IMF to send mission to Lebanon next week to discuss slow reform progress

IMF to send mission to Lebanon next week to discuss slow reform progress
An IMF staff mission will visit Lebanon next week to discuss ways to "speed up" implementation of agreed reforms required for a loan program amid deteriorating living conditions in the country. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 15 September 2022

IMF to send mission to Lebanon next week to discuss slow reform progress

IMF to send mission to Lebanon next week to discuss slow reform progress
  • "We are looking to support Lebanon as strongly as we can. It's a difficult situation," said IMF spokesman Gerry Rice
  • The IMF and Lebanon in April reached a staff-level agreement on a $3 billion loan program

WASHINGTON: The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday that a staff mission will visit Lebanon next week to discuss ways to “speed up” implementation of agreed reforms required for an IMF loan program amid deteriorating living conditions in the country.
“We are looking to support Lebanon as strongly as we can. It’s a difficult situation,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told a regular news briefing. “There’s been slow progress in implementing some of the critical actions that we think are required to move forward with a program.”
The IMF and Lebanon in April reached a staff-level agreement on a $3 billion loan program, but this was contingent on enactment of a range of economic reforms, including addressing unrealized losses in Lebanon’s banking system.
The slow progress, including what the IMF views as “key deficiencies” in a proposed bank secrecy law, has raised questions about whether Lebanon has the political will to meet key conditions for a program.
Rice said the meetings in Beirut starting on Sept. 19 will “prepare the ground for a full mission” after a new Lebanese government is formed.
“Delaying the implementation of these reforms only increases the costs to Lebanon and Lebanese people,” Rice added.
Rice also said the Fund was “fully committed” to working closely with authorities in Egypt to help stabilize its economy amid shocks from the war in Ukraine, but declined to say whether a deal for an IMF loan program was close at hand.
“We’re now working closely with Egyptian authorities with a view to you know, how we can do more to support our shared goals of economic stability and sustainable, job rich, medium-term growth for Egypt,” Rice said. “I don’t have the details on that, the discussions are ongoing with Egypt, but we’re fully committed.”


Late artists’ memorabilia up for grabs in downtown Cairo

Muhammad Sameer Galaal Sabry
Muhammad Sameer Galaal Sabry
Updated 27 sec ago

Late artists’ memorabilia up for grabs in downtown Cairo

Muhammad Sameer Galaal Sabry

CAIRO: Memorabilia relating to the career of actor Samir Sabry has turned up for sale in small libraries in downtown Cairo.

Albums and plaques are among the items to have been found on sale following the actor’s death in May, at the age of 85.

Wael Al-Samry, editor-in-chief of the Egyptian newspaper Youm7, found a photograph album made during the filming of “The Warm Embrace,” a movie that was produced in 1974 and starred Sabry.

An album of press cuttings belonging to Sabry was also discovered, containing many rare pictures chronicling the stages of his life and his most important films.

It also included photographs taken with Abdel Halim Hafez, and director Antony Thomas.

The items found for sale also included posters from the actor’s most important films.

Al-Samry said: “It is sad to find among these items honorary shields for the late artist that bear his name.

“These shields reflect an important aspect of the late artist’s interests, activities, and his relationship with his community and his art.”

Al-Samry found the items shortly after journalist Essam Zakaria located memorabilia on Cairo’s sidewalks that had previously belonged to the late actor Nour El-Sherif.

Zakaria said: “The belongings of the late actor Nour El-Sherif are being sold inside and outside Egypt after they were put on the market about a year ago.

“They include dozens of his albums and books that are carefully bound and bear his name, and some bear his signature and handwritten notes.

“The belongings also include the awards that El-Sherif received, various donations from cultural institutions, a large number of movie posters, as well as family albums, awards, medals that he obtained, and papers, some of which are private.”

 


Palestinian bloodshed will rise under new Israeli govt, experts fear

Palestinian bloodshed will rise under new Israeli govt, experts fear
Updated 12 min 33 sec ago

Palestinian bloodshed will rise under new Israeli govt, experts fear

Palestinian bloodshed will rise under new Israeli govt, experts fear
  • A Fatah leader who witnessed the first and second intifadas told Arab News that the Israeli army’s decision to “kill Palestinians rather than arrest them” is behind the rising death rate

RAMALLAH: An unprecedented number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces this year has sparked growing concern among Palestine watchers who warn that unjustifiable Israeli action will invariably lead to more violence and destabilization in the region.

In the West Bank alone, 156 Palestinians have been killed in the past 11 months, with most of the victims not involved in armed clashes or even stone-throwing incidents, Palestinian sources told Arab News.

Israeli armed forces, Palestinian sources and experts claim, have changed the rules, making it easier to open fire when they feel threatened, and to shoot to kill, even when they are able to injure the attacker from a distance.

Palestinians are deeply worried that Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s recently appointed security minister, is in charge of the border police in the West Bank, and see a link between his new role and the sharp rise in killings.

Although the US, EU, UN and Arab League have expressed outrage over Israel’s lethal use of force, most Palestinians believe sharp international criticism is unlikely to stop or even limit Israel’s anti-Palestinian violence.

Shadi Othman, a spokesman for the EU in Jerusalem, told Arab News that the Palestinian territories have recorded killings not seen since 2006, and said that the European bloc’s concern stems from the lack of accountability over the deaths of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli forces.

“We are concerned by the absence of any indication or evidence of a serious investigation and accountability of those who use excessive force, which contributes to increasing tension and a sense of insecurity among Palestinian citizens, which negatively affects the stability of the security situation in the Palestinian territories,” Othman said.

A Fatah leader who witnessed the first and second intifadas told Arab News that the Israeli army’s decision to “kill Palestinians rather than arrest them” is behind the rising death rate.

“Most of those killed could have been arrested,” he said on condition of anonymity.

“What worries me is that the killing of Palestinians is carried out for the most trivial reasons and without justification in most cases, to the extent that you feel that the Israeli soldiers are out on a hunting trip to kill Palestinians,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Adnan Al-Damiri (retired), a former spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, said that the Israeli ideological belief that killing non-Jews is not considered murder has contributed to the rise in the number of deaths.

He accused the Israeli media of creating panic and fear among Israelis that Palestinians want to kill them.

“And for this reason, they are rushing to pull the trigger and shoot, taking advantage of the absence of trial and accountability for soldiers and settlers who kill Palestinians,” he said.

Al-Damiri said that the 3 million people living in the West Bank are afraid that any of them could be the next victim, either at the hands of the army, police or Israeli settlers.

Human rights activist Amer Hamdan from Nablus told Arab News that traveling on the Nablus-Ramallah road is fraught with danger for Palestinians because of a heavy deployment of settlers and Israeli soldiers.

“When I travel from Nablus to Ramallah, I drive my vehicle with caution, focus and attention so that a settler or soldier does not misunderstand my driving for targeting him and shoots me at a crossroads or a pedestrian path or a junction,” he said.

Hamdan criticized the Palestinian Authority’s reactions to the killings of Palestinians, which were limited to expressing pain, condemnation and denunciation.

“The task of the Palestinian leadership is not to assume the role of a journalist or social activist, to analyze or condemn and denounce, but instead it must take measures to protect citizens, and if it is unable to do so, it must not prevent citizens from protecting themselves by the means they see fit,” he said.

The Palestinian Authority and its 35,000 personnel deployed in the West Bank are facing growing criticism over their apparent inability to protect Palestinians.

Israeli political analyst Yoni Ben Menachem told Arab News that there has been no change in orders to Israeli soldiers to open fire on Palestinians, and expects that the new Israeli government, to be headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, will pursue a more stringent security policy toward Palestinians than the current leadership under Yair Lapid.

He said the military doctrine adopted by the Israeli army forces is based on the fact that “anyone who thinks of killing or tries to kill Jews must realize that he will be killed.”

Eyal Alima, an Israeli military expert, told Arab News that the high death toll among Palestinians is due to two reasons — the intensification of Israeli military activities in the West Bank to arrest wanted persons, and the accompanying armed clashes and stone-throwing incidents, as well as the army’s determination to stop Palestinians breaching the separation wall between the West Bank and Israel, and to shoot and kill intruders.

Alima said that 60 percent of the Israeli army forces currently operate in the West Bank, where 26 combat and 86 reserve battalions are deployed.

“The size of the Israeli army forces deployed in the West Bank leads to great friction with the Palestinian citizens, and thus increases the number of wounded and dead among them,” Alima said.

Israeli military and security leaders expect a further deterioration in the security situation in the West Bank in coming weeks, and an increase in the number of attacks on Israeli army forces and settlers, which means a continued rise in the killing of Palestinians.

 


Over 200 killed in Iran protests: top security body

Over 200 killed in Iran protests: top security body
Updated 03 December 2022

Over 200 killed in Iran protests: top security body

Over 200 killed in Iran protests: top security body
  • The country's Supreme National Security Council said the number of people killed during unrest sparked by her death "exceeds 200"
  • A general in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps this week, for the first time, said more than 300 people had lost their lives in the unrest

TEHRAN: More than 200 people have been killed in Iran since nationwide protests erupted over the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, the country’s top security body said Saturday.
Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died on September 16 after her arrest in Tehran for an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s dress code for women.
Quoted by the official IRNA news agency, the country’s Supreme National Security Council said the number of people killed during unrest sparked by her death “exceeds 200.”
It said the figure included security officers, civilians and “separatists” as well as “rioters” — a term used by Iranian officials to describe protesters.
A general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps this week, for the first time, said more than 300 people had lost their lives in the unrest.
The security council said that in addition to the human toll, the violence had caused millions of dollars in damage.
Oslo-based non-governmental organization Iran Human Rights on Tuesday said at least 448 people had been “killed by security forces in the ongoing nationwide protests.”
UN rights chief Volker Turk said last week that 14,000 people, including children, had been arrested in the protest crackdown.


Iran’s hijab law under review: attorney general

Iran’s hijab law under review: attorney general
Updated 03 December 2022

Iran’s hijab law under review: attorney general

Iran’s hijab law under review: attorney general
  • Protesters have burned their head coverings and shouted anti-government slogans
  • "Both parliament and the judiciary are working (on the issue)", of whether the law needs any changes, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said

TEHRAN: Iran’s parliament and the judiciary are reviewing a law which requires women to cover their heads, and which triggered more than two months of deadly protests, the attorney general said.
The demonstrations began after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died in custody on September 16 after her arrest by Iran’s morality police for an alleged breach of the dress code.
Protesters have burned their head coverings and shouted anti-government slogans. Since Amini’s death a growing number of women are not observing hijab, particularly in Tehran’s fashionable north.
The hijab headscarf became obligatory for all women in Iran in April 1983, four years after the 1979 revolution that overthrew the US-backed monarchy.
“Both parliament and the judiciary are working (on the issue),” of whether the law needs any changes, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said in the holy city of Qom.
Quoted on Friday by the ISNA news agency, he did not specify what could be modified in the law.
The review team met on Wednesday with parliament’s cultural commission “and will see the results in a week or two,” the attorney general said.
President Ebrahim Raisi on Saturday said Iran’s republican and Islamic foundations were constitutionally entrenched.
“But there are methods of implementing the constitution that can be flexible,” he said in televised comments.
After the hijab law became mandatory, with changing clothing norms it became commonplace to see women in tight jeans and loose, colorful headscarves.
But in July this year Raisi, an ultra-conservative, called for mobilization of “all state institutions to enforce the headscarf law.”
Many women continued to bend the rules, however.
Iran accuses its sworn enemy the United States and its allies, including Britain, Israel, and Kurdish groups based outside the country, of fomenting the street violence which the government calls “riots.”
A general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps this week, for the first time, said more than 300 people have lost their lives in the unrest since Amini’s death.
Iran’s top security body, the Supreme National Security Council, on Saturday said the number of people killed during the protests “exceeds 200.”
Cited by state news agency IRNA, it said the figure included security officers, civilians, armed separatists and “rioters.”
Oslo-based non-governmental organization Iran Human Rights on Tuesday said at least 448 people had been “killed by security forces in the ongoing nationwide protests.”
UN rights chief Volker Turk said last week that 14,000 people, including children, had been arrested in the protest crackdown.


Iranian state media: Construction begins on nuclear plant

Iranian state media: Construction begins on nuclear plant
Updated 03 December 2022

Iranian state media: Construction begins on nuclear plant

Iranian state media: Construction begins on nuclear plant
  • The announcement comes as Iran has been rocked by nationwide anti-government protests
  • The new 300-megawatt plant, known as Karoon, will take eight years to build and cost around $2 billion

CAIRO: Iran on Saturday began construction on a new nuclear power plant in the country’s southwest, Iranian state TV announced, amid tensions with the US over sweeping sanctions imposed after Washington pulled out of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear deal with world powers.
The announcement also comes as Iran has been rocked by nationwide anti-government protests that began after the death of a young woman in police custody and have challenged the country’s theocratic government.
The new 300-megawatt plant, known as Karoon, will take eight years to build and cost around $2 billion, the country’s state television and radio agency reported. The plant will be located in Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, near its western border with Iraq, it said.
The construction site’s inauguration ceremony was attended by Mohammed Eslami, head of Iran’s civilian Atomic Energy Organization, who first unveiled construction plans for Karoon in April.
Iran has one nuclear power plant at its southern port of Bushehr that went online in 2011 with help from Russia, but also several underground nuclear facilities.
The announcement of Karoon’s construction came less than two weeks after Iran announced it had begun producing enriched uranium at 60 percent purity at the country’s underground Fordo nuclear facility. The move is seen as a significant addition to the country’s nuclear program.
Enrichment to 60 percent purity is one short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90 percent. Non-proliferation experts have warned in recent months that Iran now has enough 60 percent-enriched uranium to reprocess into fuel for at least one nuclear bomb.
The move was condemned by Germany, France and Britain, the three Western European nations that remain in the Iran nuclear deal. Recent attempts to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, which eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, have stalled.
Since September, Iran has been roiled by nationwide protests that have come to mark one of the greatest challenges to its theocracy since the chaotic years after its 1979 Islamic Revolution. The protests were sparked when Mahsa Amini, 22, died in custody on Sept. 16, three days after her arrest by Iran’s morality police for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women. Iran’s government insists Amini was not mistreated, but her family says her body showed bruises and other signs of beating after she was detained
In a statement issued by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency on Saturday, the country’s national security council announced that some 200 people have been killed during the protests, the body’s first official word on the casualties. Last week, Iranian Gen. Amir Ali Hajjizadeh tallied the death toll at more than 300.
The contradictory tolls are lower than the toll reported by Human Rights Activists in Iran, a US-based organization that has been closely monitoring the protest since the outbreak. In its most recent update, the group says that 469 people have been killed and 18,210 others detained in the protests and the violent security force crackdown that followed.
The United States unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear deal — formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA — in 2018, under then-President Donald Trump. It reimposed sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to start backing away from the deal’s terms. Iran has long denied ever seeking nuclear weapons, insisting its nuclear program is peaceful.