime in Zahedan to be on our agenda,” he said, as quoted by Iran’s official news agency IRNA.

Ongoing countrywide demonstrations have been the largest manifestation of dissent against the Iranian government in over a decade.

Rallies have spread to all of Iran’s 31 provinces, with ethnic and religious minorities joining in, despite a violent response from authorities.

With the deaths in Sistan and Balochistan, the number of those killed in the protests is likely to have crossed 100.

On Friday, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights organization estimated the number of dead to be at least 83. Many more have been wounded and thousands arrested.


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.